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Financial Planning (Blog or Resources)

Tips for Starting Your Student Loan Repayment Journey

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Once you graduate from college, leave college, or drop below half-time enrollment, it’s time to start thinking about when your student loan repayment period kicks in. Understanding the repayment process for your student loans is very important for a number of reasons – for one, if you don’t pay, your interest will accrue. Second, if you don’t pay, it will affect your credit score, which can hinder your ability to buy a home, buy a car, qualify for credit cards, take out a personal loan, or refinance your student loans.

 

If you graduated this past spring, your student loan repayment period will likely start around this time of year (if they haven’t kicked in already). Follow these tips to master student loan repayment and get yourself to a strong financial start after college.

 

Know How to Access Your Loan Information

A good first step is to acquire your loan information. This can typically be accessed via an online login. Monitoring your loan information will be essential during the course of repayment. If you took out Federal Student Loans, you can likely access your info at https://myfedloan.org/. If you took out private student loans, check with your lender for how to access your information. Tracking your loans will give you a gage on the status of each loan, the balance you owe, as well as interest rates for each loan. By understanding the status of your loans, you can make more informed decisions about how you want to prioritize repayment, what type of repayment plan you want to choose, or even whether you want to consolidate or refinance your student loans. 

 

Know When Your Payments Start

Immediately following graduation, you’ll likely have a grace period, or a period of time before your first payment is due. This can vary depending on the type of loan you have, and they can be different for each loan. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal loans have a six-month grace period. Perkins loans have a nine-month grace period. There is no grace period for PLUS loans; however, if you are a graduate or professional student PLUS borrower, you do not have to make any payments while you are enrolled at least half time and (for Direct PLUS loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008) for an additional 6 months after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. Private student loans will have differing grace periods so contact your loan servicer for more details. Knowing when your loan will be due is imperative to starting off on the right foot when it comes to your student loans.

 

Weigh Repayment Options

When you take out federal student loans and your grace period is complete, you will automatically enter the Standard Repayment Plan. This plan allows you to pay off your debt within 10 years, with the monthly payment remaining the same over the life of the loan. If standard repayment doesn’t work for your budget, you may want to consider some other options, or perhaps even refinance your student loans. The federal student loan program offers the following Income-Based Repayment plans: 

  • Graduated Repayment Plan – Gives you a smaller payment amount in the beginning and gradually increases the payment amount every two years.
  • Extended Repayment Plan – Allows you to pay the least possible amount per month for 10 to 25 years.
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan or REPAYE Plan – Bases the monthly payment on you (and spouse’s) adjusted gross income, family size, and state of residence.
  • Pay As You Earn or PAYE – Monthly payments are based on your adjusted gross income and family size. You must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify. You must also be considered a “new borrower” as of 10/1/2007 or after, or be someone who received an eligible Direct Loan disbursement on 10/1/2011 or after.
  • Income-Based Repayment or IBR – Monthly payments based on your adjusted gross income and family size. Must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment or ICR – Based on your monthly adjusted gross income and family size. Typically chosen if an individual can’t qualify for the Pay As You Earn Plan or Income-Based Repayment.Any changes to your income or your spouse’s income will affect your student loan payment. For example, if your salary increases, your student loan payment will as well. If you are married, both your income and your partner’s income are combined. Two combined incomes will increase your total income, likely increasing your monthly payment. 

 

Keep in mind that each repayment option will have positives, negatives, as well as eligibility requirements. Research each option before making a decision, and consider contacting your loan servicer if you have questions or need more information. 

 

Automate Your Payments (If you can)

Setting up automatic payments will make student loan repayment less of a hassle, will avoid late payments, and may even score you an interest rate reduction. Just be sure you have enough money in your account month-to-month to endure the payments without overdrawing. 

 

Make Extra Payments

When you make your monthly payment, it will first apply to any late fees you have, then it will apply to interest. After these items are covered, the remaining payment will go toward your principal loan balance (the amount you actually borrowed). By paying down the principal, you reduce the amount of interest that you pay over the life of the loan. Applying extra income by making larger payments or double payments will reduce the total amount you’ll end up paying. 

 

Reach Out for Help if Necessary

If you’re having trouble making your monthly payments, particularly on your federal student loans, contact your loan servicer. They will work with you to find a repayment plan you can manage or help determine your eligibility for deferment or forbearance. If you stop making payments without getting a deferment or forbearance, you risk your loan going into default, which can have serious consequences to your credit. 

 

Weigh Refinancing & Consolidation Options

If you have multiple student loans that are all accruing interest at different rates, you may want to consider student loan refinancing or consolidation to make repayment more manageable. The federal student loan program offers student loan consolidation, in which they combine your loans into one loan with a weighted average interest rate, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th percent. You can also consolidate your federal and/or private student loan with a private lender through the process of refinancing. Refinancing your student loans is much like consolidation, however it offers the opportunity to start new repayment terms and possibly lower your interest rate. Keep in mind that refinancing with a private lender may cause you to lose access to certain federal student loan repayment options that are listed above. 

