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How to Use a Pay Raise Responsibly

January 22, 2020

By Tracey Suhr

 

Getting called into the boss’ office for the first time can feel a little reminiscent of getting called into the principal’s office. You immediately start sweating and wondering what you did wrong. But just like the principal’s office, it’s not always bad news. In fact, sometimes it’s the best news of all: you just got a raise. Congrats! Take yourself out for a celebratory dinner and maybe even splurge on brunch this weekend. But come Monday morning, it’s time to get down to business and determine how to use your raise. 

 

You could just enjoy the extra cash coming into your checking account, yes. But, that little financial angel on your shoulder might also nag you about being smarter with that money. Unfortunately, most high school and college classes don’t teach us how to be responsible with our money. We learn all sorts of questionably-practical information like the Pythagorean Theorem but not how to file taxes or how to use a raise responsibly. 

 

To cover that gap in information, we’re here with three actually practical suggestions to use that raise in a way both your principal and your boss would be proud of. 

 

3 Practical Tips to Use a Raise Responsibly

 

1. Boost Your Retirement Savings

If your employer has a 401(k) plan, you should already be allocating 3–5% of each paycheck toward a retirement account, especially if your employer offers a 401(k) match. This means they’ll contribute as much to your savings as you do, up to a certain amount. Many employers match contributions up to 6% of your salary, and this is, literally, free money. If you contribute 3% of your $50,000 salary, that’s $1,500 a year from you and $1,500 a year from your employer for retirement savings. 

 

When you get a raise, you should adjust your paycheck to dedicate a portion or the full amount of that raise to your 401(k) contributions. This is an easy way to save more without much thought or effort needed. If you do this right away, you don’t get used to the extra money, and you just continue living and paying bills as you did before the raise. 

 

If you’re young, this type of contribution can be especially rewarding because of a concept called compounding interest. This means the interest on your investment earns interest, not just the principal (or original) balance. If you invest $1,500 with a 10% interest rate, your balance would be $3,890 in 10 years. With a simple interest rate that only builds on the initial investment amount, your 10-year balance would be only $3,000. 

 

2. Pay Off Debts

Another savvy way to use your raise is to allocate a portion or the full amount to your debts. This can be credit card debt, student loan debt, or even repaying a personal loan from mom and dad. But debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Certain debts like student loans carry low interest rates so when you consider how to use your raise, consider that other accounts or investments with higher interest rates might make or save you more in the long run. For example, if your student loan has an interest rate of just 8%, it makes more sense to pay off a credit card with a 24.5% interest rate or invest in a stock with a 10% return rate. 

 

>> Related: Should I Save or Pay Down Student Loan Debt?

 

3. Allocate the Rest to An Emergency Fund

We alluded to this before, but you don’t have to put all your extra cash in one place. If you get a 5% raise, you can direct 4% toward your student loans and put even 1% in an emergency fund. You should build the emergency fund until you have at least six months of your salary in the account to help you cover bills and general living expenses in case you find yourself suddenly out of work. If six months seems unattainable, aim for at least one or two months to give you four to eight weeks to find work. This emergency fund can also come in handy if unexpected medical bills or car repairs pop up. 

 

If you haven’t been lucky enough to get a raise from your employer, or if you’re looking to boost your savings even more, you can give yourself a raise by refinancing student loans. 

 

If you meet the eligibility requirements, student loan refinancing through companies like ELFI can get you a lower interest rate*, which means you could pay less each month and, subsequently, less over the life of the loan. Use the difference between your previous and current monthly payments as a raise. Then allocate that money to your retirement funds and toward paying off debts. ELFI customers reported saving an average of $272 every month and should see an average of $13,940 in total savings after refinancing student loans with Education Loan Finance.1 That’s a 7.4% raise, which is far above the predicted average 2020 cost-of-living raise of 1.6%. You can refinance both private and federal student loans. 

 

Deciding how to use a raise responsibility is a big decision. Hopefully, with these tips, you can find ways to use those funds in a way that will give you even more play money in the future. The average raise is 4.6%, and with a little knowledge and discipline, you can turn 4.6% into thousands of dollars if you make the right choices on how to use a raise responsibly.

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

1Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 2/7/2020 and 2/21/2020. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of 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.

