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The First Steps of Starting a Business

August 26, 2016

Many people go to college with the end goal of landing a job in their field. They may dream of working for a successful business, becoming a teacher in a large school system, or caring for patients in a well-known hospital. These are vastly different careers, but they have one thing in common – they all involve working for someone else. Often, the idea of starting a new business does not occur to college students and young professionals. The notion of being one’s own boss may sound a little far-fetched to students who, due to the uncertain times, are aiming for more practical jobs. However, your younger years may be the prime time to start a business. In your early to mid-twenties, you likely have no mortgage, no children, and more free time to dedicate to your blooming business. In addition, the explosion of the internet has made starting a business easier than ever. The barrier for entry has never been lower. If starting a business at your age is feasible, and you have the drive to pursue a great idea and be your own boss, nothing can stop you. Follow the steps below to learn how to begin the process of starting your own business.

 

Updated June 03, 2020

 

Come Up with an Idea

The first step in setting up your own business is to determine how you will generate revenue. Is your business built on products or services? Is your idea unique or will you be entering a highly competitive market? Don’t be afraid to iterate on another idea. The important thing is being able to improve on it. The key to consistently coming up with good ideas is to not worry about them failing. If a good idea is one in a thousand, you’ll have to go through each of the ideas to reach it. When you arrive at an idea you like, take it to your friends and family. Don’t be afraid of the feedback. It will only help you make your idea stronger. If your idea doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it’s back to the drawing board. There’s no shame in the process of improving your ideas because at the end of it, you will have something that will put you on the road to success.

 

Develop a Business Plan

The next step is creating a business plan. A business plan is essentially a plan for your business, and it outlines your goals for the future of your business and how you plan to achieve those goals. It comprises many topics including your basic concept, funding, mission, values, target market, competitor analyses, strategy, and financial projections. Experts claim that a good business plan is key to not only get the business running, but also to plan for the future. Thus it is doubly important that your business plan is effective.

 

Prepare Yourself Financially

Different businesses have different financial needs, but even the simplest of businesses may be costly to establish. Your business plan will help you assess where you stand financially and figure out an estimate of how much money your business requires. There are two actions you can take to start your business on the right foot — saving money and earning money.

 

Saving Money

Saving money is an often-overlooked element of setting your business up for success. Many successful entrepreneurs started from scratch and had to make personal financial sacrifices to keep their business afloat. Creating a budget and cutting back on expenses is an effective way to set more money aside for your business. If you are in the process of repaying education loans, consider refinancing your student loans in order to get a lower interest rate. A good way to start is checking out the ELFI student loan refinancing calculator.* There are a number of benefits of refinancing student loans that can make starting your business easier. For additional ideas on how to save money, check out this article.

 

Earning Money

It can be difficult to drive a profit in the early days of your business. If you do not have the required amount at first (and most people do not), there are several ways to earn it. You can work part-time, while developing your business, to yield some extra cash. A side hustle can fill your funding gap. You can ask for financial support from your friends and family or set up a page on a crowdfunding site such as Kickstarter. Another option is getting in touch with investors that may give you financial support in exchange for stock in the company. You can also take out a loan from a bank or government agencies such as the Small Business Administration, which lends money to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

 

These three steps are not the only elements in creating a business, but they are some of  the hardest and most important. Giving them proper attention ensures that your business has the best chances to succeed. Along with ideas, business plans, financial and legal factors, marketing, and more, starting a business requires risk-taking, passion, and hard work. It is not easy, but it is exciting, dynamic, and often worth the risk.

 

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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.
Woman getting her finances in order
2020-09-10
Using the COVID-19 Pandemic to Get Your Finances in Order

This has been a challenging year in many ways. Despite the challenges, however, many people are doing their best to make the most of a difficult situation by accomplishing goals during their time at home.   If you have some extra downtime, this could be the perfect opportunity to work toward your financial goals! If you're ready to get your finances in order, here are a few suggestions to get you started:  

Save for an emergency fund

There’s no way to avoid all of life’s accidents, but you can be prepared for them.
Saving for an emergency fund means intentionally setting aside a percentage of your income for necessary expenses in case of unexpected expenses.   Emergency funds are meant to cover absolute must-haves, like food and housing, rather than entertainment-based expenses like vacations and dining out. While it’s fantastic to save toward those things, too, you should first set aside money for your emergency fund, then focus on secondary expenses.   It’s common to save a $1,000 emergency fund at first, then to work toward an emergency fund totaling six months’ necessity expenses. Reaching a full emergency fund is an incredible accomplishment, and also means you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’ll be taken care of if the unexpected happens.  

