11 Things To Do With Your Money In The First Five Years After College Graduation

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A lot changes during the years that separate college graduation from five-year reunion. After caps and gowns come first jobs and apartments, then–far too often–bad bosses and roommates, leading to second jobs and apartments. A few years later your Facebook news feed will become a sea of engagement photos, foretelling weekends inundated with weddings. In the meantime, former classmates will become lawyers, doctors, MBAs–and occasionally parents.

Throughout all this you’ll wonder how you became old enough for a lease, for taxes, for a bridesmaid’s dress. You may also ask yourself: How am I going to afford all this? As your life evolves in the early years of adulthood so do your finances, the relationship you have with your money and what you need it to do for you.

If you are at the start of this journey, congratulations. Now is the best opportunity you will have to keep out of financial trouble and develop a solid foundation. But if there is no need to panic if you’ve already got a few working years under your belt, you’re not old yet. Small changes can still go a long way.

1. Build a cash cushion. Cars break down, jobs get lost and family members get sick. Emergencies will be emotionally trying, but they don’t need to be a financial drain. With each paycheck move some money into a savings account, preferably through automation. Long term your goal should be to have enough cash to cover three to six months of expenses, but it’s okay to start small. Consider a 52 week money challenge, in the first week save $1, second week $2 and so on, after a year you’ll have $1,378. Ready to commit to more? To determine where on the three to six month spectrum you should aim, evaluate your job security, the availability of jobs in your field and if you can expect family help.

2. Get health insurance. You can typically stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26. For plans bought via government marketplace you have until the end of the year. Employer coverage usually ends in your birthday month, but you get a 60 day Special Enrollment Period leading up to your 26th. Use this window. This way coverage can start as soon as your old insurance lapses and you’ll avoid paying a penalty for every month you aren’t covered. The fine is the higher of 2.5% of household income (to a maximum) or $695 per adult per month (up to $2,085).

3. Do your 65 year-old self a favor. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan open an account and invest at least enough to take full advantage of company matching contribution (free money!). If not, open an individual retirement account and contribute as much as you can. In either case, create a road map to be making contributions of 10-15% of your income before your five-year reunion. Why? The power of compounding means saving a little bit of money now will go farther than saving a lot later on.

How will you begin preparing for your retirement today? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1500, email Mary.Laferriere@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

4. Give yourself a student debt-free deadline. Student loan repayment plans are typically structured to take 10 years. If remaining student-indebted well into your 30s doesn’t sit well, consider giving yourself a cutoff. “A deadline can be a great strategy if it based in reality,” says Karen Carr, a financial planner at the Society of Grownups. Use a loan repayment calculator to determine how much time you can shave off by paying more than the minimum. For example, a borrower with $30,000 in debt, a 10 year loan term and a 6% interest rate could conclude payments more than a year early by paying $400 a month rather than $330 – check out First Financials Student Loan calculator. Repeat this exercise every time you get a raise, tax refund or other windfall.

5. Crack down on your credit. Got credit card debt? Build a plan to pay it down, taking the same basic steps as you would to cut down your student debt timeline. Another one of our calculators – Credit Card Payoff – can be used to determine the amount of money you would need to put toward your debt each month to reach a desired pay off date.

Don’t even have a credit card? Experts suggest asking yourself if you have self-control and, crucially, whether you’ll be able to commit to paying your balance in full every month. If not, either steer clear of credit cards or open a card with a very low credit limit. If you can control your spending urges, a card paid on time can be a good way to boost your credit score. A solid score will come in handy if you ever want to get a mortgage or refinance your student debt. Used responsibly, rewards points and cash back are also nice tools for subsidizing things you may not otherwise be able to afford.

6. Plan to be flexible. An average college graduate will hold 5.8 jobs between ages 22 and 28, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a related trend, the Census Bureau has shown that people in their 20s move homes almost twice as often as the general population. This flux is why it is best avoid decisions the will lock up your money at this point in your life. The unexpected will occur.