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2020-09-30
The Best Personal Finance Blogs of 2020

If you’re looking to build strong money management habits, you should consider subscribing to a personal finance blog. All over the internet, personal finance professionals share their wisdom on how to build wealth, pay down debt and establish budgets. You have a world of financial knowledge at your fingertips, so it's time to get started!   With a range of topics and blog focuses, it can be hard to decide where to begin. If you’re all about smart saving, spending wisely and torching your student debt, then here are ELFI’s top picks for 2020 personal finance blogs:

Making Sense of Cents

Making Sense of Cents has a little bit of everything when it comes to building money management habits. Whether you have questions about student debt, insurance or budgeting, this is the blog for you. It’s also been named one of the top personal finance blogs by FinCon, Zillow and the Plutus Awards.   This blog maintains a light, fun tone so it’s easy to read, and it handles a lot of top-level questions about personal finance. Author Michelle also shares about her experiences living in an RV and on a sailboat touring the world. If you’ve caught the travel bug, then you may find some exciting content here.  

Millennial Money Man

Bobby Hoyt, the founder of Millennial Money Man, teaches millennials to pay off debt and live their best, self-employed lives. His blogs focus primarily on trending finance apps and ways to monetize your hobbies. He also shares useful budgeting and spending tips to help set you up for financial success.   If you have a passion for entrepreneurship, Bobby is your man. Enjoy insider tips on growing your business and expanding your income streams, from someone who's done it himself.  

The Budgetnista

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche is passionate about teaching personal finance. She's also one of Amazon’s #1 bestselling authors for her books on personal finance. Her background as a preschool teacher makes her incredible at explaining high-level financial topics in an engaging, easy-to-understand way. Although she’s developed near-celebrity status as a blogger and speaker, Tiffany's down-to-earth style makes for a relatable, fun read.   From banishing debt to building a strong business, her blog covers best practices for achieving financial success. She debunks money myths with topics like “Debt Freedom Doesn’t Equal Wealth,” to help her readers build money management habits. If you have an entrepreneurial personality and are ready to take the next financial step in your personal life or your business, The Budgetnista blog is for you.  

Afford Anything

If you’re a travel fanatic, you’ll love “Afford Anything." Author Paula Pant has traveled to more than 40 countries. She speaks to financial independence and real estate investing, her two primary categories of expertise. She’s built self-sustaining wealth by investing in real estate and uses her free time to teach others how to do the same.   Her blog is all about cutting back expenses in unnecessary areas while spending on the things you love. She writes for readers who want an actionable strategy for spending and saving wisely. If you’re interested in building wealth or in real estate investing, this is one blog you won’t want to miss.  

Broke Millennial Blog

Broke Millennial Blog author and speaker Erin Lowry wants to teach you how to get your financial life together with a 5-step plan designed to help you take charge of your finances. Her blog focuses on popular millennial topics, like budgeting strategies for different personality types and awkward money situations. If you feel like you could use a little financial direction, this blog is probably a great fit for you.   If you love the Broke Millennial Blog and want to take the next step in your financial journey, Erin makes it easy! You can subscribe to the blog’s email list for access to a free money management worksheet designed just for readers.  

Stefanie O’Connell

Stefanie O’Connell wants to help you travel the world, create a living space you love and have healthy financial conversations with your significant other. Her blog addresses financial conundrums you may have wondered about but have been afraid to ask, like “Why I’m Not Having Bridesmaids at My Wedding” and “4 Ways to Buy a Home When You don’t Have Enough of a Down Payment.”   Stefanie’s upbeat, relatable blog gives readers a sense of familiarity. She doesn’t cut corners and gets straight to the heart of financial questions. Her blog offers direction if you’re interested in investing, budgeting or establishing healthy financial boundaries in your relationship.   Every reader interested in learning more about financial topics should check out ELFI’s recommended blogs. If you’re loving the ELFI blog, don’t forget to check out the rest of our topics for even more great information about managing your student loan debt.  
  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.
2020-09-25
3 Financial Goals to Achieve Before Marriage – And Some That Can Wait

Marriage is both a personal and financial turning point that opens up a new world of financial opportunities and struggles. However, with proper planning, you can minimize the challenges and make the most of financial opportunities. Check out these financial goals to achieve before marriage, as well as a couple of others that you’ve still got time to work toward:  

Financial Goals to Achieve Before Marriage

The Emergency Fund

For many couples, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of emergency funds exceptionally clear. Especially as you enter into your first few years of marriage, it’s important to build a strong financial foundation so you’re prepared for unexpected expenses, from home repairs to medical bills.
Financial hardship is a leading cause of divorce, and in these uncertain times, an emergency fund can help to weather the storm.   In addition, an emergency fund provides a way to ease financial anxiety and distress even when times aren’t tough. When you know you’re prepared with emergency savings, there’s no need to panic if the unexpected happens.  

