Great Advice for Grads 2021


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Congratulations Class of 2021!

Class of 2021, I salute you. Even in the best of times, we know that getting to and through college is a journey that can be filled with multiple highs and lows, starts and stops, triumphs and struggles. You already had so much on your plate. But then 2020 dealt another blowwith COVID-19. And suddenly, that final home stretch to get the degree became infinitely harder. Yet here you are, Graduate. You persevered and found a way to fulfill your goals, in spite of the many hurdles that the pandemic created. That takes a different kind of resolve and stick-to-itiveness that, while hard-earned and maybe attained at high cost, will serve you well in the face of future adversity. So I, and all of us here at Inceptia, salute you and your grit. We also want to prepare you for what’s next, especially as it pertains to student loans. That’s the inspiration behind this compilation, our Great Advice for Grads. Since 2014, Inceptia has, as part of our nonprofit mission, created Great Advice for Grads as a tool you can take with you to build your financial capability. This year’s guide also branches out to include COVID-specific issues, like interviewing from home, or money lessons learned from previous financial hardships. I always try to leave grads with a positive thought. Yet I know each of us has faced some kind of loss over the past year – loss of connection, loss of jobs, loss of homes, or loss of friends or loved ones. So without discounting those losses, I offer this: Excelsior. One of the movies I find myself going back to again and again is Silver Linings Playbook, in which the main character struggles to find a new path after the collapse of his marriage, and a mental health diagnosis. He adopts “Excelsior” as his personal mantra, saying it aloud whenever he needs to center himself and find the silver lining in his circumstances. It’s meaning? “Ever upward.” Whatever the challenge, keep moving ever upward. Congratulations again and Excelsior, Class of 2021! May you always find the silver linings.

Carissa Uhlman Vice President of Student Success Inceptia


Must-Know Repayment Info Federal Student Loan Repayment Checklist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 A Student Loan Expert Takes Her Own Advice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 How to Handle College Loan Debt as an Unemployed Recent Grad . 12 MoneyWisdom Strength Your Financial Resilience With These 3 Insights . . . . . . . . 16 6 Great Recession Money Lessons That Still Apply Today . . . . . . . . 19 10 Money Insights From 25 Years of Financial Writing . . . . . . . . . . 22 Career Strategies How to Stand Out in a Tough Job Market . . . . . . . . . . . 26 4 Expert Tips to Get Hired From Home . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 More to Explore NerdWallet Bonus Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Advice for Graduate and Professional School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

The links herein are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Inceptia of any of the products, services, or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual. Inceptia bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.




Federal Student Loan Repayment Checklist


To view the latest information regarding the suspension of student loan repayment due to the CARES Act, visit this link.

Learn about your federal student loans and what to do for a smooth repayment experience. As you work through this checklist, you’ll find out how to make payments and figure out which repayment plan is best for you; and you’ll know what to do if you’re having trouble making payments or think you might be eligible for loan forgiveness. Remember: You never have to pay for help with your student loans! BEFORE YOU GRADUATE OR LEAVE SCHOOL Review your federal loan history. Get your loan history by logging in to “My Federal Student Aid” – you’ll need to create an FSA ID if you don’t already have one. As you review your information, note the following: • The current loan balance and interest rate for each loan • The loan type (depending on when you went to school and what loan programs your school participated in, you may have loans from different federal student loan programs; the types of loans you received can affect what benefits are available to you) • The name of the loan servicer for each loan (a loan servicer is a company that handles the billing and other services on your loans; generally, you’ll have one servicer for all your federal student loans, but there is a chance you could have more than one) Get to know your loan servicer. Your servicer helps you with your student loans – for FREE! It’s important that you know who your loan servicer is and how to contact them because you will eventually be making your loan payments to your servicer. Take this opportunity to save your servicer’s phone number in your phone. Create an online account on your servicer’s website. You can find the most detailed and up-to-date information about your loans, make your payments, and manage your loans (for example, change repayment plans or apply for a deferment) on your loan servicer’s website.



When you create your account, be sure your contact information is correct. Complete mandatory exit counseling. All federal student loan borrowers must complete exit counseling. Exit counseling provides important information you need to help you prepare for repayment of your loans. Check with your school to find out how they want you to complete exit counseling. Schools have different requirements. If you can afford it, make loan payments while you’re in school, especially if your loans are accruing interest. Making payments early can reduce the interest you pay and the cost of your loan over time.