A friend who responded to an informal poll for this story wrote about signing a two-year lease on her first post-college apartment. She liked the idea of avoiding a rent increase (multi-year leases lock in a rate). She also saw it as a way to feel grounded in a new city. A year later she ended up paying for that decision when she got the opportunity to move closer to family and friends, but couldn’t get out of her lease or find a sub-letter who would cover the full rent.

Life’s unpredictable nature is also why, if you can’t do both, you should put away a small cash pile before saving in a traditional retirement account. IRA and 401(k) contributions are made pre-tax, so if you withdraw funds before age 59 1/2 you’ll in most cases need to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to regular income taxes. Another option is funding a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k). With these accounts you’ll make contributions post-tax, which is more costly short term, but means in an emergency you can withdraw your original contributions (although not earnings) without tax or penalty.

7. Learn five practical skills. We pay for convenience, which is fine, but expensive. Determine which services actually improve your life. (Maybe you’ll decide a wash-and-fold service is worth an extra $25 a month, but $3 on coffee each morning is not.) Don’t allow not knowing how to do something force you to pay for services. Commit to attaining a few practical skills that can save you money in the long run. For example, learn to: cook a few basic meals, change a tire, fill out a tax return, paint your nails, sew. For more inspiration read about roommates who saved $55,000 with a buy nothing year.

8. Ask your significant other how much she/he earns. A 2015 survey of couples found that 43% of people did not know their partner’s salary. Of those 10% were off by $25,000 or more. Find out. Knowing how much your partner earns will help you set realistic expectations of what your life together should look like now and in the future. If gaps exist around basic questions like salary, couples might have other opportunities for improvement on the financial front, such as sorting through and tackling important issues together around the next big milestones in their lives. By taking time to engage in conversation and plan, your chances of creating a strong foundation and achieving your goals are greatly enhanced.

9. Negotiate.  In a recent survey, job search and review site Glassdoor found that just 41% of U.S. employees negotiated their most recent salary offer, the rest accepted the salary they were first quoted either for a raise or new jobs. Jessica Jaffe, Glassdoor spokesperson notes, “Of the small portion who did [negotiate], 59% were able to get more money. This shows negotiating can pay off.” Sites including Glassdoor compile information on average salaries by company and job title.

10. Decide if you’ll need a graduate degree. Step 1: Determine if going to graduate school will get you where you want to go by talking to recent grads, consulting people five to ten years ahead of you in their careers and researching average post-grad salaries for your field, location and school of choice.  Step 2: Figure out how you are going to pay for school. How much will you need to fund with loans? Will your employer pay your tuition if you return after graduation? What if you go to school part-time, will your company cover any credits? Do you qualify for any scholarships? How much can you save toward future costs?

If you have undergraduate debt, you can usually defer payment for the years you are in grad school, but your loans will continue to accrue interest. This means you will leave graduate school more indebted than you go in, regardless of whether you need loans to fund this next step in your education. In this case, a key calculation in the years before grad school is whether you should use extra money to pay down undergraduate loans at a faster clip or to hide it away to eventually put toward tuition. Phil DeGisi, chief marketing officer of student debt refinance startup CommonBond, says that decision should depend on interest rates. If the average rate on loans for the type of grad school you’d like to go to is higher than the rate on your student loans you should focusing on saving. If the the rate on your student loans is higher focus on paying down debt. If both rates are high, figure out if you can refinance your undergraduate debt to a lower rate.

11. Save and pay for something you really want. In the first few post-college years, most people are afraid of non-essential spending. How can you justify a new dress or a vacation if you haven’t reached your emergency fund or retirement savings goals? Start by saving every $5 bill you receive – you’ll be amazed how quickly it adds up. $100 for a great new pair of sunglasses and then with a little more effort, you can save $1,000 to go on that vacation you’ve worked so hard for. It feels great when you know you didn’t take away from your other goals, since you were using money that would have otherwise been spent, not money you were saving. Most importantly, paying for things that you truly wanted, with money you had saved for that purpose shows that you have control over your finances. As Bonneau points out, it’s “hard to regress in lifestyle,” but relatively easy to build sustainable habits now.

Be honest with yourself about the way you spend. Use a digital spending tracker or notebook to hold yourself accountable and to find places where you can cut back to focus on your priorities. Maybe that’s a vacation fund, a shoe fund, a charity fund, an education fund or an other-peoples’-weddings fund. You decide.

