Student Legal Services at Purdue

2 Aug

Leslie Charters, J.D. – Director, Student Legal Services

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Think of us as legal insurance.

You hope you never need to visit our office, but when an unexpected legal issue arises we’re here to help. Purdue’s Student Legal Services office was created in September of 2013. Since that time we have assisted thousands of Purdue students through individual meetings and group presentations on a variety of legal topics.

Student Legal Services is a small office with currently one attorney (me!) serving all 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. We are a free, confidential, advice-only service for all students focusing on nine areas of law: landlord/tenant disputes, criminal issues, power of attorney, traffic tickets, garnishment and collection matters, notary services, family law issues, name change, city or county ordinance violations, and small claims.

Even if a student has a legal issue that we do not cover, we will often assist the student by making a referral.Image result for purdue student legal services

Because we operate as a small law office, we do not accept walk-ins. In addition, we cannot give legal advice over the phone or via email.

To set up an appointment, students must first fill out an intake form on our website. Then, our office will contact the student about scheduling the appointment.

Now that you know how to find us, let’s address common issues I discuss with students and ways to avoid them:

  1. A lease is a binding contract, so read it carefully. We are happy to review it with you before signing.
  2. Negotiate! Sometimes there are terms in leases that are negotiable, but the landlord won’t tell you that. To get a lease that benefits you, make sure the landlord knows you are considering other options. When meeting with your top-choice landlord, bring in other leases and compare them to the lease you would like to sign. If another landlord is willing to waive your security deposit, use that fact to your advantage and ask for it. Other examples of negotiable terms are subleasing fees, pet fees, parking, and all the other random (and sometimes ridiculous) fees that landlords like to hide in the fine print.
  3. When you move into a rental unit, take photos and video of the condition the day you move in. Do the same thing when you move out. This way, if you are ever brought to court for allegedly damaging the apartment, you can prove the condition was the same or better when you moved out as it was when you moved in.
  4. Choose your roommates wisely, especially if you are signing a joint lease. A roommate dispute is not going to get you out of a lease. In addition, if one roommate doesn’t pay rent or damages the apartment, the other roommates can be held legally responsible.
  5. If you are driving a vehicle in Indiana, you are required to be covered by a car insurance policy. Talk to an insurance agent to make sure you have at least minimum coverage.
  6. If you come into contact with law enforcement, be respectful. If you don’t agree with how an officer handles a situation, leave it to the courts to decide if the officer’s actions were appropriate.
  7. Were you arrested for minor consumption of alcohol, public intoxication, possession of marijuana/paraphernalia, or another misdemeanor offense? Save yourself lots of money by visiting our office before deciding to hire an attorney. We can walk you through the court process and provide referrals when necessary.

Keep us in mind the next time you think to yourself, “How can my landlord get away with this?” or “I can’t believe I got arrested. Now what do I do?” Let our office provide peace of mind with a consultation and free advice.

Contact info:

Leslie Charters, J.D.
Director, Student Legal Services
Purdue University
(765) 494-7503
www.purdue.edu/sls

Saving Money in the Residence Halls

27 Jul

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Administrator – Purdue Financial Aid

There’s no doubt that attending college is a significant investment, but a little bit of planning can help you save a lot of money. Whether you decide to live in one of the University Residence Halls, or in an apartment off-campus, there are definitely many options that can help students reduce their daily college expenses. I’m going to cover five ways you can save money while living in a residence hall (or your apartment).

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Taking Advantage of the Meal Plan

Students living in most of the University Residences are required to have a meal plan. Choosing the most appropriate meal plan can be an important factor in a student’s college expenses.

Sometimes it can be hard for students to be able to go to any of the 5 dining courts in between their busy schedules. Whenever I would have a short lunch break in between my classes, I took advantage of the On-The-Go options.

On-The-Go is a great alternative for students with limited time, where they can grab a quick bite on their way to class, without letting their meal swipes go to waste.

It’s important to eat as many meals as possible from your meal plan since you’ve already paid for them!

Making Use of the Alternatives

Alternatively, most meal plans offer Dining Dollars. Dining Dollars can be used anywhere on campus such as cafes, restaurants at Purdue Memorial Union, some food trucks, and the markets, to name a few. I would save on my snacks, milk and other personal necessities by using my dining dollars at on-campus markets like 3rd Street Market and Tarkington Market. Plus Dining Dollars save on these items compared to other payment methods!

