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Archive | May, 2015

Money Matters: Transition from College Life to the Real World

Money Matters: Transition from College Life to the Real World

piggybanksavingsGraduating college is an important milestone in a person’s life. But once the celebration is over, you’re faced with real-world responsibilities. If you haven’t already been paying all your own bills, figuring out your personal finances is top priority. Whether you are considering graduate school or working full time, the decisions you make about money will influence your future. Handle money matters with a plan and a budget.

Make a Budget

Make a budget of your incoming cash flow and your liabilities, so you know exactly where you’re at before you pay bills. Invest in budgeting software or find a resource online to help you keep track of your expenses. Determine how much you have between paychecks so you can set accurate limits on your spending. Consider an app like Mint.

Determine the True Cost of Living

In college you might have lived in a dorm or with your parents, so you avoided paying for housing. Research the true cost of living on your own. You must ask the following questions:

  • What is the cost of groceries in your neighborhood? Determine if the area is flooded with gourmet grocery shopping at places like Whole Foods or if there is a Walmart or equivalent available for basic needs
  • What is the cost of basic services in your area? It is a prudent exercise to learn how much dry cleaning, a trip to the doctor’s office and a haircut costs in your area
  • Get a realistic assessment on car insurance rates and gas based on the neighborhood you choose. Auto insurance varies based on zip codes. Plugging in your zip with the online calculator on insurance quotes will give you an idea of rates in your area.

You may be eager to move out of your parent’s home, but the truth is, not having to pay for rent right after college is a great opportunity to save money. You don’t have to rush into another property that’s less than optimal. Put some savings aside and take your time deciding where you want to settle.

Live Below Your Means

The independence of the real world can offer tempting luxuries, but resist spending money on things you don’t really need or want. Even if you have some debt, try to save part of your salary in a savings account or in investments. The long-term benefits of saving earlier rather than later isn’t always clear in your 20s, but will definitely be a wise move as you age. If you have a 401k available through work, take advantage of your ability to contribute to it.

Charging items to a credit card is convenient, but do not get caught up in the allure of plastic. The next thing you know, you have several cards with balances and a high interest rate. Revolving credit means accumulating debt. Make it a policy to use your credit card sparingly.

Start an Emergency Fund

Put away small amounts of cash every month. This will come in handy in case an emergency arises. A car repair, unexpected housing cost or even something bigger can set you back if you exclusively rely on your regular salary. An emergency fund might save you when you need it the most. If you’re not good at putting aside money, set it on auto. Enroll in a program like Bank of America’s Keep the Change, which helps you incur savings with every purchase you make.

The transition between graduating college and the real world is exciting, but also carries new responsibilities. Be smart with your money and make wise decisions to invest in your personal and financial health.

 

Posted in Financial Literacy1 Comment

Graduates – 5 Tips on How to Write an Effective Resume

Graduates – 5 Tips on How to Write an Effective Resume

interviewWe all want that job. It’s great if you get to the interview stage for one job opportunity, but do you find that you’re not getting there as often as you should be? Perhaps it’s your resume that’s holding you back. You have the experience, yes, but are you conveying this effectively? Research indicates that it takes an average of six seconds for recruiters to decide if you’re right for the job or not, just based on your resume! You’ll need one that will make you stand out. Here’s five tips on effective resume writing.

1. Seek Professional Advice

If you’re really struggling to determine your career objective and find the exact job you’re after, this is often conveyed in your resume. Approach a career counselor for help at your college or university. Most tertiary institutions will guide you on the right path to finding your ideal career, meaning you can expertly tailor your resume towards the specific position you’re aiming for.

2. Make Your Name Stand Out

A lot of people make the mistake of heading their resume with ‘Resume’. Don’t! Your name should go at the top in a bolded print along with your contact details, in a standard print. Include one address, one phone number and one email address. You can also choose to put your qualification next to your name, for example, ‘Ann Smith B.Sc.’

3. Decide if You Will Include an Objective

Recruiters are divided on this – some like to see an objective, others don’t. While it may show you have a real purpose, it can also mean you are narrowing your chances by limiting yourself to that one goal. You can decide for yourself if you’d like to include one, but experts say you should only do it if the objective is not a generic one.

4. Have the Right Number of Pages

Your experience should be reflected by the length and formatting of your resume. If you’ve had several years’ experience, keep it to two pages if possible, three maximum. Some recruiters feel that if you’re in your twenties, your resume should only be one page long as you surely don’t have enough experience to justify adding a valuable second page. However, if you’ve interned and worked hard all through college, embrace that second page!

5. Layout is Important!

Don’t add so much information to the point of overcrowding the page – it’s exhausting to read. Use white space to draw the reader’s eye to specific information that you feel is important. Make it a pleasure to read – add bullets, italics and bold fonts to highlight certain accomplishments. Include keywords from the job posting as some recruiters use software to sift through resumes – you don’t want yours to be missed.

The bottom line? You’re selling yourself in just two pages. You must mould your resume into what the recruiters want to see. Something in your resume needs to make you stand out against other candidates – whether it be an achievement, or simply in the way the resume is formatted. Small things can sometimes make a big impact.

Today’s guest article is provided by Francis Benjamin. He is a recent graduate of Evocca College where he studied website development. When Benjamin is not helping his friends succeed in finding jobs after college, you can find him diligently glued to the twitter tips provided by his alma mater (Evocca).

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4 Tips For Living on a College Budget

4 Tips For Living on a College Budget

student-budgetBeing a student will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll do in your life, but it will also be one of the most challenging, especially financially. Unless you have someone paying for your studies and living expenses, you’re going to need to be very mindful with your money. Here are some classic budgeting tips for students.