AFTER YOU GRADUATE OR LEAVE SCHOOL Know when you have to start making payments. For most loans, you’ll have six months – or nine months for Federal Perkins Loans – after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin making your loan payments. Take this time to make a plan for repayment. Create a budget. Create a budget to determine how much you can realistically afford to pay monthly toward your student loans. Get help creating a budget. Consider loan consolidation. A Direct Consolidation Loan allows you to combine all of your federal student loans into one loan with one monthly payment. Loan consolidation can be helpful if you have multiple servicers, loans from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, or Federal Perkins Loans. Loan consolidation can increase your chances of qualifying for an affordable repayment plan and loan forgiveness options, but it may not be the best option for you. Learn more about loan consolidation.

Just because you don’t get a bill doesn’t mean you don’t owe the money.

Set a goal for repayment. After you know how much you can afford to pay each month, set a goal for repaying your loans. To begin setting your goal, ask and answer this question: “Do I want to repay my loans quickly, or do I want to pay as little as possible per month?” You can’t choose both options. Any time you lower your payment, you’ll be in repayment for a longer time and you’ll pay more interest on your loans. If your financial situation changes, you can change your repayment plan at any time. If you have questions about your loan repayment options or the process, contact your loan servicer. Select an affordable repayment plan. Now that you’ve set a goal for repayment, you can find a repayment plan that fits your goal using Loan Simulator. • If you want to pay your loans off quickly and you can afford to do it, select the Standard Repayment Plan. Unless you consolidate, your loans will be paid off after 10 years of payments.



• If you want to have the lowest monthly payment or can’t afford to make payments under the Standard Repayment Plan, select an income-driven repayment plan. These plans – set your payment at a percentage of your income, – will usually have a lower monthly payment than other plans, and – can have payments as low as $0 per month. With these plans, you’ll be in repayment for up to 20 or 25 years. If your loans are not repaid in full after 20 or 25 years, the remaining balance will be forgiven. Learn more about income- driven repayment plans. If you don’t select a specific repayment plan, your loan will be put on the Standard Repayment Plan. You can switch to a different plan at any time by contacting your loan servicer. Know whether you are eligible for loan forgiveness based on your employer or your job. • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program: You may qualify for this loan forgiveness program if you are employed by a government or a not-for-profit organization. You must make 120 qualifying payments under an income-driven plan to qualify. Learn more about PSLF. • Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program: You may qualify for this program if you (a) teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in certain elementary and secondary schools and educational service agencies that serve low-income families, and (b) meet other qualifications. Get the details of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) Program. Find out more about forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge. Teachers! You may qualify for both forgiveness programs (PSLF and TLF) – but not for the same time period. WHEN IT’S TIME TO START MAKING PAYMENTS Make on-time payments to your loan servicer. Your loan servicer will provide you with a loan repayment schedule that tells you when your first payment is due, the number and frequency of payments, and the amount of each payment. Contact your loan servicer if you haven’t received this information. Make repayment simple and save on interest – enroll in automatic debit. Once you enroll, your payments will be automatically taken from your bank account each month. This will help you to stay on track with your payments, and as an added bonus, you may get a 0.25% interest rate deduction if you have Direct Loans. Check your servicer’s website for details.



Know your options if you can’t make your loan payment. If you don’t pay the full amount due on time or if you start missing payments – even one – your loan will be considered delinquent, and late fees may be charged to you. If you can’t make your payments, contact your loan servicer immediately for help. Your servicer can offer you temporary or long-term options, such as changing repayment plans, deferment, forbearance, or loan consolidation. Get details about what to do if you are having trouble making your payments. Reduce your federal income taxes. You may be eligible to deduct a portion of the student loan interest you paid on your federal tax return. Student loan interest payments are reported both to the IRS and to you on IRS Form 1098-E, Student Loan Interest Statement. Check with the IRS or a tax advisor to see if you qualify for this deduction.


A Student Loan Expert Takes Her Own Advice


When you spend your days dispensing advice about student loans, you learn a thing or two about navigating the system. In the 10 years it took me to repay $40,000 in federal student loans and interest, I never found any secret tricks. But I did find ways to make the system work. At times I made no payments, and I reduced payments at others. The only extra payment I made was the most satisfying one at the very end. My credit never took a ding, and I never used any Hail Mary tactics. I never boomeranged back home, no one left me money and no one I dated wanted to make payments for me. What I did do was use the system — a complex, frustrating system that I spend every day writing about — to stay on track. Here’s what I learned. GET READY BEFORE THE BILL ARRIVES When I got my bachelor’s from SUNY Purchase College in Purchase, New York, in 2010, the typical debt load among graduates was $25,250, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. I left school owing $23,156 at an interest rate of 6.8%, an interest rate that hasn’t been topped since. When I got my first bill, my salary as a local news reporter was not enough to afford $266 payments and still make rent. I called my servicer and switched to a graduated repayment plan, which gradually increases your payment amount over 10 years. Better repayment options are available now. The federal student aid Loan Simulator can show you what to expect with each.