Microwave and Mini-Fridge

Not every student needs a microwave or fridge in their room. For me, however, that was a necessity. During my freshman year, my roommate and I decided to rent out a mini-fridge and microwave so we wouldn’t have the hassle of moving it out at the end of the year, or splitting it up.

I realized later how investing in a microwave and fridge at the start of college was a much better choice than renting it out. Renting it for a year is just slightly cheaper than buying a new one for the first time; but in the long run, it’s actually more expensive!

Saving on Dorm Room Essentials

Another way to help save money while living in the Residence Halls is by limiting the number of things you have in your room. Coming to college for the first time can be very overwhelming, and students aren’t too sure what they will and will not need in their dorm room. Buying too many “dorm room essentials” is one of the most common mistakes a freshman can make. I’ve made this mistake too!

I bought myself a night lamp for late-night cramming sessions while my roommate was asleep; however, I never even used it because the desks provided in the dorms have a tube-light for that. Even though many “college check-lists” say this is essential, Purdue students living in the residence halls can take advantage of the one on their desk.

Most residence halls offer cleaning supplies that the residents can use to clean their room, such as a vacuum or mop, so a student could benefit from the offered cleaning supplies instead of purchasing them. I took advantage of them and never had an issue with availability or functionality.

Purdue’s Residence Halls offer Wi-Fi in the rooms! Students do not need to worry about getting their own router. The rooms also offer Ethernet cables for students! There are a lot of computer labs and printers (color printers too) available all over campus, including in each residence hall, so students can save on printer, ink and paper too. A small part of the students’ tuition is put towards printing so utilizing the university printers is a great option.

If you’re living in an apartment, don’t feel like you have to have it outfitted like your family home! You’ll only need the bare essentials and if you can find them on the cheap you’re even further ahead.

Pull out the Student ID

Don’t forget to use your Student ID to it’s fullest extent. Pull it out for free use of the city buses, paying for your meals, access to your residence hall, and all of those discounts!

You never know what places might offer free deals just for flashing your student ID card!

Whether you live on or off-campus, you can make use of the options offered to help reduce daily expenses. It all comes down to the your choices and preferences.

Do you have any tips on saving money while living in the residence halls? Share them in the comments below!

City Bus, Free for Students!

25 Jul

http://www.purdue.edu/mymoney

Lafayette CitBus

Don’t want to bother with biking? Is it too far or just too cold to walk? Say hello to City Bus, the Greater Lafayette area bus system. This bus system is free for all Purdue students. All you need is your Purdue ID and you’re good to go.

The buses have different colored names with a sign at the top of the bus and a colored route on the bus map matching the name to help you determine if that’s the bus you want. Even though you’ll mainly just use the campus and regular loops in West Lafayette, this is not the limit of your map!

You can take the bus to Lafayette as well. And if you’re out late at night, there’s no need to fear, there are actually two campus loops that run really late at night so you can take the bus home (or back to your car) when it gets dark.

students catching the bus

Catching the bus is easy. Just figure out which stop you need to get you where you want to go, stand at the sign, and when you see your bus approaching stick out your arm so the driver sees you. The bus will stop for you and you can be on your way!

We all have those days where we are running a bit late, but that is alright! There are several ways to see when your bus is coming and when to be at the stop:

Text: There is a bus stop ID on the signs. You just need to text RT4 followed by the bus stop ID and Route to 41411. They will send you the next three departure times via text.

Double Map: Like the Marauder’s Map in Harry Potter, double map lets you see a bus’s location in real time. You can use this through the CityBus website or download the Double Map app on your smartphone.

MyRide: This smartphone friendly search allows you to enter in the bus stop number or street names to access information on your bus’s arrival time.

There are some stops where pulling the ‘stop’ wire just isn’t needed. So you don’t have to hear that annoying ring, the Ross-Ade bus always stops at the top of the hill for the parking lot. The Silver Loop bus almost always stops at Class of 1950. It’s like magic! All buses will stop at the transfer station across the bridge in Lafayette too.

Nervous about taking the bus for the first time? Here’s a wonderfully cheesy video that helps demystify how it all works!


So the next time you’re in for an adventure (or quick, free transportation), try out City Bus. It’s much easier to use than you’d think!

 

What’s a Purdue ID Good For?

20 Jul

example Purdue student IDWhat is your Purdue ID good for?

