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The following information is to help you become an educated consumer about topics such as budgeting, credit management, debt management including your student loans, repayment information and financial planning. Our goal is for you to become familiar with these topics so you can make sound decisions regarding your finances while enrolled at Curry and as well as after graduation.
Attending college can be an exciting time in a student's life. For many, it is the first time living away from home and being solely responsible for managing certain aspects of one's non-academic life like money management. While concentrating on academics is a student's primary focus, understanding concepts of finance is also an important part of a student's education. All too often students graduate from college with little or no understanding on how to manage their finances just at a time when new expenses such as rent, student loan and credit card payments are becoming a reality.
Most banks offer both checking and savings accounts as a way to deposit money with their institution. Both types of accounts allow individuals to save money in the bank while still being able to access it whenever they want or need to for their own use. These accessible funds are known as liquid assets because you have immediate access to the funds on an as needed basis without waiting for the holder of the funds to sell off or cash in your investment for real cash.
The ease of access and convenience of using the account, such as for paying bills or writing checks, differs between the two types of accounts and each bank or credit union has its own minimum balance requirements, fees for the use of the account, etc.
A checking account is a convenient account designed to allow you to put money in the bank and it allows you to gain immediate access to your money whenever you need it. Checking accounts allow you to write checks directly from the account to pay for items. They also generally have a debit card associated with them that allows you to pay for items when making a retail purchase and get cash from an ATM. Very few checking accounts benefit from interest accruing (making money on the money you have laying in the checking account). If your bank doesn't have an earn interest program for your checking account, you might want to consider keeping the minimum amount of cash you can here for your monthly expenses and to meet any minimum banking requirements from your bank so you don't incur any fees and placing the rest in some other vehicle for savings.
Be sure you know what your bank requires for a monthly minimum amount to be kept in the account to avoid paying unnecessary fees. Additionally, check with your bank to find out what other fees or penalties you might be charged for using an ATM out of your network, writing checks, etc. Ask your bank if they have any programs where fees would be waived; for instance, if you direct deposit your paycheck in to the account, can you avoid paying a fee if you fall below the monthly minimum.
Savings accounts are designed for long- or short-term savings, not for frequent use. Savings accounts may have an ATM card associated with them, especially if you also have a checking account with the same bank. However, withdrawals from savings accounts may be limited, and an ATM card associated with a savings account usually can't be used at stores or online to pay for purchases.
Interest and Fees
Both savings and checking accounts can earn interest, depending on the bank and the specific type of account. Savings accounts generally earn more interest than checking accounts do, operating under the idea that the individual will be storing the money in the account for a long period of time. Fees for savings and checking accounts also vary. Banks offering savings accounts generally have few or no fees associated with these accounts. Checking accounts often have a variety of fees, including monthly service fees, fees for ATM or debit card use and fees for any other services the bank might attach to that account.
Savings accounts are usually easier to get than checking accounts. Most banks issuing checking accounts will look up the individual's checking account history through the ChexSystems electronic system, which operates similarly to a credit check for checking accounts. Any history of fraudulent or bounced checks in the applicant's past could cause a rejection. Savings accounts do not generally go through this process, so opening one is a fairly simple process.
Why Should I Consider Investing or Planning for Retirement Now?
It's good practice if you can start thinking about and preparing to meet your long-term goals or later years now. If you begin disciplined saving and investing now, it will help you meet your long-term goals like saving for a home. Also, many people think they can plan on spending less on expenses later in retirement since they'll become less active as they age. But if their health declines, they may actually shift spending from discretionary items to medical costs rather than reduce it. Saving something, even a small amount, will get you in to the habit of "paying yourself" first before you spend your discretionary income (money you have to spend after you meet your monthly expenses). Even if you tuck only a small amount away now, you will be thankful to have it later.
An investment account is an account that allows you to buy investments like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Investment accounts are available through online stock brokers, banks, mutual fund companies, and full service stock brokers.
Investment accounts generally offer no tax breaks. These accounts are financed with after-tax money, while interest income, dividend payments and capital gains earned may also be taxed.
Retirement accounts, such as 401k plans, traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (Roth IRAs), are structured to accommodate long-term investments concerned with retirement. In general, you cannot withdraw retirement account funds until age 59 1/2, without incurring severe tax penalties.