 

Look Into Loan Forgiveness

If you work in a public service position or for a non-profit, you may want to consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or another loan forgiveness program offered by the federal government. Other options exist for volunteers, military recruits, medical personnel, etc. Some state, school, and private programs also offer loan forgiveness. Check with your school or loan servicer to see if you may qualify for student loan forgiveness.

 

Earn Your Tax Benefits

If you are paying your student loans, you may be able to deduct the interest you pay on your student loans when filing your taxes. Deductions reduce your tax liability, saving you money and serving as a nice tradeoff for having to pay interest on your student loans. 

 

Repayment of student loans can be a long, difficult journey – but by taking advantage of your resources and staying determined to pay off your debt, it is manageable. If you need more information on paying back your student loans or the options that are available to you, contact your loan servicer.

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

So I’ve Refinanced My Student Loans – Now What?

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By Caroline Farhat

 

Congratulations! You just made the big step of refinancing your student loans. Your wallet is fatter and you’ve likely shaved off thousands of dollars from what you will have to pay on your student loans. That’s a huge achievement that will positively impact your financial life.

 

You may be tempted to use your new found moolah on brunches and vacations, but don’t start spending lavishly quite yet. While present you may be saying “yes!” to fancy dinners, future you would really benefit from spending this extra cash in a smarter way. If you’re feeling financially empowered, you’ll love these five financial tips for what to do after you refinance to maximize your money.

 

1. Reexamine (or create) your budget

Any time you have a change in your financial situation, such as a raise or a new recurring bill, it’s important to evaluate your current budget. If you don’t already have a budget, getting a little extra money each month can be a great motivator to start one. We’re fans of the zero-based budget system. With zero-based budgeting, you allocate each dollar you make to a specific expense or goal so it can help curb unnecessary expenses you may regret later. For example, say you bring in $4,000 a month after taxes. You spend $3,000 on fixed expenses such as rent, utilities, and food. Your monthly payment for student loans is $600, leaving you with $400 extra each month. Under zero-based budgeting, you would allocate the extra $400 to other goals (such as contributing to a savings account) or wants (such as a travel budget). Once you have figured out exactly where each dollar will go, you should set up an automatic transfer to a savings account so that you never get tempted to spend money that you should be saving.

 

Of course, budgets aren’t one size fits all. If you have a method that works for you, then use that! The important things to know and keep track of are:

  1. How much money you have (after taxes and health insurance payments)
  2. Your essential fixed expenses (such as housing, utilities, food, student loan payments)
  3. Your non-essential fixed expenses (such as gym memberships, Netflix, etc.)
  4. Your long-term financial goals (buying a house, saving for a child, retirement)
  5. Your short-term financial goals (dining out, travel)

 

2. Start or pad your emergency savings account

If you don’t have at least three months of living expenses saved up, you need to start right now. We don’t want to set off alarm bells, but an emergency savings account is the number one thing everyone needs to have on their financial to do list. Depending on your situation, you may benefit from stashing away six to nine months of living expenses, but start with at least three months and build from there. Be sure to have this money easily available, so put it in a savings or checking account that does not incur any fees or penalties for withdrawing money. For example, you do not want to put your emergency savings in a CD, even if it will yield you a higher interest rate, because getting your money out can be a costly and sometimes time-intensive process. That said, find a savings account that will pay you interest so you don’t lose all your earning power on that money.

 

3. Pay down other high-interest debt

After you have a healthy savings account, paying off high-interest debt should be your next priority. Just like how refinancing your student loans helped you save money in the long run, paying off debt with high interest rates such as credit card debt or a personal loan will help you shave off hundreds or possibly even thousands of dollars that you would have to make in interest if you just paid the minimum monthly payment. Even putting an extra hundred dollars a month to this debt can pay off big time in the future. Additionally, lowering your debt load can help bolster your credit score, especially if you are carrying a lot of credit card debt. Your debt-to-income ratio is critical if you want to get a mortgage or other big-ticket items so paying down high-interest debt can only work to your advantage.

 

4. Contribute to your retirement

Say you have a healthy emergency savings, you’ve paid off all of your credit cards, and you have enough to cover your living expenses with a little bit of extra fun money. First, congrats! That’s a big feat and you’re killing it with your finances!

 

Set your future self up for success is by starting or increasing your contribution to a retirement account such as a 401(k) or IRA. Retirement accounts benefit from compounding interest so the sooner you start, the better. Plus, many employers have matching programs that help you pad your retirement account. Remember the free money you can make from a high-interest savings account? This is similar, but your future self will be the one to reap the benefits.