It’s your personal identification number, it’s how you get into your residence hall, it’s your meal ticket if you have a meal plan, it’s your verification when turning in an exam, it’s what offices require to see your student account information, and it’s how you ride the bus for free.

Not to be dramatic, but you can hardly without your Purdue ID! Although memorizing the number is highly recommended, there are other reasons to carry around the card with you.

Housing:

If you live in the residence halls, this is how you swipe into your building, and potentially even the wing you live on.

Meal Plan: 

If you have a meal plan, this is how you swipe into the dining courts. Each swipe counts as a meal. Some dining courts offer premium “double swipe” meals, like steak or other higher quality options. Double swipe meals count as two MEALS, so be careful how often you partake!

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On-the-Go! uses swipes in a similar fashion. On-the-GO! is your carry-out option for dining. Located adjacent to Earhart, Ford, and Windsor Dining Courts, On-the-GO! provides a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, salads and snack items. Signs are posted in the On-the-Go! locations stating much each item is worth. You add up all the items until it totals one meal swipe.

Dining Dollars: Dining Dollars are additional meal swipes on top of the meal plan that can be used. These are used more for eating out or in the mini marts around campus. Cary Knight Spot and Harrison Grillé are restaurants on campus that accept student’s Dining Dollars. Restaurants in the Union also accept Dining Dollars. Dining Dollars can purchase other items besides food though. Mini marts also accept Dining Dollars, and while they have food items, school supplies, shampoo, etc. It’s similar to a small convenience store.

If you have any questions on how meal swipes, dining dollars, and BoilerExpress work, be sure to check out this article from Purdue Dining and Catering.

Boiler Express:

Boiler Express is like a pre-paid debit card. Please note: Boiler Express must be set up separately, I repeat Boiler Express is separate and your refund does not automatically go into a Boiler Express Card. Boiler Express can be used at the same places as Dining Dollars. It can also be used in the laundry facilities. Each residence hall has a laundry room and you can swipe your Purdue ID to use your Boiler Express funds instead of quarters. They do offer a discounted price if you use Boiler Express instead of quarters! Click here, for more information regarding this program.

Discounts and Freebies:

You can ride the bus for free with your Purdue ID card. Did you also know that many places offer discounts to students? Not sure how the bus system works? Check out this article.

You never know, flashing your Purdue ID might give you the unexpected, but oh-so coveted discount. So be sure to show it any time you make a purchase around town. Also, many Purdue-sponsored functions (Convocations, Union activities, sporting events, or even resident hall activities) often offer discounts to students which is a good reason to keep your ID on you to verify that you are a student.

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First College Apartment Essentials

18 Jul

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There’s nothing like moving into your own place for the first time. Sure, it comes with some extra responsibilities and the need to do more cleaning than you ever imagined but your own place can make you feel like a real adult.

It’s hard to know what to buy for your very own place since so many of the items you are used to seeing at your parents place aren’t necessarily what you need for a college apartment. To help get you started here is a list compiled from multiple sources as well as personal experience.

Remember, not everything has to be moved in on day one. Some of the items you can buy after you move in. Also be sure to check in with any roommates on what they are bringing ahead of time! You don’t want to carry a couch up the stairs to realize there is no room for it.

Please note: this is an essentials list for college students, not meant to be all-encompassing of what a family kitchen should include. For emphasis, I’ve bolded the items that it would be difficult to avoid needing.

Kitchen:

Don’t worry about having all of the super specialized kitchen tools your family has. They can be expensive and take years to accumulate. Instead, focus on the things that have multiple uses.

One big note: don’t bring too many dishes! Having more and having to wash them less often sounds great until they all accumulate and you’re the one who is washing 3 loads of dishes you didn’t use.

  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Silverware
  • Silverware organizer (that goes in a drawer)
  • At least one pot and one pan
  • Trash and recycling bins
  • Oven mitts or pot holders
  • Microwave (some don’t think it’s essential, but 4 minutes in the microwave vs 45 in the oven is common for frozen foods)
  • Dish soap (and dishwasher detergent if you have a dishwasher)
  • Scrubbing sponges
  • Trash bags
  • At least one good, sharp knife
  • Zip-lock baggies & food storage containers
  • Ice cube trays
  • Towels or paper towels (discuss this with your roommates: excessive paper towel use can drive people crazy, but someone has to launder cloth towels)
  • Coffee maker
  • Spatulas, ladles, etc
  • Dish drying rack (necessary if you don’t have a dishwasher)
  • Tin foil or plastic wrap
  • Toaster or toaster oven
  • Water filter
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Baking needs: measuring cups & spoons, baking sheets, and mixing bowls
  • Strainer/ colander (mandatory if you’re going to be making mac n cheese or spaghetti)

Bedroom:

Despite the fact that you might spend the most time in this room, you don’t need a whole lot to get by. If you’re going truly bare-bones, you can just throw a mattress on the ground and call it good. But here’s a list if you’re trying to top the absolute minimum.