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Original article courtesy of Samantha Sharf of Forbes.

The Smartest Post-College Money Plan: Start Budgeting Now

budget deficit - recession 3d conceptIf you’ve recently graduated from college, and especially if you don’t have a job, it might seem ridiculous to turn your attention to budgeting. You’re exhausted from exams, and you have no money to budget. Why worry now, right?

It’s a fair question, but as anyone who has been there knows, this is precisely the time to avoid money mistakes. Unless you’re lucky and your parents are willing to pay your way for the time being, from free rent to food, to going out with your friends, you’re going to be spending in the near future – and spending too much can naturally lead to trouble.

For instance, many recent college graduates rely heavily on credit cards. When you don’t have a job, it’s not the best idea to pile all of your expenses on your credit card and figure you’ll pay it off once you get a job.

So if you’re an unemployed recent college graduate, here are some strategies to consider implementing to set yourself up for a bright financial future – debt free.

Get a job. It may not necessarily be your dream job, but find a job. It’s recommended that you visit temp agencies and recruiters to find an emergency job. It’s important to have some money coming in, even if the position isn’t closely related to your major or what you want to do in life.

New grads should not be so picky. It isn’t necessary that you get your dream job right out of college, you have to work your way up to get that job. Don’t worry, it’s okay to take a week or two off after graduation to recoup and relax – but generally, try not to waste too much time and start looking for a steady source of income.

Don’t stay in that hastily found job for long. Start looking for a better career move as soon as possible – you want the money coming in, not satisfaction settling in. If you’ve been at the job for more than six months, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and ask everyone you know for recommendations, or put yourself out on LinkedIn – because when it comes to job hunting, it always helps to know someone.

Live cheaply. You know what it’s like to live on a college budget, so don’t go crazy with spending your money on entertainment, clothes, travel, or going out. It’s not the best idea to spend money carelessly if you don’t land a job soon because the more you spend, the deeper you will dig yourself into debt.

It may be tough to go the frugal route and watch TV with your parents instead of going to the movies with your friends, but you should think about your new spending habits as “financial yoga – hurts now, helps later.” Even if you have a new, promising job, it’s smart to keep your expenses as low as possible – think about getting roommates.

That might be the last thing you want to hear if you had a bunch of roommates in college and you’re itching to finally live solo, but roommates will allow you to cut back on your rent and utilities in a big way. Whatever you do, keep expenses low so you can see what your budget can handle. You don’t want to get an apartment, update your wardrobe and buy a car, then realize your entry-level paycheck can’t handle the financial stress.

*Click here to view the article source by Geoff Williams of US News.

 

How to Get Your Child Financially Prepared for College

college-students-awesomeAfter high school graduation, your teen will probably be spending the summer gathering dorm necessities, picking classes and hunting for the cheapest textbooks.

One major point of focus should also be signing up for the right student financial accounts, specifically checking accounts and credit cards. With so many choices, it can be confusing for parents and students, but there are simple approaches to getting college-bound kids financially prepared.

Pick the Right Checking Account

When looking for a checking account, parents may be quick to sign their children up to their own banks or to a major bank close to home. However, that approach may not be the best for the college student.

Since college students may need cash for spontaneous occasions, it is important to have an in-network ATM at or near the college campus. Constant cash withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs can amount to plenty of fees. At the 10 largest U.S. banks, the average out-of-network ATM fee is $2.45. Furthermore, the operator of the out-of-network ATM has the right to impose a surcharge, which typically ranges from $2 to $3.

Besides location convenience, parents also have to consider their ability to fund their kid’s accounts. Parents and students should research which financial institutions are around campus and near home to find the one with a student checking account that would allow them to stay financially connected. Parents, you should also make sure that the financial institution you choose has instant transfers during the times you have to transfer money into your child’s account electronically – you don’t want a 1-2 day delay period.

First Financial’s has a great Student Checking Account available for 14 to 23 year old students!*

Sign Up for the Right Credit Card

Credit cards are less attainable by college students since the Credit Card Act of 2009 took effect, requiring anyone under age 21 to provide proof of reliable income to qualify for a card. If a student can qualify for a credit card on his or her own, it is crucial to evaluate spending and repayment habits to maximize any rewards and minimize interest paid.

