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Author: kdarnell

Mutual Funds

What is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is a pool of investors in a “basket” of stocks and bonds. In other words, instead of you investing in one stock or bond, you combine your money with the money of several others to invest in many stocks and bonds. Mutual funds work like stocks in that the money you invest goes into the portfolio, and you receive shares of interest in the fund. There is a professional fund manager who is in charge of investing the fund. Some businesses use mutual funds as an investment medium for their employees’ retirement accounts, but you may also want to consider investing your own personal IRA (Individual Retirement Account) in a mutual fund.

Benefits

One of the benefits of mutual funds is that because the sum of money is so large, it makes the cost of purchasing and selling stocks much cheaper than you investing alone. It also means that the fund manager can invest in many more stocks and bonds than you can on your own. Another benefit of investing in a mutual fund is that someone else is managing the investments for you. Yes, this is a potential risk, but ideally you would choose a fund company that has a good reputation and track record and will have a manager in charge of the fund who has experience in investing and has been successful at it.

How to Get a Mutual Fund

You can purchase a mutual fund in several ways:

1) Directly through the fund company. Vanguard, PIMCO, and Fidelity are just a few of the many fund companies.

2) From a “supermarket.” This is basically purchasing funds through a third-party company. They are likely to charge you for purchasing funds, so be aware of all of the possible fees before investing with one of these companies.

3) Through a broker or financial planner who is qualified to sell investments. The benefits of going through a broker or a financial planner are that they are professionals who know about the market and the funds, and it is probably the most cost-effective way to go. Brokers will charge you for their services and possibly additional sales charges. Financial planners may do the same, but probably the least expensive thing to do would be to find a financial planner who charges by the hour instead of commission. They can probably find some less expensive, no-load funds for you (which are defined below).

Load Fees

It is important to be aware of load fees. Load fees are what brokers and financial planners charge you in order to make a commission on your investment. They will either charge you at the beginning—front-end load—or at redemption or sale of the fund—back-end load. Funds without loads are called no-load funds. In addition to these stated or understood fees, some brokers will try to tack on 12b-1 fees which is basically an extra but unnecessary expense to your investment. It is perfectly legal for them to charge you these fees, but is also perfectly unnecessary for you to pay the extra fee as the investor, so avoid them if you can. It might not be a stated fee so you may need to ask about it.

Checking out Fund Companies, Brokers, and Funds

It is crucial to do some research before diving in and investing in anything, whether it is a stock, bond, or mutual fund. You want to choose a fund company that has had consistent success in its performance and has a good reputation. The same goes for brokers. It is important to do a broker check beforehand, which you can do at http://brokercheck.finra.org/Search/Search.aspx.

To check out the performance of mutual funds as well as other types of investments, www.morningstar.com is a helpful site. As with any investment, make sure you do your research BEFORE investing your money. You should always know what you are getting into ahead of time.

http://guides.wsj.com/personal-finance/investing/how-to-buy-a-mutual-fund/

Rachel Vogler
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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

PAR – The New Kind of Résumé

Preparing for life after college is very important for your financial situation. You also will need to find a company that you really fit well with. This will help you motivate yourself to work harder and possibly get promoted. If you want to prepare yourself to receive a good paying job you will need to have a good résumé.

Most résumés just give a brief description that tells the employer where you worked and any other activities in which you have been involved. This is a problem because your potential future employer will not know how well you did those things.

The best way to build a résumé is to us the PAR method. PAR stands for problem, action and result. This type of résumé will show what difficulties you faced in your previous job, what you did about them, and what the results were. This will go smoothly with an interview especially if it is a behavioral interview. In these interviews they will ask you about “a time when…” and want you to explain the situation, what action you took to handle that situation, and finally what the end result was. If your résumé is already set up like this you will be one step ahead of the competition. PAR formatting for résumés give employers a good high-level look at you before you even meet. Here is a breakdown of each stage.

Problem

You will need to write about an obstacle or challenge you have previously faced in your life. Have enough context to paint a picture of the situation and even having goals that were planned for the situation will help. Some potential problems could be facing a really tight deadline, being down to half a team for the project, or handling an angry customer.