A 401k and IRAs are funded with pre-tax income which reduces your taxable income for the current tax year. Upon withdrawal, your 401k and IRA account balances are taxed as ordinary income. 401k plans may be offered as part of your employee benefits package, where you can select from a limited menu of mutual funds and employer stock as investments.
Alternatively, traditional IRAs are offered at various banks, brokerages and insurance companies. These IRA accounts provide access to the vast financial universe of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and certificates of deposit.
Roth IRAs are also offered at various financial institutions. Roth IRA's are financed with after-tax money, which grows on a tax-deferred basis. Upon withdrawal, no taxes are due on the account, because the original deposits were a part of taxable income.
How Do I Begin Financial Planning for My Future?
FIrst, determine what amount you have to use for future planning funds from your monthly income. Hopefully, you have developed your monthly budget plan and it works for you without leaving you strapped. Go back and reassess it to see where you might find some funds for your savings and investing plan. Once you know what you can afford to save long term each month begin shopping around for someone to give you good sound financial planning (saving and investing) advice. Check in with your bank because they often offer planning services; ask family and friends for references for private firms or investors. Lastly, don't be afraid to ask your planner lots of questions like how long they've been in the role, where have they worked previously, average number of clients and average amount of dollars they handle, etc. before you commit to becoming a client. Remember, it is your money you are placing in the trust of another!
Additional Information regarding Bank Accounts and Services is available on the Federal Reserve Website.
What is a Credit Score?
Your credit score is drawn from your credit report and is determined by the credit bureau pulling your report. This report outlines your borrowing, charging, and repayment activities. A good score helps you reach financial goals; a poor score limits your financial opportunities.
Since your credit report influences whether you are able to buy a home and get a job, it is extremely important to protect your credit rating by making loan and bill payments on time and by not taking on more debt than you can handle.
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report is a record of your credit activities. The report lists some basic demographic information about you and it provides a history of your use of credit such as any credit card accounts or loans you may have, the current balance due if any, and how regularly you make your payments.
What Type of Information Is on Your Credit Report?
There are usually four types of information:
How Do You Get a Copy of Your Credit Report?
You are entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies:
In addition a free credit report can be requested through www.annualcreditreport.com.
Also, if you are denied credit you are entitled to a free copy of the credit report even if you have already obtained a free copy within the year.
Why Should I Request a Free Copy of My Credit Report?
Reviewing your credit report on an annual basis is an excellent way of assuring that there are no discrepancies within your report. It lets you see how each of your creditor's are reporting your payment behavior to the major credit bureaus. Reviewing your credit report also allows you to see if you are a victim of identity theft where someone assumes your identity to obtain credit fraudulently. Annual reviews also allow you to correct any information that is incorrect.
Knowing your credit information is accurate avoids delays when you are applying for a mortgage, credit card and/or car loans.
How Do I Maintain a Good Credit Score?
There are a number of ways to create and maintain solid credit. For starters, set a budget. Understanding how much money is coming into your household each month and the amount of your monthly expenses (i.e. rent/mortgages car payment, student loan payment, etc.). This will allow you to live within your means and not be over extended.
Spend wisely. Once your budget is in place, make sure that you are only making purchases that are necessary. Try and keep credit card and loan expenditures to a minimum.
Pay you bill on time. Making timely monthly payments establish a payment pattern and shows creditors how likely you are to pay future debts. Timely payments help build and maintain your credit. If you are unable to make the minimum monthly payment on your debt, it is important that you contact your creditor to work out an acceptable payment arrangement. It is never okay to skip or not make a scheduled payment on any of your debt obligations.
Installment credit is a type of credit that has a fixed number of payments. You use installment loans for specified amounts and you know prior to accepting the funds how long you have to pay off the debt and the amount you will be repaying each month. As a result, installment loans can easily be factored into your budget.
When you first being repaying your installment loan, most of what you are paying off is interest. Over time, you begin paying an increasing portion of the loan principal (the original amount you borrowed), too. This increasing reduction in the principal amount is called amortization.
There are two types of installment loans: secured and unsecured. Secured loans are linked to some sort of collateral, such as a car or home. Secured loans usually carry lower interest rates than unsecured loans. However, if you default on your payments, the collateral you used to secure the loan may be in jeopardy of being confiscated by the holder of your loan's promissory note.