 

5. Treat yourself, responsibly

If you have refinanced your student loans, it’s safe to say that you’re clearly on top of your financial game. Let’s be real — there will always be a list of things you can and should do with your money. But it shouldn’t all be about the work. You deserve to treat yourself! Just be sure to do it responsibly. Should you suddenly move into a budget-busting luxury penthouse apartment? Probably not. But you absolutely should treat yourself to that nice dinner or new pair of sneakers you’ve been eyeing. The keys to a successful financial life are staying informed and staying balanced. Just like any other goal, providing little rewards along your journey can help you stay motivated. So take this as our encouragement to enjoy yourself! Just do it responsibly with an eye on your financial independence.

 

 

3 Things You Should Know About Black Friday

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Black Friday used to be just one, crazy day of shopping. Deal seekers would wake up before sunrise, grab a thermos of coffee and a warm jacket, and wait in line for hours to get the best deals on televisions, laptops, and Cabbage Patch Dolls. The desire to shop and save is so popular that Black Friday has spun off nearly a week’s worth of celebrations, including:

 

  • Black Friday – November 29, 2019
  • Small Business Saturday – November 30, 2019 (The lesser-known shopping day that encourages support of small businesses)
  • Cyber Monday – December 2, 2019
  • Giving Tuesday – December 3, 2019 (The do-good day that rallies communities around giving time and money)

 

Black Friday itself has even crept into our day of gratitude, with stores opening just after the dishes are cleared on Thanksgiving night. Some brands and shoppers have pushed back against Black Friday, like REI with their #OptOutside campaign that provides an active alternative to malls and box stores. But for many, the excitement of Black Friday is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie.

 

For those who are on the hunt for the best deals, here are a few tips to help you succeed.

 

Make a List (and Check It Twice)

While this tip is true for nearly every shopping trip, you definitely need a list, plan of attack, and even a budget for Black Friday. What items are your absolute must-haves? Are you more of a big-ticket item shopper or are you in it for smaller deals on everyday items? Just as you need to plan out that Thanksgiving dinner menu, sit down and list where you want to go and in what order to keep yourself from impulse buys and overspending. There’s no worse feeling than getting home and realizing you wasted money on something that wasn’t really a good deal or that you didn’t even want. Consider the following for your list:

 

  • Category
  • Item
  • Store or URL (for online Black Friday deals)
  • Deal or Coupon Code
  • Price
  • Budget Countdown

 

Shop Online

Cyber Monday used to be the online shopping day of the holiday season, but Black Friday is king for a reason and quickly expanded in-store-only deals to the online crowd. Shopping online helps you cover more territory in less time, and there are apps that can help you organize and simplify your shopping efforts.

 

With the BlackFriday.com app, you can easily filter through Black Friday promotional clutter, search by keywords, compare deals at different retailers, share deals with friends, and even set up notifications for when sales start. With the TGI Black Friday app, you can set up alerts if one (or more!) of your big-ticket items go on sale before Black Friday. This app also has a shopping list feature so you can digitize your plan of attack.

 

Shop All Year

For decades, Black Friday has gotten a reputation for being the deal day of the year. The name “Black Friday” even dates back to the 1960s when it was first used to name the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. However, it’s not always the best time of the year to get the best deal on several key items.

 

Televisions frequently go on sale just before the Super Bowl to appeal to fans looking to see the biggest game of the year on a new screen. On the hunt for a smaller electronic device? iPhones are typically discounted in September after the annual Apple event announcing the latest models. What about a new set of skis for the slopes? The best time to shop can be just before the end of the ski season, as retailers look to clear out inventory. And for more of the homebody, home goods are often discounted around holidays like President’s Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Finally, if you are ready to kick off the new year in a healthy way, consider waiting until June or July to buy that gym membership. At that time, gyms are eager for sales since clients are outside enjoying the long, sunny days of summer.

 

Find Other Ways to Save

You don’t have to brave the weather and the crowds to save money before the holidays. If you have student loans, you can keep money in your account by refinancing or consolidating. ELFI customers reported saving an average of $309 every month and an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing. See what kind of savings you can qualify for at elfi.com/refinance-education-loans.

 


 

1Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

5 Ways to Declutter Your Life in 2020

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We’re all busy and feel overwhelmed from time to time. Balancing a job, family time, friendships and finances can take a pretty major toll. Taking control of the space around you and getting a grasp of your financial situation can take a burden off and help you feel at ease. Here are some tips for decluttering your life and your finances. 