Action

This section will show the details of the actions you took in that specific challenge. You will want to list what you did to solve the problem or complete the goal. The more you can bring out your talents the better it will look. Make sure to use action words to make yourself stand out.

Result

In the result stage you will want to tell the employer the results of the situation. Use quantitative measurements if possible and include positive outcomes. It is okay to share negative outcomes, but be sure to describe how you will improve or do something different the next time.

Armani Williams
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Student Loan Servicers

A loan servicer is a company issued by the U.S. Department of Education that takes care of federal student loans. They deal with billing, loan consolidation, repayment plans and other services that are related to federal student loans.

When you are issued a student loan from the federal government, the government is not the one that holds on to them and keeps track of the information about the loan. The U.S. Department of Education passes your student loans to one of the eleven loan servicers after the loan amount is disbursed. A list of the loan servicers and their phone numbers for loans disbursed through the Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan) and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) are below:

Aspire Resources Inc. 1-855-475-3335
CornerStone 1-800-663-1662
ESA/Edfinancial 1-855-337-6884
FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA) 1-800-699-2908
Granite State – GSMR 1-888-556-0022
Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc. 1-800-236-4300
MOHELA 1-888-866-4352
Nelnet 1-888-486-4722
OSLA Servicing 1-866-264-9762
Sallie Mae 1-800-722-1300
VSAC Federal Loans 1-888-932-5626

To find out who your loan servicer is, start by going to the National Student Loan Data System website (nslds.ed.gov) to access information regarding your student loans you received from the federal government and the contact information of your loan servicer. If you received a loan in the current year or will receive a loan in the upcoming year, you will need to contact your financial aid office at your school over the status of the loan, loan disbursement timings and loan cancellation within 120 days of the loan disbursement. If the loan was disbursed in a prior year, then you will need to contact your loan servicer to get the information.

There are a number of reasons why you should be in contact with your loan servicer:
• Change in address, name or phone number
• Dropped below half-time status in school
• Stopped going to school
• Transferred to a new school
• Graduated

Once you graduate, this does not mean that you are done contacting your loan servicer. You will need to be in contact if you:
• Change your address, name, or phone number
• Need to change to a different repayment plan
• Have a question regarding your student loans or monthly payments

There may come a time when you find out that your loan servicer is changing to a new company. Do not worry if this happens. From time to time the Education Department transfers loans from servicer to servicer in the expectations that it will give more customer and repayment support. There are a few things that will happen if your loan servicer is transferred.
• You will receive an e-mail or letter from your current loan servicer when your loans are transferred to the new servicer.
• Your new servicer will then send you a welcome letter once they have your loans in their system, and in this letter should contain their contact information and how to proceed with them.
o You will have to create a new account with the new servicer.
o If you have your repayments set up through a bank, you will want to make sure and update the new information to have the payments sent to the new servicer.
• You will have the same terms of repayment.
• If you are making payments during the transfer process the servicers will work to make sure the payments are accounted for.

If you have a Federal Perkins Loan, and want to know who to contact, you will want to first contact the school that you attended when it was disbursed. Federal Perkins Loans are issued by the school, and will normally be the loan servicer as well. If you contact your school and find out that they are no longer the loan servicer for your loan, you will contact ECSI Federal Perkins Loan Servicer at 1-866-313-3797.

If you have a private student loan then you should contact the lender who you received the loan from for information about that loan.

Steven Plott
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

myRA: A New Way for Americans to Save for Retirement

In his State of the Union Address on January 28th, 2014, Barack Obama introduced America to a new way to save for retirement: myRA, short for My Retirement Account. A direct quote from his State of the Union:
” Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401(k) s. That’s why … I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: myRA.”
— President Barack Obama, State of the Union, January 28, 2014

As with any form of investing, it is important to understand the aspects and features of the funds you are putting your money into. I hope to provide you with a little more information about myRA in this post. It’s no secret that saving for retirement is essential for every American.

What is myRA?

