How Your Credit Report Can Help You Manage Student Loans

Handling your student loan payments may not be easy, but here's where you can start to take control.

More than 1.8 million students graduate from college in 2017. While it’s a momentous achievement, many graduates will walk away with significant student loan debt. Though keeping up with monthly payments can be difficult, knowing how to budget for them can be an even bigger obstacle.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to begin managing your loans, your credit report can be an essential tool. Here’s how your credit report can help you take control of your debt.

What’s in Your Credit Report?

Your credit report is a complete picture of your financial history. It contains information about your bills, loans and what credit cards you have open.

Lenders use your credit report to make decisions on your reliability and financial stability. They look at your report to evaluate whether to offer you a car loan, mortgage or a new credit card. However, your credit report is an invaluable source of information for you too, especially if you have student loans.

2 Ways Your Credit Report Can Help You Manage Your Loans

When you’re in school and take out federal or private student loans, it’s easy to lose track of who your lenders are or how much you borrowed — especially if you don’t have to start repaying them yet.

To make things more difficult, your debt can sometimes transfer to a new loan servicer. If that happens, you’ll have to make payments on a different website and you’ll have a new account. That’s where your credit report comes in handy. You can use it to locate your loans and their current status in the following ways:

  1. Identify your loan servicer: If you aren’t sure who your loan servicer is, use your credit report to identify who manages your loans. Your credit report will list all the institutions behind your debt. Once you have the name of your servicer, you can use that information to sign into your account and begin making payments.
  2. Find out your current balance: Thanks to interest, your loan balance could grow while you’re in school. If you’re unsure what amount you owe, your credit report will list the current balance on your loans.

Where to Get Your Free Credit Report

There are many services that will send your credit report for a fee. However, paying for your credit report is unnecessary. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.

It’s a good idea to stagger your credit reports throughout the year. For example, you could review one credit report from each agency every four months. That way, you can continually review your credit report for issues, rather than waiting a full 12 months. Catching problems early can save you money and protect your credit.

You can also check your credit scores for free on Credit.com. They’re updated regularly and can help you spot changes in your credit reports if they go up or down unexpectedly.

What to Do If There’s an Error

An essential part of checking your credit report is reviewing it for errors. Sometimes loans are reported incorrectly or, in cases of identity theft, fraudulent accounts can be put under your name.

If you find an issue, whether it’s a simple mistake or a more serious issue of theft or fraud, it’s important to take action right away. If the accounts in error become delinquent, those late payments can cause your credit report and score to plummet. That will make it more difficult for you to get a loan, a new credit card or get approved for a new apartment. The longer you wait to act, the longer it could take to correct.

To report a problem, write a letter disputing the errors and send it in the mail to the following:

  • Equifax: Equifax Information Services, LLC., P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA, 30348
  • Experian: Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
  • TransUnion: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA, 19016

You should also notify the bank or financial institution that reported the error. Include copies of any supporting evidence you may have to prove your case.

To ensure you have a record of contacting the organizations, it’s a good idea to send the letter as certified mail as proof.

If you report the error and the credit bureaus and financial institutions do not fix the issue, you can escalate the problem to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Managing Your Credit

Graduating from college is a huge milestone, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed managing your student loans. From figuring out who your loan servicer is to learning how much your loans grew, the process can be complex.

Getting your credit report and credit scores and reviewing them thoroughly can help you keep track of your loans and stay current on your payments.

Image: g-stockstudio

The post How Your Credit Report Can Help You Manage Student Loans 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

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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.

8 Graduation Gifts Your Kids Will Actually Use

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Graduation day is almost here, and if you’re like most parents, you’re probably wondering what to give your kids. Should you splurge on a fancy handbag or something more practical, like a camera? To help you prepare, we’ve rounded up eight fantastic items your kids will definitely use.

Keeping to a budget? Not to worry. None of the gifts listed here will drain your wallet. But if you’re concerned your spending has put your credit in the red, we recommend taking a look at it to find out. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

Now read on for the graduation gifts.

1. Grind Central Coffee Grinder

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of Cuisinart

Price: $29.95 at Cuisinart.com

Teach your kid the value of skipping Starbucks by helping him make up to 18 cups of fresh coffee. Handy measurement markings inside the stainless steel bowl let him grind exact quantities of beans.

2. Large Tint Stackable Drawer

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of The Container Store

Price: $17.99 each at The Container Store

These roomy drawers, which can be stacked, will be the perfect transitional furniture until your kid’s saved enough for Ikea. Choose from seven colors.