 

1. Learn to Say No

When it comes to simplifying your life, one of the best tactics is to cut off your clutter at the source – in other words, learning to say “no” to things you don’t need . This also applies to the voice in your head that tells you to hang on to old furniture, keepsakes, family belongings, and everything else that you stuff away or put into storage. The truth is, holding onto everything of monetary or sentimental value just isn’t logical. Knowing when to say no, when to donate, and when to let things go will be a big help in simplifying your life. It’s been found that the average American thinks about decluttering at least six times per year, but only ends up decluttering about three times each year. Holding onto too many things can create a great deal of stress.

 

Try taking photos of your keepsakes and family furniture and file it away. By doing that, you’re able to hold onto the memories without holding onto the items that cause clutter in your home.

 

2. Clean Out Your Closet

Having a surplus of clothing can cause cluttering nightmares. While we like to hold onto novelty t-shirts from every 5k race, or think we’ll be able to squeeze into the jeans we last wore ten years ago, eventually things can get out of hand. If you struggle with overloaded closets and dressers, here’s a trick you might want to try – turn all of your clothes inside-out. After 9-12 months, reassess your clothing inventory and see which clothes are left inside-out. You now have a clear-cut idea of which clothes you wear, and which you don’t. If it’s left inside-out at the end of that time period, consider donating it to a good cause. If this doesn’t work for you, try sorting through them a few times each year and getting rid of the items you know you don’t wear.  

 

3. Cut Down on Food Waste

Our refrigerators get cluttered too. The main reason? We simply don’t eat everything we buy. If you’re the type that ends up with a full cart at the grocery store after going in for one thing, you’re probably dealing with an overloaded fridge as well. A study found that Americans consume only about 50% of the meat, 44% of the vegetables, 40% of the fruit and 42% of the dairy we buy. What doesn’t go to waste takes up precious space in our pantry and refrigerator. After all, who knows how long that bottle of salad dressing has been sitting there? Look into meal planning or even getting an affordable meal subscription (just don’t let it fall into the category mentioned below). What’s great about meal subscriptions is they’re perfectly portioned and will go far in cutting down the amount of food you waste or store away.

 

4. Cut Out Unnecessary Subscriptions

Ever checked your monthly bank statement to find that you’re paying $4.99 for a random app that you no longer use? A new study that surveyed 2,500 U.S. consumers found that they spend an average of $1,900 in subscriptions that are unaccounted for. These can include anything from TV and music streaming services to subscriptions to your local car wash. Getting your subscriptions under control is a great way to simplify your finances and decrease month-to-month spending. 

 

There are a variety of budgeting apps that help you track your finances, but Clarity Money® is great for managing subscription services in particular. After connecting your bank account, it will provide you with a list of your recurring subscriptions, and even allows you to cancel them right from the app. 

 

 

5. Refinance Your Student Loans

If you’ve graduated from college, you may be paying back student loans. Some people can find themselves paying back several loans that all accrue interest at different rates, and have differing payment due dates. Refinancing your student loans may make repayment more manageable because it consolidates your student loans into one monthly payment with a single interest rate. Not only could you have the flexibility of choosing a repayment term that fits your financial goals, but you could also lower your interest rate or save money over the life of your loan. 

 

We hope these tips help put your mind, your finances, and your life, at ease. By following these tips, 2020 could really be “new year, new you”. Stay tuned for more helpful tips from the ELFI team.

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

The Importance of a Good Debt to Income (DTI) Ratio

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It is evident to most people that having more income and less debt is good for their finances. If you have too much debt compared to income, any shock to your income level could mean you end up with unsustainable levels of debt. Every month you have money coming in (your salary plus additional income) and money going out (your expenses). Your expenses include your recurring bills for electricity, your cell phone, the internet, etc. There are also regular amounts that you spend on necessities, such as groceries or transportation. On top of all of this, there’s the money you spend to service any debts that you may have. These debts could include your mortgage, rent, car loan, and any student loans, personal loans, or credit card debt.

 

What is the Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)?

The Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI) lets you see how your total monthly debt relates to your gross monthly income. Your gross monthly income is your total income from all sources before taxes and other deductions are taken out. Below is the formula for calculating your DTI:

DTI = (Total of your monthly debt payments/your gross monthly income) x 100

 

Example: Let’s suppose the following. Your gross monthly income is $5,000, and you pay $1,500 a month to cover your mortgage, plus $350 a month for your student loans, and you have no other debt. Your total monthly payments to cover your debts amounts to $1,850.

 

Your DTI is (1,850/5,000) x 100 = 37%

Here’s a handy calculator to work out your DTI.

 

Why is Your DTI Important?

Your DTI is an important number to keep an eye on because it tells you whether your financial situation is good or if it is precarious. If your DTI is high, 60% for example, any blow to your income will leave you struggling to pay down your debt. If you are hit with some unexpected expenses (e.g., medical bills or your car needs expensive repairs), it will be harder for you to keep on top of your debt payments than if your DTI was only 25%.