Cut back on spending

Focus on eating at home

With almost half of the United States now working from home, it’s easier than ever to avoid the drive-thru at mealtime. If you’re working from home, this is the perfect time to practice cooking your meals. To take it a step further, you could even try meal prepping!   Preparing a meal at home costs, on average, about $4. Compared to the average cost of eating out at $13 per meal, food savings top $180 weekly if you’re eating three meals per day. Cutting back on the cost of dining out is a great way to lower your regular expenses and to get your finances in order.  

Save on travel expenses

Whether or not you’re working from home, travel options are limited as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consolidating your errands into one trip and limiting unnecessary miles on your car are both great ways to save a little more during this time.   If you are working from home, what a fantastic opportunity for savings! Instead of spending the money that you’re saving on work travel elsewhere, consider making progress toward a specific financial goal or even adding to your emergency fund.  

Learn a few simple home repairs

If you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, especially time at home, why not learn a few do-it-yourself repairs? Even if you don’t need to update your home right now, you could save a significant amount in the future by knowing how to make minor adjustments yourself.   From instructions on installing a faucet to fixing a broken drawer, the Home Depot has a number of DIY home project guides on their website to get you started. Best of all, the guides are free and offer step-by-step instructions for first-time fixes.  

Use your extra time wisely

Improve your credit score

Improving your credit score is a fantastic way to get your finances in order. Even though you can’t boost your credit score overnight, you can make a few smart money moves right now that will put you on the right track.   Paying your bills on time is the most effective way to keep your credit score high. While you have a little extra time at home, look to see if your bank offers an automatic bill pay option. Automatic bill pay is a phenomenal way to set up your payment schedule, then let it take care of itself. This is especially useful for regular monthly expenses like rent, mortgage, car and utility payments.   Even if you prefer to handle your payments manually, create a payment schedule by setting reminders for important dates. With This will help you to stay on top of important expenses, and you can enjoy the benefits of having a strong credit score.  

Make some extra cash

Boredom can be a catalyst for creativity. If you like to play the piano, consider making a little extra money by teaching beginner piano lessons. If you enjoy shopping, try bringing in some side income by delivering for Instacart, DoorDash or a similar service. Now could be the perfect time to turn your hobby or favorite activity into a side business.  

What to do if you’re struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic

Reach out to your lenders

The COVID-19 pandemic has, unfortunately, created financial hardship for many people worldwide. The U.S. unemployment rate hit an unparalleled high of 14.7% in April, leaving many families without the financial resources for necessities like rent and groceries.   If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation resulting from COVID-19, speak with your lenders and landlords to discuss a mutually beneficial solution. Many businesses have deferred monthly payments, and the federal government has suspended interest on student loans for the remainder of the year.   We understand how difficult it can be to navigate this time. If you’re an ELFI customer in need of assistance, our expert Personal Loan Advisors are available to discuss your financial situation.  

Prioritize the necessities

If the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted your financial situation, make the most of your income by temporarily limiting unnecessary spending. From eating at home when possible to enjoying free or cheap recreational activities, these short-term sacrifices may better your long-term financial health.   If you need a few ideas for a few at-home activities that are also budget-friendly, check out our list of ideas here.  

Check for forgotten expenses

If you’ve tried everything but your expenses still feel overwhelming, one way to get your finances in order is by making sure you've canceled all the monthly or automatic payments for services you no longer use.   Check your credit card bill to see if you’re making automatic payments on anything you may have forgotten. This can be everything from streaming services you no longer use to app renewals you're still being charged for. Even a few dollars each month can add up if you’re unwittingly paying for several unused services.   Additionally, take stock of your utility bills to see if your expenses have been slowly climbing. If your utility costs have grown significantly, discuss the expenses with your provider. If you can't come to a resolution, consider exploring other options to see what might be available!   Finally, student loan refinancing can be an effective way to lower the interest and extend the term on your current student loan payment. If you’d like to decrease the amount you’re paying each month, determine whether student loan refinancing might be the right fit for you.  
  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.
Woman smiling at college graduation
2020-09-08
7 Actions to Take Before Your Grace Period Ends

Congratulations! You graduated from college and have hopefully settled into the start of your career. If it has been almost 6 months since your graduation, it’s most likely your student loan grace period is nearing the end if you have federal student loans. Are you prepared for when your grace period ends? Luckily we have some actions you can take to prepare.      If you have federal student loans, there is a six month grace period before you have to begin making payments after you graduate, leave school or drop below a half-time student. Not all federal student loans have a grace period. The loans that do include: direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized. PLUS loans for graduate school have a six month deferment period after graduation where payments are not required. Some private student loans also have a grace period but it may not be six months. Be sure to check with your lender to determine if any grace period exists.   

