Don’t Panic: Filing Taxes As A College Student

tax tips for a college studentImagine skipping a day of class, then coming into the next session and seeing a test. You open the packet and see what appears to be gibberish staring back at you. Everyone else around you seems to have a perfect grasp of what’s going on, but you’re just stumbling in the dark.
That can be what the process of preparing your taxes can feel like the first time you do them. You’re given a big pile of paper and expected to sort it out yourself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Before you start to panic, though, take a deep breath. There are a few questions that might make your life much easier. Grab that big stack of paper and ask yourself …

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Welcome to College! 5 Steps to Avoiding the Pit of Financial Despair

Financial tips for new college students

You worked through 13 years of school. You put in the extra hours in sports or band or drama or whatever you were into.

You researched a million schools, sent out a million applications. You filled out the FAFSA. You were accepted! You took out a student loan.

You made it. You’re here.

Now you can focus on building relationships and acing tests and forget about money for a while, right?

Um, no. [Read more…]

Adjustable Or Fixed-Rate Mortgage – Which Is Right For Me?

Adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) or fixed mortgage?

If you’re mortgage shopping, you may be overwhelmed by the number of options. Dozens of lenders, each with their own rates, terms, conditions and costs, can make the decision feel that way. But it doesn’t have to be that difficult! The choice of which mortgage to go with starts with a simple question: fixed-rate or adjustable? There are many different terms, points and rates associated with each, but narrowing your search to a category can really simplify the process.

As an overview, fixed-rate mortgages are the more traditional choice. You and a lender agree to a length of time (or term) and an interest rate. That interest rate stays the same throughout the term of the mortgage.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) are a slightly newer offering. These loans have a segment of time during which the interest rate is fixed. After that, the rate is determined by an economic indicator. If you’ve seen the notation “ARM 5/1,” that means an it is an adjustable rate mortgage with a set rate for the first five years of the loan, and then a new rate every year after that. There’s more to it than that, but this basic explanation will get us started. [Read more…]

Three Things You Can Do This Summer to Boost Your Earnings Potential

college student summer job skills

Believe it or not, summer break is right around the corner. For many students — who have put in heavy hours during the school year — the plan for summer months is pretty simple: sleep in, hang out with friends, make a little money for school next year, and stay up late.

Absolutely nothing wrong with that plan.  But if you’re looking for a break from the norm, consider taking this summer to do some smart self-improvement that will have a positive impact on your life for every summer yet to come. If you want to do something this summer that will increase your first post-college paycheck, start with these three activities. [Read more…]

Figuring Out the Right Down Payment for Your New Home

Figuring the right down payment for a houseWhen you think about your down payment, balance is key. If you think you might sell the house within just a few years of ownership, having a large down payment exposes you to greater risk if real estate prices fall. However, a larger down payment can also mean lower monthly payments.

The value of $1,000 is pretty hard to quantify, especially iin a real estate market that might have $30,000 homes and $300,000 homes. Instead of thinking about the amount of money, think about a percentage of the value of the house. When making these decisions, here are three questions to ask yourself. [Read more…]

What To Do When The Rent Is Due – But You’re Coming Up Short

how to manage when you're shot on rentNearly everyone can relate to the feeling of having rent due in a few days but being short on cash to pay.  An unexpected bill or a short paycheck puts you behind, and you spend the rest of the month playing catch up. Finally, a big, important bill comes up and you’re out of backup plans. That grim feeling of panic creeps up your spine. Your heart races.

This is a financial crisis!

The first step is to silence that panic. Take two or three deep breaths. Although it is a problem, it’s one you need to solve, not one to give up on. A practical plan is needed to come up with the money.

Rather than going through a list of things you can do, it might be easier to talk about places to look. Let’s go through a few locations you can go to try to find those few extra dollars. This task is going to be equal parts creativity and hard work, so roll up your sleeves and get your thinking cap on! [Read more…]

Three Steps You Can Take to Fight Scholarship Award Displacement

what is scholarship award displacementThe financial aid letter might be one of the best pieces of news you get. After months of scraping and digging, you’ve managed to put together a patchwork of scholarships that, with the institutional aid you are already getting, will finally make college affordable. Imagine the rude surprise that awaits the poor students who open that letter only to see that their institutional aid has been reduced on account of those private scholarships they’ve worked so hard to earn! [Read more…]

A Simple Guide to Writing a Great Resume

resume writing tipsFilling out a simple application may have been enough to snag that part-time summer job at the ice cream store during high school. But now that you’re in college, it’s time to graduate to a more advanced job-finding tool: the professional resume.

Creating your first resume can seem daunting, especially since your professional experience may be limited. But the sooner you master this skill, the sooner you’ll have a document you can easily send out whenever you happen upon an internship or employment opportunity. [Read more…]

Should You Cut the Cord on Cable This Year?

should you cut the cord on cableWhy is the cable/satellite bill so frustrating? Is it because the bill seems to go up every so often (and 2016 will be no exception) for reasons that are, at best, baffling? Is it the customer service which is, at best, infuriating? Or is it that feeling you get when you’re flipping past channel after channel that you never watch, making you realize you’re paying for something you don’t want or need? That feeling is, at best, unsatisfying.

Whatever the reason, getting the TV bill under control is one of the trickiest parts of managing the monthly budget. It can feel like the options are living in the stone age or dropping a small car note on channels that you won’t even watch.

Fortunately, the options for cord cutters have never been better. But before you call up the cable companies and tell them you’re ready to move on, it’s a good idea to consider the costs and logistics of going cable-free. [Read more…]