 

DTI and Your Credit Risk

DTI is typically used within the lending industry. If you apply for a loan, a lender will look at your DTI as an important measure of risk. If you have a high DTI, you will be regarded as more likely to default on a loan. If you apply for a mortgage, your DTI will be calculated as part of the underwriting process. Usually, 43% is the highest DTI you can have and likely receive a Qualified Mortgage. (A Qualified Mortgage is a preferred type of mortgage because it comes with more protections for the borrower, e.g., limits on fees.)

 

So, What is a Good DTI?

If 43% is the top level DTI necessary to obtain a Qualified Mortgage, what is a “good” DTI? According to NerdWallet, a DTI of 20% or below is low. A DTI of 40% or more is an indication of financial stress. So, a good rule of thumb is that a good DTI should be between these two figures, and the lower, the better. 

 

The DTI Bottom Line

Your DTI is an essential measure of your financial security. The higher the number, the less likely it is that you’ll be unable to pay down your debt. If there are months when it seems that all your money is going toward debt payments, then your DTI is probably too high. With a low DTI, you will be able to weather any financial storms and maybe even take some risks. For example, if you want to take a job in a field you’ve always dreamed about but are hesitating because it pays less, it will be easier to adjust to a lower income. Plus, debt equals stress. The higher your DTI, the more you can begin to feel that you’re working just to pay off your creditors, and no one wants that.

 

DTI and Student Loan Refinancing

Your DTI is one of several factors that lenders look at if you apply to refinance your student loans. They may also assess your credit history, employment record, and savings. Refinancing your student loans may actually decrease your DTI by lowering your monthly student loan payment. This may help you, for example, if you want to apply for a mortgage. ELFI can help you figure out what your DTI is and if you are a good candidate for student loan refinancing. Give us a call today at 1.844.601.ELFI.

 

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing

 

Terms and conditions apply. Subject to credit approval.

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites

Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Preparing for Natural Disasters: Financial Tips

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Natural disasters happen – they can strike without warning and have no mercy. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, or tornadoes can force people to evacuate their homes, and even worse, they can destroy homes, property, and even take lives.

 

When it comes to natural disasters, most people don’t think about how they can affect your ability to conduct essential financial transactions. In addition to planning to gather your basic needs such as food, shelter, and water, you should also be prepared to deal with the financial challenges associated with natural disasters, such as paying for supplies and temporary housing if necessary. Here are some tips that will help you prepare.

 

What to Have Ready

Consider keeping the following documents, bank products, and other items in a secure place and readily available in an emergency:

  • All forms of identification: These primarily include driver’s licenses (or state identification cards for nondrivers), insurance cards, Social Security cards, passports, and birth certificates.
  • Your checkbook: Make sure to have enough blank checks and deposit slips to last at least a month.
  • ATM cards, debit cards (for use at ATMs and merchants), and credit cards: Don’t assume that merchants and ATMs in areas affected by a disaster will immediately be functioning as usual. Have other options available for getting cash and making payments.
  • Cash: This is self-explanatory.
  • Phone numbers for financial services: These include local and toll-free numbers for your bank, credit card companies, brokerage firms (for stocks, bonds, or mutual fund investments) and insurance companies.
  • Important account numbers: These include bank and brokerage account numbers, credit card numbers, and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy numbers. You may want to copy the front and back of your credit cards (and keep them in a safe place).
  • The key to your safe deposit box.

 

What to Keep and Where to Keep It

After you’ve gathered your most important financial items and documents, protect them as well as you can while also ensuring you have access to them in an emergency. Here’s a reasonable strategy for many people:

  • Make backup copies of important documents. Make an electronic image of your documents so you can more easily store the information. Store your backups some distance from your home in case the disaster impacts your entire community.
  • Give a copy of your documents to loved ones. Alternatively, let them know where to find the documents in an emergency.
  • Determine what to keep at home and what to store in a safe deposit box at your bank. A safe deposit box is best for protecting certain papers that could be difficult or impossible to replace, but not anything you might need to access quickly. What should you put in a safe deposit box? Examples include a birth certificate and originals of important contracts. What’s better left safely at home, preferably in a durable, fireproof safe? Your passport and medical care directives because you might need these on short notice. Consult your attorney before putting an original will in a safe deposit box. Some states don’t permit immediate access to a safe deposit box after a person dies, so there may be complications accessing a will stored in a safe deposit box.
  • Seal important documents. Use airtight and waterproof plastic bags or containers to prevent water damage.
  • Prepare one or more emergency evacuation bags. Pack essential financial items and documents (e.g., cash, checks, copies of your credit cards and identification cards, a key to your safe deposit box, and contact information for your financial services providers). Make sure each evacuation bag is waterproof and easy to carry and kept in a secure place in your home. Periodically update the contents of the bag. It will not do you any good if the checks in your bag are for a closed account.

