Phishing, other kinds of tax scams rank No. 1 — don’t fall victim 

19 Jan

Kirsten Gibson, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP)

If you receive an email, text or social media message from someone claiming to be affiliated with the IRS, it’s almost certainly a scam. Question phone callers claiming to be IRS representatives, too. If you remember only one thing this tax season, other than to file your return, it’s this: the IRS will not contact a taxpayer asking for personal information via email, text message or social media.

Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

Tax season is ripe for scamming. As taxpayers figure out how to file their taxes in accordance with federal student loan rules, President Barack Obama’s health care law and a myriad of other complications, scammers gear up to take advantage of a period of confusion. The Better Business Bureau consistently ranks tax scams as the top type of scam in the United States by a wide margin.

“Identity theft is always a huge concern,” says Greg Hedrick, Purdue’s chief information security officer. “Criminals who acquire enough of a person’s information, including a Social Security number, may attempt to use those details to fill out a false tax return and claim a refund under another person’s name. Of course, this could also lead to the rejection of a person’s real return.”

Should you find yourself engaging with someone who claims to be from the IRS, pause to assess the situation. The person writing the message or on the phone will probably be insistent that it’s an emergency and action must be taken immediately. They might also threaten you with arrest, deportation or loss of driver’s license.

The callers who commit this kind of fraud often:

  • Use common names (like Jones or Smith) and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles (and the spoofed caller ID again supports their claim).

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to Treasury Inspector General Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

According to TIGTA, since 2013 more than 1.8 million people reported calls from scammers and more than 9,600 victims paid the impostors a total of more than $50 million.

Individuals also might want to sign up for a credit freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – to further guard against fraud this tax season. The freeze can be initiated for free within minutes online at the Indiana Attorney General’s website. Once a freeze is initiated, you can temporarily lift it anytime to apply for new credit or a loan.

Students, faculty and staff should contact the police if they think they have been a victim of identity theft.

 

How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College

18 Jan

Got 2 or more kids attending college

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need? How many FAFSAs do we have to complete?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA®) until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs here.

Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA. Your children will also need to provide your (parent) information on their 2017–18 FAFSA unless they are going to graduate school, were born before January 1, 1994, or can answer “yes” to any of these questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSAs, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA to another so I don’t have to re-enter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. On the confirmation page, you’ll see a hyperlink that says, “transfer your parents’ information into a new FAFSA.” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and click that link.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his/her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation-transfer sibling info

You’ll then see the alert below confirming that you want to transfer your information to another FAFSA.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation-transfer sibling info pop-up

Once you click “OK,” a new window will open allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA, choose the option on the right and enter your child’s information.


IMPORTANT:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA says “you” it means the student. If the FAFSA is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the left side of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re on a student page (blue) or a parent page (purple).


2017-18 FAFSA Login Page Student or Parent

After you select the FAFSA you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA.

FAFSA 2017-18 confirmation transfer sibling info success

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information pre-populated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA, and you’re done!

NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSAs.

I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSAs.

How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.


TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.


Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.

Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute towards the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that a parent’s annual ability to pay doesn’t change as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Number of dependent children in college full-time Each child’s EFC
1 $10,000
2 $5,000
3 $3,333
4 $2,500

Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs schools based on family income, visit the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov.


Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images

3 details you should know while preparing for tax season 2017

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Tax season can be an exciting time for savers. This year, more Americans are opting out of a tax time splurge and focusing on getting ahead with their tax refunds.