  • Mattress
  • Pillows
  • Box spring
  • Bed frame
  • Sheets and pillow cases
  • Blankets
  • Night stand
  • Dresser or some other containers
  • Clothes hangers
  • Lamp
  • Laundry hamper
  • Desk
  • Chair
  • Curtains (or a dark sheet/ blanket)
  • Trash bin
  • Fans
  • Full length mirror

Living Room:

Other than your bedroom you’ll likely spend the most time here. Just make sure you and any roommates are on the same page about any potential issues with monopolizing couch and TV time.

  • Couches, futons and/ or chairs
  • Table
  • Wall decorations
  • DVD player
  • Television
  • Foot rest
  • Lamp

Bathroom:

Talk to your roommates and figure out if it’s okay for everyone to keep their things in the bathroom or if you’d all prefer it stays in the respective bedrooms when not being used.

  • Shower curtain, rod, and rings
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, etc.)
  • Toilet paper
  • Plunger
  • Bath mat
  • Trash bin
  • Towels
  • Shaving supplies
  • Shower caddy
  • Cosmetics organizers
  • Hair straighteners, curlers, dryers, etc.

Miscellaneous:

There are tons of extra things that could be included here but the items that you’ll use to clean are the main takeaways.

  • Cleaning supplies (rags, cleaners, bleach, etc.)
  • Laundry supplies (detergent, dryer sheets, etc.)
  • Trash bags
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Power strips
  • Light bulbs (some landlords will charge you for any they have to replace, so read the lease carefully)
  • Internet router and related needs (almost mandatory, but it’s possible to utilize computer labs instead)
  • Rugs
  • Coasters
  • Adhesive strips and hooks
  • Phone chargers
  • Iron & ironing board
  • Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Mop
  • Shoe organizer
  • Basic tools (screwdrivers, duct tape, pliers – but remember to contact your landlord for most needs, you are paying them to maintain your place for you)
  • Band-Aids & first-aid needs

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Healthcare & College Students: What You Need to Know

13 Jul

Up to this point in your life, there’s a very good chance that you’ve never picked up the phone to schedule a doctor’s appointment. There’s also a very good chance that you’ve never thought about how medical insurance works. The receptionist at the doctor’s office takes the information and the charges get paid, right?

Well, sometimes, but this is typically not the case. Many people are covered by an employer-provided insurance plan. Often, these plans have high deductibles, and a limited number of physicians you’re allowed to see. As a college student, healthcare is probably the last thing on your mind,but it shouldn’t be.

Unexpected healthcare costs could really put a bind on your already stretched college budget.

But don’t worry, the process isn’t as complicated as it seems. With a little planning and preparation you can learn how to manage your healthcare dollars wisely. Here’s how:

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Have a plan and know your benefits before you need to use them. Ask your parents if you are covered by their medical insurance and for how long. Most plans will cover you until you are 26.

Once you find out this basic information, call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card.

Ask your insurance company:

  • Am I covered while I am away from home? Some plans only cover for emergency services when you are away from home.
  • Am I covered at Purdue University Student Health Services? PUSH is out of network for all insurance plans except the student resources plan offered by the university.
  • What percentage will your insurance pay? What percentage will be your responsibility? You will be responsible to pay for services not covered or the balance after insurance payment.

Once you are familiar with your current insurance coverage, you can go here to see the plan offered by the university. Read the plan coverage and do a quick cost/benefit analysis to decide whether this plan would be more or less cost effective for you and your individual circumstances.

Purdue University Student Health Services (PUSH)

Purdue Student Health Services is a student-oriented healthcare facility on campus. The providers at PUSH understand college health and its impact on your academic success. This is a great resource for affordable, accessible healthcare.

Most currently enrolled students on the West Lafayette campus are eligible to be seen at PUSH. Students enrolled full time during any semester can be seen for an illness or injury at no charge.

Students enrolled part time are eligible to be seen, but they will have to pay an office visit charge.