In 2013, I was laid off by the local news outlet I worked for. The next day, I applied for an unemployment deferment to temporarily pause my payments. In the six months after I was laid off, I left New York for San Diego, landed a job and was able to end the deferment. When repayment restarted, $724 in interest was added to my debt. Right now, federal loan borrowers have an interest-free forbearance until September 30, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But any time you experience a significant change in income, a deferment or forbearance can help you ride out the financial difficulty.


I was six years in when I realized my graduated loan payment was on schedule to increase to an unaffordable amount. Switching to an income-driven repayment plan set my payments at 10% of my discretionary income and extended my loan term by 20 years. My loans were consolidated, and I had a new $242 payment that I could afford. Since I recertified each year, my payments grew with my salary. For many borrowers, this is the best plan to start on. Higher payments that were still affordable helped me knock down my loan principal faster.


I never made an extra payment until the last big one. Doing so can help you pay off your debt even faster, but it wasn’t my priority. There’s a hierarchy we recommend when it comes to managing your finances. Student loans, which are relatively low interest, rarely top that list. It’s better to pay off high-interest debt and build savings instead. I signed up for an employer-sponsored retirement plan and gradually increased the percentage I contributed. I also saved about three months of expenses in an emergency fund. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice everything. That included my bad habit of moving each year, including three long-distance moves. I also wasn’t willing to forgo a vacation to Italy, participating in four weddings or getting an auto loan. My credit card took a hit with every event, so I prioritized paying that off instead of making extra student loan payments.



WHAT I’M DOING NOW THAT I’M RID OF MY DEBT Paying off your student loans is anticlimactic. This past February, I received my tax refund and added some savings to pay off the last $4,692 I owed. I called my servicer to make the final payment. After the representative congratulated me, I did a happy dance and that was it. In total I paid off $43,151. I hope to celebrate with a vacation, but until then I’m settling for other ways to mark the victory. First up is padding my emergency fund. But I also plan to feed my music-nerd desires with a new electric bass and speakers. Even consumer finance writers don’t make entirely responsible choices all the time.

This article A Student Loan Expert Takes Her Own Advice was originally written by NerdWallet on May 18, 2020 and published by The Associated Press.

ANNA HELHOSKI is a staff writer at NerdWallet.


How to Handle College Loan Debt as an Unemployed Recent Grad


Entry-level jobs are scarce for recent college graduates, which leaves the Class of 2021 in a precarious position as their student loan debt comes due. Taylor Cabrera has been job-hunting for months since graduating from the University of Mississippi last spring with dual bachelor’s degrees in biology and physics, and has moved in with family in Miami. Her only solid job lead so far was a two-week marketing stint that didn’t pan out, though she says she’s feeling good after a recent interview for an entry-level mortgage position. Despite her challenges, Cabrera says she knows she’s fortunate when it comes to her student loans. Earning hefty scholarships meant she took on $14,000 in debt, about half of what the average undergraduate carries, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. “It’s pretty good compared to what everybody else has, but it still hurts my soul,” Cabrera says. Student loan payments typically begin six months after graduation. But those with federal loans like Cabrera have some respite: There’s an automatic, no-interest payment pause, known as forbearance, in place for all borrowers with federal student loans through September 30, 2021. Private loan borrowers didn’t get the same break. But all borrowers have options to make payments more manageable, whatever their employment status or type of debt they carry.




Leaving college without a job offer isn’t uncommon, especially during economic downturns. But the class of 2021 faces unique challenges. The effects of COVID-19 have hit every industry, says Nicole Smith, research professor and chief economist at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. She adds that outside of telecommunications and tech, very few sectors are hiring right now. “If you’re looking for a corona-proof job, it doesn’t exist,” Smith says. Positions with titles that include “entry level” or “new grad” have dropped 68% compared with the same time last year, according to a June 2020 report by Glassdoor. Graduates with little or no experience are competing with millions of unemployed Americans. On top of that, new entrants to the workforce can’t access the safety net of unemployment benefits, even as the prospect of student loan payments looms. TWO OPTIONS FOR FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN BORROWERS Until employers start hiring again, recent graduates have some options to ease their debt burden. The federal payment pause gives them time to breathe since loan bills won’t be due until October 2021, barring a possible extension. To manage payments when they restart, those without jobs can choose an income-driven repayment plan or an unemployment deferment.