Early filers can still file as they normally would, but we’ve got a couple tips in mind for how your household can use this information to make the most of your tax time preparations:prep-for-tax-season

  1. File a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file.You can’t get the EITC unless you file a return. End of story. Since the IRS estimates that about 25 percent of taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC fail to claim it, this is a vital first step in determining your eligibility.Bonus? If this is the first year that you are claiming the credit, you can use the EITC Assistant to see if you qualify for tax years: 2015, 2014 and 2013. You can file any time during the year to claim the EITC. Something to know: A new tax law will delay refunds that claim the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15. Learn more here.
  2. Decide where and how you will file your taxes and know your free options.Unless you know your return is going to be complicated this year, paying someone to file a tax return should always be a last resort. Decide whether you’d rather file online or in person, and then check out these free filing options:
    • Use Free File on IRS.gov– This free software walks you through a Q&A format to help prepare your return and claim every credit and deduction for which you may be eligible.
    • Try the Free File Fillable Forms– If you’re comfortable preparing your own returns, this option is for you! It allows you to file electronically using online versions of IRS paper forms.
    • Visit a free tax preparation site– If your total household income is less than $54,000 a year, you can seek free tax prep at one of thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (M-VITA), and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites. To locate the nearest site, you can search online or call the IRS at 800-906-9887.
  3. Make a plan for your tax refund that accounts for the EITC/ACTC delay.We know it can be hard to come up with alternative funds if you already had plans for your refund early in the year, but don’t be suckered by refund anticipation products provided by many commercial tax return preparers. The loan fees will have you seeing red.If you start your planning by dedicating your refund, or at least part of it, to savings, you can get ahead of your savings goals. Enter  the SaveYourRefund promotion with $35,000 in cash prizes and 101 chances to win simply for saving a portion of your refund. For more information and how to commit to saving prior to filing your return , visit saveyourrefund.com.

Tammy G. Bruzon works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.

The Great Debate: Living On-Campus or Off-Campus?

11 Jan _qstzxtwnxy-sidharth-bhatia

Where you live and who you live with can be one of the most important decisions you make each year. There are benefits and drawbacks of each option, but the best choice varies for each person. Taking stock of what you want in your housing, how you’re paying for it and the various perks it offers can help you find the right spot to call home for the next year.

While residence halls (dorms) are often the go-to for first-year students, they are not mandatory to live in. Apartments and houses are available for incoming students off-campus too, but often you’ll need roommates and finding them when you’ve only been to campus once for a tour can be difficult. But no matter how long you’ve been in school, it’s a decision you have to make every year and a little comparison can only help you make the best choice for you!

living on campus or off campus22.jpg

One of the main differences between living on-campus & off-campus is the distance from your classes and buildings you need to visit. Living on-campus puts you in the closest proximity for getting to your classes, going to the co-rec, or making it to meetings with your advisor. Depending on how far you live off-campus this may or may not be an issue. If you live across the street from campus this is basically on-campus. However, if you’re a ways away you’ll have to rely on the buses, biking in, driving (if you’re quite a distance away), or just hoofing it. Unfortunately all of these options become a lot less fun when the weather goes cold.

Comparing prices between on-campus and off-campus can be difficult since there’s a wide range for both choices and difference in how you have to pay for them. On-campus residence halls and apartments are generally going to cost you more than living off-campus. However, the big difference many people neglect is how you pay for them. Payment for your housing (and meal plan) is due at beginning of the semester along with your tuition if you live on-campus. If you live off-campus in a house or apartment you will be making a payment each month. These monthly payments are typically much easier to pay out of pocket rather than having to come up with a whole semester’s housing all at once.

If you’re living off-campus, you’ll also want to pay attention to your utility bills in addition to your rent – a problem that living on-campus doesn’t have as it’s a fixed rate. Paying for things like heat, electricity and internet can bust your budget if you had not factored them in. Additionally your laundry situation can involve many things including nothing in your place, having coin-operated machines, or even the mythical free-to-use machines in a place where you don’t have to pay utilities.

One cost that you’ll have to pay for whether you live on or off-campus is your food. There’s no difference in the rates for meal plans where you live, but if you don’t live close to campus your plans to eat every meal in a dining hall probably won’t end up happening. As previously mentioned, your cost for a meal plan is due up-front at the beginning of the semester. Even if you have a meal plan it definitely won’t be your source for 100% of your food as you’ll probably buy snacks, go out to eat at a restaurant or grab food to go from another source at some point.