There are fees for all other services, including laboratory, radiology, physical therapy, women’s services, allergy and immunization services, and sports medicine. Although there are fees for most services at PUSH, the fees are typically less than they would be if you were to go to a provider off campus (good to know if your percentage of required out-of-pocket expense is high).

If you are at PUSH for an office visit and your provider recommends any testing or treatment, regardless of your insurance coverage, it’s always best to ask our business office how much the test/treatment will be and find out from your insurance company how much they will pay for that particular charge.

Don’t forget to utilize the Business Services department at PUSH. Often, they can help you choose the most cost-effective path forward with your healthcare.

Practice Healthy Habits

Now that you will be learning how to manage your own health and healthcare with less parental involvement, it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself matters in the learning process. Staying healthy is going to save you the most money in terms of healthcare expenses.

Good nutrition, sleep, and exercise are as important as studying for that final exam. You are going to be learning habits now that will impact your wellness for the rest of your life.

In the long run, taking care of your health, managing your healthcare, and being a wise consumer with your healthcare dollars will reward you, and your bank account.

Reviewing Your Student Loan Summary

10 Jul

Many Purdue students received a summary of their estimated student loan debt recently via email. While it may be a sobering reminder of your current student loan load, it can be a good time to think about your loan debt.DFA logo

Knowing what you owe in total and your monthly payment will be important as you plan your future. Being mindful of your debt compared to your future earnings is crucial in making the investment in your education worthwhile.

Most experts recommend keeping your loan payments below 20% of your monthly income, or they will become a massive financial burden. A good approximation for repayment is that your monthly payment equals roughly 1% of what you borrow, or about $100 every month for borrowing $10,000.

42% of college seniors expect to earn more than $50,000 in their first job out of college, but only 23% of employers actually pay this amount to new grads. It’s important to keep in mind the average salary in your field is just that, an average, not necessarily the starting wage.

When it comes to repaying your loans, paying more than the minimum will go a long way in shortening your repayment length. If you do so, be sure to utilize the best payment method that works for you either targeting the smallest debts or the highest interest rates first. If your minimum payments are looking higher than you can afford, consider going on an income-driven repayment plan to help keep your loan from becoming too big of a burden.

As you go through school, keep in mind that there is a borrowing limit for federal loans. While the actual limit varies by dependent and independent status, as well as being a graduate student, for most dependent undergrads it is $31,000. However, due to yearly limits on borrowing most students don’t have to worry about this unless they end up attending for more than four years.

Be sure to average 15+ credits per semester in order to stay on track for a four year graduation, only one extra year can cost you over $138,000 in extra tuition, lost wages, and lost retirement savings.

If you have money from working in the summer and are wondering how you can pay down your loans, the first step is finding out which loan servicer has your loans. Once you have their information, you should be able to set up an account and make your payments online!

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Hopefully the loan debt summary has given you good information to borrow smart now and know your options for repayment in the future. Remember, you can always contact the Financial Aid office during our business hours (8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday) by calling or stopping in for any reason, or if it’s not a pressing matter feel free to email us at facontact@purdue.edu.

Meal Swipes & More: Paying for your Meals at Purdue

6 Jul Text "meal swipes and more: paying for your meals at Purdue" over picture of dining court food

Purdue Dining and Catering offers several different payment methods to its patrons: meal swipes, dining dollars, Boiler Express, and cash/credit options. Below you will find an explanation of each option, culminating in a cost-effectiveness evaluation.

Meal Swipes: During academic semesters (including Maymester and summer school), students have the ability to purchase a meal plan, providing them with meal swipes. There are several different types of meal plans, which are covered in this blog. Meal swipes allow the student to swipe his or her student ID card and enter the dining court quickly. They are prepaid via the meal plans, which range in totadiningdollars_tall_meal-plan_purdue (2).jpgl pricing from $2,998-$5,398. Depending on the meal plan purchased, a student can have anywhere from 8 to unlimited meal swipes per week. Students holding one of the unlimited meal plans are given 16 meals per year with which they can swipe in friends or parents. Students on the 8 or 13 meal plans cannot bring in friends or parents, as the swipes are exclusive to the intended cardholder.

Dining Dollars: The second most popular student option. Dining dollars come pre-loaded on the student’s meal plan. Some meal plans are sold without dining dollars, so be aware of the dining dollar total presented with the meal plan you select. Dining dollars can only be re-loaded if you purchase the Boiler Flex Unlimited plans. Dining dollars are a great option, as they allow the student to bring in guests. The student will be asked whether or not their guest is a fellow student. Student pricing is slightly cheaper, as it is tax-free. The guest will be asked to produce a student ID to verify their status. A student dinner with dining dollars costs $9.60.