An income-driven repayment plan is your best long-term option.

An income-driven repayment plan is your best long-term option. It caps payments at a portion of your income – 10% for example – and extends the repayment term. If you’re unemployed – or underemployed – your payment could be zero. You must contact your student loan servicer to enroll. If you need short-term relief, unemployment deferment allows you to postpone repayment for up to 36 months in six-month increments. It’s less desirable than income-driven repayment because interest builds and is added to the total debt when repayment begins. To qualify for an unemployment deferment, you’ll need to apply with your servicer and prove you’re either receiving unemployment benefits or, in the case of recent graduates, seeking full-time work. Cabrera says she plans to look into income-driven repayment.



HAVE A PLAN BEFORE PAYMENTS START If you’re planning to change your loan payments, do it as soon as possible to keep payments manageable, says Scott Buchanan, executive director of Student Loan Servicing Alliance, a nonprofit trade association representing student loan servicers. Even if you’ve yet to begin payments, you can talk to your servicer to start off in an income- driven repayment plan when payments begin in October, Buchanan says. Private student loan borrowers have fewer options to alter or pause payments compared with federal student loan borrowers. You must contact your lender to find out if you qualify for a temporary reduction in the payment amount or to request forbearance. Several private lenders are offering disaster or emergency forbearance for up to 90 days in addition to any existing options. Unlike the current automatic pause on federal loans, any private loan forbearance still accrues interest.

This article How to Handle College Loan Debt as an Unemployed Recent Grad was written by NerdWallet on October 12, 2020 and originally published by The Associated Press.

ANNA HELHOSKI is a staff writer at NerdWallet.




Strengthen Your Financial Resilience With These 3 Insights


When your finances are strained, making smart money decisions is crucial. To better handle current conditions, ask yourself these three questions.


Even a few hundred dollars can protect you. Don’t be daunted if you have no emergency cushion or it feels very slim. “Families with a savings cushion of $250 to $749 are less likely to be evicted, receive public benefits and miss a bill after a job loss,” says Signe-Mary McKernan, a vice president at the Urban Institute. Research by that Washington, D.C., think tank found that less than $1,000 is enough to help families weather a financial crisis. “Even small amounts of savings can make a difference, and we find that low-income families with savings are more resilient than middle-income families with no savings,” McKernan says. WHAT YOU CAN DO With more uncertainty ahead, dig into your budget and make cuts so you can shore up savings. McKernan suggests setting up automatic savings from your paycheck – even as little as 2% will add up over time – and saving any windfalls like a tax refund or bonus.



HOW DOES CARRYING A CREDIT CARD BALANCE AFFECT MY CREDIT? THE ANSWER. Relying on credit cards can work as a financial bridge when money is tight, but paying at least the minimums on time is critical to protecting your credit standing. “Your credit score is like your report card,” says Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner at SoFi, an online financial services company. “Every month that goes by is an opportunity for you to have a positive data point.” WHAT YOU CAN DO Because late payments hurt your score the most, pay at least the minimum by the due date. If possible, pay more than minimums so you can bring balances down over time. The second- biggest influence on your score is how much of your credit limits you’re using, so rising balances may ding your score. But that damage quickly fades as you pay them down again. Do pay off cards completely if you can, because carrying a balance isn’t necessary for good credit. “It blows me away the number of people who say they don’t pay off their credit card because they believe it will help their credit,” says Anastasio.


Taking money from your 401(k) will stunt your retirement savings because that money is no longer earning compounded returns. “Any loan you take from a 401(k), those are funds that are going to be uninvested while you’re paying yourself back,” Anastasio says. “Even though you’re borrowing against assets you’ve accumulated, these are funds that are designed to be appreciated over time, so there is that opportunity cost.” And if you can’t pay back a 401(k) loan on time, taxes and penalties kick in if you’re under age 59 1/2.