Actions to Take

Here are a few actions you should take before your grace period ends to ensure you are prepared.  

Determine Your Debts

  First, it’s important to understand the types of student loans you have. For example, do you have private or federal loans? If you have federal student loans, you’ll need to determine whether you have subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans mean the U.S. Department of Education will pay the interest on the loan during the grace period for most loans. (Note: If you have a direct subsidized loan that was disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, you are responsible for the interest during the grace period.) If you have a Direct Unsubsidized loan you will always be responsible for the interest, even the interest accruing during the grace period. This means that if you don’t need the grace period you may want to think about at least paying the interest on the loan.    Be sure to take stock of your other debts, such as a car loan or credit card payments, and their minimum payments.  

Make a Budget

Determine a budget that includes your new student loan payment and all other debt payments. Once you determine your budget, start following it before your grace period ends. The money budgeted for your student loan can be put aside to use as an emergency fund. Or use the money you saved during the grace period to make a principal-only payment to get ahead on your repayment.    

Set Up Auto-Pay 

Another great action to take during your grace period is setting up auto-pay through your loan servicer. Setting up auto-pay will ensure your student loan payment is always made on time. Another great benefit of using the auto-pay feature is that federal student loans are given a 0.25% interest rate reduction. Some private student loan lenders also provide a discount for auto-pay so check with your lender if any discount is available.   

Establish a Debt Repayment Plan

Your grace period is a great time to establish a student loan debt repayment plan. A debt repayment plan will help you decide exactly how you will pay off your debts. There are two main types of student loan debt repayment plans, the snowball method, and the avalanche method. You have to decide which method would work better for your financial situation and motivation. Either method will be helpful if you have multiple student loans or other debts to pay off. Once you decide on your method, you will know how to allocate any extra money you have in your budget for debt repayment. When it comes time for your grace period to end you will be more than ready to start paying down your loans efficiently!   

Research Repayment Options

  1. If you have multiple student loans you can pay each loan, keeping track of each loan individually and their due dates. 
  2. Another option is to consolidate your federal loans into one loan. The average interest rate of the consolidated loans becomes the fixed interest rate on the new consolidated loan. This is consolidating your federal loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan through the U.S. Department of Education.  
  3. Refinance student loans. Once you start getting your finances in order you may realize your student loan payment is not going to fit in your budget or has a much higher interest rate then what is available now. That’s where refinancing your student loans can help. Refinancing your student loans means you will borrow a new private student loan to pay off any previous student loans (including federal and other private student loans). Refinancing can save you money because interest rates can be much lower than for federal loans. A lower interest rate means you are saving money in interest costs monthly and over the life of the loan. To find out how much you could save use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*
 

Learn About Borrower Protections and Programs

When you have federal student loans you are provided benefits that are not always provided by private student loan lenders. The grace period of your loans is a good time to find out about any federal borrower protections you may want to use in the future, such as deferment and forbearance for your loans. Also, if you work for a non-profit or government agency, your loans may qualify for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. During the grace period, it is helpful to learn about the requirements for the program so when your payments begin you can be sure they qualify under the specific rules of the program.    

Learn About the Repayment Plans

If you are shocked by what your monthly payment will be on the standard repayment plan, check into the other student loan repayment plans provided for by the U.S. Department of Education. Certain loans are eligible for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan, where your payment will be based on your income. Or you can elect to have your loans on the Graduated Repayment Plan that will extend your loan term to provide for a smaller monthly payment. However, keep in mind that you will end up paying more interest over the loan term.   

The Bottom Line

Taking these actions will help you be prepared for the end of your grace period. You are already a step ahead by thinking about this now. This preparation will start you off on a bright financial future knocking out your student loans. Good luck!  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   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.