Setting a Monthly Budget

Even if you aren’t getting married, creating a budget is a great financial step, and is something you should do right away. Work with your partner to outline your regular expenses, as well as any expenses that may arise in your first year of marriage. Make sure you provide yourself with some flexibility in your savings and begin building an emergency fund if you haven’t already.   There are several useful tools that can help you keep track of your budget, including apps like Mint. You can also employ a budgeting strategy to keep your saving and spending on track. Several popular budgeting methods include the 50/20/30 rule, the Zero based budget and the cash envelope system. Not only will a budget be good for your finances, but it will be good for your marriage, as well.  

Setting Goals for the Future

Yes, setting goals is a goal. You and your future spouse should lay out financial goals before getting married. It’s important to be on the same page when it comes to debt repayment, housing plans, savings goals and other major financial milestones. Plus, it’s good to know what your spouse is looking for, and a good plan helps to avoid financial stress that can really harm a marriage.  

More Flexible Financial Goals

Making a Down Payment

While it’s great to start saving for a down payment before marriage, it’s not necessary to be entirely ready to buy a home before tying the knot. Especially if you’ve already established good money management habits, you can always continue working toward this financial goal as a married couple.   Even if you don’t have the money for a down payment right away, you can easily establish a strategy to save toward a down payment. Experts recommend planning on putting a minimum of 10% down for your down payment and the more you can save, the better. Stay focused and keep saving. You’ll have that down payment in no time.  

Becoming Debt-Free

Some couples choose to pay their student debt off before getting married, however, student debt is another financial goal you can afford to wait on, especially if you consider refinancing. After your wedding, you may choose to prioritize other expenses that come with building a life together, like a new car or home, before tackling the remainder of your student debt.   That said, you certainly don’t want to forget about your student loans. By refinancing your student loans, you could earn greater financial flexibility by lowering your interest rate or changing your student loan repayment term. Refinancing can provide you with the options you need to achieve financial goals with your new spouse.  

Tips for Tackling Student Debt

As a general rule, it’s best to first tackle whichever debt is incurring the most interest. Debts with high interest rates can easily spiral out of control, and while it may not be essential to totally eliminate your student debt before your marriage, it is advisable to develop a plan to do so.   The good news is, you can employ several strategies to make paying off debt a less intimidating ordeal. Two of the most popular repayment strategies are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. These two plans take opposite approaches. While the debt avalanche calls for dealing with the highest interest debt first, the debt snowball calls for dealing with the lowest amount of debt first and using the momentum to pay off debts one by one. The right method for you depends on your situation, but both can be incredibly effective if used correctly. Again, it’s worth noting that it isn’t necessary to have your debt entirely paid off before getting married, but you should develop a plan for paying it off before you say “I do.”   A marriage is a big change, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. By taking the time to have fun and create a few financial goals, you’ll set yourself up for success even before tying the knot.  If you’re getting married soon, you also might be interested in budgeting for your wedding. Check out our guide here.  
  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.
Medical School Graduate working in a top city
2020-09-15
The 10 Best Cities for Medical School Graduates

Graduating from medical school is just one milestone in the quest to become a physician. Your next step is likely a residency, and for some, the process may also include a fellowship and board certification.   Regardless of where you ultimately end up, though, it’s crucial to take your time when deciding where to start that process. To help you narrow down your list of options, we looked at HospitalCareers.com to get an idea of the best cities for medical school graduates.  

Determining Best Cities for Medical School Graduates

It’s difficult to create a definitive list of the best cities for medical school graduates because the right city for you may depend on your field of expertise, your personal preferences and several other factors.   But in its list, HospitalCareers.com provides a comprehensive view of what’s important to medical graduates. That includes cities with the best hospitals and job markets, places with a relatively low cost of living and more.  

10. Rochester, Minnesota

For many healthcare professionals, the primary pull of Rochester is that it’s home to the No. 1 hospital in the country: the Mayo Clinic. The city also has a relatively small population of just under 120,000, which could make it more manageable for medical graduates who aren’t used to a big city.   The city’s cost of living is 94.1% the national average, making it a solid choice for new graduates who are gaining their financial footing. Plus, according to medical professional networking service Doximity, the nearby Minneapolis metropolitan area has one of the highest average physician salaries in the country at $369,889.  

9. Jacksonville, Florida

While Rochester, Minnesota, is home to the Mayo Clinic headquarters, the medical center has a campus in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is a much larger city, with a population of more than 900,000. But you won’t have to worry about dealing with the cost of a larger city — Jacksonville’s cost of living is even lower than Rochester’s at 93.5% the national average.   Despite being a low-cost area, medical graduates don’t have to go anywhere to enjoy one of the top 10 physician salaries in the country. According to Doximity, it’s $338,790. What’s more, the city has the fifth-smallest gender wage gap between male and female physicians.  