My Retirement Account was created for Americans who do not have an employer sponsored retirement program. As you may or may not know, many firms, companies, and organizations have a 401(k) or 403(b) program set up for their employees where the employee can put a portion of their paycheck into the account to save for retirement. Some companies will even match a portion of what the employee puts in. However, many Americans, especially those working low income jobs, still do not have accesses to these retirement savings accounts or simply cannot afford to contribute. myRA has been put in place to close this gap. myRA is set up just like other retirement savings plans. An employee can elect to have a portion of their paycheck deposited into the account every month. It’s a simple way to get a head start on saving for retirement.

What are the Benefits of myRA?

• Saving Money for the Future
This one is a no brainer. Any opportunity that an employee has to save money should be taken. myRA was created in the hope that Americans who are currently not saving money for their retirement will begin to do so. As we are beginning to see, a social security check is not going to be enough to get the average American through retirement.

• It’s Easy to Understand
The myRA was created to be easy for working Americans to understand. An employee can make contributions as low as $5 every month. The account can be moved when you switch jobs, and it can be moved into different retirement accounts such as an IRA whenever you would like. It offers an easy and flexible way to get started on saving for retirement.

It Offers Safe Investments
The money that you put into your myRA account are invested in treasury securities. Treasury securities are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, meaning that these investments are very safe. The only pitfall to this is that treasury securities do not offer much of a return, so owners of myRA accounts will not see as much growth in their savings as they would with other more risky retirement accounts. However, the myRA is a great way to get started saving for retirement especially for low income Americans.

Anybody Can Afford It
The myRA account can be started with an initial investment of $25. From there, Americans can make deposits as little as $5 straight from their paychecks into the account.

How Can I Enroll in the myRA Program?

Details are still forthcoming. Right now the Treasury Department is still working out a few different aspects of the program. By the end of 2014 Americans should expect to be able to enroll in the program online.

A Few Other Details

There are a few rules put into place for the myRA account that Americans should be aware of. The myRA was created for low income Americans. However, a person earning wages up to $191,000 will be able to enroll in the program. The myRA account is allowed to accumulate a maximum of $15,000 over 30 years. Once either one of these limits are met the owner of the account will have to put the money into a more traditional retirement savings account.

Powercat Financial Counseling is here to help!

Retirement can be a daunting thought for many people, especially when you are young. It is never too early to start saving though! Here at Powercat Financial Counseling we strive to help students at K-State use their money wisely. If you have any questions about the myRA account, or saving for retirement in general please feel free to sign up for a counseling session. We would love to meet with you.

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

Ways to Make Money in College

1. Sell your plasma
Want to earn about $250? Well that’s how much you can make in total after 5 trips! Thereafter, it’s $20-$37 for each weekly trip. So if you aren’t afraid of needles, go for it! Go to www.cslplasma.com for more information from the Manhattan plasma donation center.

2. Sell stuff you don’t need
Do you have textbooks from a few semesters ago that aren’t doing you any good other than collecting dust? Make use of ecommerce sites like eBay, Amazon and Craigslist and sell them along with items such as gently used clothes, shoes and furniture. An alternative is to sell back books to Varneys Bookstore before finals week!

3. Participate in research studies and clinical trials
Are you comfortable with being asked questions and being studied by people in lab coats? Inquire about research studies being conducted by the many programs at K-State. A good place to start would be the Psychology Department that can be found in Bluemont Hall.

4. Get a part-time job
Make use of the Career and Employment Services website. It’s a great resource to find local jobs and internships. If you would like to make a little more than $7.25 an hour consider working for tips at a restaurant or bar.

5. Baby/pet-sit
If you have some time on your hands and you like pets or kids then this might be the right opportunity for you! These days, babysitters make upwards of $15 an hour. There are people who also need house sitters for when they take trips away from home, so ask around.

6. Take online surveys
Companies like Amazon and many others are in need of people to complete their surveys! You won’t make much but it does add up. Some surveys can be interesting and fun, too!

7. Recycle
If you support the Green Movement and you consistently recycle, why not get paid for it? Instead of using your campus-sponsored service visit your local recycling center and trade in your recyclables for some money.

You won’t become filthy rich with these tips but they are simple ways to have a little more $ in your pocket!

Gerald Mashange
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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