5 Little-Known Ways to Get Your Student Loans Forgiven

Student loans are a huge burden but they don't necessarily have to be. It's possible to lower your monthly student loan payment with the right tips.

If you feel burdened under the weight of student loan debt, we have some good news: you may be able to get those student loans forgiven. In 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report estimating that up to one in four Americans may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, but only a small percentage are actually using it.

Most student loan forgiveness programs aren’t a secret—but it might seem like they are because so few people take advantage of them. If you’d like to wave a magic wand and make your student loan debt disappear, here are five ways to help make that happen.

1. Loan Forgiveness Programs for Health Care Professionals

If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you could get a significant amount of your student loans forgiven in exchange for your service. Here are a couple programs to check out.

  • The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program: This program is for health-care professionals who serve in the military. You could get up to $50,000 of student loan debt forgiven for each year of military service.
  • Maine Dental Loan Repayment Program: Get up to $20,000 of your student loan debt paid for if you’re a dental professional who sets up shop in an underserved area in Maine. Other states offer similar programs for medical professionals in underserved areas.

2. Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge

Those who took out a Perkins loan to help pay for college and work in a qualifying career could have their entire debt wiped out after five years. All Perkins loan borrowers are eligible for potential loan cancellation or forgiveness. Here’s a look at some of the professions that qualify.

  • Active Duty Military Service: If you served in a hostile fire or imminent danger pay area before August 14, 2008, you could have up to 50% of your loans forgiven. Those who began serving on or after that date may qualify for 100% loan forgiveness.
  • Full-Time Public Service: Police officers, firefighters, and other law enforcement personnel may be able to have 100% of their loans forgiven. Attorneys that work in a community or federal public defender organization may also qualify for total loan forgiveness.
  • Educators: Teachers of certain subjects, special education teachers, and teachers serving low-income students may all be eligible for loan forgiveness up to 100% of the loan. Librarians and speech pathologists in Title I schools may also be eligible.

3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs

There are a number of loan forgiveness programs available for teachers who work in underserved areas. Some are state specific, and others are federal programs. Find out if you qualify for either of the federal programs for teachers.

  • Teacher Cancellation: As noted above, teachers who work full-time at a low-income school may be able to have their Federal Perkins Loan cancelled. This option is also available to teachers of certain subjects like math, science, or bilingual education.
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: This program was designed to encourage people to enter the education field. If you’ve been a full-time teacher for five consecutive years in a designated school or agency, you may be able to have up to $5,000 of Direct and Stafford loans forgiven. Secondary teachers who teach math or science, as well as special education teachers in elementary or secondary schools, may have up to $17,500 of Direct and Stafford loans forgiven. Unfortunately, PLUS loans are not eligible for this forgiveness program.

4. Forgiveness Programs for Volunteering

Some student loan forgiveness programs are related to volunteer work instead of your nine-to-five profession. If you’ve got a penchant for community service, then you might be able to get a little help with your student loans from these organizations.

  • AmeriCorps and VISTA: When you volunteer for AmeriCorps or VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), you can qualify to suspend your student loan payments for the duration of your service. You can also earn time that will help you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • Peace Corps: If you want to volunteer across the globe, the Peace Corps can help you make a difference and move you closer to paying off those student loans. Volunteers receive forbearance of loan payments during their service, and they earn over $8,000 of readjustment allowance and partial Perkins loans cancellation upon completing their service.

5. Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

While no one plans to be disabled, it’s reassuring to know that student loan help is available if you have a terrible accident or become ill. In the worst cases, your entire student loan debt can be wiped out, eliminating this extra worry during an already trying time. There are three ways to demonstrate that you are “totally and permanently” disabled.

  • Military-Related Disability: Veterans can qualify if the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has determined that you cannot work because of an injury incurred during your military service.
  • Social Security Disability: People who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may also qualify to have their student loans discharged.
  • Medical Disability: If a doctor determines that you’re unable to work due to a mental or physical disability, then you may be able to get your student loans discharged. The disability has to have lasted for more than 60 months or be expected to last for more than 60 months.

The Bottom Line

If you’re having trouble paying off your student loans, it’s important to find a workable solution so you don’t default on them. Even if you file for bankruptcy, it can be difficult to have your student loans cancelled, and falling behind on your payments can hurt your credit and may even lead to wage garnishment. If you’re worried that your student loans might be affecting your credit, get a free credit report so you can see exactly what’s going on. Get your free credit score now to make sure your student loans aren’t getting you in trouble.

Student loan forgiveness programs are not an instant solution. For example, one important thing to note is that if you do have your student loans forgiven, you will then owe taxes on the amount forgiven. This is because the IRS counts forgiven student loans as income. So while you might be able to escape your student loans, you should still budget to pay the associated taxes. But loan forgiveness programs can help you rebuild your financial peace of mind. Most people don’t realize that they might qualify for a student loan forgiveness program. Don’t end up in a bad situation where you risk default without looking into the options that are available.

More on Student Loans:

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How Student Loan Debt Affects Your Mental Health

Lenders can sell your loans whenever they want, so it’s important to have some safeguards in place. Here's what you need to know.