Possibly the biggest make-or-break part of anywhere that you live is your roommate. Rooming with someone you never met, or even your best friend, can be extremely difficult. Whether it’s sleeping a few feet from them in a dorm room or just sharing a kitchen and living room in an apartment, roommate issues are a frequent source of contention. While you do have the option to have your own place, it comes at a considerable cost both on and off campus. The showering situation in the residence halls might get a bit of flack but sharing a shower with a few of your friends and not cleaning it properly or often enough can make its own frightful situation.

The last major consideration is whether you plan on being around during the summer for classes, internships/ jobs, or just because. Most off-campus contracts are year-round so if you’re splitting back to your family’s home once classes end you’ll still be paying for your place at school. However, living in a residence hall and having summer classes can put you in a spot in having to find a sublease too. While it’s not usually too hard to find options since so many students would rather have someone sublet from them than have to pay their rent during the summer it’s not always the easiest to find a perfect situation to slide into.

Remember, you can use your financial aid to pay for living both on and off-campus! If you live on-campus you’re billed for housing along with tuition and it is due when classes start. This makes it extremely important to have your aid lined up for the beginning of the semester. If your aid doesn’t cover everything that you owe, you’ll need to find a way to cover the difference or create a payment plan with the Bursar’s Office. Any extra aid above what you are billed (whether you live on or off-campus) will be refunded to you. If you’re living off-campus it’s usually a good plan to put this toward your rent. Paying ahead can be great for lifting any worries for a while, just be sure to get a receipt if you do!

Ways to Save on Utilities this Winter

4 Jan stocksnap_g6u0lt0olj

Yikes! Did your first winter energy bill come in higher than you expected? Turning off the heat to save money for the rest of the winter isn’t going to be an option when you live in Indiana, unfortunately, so we’ve rounded up some tips to help you save some cash until it’s warm outside again.

Turn down the heat

Both on your thermostat and your water heater, which you should have access to in a utility closet. Lowering the heat in your house to around 68 is enough to keep you warm (you may have to add a couple layers) and can help to reduce your heating bill. If you have a programmable thermostat take advantage of the settings and turn the heat down a couple more degrees (but always stay at least at 50 to avoid your pipes freezing) so you’re not using extra energy while you’re gone. Also, making a minor adjustment on your hot water heater will save you money. Not to mention that having less hot water will cut your shower time down.

Unplug electronics you aren’t using

This is a simple one that can be used all year. Even if you’re not using your laptop and it’s in hibernation mode, it’s still using electricity. Unplug it and save yourself a couple bucks (so you can have heat!). Even keeping little things like toasters or phone chargers plugged in when they aren’t being used creates a small drain on electricity. Also, avoid space heaters! They use a lot of electricity and are extremely inefficient at heating compared to your central heating. Oftentimes, tossing a blanket on your lap or pulling on a sweatshirt will keep you just as warm.

car in snow with text overlay: Save $$ on utilities this winter

Cover your windows

Plastic over leaky windows can save you tons of money. This is an especially good idea if you live in an older apartment or rental house. We had a window in a rental house that leaked so badly that we could literally watch the plastic sheet we taped around it billow and fill with cold air! Just covering that window saved us a lot in heating costs. wikiHow has a great article on how to properly cover your windows.

Turn your ceiling fans clockwise

Apparently there’s a setting on most ceiling fans that will allow you to switch the direction they spin. This is typically located above the blades of the fan. And turning clockwise will push the hot air back down to keep the heat in your rooms instead of pushing it up towards the ceiling (hot air does rise, after all).

Always wear layers

Add an extra blanket to your bed, keep your slippers handy, invest in some sweaters from the thrift store, keep extra blankets in the living room. Switching your lounging clothes from shorts and a t-shirt to a hoody and sweatpants makes a huge difference. Plus it’s extra comfortable to toss a blanket on your lap while you watch TV. Putting on layers keeps you warm and will keep you from turning up the heat, saving you money on electricity.