3. Nintendo Switch

Here's what to get for your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of Nintendo

Price: $299.99 on Nintendo.com/switch

This dynamic console functions at home and on the go, making it perfect for your busy grad. The removable Joy-Con controllers are ready for solo adventures or multiplayer action. No wonder it’s one of the hottest consoles on the market.

4. 3.5 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of Cuisinart

Price: $59.95 at Cuisinart

You already know using a slow cooker saves money, so why not give the gift of a programmable cooker? This one features a 24-hour LCD countdown timer and four cooking modes that automatically switch to warm when cooking is finished.

5. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes One & Two

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Price: $40 for Volume 1, $60 for Volume 2 on Penguin Random House

This seminal two-volume set is the perfect gift for any aspiring gourmet chef.

6. Bed Bath & Beyond Gift Card 

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond

Price: $25 to $200 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Every graduate will appreciate this gift, which never expires and has no fees. All orders more than $29 come with free shipping. (As an added bonus, you can teach your graduate how to save when shopping for the essentials and these 15 ways to save at Bed Bath & Beyond is a good place to start.)

7. simplehuman Butterfly Lid Step Trash Can

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of simplehuman

Price: $160 on simplehuman.com

Simplehuman’s trash can isn’t just sturdy — its split doors open from the center, making it perfect for storing under low countertops.

8. Stanley Household Tool Set With Soft Case

Here's what to get your kids as they prepare for the real world.

Photo Courtesy of Lowe’s

Price: $19.98 at Lowes.com

Whether they’re hanging pictures or building a desk, they’ll appreciate having this mixed set of tools. The soft carrying case is perfect for travel.

Image: gradyrees

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50 Things Recent Grads Can Do to Score Their First Job

Consider this a crash course on getting a job after graduation.

If you’re a college senior and are nearing the time when you’re going to walk across the stage, you’re probably filled with a lot of excitement. And maybe even some panic, especially if you don’t have your next step lined up.

According to the Accenture Strategy 2016 U.S. College Graduate Employment study, four out of five graduates thought about how many jobs were available in the industry they were considering before choosing their major. But even with that foresight, only 21% of the class of 2016 had accepted a job before graduating.

So if you’re about ready to throw your cap in the air and don’t have your first job lined up yet, here are 50 things you can do to help make that happen.

1. Remember, It’s Your First Job

Yes, you have the education, but now you need real-world experience. The first job you get right out of school probably won’t be your dream job, so adjust your view and think of it as another step in getting you there.

2. Start With an Internship

It may seem like something you stop doing after graduation, but having an internship means you’ll “have something on [your] resume, learn some real-world work skills and possibly have another reference for [your] ongoing job hunt,” Dr. Crystal I. Lee, a licensed psychologist and owner of LA Concierge Psychologist, said. And this role could ultimately land you a full-time, permanent position.

3. Fill in the Gaps

Take a look at your industry and see what skills you may need that you didn’t gain in your formal education. “There are lots of relatively short programs, many of them at universities themselves, to teach these kind of ‘last-mile’ skills,” Andrew Overby of Yonderwork, an international community experience for remote workers, said. “It can only help.”

4. Expand Your Network

“Go out there and get coffee meetings with people you respect and look up to,” said Phi Pham, co-founder of Building Beats, an education startup in New York City. “Find a way to provide value to them and the dividends will pay off in job connections.”

5. Volunteer

“Reach out to a local nonprofit and see how you can put your skills to work [during] your job search,” Pham said. Plus, the people you meet when doing this can build up your network.

6. Start a Side Project

Having something you’re doing while you’re looking for full-time work “shows that you spend your time learning and figuring out how to make something meaningful for the world,” Pham said.

7. Adjust Your View

Try not to limit your applications based on pre-conceived notions about the working world. “You may think you want to work for a large corporation, bu find yourself interning or working for a small business and you feel satisfaction in knowing you are part of a team and making a valuable contribution,” Candace Dennig, director of student services at the Art Institute of Washington, said.

8. Ask for Advice

“Talk to instructors, friends and fellow students and ask for advice — are there any companies that they suggest reaching out to in hopes of securing employment?” Dennig said.

9. Take a Look at Your Credit Reports

It may seem strange, but knowing what’s showing up on your credit reports may be insightful. After all, many employers review a version of these reports as part of the vetting process. You can see a free snapshot of your credit reports on Credit.com.