Unsecured loan, like your student loan are not tied to any material but the lender can attach your future earnings for repayment. Unsecured loans are riskier to a lender than a secured loan and therefore generally carry a higher interest rate.
The following kinds of debt are known as installment credit:
Revolving credit is a type of credit that does not have a fixed number of payments, in contrast to installment credit. An example of common revolving credit used by consumers includes credit cards.
Revolving forms of credit are more open-ended than installment loans. Revolving credit means you are given a set dollar amount you may borrow or use "up to" (your credit limit).
For example you obtain a credit card with a $2,000 credit limit. This means you can charge purchased up to a maximum cost of $2,000. Let's say you charge $1,000 of home appliances. This results in a remaining open credit amount of $1,000 ($2,000 credit limit minus what you have purchased and now owe back to the holder of your credit card.). As you make payments on the account, a portion of your payment (if you don't repay the total debt in full each month) goes toward principal and a portion goes toward the interest (the cost to you for "borrowing" the money).
As you repay principal, the "pool" of your available credit limit "revolves" back toward the original ceiling (maximum allotted to your as your line of credit). Continuing with our example, let's say you've paid back in principal $250. This means you would be eligible to charge again up to $1,250 before you complete repayment of the rest of the original principal used. You can make use of funds up to your credit limit as many times and for many purchases, as long as you continue to make regular on-time monthly payment on your outstanding debt.
Revolving credit rates vary widely depending on your credit and payment history. In addition, credit card issuers reserve the right to increase your interest rate, charge penalties or cancel your credit card for use at any time if you don't make timely payments.
How Can I Find Additional Information About Credit Reports and Credit Scores?
Additional information is available at:
There are many loan options available to students who need to borrow money to pay for their education expenses. Some of the available loans do require a credit worthy co-signer (parent, family friend, grandparent, etc.) It's important to understand what loans are available to you, what organization(s) or institutions you are borrowing from along with the terms and conditions of each loan.
The majority of student loans are made either through the U.S. Department of Education (federal government) or through private lenders such as banks and credit unions. Some states also administer loan programs for their residents.
The U.S. Department of Education administers the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Loans made through this program are referred to as Direct Loans and they include:
Federal Direct Subsidized Loan
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan
Below are the annual and lifetime maximums for the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan programs:
|Grade Level||Subsidized Maximum||Total Maximum (Sub. & Unsub.)|
|Junior & Senior||$5.500||$7.500|
|Grade Level||Subsidized Maximum||Total Maximum (Sub. & Unsub.)|
|Junior & Senior||$5,500||$12,500|
|Aggregate Limits||Subsidized Maximum||Total Maximum (Sub. & Unsub.)|
Federal Direct PLUS Loan
Students who need to borrow loans and are awarded a Federal Direct Subsidized and/or Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan are strongly encouraged to borrow the maximum amounts they are eligible through these programs before seeking additional loan sources for themselves or parents to borrow. Federal loans usually have better interest rates and repayment terms than private/alternative loan offered through commercial lenders. Student federal loans also provide students with the ability to consolidate their loans at repayment time and they offer specific deferment and forbearance options for students experiencing financial hardships that may not be offered through the private loan programs.
For more information on the federal loan programs, please visit the National Student Loan Data System for Students.
Private/Alternative Education Loans
Private loans (also known as alternative loans) are credit based and income contingent loans that are offered by a number of commercial banks and credit unions throughout the country. These loans traditionally fill the gap once students have maximized what they are eligible through grants, scholarships, work programs and federal/state loans and a balance is still remaining. Students and their families should make sure a private loan is truly needed before beginning the application process.
Typically, a student is the primary applicant but because you are in-school, you usually need a credit-worthy, income earning co-signer to act as the co-applicant. Since private loans are credit based and income contingent , eligibility for these loans are determined on the applicant and in the majority of cases, the cosigner's, credit score, income flow each month, outstanding debt on other credit obligations (i.e. mortgages, credit cards, car loans, etc.) and payment history. Prior to applying you may want to review your credit history to make sure your credit report is accurately representing your credit history. You can access a copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com
Private loans traditionally have higher interest rates than federal loans. In some cases depending on the applicant(s) creditworthiness, the rates may be significantly higher. It is important that families who decide to borrow a private loan do their homework and compare the different loans that are available to them.
