Thursday, April 9, 2015

PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS: What You Should Do Before Taking Out A Private Student Loan student loans are just that, they are private loans, and usually have variable interest rates.  This means you do not know how much you will be paying in the future.  They do not involve the federal government.  The loan is for the cost of attendance less other financial aid received, which includes average cost to attend one academic year (fall and spring), tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses.  If cost goes up, this will increase the cost of attendance.

So, private student loans are designed to fill in the gap between the other financial aid received and the actual cost of attendance.  The interest rate varies, and is adjustable, but are usually high.  Because of the high interest rates, and variable interest rates, you really don't know how much the loan will cost you, or what your payments will be.

Private student loans are not federal, and as such, don't come with the federal plans, such as income based repayment, student loan forgiveness, benefits for being a teacher, a veteran or a member of the military, or any other benefit associated with federal loans.

You really want to try to get your money somewhere else.

  • Look for grants and scholarships; they may look like loans, as they are used for higher education, but the biggest difference is they do not require repayment.  They may be granted based on race, area of study, ethnicity, location, nationality, parents affiliation, religion, etc.  Scholarships are usually granted for area of study and sports.  There are grants and scholarships given out for everything.

  • There are educational benefits offered for being associated with the military.

  • Think about working part time.  There are always work study programs.  This, of course, needs to be balanced with studying.  This might not be much  money, but will definitely help out.  It will also help with a resume later.
  • Next, look for direct subsidized federal student loans.  This means you do not have to pay interest while you payments are being deferred while you are in school.
  • Look for ways to lower cost of attending school, such as purchasing used books, or sharing books an supplies.  Sometimes living off campus can save some money.  Use public transportation, bikes, or rail instead of using a car. Try to take as little of a student loan as possible.

Lastly, look at private student loans.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tax Freedom Day!

Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year.

So, when is Florida's Tax Freedom Day.  In 2015, it is April 20th, and ranked at #13.

OK, who is 1st and 2nd, and who is 49th and 50th?

1st is Louisiana followed by Mississippi in 2nd place, with Tax Freedom Days of April 2nd and April 4th respectively.  New Jersey and Connecticut are ranked 49th and 50th with each having a Tax Freedom Day of May 13th.

SCAM: Customer Satisfaction Survey

I recently received the following email from the AARP notifying me of a scam:

Dear [recipient],
Scam Alert.jpg
The email – often from a well-known retailer like Walmart or Macy’s – may start out innocently enough:

You have been chosen to take part in our brief Customer Satisfaction Survey. If you decide to complete this survey, we will send $150 to your confirmed credit or debit card account just for your time. Helping us better understand how our customers feel, benefits everyone. With the information collected we can decide to direct a number of changes to improve and expand our services.  The survey form is attached to this email. Please download the attachment, open it, and follow the instructions on your screen. 
Wanting to help, you play along. The first few questions of the survey may ask basic information about which products and/or services you use or instruct you to evaluate the customer service. But then, the form takes a twist. It asks for personal information like credit card, bank account or Social Security numbers, which is later used against you by a scammer.
Take steps to protect yourself.

  • Know who you are dealing with.  It’s easy to steal the look and feel (colors, logos and header) of an established retailer or organization. Scammers can also make links look like they lead to reputable websites and emails appear to come from a different sender. Tip: hover over the sender name to make sure the address is valid.
  • Legitimate businesses will never ask for your Social Security number, money, password, or bank account information on a customer survey.
  • When in doubt, do a quick web search. If the survey is a scam, you may find alerts or complaints from other consumers, and the organization’s real website may have further information.
  • Watch out for a reward that’s too good to be true. If the survey is real, you may be entered in a drawing to win a gift card or receive a small discount off your next purchase. Few businesses can afford to give away $150 for completing a few questions.
If you think you have been the victim of a customer service survey scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at