10. Think About Relocating

“You sometimes do need to be living in the city in which you want to work before getting a job because it makes it easier for you to get in for interviews on short notice and network in the community,” Erin Lowry, millennial finance expert and author, said. Not sure which city may be the place to go? Check out this list of the best (and worst) cities for new graduates seeking work.

11. Visit Your Childhood Bedroom … 

Going home to stay with your parents may not be feasible for everyone, but if it’s an option, it could save you some rent money until you land a job. See if your parents will offer you a discount on rent in exchange for doing work around the house. This will offer you some flexibility in terms of not having to worry about breaking a lease if you get a job out of town, plus you won’t be racking up as many bills while you look for work.

12. … But Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Yes, there are many perks that can come with staying with your parents, but don’t let that put you in a rut. Use this time to your advantage — put money in savings for all the things you’ll need when a job comes your way. This includes things like paying rent, student loans and all your other bills.

13. Set Aside Time to Apply

From finals to social events, your schedule is probably pretty packed. But it’s important to set aside blocks of time to research jobs and apply for the ones that fit your skillset. This will help make sure you aren’t rushing and making mistakes on the applications.

14. Polish Your Resume …

You may not have a robust resume, but padding it won’t help get your foot in the door. Marc Cenedella, the founder and CEO of Ladders, a career site, offers these tips: “Keep to a one-page resume, remove references to high school and focus on highlighting your education, leadership skills and accolades achieved while in college.”

15. … & Then Have a Professional Review It

Once you feel you have your resume in a good place, it’s time to get a second opinion. “Having all your documents updated and formatted professionally is key when you go to networking events or start applying to positions,” said Valerie Streif, senior adviser with The Mentat, a San Francisco-based career service.

16. Customize Your Resume to the Role

Once you have a basic template for your resume, consider fine tuning it to each application. Sure, it may take a little more time but this way you can highlight to each employer what makes you right for that particular role. (And make sure you’re avoiding these big resume mistakes.)

17. Show You Can Do More Than One Thing

If you’re looking to join a startup, they’re likely looking for people who can take on more than one role. Show them they’ll be getting a jack of all trades (or at least someone with multiple skills) when hiring you.

18. Don’t Forget About the Cover Letter

Yes, that resume is important but so is your cover letter. This is the chance you have to say things about yourself your resume doesn’t. Make sure what you write is clear, targeted to the job and proofread for spelling errors and grammar mistakes.

19. Visit Your Career Center

Most colleges and universities offer career services. They may not have all the answers, but they have insights and may even have a listing of jobs, internships, freelance work and other opportunities.

20. Attend Career Fairs

“It can be easy to delete emails with notifications of upcoming job fairs on campus and instead go to the bars or spend time with their college friends — but making the effort to actually go to these events can bring incredible opportunities,” Streif said.

21. Attend Conferences

This is a great way to network with professionals in your given industry. Many of these are free or may offer a discounted rate for students.

22. Join a Professional Association

Do some research and find a professional organization in your industry that you find interesting. Participate in their meetings and other events and build that network.

23. Get Business Cards

You likely won’t always have a resume on hand and you never know who you may meet. Include contact information and a link to your website or portfolio on your cards.

24. Find a Mentor

Find someone you admire and who has a similar career to one you’d like and pick their brain. They can give you insights into what you may need to do and think about as you search for your first post-grad job.

25. Meet With Alumni

Your alumni network may be a good place to start when searching for a mentor. But beyond that, there’s partial truth when people say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and you already have a tie with this group of people. They may even be able to open some doors for you. Check with your school to see if they have alumni events or a database of alumni you can talk with.

26. Ask Younger Students

It may seem like it’s backwards to ask students younger than you about jobs, but they may know about companies you haven’t even heard of yet. Ask around and see where they’re interning or working for the summer for more ideas of where to apply. And maybe see if they can pass along your resume if you find an opportunity you’re interested in.

27. Refresh Your Online Presence

Recruiters and human resources departments often check your online profiles as part of your application. So, freshen up your social profiles (especially LinkedIn) and do a quick search of your name to see what comes up. You may consider setting up professional accounts in addition to your personal ones.

28. Get a Professional Email

If you don’t already have one, it’s time to get an email address you can use specifically for professional reasons.

29. Create Your Website

A website with your resume and examples of your work can act like a digital portfolio. Plus, if you start it now, you can build on it as you advance in your career. If you already have one, make sure it’s up to date with your graduation date.