Feeling stressed about money isn’t uncommon, but for many people with student loans, the burden takes a toll physically and psychologically.

According to a Student Loan Hero survey of more than 1,000 student loan borrowers, respondents reported experiencing anxiety, insomnia, headaches, social isolation, and more as a result of their student loan debt.

How Student Loan Debt Stress Can Affect You

Starting your career with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt can make the goal of financial security seem unattainable. Among those who responded to the survey, 61% feared their worries over student debt were spiraling out of control.

Respondents also reported the following physical and psychological symptoms due to stress:

  • Social isolation (74%)
  • Headaches (72%)
  • Sleepless nights (65%)
  • Muscle tension (56%)
  • Apprehension or dread (55%)
  • Irritability (55%)
  • Restlessness (53%)
  • Depression (52%)
  • Tenseness (51%)
  • Nausea (50%)
  • Jumpiness (21%)

These debilitating effects can leave you feeling helpless about your student debt. What’s more, they can permeate your life and leave you less productive at work, more isolated from your family and friends, and less happy in general.

If you’ve felt any of these effects of student loan debt, here are three tips on how to get back on track.

1. Get On a Better Repayment Plan

If your student loan payments are pushing you to your limits, you might be able to find relief through an income-driven repayment plan or by refinancing your loans.

Income-Driven Repayment

If you have federal student loans, the Department of Education offers four income-driven repayment plans that can help lower your monthly payments to 10% to 20% of your discretionary income.

These plans extend your repayment term to up to 25 years, so you might end up paying more in interest in the long run, but you’ll get the relief you need now.

Keep in mind that private student loans don’t qualify for these repayment plans. If you have private loans, contact your lender to see if it offers relief for financial hardship.

Refinancing

Whether you have federal or private student loans, you might be able to refinance them to get a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or both.

Several student loan refinancing companies offer low variable- and fixed-interest rates. But even if you don’t qualify for those rates, lenders also offer various repayment terms that can help you get more flexibility in determining your monthly payment.

For example, if you had $30,000 in student debt with a 6.00% APR and 10-year repayment term, your monthly payment would be $333. If you refinanced your loans with a 4.00% APR and the same repayment term, your payment would drop to $304. If you didn’t manage to get a lower interest rate but extended your repayment term to 15 years, your payment would still drop to $253.

Again, extending your repayment term could mean you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan. But if your goal is to get relief now, it’s a viable short-term solution. And you can always refinance again in the future.

2. Get the Rest of Your Finances in Order

Massive student loan debt can be daunting enough. But if the problem is compounded by other financial woes, focusing on your student loans alone might not be enough.

For example, if you have bad credit, review your credit report to see if there are any areas you can start working on immediately. Delinquent accounts can damage your credit score the longer you’re late on payments. If you have any delinquent accounts, get them paid up to avoid worse consequences.

If things are really bad, consider working with a credit repair company to get the help you need and get back on track.

If you’re having trouble with student loan payments, create a budget to see if there are areas where you could cut back so you can manage your payments more easily.

To get started, calculate your income and monthly expenses. Then set goals for your monthly spending to make sure you can set aside extra cash for your student loans. Consider using a budgeting app to make the process go more smoothly.

Lastly, take stock of your other debt. If you have high-interest credit card debt, consider consolidating the debt with a low-interest personal loan or 0% balance transfer card. With less of your monthly payment going to interest, you’ll pay down your debt more quickly.

3. Seek Help if You Need It

If you’re suffering from the negative psychological effects of student loan debt, don’t rule out professional help. A financial therapist can help you put your student debt troubles into perspective and provide you with healthy ways to cope with your student debt and other financial issues.

The most important thing is that you have a plan. Using these tips can help you get started, but it’s up to you to set goals and follow through.

As you take steps to address your student debt and the psychological issues that come with it, you can develop the confidence to gain more control over your money—and your life.

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4 Financial Factors to Keep in Mind When Budgeting for College

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In the US, the amount of student debt has reached over $1.4 trillion. The bad news for students currently planning on attending college is that tuition isn’t getting any cheaper. Insofar as there’s good news, students are being more financially cautious when planning for college, researching their student loan options, opting to stay in state, or even taking time to earn residency for out-of-state public schools. But college costs aren’t just about paying the university itself. Here are some expected and some less obvious costs students need to budget for when heading to college.

1. Factor in Student Loan Interest

You already know to think about tuition (and perhaps how it compares to the amount of financial aid your top choices offer), but one thing many students don’t really think about until the first bill comes in is how much student loan interest can add to the overall cost.

For the average loan rate of $30,000 at 4% interest, the interest adds over $7,000 for the life of the loan. And that’s if you make all your payments on time—many students end up with loan amounts far higher than that. Some students learn the hard way that they’ll be paying about as much in interest as the amount they took out—or more. You don’t want to be taken by surprise when you get your first bill, so make sure you factor interest in early on.

