Financing Graduate & Professional School Panel

On Monday we took part in a panel on the topic of financing graduate and professional school.  There were also representatives from the Scholarship & Financial Aid and Graduate Studies offices on the panel.  There was a good number of students in attendance who were thinking about going on to grad school after finishing at UNL.  Each of us on the panel took 10 or 15 minutes to talk about money matters in relation to our offices and graduate and professional school.  Then we opened up the floor to the students to ask questions.  There were great questions about graduate student loans, finding assistantships and fellowships, and how to allocate money for grad school expenses and living expenses.

The SMMC gave the students a handout on Financing Graduate & Professional School.  The handout had information on a variety of topics, which we discussed briefly during the panel session.  We first discussed whether attending grad school would be helpful in students’ careers and how to evaluate the return on investment for that financial decision.  Then we talked about organizing our financial lives, including creating an emergency fund, making a budget, credit cards, and planning for retirement.  If any students who attended have questions on the information presented, please come see us in room 237 of the City Union!

Thanks to Career Services for putting on this great event and inviting the SMMC to be a part of it!  We really enjoyed meeting such ambitious students who wanted to plan ahead financially for grad school!  If you think the SMMC could provide helpful information on money management or any personal finance topic at an event you are hosting, please contact us!

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Information Booths

A couple weeks ago we were invited to participate in the OASIS “Allow Me to Introduce Myself” involvement fair.  This was an information fair to give students the opportunity to find out more about services on campus.  The SMMC participates in many information fairs each semester.  We always have free things to give away to people who stop by our booth.  Free giveaways in the past have included pens, magnets, and sticky notes.  Sometimes we also have our prize wheel for students to spin to get even more free stuff!  Current prizes on our prize wheel include free keychain punches, magnets, tri-color highlighters, and water bottles!

We can create handouts for any type of information fair.  Earlier this semester we participated in a study abroad fair and gave out information on how to save and budget for study abroad and other money issues to watch out for.  We also are at all of the Red Letter Day information fairs giving handouts to high school students on how to financially prepare for college and handouts to their parents on how to help their students financially prepare for college.  In addition, we went to Parents’ Weekend and gave UNL parents information on tips they should share with their college students.  UNL students at Parents’ Weekend received our Financial Health Checklist so they could easily see if they are on the right financial track in college.  If you’d like to know where we will be ahead of time, check out our upcoming events on our website at: http://www.unl.edu/smmc/events.shtml If you are organizing an involvement fair on campus, we would love to be a part of it!

Being responsible on the weekends in downtown Lincoln

We’ve all been there. A long busy week comes to an end and all we want to do is go out and have a good time. But how can we do it without blowing our whole paycheck?

One of the most important things you can do when going out is to leave at home all that you will not need. When it comes to going out I advise only taking the following items: phone, keys, cash, and ID. Whenever you go out you should take your ID, not only to get you into the bar, but if there were an emergency it is important that you have it so you can be identified. Your phone is vital so that you can reach people in an emergency, or call a cab to get you home.

This leaves one item to discuss, cash. I advise only taking cash with you because once it’s gone, it’s gone. You know exactly how much you have and can spend. Taking a credit or debit card with you can potentially cause problems when it comes to your spending. The ease with which you can use your card can get you into trouble and cause you to spend more money then you really wanted to, especially when you may not be thinking the most clearly if you’ve already had a few drinks. Using cash enables you to think about and plan your evening. You are more likely to pace yourself, both on how much you drink and how much you spend in order to make sure your money lasts the evening. I recommend keeping at least $20 separate from your spending cash so that you have money available in case of an emergency.

Not taking a credit card is also a smart idea because if you happen to lose your things, the loss of cash is not as big of a deal as a loss of access to your bank account or credit card. Someone using up your cash is a temporary loss, whereas losing your credit or debit card can have severe consequences. If you do lose your phone or credit card is it very important that you contact your provider’s fraud hotline. Most cards if you contact them within 24 hours can do more to try and get your money back and deactivate your account before you lose more money.

It is smart to go out in a group. This is obviously an important safety idea, but it also can help you out financially as well. One important benefit of going out in a group involves getting home. If you do not have a designated driver lined up, the option for a cab is a smart bet. To avoid having to pay a high fare individually, you can split the fare amongst your group which will save everyone money.

Following these tips and knowing your limits, both drink and money wise, can help you keep you from getting sick both physically and financially.

Article by Erik Witt, SMMC Volunteer

BSAD 111 Presentation

A couple weeks ago we had the opportunity to present to a freshman-level business course, which included three different sections on three different days.

Our presentation included information on money management basics such as tips for saving money and reducing student loan debt, types of financial aid and refunds, creating an emergency fund, creating financial goals, budgeting, wants vs. needs, coupon services, banking fees, insurance, preventing identity theft, moving off campus, understanding credit scores and credit reports, and responsible credit card use.  Students were quizzed on what they had learned through an app called TopHat.  The vast majority of the students got the answers correct!

At the start of the presentation, students got to find out what money personality they are.  The Money Personality activity is by Olivia Mellan from moneyharmony.com.  The five money personalities are spenders, hoarders, avoiders, amassers, and money monks.  The students answered 6 questions to figure out their money personality.  Then we explained what each money personality meant and what things they could do to improve their money habits.  This was many students’ favorite part of our presentation!  If you would like us to come present the Money Personality activity to your class or club (10 min) please contact us!

We were also able to get some great feedback from students through TopHat.  Some questions that we asked the students included what they knew the most and the least about before our presentation in regards to money management, and what they learned the most from our presentation.  We will use this information to make our workshops even more interesting and relevant to students’ needs in the future.  If you would like us to do a workshop with your group, please let us know!

