Wisdom Wednesday: Top 5 Things To Know About Money Before You Graduate!

Congratulations! You’re graduating from college and you’re on the cusp of making real money. It’s exciting. But it can also be frightening. If you’re like most people, you’ve focused most of your energy on grades. You haven’t had a lot of time to pay attention to your finances. No worries though. This article is about to tell you the top five things to know as soon as you walk across the stage.

1.) Student Loan Debt

Now is the time to become familiar with any student loan debt. While many loans have a grace period, it’s still important to face your loans right now. And in case you’re wondering, a grace period is a period of time between graduation and when you must start making payments. Grace periods are usually six or nine months. Contact the National Student Loan Data System if you’re shaky about the terms of your loans.

Figure out how much you can afford to pay back each month. Create an action plan. Student debt is not easy to discharge – even in bankruptcy . Therefore, paying your student loans should be a priority.

2.) Credit Scores

Your credit score is important for many reasons: employment, buying a house – even just getting a rental agreement on an apartment. The higher your score, the better.

It’s okay if you don’t know your score right now. To get started, you can go to annualcreditreport.com . It’s a government website that lets you see your credit reports. Make sure all information is accurate. Although this won’t give you a credit score, it’s good to make sure there are no errors. Then you can know your score is accurate when you do discover your score.

There are many ways to get a credit score for free. For instance, many major credit cards come with free credit score monitoring. Here are several other ways to keep an eye on your score.

3.) Retirement Plans

You can fairly easily become a millionaire if you begin contributing to your retirement plan early enough. Plus, if you start contributing to your 401(k) on day one, you won’t miss spending the money. Ask anyone who’s age 50 or older; this is a great idea.

You can also contribute up to $5,500 per year to individual retirement accounts.

As a fun illustration, let’s assume you graduate at 22. You have $0 saved for retirement. But this same year, you begin contributing $5,500 annually. You invest the money in a simple mutual fund. Let’s assume you earn 7% annually – a very realistic number. Let’s say you retire at age 65. By this time, your account will look pretty healthy. At just $5,500 per year invested, your account will have grown to $1,458,154.01. At $5,500 per year, you’re virtually guaranteed to become a millionaire.

4.) Health Care

In the United States, you’re allowed to be on the health insurance plan of your parents until age 26. So you may have a few years. But it’s best to know what’s on the horizon. If you’re curious how much your own health insurance will cost, check out healthcare.gov and run an illustration. Or ask your employer to see how much the plan would cost.

I think the biggest takeaway of this exercise is to calm your fears. I know health insurance is a hot topic in the media but it’ll likely be cheaper than you think. Being an adult doesn’t mean being broke!

5.) Budgets

While some people do like budgeting every dollar, it’s not necessary. Budgeting can just be a catch-all word for watching how you spend your money. What is it you value? In what ways do you want to spend your money? Cars? Travel? A large home? Charity? A little of each? Budgets can help you meet your goals – even if they are more of an outline than a line in the sand.

Congratulations!

If you’re responsible enough to have read this article, you’ll probably do just fine with your money. Just remember to earn, save and invest consistently. Enjoy your first ‘real’ paycheck!

Originally posted on iGrad.com

Wisdom Wednesday: The Happy Secret to Better work

What is the true secret to happiness in our working lives? The formula is commonly understood to be that working hard leads to success and success leads to happiness, but what if there were a better way?

Shawn Achor’s talk is both hilarious and poignant. It will keep you glued to the screen for the entire 12 minutes. The takeaway? Happiness breeds success, and if you can tap into the “happiness advantage,” good things will follow. Concrete suggestions for becoming happier (the hard part) start around the 11-minute mark.

Wisdom Wednesday: How to Budget When You Don’t Make Enough Money

You lose your job. You get sick. Your husband loses his job. You are going through a divorce.

These are huge life-altering challenges with relational, emotional and financial implications. Often, the result is a situation where you don’t have enough money to pay the bills. Talk about things that keep you up at night… we’ve been there. To describe the situation as ‘unfortunate’ is quite the understatement. More like “drowning without a life vest”. Over 25 million Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck today, and just one event could cause a financial panic.