2. Look into All of a School’s Required Expenses and Fees

Though tuition is the biggest expense, colleges routinely require a large number of other expenses. Textbooks and supplies can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Further, many schools expect students to live on campus and purchase a meal plan their first year, and these annual on-campus housing and meal plans can cost about $9,000.

According to the New York Times, mandatory fees are on the rise, and they cost students at four-year public colleges nearly $1,700 during the 2015–2016 school year. These fees range from understandable to seemingly arbitrary—schools charge for everything from dropping a class to “student success fees.” In fact, mandatory fees have risen 30% more than tuition since 1999, so make sure you look into what fees will tack on to your overall college expenses.

3. Consider Transportation

Wherever you go to college, you’ll need to get around. Some schools are located in areas with thriving public transportation or have compact enough campuses that you can bike or walk most of the time. In these cases, you should simply check how much public transportation costs (it could be free or heavily discounted for students), and consider bike maintenance expenses in your budgeting if relevant.

If your school is located somewhere where a car is necessary (or if you want the option of driving home on the weekends), then you have a number of additional expenses to consider—in addition to the car itself, of course:

  • Parking—Many colleges charge hefty parking fees (often to discourage crowding the campus with cars). However, some housing will include parking spaces or garages.
  • Insurance—If you’re staying in state for school, you can stay on a parent’s insurance policy (as long as your primary residence is still your home address). Make sure you consider coverage beyond the state-required liability coverage, and always make sure to compare quotes to find the best coverage at the best rate.
  • Gas—Pro tip: If your friends are bumming rides to the grocery store or elsewhere around campus, ask them to chip in for gas.
  • Maintenance—Take preventative care of your car, get regular check-ups, and keep supplies like jumper cables and an ice scraper in your trunk.

Don’t forget the wonders of modern transportation options. Consider ridesharing or check out car2go or Zipcar for on-demand driving alternatives.

Also, if you’re heading a longer distance from home to go to school, you’ll need to factor flights into your yearly expenses.

4. Don’t Forget the Fun Stuff

Yes, you’re there to learn, but college is full of new experiences, so don’t neglect budgeting for those as well.

Big sports fan? Season student tickets to football, basketball, hockey, etc. can cost a chunk of change. Into theater or music? College campuses draw great talent on small and big stages alike, and ticket prices can run a wide range.

Cold or hot beverage? Pitch in for a tailgate beer or two, and anticipate needing LOTS of caffeine. And ice cream can help get you through exams, so put a little change aside for these treats, too.

Spring break can also be expensive. Whether it’s a trip to the beach or the ski slopes, if a springtime trip is in your future, set some travel funds aside.

Bonus Build Good Financial Habits Now (and Thank Yourself Later)

In addition to budgeting, you can start building other good financial habits for long-term benefit.

Start earning. Think about work options—but don’t be overly ambitious. Working during your college years can help offset your expenses, but if you try to work too much, you risk letting your studies slip and not getting your money’s worth for tuition. Don’t assume you can pull off a full-time job and still finish in four years when you’re working out your budget. Consider a more realistic goal of 15–20 hours a week, and if you decide to do work-study, apply fast before the jobs get snatched up.

Start building credit.

College is the perfect time to seriously start building your credit so you can more easily navigate post-college life.

Consider getting a student credit card and responsibly using it so you build your credit during your four years. Start with a small credit line and choose a card that rewards you for making your payments on time. When you build your credit during college, you’ll be set up to smoothly maneuver the post-grad life experiences that require good credit, including finding housing, purchasing a car, saving on insurance, or starting your own business. Your credit score is partly affected by your track record of making credit payments over time, so you’ll be glad you started building your credit early.

College is expensive, and even if you do everything right, there’s still a good chance you’ll have loans hanging over your head for a while after graduation. It’s worth making cautious decisions based on financial considerations when choosing your college and budgeting for the next four years, but know that if you keep up with your studies, it will likely all pay off.

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Baby Boomer Student Debt by State

Teenage girl with hands on face victim of cyber bullying

Millennials aren’t the only ones racking up billions of dollars in student debt.

Turns out, in three out of every four states, “the total outstanding student debt held by borrowers over age 60 increased by more than 50 percent [since 2012].” This data comes from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which also found that from 2012 to 2017, the number of baby boomers with student debt has increased by “at least 20 percent in every state.”

What’s even more shocking is the actual dollar amount of total baby boomer student debt for each state—Texas comes in at $6,760,220,000, and it didn’t even make the top three.

See how much baby boomer student debt your state has accumulated. (Hint: at the very least, it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars.)