10 Steps to Prepare for Next Semester Now!

29 Dec stocksnap_rwaiwjwrky

Okay, so it’s about time to make our schedules and pick out classes for next semester. As we move closer and closer to the spring here is a list of things to keep in mind while picking classes:

Is the work load realistic? It’s awesome you want to take 20 credit hours! Is it really that realistic to successfully complete 20 credit hours though? Be honest with yourself and only take what you can handle. Your financial aid, degree, and future job depend on you doing well so don’t set yourself up for a disaster.

What classes do you need? If you know you can only successfully complete 15 credit hours which classes are really important and get you closer to your goal, graduation? I know your best friend is in that class and you really want to be with her, but maybe that’s not the best option for you. And make sure you stay on track. Are you going to graduate on time? It can cost a lot of money if not. Make sure you are taking care of what you need to first.

What time is class? Some of us are morning people, and some of us are definitely not. No one knows you better than… you! Keep in mind part of your financial aid is contingent on participation, which for some that means attending class. If you know you’re going to sleep through a 7:30 am class, perhaps there is a better option during a later time. You just might be able to substitute the 7:30 am class for another credit altogether.  Check with your advisor for any class switches you could make.

When is lunch? When some of us make a schedule, we pack it as tightly as we can, to be done with the day as soon as we can. Others purposely leave room for a lunch. So look at what works best for you. If you have time for a lunch, packing a lunch is always cheaper. If you don’t have time for a lunch, maybe you don’t need such a large meal plan, see about switching it out for what meal plan works best for you and your needs.

feet walking upstairs with text overlay: 10 Steps to Prepare for Next Semester

How are you getting to class? Are you taking the bus? Make sure you check out the bus schedule to see when it starts, stops, if it is on-time, and plan accordingly. Difficult to tell when a bus is on time, there is an app for that. If you’re driving, are you sharing that car? Make sure you work it out with all the necessary parties.

Do you have scholarships? What are the GPA requirements for those? Most Purdue scholarships check your grades in the spring, and only in the spring. Make sure you’re on track to keep your scholarships! If you know you’re not where you need to be, consider taking some GPA booster classes or cutting your work load to get your GPA were it needs to be. Also don’t stop now! If you have a good GPA keep up the good work and don’t lose momentum.

What other financial aid do you have? State and federal aid have minimum credit hour requirements to receive those funds. Make sure you continue to meet those credit hour minimums. You can always see the requirements needed for all types of aid by going to your MyPurdue, look under the financial tab. On the left hand side there is a link that says “Award for Aid Year”. After you click the link you will want to select the 2016-2017 school year. On the award overview tab, all of your aid will be listed with links to the award requirements.

Is your enrollment changing? Typically, financial aid is based on the assumption you will be 12 credit hours or more. If you’re not, let the financial aid office know, before classes start! Re-awarding financial aid is a manual process and can take some time. Letting the Financial Aid Office know about your schedule changes in advance will save you from headaches.

What are the additional costs? Some courses come with special course fees, like chemistry labs. Can you handle that other cost? All books are not created equal. Keep in mind some textbooks will always cost more. So make sure you consider if the additional financial costs outside of the tuition will be covered. And plan ahead. Often times there are cheaper options for buying books.

Do you have a job? Most employers, especially the ones on campus, are good about working around your class schedule. They are here at Purdue and realize you are a student. That being said, they need to know your schedule. Make sure you give them your schedule and do so well in advance. The early bird gets the worm and the sooner they have your schedule, the sooner they can work around it and give you the hours you need.

What steps do you take to prepare for a new semester?

What to do over Winter Break?

27 Dec

Hannah Stewart, Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

Santa GIF

Oh thank heaven finals are over! Let the holidays begin! The presents, the food, family, it’s a great time of celebration and enjoyment, for a while at least. I know it’s hard to believe, but there is a lot of downtime over the holidays and some of us, dare I even say it, get bored. Even if you don’t bore easily, there are plenty of actions you can take that just might make your break a little better.

The spring semester is coming. I know the fall semester just ended and no one wants to think about school over a holiday break, but you can at least prepare.