Or maybe there was no single event that resulted in your financial situation – it’s just been the accumulation of increasing bills and a paycheck that hasn’t kept pace.

Whatever the reason – not making enough money to pay your bills is a HUGE problem facing many Americans today – so what can you do to keep it from becoming an all-out financial crisis?

Here are our 5 tips:

Keep a positive mindset

This is the hardest one, but also the most important. Negativity is attacking you from every direction. Thoughts like:

  • You will never get out of this mess
  • You will never find a job
  • You will lose your home

These thoughts will become a self-fulfilling prophesy if you give into them. And I’m saying this as a person who struggles with negative self-talk – it is a KILLER. You have to find what works for you. If you are able to stay positive and focused on what you need to do to get out of your situation, then reality will follow that positivity.

Recognize that it is temporary

Yes, this is bullet number 2, and you might be thinking ‘2 points in, and nothing actionable?’ This is on purpose. The actionable items below won’t stick if you don’t keep your head in the game. You need to act knowing that your financial situation will not last forever, and that it is simply a challenge that you have to overcome. Do not let this become your lifestyle – choose to be an overcomer instead of a casualty.

You are in a sprint right now because you need to be. But just like running, you can’t sprint forever. So make your sprint count!

Cut, cut, cut

Are you paying for cable? Cancel it. Do you have smartphones? Sell them and reduce your wireless bill. Do you meal plan and use coupons? Do you still go out to eat often?

I remember a time when we couldn’t pay our bills, I thought “well, what’s the point of budgeting?” That line of thinking was a huge mistake. Budgeting is more important than ever when you are running a deficit – you’ve got to drill down and figure out every single place that you can save money.

At this time in your life, you’ve got to get CRAZY (or is it more crazy to be paying for a 300+ channel cable package when you can’t pay your bills?) You are in survival mode – if you don’t need to be spending money on it, then you simply cannot afford to spend money on it.

Get More Money!

When you are running a monthly deficit in your budget, you have to attack this from both sides. Cut expenses and make more money. Yes, yes, I know. Easier said than done. But there are some things you can do from home that you might not have thought of. What if you were able to cut $300 from your monthly bills, and then also make an extra $300 through odd jobs or working from home? That’s $600 more in your pocket.

Can you work more hours at your job? Can your spouse go out and get another job? When you are in survival mode, no job should be beneath you, and any sacrifices you make are temporary because you are digging yourself out. If you had been laid off from a good paying white collar desk job, it’s ok to deliver pizza for a while before you land that next job.

Prioritize your bills

When there isn’t enough money to go around, how do you decide who gets paid and who doesn’t? Since we’ve been using the term “survival”, think of the things you would need to survive – food, shelter, clothing, transportation, energy… you’re first payments have to be the ones that keep you in your warm home, keep food on the table, and allow you to get to work.

After that, you need to figure out what creditors get paid, and which don’t. If you don’t have enough to pay some creditors, make sure to communicate with them. There are ways to negotiate with creditors, and this might be the time to do it. There are implications when settling debt, so be careful and make sure to do your research.

Here’s why I made the first 2 points mental rather than actionable – would you be willing to work those extra hours, to get rid of your smartphone, to take a job that might seem embarrassing, if you didn’t have a positive mindset?

The question we have for you today is what are you willing to do to make this happen?

Author: Mark Greutman

Wisdom Wednesday: Powerful Habits of the Ultra Successful

Often individuals think that successful people are born with an innate ability to lead and excel at whatever they do – or that success just comes easier for some than others. However, motivational speaker Brian Tracy says, “Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” Changing poor habits and taking the time to invest in yourself will result in empowerment and positive changes. Take a look at the 10 most powerful habits of ultra successful people:   Infographic1

Wisdom Wednesday: 7 Money Mistakes to Avoid in your Twenties

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For the YOLO generation, your 20s may seem like they’re all about embracing mistakes. But when it comes to money, what you do now can make or break your future financial success. Here are seven money mistakes you’ll want to avoid in your 20s.