50. Wyoming

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $111,834,100

49. Alaska

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $147,871,000

48. North Dakota

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $185,125,700

47. South Dakota

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $266,013,100

46. Idaho

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $325,985,500

45. Montana

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $346,712,800

44. Vermont

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $347,352,700

43. Hawaii

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $387,892,000

42. West Virginia

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $416,178,800

41. Utah

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $467,623,300

40. Nebraska

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $521,516,000

39. Delaware

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $536,479,200

38. Maine

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $588,882,100

37. New Mexico

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $603,955,600

36. Rhode Island

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $609,235,400

35. Arkansas

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $620,612,800

34. Mississippi

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $672,880,700

33. Kansas

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $718,827,000

32. Nevada

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $735,935,000

31. New Hampshire

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $807,447,200

30. Kentucky

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $865,166,500

29. Iowa

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $881,100,300

28. Oklahoma

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,050,950,000

27. Louisiana

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,177,845,000

26. Oregon

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,249,198,000

25. Alabama

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,299,578,000

24. South Carolina

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,538,660,000

23. Wisconsin

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,542,771,000

22. Tennessee

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,653,585,000

21. Missouri

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,717,022,000

20. Arizona

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,854,555,000

19. Minnesota

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,873,396,000

18. Connecticut

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,902,854,000

17. Colorado

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $1,915,617,000

16. Indiana

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $2,029,478,000

15. Washington

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $2,056,024,000

14. North Carolina

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $2,489,550,000

13. Virginia

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $2,748,123,000

12. Georgia

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $3,345,422,000

11. Michigan

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $3,421,531,000

10. Maryland

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $3,559,640,000

9. Massachusetts

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $3,668,714,000

8. Ohio

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $4,637,882,000

7. New Jersey

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $4,742,573,000

6. Illinois

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $5,103,916,000

5. Texas

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $6,760,220,000

4. Pennsylvania

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $6,830,725,000

3. Florida

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $7,132,025,000

2. New York

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $9,181,882,000

1. California

Total student balance for borrowers age 60 and older: $11,274,120,000

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Why Your Credit Score Is Important as a Student

College is even better with the right credit cards. Don't miss out on deals and cash back!

Attending college comes with a host of new responsibilities, and your parents have (hopefully) sent you off with the wisdom and encouragement you need to handle those responsibilities on your own. Your studies and your GPA are your top priorities, but you may have other obligations that are important too. Whether you are responsible for paying tuition, holding a part-time job, or fulfilling an internship, these life-learning experiences can help you prepare for your future career.

While you’re busy writing term papers and picking up weekend shifts, though, there’s something else you should be working on: your credit score. That little number will play a significant role in your financial future, so here’s a closer look at why your credit score is so important as a student and how you can build, maintain, and keep your credit score in tip-top shape.

Why Credit Matters

1. Your future job opportunities may depend on it.

Once you graduate, you will be applying for jobs that will kick-start your career, and your goal is to land a job that not only makes you good money but is enjoyable as well. If you’re not careful, though, a poor credit score could keep you from getting that dream job.

Many employers run credit checks before they hire a candidate. A good credit score tells an employer that you are an organized and responsible person. You may have all the qualities they are looking for and your skill set may fit every description to land the job, but if your credit score is in bad shape, your opportunity may be given to another candidate with the same skill set and a better credit score.

2. Good credit could help you land your first apartment.

You may decide to live at home with your parents for the first few years after graduating college. This temporary arrangement can help you save up enough money to get yourself out on your own and into your first apartment. But keep an eye on your credit during this period, as it could impact your ability to get an apartment down the line.

Even if you have enough money for the deposit, your future landlord wants to be assured that you will be a responsible tenant that pays the rent on time, so they may check your credit report. If your score is low and your credit report shows that you aren’t paying your creditors on time, you may not get approved to rent the apartment.

3. You usually need solid credit to secure the best interest rates on loans.

Want the best interest rates on your future auto loan or mortgage? Then you need good credit. Getting the best interest rates on car loans, home mortgages, or any other type of loan generally requires a great credit score.

Lenders will base your interest rate on multiple factors, but your credit score will often carry a lot of the weight in that determination. If your credit is pristine, you have the upper hand—with a better chance to negotiate in your favor. Shopping around for the best interest rates on loans is easier with an excellent credit history and score.

Once you understand why your credit score is important, you’re ready to start building and maintaining it.

How to Start Building Credit

If you are starting from scratch as a college student and don’t have any credit history, a secured credit card is the safest and best option. A secured credit card is one of the best ways to build credit because an up-front refundable cash deposit is required to serve as your credit line. The cash deposit also serves as collateral in case you default on payments. In some cases, you might qualify for a credit line that’s higher than your deposit, but you can always expect to put some money down for a secured card.

While you never want to default on any credit card and should avoid it at all costs, that deposit does provide a way for you to pay off the card if you come upon unfortunate financial circumstances. However, even though the credit card company may be able to recoup the amount owed with your deposit, your late payments will still be reported to the major credit bureaus and you may still incur interest and late fees.

If you make purchases and pay the balance in full and on time consistently, you will create a positive credit history, and at that point, you will be able to apply for an unsecured credit card. Just keep in mind that if you are under 21 and do not have proof that you are employed, you will need a parent to co-sign your credit card.

How to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape

It may be tempting to treat yourself to something you want when you first receive that credit card, but you should try to steer clear of making purchases that are not necessary. Understanding your wants versus your needs is key to keeping your spending habits in check.