What Else to Consider

  • Sign up for direct deposit. Having your paycheck and other payments transmitted directly into your account will give you better access to those funds by check or ATM, and you won’t have to deliver the deposit to the bank or rely on mail service, which could be delayed. Note: There could be delays in the processing of direct deposits in a disaster situation, but the problem is usually fixed within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Arrange for automatic bill payments from your bank account. This service enables you to make scheduled payments, (e.g., for your phone bill, insurance premiums and loan payments, and avoids late charges or service interruptions).
  • Sign up for online banking. This also makes it possible to conduct your banking business without writing checks.
  • Review your insurance coverage. Make sure you have enough insurance, including: flood, earthquake, and personal property coverage, as applicable, to cover the cost to replace or repair your home, car, and other valuable property.

To find out more about being financially prepared for disasters visit fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/index.htm and type in disaster preparedness in the search box.

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

4 Ways to Prep For Your Post-College Life – Right Now

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College life can be a bubble. In many cases, you’re shielded from the real-world realities of full-time jobs, rent and student loan payments. But before you know it, graduation will pass and you’ll be thrown into the responsibilities of adulthood.

 

“You need to plan for the future, and the future is here,” says Barbara Thomas, executive vice president of Education Loan Finance (ELFI). “It’s not just when you graduate.”

 

But you also don’t have to sacrifice a memorable college experience to set yourself up for future success. Here’s how to estimate — and plan for — the cost of your post-grad life.

 

1. Make a list of future monthly expenses

Having a sense of how much life costs is helpful for choosing a major, researching jobs and negotiating your first salary. It’s okay to estimate for now. For example:

  • Rent: Nationally, a one-bedroom apartment typically costs about $1,000/month, but that could be higher or lower depending on where you live. Research typical rents for your area (or the place you want to move after college) to get a better sense of what to expect.
  • Student loan payments: You’d owe about $333/month on a $30,000 student loan balance, which is about what the average undergraduate owes at graduation. (This assumes a 10-year repayment schedule and a 6% interest rate). Use a student loan calculator* to see an estimate of how much your future monthly payment would be based on your loan amount, interest rate and repayment terms.
  • Food: If you live off-campus and buy your own groceries, your current food expenses are a good indicator of how much you’ll spend on food in the future. For this example, let’s say that’s $500/month.
  • Transportation: If you have a car, include your monthly payment, insurance costs and gas. If not, budget for public transportation and Uber/Lyft. Let’s say this costs $300/month.
  • Other bills: This includes utilities, internet and your cell phone bill. If you split costs with roommates and are still on the family phone plan, let’s say this sets you back $150/month.
  • Miscellaneous: Include other categories that apply to your life, like clothes, travel, and personal care items and services. Let’s say this all costs $250/month.

 

2. Add it all up, then account for taxes and savings

In this example, your total monthly expenses come to $2,533. But you’re not done yet — there’s a lot this number doesn’t include. For one thing, the government takes money out of each paycheck for taxes, Social Security and Medicare. You also need health insurance, the cost of which may get taken directly from your paycheck if your job offers it.

 

Those costs vary based on factors including the amount you earn, where you live and your job’s benefit package (use a paycheck calculator to estimate yours), but they could easily run you $1,000/month. This puts you at $3,533/month in this example, or about $42,000/year.

 

You’re still not quite done. You need to be saving for the future and for inevitable emergencies like car trouble or accidentally smashing your phone on the sidewalk. Experts recommend saving 20% of your paycheck, which is about $600/month in our example. (That may not be realistic at first, but it’s an excellent goal.) So, you really need to earn $4,133/month, or about $50,000/year.

 

3. Make adjustments to save money

You might be panicking a little right now, but these numbers are attainable. The average annual starting salary for the class of 2018 was about $51,000, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

 

Plus, there are ways to cut your monthly expenses to make some wiggle room in your budget. For instance, student loan refinancing* can potentially shave hundreds of dollars off your student loan payment by lowering your interest rate. To qualify, you’ll need good credit, which takes time to build. While you can’t refinance until you at least have a post-college job offer, you can start establishing credit now.

 

4. Get a credit card (but don’t carry a balance)

Student loan refinancing isn’t the only thing that demands good credit. Almost everything you’ll need or want to do after graduation — rent your own apartment, buy a car, travel on the cheap with credit card points — requires a strong financial track record. The easiest way to establish good credit is to get a credit card, use it and fully pay it off every month.