BoilerExpress: a third, slightly more expensive option. BoilerExpress accounts are helpful for off-campus students, employees of the university, or the student who has run out of dining dollars. Their pricing is a little steeper, coming in at $11.40 for a student dinner. Students can use their BoilerExpress accounts to bring in friends and parents in a manner similar to dining dollars. Employees can use BoilerExpress accounts to purchase meals at a discounted rate. BoilerExpress accounts are also valuable in their potential for refunded money. Unspent dining dollars expire at the end of the academic year; unspent BoilerExpress money can be refunded to a student as long as the account total is in excess of $10. It’s important to note that any deposit in a BoilerExpress account results in a convenience fee of $3, so when depositing, be sure to think ahead to future costs.

Cash & Card: Finally, anyone can purchase entry to Purdue’s buffet-style dining via cash or credit card. This is the most expensive of the options, costing $11.90 for a student dinner, and $12.73 for a non-student guest. Students can, again, show their IDs for tax exempt pricing, and if a family chooses to eat at a dining hall, children aged 3-10 will receive a discounted price. Purdue Dining accepts Visa and MasterCard.

Ideally, an incoming student will select the most appropriate meal plan and feed his or herself primarily using meal swipes. This is the most cost-effective option, assuming the student is not overpaying for unused swipes. If a student runs out of swipes for the week, the next best option is to pay using dining dollars. If the student does not have dining dollars, they can use BoilerExpress, or lastly, pay using cash or a credit card. It is important to make sure you know how many meals you have left per week! You can ask the employee who swipes you in to let you know how many meals you have remaining. If you choose to buy a meal using dining dollars or BoilerExpress, be sure to ask for your receipt, as it will have your current account totals printed on it. Being aware of your options when it comes to the dining halls can save you more money than you would expect!

Setting FIRE to your Retirement

3 Jul

Although the term may bring back memories of losing your first job or an unfortunate incident as a child learning what “hot” means, FIRE is not just a good thing – it’s a great thing. FIRE stands for “Financially Independent, Retiring Early”.

Retiring early doesn’t just mean ducking out of the workforce at 62, it’s usually your 30s or early 40s.

A recent survey showed that a stunning 83% of those aged 18-34 (the “millennial” age group) said they will never retire in the traditional sense. By contrast, 83% of today’s retirees don’t plan to work in retirement as opposed to 15% of the millennials surveyed.FIRE retirement.jpg

Young grads today are just hoping that they will be able to retire at all, so the idea of retiring early is almost mythical. While achieving FIRE does require careful planning and plenty of things to go your way, it is by no means impossible for the younger portion of today’s workforce.

The idea behind FIRE is that you will no longer need income from work to afford to live.

The issue that many people run into isn’t that they don’t make enough, rather they spend too much. This gets into the very common issue of needs versus wants when it comes to spending. What if those little luxuries you’ve become accustomed to are the barrier between you and retiring young?

A big key to this is eliminating debt. It’s difficult, or even impossible, to save a large percent of your income when you’re paying down a mortgage, student loans and car payments.

We all need a place to live, but what do those extra bedrooms do other than hold stuff that rarely gets used? And yes eating is a must, but you can avoid eating out almost entirely with just a little bit of planning and preparation.

In turn, you start putting this money you were spending elsewhere into accounts that will get a return. Remember, a traditional savings account won’t earn enough interest to keep up with inflation so once it’s up to a comfortable emergency amount it’s time to start putting your money to work.

graph showing the amount needed to be saved compared to how many years to retirement
While putting 45% or more of your income into savings may sound impossible, the trade-off to working 20 less years is incredibly enticing.

So if the idea of working only because you want to sounds like your cup of tea, there’s a whole community out there of people who have attempted FIRE and succeeded.

 

 Student Loans: Responsible Borrowing

29 Jun

Melissa Leiden Welsh, Ph.D., CFCS, CPFFE | University of Maryland

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If you are planning to attend college, a trade school, or some type of post-secondary training after high school, you will also likely apply to obtain student loans. The challenge is to select loans that match your financial needs, not only when you are a student but also when you are earning an income following graduation.

