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Grad Sense: A Financial Tool for Graduate Students

Thinking about grad school but you just are not sure how much it will benefit you?
GradSense.org is a website that helps you calculate how much you will get paid with a bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, or professional degree. This website also gives you valuable savings tips, loan repayment options, and job finding tips.

What is the average pay for people that graduate with your degree?
On the home screen it will prompt you with a question asking what your highest level of education will be at graduation. The next question asks what field of study you will attain with your degree. Grad Sense then takes this information and gives you a low median and high level of pay that you can expect after graduation.

How can you save money?
Under the Add It Up tab, Grad Sense gives you examples of ways that you could be saving money on everyday expenses. The compound interest calculator provides information on how much you can expect to save annually based on if you make your coffee at home rather than from a coffee shop, for example, while you’re in school. The calculator then shows you how much you can have saved by the time you retire if you invest these savings after graduation.

Do you want to know how long it will take you to repay your student loans?
Grad Sense shows you the different repayment options for federal student loans as well as some useful links under the Loan Repayment tab. It also gives you an example of how much a student with a $40,000 federal student loan would pay monthly under the standard, graduated, or extended repayment plans.

Need some job tips?
Grad Sense provides information about choosing a job based on the benefits it offers and even helps you develop good salary negotiating skills. Job salary is not everything. Sometimes job benefits can be very helpful, and you should make sure you know what benefits each company offers. After looking at the company’s benefits you need to negotiate your salary. Your job is to know what the salary range is for your position and negotiate your salary based on your experience and skills.

Tyler Larson
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Top 5 Hidden Costs of Your First Job

1. Clothing

Your favorite jeans and college t-shirt work great when you’re heading to class, but once you enter the workforce you may have to beef up your wardrobe. Depending on the industry you go into you may be required to wear business professional or business casual attire every day. Purchasing these types of clothing doesn’t always come cheap.  About.com estimates that men will spend $125 a month on their professional work wardrobe. That totals up to $1500 annually.

2. Transportation

Depending on what city you work and reside in, other costs of your commute may arise. After you graduate you may need to upgrade your vehicle which will increase costs of auto insurance, loan payments, etc. Transportation costs may also include stress and time away from family or other activities depending on the distance or traffic of your daily commute.

3. Eating out

Even though you may plan on bringing lunch to work most days, you may be obligated to go out to lunch. Many employees treat lunch as a time to network with clients or discuss business. Spending a minimum of $20 a week on business lunches or dinners can end up costing you $1,040 a year. This being a low estimate increasing lunch outings can really add up over time and end up decreasing the amount of money you have to spend on other discretionary items.

4. Travel

With some jobs you may be required to travel. Whether this means traveling locally to meet clients, or traveling across the country, these costs can reduce your discretionary income.  Many firms will reimburse you for travel expenses, but you may have to pay the upfront cost. There are also expenses associated with traveling that your firm may not compensate you for such as time away from your family, meals, and traveling essentials.

5. Taxes

Most people don’t consider taxes when they enter their first job but it is something to be aware of. When you earn more money you may be pushed into a higher tax bracket. This is especially true for students entering their first job who have formerly filed as dependents of their parents. In 2012 those filing as Single on their tax return earning $8,700 to $35,350 were taxed at a rate of 15%. If you earned $30,000 last year you would have been taxed roughly $4,500. As your income increases your tax bracket increases, which means you may end up forking a good chunk of your income over to Uncle Sam.

 

Although that new job offer may sound great, it is always good to look into the hidden costs. Comparing these costs and your compensation is a great way to find out if you need to further negotiate your salary. When looking at an offered salary it is important to analyze the extra costs that take away from your discretionary income in order to accurately evaluate the offer. Budgeting for these extra expenses can help you in not being caught off guard when they arise.

 

Sydney A. Henderson
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Evaluating Employee Benefits and Perks

When considering a job offer, many people think the most important factor is the salary. Actually, it is just as critical to analyze the ‘secret’ money – benefits and perks that are offered by an employer. Some benefits to consider include a comfortable and casual work environment, flexible work schedules, an option to telecommute, gym memberships, tuition reimbursement, and a casual dress code.

Typical Employee Benefit Packages

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of annual paid holidays is 10.  Paid leave time also can include sick and maternity leave. Almost half of medium and large employers offered either a defined benefit or a defined contribution pension plan. But they may have some requirements. For example, you can join the plan after working a required number of years for the company. Or you must work for the company a certain number of years before you become “vested” and own the company contribution portion of your plan.

Every company has different requirements when they offer health insurance.  Some may require an initial premium payment  after which, the policy itself will cover you and your family.  Be sure when making insurance selections that you know whether or not the plan will include dental, vision or disability coverage and whether or not there will be any out-of-pocket expenses. Life insurance is also a common benefit associated with most insurance solutions. Employers usually provide an amount equal to a percentage of your annual salary for insurance needs with an additional option to purchase life insurance when necessary.

How to Evaluate Perks

Employers believe that an advantageous way to attract top employee talent is offering perks and benefits outside of the initial base salary. However, not all benefits are necessarily the best fit for you. The true value of perks being offered from the employer should be determined not by the overall quantity or dollar value, but by the benefits that make a true impact on the lifestyle you live. As an example, if living an active healthy lifestyle is important for you as an employee, it may be valuable to look for companies that offer gym memberships to employees. An extreme example of this would be looking for companies that have a gym inside of the office as this perk is becoming more and more popular in the modern day workplace.  Another example of perks would be companies that offer a flexible work schedule. If you are not a morning person, being able to come in later and be more productive creates a win-win situation for both parties! Just remember, when a company is a better fit for you, you are also a better fit for them.

 

Angela Li
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-skate.edu/pfc
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