For instance, a student who will be driving around campus may prefer to get a credit card that offers rewards on gas purchases. Or if a student doesn’t expect to be able to pay off their balances every month, he or she may opt for a card that doesn’t have rewards but carries a lower interest rate.

The more likely situation would involve parents adding their children as authorized users on an existing credit card account. Parents can limit how much their children can spend on their authorized cards, and when the occasion calls for it, they can raise or reduce the limits accordingly. As authorized card users, students can also start building their credit profiles, which can increase their chances of qualifying for credit cards and loans in the future.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Do your children know what to do in the case of a financial emergency? College students may encounter dilemmas that cannot be solved with the financial means available to them.

Parents should keep an open line of communication that would allow their children to contact them in the event of financial distress, regardless of how bad the situation may be. It’s important for parents to continue providing financial and emotional support, so their kids can focus on the most important aspect of college: their education.

Click here to view the article source courtesy of Simon Zhen of US News.

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program. 

Important Alert: Card Cracking Scam Targets Students

scamCash-strapped college students have been recruited to participate in a scam
referred to as “card cracking.” Using ATM/debit cards and PINs willingly provided by the students, fraudsters deposit fraudulent checks to the students’ accounts. The funds are subsequently withdrawn by the fraudsters with the students receiving a portion of the funds for their participation.

Details
The “card cracking” scam was reported to originate in Chicago and generally targeted college students who were recruited through social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Participants were even recruited in person at college campuses. The sales pitch is to allow the fraudster to deposit a check to a student’s account and withdraw the funds for which the student receives half of the proceeds for agreeing to participate. This scam was since reported nationwide.

Willing participants provide the fraudsters with their ATM/debit cards and PINs. The fraudsters deposit fraudulent checks (stolen or counterfeit checks) to the student accounts via ATMs and subsequently withdraw the funds. Their proposition is simple: If you provide me with access to your account so I can deposit a check and withdraw the money, I will provide you with half of the proceeds.

After initial contact is made, the scammer arranges to meet up with the student to retrieve the debit card and corresponding PIN. The deposit is made, the money is withdrawn and then the fraudulent checks were subsequently returned unpaid and charged back to the students’ accounts. Following the fraudsters’ instructions, the participants report their ATM/debit card as lost or stolen and that the transactions were fraudulent.

The participants may not be entitled to protection under Regulation E (Reg E) for
unauthorized use of their ATM/debit card since they willingly provided their card to the
fraudsters, which contains an exclusion to the definition of unauthorized
electronic fund transfer:

Unauthorized electronic fund transfer means an electronic fund transfer from a consumer’s account initiated by a person other than the consumer without actual authority to initiate the transfer, and from which the consumer receives no benefit. The term does not include an electronic fund transfer initiated by a person who was furnished access to the consumer’s account by the consumer, unless the consumer has notified their financial institution that transfers by that person are no longer authorized.

This is a huge risk – especially for students who may have large amounts going through their accounts from loans, scholarships and tuition reimbursements.

“Even though the students might be considered victims, authorities point out that providing their debit cards to someone else is a crime,” the Sun-Times of Chicago stated.

There’s an easy solution: Never share your account information, debit card or PIN with anyone! 

Here are some other safety tips you should keep in mind:

  • Always verify the identity of the person trying to obtain personal information.
  • Never give personal information to someone over the phone or via email. Personal information includes: Birth date, Social Security Number, maiden name, address, bank account number, debit/credit card number, PIN number, etc.
  • Maintain a record of the phone call or solicitation. Write down the phone number that the person is calling from, the time and date they called, the caller’s name, and reported affiliation. If it was online, save a copy of the email conversation or advertisement.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you believe you may be a victim of fraud, call your local police department so authorities can be alerted to the activity. You can also report email or internet scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by going online to http://www.ic3.gov.

To learn more about First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!

Click the links to view more information from the original article sources: Yahoo Finance, Explorer News and CUNA Mutual Group.