It’s important to live within your means and to keep your credit card balances well below your credit limit. It’s also crucial to pay your credit card bills on time consistently. Having a budget and cap on your spending each month will also help you maintain positive financial habits and make good decisions before buying. And once you have built credit and established a good credit history, you’ll still want to continue these steps to keep your score healthy and robust well into the future.

Credit is a big deal. Whether you’re just starting to build credit or have been working to build your score for a while, regularly checking your standing is a great practice—it’ll give you insight into your credit habits and alert you to any fraudulent activities that might be hurting your score. You can check your credit report for free at Credit.com.

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4 Ways to Find the Perfect Mentor for You—for Free

Don't let your parents' bad habits become yours. Here's how to do money the right way.

About 86% of CFOs say having a mentor is important to career development, according to a 2016 survey performed by Accountemps.

So if having a mentor is so important, why do only 26% of workers have one?

Unless your company offers a mentorship program, you probably haven’t found one, either. Fortunately, finding a mentor for free is easy enough if you’re willing to put in the work. There is no one perfect mentor out there for everyone, and there is no one perfect way to find mentors. But we do have some tips that can help.

So if you’re ready to find a mentor, here are four different ways to find the best mentor for you, for free.

1. Make a Connection at Your School or Workplace

The most natural way to find a mentor for free is to ask someone on campus (if you’re still in school) or in your office (if you’ve already graduated).

If you’re still in school, you will want to take advantage of your college networking offerings. If you have a job with more experienced colleagues, see if you can develop a rapport with one. Ideally, you’ll meet someone who holds a position you want down the road and is willing to work with you as your mentor.

The benefits of working with someone in your immediate network is that they can potentially go beyond helping you develop your skills. They could also help you navigate the office environment or work toward a better job.

Some companies offer mentoring programs that match seasoned professionals with entry-level newbies. In fact, 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer such a program, according to a 2015 white paper by mentoring-software maker Chronus.

Take advantage of a formal program if your school (via its alumni association) or company offers one. If it doesn’t, become buddies with potential mentors in your social and professional circles by taking the time to get to know them.

As you might have learned from a bad first job, offering to buy a cup of coffee or contribute on a side project could get your foot in the door.

2. Make a Connection Online

You should make mentoring connections online even if you have options a few desks away. But if you’re short on approachable or helpful senior colleagues, this step becomes even more important.

The most common advice is to look for someone who is where you want to be in five or ten years. But beyond that, it’s also good to consider people who aren’t in your field. A former professor, for example, might be able to think more outside the box because they’re less aware of conventional wisdom that could lead you astray.

The people you’re connected with might ask for a fee. If that’s the case, consider these free ways to find mentors online instead:

  • Perform an online search for industry conferences.
  • Use a free website like com.
  • Find a com group near you.
  • Send LinkedIn invites (while LinkedIn tests its matchmaking service).
  • Email contacts asking for side projects and volunteer opportunities.

Be on the lookout for mentoring groups that specialize, such as those for minorities, women, students, and career-changers. The National Mentoring Partnership allows you to search for programs in your area.

Just don’t take anyone at face value. “Nowadays, if you spend more than five minutes online, you’ll see that everyone and their cousin has advice,” New York City–based career coach Carlota Zimmerman said. “Be very leery. The difference between a mentor and a busybody is that a mentor has been in your shoes, made their own mistakes, and earned their wisdom.”

3. Offer as Much Value as You Receive

Asking someone to be your mentor might seem like a grand proposal. So don’t ask. Work to develop the relationship instead.

Perhaps the fastest way to speed up the relationship is to create a two-way street between you and your potential mentor.

“It’s important to note that people who have attained a measure of success value their time and will not mentor just anyone,” said David S. Patterson, the president of The Kineta Group, an executive search and consulting firm. “They do not necessarily need something in return for the mentorship, but they do need to make sure that whoever they mentor will not waste their time.”

Offering to apprentice on your potential mentor’s next project could go a long way. A mentor who can put you to work is just as valuable as, if not more valuable than, one who simply lets you pick their brain.

The most value you can offer to your potential mentor is to become the professional they wouldn’t hesitate to hire or recommend to a colleague. Imagine if you went from a research assistant on a pro bono project to becoming a full-time employee. Your mentor might become your boss.

Don’t discount small opportunities to provide value. As a younger professional, maybe you can trade your technical expertise to a mid-career professional in exchange for career navigation tips.

4. Foster Your Connection over Time

Once you’ve zeroed in on potential mentors, you need to maintain the relationship. The onus will be on you.

Think about what value you want from your mentor and how much time you can dedicate to the mentoring process. You may want to set up recurring in-person or online meetings to keep in touch. Remember that these meetings are your responsibility, so you’ll want to prepare for each conversation by compiling notes on what you want to discuss. Because your mentor is giving you their time, you should be leading the discussion.

It’s also wise to review your mentoring relationships every so often to ensure that you are getting what you need out of the relationship. If you don’t feel like you’re getting the value you want, it might be time to cut the cord and dedicate more time to other mentors.