8. Durham, North Carolina

Durham, North Carolina, has one of the lowest average physician salaries in the nation at $266,180. But for graduating medical students, working at one of the best university hospitals in the nation, Duke, can be incredibly appealing. The medical center is ranked nationally for 11 adult specialties and nine children specialties.   Also, like Rochester and Jacksonville, Durham has a relatively low cost of living at 95.2% the national average, which means your salary will go further than most areas in the U.S. The city of Durham is home to roughly 280,000 people.  

7. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston isn’t just known for being the capital of higher education in the U.S. It’s also home to some of the most well-known medical centers in the country, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.   The former is ranked No. 12 overall in the nation, while the latter ranks in the top three hospitals in the nation for psychiatry, diabetes and endocrinology, and rehabilitation.   The only reason to think twice about Boston is its cost of living, which is 162.4% the national average. Also, its average physician salary is relatively low, at $305,634. The city’s population is just under 693,000.  

6. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is one of the most culture-rich cities on our list, especially if you love music. It’s also home to another excellent university hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which ranks nationally in seven adult specialties and 10 child specialties.   The city’s cost of living is 101.4% the national average, which isn’t a deal-breaker but is something to consider. That said, the average annual physician salary is on the high end at $337,914. The Nashville-Davidson area is home to more than 670,000 people.  

5. Austin, Texas

Austin is the fastest-growing big city in America, which means a lot of opportunity. Its population is just short of 1 million people, which also makes it one of the largest cities on our list. And according to U.S. News & World Report, it ranks as the No. 1 place to live in America.   Some of the largest hospitals in the city include St. David’s Medical Center, which was the first health system in the state to be recognized as Employer of the Year by the Texas Workforce Commission, and Cornerstone Hospital of Austin.   The city’s cost of living is 119.3% the national average, which could be a non-starter for some. Also, the average salary for physicians in Austin is relatively low, at $299,297.  

4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City isn’t known for its world-renowned hospitals. Its healthcare industry, however, is among the fastest-growing in the city, with an expected 30% jump over the next 10 years. This means a lot of opportunity for recent medical graduates.   What’s more, the state’s capital has one of the lowest cost of living on our list at 85.4% of the national average. According to Salary.com, the average physician salary in the area is $254,195, which is low compared to the other cities on our list but compared with many cities with high costs of living, your money could go further here.   Oklahoma City is home to 655,000 residents.  

3. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City’s average physician salary of $351,300 ranks No. 11 in the country, making it an ideal destination for many medical graduates. It’s also an excellent choice if you enjoy outdoor adventures.   The state of Utah has one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, which means you won’t have too much trouble finding a job. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s unemployment rate sits at 4.5% for July 2020, compared with 10.2% overall in the U.S. However, the city’s cost of living is 118.9% the national average, which could be a deal-breaker.   Despite being the state’s capital, Salt Lake City has only 200,000 residents.  

2. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is the largest city on our list, with more than 1.5 million residents. Despite its size, the city has a cost of living that’s just 89.4% of the national average. That said, the average annual salary for physicians is also relatively low, at $276,224.   In terms of stability, roughly 18% of San Antonio residents work in healthcare or bioscience, making the city a safe bet for recent medical school graduates. Some of the best medical centers in the city include Methodist Hospital-San Antonio, Baptist Medical Center and University Hospital-San Antonio.  

1. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland sits atop our list for a few reasons. First, it’s home to the Cleveland Clinic, which has been ranked the second-best hospital in the country behind the Mayo Clinic. Second, the city boasts five large hospitals, which employ more than 100,000 people combined. That’s more than 25% of the city’s population, which sits at about 381,000.   Finally, Cleveland has the lowest cost of living on our list of the best cities for medical school graduates — it’s an impressive 72.6% of the national average. One thing to keep in mind is that the average physician salary in the city is $312,448. But considering the low cost of living, that salary will go further than most of the top salaries in other cities.  

How to choose where to live when you graduate from medical school

Making the decision on where to live after you leave medical school can be challenging. Depending on the residency process and other requirements for your field, your options may be limited based on your specialty. If you have multiple options, though, it’s important to take your time and research all of the factors that are important to you.   For example, consider the quality of the healthcare system, as well as the opportunities that might be available to you. Also, look at average salaries in the area and how they compare with the cost of living. Finally, remember that you not only have to work in one of these cities, but also live. Think about your personal preferences and the quality of life you’ll be able to enjoy in each place to make a decision.  

Additional Sources

 
  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.