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Why Completing FAFSA Early Is Critical

May 1, 2019

The process of completing the FAFSA application might be something you’ve complained about. If you haven’t complained about it yourself, it’s likely you’ve heard others mention as not their favorite thing to do on a Saturday night. Though difficult, it is a crucial step for college attendance each year. Sorry—it’s unavoidable! Doing your FAFSA early can be a huge benefit, it makes it a little easier to get motivated and start the process as soon as you can. Why is it so crucial to complete your FAFSA early each year? Here are the reasons why completing the FAFSA early each year are imperative to your financial future.

 

An early application means a better chance at more money.

If you do your FAFSA early, you’ll have a better chance at more federal financial aid or school financial aid. The FAFSA application can be submitted for the next year of college starting October 1. That sounds early, but the sooner you get it in the better your chances for getting financial aid. For example, some colleges award their aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you wait too long, the school’s available financial aid may have been awarded to other students that did the FAFSA sooner. The same applies for federal financial aid. Only so many funds are available, and the institutions can’t wait until the last minute to select who gets awarded the aid. They often dole out aid earlier in the window. Meaning the earlier your application is submitted the better chance you will have at receiving financial aid.

 

Get your Student Aid Report faster.

If you file closer to that October 1 deadline, your Student Aid Report will arrive sooner. This gives you a better idea of where you stand for aid awards faster. The faster you have that report, the sooner you can start planning for how you’ll pay for the rest of your upcoming academic year. Having more time to apply for loans or look for other forms of aid will take the weight off of your shoulders!

 

Skip the stress of procrastinating.

Get it out of the way! There are so many things that you have to do to prep each semester. From registering for classes to picking up housewares and finding a roommate to getting your parking permit. Preparing for the upcoming academic year can usually mean a long to-do list. Plus, you will be wrapping up the previous semester. Do you really want to be worrying about FAFSA when you’re trying to study for exams? Not a chance! You don’t want to be overwhelmed with the amount of work it takes to complete the FAFSA. Be wise and get it out of the way and clear yourself up for focusing on other tasks.

 

These deadlines are real.

There’s not a lot of leniency if you don’t get your FAFSA done in time. Those deadlines are serious, and even being a little late could mean that you’re not eligible at all. Yikes! You don’t want to miss out on aid that could have saved you money on student loans just because you flaked on the application process. Plan ahead and get it done.

 

Other FAFSA Tips

  • Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for aid, it’s still a good idea to complete the application. Some schools have increased their income levels for aid. The application may be required to qualify for other types of scholarships at some colleges.
  • You generally have until the end of June to file, but some states and schools have earlier deadlines. Know what those deadlines are so that you’re not kicking yourself later!
  • Does your school use the CSS Profile? That’s an additional application required by 400 major colleges and it’s just as important as FAFSA. Check with your financial aid office to verify.
  • When FAFSA changed a few years ago from the January 1 start date to October 1, this also changed the tax information you need to submit. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to file because you use the previous tax year’s information. For example, taxes from 2018 won’t be used until October 1, 2019, which will apply to the 2020-2021 school year.

 

If you have any questions about FAFSA or any other aspect of financial aid, don’t wait to talk to an advisor or someone in your school’s financial aid office. They specialize in these topics and are there to help make sure you get as much aid as you deserve. All you have to do is listen, be on the ball, and get all of your paperwork in order to make this happen!

 

What You Need to Know About Scholarships

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2019-11-20
5 Ways to Declutter Your Life in 2020

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.
2019-11-18
The Average Cost of College

When it comes to shopping, many of us have champagne taste and a beer budget. We shop with our eyes and our hearts before taking a peek at the price tag. The process of selecting a college is no different. We make decisions based on location, athletic teams, available programs of study, greek life, or even where our friends apply. Unfortunately, for many people, the cost of college lives at the bottom of the checklist, despite being a vital factor to consider.    The average cost of college for the 2019-2020 school year, is $21,950 for public, four-year, in-state colleges and $49,870 for private universities. This is an increase of 2.6% and 3.3%, respectively, over the year prior, alone.    Without question, college is expensive, and very few people are talented enough to get an athletic or academic scholarship to completely or partially cover the cost of education. An even smaller number of people are able to pay for a degree out-of-pocket. That leaves the majority of college students and their families to rely on loans to pay the bills.     Further complicating matters, a lot goes into the cost of college, including your residency status, level of degree you seek (bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral), where you live (on-campus, alone, or with a house full of roommates), and even how much you eat or how you commute to campus.    To help you understand where you can save, as well as how you can cover expenses with financial aid, let’s dig into what comprises the average cost of college.   

Tuition

Average Cost: $10,440 (public) | $36,880 (private)*

Tuition is the amount you pay your university to enroll in classes. The total changes based on the number of credit hours you take and if you take courses with additional charges like science labs or residential academic programs that let you attend smaller classes in your dorm. Offers like the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) can help students save money by providing in-state tuition to out-of-state students. Despite programs like this, the average cost of college is always rising because tuition increases each year based on inflation, school budgets, and a variety of other factors.    Mandatory fees are lumped into tuition and include contributions toward campus construction and access to things like:
  • Student rec center
  • Athletic events
  • Career services
  • Student activities
  • Computer labs
  • Bus passes
  • Etc. 
 

Room and Board

Average Cost: $11,510 (public) | $12,000 (private)*

Many colleges require you to live on-campus for at least your first year of attendance. The benefit of this requirement is that you’re close to classes and resources, including dining halls and bodegas that can be paid for with your room and board fees. These costs aren’t typically part of the bill for community colleges or schools with a high population of daily commuters. However, students will still need to cover living expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries if they chose not to live at home with their parents and amounts vary based on eating habits and geographic locations. For example, rent in California is higher than in Tennessee and the general cost of living in an urban setting is higher than it is at a rural school.   

Books

Average Cost: $1,240 (public and private)*

Books can be a secret killer when it comes to college expenses. No one ever anticipates the sticker shock associated with their first $300 textbook. These costs also include necessary technology like tablets or laptops for note-taking and essay writing. It also can include special supplies like graphite pencils and drawing paper for art majors or scrubs or stethoscopes for nursing majors. These semesterly shopping trips can do real damage to your checking account and add to the average cost of college.   

Transportation

Average Cost: $1,230 (public) | $1,060 (private)*

So far, we’ve focused on what you’ll need to pay to get by on campus, but we haven’t talked about the expenses associated with getting to campus. These costs impact resident and commuter students and range from airplane tickets and bus fare to parking passes and tanks of gas.    

Financial Aid 

When factoring the average cost of college, the other side of the ledger is represented by financial aid in the form of scholarships and need-based grants. With these awards, that don’t have to be repaid, the cost of tuition is reduced.    In addition to scholarships and grants, federal and private loans are available to help cover the cost of college. Private lenders offer student loan options for undergraduate students, graduate students, and even parents. Loans cover everything from tuition to personal expenses that you’ll occur during your college years, like cell phone bills, clothes, laundry, or even a bed for your apartment. The biggest thing to keep in mind when taking out loans is to borrow only what you’ll need. It’s necessary to have money to pay bills while you’re a full-time student, but borrowing too much can put you in a bind when it comes time to pay back those loans.  
  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.
2019-11-15
The Importance of a Good Debt to Income (DTI) Ratio

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.