WHAT YOU CAN DO You may have some options that won’t interfere with your future retirement plans: • Personal loans: Unsecured personal loans are a good option for those with good to excellent credit scores and generally range from $1,000 to $50,000. • Credit cards with a 0% period: Also typically for those with good to excellent credit, cards with 0% APR periods, which usually last between 12 and 15 months, give you access to credit without paying interest. If you need instant cash, services like Earnin and PayActiv can give you an advance on your paycheck without starting the cycle of debt often brought on by high-interest payday loans or car title loans.

The article Strengthen Your Financial Resilience With These 3 Insights was originally published on NerdWallet on April 16, 2020.

SEAN PYLES is a debt writer at NerdWallet.


6 Great Recession Money Lessons That Still Apply Today


The Great Recession demolished jobs across the U.S., and it eventually came for mine, too. After graduating in 2009, I worked four months as an entry-level executive assistant at a nonprofit before being laid off. I had limited financial knowledge, a short work history and a lot to prove to break into the field of journalism, my ultimate goal. Along the way, I picked up valuable lessons that might help you manage your finances during the coronavirus-related recession.


Save what you can . My short work history disqualified me from receiving

unemployment benefits, so I relied on my savings account. Even a small emergency fund of $500 can prevent you from falling into debt, and I had socked away enough to cover a few months of expenses. If you’re still employed, “pay yourself first,” said Samuel Deane, a financial planner at Deane Financial in New York. “Even if it’s $20 every time you get paid, make sure you put that $20 away first and then live your lifestyle with the remainder.” Automate it with direct deposit if you can.

If you’re still employed, pay yourself first.

If you’ve lost your job, saving will obviously be tougher. Apply for unemployment if you qualify, and contact your landlord, creditors, area nonprofits and family members to seek relief. If you’re still employed but have had your salary cut, consider a side gig and work on trimming expenses. Think twice before rejecting job offers . After many interviews and dead ends, I applied for an administrative role at an accounting firm and got hired in December 2009. It paid about $7,000 less than my previous salary. I knew it wouldn’t put my career on track, but it would cover most of my bills, so I took it.




Amanda Grossman, now a certified financial education instructor in El Paso, Texas, made similar compromises after being laid off as a market researcher in Florida in 2008. She took a career counselor’s advice and relocated to Texas for a lower-paying job in the environmental industry. “[The counselor] said, ‘Look, the economy is not doing well. You need to take that job, it’s going to keep going down; you’re not going to be able to find work,’” Grossman said. If your sector is hurting and unemployment benefits or savings are lacking, even a less- than-ideal role can help you ride out a recession. Get smart about money .


You’ll find a myriad of financial literacy resources online and at your local library, assuming it is open and safe to visit during the pandemic. I struggled to save money on a lower salary. Credit cards became my emergency fund. I don’t recommend this approach, but times were tough. Had I learned about financial hardship programs, student loan repayment options or balance transfer credit cards, I would have saved heaps on interest and ditched debt faster. Establish multiple streams of income .

In a crisis like COVID-19, many normal financial rules don’t apply.


I still wanted journalism experience and extra income, so on top of my new full-time job, I learned to shoot and edit video. I began freelancing in 2010. A year later, I also launched a small social media consulting business. Grossman, too, had other goals.“I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I love, love, love talking about money,” she said. While she was unemployed in Florida, she launched the blog “Frugal Confessions.” She learned new writing skills from books and sought feedback from editors at newspapers. In 2013, she left her environmental job in Texas to run her blog full time. Protect your credit – but protect yourself first . In a crisis like COVID-19, many normal financial rules don’t apply. You may need to carry a credit card balance to buy groceries or address an emergency. You may need to make only the minimum payment to cover rent. You may even need to contact your card issuer and ask for relief options like payment deferrals. Even with three jobs, I struggled at times to make the minimum payments on my credit cards due to high balances and interest rates. I never defaulted, but I did stress and scramble over it. I wanted a record of on-time payments and the good credit they build so that I could qualify for future low-interest rate offers.




That’s a worthy goal, but in times of emergency, prioritize getting back on your feet first. Once you do, you’ll have time to address your credit scores. Make calculated money moves . Eventually, I left my apartment and moved in with roommates. I also read the post- recession climate and, in successive jobs, learned how to ask for a raise. Every year that my workload and responsibilities increased, I made a case for a higher salary. Asking is uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier. The extra money eventually paid off my debts. A recession’s impact is largely out of your control, but your reaction isn’t. With strategic steps, you can insulate yourself and create new opportunities.


The article 6 Great Recession Money Lessons That Still Apply Today was originally written by NerdWallet on August 28, 2020 and published by The Associated Press.

