How the Superhero Approach Can Help You Avoid Identity Theft

You are more vulnerable to attack than you may realize, but there’s plenty you can do to make yourself harder to hit.

A recent Experian study found that most people still have a lot to learn about the risk of identity theft. The majority of those surveyed felt like they were safe from identity theft, but not for the right reasons. The most popular misconception was that scammers, phishers and identity thieves only target the rich and possibly famous.

In reality, identity thieves target low-hanging fruit. To an identity thief, we’re all Kim Kardashian.

More than half of the respondents didn’t think they’d make a good target for scammers because of bad credit. This is also a misconception, since a crook will generally have zero scruples about taking over your credit accounts (even with their crippling interest rates), and making them even more impossible to manage by further damaging your credit.

What Makes a Good Target?

The number one criterion is whether or not personally identifiable information (PII) has been compromised in a data breach, but there are other ways that we expose (and overexpose) ourselves. One of the most common ways is through oversharing on social media.

Our information is out there, but there are things we can do to make it harder to exploit.

Enter Clark Kent, Bruce Banner, Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne. All have a mix of gadgets and superpowers that make them formidable opponents in a fight. They’re also known for being good in a crisis, which is not always the case for regular people when they find out, for instance, their identity has been stolen.

Another difference between us and the superhero elite: Instead of Lex Luthor, Absorbing Man, Doctor Octopus and the Joker, we’re often targeted by a slipper-wearing enemy who simply likes to shop beyond their means or grab our tax refunds, or a small-time crook who’s good at guessing games.

To avoid their arch enemies, superheroes lead double lives. Having an alter ego allows them to avoid detection in a world where their nemesis is always going for a kill. You need to do the same thing.

In the real world, we’re all superheroes, at least when it comes to the stalking arch enemy waiting to Ka-Pow us with credit-based smash-and-grabs. Here are some superhero tactics that can help protect you.

Abandon Your Past

If you feel compelled to post pictures and memories to social media, you are playing a dangerous game that an identity thief can use to scam you. Details about you can help a good scammer figure out the answers to your security questions.

Be Evasive

Even if you think it can’t be avoided, your first answer when asked for your SSN should be no. If they insist, ask how they will store the information. If you don’t like the response (they don’t know how it’s stored, etc.), say no again.

Lie

There is no task force out there rounding up people who provide a fake birthday on a gym membership application. Sometimes you can’t fudge date of birth, because it is a pivotal identifier, but you can certainly lie to your heart’s content on social media, where many thieves look for victims. The same goes for security questions. Make up an alternate story: You grew up on a farm in Kansas, you’re nearsighted, etc.

Be Consistent & Vigilant

If you’re going to take the liar’s route, remember your backstory. There’s nothing worse than providing a telling clue when faced with one of your arch enemy’s henchmen because your guard is down.

Use a Nickname

Since many thieves mine useable data about you on social media, that’s the place to use your childhood nickname only your besties know. The benefit there is that your name is a primary piece of PII, and whatever your embarrassing moniker was or is, it’s not associated with your Social Security number.

Take a page from the superhero annals to protect your identity. You are more vulnerable to attack than you may realize, but there’s plenty you can do to make yourself harder to hit.

One very easy thing you can do is adopt the Three Ms, which I describe in detail in my book, Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves. The short version of them:

• Minimize your exposure. Don’t authenticate yourself to anyone unless you are in control of the interaction, don’t overshare on social media, be a good steward of your passwords, safeguard any documents that can be used to hijack your identity and consider freezing your credit. (We explain here what a credit freeze is.)

• Monitor your accounts. Check your credit report religiously, keep track of your credit score (you can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com) and review major accounts daily, if possible. If you prefer a more laid-back approach, sign up for free transaction alerts from financial services institutions and credit card companies, or purchase a sophisticated credit-and-identity monitoring program.