Be Open to All Sorts of Mentors

Ideally, all professionals would easily find mentors who could help them grow as individuals. But by seeking out people you can truly relate to, you might come up empty at first. Don’t stop searching. Consider other types of mentors, too.

“Mentors don’t have to be people you know,” author and speaker Shawn Anderson said. “They can be people you study, too. My two biggest life influences and mentors are people I have never met.”

Anderson said he learned his sense of personal accountability from reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and adopted his professional style from author Og Mandino. So maybe your next best mentor isn’t your boss or a new connection on LinkedIn. Maybe it’s someone in your family, someone who lives on your block, or even someone you read about.

If you’ve seen successful professionals share their early-career learnings, you’ve probably heard them rattle off the names of all sorts of mentors. Most successful people had help from different types of mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask for it—free of charge.

And for the rest of business needs that don’t come free, there are loans to help. Check out our Small Business Loan Center for more information on finding financing as an entrepreneur or small-business owner.

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Why You Should Start Paying Interest on Student Loans Immediately

College is even better with the right credit cards. Don't miss out on deals and cash back!

Whether you’re just starting college or are entering your senior year, chances are you’ve taken out student loans somewhere along the way. With many student loans, you aren’t required to make payments at all until about six months after you’re no longer enrolled in school full-time.

That’s a good thing, right? Well, maybe not.

In fact, making absolutely no payments on your student loans while you’re in school can mean that you graduate with a lot more debt than you expected. That’s because interest accrues on some of these loans while you’re still a student.

Did I lose you? Don’t worry. Here’s a quick primer on what all that means for you.

Understanding How Interest Works on Federal Student Loans

First, know that we’re mainly talking about federal student loans here. If you have private loans, they may work differently. Check your loan paperwork to find out.

When it comes to federal student loans, though, they fall into two main categories: subsidized and unsubsidized.

You have to meet certain income qualifications to get subsidized student loans. If you qualify, the government will pay the interest on these loans while you’re still enrolled in school. We’ll see in a moment why that’s advantageous.

On the flip side, the government does not pay interest on unsubsidized student loans while you’re in school, but you’re still not required to make payments.

On unsubsidized loans, interest is charged from the day the loan is issued. You can figure out this date from your loan paperwork. So if you have a loan with a 5% interest rate, that annual interest is charged starting on the issue date.

Most loan interest is compounded daily, meaning that the total interest rate is divided by the number of days in the year. Each day, the lender charges that amount of interest on the loan’s outstanding balance.

So if you don’t make any loan or interest payments while you’re in the grace period, your interest continues to accrue. The longer you go without making payments, the more interest will accumulate.

This, in and of itself, isn’t the end of the world. You can always catch up on interest payments once your grace period is over. However, capitalization can turn accrued interest into a huge problem.

At certain points in the life of your loan—like when your grace period ends or after you exit a period of deferment—any unpaid interest on the loan capitalizes. This means that the unpaid interest is added to the loan’s principal balance. Then your interest is calculated based on that new, higher balance. So not only do you have a higher balance to pay off, but your interest payments are higher each month, too.

Doing the Math

This is all kind of confusing, so let’s look at how the math breaks down.

Let’s say you take out a $10,000 unsubsidized federal student loan at 5% annual interest. You’ll pay 0.013699% interest daily. Doesn’t sound like much, but it comes out to about $1.37 each day. So over the course of a month, you’ll accrue roughly $42 in interest.

Again, that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, so what’s the big deal?

Well, play this out over the course of your college career. You take out this loan as a freshman, and you let interest accrue for your entire school career, including the six-month grace period after you graduate. Let’s say that totals 54 months.

In 54 months, your total interest accrued on the loan is around $2,268. If that interest capitalizes when your grace period ends, your principal balance is now $12,268. That means your daily interest is about $1.68, making your monthly interest about $51.

Again, it doesn’t seem like a huge amount of money. But multiplied by several years’ worth of student loans, it can really add up.

This is just a general example, though. You can use this calculator to determine just how accrued interest could affect your particular student loans.

Making Interest-Only Payments

Even if you can’t make full interest-only payments, paying what you can to reduce your loans’ capitalized interest is a smart idea. To figure out how to do this, just get in touch with your student loan servicer. Usually you can send in your payments online.

Since you’re not technically on the hook for paying off your loans, you don’t have to make payments every month. But if you come into some extra cash or get a paid internship, consider devoting some of your budget to paying off your student loan interest.

Student loans can be overwhelming, but paying off interest as you go is one way to pay less in the long run. If you have more questions on the best way to tackle your loans, check out these additional student loan resources for expert answers and guidance.

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Get a Better ROI on Your Education in These 7 States

Lenders can sell your loans whenever they want, so it’s important to have some safeguards in place. Here's what you need to know.

If you went to a private college 36 years ago, you would have paid only $3,617 each year for college, according to the College Board. Today, you’d pay $33,479. That kind of price tag is enough to make you wonder whether college is worth the cost. One way to find out is to consider the return on investment of your degree.