MELISSA LAMBARENA is a credit cards writer at NerdWallet.


10 Money Insights From 25 Years of Financial Writing


The importance of money has less to do with affording the newest iPhone or measuring career success, and far more to do with the core of being human: freedom, ego, stress and relationships. Howwe use and think about money — not just accumulating lots of it — literally can determine our happiness during the roughly 30,000 days many of us are privileged to be alive. Those are a few of the big-picture insights I learned in 25 years of writing about money. In 1995, some of the last millennials were being born, a jury said O.J. Simpson was not guilty and “Toy Story” played in theaters. It’s also the year I became business news editor at a daily newspaper in Pennsylvania, where I started editing guest columns written by local financial planners and stock brokers. I quickly became fascinated with the baffling world of personal finance. How could I graduate from college — with a business degree, no less — and still not know the basics of how money works for real people in the real world? Saving, investing, taxes, credit and insurance — it’s almost like personal finance was confusing on purpose. Tl;dr: Sometimes, it is. I had the privilege as a financial journalist to figure out some of it by interviewing smart people about money for the next 25 years — through the dot-com bubble of 2001, the housing bubble of 2008 and the pandemic of 2020.





It will rain. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that bad stuff happens, no matter who you are. A rainy-day fund is fundamental to keep us financially safer in case of an unexpected large expense, job loss or even globe-ravaging viruses. Start with $500 squirreled away and aim to build it to three to six months of living expenses. Breadwinners die, people get sick and cars crash. You also need the right insurance to keep you from financial ruin. Marketing matters.


Advertising existed 25 years ago, but not on a computer in your pocket that you look at 100 times a day. And not with ads targeting you as an individual. Temptation to buy has never been greater thanks to the evolution of technology and social media. Score a goal . The antidote to the poison of constant marketing is having a reason to say no to temptations. You do that by establishing financial goals. That doesn’t just mean the far-off “saving for retirement.” It could mean saving for a trip to the Bahamas. You know, when people get back to traveling to the Bahamas. Where goals live . To help set goals, review your calendar and bank statements. Where you spend your time and money is who you are. Time and money are what you change to become who you want to be. Budgeting is overrated. There, I said it. But if you’re not going to create a household budget, at least regularly examine your past spending and categorize it. Financial websites and apps can help. Money leaks will be obvious, as will ideas for intentional spending. The ledger has two sides .

A rainy- day fund is fundamental to keep us financially safer


in case of an unexpected


large expense, job loss or even globe-ravaging viruses.



You can’t out-earn dumb spending and you can’t nickel-and-dime your way to prosperity. When it comes to money management, you have income and outgo. The rest is just details. On the other hand, it really helps to know some details.




Time-for-money is a fail. Most people cannot get ahead solely by trading their time for money at a job. Instead, your money needs to make its own money. You can’t do that with minuscule bank interest anymore, so it means investing. Where credit’s due . In 1995, you couldn’t even look up your credit score or see your credit reports. Now, you can and should. Poor credit means you could be denied for not only a loan or credit card but also for a job or an account with the electric company to turn the lights on. Ride to prosperity. If you’re vigilant with only one purchase in your life, make it your next car. New cars, especially luxury brands, are wealth-repellent to all but the richest among us. That’s because of high new-car prices and their wicked depreciation, not to mention interest if you’re financing it. Buying used is far better advice now than in 1995, when that often meant “buying someone else’s problems.” Today, used cars are far more dependable. It’s unfair . Money smarts are insufficient to overcome some financial woes: stagnant wages coupled with rocketing costs for health care, housing and education, to name a few. And some careers simply don’t pay as much as others, despite requiring similar skills. That leads to different money problems and opportunities for different people. And yes, economic inequities also exist by race and sex. That means those with extra can be sloppier with money. Those living closer to the margin? They are forced to make better money decisions every day.




The article 10 Money Insights From 25 Years of Financial Writing originally appeared on NerdWallet on December 11, 2020.

GREGORY KARP is a personal finance writer for NerdWallet.




How to Stand Out in a Tough Job Market

BY KELSEY SHEEHY This article was originally published on June 12, 2020.