• Manage the damage. Make sure you get on top of any incursion into your identity quickly and/or enroll in a program where professionals help you navigate and resolve identity compromises. These are often available for free, or at minimal cost, through insurance companies, financial services institutions and HR departments.

Finally, if you have not yet claimed your superhero identity, you can do so online, but bear in mind Encryptoman (aka me) is already taken.

Image: PeskyMonkey

The post How the Superhero Approach Can Help You Avoid Identity Theft appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Smart Money Moves to Make After Graduation

There are so many decisions you need to make leading up to that first day. Here's what you need to know.

Starting your first job can be overwhelming. There are so many decisions you need to make leading up to your first day. Then there are all the decisions you need to make during the first week, so much so that you need to know the right questions to ask to avoid making any glaring mistakes.

I remember the weeks leading up to my first day. I was moving from Pittsburgh to Baltimore to work for a huge defense contractor, and I was a mess. It was my first real job, with a real paycheck. I was putting a huge deposit down on my first apartment. I bought a new car. I was overwhelmed by the huge employee manual, and my human resources rep asked if I wanted to contribute to a 401K. A 401—what?

I had no idea what I was doing.

Fortunately, I had a friend who had done this all before and he gave me some great advice. When I look back, I’m thankful for his guidance because he helped me avoid many headaches and build up an above-average net worth. Here’s what he told me.

1. Build Up Your Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is a crucial defense against financial disaster. Whether it’s an accident or something needing repair, an emergency fund helps you manage the problem without you having to go into debt. (Here are a few ways to turbocharge your emergency savings.)

When you don’t have a fund and your car breaks down, how will you fix it? You still need to get to work or you might get fired, which is worse than a broken-down car. If you don’t have the cash, your only choice is to put the costly repair on your credit card with its double-digit interest rate. Now you have a problem made much bigger by debt. (Debt can have a significant impact on your credit as well. You can see how by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Make the choice to start an emergency fund. At a minimum, have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved. Disaster will strike, so start saving today so you are ready.

2. Save for Retirement

When you start making real money, it’s time to start thinking about retirement. Retirement is a long way off, but your decisions today can have a huge impact on when and if you’ll be able to retire when you want.

If your employer offers a retirement plan, learn the details on how you can benefit. Many employers that offer a defined contribution plan, like a 401K, usually offer incentives for you to contribute. My first employer matched 50% of my contributions up to 4% of my salary. When I contributed 4% of my salary, they added an extra 2%.

With investments, time is your best friend and saving early is key.

If your employer doesn’t offer a 401K plan, you can still invest in a taxable brokerage account or turn to an IRA. In those accounts, you can take advantage of index funds, which are some of the cheapest and best ways to invest money.

3. Keep Housing Costs Low

Remember this important money ratio: Keep your housing costs less than 30% of your income. It’s easy to fall in love with an awesome apartment or house in a new area. And it’s easy to commit to a high monthly payment because you tell yourself it’s worth it. But don’t fall into that trap!

By keeping your monthly fixed costs low, the largest of which will likely be your housing, you can save more money or use it to pay down debt like student loans.

4. Get Enough Insurance

Insurance is something you pay for and hope you’ll never need to use. If you end up needing it, however, you’ll be glad you have enough.

How much is enough insurance? That depends on your financial and family situation. If you’ve had time to build up a sizable emergency fund, you can increase your deductibles. If you don’t have a big emergency fund, you can keep your deductibles lower for now. Once you build up those reserves, increase the deductible to something with which you’re comfortable.

5. Build Your Social Network

This may not seem like a financial decision, but it is. Work toward building a network of friends and professional contacts in your field. The vast majority of jobs are not filled by being listed on a job site but through referrals. I got my second job, and a 15% raise, because of someone I knew.

Building up a network doesn’t have to feel slimy. It’s as simple as maintaining existing relationships and finding places to meet new people. It will also help make life a little more interesting.

Image: SolStock

The post 5 Smart Money Moves to Make After Graduation appeared first on Credit.com.