1. Not Budgeting
Failing to set up a monthly budget and stick to it can leave you living paycheck-to-paycheck. Worse, you may find yourself slipping into debt when you’re tempted to spend more than you earn. But with a well-planned budget, you can’t only stay in the black, but also save for emergencies or retirement.

To get started, you’ll want to track your expenses using a budgeting app or pen and paper. To create a budget manually, list your monthly expenses and subtract them from your total income. From there, you can figure out which unnecessary costs, like entertainment or shopping, you can cut back on in order to reach your savings goals and pay for essentials, like rent, bills, and groceries.
2. Not Saving for Emergencies
An emergency fund can spare you from getting into major debt if you suddenly lose your job, experience a medical emergency, or otherwise incur unexpected costs, like an expensive car repair. Your savings should cover six months’ living expenses. Ideally, that would give you the flexibility to bounce back from an emergency. To make saving convenient and consistent, set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account around payday.
3. Postponing Retirement Savings
Just 55 percent of all millennials are saving for retirement, according to the 2014 Wells Fargo Millennial Study. But a key to building a solid nest egg is starting early enough to reap the benefits of compound interest. Compound interest allows you to earn interest on your original investment, plus any money your account accrues in interest over time. So the earlier you contribute to a Roth IRA or 401(k) the more earning potential your initial investment has.
4. Not Building Credit
Good credit helps you access the best loans, housing, and credit cards on the market. If at first you’re not approved for good credit credit-cards consider applying for a secured credit-card. Secured cards require a deposit as collateral in case you can’t pay your bill. But as you demonstrate your creditworthiness with a secured card, you can apply for cards with lower interest rates and better rewards.

Don’t apply for too many credit cards at once, though, or it will hurt your credit score. Once you have a card, make on-time payments and keep you credit utilization ratio, or ratio of debt to credit available, below 30 percent to raise your credit score. Monitor your credit with a free annual report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. For a few bucks extra you can get your credit score, too.
5. Neglecting Student Debt
The longer you take to pay off your student loans, the more you will spend on interest over the life of the loan. For instance, if you’re like the average 2014 graduate who is $33,000 in debt, a 10-year repayment plan at a 3.4 percent rate will cost you just under $6,000 in interest over the life of your loan.

That said, if you have credit-card debt and student loans, paying off credit card debt should be the priority, since it comes with higher interest rates. But your student debt shouldn’t be ignored. And as soon as your credit card debt is paid off, your contribution should increase toward student loans.
6. Letting Your Bills Pile Up
Short-term consequences of not paying your bills could include various fees, as well as higher interest rates on loans and credit cards. Bills that remain unpaid for extended periods of time might be handed over to collection agencies, in which case your debt may be reported to the credit bureaus. Once the delinquency is reported, your credit score could suffer until the debt is paid. Even after you pay up, collections generally remain on your credit report for seven years.Setting up automatic payments on your bills is an easy way to avoid paying a heftier price for your bills in the long run.
7. Hasty Family Planning
The costs of a wedding and child-rearing can set a young couple back financially before they get the chance to harmoniously merge their finances. The average cost of a wedding was $29,858 in 2013, according to a survey conducted by The Knot. And the steady increase in those costs over the years suggests we’ll be paying even more for “I dos” in 2015. Raising a child born in 2013 costs more than $245,000, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. So while considering the money angle while making family decisions is not necessarily what your heart wants, it may make sense for your long-term financial stability.

This article was originally published on NerdWallet.

Wisdom Wednesday: Budget Ideas For People Who Hate Budgets

budget

Follow these three tips to effectively budget your money, even if you hate budgeting.

Raise your hand if you think sitting down with a spreadsheet full of numbers sounds like a good time. Chances are, there aren’t many hands in the air — but if you want to do more with your money and have a positive impact on your current financial situation — it’s critical.

We’re talking about budgets. You need one so you can take charge of your finances and meet your biggest money goals.

For starters, it is important to understand that you actually have a lot of options here! Just because you hate boring spreadsheets or the hassle of keeping up with receipts does not mean you actually hate budgets.