Dear Class of 2020: You are graduating into one of the worst economies in history. But this isn’t news to you. Many of you have already felt the impact, with summer internships and full-time job offers pulled out from under you as the depth and duration of the coronavirus pandemic truly sets in. As a product of the last recession, I’m here to tell you that all is not lost. You will eventually land a job. It might not be in your field, but if you’re scrappy and creative, you will get there. My path looked like this: A call center job (to pay the bills), plus a freelance writing gig (to build my resume), then graduate school (to expand my network) followed by a temporary job with a textbook company (again, to pay the bills). Then, finally, a reporting internship that turned into my first full-time journalism job. Your path may not look like mine or your parents’ or your classmates’, and it will likely look different from what you planned. These tips from career coaches can help you stand out from the other newly minted associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree holders — not to mention the over 40 million newly unemployed workers. BEEF UP YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE “You don’t have as much face-to-face opportunity, so it’s important to optimize online visibility,” says Debra Rodenbaugh-Schaub, a career services consultant at the Alumni Association of Kansas State University. The place to do that: LinkedIn. The professional networking platform is heavily trafficked by recruiters and hiring managers, making it crucial to put your best foot forward. Amp up your profile with links to websites you’ve created, articles you’ve written or presentations you’ve given. You can even upload recordings to highlight public-speaking skills.



Look at profiles of people who are leaders in the industry you’re targeting to get inspiration for what to highlight and how to present yourself in your own profile.


Social distancing hasn’t killed networking; it’s just made it virtual. The usual players – trade organizations, alumni groups and professional organizations – are all still meeting via webinars and video conferencing. Moving online can make networking less intimidating for newbies. You can ease into building connections, absorbing information and building the confidence to eventually become a more active participant. You can, and should, also make meaningful one-on-one connections. Not doing so will put you at a distinct disadvantage, since jobs are often filled via an employee referral. Lisa Kastor, director of career planning at the College of Wooster in Ohio, recommends building a “mentor map” with at least three mentors who can help guide you and make introductions.

“I coach students to identify a person who has at least 10 years of experience, one that knows them well academically and one who knows them well professionally,” Kastor says. “Start with who [you] know, articulate what [you] want and always ask for the recommendation of two more people to reach out to.” TAILOR YOUR RESUME Understand what a company is looking for in a candidate. Then, customize your resume and cover letter to that specific job posting. This is an important step under normal circumstances but it is critical now, as the economic upheaval of the pandemic has increased competition for available jobs. “Don’t be self-defeating and copy and paste the same thing into 100 job applications. That is not the right approach.” Rodenbaugh-Schaub says. Avoid simply listing skills or tasks. Instead, give them context. Highlight how your experience and actions delivered measurable outcomes. Tailoring your resume also means including keywords or phrases from the job posting, since companies use software to sift through the initial barrage of applicants.

Avoid simply listing skills or tasks. Instead, give them context.



CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE CAREER PATHS “COVID-19 is unlike anything we have seen, so you have to be flexible,” says Glenn Hellenga, director of career and employability resources at Tri-County Technical College in South Carolina. That might mean working in a short-term contract role in your field or accepting a job that is completely outside your career path. After all, you’ve got bills to pay. Taking a detour doesn’t mean abandoning your goals entirely. Instead, find opportunities to develop the tools you’ll need for your dream job. Pick up freelancing gigs, find volunteer opportunities and proactively seek out projects wherever you land. “You can show that you’ve been actively pursuing, enhancing and honing your skills,” Rodenbaugh-Schaub says. “Employers love that.”

The article How to Stand Out in a Tough Job Market was written by NerdWallet on June 12, 2020 and was originally published by The Associated Press.

KELSEY SHEEHY is a writer at NerdWallet.


4 Expert Tips to Get Hired From Home


Job hunting has always been a little stressful. OK, a lot stressful. A pandemic certainly hasn’t remedied that. Rather, it’s changing the landscape. For one, it’s heating up competition. Millions of newly out-of-work Americans are chasing employment simultaneously. Applicant pools are also expanding geographically as remote work becomes widespread. Plus, navigating the entire hiring process from home presents its own obstacles. If you’re in a community that hasn’t fully reopened or are seeking a permanent work- from-home job, it’s likely the new reality.



Build your skills These uncertain times boast at least one advantage for job seekers: Many resources for online learning are now free or more affordable in response to impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. So make yourself more marketable by learning or developing a skill, or getting a certification (think mastering Excel or dipping a toe into project management). You can find courses for just about any topic on platforms like Coursera and Udemy. “Then, put that bullet point on your resume. Even if they don’t have a formal certification process, that’s still a big deal to say you invested that amount of time in yourself,” says Julie Kratz, founder of Next Pivot Point, a leadership training organization. This step can be even more impactful if you’ve had a gap in work experience during the pandemic.