50 Free Classes That Can Pay Off

Gaining skills doesn't have to cost money. Check out these 50 classes you can take free.

Skills pay the bills, at least according to a lot of early ’90s hip hop.

But that doesn’t mean you have to spend money to acquire those skills. Yes, college is getting more expensive, but there are plenty of free classes online that can beef up your resume or let you start a side hustle without racking up student loan debt.

Here are 50 free classes that can pay off.

1. GED Classes

Passing the GED high school equivalence test opens doors to college and many jobs. Test preparation classes are available online and at many local libraries. And, if you’re thinking of getting a higher education, you can find some ways to pay for college without building a mountain of debt here.

2. Introduction to Computer Science

This course from MIT teaches students the Python programming language, a few simple algorithms and how to test and debug code. It’s available through EdX free, though you can receive a certificate of completion for a fee. This could be a good start to getting a computer science degree, one of a few college degrees that really pays off.

3. HTML5 & CSS Fundamentals

Learn the basics of web design and style from a course designed by Intel and W3C and get an introduction to the HTML5 and CSS languages. Available on EdX.org.

4. Introduction to C++

C++ is another foundational programming language. Microsoft offers this course, which provides an entry into C++ basics, including how to create functions. Available on EdX.

5. Introduction to Java Programming

Continuing on the computer programming path, Java is another language used just about everywhere. This course, from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, not only teaches the basics of Java but also aims to improve students’ problem solving skills. Available on EdX.

6. Academic & Business Writing

Make your writing more persuasive with this six-week class offered through the University of California at Berkeley, which also teaches proofreading and vocabulary. Those skills can come in handy when writing everything from a job cover letter to a credit dispute letter. Available on EdX.

7. Writing for Strategic Communication

Even if you’re not a professional writer, this course could help you improve all your writing endeavors, even your tweets. From La Trobe University in Australia on iTunes.

8. Data Science Orientation

This is the first course in a full curriculum on data science from Microsoft. Big data is big business, and the skills to decipher it are in demand. This course will give you basics on exploring data using Microsoft Excel and give you an idea on whether data science is something you’ll want to pursue as a career. Available on EdX.

9. Understanding Data

If Microsoft’s orientation piqued your interest, Marginal Revolution University will teach you the basics of statistical analysis and econometrics with a series videos and interactive lessons.

10. Against All Odds: Inside Statistics

This course shows how statistics are used in the real world and teaches the basic tools and methodology used in statistics. Course materials and video lectures available at learner.org.

11. Introduction to Marketing

Marketing is key for many businesses and organizations. This course teaches students how to reach potential customers and to understand how they decide what to buy. It’s taught by professors from the University of British Columbia and available on EdX.

12. Branding, Content & Social Media

This course from Ohio State University will help you develop a communications strategy for getting the word out about whatever cool thing you’re doing. (Just be sure not to overshare — you’ll put your identity at risk.) Available on iTunes.

13. Essentials of Advertising & Marketing

In this course, students will learn how to create and present an advertising campaign. From Arizona State University, available on iTunes.

14. The Architectural Imagination

Interested in architecture? Harvard University offers this course on its basic principles, including an introduction into making your own architectural drawings and models. A good way to see if architecture is the career for you, on EdX or the Harvard University website.

15. Contract Law

Everyone has to deal with contracts at some point in their lives. Every time you download an app, start a new job or buy a home you have to sign some sort of legal agreement. Harvard professor Charles Fried teaches a course covering contract law and how to read contracts to understand their possible consequences. Available on EdX or the Harvard University website.

16. Exposing Digital Photography

If you got a fancy camera for Christmas but still don’t know how to use it, this class from Harvard Extension School instructor should clear things up. Students can learn how to use their camera and work with light to make great shots. The course materials are all available at digitalphotography.exposed.

17. Lighting Essentials

The glamour is in being behind or in front of the camera, but photography and videos both require good lighting. This course, available on iTunes, YouTube and as an iBook, teach the basics of lighting. From the University of New South Wales in Australia.