30. Branch Out on Application Methods

“Taking many different approaches to the job hunt is the best way to ensure quick success,” Streif said.

31. Contact a Recruiting Firm

These agencies can help get you placed in an entry-level position, some of which don’t have public listings online.

32. See What Others Did

Take a look at people who are a step or two ahead of you in your industry and see what they’ve done to get ideas for where your path could start. Browse their websites or LinkedIn profiles to get started.

33. Pick Up a Book

Odds are, leaders in your industry have written a book about how they got to be where they are today. Reading these books may not land you a job, but they could give you ideas. And, if nothing else, they can give you some talking points for any interviews you go on.

34. Post Your Resume Online

While you’re out there searching for jobs, know that employers are searching for candidates. Many job boards allow you to post your resume for potential employers to review and doing this may be to your advantage.

35. Go Where Others Won’t

Maybe you’re dreaming of working in a big city but so are countless other people. Starting in a smaller market may increase your chances so don’t cut these locales off your list.

36. Take Initiative

Is there a company you really like but no job openings that you qualify for? Take some initiative and call their recruiter and HR department and pitch them on hiring you. The answer may still be no, but the opportunity won’t be there if you don’t at least try. (Also, see point two — perhaps there’s an internship available to help you get your foot in the door.)

37. Remember: Odds Are in Numbers

You probably didn’t apply to one college so why apply to just one job? According to Adecco, an online staffing agency, recent graduates apply to an average of 12 jobs before getting offered their first job.

38. Think About What’s Important to You

Yes, you want a paycheck and benefits. Yes, you want to build up your resume. But there are other things involved in a job, so think about what you want. Perhaps a place you can advance or a job with a flexible schedule is important to you? Whatever it is, make note of these things so you can include them in your search (and ask about them in interviews).

39. Find a Way to Stand Out

Whether that’s bringing a hard copy of your portfolio or showing your design skills on your resume, whatever you can do to make yourself a bit different from the rest of the applicants, do it. (Just don’t go overboard. You don’t want to end up using tactics that get your application noticed for the wrong reasons..)

40. Try Your Hand at Freelancing

“Getting a freelance job could supplement your income and allow you to take a lower wage job to get your feet in the door,” said Linda Murray Bullard, a business strategist at LSMB Business Solutions LLC. Check out these 15 best companies for freelancers this year.

41. Start as a Temp

Temporary agencies may be a good way to break into your chosen industry, offering you some income while you wait for a full-time job. Some of these jobs might have the potential to turn into a permanent role.

42. Consider Teaching Opportunities

Irnande Altema, founder of FirstGenRise, suggests graduates “look into their public school systems and check the requirements to become a substitute teacher in middle or high school. … Also, another option is working for a summer camp where you are teaching a subject like science, math or history.”

43. Research the Company …

Once you get a face-to-face interview, it’s important to know details about the company and what they do. It will help you make a good impression.

44. … & Maybe Even the Interviewer

Whether you read their bio on the company website or read over their LinkedIn profile, finding common interests or details to break the ice can be helpful. Plus, it can give you more insights into what to prepare for.

45. Think About Interview Questions

Going into an interview without preparation can make it harder to think on your feet. After all, your nerves will probably be on overdrive while you’re there. Having someone do a mock interview with you — like people from your career center — ahead of time may really help you be on your “A” game. (Feel like the interview went well? Check out these five signs you may be getting hired.)

46. Follow up After Interviews

You’ll be surprised at what a difference this can make. Write a thank you note to everyone who took part in your interview process, and reiterate your interest in the position. It not only underlines your interest, it shows you have good manners and appreciate the time the interviewer(s) gave you.

47. Have References Ready

Be prepared by asking three or four people if you can list them as references. This way, when you get an interview and they ask for references, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

48. Find Out What You’re Worth

You’re just starting out, so you probably won’t be raking in the top salaries out there, but what’s fair? Take a look at sites like Glassdoor to find out what people in your industry, at your level and in the area you’re living are making. Information is power, after all.

49. Learn How to Negotiate

Once that job offer finally comes in, taking the seemingly big salary without thinking about it may be tempting. Find out what the job will entail and make sure you’re being paid fairly and negotiate accordingly. It’s highly unlikely they’re going to rescind your offer if you ask for more money. Don’t forget to factor in benefits, too. Just a week of vacation offered? If they won’t offer you more money, they may be willing to give you more vacation.