More likely, you haven’t found the right one for you yet. Let’s explore a few budget ideas you can try.

1. Make it automatic

You don’t have to create a household budget that sucks away all your free time and mental energy. Instead, automate it with one of the tools and technologies available to help you do it.

  • Mint.com can help you track your spending and understand where your money goes each month.
  • Personal Capital combines your everyday finances with your investments so you can view the big picture of your financial situation all in one place.

Setting up these tools can help you track your expenses and review your spending each month. They make budgeting easier and lots more fun.

You can also set automatic transfers from your checking to savings accounts to fund important goals and create automatic bill pay so you never forget to handle a fixed expense.

2. Give yourself an allowance

Weekly or monthly allowances aren’t just for kids. A grown-up spending allowance can help you better manage your money each month while also eliminating the need to track every last cent with a dreaded spreadsheet.

For this budgeting alternative to work, you do need to put in some effort upfront. First, know how much you earn each month — and that means the amount of money hitting your checking account after taxes and withdrawals for things like your 401(k) and health insurance. Then calculate your fixed expenses. This includes things like rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, and other living costs and bills.

Subtract your expenses from your income. If you haven’t already set up an automatic transfer to savings or investments, do so now.

After taking into account your savings and expenses, what’s left over? This is your spending allowance for the month. You can spend it on whatever you want, but once that money is gone, remember, it’s gone.

3. Use various accounts for your buckets

A twist on the allowance idea is to set up three accounts: one for expenses, one for fun money, and one for savings. Deposit percentages of your paycheck into each account, and pull from the appropriate one throughout the month to cover your living costs and your discretionary spending.

You’ll need to do some legwork first to determine what percentage of your paycheck belongs in which bucket. But you don’t need to track every last cent throughout the month or worry about overspending before you get around to saving.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be all checkbook balancing and spreadsheet managing. Have a little fun with it, try out different types of budgets. Learn what works and makes the most sense for you.

Source: http://www.trulia.com/blog/budget-ideas-for-people-who-hate-budgets/

Author: Kali Hawlk

Wisdom Wednesday: Five Lessons to be Learned from a Student Success Coach

During college–whether you realize realize it or not–you have access to some pretty unbelievable career resources. With on-campus recruiters, applications geared toward graduating seniors and the Goal Center located on campus, the job-hunting process is never going to be easier.

Whether you’re feeling stuck in your current role, you’re ready to switch careers or you’d just like to build out a more explicit plan for your future, working with a Student Success Coach may be the tool you need.

Below you’ll find five lessons to be learned from working with a coach.

1. When thinking about your career, step out of the day-to-day and think “big picture”

Day to day life is so packed with responsibilities that it can be difficult to think about what you’ll be doing next week, never mind six months from now. It is recommended that students create an 18-month plan for their career. This could mean where you’d like to go within your current job, or it could be a roadmap for how you want to get to a new opportunity.

Working with a Student Success Coach can help you learn how to look at your career from a big picture point of view. This new perspective help you to stay in touch with your goals and build a much clearer vision of the type of role you would like to be in. It also will help you to define what you need to be doing in order to get there.

2. A lack of clarity is okay–but talking through it and having someone to be accountable to is extraordinarily helpful

At this point, you may be thinking, “Okay, ‘big picture’ thinking about my career sounds great, but what if I have no idea what I want to do or where I’d like to be?”

That’s okay–our generation is so driven, hyper-connected and forward-thinking that any kind of ambiguity feels very wrong. If you’re at a point where you feel very unclear about your next move, a coach will provide you with actual tools to help figure these things out.

We’re talking worksheets, reading materials and candid conversations with someone that is holding you accountable to deadlines. These tools and benchmarks will help you get clarity and focus so that when you do make a game plan, it’s aligned with your real passions and goals.

3. Your LinkedIn is crucial (but so are your other social media outlets)

It is critical that job seekers have an updated, polished and well-written LinkedIn profile. Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for a job, a strong LinkedIn illustrates and catalogs the best parts of your professional experience. Furthermore, it helps you organize the big projects you’ve worked on so that when you are ready to make a move, you don’t have to try to remember exactly what you did three years ago.