18. Game Theory

Game theory is the study of decisions. Improve your decision-making with this course from Yale University professor Ben Polak. Lectures are available on YouTube and iTunes.

19. Money Skills

We like to think Credit.com gives you an excellent education on money skills, especially when it comes to building good credit, but if you want more, economists Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok will take you through investing, real estate, career choices and saving in this course from Marginal Revolution University.

20. Financial Planning & Money Management

Even more on personal financial planning, including taxes, banking and debt management, from Southwestern College, available on iTunes. (By the way, keeping up a good credit score is a big part of debt management. You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

21. Personal Finance

This Missouri State University video series takes a different tack, showing you how to set and reach financial goals. Available on iTunes and YouTube.

22. Investment Philosophies

Think you can beat the market? New York University teaches you how to create a sound investment strategy. Available on iTunes.

23. Poker Theory & Analytics

We would never condone gambling, but if you must, at least learn how from an MIT graduate student. This series of lectures also includes guest speaking turns from professional poker players.

24. Child Nutrition & Cooking

Students of this course learn what makes up a healthy diet and how to make nutritious home-cooked meals. Participants will need to sign up for a Coursera account. You can take the course free or pay $39 to receive a certificate upon completion.

25. Adolescent Health & Development

Wondering what the heck is going on with your teen? This course from Johns Hopkins covers puberty, emotional development and more serious ailments that affect young people. Available on iTunes.

26. Introduction to Human Nutrition

This audio course from the University of California at Berkeley covers what your body actually needs. It’s probably not more cake. Available at the Internet Archive.

27. Broadcast Journalism

If Anchorman is your inspiration, learn the ropes with this course from La Trobe University in Australia, which teaches everything from pitching stories to interviewing to reporting spot news. Free on iTunes.

28. Magazine Writing

If you have a true story to tell, this course from Ohio State University will help you turn it into a full-fledged article and get it published. Available on iTunes.

29. The Interview

No, this isn’t that James Franco movie. This course from La Trobe University in Australia will teach you how to interview people in a journalism context, but the skills of asking good questions and putting people at ease can apply anywhere. Available on iTunes.

30. Speak Italian With Your Mouth Full

MIT professor Paola Rebusco, who normally teaches physics, pulls double duty here, teaching the language of Italy via the delicious cuisine of Italy. Course materials available on MIT Open Courseware.

31. Elementary Arabic

You don’t have to pay to learn a foreign language. This Arabic course from Lund University is available as an iTunes podcast.

32. Beginning Chinese

Seton Hall University offers a series of courses on Chinese, from this beginner class to more advanced courses, all on iTunes.

33. Dialogue for German Learners

This course covers everything from German telephone (or in German, “Telefon”) skills to office (“Büro”) conversations. On iTunes from the University of South Wales.

34. Elementary French

Carnegie Mellon offers this course through its Open Learning Initiative. Students should be able to commit at least six hours a week.

35. Spanish Fundamentals

From estar through gustar, this course provides an introduction to Spanish, particularly Spanish grammar. Available on iTunes.

36. Pixar in a Box

Who better to teach the basics of animation than Pixar? This course, offered through Khan Academy, teaches students how to animate things like bouncing balls, robots and fireworks.

37. Becoming the Next Bill Nye

Ever wanted to host your own educational show? MIT offers a class that will teach you the video production techniques to do it. Science rules! Available through MIT Open Courseware.

38. Video Production

This course covers everything from setting up and operation video equipment to writing and shooting. Taught by Iona College and available on iTunes.

39. Introduction to Game Design

Learn how to make your own digital or board game. Units on game design concepts will help make sure it’s actually fun to play. This MIT course isn’t running, but all the materials are still available on EdX.

40. Crisis Management

For any aspiring public relations pros, this course from Missouri State University will show you the ropes on developing a crisis communications plan, just in case the politician you represent says something truly dumb. Available on iTunes.