Student loan debt has generally been considered “good debt” due to a borrower’s increased earning ability upon graduation. However, the amount of outstanding debt should be proportional to a student’s projected earning ability. Check out the following suggestions to keep from falling into student debt traps.

1. Evaluating Post-Secondary School Options

There are many things to consider as you look at educational opportunities and the decision should not be taken lightly.

Do

  • Look at different types of post-secondary school and make sure you fully understand the costs (i.e., tuition and fees, room and board) associated with each one. It’s okay to “shop around” for schools.
  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FASFA is the gateway to federal student loans.
  • Examine and evaluate federal loan options. Federal loans will almost always offer lower interest rates than private loans, and you may be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, or more flexible repayment options.
  • Shop around for private loans if you don’t qualify for enough federal student loans. Even a slightly higher interest rate of 0.5% to 1% more can add up over extended repayment periods.
  • Examine potential career earnings upon graduation specific to your field of study. Some fields of study do not pay as much upon graduation as other fields. You may struggle to pay loans from an expensive post-secondary institution with a low paying career.
  • Get a copy of your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to check for unauthorized action with your personal information. You may not even have a credit report at this time, but checking it will ensure you have not been a victim of identity theft.

Don’t

  • Overlook public in-state colleges and training facilities as they often charge lower tuition with degrees matching your career goal and financial budget.
  • Select colleges or post-secondary training sites due to a friend’s enrollment. While it is difficult to change social settings in life, it is far worse to study for a degree/certificate in a field you are not truly interested in studying.

 

2. Before Signing Loan Documents

Student loans are ultimately your responsibility to repay, so make sure you are paying attention when borrowing.

Do

  • Limit borrowing to the amount you need to cover tuition, books, and educational supplies.
  • Keep a running total of loans accruing from year to year. Only looking at semester or yearly totals may leave you surprised and overwhelmed with the final summary loan total at graduation. You can use the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS) to check your Federal loan balances.
  • Keep a folder of all student loan related forms and information brochures, preferably both physical and digital. It is not only convenient to be able to find everything in a single folder, but also can be helpful when planning and evaluating repayment options.
  • Some loans require actions to keep loans in deferment/forbearance (no payments required) while remaining as an enrolled student.
  • Keep your contact information current with each lender. It is your responsibility to report a change in your address to the lender. A lack of current address is NOT an excuse for missing a loan payment.
  • Understand the terms of the agreement in regards to how loan amortization works, how interest will be charged, and if interest will be added to the principal of the loan, commonly referred to as capitalization. Some private loans capitalize more frequently than federal loans.

Don’t

  • Turn to the signature page and sign without reading all the text of the contract you are signing.
  • Use extra funds from the refund check for pizza nights, spring break, drinks with friends or shopping trips. These expenses will cost you more because of interest.

 

3. Searching for Jobs and Preparing to Graduate

It is important to consider your student loans as you near graduation and begin looking for your first post-secondary school job.

Do

  • Work hard to graduate on time. Extra years at school mean additional student loan costs and lost years of earning. 
  • Make a spending and saving budget to follow after graduation. Determine potential costs to help guide your financial decisions such as housing. It is important to look at the interest rate of each loan and work to pay off higher interest rate loans first versus small loans with low interest rates to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest costs.
  • Visit the Student Loan Estimator to determine your estimated loan repayment totals.
  • Examine and evaluate various repayment plans. Schedule an appointment with your university loan department to determine available options.
  • Read all correspondence from loan providers thoroughly before deciding to consolidate loans – some loans are ineligible for loan forgiveness programs once consolidated with non-eligible loans and loan consolidation does not necessarily lower interest rates.
  • Be cautious when deciding to pay for loan consolidation as many federal programs and some private banks offer free loan consolidation. You may receive solicitations via the mail that offer to do it for a free, but it is always free to do yourself for federal loans.
  • Explore tax credits for student loan interest payments.
  • Choose to sign up for automatic draft payments from your bank account. Automatic payments reduce the possibility of late payments and are often rewarded with lower interest rates too.

Don’t

  • Consider not paying your loans on time. Default on student loans can greatly impact your credit report. Lenders and other businesses use the information in your credit report to evaluate your applications for credit, loans, insurance, employment or renting a home.
  • Extend loans to a longer repayment time to simply have a lower monthly payment. Those extra months and years will quickly add additional interest costs beyond the principle.

 

Resources

U.S. Department of Education Blog

Student Loan Hero

Edvisors Network

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