Below are questions that students and families should ask before committing to a private loan:
While there are many credible private lenders in the market today helping students finance their education, a private loan is a serious obligation that should be made with as much information as possible about the terms of the loan and your responsibilities as the borrower.
Enrolling in an interest free monthly payment plan is an excellent way to reduce what you may need to borrow to pay for your educational expenses. Payment plans are simple in that you determine how much you want to finance for the academic year and divide by ten (10). For example, if you wanted to finance $3,000, you would make 10 monthly payment of $300.
While most families aren't in the position to be able to finance their entire billed expenses utilizing a 10 month payment plan, many families develop a "combination strategy" utilizing what they have been awarded in grants and loans along with the payment plan in financing what is due.
Even a monthly payment of $100 can reduce what you need to borrow by $4,000 over 4 years of school. They are an excellent way to reduce the amount you may need to borrow and you pay no interest. We strongly encourage families to finance a portion of their education, no matter the amount through the payment plan administered for Curry College by Tuition Management Systems (TMS). For more information on the payment plan, please visit the TMS website.
As we have previously stated, borrowing any type of loan to finance your education is a serious financial obligation and should be made with much thought.
When deciding to borrow, it's important to consider the following:
Federal Loan Programs
The Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans require you to begin repaying your obligation 6 months after you have ceased to be enrolled at least half-time. The Department of Education has a number of loan repayment programs that you may be eligible for in order to assist you in paying back your loans. To find out more information go to www.studentloan.gov.
During the 6 month period prior to entering repayment, it is important to get your financial matters organized and begin thinking how you will manage your monthly loan payment. This is an excellent time to develop a budget based on your income and anticipated expenses such as your loan payment, rent and other debt obligations. Below are some helpful websites that can assist you with developing a budget and managing your finances:
If you are unable to make your scheduled payment it is important that you be in contact with your loan servicer to see what other options may be available to you. Based on your financial circumstances you may be eligible for a deferment or forbearance. Your loan servicer will be able to work with you and determine your eligibility for these options.
For more information on repayment, please visit the National Student Loan Data System for Students.
How Much Have I Borrowed in Student Loans?
Your cumulative borrowing for your federal loans is tracked by the federal government. You can review your federal student loan debt by logging in to the National Student Loan Data System for Students (NSLDS).
You will need your FAFSA PIN number to view your cumulative debt. If you've misplaced your PIN you can request a duplicate by going to www.pin.ed.gov.
What If I'm Having Trouble Repaying My Student Loans?
If you are having trouble meeting your monthly repayment obligation, don't delay or avoid seeking a resolution. If you skip making payments you risk going in to loan default which is a serious matter that could impact your credit score, future earnings and future purchasing ability.
If you default, it means you failed to make payments on your student loan according to the terms of your promissory note, the binding legal document you signed at the time you took out your loan. In other words, you failed to make your loan payments as scheduled. Your school, the financial institution that made or owns your loan, your loan guarantor, and the federal government all can take action to recover the money you owe. Here are some consequences of default:
As soon as you recognize you are having difficulties meeting your obligations, contact the Department of Education.
Direct Loan Borrowers
Phone: (800) 848-0979 or (315) 738-6634
Fax: (800) 848-0984
TDD: (800) 848-0983
Or go to the Direct Loan Servicing website
Resolve questions about:
Direct Consolidation Loans
Phone: (800) 557-7392
Fax: (800) 557-7396
TDD: (800) 557-7395
Or go to the Direct Loan Consolidation website
Private Loan Programs
The majority of private loan programs allow students the option to defer payment while they are enrolled in school at least half-time. It is important to understand the terms of repayment as some programs provide an option to make immediate repayment which will lower the amount of interest that accrues during the in-school period. In addition, most private loan lenders provide incentives for making payments on-time. These incentives may include:
Just like the federal loan programs, it is important that you are in contact with your lender if at anytime you are unable to make your scheduled loan payment. There may be options available to you to reduce your payment or extend your repayment schedule. It is very important not to miss any scheduled payments.
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal identifying information like your name, social security number and/or credit card number without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft?