41. Fundamentals in Public Speaking

It’s many people’s greatest fear. If you share this fear, this course from Missouri State University may help you conquer it, whether you’re giving a wedding toast or a graduation speech. Available on iTunes.

42. A Romp Through Ethics for Complete Beginners

What’s the right thing to do? What makes someone a good person? If you find yourself asking the bigger questions, let Oxford University professor Marianne Talbot be your guide. Available on iTunes and YouTube.

43. Argument Diagramming

People say a lot of crazy stuff. Argument diagramming can help you point out why they are wrong. Available through the Carnegie Mellon Open Course Initiative.

44. Critical Reasoning for Beginners

Another course from Professor Talbot, this course teaches students how to evaluate arguments and make your own reasoning clear. Could be handy negotiating for a higher salary. Available on iTunes.

45. Statistics for Social Scientists

This Duke University course teaches students how social scientists evaluate data. This should make you better able to understand academic research, polls and any other claims based on statistics. Available on iTunes.

46. Building a Business

This series of lectures on YouTube by the University of Oxford tells you how to start your own business.

47. Entrepreneurship & Business

Serial entrepreneur and Carnegie Mellon professor Mark Juliano covers topics like how to write a business plan and how to get funding. Available on iTunes.

48. New Enterprises

This course from MIT is also about starting a business, but focuses more on technology startups, if you’ve got the next Facebook on your hands. Materials available at MIT Open Courseware.

49. Principles of Management

Learn which leadership approaches work best for organizations. This course is from Iona College and is available on iTunes.

50. Real Estate Finance

Want to become a real estate investor? Learn the basics from Professor Joshua Kahr. This course is available on iTunes.

Looking to take some classes to beef up your resume post-graduation? We’ve got a full 50 things recent grads can do to score their first job

Image: SbytovaMN

The post 50 Free Classes That Can Pay Off appeared first on Credit.com.

Why the “Do Not Call Registry” Can’t Protect You from Spam Phone Calls Anymore

If you’re afraid to answer your phone, you’re hardly alone. Spam calls have become so common that they’ve basically rendered the “phone” part of “smartphone” useless. Or at least, very dumb. But help might, finally, be on the way.

The Do Not Call list, which debuted in 2004, was perhaps the most popular program operated by the U.S. government in decades — 50 million numbers were entered before the list even took effect. Since then, another 170 million numbers were entered into the registry. U.S. telemarketers quickly learned to abide by the list or face multi-million dollar fines the Federal Trade Commission could impose — and there have been more than 100 enforcement actions.

It worked…for a while. But the combination of internet-based telephones and cheap long-distance calls have made it easy for telephone scofflaws to operate overseas, far beyond the reach of U.S. authorities. Unwanted calls have returned with a vengeance, making some wonder if the Do Not Call list works at all.

How bad is the problem? A firm called YouMail Inc. tries to count the number of robocalls that pester Americans, and the statistics are staggering. YouMail claims that 2.5 billion unwanted calls were placed just in April 2017, equaling 7.7 calls per person.

For fun, YouMail breaks down its data by ZIP code, and found that Atlanta wins for most robocalls received, with about 50 million placed just to the 404 area code in April. Another 35 million arrived at Atlanta’s 678 area code. Houston and Dallas area codes came in second and third. New York City’s 917 area code was fifth, with 29 million.

The robocall problem has been intractable for a series of reasons — mainly, because it makes the criminals who run scams like fake IRS debt collection like these a lot of money. But two other technology reasons stick out.

1. Criminals can “spoof” caller ID numbers.

First, it’s become easier for criminals to “spoof” caller ID numbers. That not only keeps consumers from blocking numbers, it can also make them more likely to answer. Calls that appear to come from the recipient’s own area code — or even share the same first six digits of their phone number — suggest a local call, so consumers are tempted to answer.