Grandmother giving stock of money for college savingsLook for books in advance; it can often be cheaper since you can order from Amazon, rent online, etc. Write out your Christmas list, you could always ask for books as a Christmas gift! Money usually is given as a gift too and it might be beneficial to save for rent or other college related expenses.  During the downtime of the holidays, it’s a good time to set and make a budget. It’s also a good time to make next semester’s schedule.

Check your grades early. I know you don’t want to think about it, because the past is past, right? However, there are timelines to contest grades. If you have any questionable grades this is the time when you should be reconciling with your professor. Double check to make sure all you grades have been entered correctly and send emails early and often if needed. Also, double check you’re making Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), it is one element to keeping your federal financial aid eligibility. You can always check your SAP status on your myPurdue or contact the Division of Financial Aid as well. Just log in, and under the “financial” tab, click on academic progress on the left, and choose the current academic year. The last tab, Academic Progress, shows your current SAP status.

I cannot stress this enough: the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) openend up October 1st and must be filed every year that you’re in school in order to receive financial aid. TheFAFSA home screen on-time filer deadline for Purdue University is March 1st every year, DON’T MISS OUT! It’s not just grants and scholarships that depend on the FAFSA; if you have Stafford loans they also require filed a FAFSA. Recent FAFSA changes have you using the taxes from 2 years before you file, so if you’re filing for the 2017-18 school year you’ll use 2015 tax information. It also tends to be easier to file the FAFSA when both parents and students can work together, and the holidays usually provide a perfect opportunity. Although filing FAFSA is not as fun as opening presents on Christmas morning, it’s fast and super important, so make sure to pencil in sometime for it.

Another really important thing about this time of year is that it’s when scholarship applications open up for the next academic year. That’s right, free money is up for grabs, so go apply! Academic advisors typically email students letting them know, but you can also check out this list of Purdue departmental scholarship information.  The Division of Financial Aid also has a General Purdue Scholarship Application that is available now and is due (along with a completed FAFSA) by January 1st. Private scholarship applications typically start opening up this time of year too. Two resources for private scholarships are FinAid and FastWeb. So research and apply for scholarships. After all, who doesn’t like free money?

So yes the holidays are here, relax and enjoy yourself! Go have fun and refresh! Just keep these things in mind as they can help for a less stressful spring semester.

4 Financial Goals You Can Actually Achieve in 2017

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Did you know that January 17th is known as “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day?” Most people start the new year with big, lofty goals and they quickly come to realize they bit off more than they can chew. According to the University of Scranton, around 40% of Americans usually make new year’s resolutions. Of that 40%, only 8% say they actually meet their goals.

The key to having successful resolutions is to make sure they are simple and achievable. Rather than setting a goal, such as “lose 10 pounds”, try to set a smaller resolution that you can control like, “go to the gym at least 3 days a week”.
Financial New Years Goals.jpg
In 2016, over 30% of Americans had a resolution to save more and spend less. In order to move closer to that goal, it’s important to set simple, achievable resolutions that will improve your finances. If you’re unsure where to start, try making any of these attainable goals your resolutions for 2017.

Saving Your Coffee Money
Coffee is a morning staple for so many people. However, those daily visits to your favorite shop can add up quickly. An average transaction at Starbucks this past year was nearly $9, that adds up to a whopping $2,340 a year! In 2017, set a goal to make your coffee at home. A new automatic coffee maker can be a great investment to ensure you get your coffee without having to spend the extra time and money every morning.

Cut One Service You Don’t Use
That $20 charge for a music-streaming service may not seem that expensive, but if you’re not using it, then you’re just wasting money you could actually be saving. Try laying out all of the expenses you have for services like these, in order of most used to least. For next year, cancel the service you least used this past year. Even if it’s only $20, it can lead up to $240 per year in savings! With technology improving more and more for streaming TV shows and movies, it may be time to finally cancel that cable subscription.