Top 7 States Where College Is Worth the Cost

Student Loan Hero (SLH) crunched the numbers to figure out the ROI of college degrees across all 50 states. As the organization found out, where you live has a big impact on the value of your degree. For this survey, SLH compared the average salary of a worker with a high school diploma to that of a college graduate five years after graduation. It also looked at the cost of college in each state. The average graduate sees an ROI on their college degree of 52%. For students in these seven states, the returns were even greater. Here are the states where college gives you the most bang for your buck.

7. California

Earning your degree could give you a 102% five-year ROI in California.

Workers with a high school diploma make an average of about $27,963, whereas those with a bachelor’s bring in an average of $56,010. Thanks to this major boost, college grads make back the cost of college in just 2.5 years.

6. Arizona

A bachelor’s degree in Arizona will set you back an average of about $52,524, but you’ll make back that investment within 2.5 years. Plus, you’ll enjoy an average yearly salary of $48,159 after five years. Compared to just a high school degree, you’ll see a 79% pay bump.

5. Georgia

Georgia residents enjoy average salaries of $49,989 five years out of college. That’s 90% more than Georgians with a high school diploma, who make closer to $26,000. As a Georgia resident, a bachelor’s degree could nearly double your income.

4. Texas

College is also a worthwhile investment for people in the Lone Star State. The cost of a bachelor’s degree is a little high at $57,121, but Texans make that investment back in just 2.3 years. Five years after graduation, you could be making an average of $51,701 per year. If you didn’t go to college, your salary would be closer to the average $27,232.

3. Arkansas

Arkansas college grads see a 71% increase in pay after five years compared to workers with a high school diploma. Graduates make an average salary of $44,101, whereas workers who didn’t go to college make an average of $25,767.

Although Arkansas residents must pay $41,629 for college, they break even in just 2.3 years. Plus, Arkansas grads see an impressive 120% ROI on their college education after half a decade.

2. New Mexico

New Mexico students also enjoy a high ROI on their college degrees. In fact, the average grad sees a return of 151%. Wages for college grads are actually on the low side compared to other states. After five years, grads make an average of $43,257.

But compared to workers without a college degree, these grads see an average pay bump of $17,510. Plus, they don’t have to take on a lot of debt for college, since a bachelor’s degree costs just $34,945. Most college grads break even on their educational investment within two years.

1. Wyoming

Wyoming tops the list of states where college degrees have the highest ROI. Wyoming graduates make an average salary of $45,519. They make over $13,000 more per year than people without a college degree.

Students in Wyoming also see low costs for college credits. The average student pays just $22,422 for their degree. Within a few years, Wyoming grads see a whopping 203% return on their college education.

Consider ROI When Choosing a College

A college education isn’t just about investments and returns, of course. But with the high cost of tuition these days, you can’t afford not to think about ROI. Before taking on too much student debt, make sure to consider where you live, as well as other important factors.

  • Take location into account. The state you live in can have a big impact on both the cost of college and your future income. If colleges in your area are too expensive, you might consider attending school elsewhere (just remember to take into account any tuition differences if you don’t have residency in a state). If you’ve already graduated, you could move to reduce your cost of living.
  • Choose a lucrative major. Consider how your choice of major will impact your future earnings. Those who study engineering, for example, might start with higher salaries upon graduating than someone who studies psychology.
  • Set specific career goals. College involves a lot of exploration, but you should also think about what kind of work you’re good at and enjoy. By setting attainable career goals and working toward them, you can make the most of your college education.
  • Don’t forget about graduate school. If your future career requires a graduate degree, you’ll need to spend more money for further education. Instead of taking on too much debt for your undergrad, make room in your budget for future schooling.
  • Learn about student loan repayment and refinancing. Even if you don’t know what your future job will be or where you’ll live, you can calculate your future student loan payments to ensure they’re reasonable. Plus, you can learn how refinancing after college can save you money on interest.

A college education is an investment in yourself and your future. When choosing a school, make sure to consider where you’ll live and what you’ll do. If you can be flexible about location, moving to a different state could be the best decision for your finances.

Either way, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared for whatever the future holds. Check out the best credit cards for college students and get your free credit report to avoid any unwanted surprises before you apply.

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6 Fast and Affordable Recipes for College Students

College is expensive and so are apartments. Finding a college apartment that fits into your budget is possible with a few simple tricks.

Cooking for yourself in college can be a struggle, especially with hundreds of other things constantly on your mind. Some dorms come with kitchens, while others don’t. Some students have fridges, while others don’t. Some people love having piles of snacks in their room, while others don’t. If you want to feed yourself in a healthy and inexpensive way straight out of your dorm room, we’ve compiled a list of quick, easy recipes that require minimal equipment and, honestly, minimal cooking. If you have a mug and a microwave—or a fridge and a Tupperware container—you can make a combination of most of these recipes. Some require a little more prep than others, but all of these dishes are perfect for college.