2. The telecom industry has a hard time stopping suspicious calls.

Second, the telecom industry has avoided implementing technology that would stop many suspicious calls because the firms claim they are legally required to connect calls, and they don’t have the authority to decide what is spam and what isn’t.

Years of frustration and consumer complaints finally nudged the Federal Communications Commission toward action last year, and it created the Robocall Strike Force. In August, tech heavy hitters like AT&T, Google, and Microsoft gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss ideas.

Then in March, with the FCC under new leadership, Chairman Ajit Pai indicated he would go ahead with proposals from the task force. Specifically, he would call for a change in rules that explicitly gave telecom firms the right to cut off spammers.

“Under my proposal, the FCC would give providers greater leeway to block spoofed robocalls. Specifically, they could block calls that purport to be from unassigned or invalid phone numbers — there’s a database that keeps track of all phone numbers, and many of them aren’t assigned to a voice service provider or aren’t otherwise in use,” he wrote in a Medium post explaining the change. “There is no reason why any legitimate caller should be spoofing an unassigned or invalid phone number. It’s just a way for scammers to evade the law.”

Later in March, the FCC approved the proposal. The work isn’t done, however. There’s now a public comment period; a vote to enact the new rules won’t happen until later this year. Then there will be a transition period as carriers implement their spoofed-call-blocking technologies.

How to stop unwanted spam phone calls

Relief is in sight, but it’s not time to turn your ringtone back on just yet. For now, consumers can investigate third-party services like Nomorobo ($2/month, iPhone only, see a review here) or Hiya (free, see iTunes reviews here) that claim to help by using blacklists and other methods to identify spam callers. Some providers and smartphones offer their own free call-blocking options, but they are cumbersome to use. Consumers can Google phone numbers that call, just to see if others have complained online about them. Or simply keep screening those calls for a bit longer.

The post Why the “Do Not Call Registry” Can’t Protect You from Spam Phone Calls Anymore appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 Things People Don’t Tell You About Life After Graduation

Adult life can be tough. Here are some hard truths new graduates should know as they head into the world.

I got my first job out of college pretty quickly. In fact, I started the day after I wrapped up my full-time internship. In hindsight, I probably should have asked for at least one day between, but I was too eager to please my bosses to do so.

Within two weeks of accepting the offer, I managed to find an apartment and a roommate. I left the last day of my internship with a mattress stuffed into my Honda Accord, enough clothes for the work week and little else. I figured I could move the rest of my things on the weekend.

That night, I ate takeout Chinese food on my mattress on the floor, and read my roommate’s copy of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” until it got too dark to see (I hadn’t brought lamp with me). That was how adulthood started for me.

Life after college gets real. Adjusting to being on your own can be a struggle, especially if you’ve been reliant on your parents to pay your taxes and schedule appointments and tell you to wake up before noon.

Here are some other things people might not tell you about life after graduation.

1. You Might Not Get a Job in Your Major

If you majored in basket weaving or worse, journalism, you might not find your ideal job right away. That’s OK. You have little experience. (Here are 50 tips for recent grads looking for work.) There’s no shame in taking an internship or even volunteering to brush up your resume.

You may also end up taking a job completely unrelated to your field of study. This is a good idea if you have student loans coming due. And you might end up loving the job. I have a friend who majored in geology and works as a computer programmer, and another who studied anthropology and works in property development and they’re both doing great. Your path will take you to unexpected places. Changing direction isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

2. You’ll Probably Change Jobs. A Lot

If it isn’t already, the idea of holding the same job for your entire career is fast becoming antiquated. Changing jobs is sometimes the best way to get a raise or a better title.

Because of that, you need to make sure your resume is tip-top, you’re charming in interviews and you don’t burn any bridges. A broad network of colleagues is going to be important throughout your career.

3. Money Isn’t Everything … But It’s a Big Deal

Taxes, saving for retirement, dealing with student loans, rent, dinner and everything else you’ll shell out for as a grown-up will occupy a big part of your brain power. Be sure you’re getting the right information on all these things. There’s plenty of advice on Credit.com and elsewhere online.

Many job-related questions should be directed to your human resources department. Your parents or peers can help you with budget advice. Be sure to ask if you’re confused about anything. Complacency with money can lead to long-lasting and damaging consequences. (That includes damage to your credit. Check on yours with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

Money is complicated and not always in your hands. The economy can tank unexpectedly. You’re going to screw up. You’re going to have setbacks. But if you start laying a solid foundation now, you’ll have a better chance of bouncing back.

4. You Need to Develop Good Habits on Your Own

Adults don’t have gym teachers forcing them to exercise. Adults don’t have people telling them to wake up on time to pack their lunch.

No one’s going to make doctor’s appointments for you or remind you to brush your teeth. A big part of adulthood is doing all that stuff yourself, even though it’s boring, because it’s good for you.

5. You’ll Probably Live With Your Parents Again

Rent is expensive. Starting salaries aren’t great. That combination, plus the inevitable tumult of your 20s, will probably lead you back to your childhood bedroom, perhaps more than once.

This is not the end of the world. Many people aren’t lucky enough to have a fall-back place to crash. If you’re really worried, we threw together a few tips on moving back home.

Living at home might cramp your style, but it can also help you save money. Savor mom’s cooking, washing machine, couch, cable subscription and all the other perks while someone else is paying for them.

6. Your Best Advocate Is You

No one else is going to ask your boss to give you the raise you deserve. No one is going to make a better case for your promotion than you.

You might feel grateful just to get your first job after college, but you should absolutely negotiate your salary and make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth. Even after you get the job, you need to continue to advocate for yourself for raises, for added responsibilities or for promotions.

You might not feel comfortable with what can seem like bragging, but you can’t depend on your superiors noticing on their own how great you are. You need to advocate for yourself.

7. It’s Not a Race

You probably have Facebook, which means when your cousin or classmate lands their dream job or buys a house before you, you will know about it and feel like a loser.

Don’t compare yourself. Life is not a race. There is no prescribed timeline by which you’re supposed to make your dreams come true.

Someone, somewhere, will always be doing better than you. But if you are reading this on an electronic device under a roof, you are probably doing just fine.

It is unhealthy to base your happiness on how well they are doing. You, like everyone else, will get some helping of triumph, tragedy, boredom and ideally, about a third of the time, sleep. Your mileage may vary, but you need to deal with it on your own terms, not anyone else’s.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: FatCamera

The post 7 Things People Don’t Tell You About Life After Graduation appeared first on Credit.com.

The Top 10 States Grads Ditch After College (& The 10 Where They Stay)

States-Grads-Ditch-After-College

The state where college students graduate isn’t always the state where they take their first job. In fact, some states are “simply terrible at holding onto their grads” according to a recent study by Zippia, a career analytics and information website. They looked at 127,403 resumes to determine the percentage of graduates who left the state where they graduated for their first jobs after college. The results? Smaller, northern states tend to lose the most graduates while more populous states retain theirs. But why?

The cause of these departures can be attributed to many factors, the study found. Some of the states with the greatest college graduate “brain drain” have some of the lowest unemployment rates, with only two being above the U.S. average of 4.5%. Also, the same states that lose their graduates at the highest rates tend to take in more out-of-state students. There also was a strong correlation between the number of graduates who stay in the state where they graduated and how much those states spend on public universities. Those that spend more see more students remain after graduation.

Whether you’re planning on ditching the state where you went to college or staying for your first job, it’s good to know where you stand financially. Your credit can play a big role in landing your first apartment, and even your first job. You can keep track of your credit scores by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

Here are the 10 states students ditch the most, plus the 10 where they stay put.

States Students Leave the Most

10. Arizona
Grads Who Leave: 57.14%

9. Montana
Grads Who Leave: 
57.82%

8. Maine
Grads Who Leave: 
59.23%

7. Missouri
Grads Who Leave: 
63.17%

6. New Hampshire
Grads Who Leave: 
64.31%

5. West Virginia
Grads Who Leave: 
65.05%

4. North Dakota
Grads Who Leave: 
65.44%

3. Rhode Island
Grads Who Leave: 
69.43%

2. Vermont
Grads Who Leave:
69.54%

1. Delaware
Grads Who Leave: 70.69%

States Where Grads Stay the Most

10. New York
Grads Who Stay: 
62.65%

9. Kentucky
Grads Who Stay: 
62.94%

8. North Carolina
Grads Who Stay: 
63.29%

7. Washington
Grads Who Stay:
63.63%

6. Arkansas
Grads Who Stay:
63.69%

5. Nevada
Grads Who Stay:
64.60%

4. Minnesota
Grads Who Stay:
65.17%

3. Illinois
Grads Who Stay:
65.33%

2. California
Grads Who Stay:
79.62%

1. Texas
Grads Who Stay:
80.16%

Image: mablache 

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7 Monthly Bills Affected by Your Credit

A high credit score helps you in many ways, including by potentially lowering your monthly bills.

You probably know your monthly bills can impact your credit, as late payments or accounts in collections can land on your credit report and bring down your credit score. But are you aware your credit score can affect the payment amount on a number of your monthly bills?

Here are seven monthly bills with payments your credit score can determine.

1. Rent Payments

When you apply for a lease, your landlord might request a background check that includes your credit report. They can’t run a background check without your permission, although refusing may prevent you from moving forward with the lease.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the landlord can take adverse action if they find red flags in your credit report. This action could include denying your rental application or raising your rent higher than they would charge another applicant. The good news is they are legally required to give you written notice if they take adverse action, provide you the report they used (if you request it within 60 days) and give you the chance to dispute the information.

2. Credit Cards

Consumers with good credit tend to qualify for much lower credit card interest rates than those with poor credit. Interest is applied to your credit card balance each month unless you pay it off in full within the monthly grace period. (You can go here to learn more about how credit card interest is calculated.) If you tend to carry a balance month to month, your poor credit could be costing you extra in interest.

3. Mortgages

Your mortgage payment is also directly affected by your credit. Mortgage lenders consider you a riskier borrower if you have a lower credit score. To hedge against that risk, they will charge you a higher interest rate.

4. Auto Loans

Credit scores impact the interest rate lenders offer when you apply for an auto loan. While interest rates vary between lenders, having excellent credit generally results in lower interest and a lower monthly payment. Those 0% financing offers you see on car commercials usually require excellent credit.

5. Student Loans

Your credit score doesn’t generally affect federal loan payments, but if you plan on financing your education through private loans, lenders can use your credit score to determine your interest rate and fees. The worse your credit, the more interest you’ll pay on the loan.

6. Auto Insurance

According to The Zebra’s State of Auto Insurance Report, there’s a correlation between credit and car insurance rates. On a national level, drivers with poor credit can pay more than twice as much as those with excellent credit for insurance. Some states have banned insurance providers from using credit scores to determine rates, but it’s a common practice in the states that allow it.

7. Homeowners Insurance

Insurance companies use credit-based insurance scores to determine what you’ll pay for homeowners insurance. These scores are industry-specific and aren’t exactly the same as your credit score, but they use the information in your credit report to determine your score. The same negative marks that bring down your credit score can impact your insurance score, and affect your payment.

Given your credit’s affect on nearly every bill in your mailbox (among other things, of course), it’s important to regularly monitor your credit for errors (you can go here to learn how to dispute those), identity theft or legitimate negative items that are affecting your score. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your free credit report snapshot every month on Credit.com. You can generally improve your bad credit by paying down high credit card balances, shoring up accounts in delinquency and limiting new credit inquiries while your credit score rebounds.

Trying to lower your monthly bills. We can help you get started with 9 ways to lower your monthly mortgage payment. 

Image: sturti

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