To limit your chances of being a victim of identity theft you should monitor your bank accounts and bank and credit/charge card statements each month. Checking your credit report on a regular basis and making sure you shred all important papers especially statements that contain identifying information such as accounts number and social security numbers. Never just toss out documents with identifying information on it!
How Do Thieves Steal An Identity?
Identity theft starts with the fraudulent use of your personal information described above. For identity thieves this information is a goldmine. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold your personal information, including rummaging through your trash, stealing credit and debit card numbers utilizing special devices at ATM machines, snatching purses and wallets. Skilled identity thieves will obtain personal information with professional sounding e-mail, text and telephone scams.
What Do They Do With My Stolen Information?
Identity thieves are skilled at using your information to open new credit cards, run-up charges on your existing credit cards, open new utility accounts, etc. They can also access bank accounts, write fraudulent checks and transfer cash from your accounts.
What Should I Do If I Am A Victim of Identity Theft?
You should first file a police report for your protection. A police report that provides specific details of the identity theft is considered an Identity Theft Report. This information is shared with the three major credit reporting agencies. This report can be used to permanently block further fraudulent information that results from identity theft. We also encourage that you contact your creditors immediately so they can freeze your accounts so identity thieves will no longer have access and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission's Theft Hotline at 877-ID-THEFT. Additional information regarding identity theft is available on the Federal Trade Commission website.
What is Budgeting and how does it help me manage my money?
Creating a budget helps you ensure you don't spend more money in a week or month then you actually have coming in to your household. It also helps you review where your money is going (expenses) and it offers you a way to make a plan to save for something you want like a car or home. A budget is a planning tool and it offers you a great way to evaluate your financial situation. The process involves listing all sources of income, and then subtracting all required, fixed expenses ( like a car payment - a set monthly pre-determined cost) and unfixed expenses (things you aren't billed for regularly like your daily coffee fix) and then possible future expenses (such as a mortgage).
Additional information regarding budgeting is available on the U.S. Department of Education website.
Why are my spending habits important?
Before you can create a budget, you need to identify how you are currently spending your money and be able to prioritize your spending patterns.
To get ready to develop a budget, you need to do the following exercises: Track by keeping a list either on your computer or on a piece of paper, everything you spend during the month no matter what it is (include personal necessities you purchase like toothpaste and shampoo), your monthly bills (such as your monthly student loan repayment amount and your cell phone bill) and what you spend for fun (the total cost of movie night including the tickets, popcorn, the drink to wash it down with...you get the idea) etc. Once you have a month of expenses, you can complete the next exercise: split that list into necessities and luxuries. Examples of necessities are groceries, gas, rent or mortgage and any other regular monthly bills you have. Examples of luxuries are going to the movies, coffee from the gourmet coffee house and eating meals out.
Why Save My Money?
Now you know what you have for "disposable" income (money you have available after necessities to spend how you want), you need to decide how much you are willing to put away for future emergencies (for example, your car breaking down and needing repairs) and how much you can afford to put away toward the "big purchase goal" you have in mind like your first home.
There are multiple ways for you to save for your future and you are encouraged to explore each so you can make a choice that is right for you. Each option has its own pros and cons, depending on your overall financial goals.
Savings accounts offer low interest rates but they are easy to maintain and your money is pretty accessible if you need to get to it. Certain banks offer checking accounts which earn low interest on your balance and you easily can write checks to creditors to pay off bills.
A money market account offers a floating interest rate based on the changes in the global financial market. This type of account usually pays a higher interest rate than a savings or checking account but often requires a minimum monthly balance be maintained thereby tying up a portion of your money making it unusable.
CDs are savings vehicles that guarantee principal (the original amount you placed of your own funds) and provide a fixed interest rate. CDs are invested in for a set amount of time, such as 6 months, 12 months, etc. If you withdraw your money before the maturity date, you are charged a penalty.
Keeping a budget while in college can help you meet personal goals such as reducing your debt, building your savings and allowing you to be better prepared for unexpected expenses and emergencies. Its purpose is to help you live your life while building financial security and creating a clear picture of your finances.
Listed below are helpful sites with resources to assist you with topics such as budgeting, credit, financial literacy, financial planning, loan repayment and savings: