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5 Questions to Ask About Your Student Loans Before Graduating

Time flies. It may seem crazy to say it, but graduation is almost here. Graduating brings a new job, a new home and a new life. Also, with graduation comes student loans repayment. Often times, student loans get placed on the back-burner due to lack of preparation before graduation. How you manage your student loan payments will shape your finances for decades to come, so it is important to place student loans at the top of your pre-graduation to-do list.

Before walking across the stage, it is important to ask yourself these questions. If you need clarification regarding your answers, request an appointment with Powercat Financial. We are here to help!

  1. What kind of loans do I have?

If you have accepted loans to help fund your education, they are either private or federal student loans. You can look up your federal loans by going to www.studentaid.ed.gov. Once logged in, you will see the history of your student loans. It will show your current balance as well as the accrued interest that has grown on your unsubsidized loans. Remember, there are two types of federal loans – subsidized and unsubsidized. It is important to know the difference. With subsidized loans, the government subsidizes, or pays the accrued interest while you are in school. With unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, interest begins accruing as soon as the funds hit your account and it is your responsibility to pay back.

Private loans are a bit trickier to find. If you know you have received private loans but have forgotten who they were from, pulling a credit report is the best way to find out. You can do this by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. You are allowed to pull three credit reports per year for free; one from each of the three credit bureaus.

  1. Whom do I owe?

Each student who has accepted federal student loans has what is called a loan servicer. A loan servicer is the company that will collect interest and principal payments from you. You can find who your loan servicer is by clicking on each individual loans found on your www.studentaid.ed.gov account. It is encouraged to create an account on your loan servicer’s website before graduating. This is where you will make payments towards your student loans. Remember, you can make payments towards your student loans while in school and it will not have an effect on your in-school deferment.

You can find the contact information for your loan servicer here.

  1. What are my repayment options?

This depends on what type of loans you have. Private student loans often follow a typical installment loan repayment structure, in which you make monthly payments for a fixed loan term. Federal student loans offer more options. By default, you will be placed on the standard repayment plan which consists of 120 equal monthly payments. There are other options that can change the structure of your repayment plan. Some extend the payments over a longer time period, others will start you off with a lower payment and work you up to a larger payment over the course of the plan. There are also options to reduce payments based on your income, but which you must qualify for. You can learn more about the available student loan repayment options here.

  1. When is my first payment due?

Federal student loans generally have a grace period of six months, meaning your first payment comes due six months after you graduate. This allows graduates to get settled in to their new life after college. It is important to know when your first due date is. You can find this by contacting your loan servicer. If you have private student loans, your payments might become due right away so contact your lender to find out.

  1. How can I budget in my student loan payment?

First, it is important to understand what your estimated monthly payment will be. You can find this here by logging into your www.studentaid.ed.gov account. After finding your monthly payment, begin creating a monthly budget that includes all of your income and expenses. To help you get started, please download Powercat Financial’s Excel budgeting tool or come in to meet with a peer counselor. Living on a budget requires continuous monitoring and adjustments but can help you reach your goals!

Student loans can be overwhelming and somewhat complicated. If you are stressed about adding an extra item to your to-do list, please request a FREE appointment with Powercat Financial today via www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial/services. We can help provide clarity and direction for life after graduation.

One option available to all K-Stater’s is access to the Salt Money financial tool. Sign up today at www.saltmoney.org/kstate for your lifetime access of tips and tricks regarding your finances. They offer a chat service with student loan professionals to answer all of your questions after graduation. This is a great resource to take advantage of.

 

Nolan Keim

Peer Counselor III

Powercat Financial

www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial

Credit Union vs. Bank: It’s Worth Knowing the Difference

When considering options for financial services such as setting up a checking account, savings account, or taking out a loan it is common practice to refer to a bank. But what about that other financial institution, the credit union? What do they do? Are they the same?

Banks and credit unions offer the same products and services, almost. However, there are some key differences to be aware of when making your decision. Let’s review the similarities and difference to decide what is best for you!

Terminology: While banks and credit unions offer virtually the same financial products you may notice that they use different names for the same financial vehicle. For example: credit unions refer to savings accounts as “share accounts”, and customers as “members”. A very minor difference.

Business Structure:

Banks are a for-profit financial company, ranging from big to small, national or local. Most of these banks are public companies, this means that ownership goes to company stock holders.

Credit Unions are not-for profit financial cooperatives and they are typically small and local. They are run by member-owners on a one member-one vote system. Essentially members agree on all of the cooperative’s decisions together. The members are typically un-paid volunteers who are elected by vote.

Eligibility

Banks can conduct business with any customer.

Credit Union membership is restricted to certain people with affiliations. For example: where they live, work, attend school, etc. Other affiliations may apply. However, under the Federal Credit Union Act, once you are a member you are a member for life, even if you leave the affiliate group.

Fees, Incentives, and Rates

Banks typically charge more. Banks commonly pay their customers lower earnings on deposit accounts and charge higher rates on loans, but of course this is not always the case! However, they typically offer better rewards on credit cards.

Credit Unions are typically associated with lower fees (overdraft fees, ATM fees etc.), and membership requires a small deposit of $5, and most do not require minimum daily balance. Additionally, they may offer higher rates of return on savings accounts, money market accounts, and CDs.

When deciding what financial institution to work with remember these considerations, and check out your local branches! For more information on banks, credit unions, and other financial services visit Powercat Financial located on the 3rd floor in the Union. To request an appointment with one of our peer financial counselors follow this link:  http://www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/ .

Emily Koochel

Peer Financial Counselor

Spring Break NOT Spring Broke

Classes are in full swing, the first round of tests are over with, so that means it’s time to start thinking about the next time our brains will get to rest, spring break!  Spring break is the half way point of the spring semester and is intended to give students a week to relax, collect themselves, and finish the second half of the semester strong.  Although, many students are worried about how they are going to fund this big trip their friends are planning.  And of course, there’s no way you can miss it, right?  I’m going to elaborate on a couple tips I have for you to have an enjoyable spring break, yet a financially responsible one.

First, create a budget for your trip. This will allow you to put a limit on each category of spending and get more out of every dollar. Not only should you create a budget, but ask your friends if they want join you as well. If so, you’ll be more inclined to stick to it throughout the trip. You’ll have an easier time staying motivated and less of a chance to overspend if you can get the group you are going with to budget with you. Getting together weeks in advance of your trip and creating a budget as a group would be very beneficial to the overall financial burden of the trip.

When traveling for an extended period of time, food expenses start to add up quick. For example, if you get up and have coffee and a quick breakfast ($5), go out for lunch ($12), and then eat a nice dinner ($16); you’ve already spend around $30 for the day. Throughout the week, the total amount you end up spending on food could be well over $200. To avoid costs like this, the simplest thing to do is plan ahead. Before heading out to your destination, throw in some lunch meat, granola bars, peanut butter, or anything else that would make for a quick and easy meal. Not only will quick meals be less of a burden on your budget, they will also allow you to spend more time on the beach, on the slopes, or wherever else you decide to go. It creates a win-win situation! With that being said, no one wants to go on vacations and eat ham sandwiches the entire trip. Budget for a night out at a restaurant in the area, but stay within the limits you set for yourself. Allocate your money ahead of time to save yourself the headache (and possibly heartache) when you return home.

If you are looking for a cheap place to stay, Airbnb and VRBO are both good options. They are both an online marketplace that lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms. So instead of staying in a hotel room that has exponentially raised their prices because of spring break, you can save money by splitting rooms with the group you’re traveling with through Airbnb or VRBO. Not only is it cheaper, but it also provides more of a “home” feel. You are legitimately staying in someone else’s home, apartment, condo, etc. for the week. Besides the cheaper price, the best part is they are often found in prime locations (right next to that expensive hotel). Another plus would be that you have an “in” with some locals. Not only would they offer you a place to stay, but they might cook a few meals for you, have some recommendations on restaurants, or know some fun, extra activities that may not be too popular among tourists.

Next, I have a couple road trips tips to help you save money and prevent potential problems along the way. GasBuddy is a free app available on Apple and Android phones that allows you to enter your location and find the lowest price gas in your area. A couple cents might not feel like a lot at the time, but if you fill up a couple times throughout the week it will add up to a substantial amount. To prevent problems while you’re on the trip, it’s a good idea to have your car maintenance up to make. Get an oil change, check your tires, and double check to make sure you have any emergency equipment you might need. Having a car breakdown will not only ruin your break, but also leave a hefty dent in your bank account.

Finally, make sure you attend our Spring Break NOT Spring Broke event on Thursday, March 1st from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm in the Union ground floor courtyard. There will be games, prizes like Yeti tumblers, and more opportunities to learn about budgeting, saving, and many other financial topics. If you would like assistance starting your budget for spring break, or have any other financial related questions, make an appointment with us by going to https://ksu.edu/powercatfinancial and click ‘Request an Appointment’. Have a safe, enjoyable, and financially responsible spring break!

 

Kaden Stein
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial
302 K-State Student Union, Third Floor
www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial
PowercatFinancial@k-state.edu

 

 

8 Things to Consider When Deciding to Sign a Lease

It’s that time of the year again! It’s leasing season and time for students to begin to search for where they will live for the next semester or year of their college career. There are many factors that go into where you should live next school year, and some financial tips that every student looking for a new place to live should know. Here is an 8-step list of what to consider when deciding where to live next school year.

  1. Determine the Most Important Factors

Everyone is different and each of us have our own way of prioritizing what is most important to us for our living arrangements. Here are a few important factors to consider:

                 Roommates- the number of roommates you have will be a central factor in calculating housing cost. This should not be overlooked! If you don’t want to live in a single living arrangement, try to find roommates that you know you can get along with while living in the same place. It’s one thing to be friends with someone when you are in class or hangout on the weekends, but it’s a totally different game when you live in the same place. Some things you may want to agree on are cleaning style, house/ room temperature, and personal space.

Housing Style- Dorms, apartments and rental houses are the most common places for college students to live. Once you’ve got your roommates together, decide what style will fit your needs the best. Weigh the pros and cons of responsibility versus freedom between each of the three. Living in the dorms typically requires less responsibility for food arrangements and cleaning, but students have far less freedom to be noisy after quite hours. Living in an off campus house demands much more responsibility for daily cleaning and food preparation, but allows the freedom to enjoy the company of others with almost no limitations.

Location- locations closer to campus tend to cost more per month. This is of course, due to the benefit of being close to the campus which reduces expenses such as travel cost. Think about how close, or far, you would like to live from campus and how important being connected to the campus is to you.

Paying Separate Bills- On campus living has the benefit of paying for housing expenses through KSIS. This is also beneficial because the bill is applied directly to you and does not will not depend on others. This is an important factor to consider, because your credit score may be affected by your ability to make payments on time. If this concerns you but you would still like to live off campus, look for apartments that offer individual room payments so that you and your roommates ability to make payments on time does not affect each other’s credit. Some new bills that require monthly payments may include: rent, electricity, water, gas, garbage, and internet service. This is not a bad thing, however students should be prepared to make these payments on time to protect their credit score.

  1. Decide On a Price Range

This is one of the most important steps in deciding on where to live. Housing cost vary dramatically based on the number of rooms, location, and housing style so set a price range based on the factors listed above. Most two bedroom apartments cost each person roughly $350- $450 in rent. Rent can be very high in Manhattan so you’ll want to go for a place that falls into your price range. If you are uncertain about your price range or if your monthly budget will allow you to pay for a living arrangement than you should set up a free appointment with Powercat Financial. Our peer financial counselors would love to help you organize your budget and help determine a good price range. Some preliminary questions you should ask yourself are: What is my expected income source? How much money will my income source provide? What will I be able to afford to pay each month? What additional services and cost will I incur by living in an apartment or house?

  1. Start Your Search Online

Using an online search tool is an easy and cost-effective way for your preliminary housing search. I tried a couple of different websites and found Aparments.com to be one of the better tools. You can filter your search by location, number of rooms, and price among other requirements. You can take your online search a step further and look at the land ownership group’s websites. Often time, landowners have multiple properties under a single web page and can offer a small variety of housing options. If one that you saw looks interesting, but not the perfect fit it is possible that they have another that better meets your needs.

  1. Talk to Peers

See what your peers think about where they live currently. Person to person communication can usually offer a better and more accurate understanding of expectations for places that you are considering. Ask them if they can make payments online or if they can pay with money orders or checks. An honest opinion from a current tenant may be more reliable than a review from an angry past tenant or an online review from a few years ago that “LOOOOVED” the place.

  1. Narrow It Down To Three

Once you’ve got a good set of data points select three living options suit you and your roommates the best. Your top three may not be prefect so prepare to give and take with benefits listed in the first two sections.

  1. Do a Walk Through

Always look at the living arrangement with your own eyes. Though pictures are nice to look at, the pictures that you see online may look a little bit different in real life. So schedule an appointment and do a walkthrough so that you are totally familiar with the real environment. After all you are considering spending your money and living there for the next year.

  1. Gather Down Payment and Find Co-Signer

Several rentals have application fees on top of down payments and security deposits. Ask for down payment and fee information up front so that you are prepared to make those payments ahead of time. Fees can be anywhere from $25- $50 on top of down payments that are often at least $100 or the price of a full month of rent. Sometimes these fees can be waved as a promotion so also be on the lookout for any promotions and always ask if the application fee can be waved.

Numerous off campus rental options require co-signers on any unit that will be rented by a college student. Be prepared to have a co-signer if you would like to live off campus. A co-signer is someone who contractually agrees to pay for your rent in the event that you do not pay it. If a payment is missed it will have a serious negative effect on you and your co-signers credit score.

  1. Read Over and Sign Lease

Read the lease carefully and ask the person going over it any questions that concern you. Fixed term leases are the most common and typically last for 5 or 6 months (one semester) or an entire year (possibly extending into the summer). In many cases if you choose to leave early you will still be responsible for paying until the end of your term. Lease terms should include any circumstances where the landlord can keep your deposit such as damage to property or permeant fixtures.

 

Finding a new place to live can be exciting and sometimes overwhelming. As we progress in our education and lives, we take more control and responsibility over our finances. Take the steps listed above to try to make your decision easier and to help keep your finances in order. After the proper preparation you should be able to snag a new dorm, apartment, or house and spend more time focused on your education and other priorities. Don’t forget Powercat Financial is here to help so make a free appointment today at www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial.

Lyndon Breckenridge

Peer Counselor I

POWERCAT FINANCIAL

302 K-State Student Union, Third Floor

918 N. 17th Street

Manhattan, KS 66506-2800

powercatfinancial@k-state.edu

785.532.2889

 

Marriage and Money

Have you ever thought about the first memory you have involving money?  Was it a good experience or a negative one?  Each of us has developed a mindset towards money that started with the first experience we had with it and continues to evolve.  This money mindset is specific to you and your experiences.  So, what happens when we merge our finances with a partner or spouse?  What if their mindset is totally different than ours?  Arguing about money has been found to be the top predictor of relationship satisfaction so it is important to understand how this can affect your relationship and discuss it before it causes problems.  Don’t let your relationship suffer because of these differences but instead communicate with your partner and understand their mindset and beliefs about money so that you’re on the same page.

Some of the areas that are beneficial to discuss are:

  • Goals: We all have dreams and goals that we would like to achieve.  Do yours align with your partners?  Do you need to compromise?  It is important to determine these goals and plan for how you are going to reach them.
  • Debts: Debt can be a very stressful topic.  And if not talked about can be very detrimental to a relationship.  It is important that both people are honest when discussing debt and disclose all the debt they have so they can effectively plan with their partner how they are going to get out of debt.  Pulling a credit report and comparing may be a helpful way to discuss this.
  • Merging Financial Accounts: Couples with separate bank accounts often have more relationship difficulties than those with Joint accounts.  This may be something to consider when you discuss your finances as it can help build a sense of teamwork and provide complete transparency between partners.
  • Attitudes and Expectations: As I talked about above our attitudes and mindsets can affect the choices we make with money and how we manage our finances.  It is important to understand your partner and your own money attitudes so that you can work together.