Understand Your Debt
Nearly every American will deal with debt at some point in their lives. From student loan debt to mortgages, it’s important to understand not only how much debt you have, but where it is and how it’s affecting your life. With the rising student loan debt each year, it’s important for graduates to understand each loan and how much their payments will be. To get ready for 2017, make a spreadsheet with all of the loan payments you have (education, car, home, etc.) and how much you can contribute each month to pay them off as quickly as possible. The sooner you pay them off, the more money you will save over the life of the loan. Also, the faster those loans are paid off, the quicker you can spend that money on something like retirement or that vacation you’ve always wanted. There are now even more services for graduates that allow to you refinance your loans, for a lower rate and even the ability to adjust or skip your monthly payment.

Brown Bag It
Grabbing that delicious salad from your favorite cafe may seem like a great idea in the moment, but doing that throughout the week can lead to a big chunk taken out of your bank account. The average lunch in the United States is around $10, so if you eat out every day of the week, excluding weekends, you will be spending around $2,600 a year just on lunch. For 2017, start bringing your lunch to work or school, rather than eating out, and watch just how much you save. Also, by making your lunch at home, you have the ability to control the portions and health benefits of your food.

Ultimately, whatever goals you hope to meet in 2017, just be sure that you make simple resolutions that you can actually achieve. Just like the fable The Tortoise and the Hare says, “slow and steady wins the race!”

Choosing a Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan

14 Dec

All information on repayment plans is from this article by David Evans, Ph.D.
Additional info added by Casey Doten, Purdue Financial Aid Administrator

There are two main types of repayment plans you can choose from: traditional and income-driven. For borrowers that will qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), income-driven plans may be the better option. Income-driven plans will require an annual verification of income. This fact sheet describes each of the repayment plans as well as pros and cons of each. For more information about each of the repayment plans visit the Federal Student Aid website.

Traditional Plansstudent-loan-repayment-plans

Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment plan consist of equal monthly payments over a 10-year period of time. This repayment plan is good for those who can handle making their monthly payments and make enough money to afford them. This payment plan is best for those who have minimal other debts and start working right out of school.

The Pros: You’ll pay off your loan faster compared to other plans, and pay less interest as a result.

The Cons: Your monthly payments will be higher than those made through other plans.

Graduated Repayment Plan

The Graduated and Extended Repayment plans could be an option for you if your income is low when you graduate but will increase quickly. Under a graduated plan, payments start out low and increase during the repayment period, usually every two years. This is a good plan if you can’t afford your current payments but know you will make more money in the years to come.

The Pros: Your loan is still paid off within 10 years.

The Cons: You’ll pay more interest over the lifetime of your loan compared to the Standard Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

An Extended Repayment Plan is an option if your loan amount is more than $30,000 and you want to stretch your repayment to 25 years.

The Pros: Smaller monthly payments (since they’re spread out over as many as 25 years) and more time to pay off your loan.

The Cons: You’ll be saddled with payments for a longer period of time as well as pay more interest.

Income-Driven Plans

If you qualify for an Income-Driven plan, these are often the most attractive options if you’re willing to recertify your payment each year (it’s not very difficult). However, some of these are contingent on when you took out loans! If you’re interested in student loan forgiveness*, you’ll need to be enrolled in any one of these plans.

Income Based Repayment Plan

If you’re not making enough money to cover all of your monthly expenses the Income Based Repayment (IBR) Plan would be a good option. There are two separate calculations for IBR which are dependent upon when you took out your student loans.

The Pros: The IBR plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income** if you were a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. Otherwise it will be 15%. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF (this is true for all loan forgiveness).

Income Contingent Repayment Plan

If you have a federal Direct Loan (other than a PLUS loan), you could opt for the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan. Your payments could be as low $5 or even $0.

The Pros: Your monthly payment will be the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years. You can have your remaining loan balance forgiven after 25 years of regular payments.

The Cons: You’ll pay more over the lifetime of your loan than you would with a 10-year plan, your payment could be lower than the monthly accrued interest and your loan principal will grow. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan

The Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan is only available for those with Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Payments are based on your annual income, family size, and total loan amount. You would pay the loan off in fifteen years.