50. Consider Starting Your Own Business

Sure, it may be costly, but if you’ve always wanted to execute an idea you had for a company, now may be the time. Just make sure you crunch the numbers to see if this is feasible — after all, those student loan payments will kick in soon.

Image: sturti

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19 Mistakes College Grads Make When Finding Their First Apartments

You aren't being graded on your apartment hunt, but you still want to get it right.

Finding your first apartment after college is a big undertaking — it can be hard to know where to start when you’re staring at a stack of listings and the money from your new job is burning a hole in your pocket. And you’re new to all this, so you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way.

But we can help. Take a look at some of these common slip-ups so you can do your best to avoid them as you search for a new place to hang your cap (and gown … see what we did there?).

1. Starting Your Search Too Early

“Generally, the best time to start looking for an apartment is no more than three weeks before your move-in date,” said Margaret Fanney, a licensed real estate agent at Triplemint in New York City. But once it’s time to start your search, you want to make you aren’t …

2. … Underestimating How Much Everything Costs

Whether you lived in student housing and paid on a semester basis, or you are moving to a different state (or even different city) post-graduation, getting your first apartment can be a big financial adjustment. (Still deciding if you want to move somewhere new? Check out these 15 best cities for college graduates.)

You can use the time before graduation to research how much apartments are in the areas you’re considering and what costs you might pay for additional amenities.

3. Not Planning for Expenses Beyond Rent

Most people think about the monthly rent check (or charge, if your landlord lets you pay rent by credit card), but that’s not the only expense you’ll face living on your own. Think about other necessities like laundry detergent, toilet paper and groceries. And remember, there are ways to save on your daily expenses — like making this delicious 16-cent breakfast.

4. Leaving Student Loan Payments Out of Your Budget

“Monthly payments for student loans are often overlooked … because student loans come with a six-month grace period before you have to start making payments,” said Brandon Yahn, founder of Student Loans Guy.

5. Forgetting About Credit

Most landlords look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process. Things like credit cards or loans (ahem … student loans) are impacting your credit. (You can read more about what factors influence your credit scores here.) Depending on how far into the world of credit you’ve ventured, your credit file may be pretty thin. Not sure? Now’s the time to find out — take a look at a free summary of your credit report on Credit.com.

6. Not Gathering What You’ll Need

“Graduates usually rush to find an apartment without contemplating on the requirements for renting an apartment,” Kobi Lahav, managing director of Mdrn. Residential in New York City, said. “They don’t have any offer letters ready, pay stubs or bank statements.”

7. Not Talking With Your Guarantors About Their Essential Paperwork

Once you’ve gathered all your paperwork, it’s important to also remind any guarantors of what they’ll need, as “springing it all on [them] at the last minute is guaranteed to cause delays and frustrations,” Fanney said.

8. Not Brushing Up on Terminology

“[Recent graduates] don’t typically know the difference in rental versus condo versus co-op building,” Greg Moers, a licensed real estate agent at Triplemint, said. “They tend to just shop for what looks awesome and do not take into consideration the process involved with putting together a board package and the cost.”

To get you started, check out this guide that deciphers 16 confusing mortgage terms.

9. Choosing the Wrong Roommates

Fanney suggests comparing schedules and lifestyles to see if living with a particular person is really a good idea.

“You should already be thinking about things like each person’s tolerance for mess and budget, but now that you have your first full-time jobs, you’ll have to make sure the lifestyles can coexist peacefully.”

10. Not Getting Roommate Agreements in Writing

Even if you’re living with your best friend, it’s important to write out responsibilities and agreements you’ve made about the living situation. You’ll also want to outline how bills will be paid and who is responsible for what. Hopefully you’ll never need to reference this for any reason, but you’ll be glad to have it all in writing if things go bad.

11. Not Considering Apartments With Fees

We know, all those fees are the worst. But some of these upfront costs, while painful at the time you see the money coming out of your account, may mean paying less over time.

According to Chelsea Werner, a Bold New York real estate expert, many of the no-fee apartments just add fees to your monthly rent. And, if that’s the case, “although you will pay less upfront, over time it will even out, as you will be paying more per month.”

12. Forgetting to Meet Potential Neighbors

“In college, your neighbors were probably other college students, but that probably won’t be the case now,” Fanney said. “Don’t let that stop you from getting to know your neighbors and finding ones you can trust.”