4 Tips to Help 20-Somethings Manage Their Debt

Debt can be a heavy burden on anyone, no matter what their age, but increasingly, young adults are starting out deeper in the hole. A recent report from credit-score provider FICO shows that student loan debt has climbed dramatically for those ages 18 to 29, with average debt rising by almost $5,000 over the course of five years.

The good news, though, is that young adults are taking steps to get their overall debt under control, reducing their balances on credit cards and their debt levels for mortgages, auto loans, and other types of debt. With 16% of 18 to 29-year-olds having no credit cards, young adults are getting the message that managing debt early on is essential to overall financial health.

With the goal of managing debt levels firmly in mind, let’s take a look at four things you should do to manage your debt prudently and successfully.

1. Get a Handle On What You Owe.

In managing debt, the first challenge is figuring out all of what you owe. By pulling a free copy of your credit report you’ll get a list of loans and credit card accounts that major credit bureaus think you have outstanding, along with contact information to track down any unexpected creditors that might appear on the list.

Once you know what you owe, you also have to know the terms of each loan. By making a list of amounts due, monthly or minimum payment obligations, rates, and other fees, you can prioritize your debt and get the most onerous loans paid down first. Usually, that’ll involve getting your credit card debt zeroed out, along with any high rate debt like private student loans before turning to lower rate debt like mortgages and government subsidized student loans. With your list in hand, you’ll know where to concentrate any extra cash that you can put toward paying down debt ahead of schedule.

2. Look for Ways to Establish a Strong Credit History.

Having too much debt is always a mistake, but going too far in the other direction can also hurt you financially. If you don’t use debt at all, then you run the risk of never building up a credit history, and that can make it much more difficult for you to get loans when you finally do want to borrow money. The better course is to use credit sparingly and wisely, perhaps with a credit card that you pay off every month and use only often enough to establish a payment record and solid credit score.

First Financial hosts free budgeting, credit management, and debt reduction seminars throughout the year, so be sure to check our online event calendar or subscribe to receive upcoming seminar alerts on your mobile phone by texting FFSeminar to 69302.*

3. Build Up Some Emergency Savings.

Diverting money away from paying down long term loans in order to create a rainy day emergency fund might sound counterintuitive in trying to manage your overall debt. But especially if your outstanding debt is of the relatively good variety — such as a low rate mortgage or government subsidized student loan debt — having an emergency fund is very useful in avoiding the need to put a surprise expense on a credit card. Once you have your credit cards paid down, keeping them paid off every month is the best way to handle debt, and an emergency fund will make it a lot easier to handle even substantial unanticipated costs without backsliding on your progress on the credit card front.

4. Get On a Budget.

Regardless of whether you have debt or how much you have, establishing a smart budget is the best way to keep your finances under control. By balancing your income against your expenses, you’ll know whether you have the flexibility to handle changes in spending patterns or whether you need to keep a firm grip on your spending. Moreover, budgeting will often reveal wasteful spending that will show you the best places to cut back on expenses, freeing up more money to put toward paying down debt and minimizing interest charges along the way.

Click here to view the article source, from The Daily Finance.

*Text message and data rates may apply.

Tuition-Free Colleges: They Do Exist!

College_Students_TUNo that’s not a typo or misstatement. Did you know that more than a dozen colleges offer a four-year, tuition-free education? During difficult economic times, the cost of higher education leaves many students wondering if they can afford to go to college. For those who want to avoid being saddled with huge loans, these schools may provide a great alternative.

Miscellaneous expenses

Although the colleges don’t charge tuition, most charge for room and board and other incidental expenses such as books, supplies and equipment, transportation, health insurance, personal expenses and so on. Many require students to work and several are located in rural areas.

These colleges include:

Armed Forces colleges
The various Armed Forces colleges, including the U.S. Military Academy (West Point, NY), U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, NY), do not charge any tuition.

It’s all about options
Students and parents concerned about how they’re going to pay for college might want to consider one of these tuition-free schools. Although there are not that many of them, they may be an attractive option for those looking to walk away from college debt-free or with minimum debt. 

Remember, knowledge is power!

*Click here to view the article source.