The Pros: Each lender has their own calculation, but generally it is between 4% and 25% of your monthly gross income, although your payment must be greater than or equal to the interest that accrues.

The Cons: It’s only available for up to five years. After that time, you must switch to another repayment plan. You must reapply annually, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have continued enrollment in the plan.

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Pay as You Earn Repayment (PAYE) Plan is another option for those not able to afford their current monthly payments.

The Pros: The PAYE plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 years.

The Cons: PAYE is only eligible to those who were new borrowers on or after October 1, 2007 and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after October 1, 2011. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE) Plan is very similar to PAYE. This plan was created to allow more borrowers the opportunity to have their payments lowered to 10% of discretionary income.

The Pros: Not dependent upon when you took out your student loan, the payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: If you are married, your spouse’s income will be considered whether taxes are filed jointly or separately. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Summary

Federal student loans offer various ways for repayment. If you are in a situation (like so many others who have taken out student loans) that is not ideal for standard repayment of your loan, consider these options. There is a lot to consider when you are trying to decide which repayment plan to choose. Using the Federal Student Loan Repayment Estimator can help you make your decision by showing you what your payments would be under each of the plans described above.

*A note about loan forgiveness: There are two different kinds of loan forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and loan forgiveness from your income-driven repayment plan ending. While both plans require you to be enrolled in an income-driven plan to reap the benefits there are some key differences:
-PSLF requires being employed at a qualifying employer in public service (non-profits, government, etc.) for 10 years/ 120 qualifying payments before forgiveness takes place. Standard forgiveness is after 20 or 25 years depending on your repayment plan.

-Any loan amounts forgiven under PSLF are tax-free, but not under standard forgiveness! So if you still have a balance on your loans after 20 (or 25) years, you will owe taxes on it as if it is income. While it’s still better than paying the amount back, it’s important to know it will have ramifications.

**Discretionary income = Your income – 150% of the poverty level in your state for your family size

Inexpensive Ways to Enjoy the Holidays

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Wanting to celebrate and spread some holiday cheer but don’t want to break the bank doing it? Holidays are all about spending time with family and giving back, so there’s really no reason to have to spend a lot! So here is a list of free/inexpensive holiday activities.

Christmas Tree: text overlay An Inexpensive Holiday

Send Cards to Soldiers

Holiday Mail for Soldiers is a program run every year by the Red Cross in an effort to send some holiday cheer to those serving and protecting our country. What a great way to send holiday spirit to someone separated from their family at such a special time of the year! You can do this individually, with your family, or even with a club/organization on campus.

Scout Out the Best Lights

Some people go crazy with their Christmas lights! Pile your friends and family into a car and drive around enjoying the lights and try to find the house with the most dramatic lightshow production.

Help Decorate for the Holidays

Whether you buy a tiny fake tree with your roommates or help your parents pull down the menorah from the attic one weekend, that act of helping set up decorations is a great holiday memory. You don’t have to buy new decorations; you can pull out the old and go over your memories from holidays past or have a crafting session with your roommates to make new decorations and new memories.

Spend Time, Not Money

What if you don’t buy presents this holiday season? What if instead, you do something special with each family member and friends you would normally buy a present for? These can be free or low-cost experiences. Maybe you’re back in town for the holidays and you have a friend who is obsessed with Starbucks seasonal peppermint mochas…why not take her out for one and catch up on your lives for a couple hours? The experience of the holiday season is what matters, not what you buy someone.

Go Caroling

So what if you don’t have the best voice? Any nursing home in town would love to see a bunch of new, young and/or cheery faces caroling down their halls. Get in the spirit! Gather friends, family, your sorority sisters, congregation, etc. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

BAKE

Baking delicious treats is probably one of the most exciting things about the holidays. You can bake some for your family, friends, neighbors, the mailman, your favorite teachers from grade school,  or anyone really. Everyone enjoys a few good treats in the winter! It’s the perfect time to try out those recipes you saw on Pinterest or someone shared on Facebook.

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