 

Ultimately the most important thing is communication.  Being open, honest, and accepting can go a long way in your relationship.  The more you communicate and the better aligned you and your partner’s attitudes are the happier your relationship will be.  However, in order to be beneficial communication must be effective.  Here are some tips that can help; Schedule time for discussion, be goal-oriented, speak honestly, admit mistakes, don’t judge, listen attentively, and look at the numbers. If you need assistance with any of these financial topics, a peer counselor at Powercat Financial would love to help you out.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, please join us as we will be hosting a free informational session on Tuesday February 13th from 7:00 to 8:00 pm in Union Room 227.  Reservations are required by February 8th to attend this event.  You can RSVP at the link attached below.

https://powercatfinancial.wufoo.com/forms/s1n3h0ey0pa8x3c/

Josh Payne

Peer Counselor I

Powercat Financial

www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial

Why Establishing Credit Early is Important

 

Why to establish

Establishing credit early is important for every young adult in college that’s about to make that big life transition. Transitioning from college into the workforce is a big life change that we will all have to make at some point in our life. Credit can come into play very early after you leave college if it hasn’t affected you already. If you’re getting a credit card, buying a house, or buying a car there’s a good chance you’ll run into having your credit checked. When doing any of these things it is crucial to have a high credit score so that you can secure a lower interest rate. Other things that could cause your credit to be checked could even include renting an apartment or accepted a job with a new company. Whatever the reason, it’s always ideal to have a good record to show.

How to establish

One of the easiest ways to establish credit for someone that doesn’t have any yet would be to apply for a credit card. Most of the time college students that have little to no income will be given a credit card with a small credit limit of $500. They may also ask for a cosigner on the card as well if you are under the age of 21 or don’t have sufficient income. This would be the easiest way for college students. Many of you with student loans might not know this but if you do have a student loan you are already on your way to building your credit. That’s right, when you accept a student loan that is a form of credit that has been given to you and will help to start building your credit history once repayment begins. Some other ways that might be a little more difficult for college students to establish credit could include receiving a loan to buy a car or receiving a loan to buy a house.

 

What will affect your score

There’s 5 different things that make up and affect your credit score. Here’s what they are.

  • Payment History 35%

Payment history will have the most effect on your credit score. This consists of your past payments and if you have made them on time or if they have been late, and if you have paid the amount due.

  • Utilization 30%

When owning a credit card it is important to keep an eye on your credit utilization ratio. Here’s an example, if you have a card with a $500 limit and you’ve used $400 so far that means that you have a credit utilization ratio of 80%. Normally you want to keep this ratio below 30%, for a $500 credit limit card that would be $150.

  • Length of History 15%

Here is where college students suffer when it comes to their credit score. Since we are so new to credit we haven’t had a chance to have time on our side. Length of history has to deal with how long you’ve had credit and loans. So, for someone who has had a credit card for 4 years starting when college started versus someone who just got one before graduating, you can see where you might run into trouble.

  • Shopping for Credit 10%

If you shop around for credit too much this could start to hurt your credit score. Activities that will hurt your score if done to frequently consist of applying for credit cards, applying for car loans, applying for mortgages. These are known as hard inquires that have a negative impact on your credit score. Things that won’t hurt your score consist of when companies run background checks on you or someone checks your credit without your permission. An employer might also check your credit before hiring you. These are known as soft inquires.

 

  • Mix of Credit 10%

Having a good mix of credit is also important. Having a mortgage, credit card and car loan will show that you have a good mix of different types of credit. The best many college students can really do right now is have a student loan, credit card, and maybe even a car loan.

 

At Powercat Financial, a peer counselor can help you to further understand your credit score as well as provide you with resources to view your credit score. In return, this can help you to build good credit. To schedule an appointment, go to www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial.

 

Landon Warmund

Peer Counselor I

Powercat Financial

www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial

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