 

As a student, you’re limited in your credit card choices because you don’t have much of a credit history. Your options are:

  • Get a secured or student credit card. These cards require a deposit (secured cards) or that you have an income (student cards), but they’re designed to help you get started. Over time, you can add other cards with more perks, like cash-back and travel rewards.
  • Ask a parent to add you as an authorized user on their card. This gives you a copy of the card to use, but keeps the payment responsibility on them. Before going this route, double check that the card company will report the card activity to the credit bureaus (the companies that create credit reports) on your behalf. Otherwise, it won’t help your credit.

 

Having a credit card will only help you if you spend within your means and consistently pay off the balance on time. Otherwise, you’ll rack up interest charges and be stuck with debt you can’t afford.

 

By doing these four things, you’ll emerge from your college bubble ready to take on the “real” world.

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

NOTICE: Third-Party Web Sites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

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It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While some may have the resources to pay tuition, many just do not have that kind of money lying around. Thankfully, there are plenty of options when it comes to reducing the cost of college. We’re sharing the steps middle-income families can take to secure various types of financial aid.

 

FAFSA

If you’re looking for financial aid options, you should start by filling out The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA. Even as a middle-income family, you may still receive some need-based aid, especially if your student plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. Further, many scholarships require the student to fill out the FAFSA anyway. Over $120 billion are awarded through federal grants, work-studies and loans every year, so why not throw your name in the hat? The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year before your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid.

 

Scholarships

Perhaps the best thing your child can do is research and apply for scholarships, and it pays to go local. Many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they provide any scholarships or financial aid for employees’ children. After exhausting local options, your child may want to research national opportunities. A quick web search could reveal countless free scholarships – Niche®, Fastweb®, and eCampusTours® are an excellent place to start. Just remember, scholarships are not exempt from internet scams, so do your research and make sure they’re legitimate. The FTC warns families to be cautious if the following lines are included in the application:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
  • “You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
  • “I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
  • “We’ll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee.”
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.”
  • “You’ve been selected” by a “national foundation” to receive a scholarship – or “You’re a finalist” in a contest you never entered.

Source: FTC

 

Finally, seek out the colleges that offer the best financial aid packages. Student Loan Hero recently highlighted 50 U.S. Colleges With the Most Generous Financial Aid Packages, and yours may be on their list! If it’s not, reach out to your school’s financial aid office, and they’ll be happy to provide you with all of your options.

 

Tuition Discounts

While you’re asking about scholarships, inquire about tuition discounts.

 

Sibling Discounts: Sometimes, if more than one child is enrolled at the same college or university, the school may offer a tuition discount. Often the discount is only applied to one sibling’s tuition, but it is still helpful for the family’s overall finances. These discounts can range from a flat rate to a percentage off each semester or each year. If your children are planning on enrolling at the same school, this option is worth seeking out.

 

Military Discounts: Colleges may also offer discounts to military veterans and their families. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 ensures veterans and dependent family members will not be charged out-of-state tuition if they meet specific requirements. Again, check with the school’s financial aid department to see if they offer “military-friendly” discounts.

 

Alumni Discounts: If you attended your child’s school of choice, your child may be eligible for scholarships, discounts, or other benefits. Many colleges have legacy programs, competitive scholarships, or even special legacy tuition rates. If you have other family connections to the university like grandparents, make sure you talk to an admissions counselor about the financial aid options available.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning Credit provides a 20 percent tax credit for the first $10,000 in yearly, qualified tuition expenses. Programs like this, as well as tuition savings plans, offer a few different ways for middle-income families to receive tax benefits.

 

Federal Loans

If you’ve taken advantage of all your aid options and find you still have a debt to pay, it may be time to consider loans. Non-need based federal loans such as the Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for students and the Federal PLUS Loan for parents can bridge whatever gap you find in your aid and your expenses. Federal education loans generally have low-interest rates or may be tax-deductible, so they’re a smart alternative to using a credit card, for example.

 

Private Loans

You may find that you still need financial assistance after exhausting all the options above. If that’s the case, private student loans may be an option. We always recommend you take advantage of grants, scholarships, and federal aid before taking out a private student loan. To learn more about ELFI’s private student loan options1, click here.

 

Other Qualifications

Remember that financial aid in the form of discounts and scholarships aren’t always one and done. Even if you’re getting a scholarship based on your family history or some type of local competitive scholarship, you may be required to meet certain qualifications to receive the money. Sometimes you might be required to complete a number of service hours or stay enrolled in school full-time to keep your scholarship, for example. Make sure you know any additional qualifications or requirements before applying for the scholarship or another type of aid – you don’t want to be caught off-guard.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels. If you find yourself in that position, don’t despair. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. No matter what, don’t lose sight of the end goal: getting a degree and ultimately establishing a sustainable career. If you’re already looking for financial aid, you’re well on your way.