While LinkedIn is key, it’s not the only way that future employers can find you. The way that you portray yourself on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites is also very important. Maintaining a professional persona online could give you  a boost when the hiring decisions are being made, and depending on what field you’re in, having a Twitter profile that demonstrates your knowledge of current trends can be a great marker for your credibility. Use social media for your benefit.

4. Do your research. And then do it again.

While working with a coach can be a powerful catalyst, you truly get out what you put in. Your coach can only help you as much as you’re willing to help yourself. A coach can certainly act as a guide, but if you’re not willing to do the extra work, it’s not worth either of your time.

5. Be (extremely) organized with your materials and your time

If you’re going to work with a career coach, you have to be extremely organized. Research, outreach and planning take time–lots of it, and you’re going to have to keep things organized and manage your time well.

These are just a few lessons that you will learn from a DCC Student Success Coach. There are so many more valuable takeaways. Just remember that if you’re feeling “stuck” or unfulfilled in your current job, it is critical that you take action. Schedule an appointment to meet with a Student Success Coach to discuss your goals

Source: http://www.levo.com/articles/career-advice/5-invaluable-lessons-from-working-with-a-career-coach

Written by: Chloe Troia

Thoughtful Thursday: The Value of an Internship

It’s the beginning of summer and time to revisit your game plan for exploring what to do with your degree. If you haven’t considered an internship in the past it might be well worth your time. An internship provides the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to a real world work environment. Additionally, an internship will help you enhance or develop skills to make you more marketable as you begin searching for your first professional position after graduation.

Employers are seeking students with practical workplace skills necessary to compete in the job market. While focusing on academics is important, and some employers will want to review a transcript or will pay attention to your GPA, most employers will be asking about your experience. Internships can provide you with examples to give during your interview that demonstrate your skills and experience and give you valuable information to include on your resume.

Internships are also a good way to try out a company or career field without having to make a long term commitment. Often a student will begin exploring their field of interest through an internship to determine if it is a career field they would enjoy as an occupation. Typically internship tasks or assignments can provide you with hands-on experience to help you determine if the field you are considering is a good fit for you.

An internship experience can give you the opportunity to gain self-confidence — time to discover your strengths and identify your weaknesses so you can turn them into strengths too! Again this can be an important source of information when trying to answer that all too common interview question: what is your greatest strength? These experiences can help set you apart from other candidates during the interview process, because you will be able to speak with confidence about the field you wish to enter. You will have gained some insight into the industry through real world experience. The experience may help you become a better student, because you might find that you understand concepts taught in class much more easily after seeing practical applications.

While a variety of internships are available, selecting one that allows you to grow or enhance your skills can be a challenge. As with the job search, be sure to research the organization, talk to former interns who may have interned at the site, and speak with your Student Success Coach about whether or not it will be a good fit for you. The internship experience is an important step towards post-college life and may even result in landing a job before graduation! By making the most of an internship experience, you will increase your skills and add value to your future. Here are some helpful tips on how to prepare for and locate an internship that will complement your career interest.
1. Decide what you want from an internship. This will help narrow your search. What skills do you want to gain? What technical skills, knowledge, and practical experience do you hope to gain?

2. Prepare or update your resume. The Goal Center offers advising for resume review. If you don’t have a resume or if you have one that needs updating schedule an appointment to meet with a Student Success Coach today!

3. What type of organization are you interested in? Organizations come in all sizes and shapes, from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations. Things to consider include size, ownership, corporate culture, etc.

4. Will you consider both paid and nonpaid internships? It would be great if all internships paid, but a large number do not – especially in certain industries. So, you need to decide whether you can afford to not get paid during your internship. While it is not always the case, paid internships tend to be more professional because the employer wants to get its money’s worth from you.

5. Identify a network of contacts and ask for internship suggestions. Who do you know that might know something about the internships in which you are interested? These people will form your network. Bring up your internship search in conversations with friends, relatives and co-workers. You never know who will have a contact somewhere. Visit with a Student Success Coach at the Goal Center for additional resources.