Give yourself credit Maybe you don’t meet 100 percent of the listed requirements for a position or you’re considering a new career path. Don’t let that stop you from applying. Be confident and try not to apologize for or otherwise call attention to anything you’re lacking, says Jeannie Kim, former vice president of content at career site The Muse. “What you should do instead is really play up the things that you do have. Play up the skills you have that are in the job description. Play up the background that you have, and make sure that you’re telling the story of how you’re qualified to do the actual responsibilities of the job.” Highlight your adaptability Businesses across the country are settling into new normals. That might involve reconfiguring workspaces or learning to operate remotely. You’ll make a good impression by demonstrating you can roll with changes. How do you do that? Showcase personality traits and attitudes like flexibility, empathy and creativity, known as soft skills. “With people not able to be in the same place as their coworkers, being able to show that you have strong communication and


collaboration skills is really important right now,” Kim says. Resumes and application forms often revolve around hard skills: the technical, measurable skills like proficiency in a particular software or programming language. But your cover letter and interview can be suitable places to insert soft skills. Transferable skills are also crucial to mention, especially if you’re looking to change roles or industries. Those are skills that apply to a wide variety of roles and can include both soft and hard skills, such as sales, writing or leadership. Previous telecommuting experience can give you a leg up, too. “Experience managing a remote team would be huge right now because very few managers have managed like this,” Kratz says. “But even having successfully contributed to a virtual team, especially if you can lead with the accomplishments you achieved on that team, would go really well.”

With people not able to be in the same place as their coworkers, being able to show that you have strong communication and collaboration skills is really important right now.




Prepare for virtual interviews The interview process could be mostly, or entirely, virtual – even if the job itself isn’t slated to be. Standard interview advice still applies: Dress professionally, ask smart questions and so on. But you should also adopt a few new best practices. If you’re granted an interview, ask the company what the process will look like. How long will it take? Who will you meet with? Will it be over Zoom, Google, Skype or something else? Then, do a dry run. Test the audio, video and internet connection on your device. Make sure there’s nothing distracting or inappropriate in the visible background (a ceiling-high stack of dirty dishes isn’t a good look). Get familiar with the software so you’ll know where the controls are located. “You don’t want to have your first experience with that software or that platform be struggling to log onto it while you know that a recruiter is waiting,” Kim says. For good measure, set up a mock interview with a friend who can let you know how everything looks and sounds on the other end. Finally, tell the people you live with when you’ll need access to shared equipment and quiet, uninterrupted time.

The article 4 Expert Tips to Get Hired From Home was written by NerdWallet on July 3, 2020 and was originally published by The Associated Press.

LAUREN SCHWAHN is a personal finance writer at NerdWallet.





We had so much to share with our 2021 grads, we ran out of room! So here are some additional topics we thought you might want to check out. • How to Make a Student Loan Complaint That Gets Results • You Can Use a Crisis to Build Helpful Money Habits • How to Create Financial Stability in Shaky Times • How to Renegotiate Your Bills to Save Money • Your Mental Health Can Affect How You Save Money • Hard-Won Tips From Borrowers Who Got Student Loan Forgiveness


• More Grads Are Going Back to School: Should You? • Do You Have to Pay Student Loans in Graduate School? • Graduate Students: Mind Your Mental Health This Fall


Inceptia knows that student loan repayment can be confusing if you don’t know where to find the information you need. That’s why we want to help the Class of 2021 proactively get a handle on student loan repayment – before it even begins! With Inceptia’s money mascot – the Knowl – as a trusty guide, graduates can use our Student Knowledge Headquarters to find answers, calculators, resource guides and more to prepare for and successfully enter into repayment. Getting started is easy. Head to to explore our free tools and information. TACKLING STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE HARD!

For more great articles and tips from NerdWallet, including articles, calculators and other resources for student loan repayment, be sure to check out their student loans homepage.

About Inceptia Inceptia, a division of National Student Loan Program (NSLP), is a nonprofit organization committed to offering effective and uncomplicated solutions in verification, financial aid management, financial education, and repayment wellness. For more than 35 years, Inceptia and NSLP have helped millions of students achieve their higher education dreams at schools nationwide. Our mission is to support schools in helping students learn how to pay for college, navigate financial aid, borrow wisely, and resolve their student loan repayment challenges. Our solutions are designed to support student success by helping financial aid administrators maximize resources, so they can spend more time focusing on students. Learn more at

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