Make a budget and stick to it

It might sound kind of obvious, but to keep an eye on your money, you really need to know how much income you have versus how much you’re spending. You need to divvy up your money across all of your expenses and set limits on all of your spending categories like food, accommodation, transport, study costs, clothing and entertainment. You’ll need to monitor your spending daily and weekly to make sure you’re sticking to your budget. If necessary, adjust your spending limits across different categories if you find yourself spending more in one but less in another.

Support your study and social life with a job

The Internet offers many flexible ways to generate a bit of money on the side. Take a look at e-freelance sites such as ODesk and Freelancer. If you’re a programmer or writer, you can pick up small or large jobs fairly quickly. There are also plenty of casual jobs in retail and hospitality, so search through job sites and even print your resume off and drop it at local businesses.

Luckily, there are many ways to achieve your academic goals nowadays. Organizations such as Careers Australia provide students with flexible study options, including attending courses at night or completing study online. Determine what sort of work will best complement your study schedule and ensure you don’t overextend yourself.

If it’s not free, don’t go

Going out and socializing is important, as you need to take a break from study and relax and unwind. However, over-spending on your entertainment is one of the easiest ways to blow your budget. Let’s take a look at some alternatives to the big entertainment budget blowers:

  • Put a ban on the pub for a bit and head over to friends’ places or invite people over to your home for drinks
  • Don’t eat out unless you’re having dinner at a someone’s home or you’ve got a ‘2-for-1’ meal deal at a cheap restaurant
  • Check out events mags for free events and shows rather than buying tickets to expensive concerts

Don’t be a fashion victim

When you’re a student, you have to make sacrifices and spending money on outrageously priced fashion labels should be the first item on your budget hit list. You can get the look for less – you just have to be smart about it. Only buy items on sale, check out discount outlets, swap and borrow stuff and hit the charity shops.

As a student, you have to be really tight with your money. It might be painful and feel like poverty, but bear in mind, it’s not forever. Come back to the reasons why you’re studying and think about where your education will take you. Learning to budget and being sensible with money is a critical life skill that we all need, so take the opportunity to become the master of your own finances.

Do you have any budgeting tips to add to this list? Share your thoughts below.

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Cloud-Based Software Solutions That Won’t Cost You a Dime

Cloud-Based Software Solutions That Won’t Cost You a Dime

cloudbasedtoolsAs a college student, the last thing you need is another expense. Between rent, food, books, your phone bill and Friday night pizza and soda, your budget is already strained to its breaking point. Fortunately, when it comes to software, these cloud-based programs won’t cost you a dime. Consider these three:

Google Docs

Rather than shelling out money for Microsoft Word or Excel, Google Docs is a free program that you can access from your mobile device or computer. Google Docs lets you create a new document, or work on another one that was started on by someone else. One of Google Docs’ coolest perks is its collaboration feature that lets you invite others to see what you are doing. For example, if you are working on a group project for Psychology 101, you can share your work and confer with your classmates on a document at the same time—all from different locations. Everyone will have their own unique cursor in the document so you can watch as they type in additions and edits to the project, and you will all have access to the latest version of your work. Since Google Docs automatically saves things as you go, you won’t ever experience that sinking feeling that comes with lost work. Google Docs also features some nifty editing and styling tools including images, tables, and thousands of fonts.

Dropbox

If you are looking for an easy-to-use and free cloud-based storage system, you can’t go wrong with Dropbox. Dropbox gives you access to your school work and other files from any computer or mobile device, and it comes with 2GB of free space. Instead of emailing yourself important term papers that you are working on—and running the risk of your work being lost in cyberspace—you can instantly find your files. Dropbox is limited on storage space, however, so if you find that you need more storage space, choose a different cloud service provider that offers a larger amount. Compare providers at Top10CloudStorage.com, a site featuring in-depth reviews and pricing info on 10 reliable cloud storage services.

Pixlr

Pixlr is a free cloud-based online program that includes plenty of tools, photo editors and photo sharing abilities. Pixlr can transform your computer, smartphone, or tablet into a mean, lean photo editing machine. Once you download the Pixlr program, you can transform your photos into works of art by cropping, rotating, and adding in borders and overlays. Once you create your free account, additional premium content will become available; this includes Auto Contrast and Double Exposure features. It will also help you create a professional looking photo collage with proper spacing and backgrounds, and if your photo is dark or washed out, the Auto Fix feature will improve the colors. The program also allows you to channel your inner artist by transforming your selfies into pictures that look like watercolors or pencil drawings. It even allows you to remove that alien “red eye” look that is common in photos. When you are finished editing your photos, they can easily be shared on social media sites.

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So Long Federal PIN, Hello FSA ID – Starts May 10th!

So Long Federal PIN, Hello FSA ID – Starts May 10th!

For a number of years, college-bound students (and their parents in most cases) across the country would be required to utilize their uniquely assigned Federal PIN to electronically sign and submit their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). In addition, this Federal PIN would serve as an electronic signature for any education loans accessed through the StudentLoans.gov website. The Federal PIN was versatile and opened a number of doors when it came to accessing education information/services provided by the Department of Education (FAFSA.gov, NSLDS.gov, StudentAid.gov, etc…).

The Federal PIN has served us well but it is now time for it to retire and allow a new age of technology to take its place and be the gatekeeper to all things good when it comes to college affordability and accessibility for future generations of students.  This new technology is known as the Federal Student Aid ID or FSA ID for short. Beginning Sunday May 10th, 2015, the FSA ID replaces the PIN as the new way in which you will identify yourself with the Department of Education. Below is a nice visual of the simple 6-step process required to get your new FSA ID (on or after May 10th). I hope you find this information helpful as you continue to achieve your education goals!

FSAIDInstructions

 

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