 

 


1Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

Best Apps for Budgeting in College

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Managing money is hard, but budgeting in college? That’s a whole different ballgame. For a lot of students, you have so much to worry about with classes, work, and other involvements that finances often slip your mind. So how do you hold yourself to a budget when you can barely remember to feed yourself dinner? Luckily, we live in an age full of apps to help you get a jumpstart on budgeting and money management. Here are a few of our favorites.

 

Mint®. Mint is a free mobile app where you can view all of your banking accounts in the same place. It automatically updates and puts your transactions into categories so you can see where all your money is going – and where it’s coming from. It also recommends changes to your budget that could help you save money. Its features include a bill payment tracker, a budget tracker, alerts, budget categorization, investments, and security features.

 

PocketGuard®. Like Mint, PocketGuard allows you to link your credit cards, checking, and savings accounts, investments and loans to view them all in one place. It automatically updates and categorizes your transactions so you can see real-time changes. PocketGuard also has an “In My Pocket” feature that shows you how much spending money you have remaining after you’ve paid bills and set some funds aside. You can set your financial goals, and this clever app will even create a budget for you.

 

Wally®. This personal finance app is available for the iPhone, with a Wally+ version available for Android users. Like other apps on this list, it allows you to manage all of your accounts in one place and learn from your spending habits. You can plan and budget your finances by looking at your patterns, upcoming payments and expenses, and make lists for your expected spending.

 

MoneyStrands®. Once again, with this app, you’ll have access to all the accounts you connect. Its features allow you to analyze your expenses and cash flow, become a part of a community, track and plan for spending, create budgets and savings goals, and know what you can spend without going over budget.

 

Albert®. A unique feature that Albert emphasizes is its alert system. When you’re at risk for overspending, the app will send you an alert. The app also sends you real-time alerts when bills are due. Enjoy a smart savings feature, guided investing, and the overall ability to visualize your money’s flow and create a personalized budget.

 

Before you download any budgeting app, make sure you check out the reviews and ensure it’s legitimate. Because a lot of apps ask for your personal financial information, it’s essential you verify their legitimacy before entering your account number. Listen to what other people have to say and then choose the option that works best for you, because not every app will be perfect for everyone. Budgeting in college may be hard, but downloading an app is just one way you can make it easier. Maybe you don’t want to use an app at all. If you’re in that boat, you can check out some other approaches to budgeting here or here.

 

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

Motivating your student to apply for scholarships

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Do you find your child lacking motivation when it comes to finding grants and scholarships? While some students are intrinsically motivated and will search out and apply for scholarships on their own, other students may need a little encouragement in order to accomplish these tasks. While it can be frustrating, it’s important to remember that this is likely the first time your child has had to navigate financial waters. Because of that, we’re sharing some simple ways you can motivate your child to apply for scholarships before and during their college years.

Discuss college costs and finances with your child.

Your student may not fully understand how much college can cost. Hold an honest discussion with your child where you review the costs of their top college choices, how much money (if any) you will be able to contribute, the significance of creating a college budget, the realities of student loans, etc. While they may be more focused on which clubs they’ll join and their newfound freedom, helping them understand the importance of financial help can make their college year much more enjoyable.

Share scholarship success stories.

Sometimes, all it takes to motivate your student to apply for scholarships is sharing how their peers are reducing the cost of college. Ask other parents which scholarships their child was able to secure, and even let your child know the lump sum their friend was able to save. Take note of the steps each student performed in order to obtain the scholarships and go over with your student ways they can implement strategies into their application process.

Assist with developing a scholarship organization plan.

When it comes to applying for college scholarships, it pays to be organized. From deadlines to account passwords to application requirements, your student will have a multitude of details to remember. Developing a scholarship organization plan will help deter your child from becoming overwhelmed, which in turn will motivate them to complete applications. Share these organization tips with your child to make the process of applying for scholarships a little easier.

Provide incentives.

Using extrinsic motivators, such as rewards, can prod your student into action. Just as you may have bribed your toddler during the toilet training phase, that same concept should work with your teenager. Consider making a deal with your child that if she applies for a certain amount of scholarships, then you will provide half of the money so she can purchase that new phone or outfit for which she has been saving up money.

Give your child a free pass.

Most teens would gladly give up their household chores to complete other tasks, even if the task involves academics. Allow your child a free pass on chores if they use that time to search out and complete scholarship applications.

Set realistic goals.

If you expect or nag your child to spend most of her free time looking for scholarship leads and filling out applications, no wonder they aren’t motivated. Work with your student to set realistic goals for the number of hours spent each week on the scholarship application process.

Acknowledge and encourage your child’s efforts.

Positive encouragement can work wonders to increase your child’s motivation. By letting your child know that you have seen and appreciate their efforts to apply for scholarships, you are giving them the confidence they need to continue applying for more.

For more information about scholarships, be sure to read the scholarships and grants from our friends at eCampus Tours. Your teen can also perform a free scholarship search by clicking here.

 

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.