Monthly Focus

This year, the SMMC is starting a monthly focus- a personal finance topic that we will find a lot of resources on to share with you.  Each month we will announce the monthly focus through social media (we are on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest).  The bulletin board outside of our office (room 237 in the City Union) will change each month, with new resources pertaining to that month’s monthly focus.  The bulletin board inside of our office will have resources from the last month’s focus, just in case you missed it!  Each Monday will be our Monday Monthly Focus where we will be sure to post about resources or information directly relating to the monthly topic.  In addition, we will post pictures of resources for the monthly topic often on Twitter.  All resources posted on Twitter or on our bulletin board are available for FREE in the office.  Don’t worry if you aren’t able to come grab a resource during that month- we will have them available all year round!

For August and September, our monthly focus was federal student loans in honor of students coming back to campus.  The bulletin board inside our office still has information about student loans on it if you missed it!  We have lots of free resources on student loan repayment plans, deferment, forbearance, and much more! You can stop by any time to get any of these individual resources, or simply pick up a packet of student loans resources if you want everything we have on student loans!

Our monthly focus for October is budgeting.  Budgeting is one of our favorite topics in the office, and is one of the topics that we are sure to mention in each presentation to students.  This month, be sure to follow us on Twitter to see pictures of all of the budgeting resources we have available.  We also have several budgeting templates for you to get started making your own budget.  If you need help, simply schedule an appointment with us online at https://unlsmmc.youcanbook.me/  Our program coordinator’s favorite appointments are budgeting appointments!  All of the resources on our monthly focus budgeting bulletin board are available for free right inside the office!  Come grab a free resource or budgeting template today!

Credit Cards & Credit Scores

As college kids we are a prime target for credit card companies. It seems I can’t go 3 weeks away from home without returning to find 4 or 5 new letters from banks and companies wanting me to sign up for their card. Companies hope that as college kids we are not smart enough to weigh the consequences of just swiping a card. The more we spend, the more we owe them. If we can’t pay, we get a warm introduction to that interest rate they claim is so low. So why would we ever want to try and sign up for one of these credit cards? One huge benefit is your credit score.

If you’ve ever attempted to take out a loan, you probably know that your credit score can have a drastic impact on whether or not a bank is willing to loan you the money you need. With a higher credit score you are more likely to be able to obtain it, and you may even get a lower interest rate.

So the question on everyone’s minds is, how do I get this higher credit score? The key answer is to make your payments consistently and to pay the entire amount you owe. Yes you can make the minimum payment every time, but that will not help your score as much and will only build your debt. Companies hope you only make the minimum payment so that your total debt goes up. As your debt goes up, it increases the amount they can charge you interest on. To improve your credit score, here is what I recommend:

1: Don’t spend money you don’t have—seems simple, but many forget it.
2: Only charge things that you know you can pay off in full when your payment is due.
3: If you are able to get a credit card, do your research on the one that meets your specific financial situation the best.
For your research, I recommend finding a card with a reasonable credit limit and lower interest rate. If you happen to miss or pay the minimum on a payment, with a lower interest rate you won’t get killed on interest. Try to make up for it next time though so it doesn’t compound on itself.
4: Make your payments on time.

For student loans, avoiding the use of a credit card to make tuition payments is beneficial. If not, try to work a job and work on paying off the debt by making more than your minimum payments. If you must have student loans, do research on your own loans; some loans offer the ability to not have to make payments until after school, or have interest rates that are very low. What you do depends on how you are paying for tuition.

If you can do those 4 things, you can help improve your credit score. The earlier you can establish a good credit rating, the easier it will be to obtain credit when you need it.

Article by Erik Witt, SMMC Volunteer

The Importance of Saving Early

My parents always told me to save my money every time Christmas or a birthday would roll around and some cash would find its way into my pocket. “Are you going to put some of that in the bank?” I somberly went to the bank and the cash was quickly gone. I never understood the true benefit of it until now.

Saving your money at this age is very important. So what should you do when you land that job? It’s important to start your saving early if you want to be able to have money around in the future, either for retirement, a child’s college fund or for availability in emergency situations. Many adults nearing retirement today have not saved enough money to live on during retirement. Many feel they can rely on social security alone to provide them with enough income to live on during retirement. This may be doable, but for many it is not enough. According to the Social Security Administration’s website, the average monthly payment per month is $1,294, or approx. $15,000/year. Is that enough for your retirement plans?

If you’ve followed the news the last couple years you know there are many uncertainties for how long the social security fund will last future as more people live longer and more and more from the baby-boomer generation retire. So how can you avoid the risk of social security and ensure you have income to use when you retire? The key is starting early!

Keeping your costs low in your early work years is important. Some ways to keep your costs low include reducing how much you eat out and living with a roommate to keep living expenses low. With more of your income available you can contribute more to either paying off your student loans, or increasing your savings. Paying off your loans is very important because of its impact on your credit score. However, if you are able to make your monthly payments and have money left over, you may want to think about saving it. If you don’t have to pay off loans I recommend saving 10% of your paycheck.

Try to save enough that can cover up to 3 months of your expenses as an emergency fund. This way, if you are laid off you have some money to live on while you search for a new job. If you are able to reach that number, I would place some additional money away to cover unforeseen expenses such as car maintenance. I recommend $1000-$2000. If you have to use these funds make sure you replace them.

Another important thing to do is to explore possible retirement accounts like a 401(k). Do some research and ask your employer about potential retirement accounts. Some companies even offer matching contributions to these accounts. It seems a long way off, but the sooner you start saving your money, the more financial stability you can enjoy later in life.

Article by Erik Witt, SMMC Volunteer