6. Choose your top ten internships and create separate folders for each. The toughest part of a job or internship search can be keeping track of the details and limiting your search. Creating a system to track what you are doing (cover letters, resumes, and conversations with potential employers) will help manage the process.

It’s not too late to start researching and applying to summer internships! The Goal Center can help you designate and apply for internships throughout the Danville area. If you have questions or would like to meet with a Student Success Coach call the GOAL Center at 434-797-8536 or email us at goalcenter@dcc.vccs.edu.

Wisdom Wednesday: Conquering Post-Commencement Stress Disorder

Graduation Picture Having a sense of anxiety is normal when approaching graduation. As the time grows near completion of college and your entrance into the workforce, you may find that you have concerns about your potential to succeed in your industry. Are you really prepared? Are you ready to step into the professional arena with your credentials in hand and armed with confidence and a sense of accomplishment? The answer is yes! Yes, you are capable. Yes, you are ready. You have put in the work, you have earned the degree and you deserve this moment of recognition. The answer is a resounding YES! Don’t let fear of inadequacy or inferiority hinder your progress. If you are feeling overwhelmed or have a sense of anxiety over what will happen next, know that you are not alone. Feeling nervous about the next phase of your life is natural, but here are some things you can do to conquer this negative energy:

  • Meet with a student success coach to set post-graduation goals
  • Talk to your counselor, adviser or professors
  • Reach out to professionals in your desired field of interest for advice or experience.
  • Continue to research your dream career

Don’t let fear consume you. Take this opportunity to make the most of the time you have left, and make sure you end on a positive note. Continue to work on building your resume and continue building valuable experience up until the day you walk across the stage. Remember to network and build professional relationships as well. This can prove to be invaluable in the way of gaining opportunities that can lead to your dream job. This Ted Talk given by Alan de Botten speaks to the young adult who is in the process of defining future goals after graduation. He states that success should be personally defined rather than dictated by society. Listen to yourself and become the author of your own ambition because you are the expert in your own life.

  As you transition into the working world from college, remember that you are in control. You define what is important to you and steer the course of your own life. You are ready and have endured the process. You have not only accomplished your goal, you have flourished! Trust that process and believe in your abilities.

Wisdom Wednesday: The Power of Intention

Intention

“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny.” –Garth Stein

So much to do and so little time to do it. This could be the slogan for these times with endless deadlines, constant responsibilities, and the relentless question: “so what are you going to do with your degree?” There are many steps in pursuing your dream career after graduation. You will need to network, gain experience, and find a starting out job just to name a few. With all of these goals in mind it becomes easy to forget what matters the most. Retaining a sense of your own worth & values to guide you through your choices is of the utmost importance or else the steps are scattered and become merely check-offs on a never-ending to-do list.

In order to avoid losing sight of what is really important to you, you must be intentional in your actions. This will help you to steer the course of your own life. You can think of intention as the underlying reason for a goal that you have set for yourself.  A goal is something you want to achieve. An intention is the way you want to live your life.  For example:

Goal: Get a job.

Intention: Do meaningful work in the world.

Intentions express what guides us through our daily actions in support of small and big goals. They are the driving purpose behind what we choose to do. By never losing sight of  your true intentions you will be better able to claim the direction of your life and stay motivated. Here are five ways to claim your direction:

  1. Clarify: What matters to you? This can be anything that you are passionate about.
  2. Focus: Keep your intention in mind as you move through each day.
  3. Activate: Take daily actions that demonstrate your commitment & intention.
  4. Share: Talk with others about what drives you to find individuals with which you can connect.
  5. Acknowledge: Express your gratitude for people and interactions that support you, your intention and your career pathway.

By being intentional with the goals that you set for yourself, you will be far more likely to prosper and enjoy the personal growth that you experience. Becoming successful in college, at work or with your finances is excellent, but it is equally important to have a higher purpose in doing so that brings meaning to your life. In this way, intention is a powerful tool that helps you set personally rewarding goals for your future.