13. Not Factoring in the Landlord

“It’s sometimes better to pay a premium to be with a better landlord than to pay less and be with a bad landlord that doesn’t fix anything and is hard to reach,” Lahav said.

14. Skimming Over the Lease

In a time when we all just click “next” anytime we install an update on one of our devices, it’s easy to flip to the end of the agreement and sign on the dotted line. But it’s essential you know what you’re agreeing to and negotiate things that you’re not quite on board with.

15. Not Knowing Your Tenant Rights

Tenants (and even applicants) have federal laws protecting them. And, in many cases, there are state laws that help protect you too, so you’ll want to do your research and find out what legal rights you have ahead of time.

16. Passing on Renters Insurance

Renters insurance may seem like one more expense, but just like car insurance, having it may ultimately save you money in the event of a problem. You can read about the little-known ways renters insurance could save you money here.

17. Only Looking at the Bottom Line

“Graduates are very price-sensitive, so they will usually go with the cheaper apartment as their rule of thumb,” Lahav said. “However … they don’t realize that sometimes a cheap deal is not the best deal for them.”

18. Holding Out for Perfection

Apartment hunting can be a lot like a relationship — you start out with a list of ideal qualities, but the odds of finding someone (or some place) that meets all these may not be realistic.

“Regardless of your budget, there is no perfect apartment,” Werner said. “Renting is all about tradeoffs.”

19. Forgetting About What Comes Next

“When looking for an apartment, people have a tendency to not think about a rental as more than a one-year commitment,” Werner said. But, unless you have reason to move, you probably won’t want to go through the hassle. So, that’s why Werner said it’s a good idea to “think about how that unit will fit your life in the next few years.”

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Best Ways to Spend Your Graduation Money

Sure you can just spend it, but here's how to ensure your future self will thank you.

Graduation is right around the corner and that diploma may not be the only piece of paper graduates are excited to receive. If you’re among them, it’s likely your family and friends are eager to celebrate your accomplishment, and you may be expecting some gifts in the form of checks or cash. As tempting as it may be to go out and spend this money right away, here are a few ways you may be able to put your graduation money to better use.

Begin Paying off Loans

While the stress of tests and papers will soon be off your mind, in comes the anxiety of having to repay those student loans. You’re not alone. Many students rely on loans to help them achieve their degree — the rising student loan debt is proof. Your graduation money may not be able to cover your entire loan, but it could be a good start. Since some loans accrue interest during the grace period, this money may be able to tide you over in the meantime.

You also may want to consider paying down credit card debt. If you racked up credit card debt during college and had only been making minimum payments, now is a good time to pay off any remaining balances so you can begin working on your student loan debt. (You can see how your student loan balances are already affecting your credit scores by using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Summary.)

Invest in Yourself

There are many ways you can invest in yourself after your college graduation. For example, you can pay to speak with a professional like a financial planner or debt attorney. These professionals can help you determine your financial goals and help you sort out your student loans so you can begin the repayment process. Another great investment in yourself is to join a networking group. This can be an opportunity to meet industry professionals and begin making a name for yourself. Speaking of making a name for yourself, consider investing in some professional attire!

Build an Emergency Fund

You may also want to consider “paying yourself first.” Now may be a good time to start saving your money and begin creating the perfect emergency fund. Storing your money away in a savings account can give you time to decide how you would like to best spend your graduation money. Just be careful not to dip into this when you’re looking for quick cash, as you may deplete your savings before you have a chance to put the money to good use!

When starting out in the workforce, things may be uncertain. You may look to change jobs or pursue a different career. An emergency fund can keep you afloat while you’re figuring this out. Consider putting away at least three to six months worth of living expenses.

Invest

Consider using your graduation money to make even more money. Investing in mutual funds, stocks, an individual retirement account or other investment tools while you’re young gives your money more time to compound, which can mean even more money for your future! These funds can be used later to help make larger purchases such as paying for a wedding or making a down payment on a home. Before looking to build your portfolio, consider speaking with a financial planner who can place your money in places that align with your financial goals.

Treat Yourself

You may want to set aside some of that money to treat yourself. After all, you’ve worked hard to earn that diploma and there’s no harm in celebrating this accomplishment with a gift to yourself. Consider using some of your graduation money on a purchase or experience that will remind you of all your hard work in college. This isn’t to say you should blow all this money on a frivolous or impulsive purchase, but life’s accomplishments should be celebrated. Your college graduation is no exception.

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