1. Scrambled Eggs

Did you know you can make eggs in the microwave? If you have a fridge in your dorm room, you can easily go through a dozen eggs a week making just about anything. We love classic, protein-packed scrambled eggs because they’re just so easy. You’ll need all the usual ingredients—eggs, milk and cheese. Mix the milk and eggs in a microwave-safe cup and microwave in 30-second increments until the eggs are cooked. Then add the cheese and microwave a few seconds more if it doesn’t melt right away. As long as you have a mug, microwave, and fridge, you’re set for college breakfasts.

2. Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

If you have a sweet tooth, you can try this trendy breakfast idea. Overnight oats are popular right now, mostly because they’re so convenient to make and (almost surprisingly) delicious. The Minimalist Baker adds peanut butter and chia seeds to the oats to add healthy fats and protein. Use a mason jar or small Tupperware container to store this dish overnight. Rolled oats are super cheap and will last forever under your bed, just like peanut butter, so you’ll need to worry only about storing the almond milk in a fridge. If you want to save a bit more money, you can substitute almond milk for regular milk.

3. Riceless Risotto

Risotto might sound like something way out of reach for a college student, but it’s actually reasonably priced if you make it without rice in a microwave. Instead of traditional Arborio rice, Bran Appetit suggests the use of quick oats for your risotto. Oats are extremely cheap (and can also be used for the aforementioned overnight oats), so they’re a great pick for this hearty dish. You can add some vegetables, cheese, and chicken stock to finish off this rich, microwaveable dish. With minimal prep, you can wow your friends when you tell them you’re eating risotto in your college dorm room.

4. Mac and Cheese

We all know, and either love or hate, that bright orange, pre-packaged microwave mac and cheese. You can make a more natural version of this comfort food easily in the microwave, minus the packets of “cheese” powder. Made by Monique proves that a mug full of water can cook some dry pasta in just a few minutes. If you add your favorite cheeses and a little butter or onion powder, you can have your very own rich mac and cheese in under ten minutes.

5. Burrito Bowl

It can be difficult to cook chicken fully in the microwave, but if you can find some cheap precooked chicken at the grocery store, then it’s super easy to throw it on top of any microwave concoction. We’re loving burrito bowls because they’re high in protein and flavor. With a microwave-safe bowl, you can cook some minute rice and warm up some canned beans, then top with store-brand salsa, cheese, and that precooked chicken for a quick and very affordable meal. If you have a few extra bucks to spend for the week, make your own guacamole with an avocado and a little lime juice.

6. Chickpea, Avocado, and Feta Salad

Speaking of avocado, you can make some great salads in college without really cooking at all. Besides some minor prep, Two Peas & Their Pod’s version of a chickpea, avocado, and feta salad doesn’t require much work or any heat at all. If your dorm has a small kitchen, this recipe will work perfectly because you’ll need somewhere to chop the onions, cilantro, and avocado. You can also borrow a friend’s kitchen in return for feeding them some of this delectable salad.

If you’re a college student, finding easy meals to make is only part of the battle—you still have to account for buying all the ingredients. Check out our Best Student Credit Cards in America to see if there’s a card that can help you manage your weekly food costs. What are your go-to recipes for keeping your belly happy on a tight budget?

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How to Save Big on Your Back-to-School Shopping

It's easy to overspend at World Market but with these ways to save, you can breathe a sigh of relief when checking your receipt.

Back-to-school season generally starts around two months before the beginning of school—so if you haven’t started yet, you’re already behind. What once required a few Dixon Ticonderoga pencils and a notebook now requires carts full of supplies. In 2016, the National Retail Federation estimated that families with children in grades K–12 would spend an average of $673 on clothes, accessories, school supplies, electronics, and shoes during the back-to-school season. Based on robust wage growth, I expect that number to increase for 2017.

While most parents will take advantage of some sales during the back-to-school season, you can save more by identifying the right time to buy. As an industry insider, I can give you the tips you need to save on back-to-school shopping.

Back-to-School Clothes

A lot of people are shocked to learn that clearance sales aren’t necessarily the best time to buy clothes. When the items go on clearance, the first markdown will generally be in the neighborhood of 20ؘ%–30%. On the other hand, retailers will regularly mark down items 40% during a one- to two-week sale.

The only clothes you want to buy on clearance are those that will go beyond a store’s first markdown. Unfortunately, markdown rates are set on a store-by-store basis according to inventory levels and can be difficult to predict. As a result, I don’t risk waiting for deep clearance discounts.

Instead, take advantage of seasonal sales for the best results. The deals vary by category, so I give some specific guidance of finding the best clothing deals.

Uniforms

Major clothing retailers will often advertise an annual “uniform sale.” This sale takes place a few weeks before private schools reopen in your area. Start watching weekly ads the week following the Fourth of July to be sure you catch the deals.

During their uniform sales, major retailers (especially Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart) offer huge discounts on khakis, polos, and black pants. You’ll want to buy enough during the sale to last the whole year.

When I worked in retail, savvy parents with kids in private school would often buy two to three different sizes during uniform sales. That way, they didn’t have to pay full price when their kid inevitably grew during the school year.

By the way, public school parents should pay attention to these sales, too. They are the people who get caught paying full price for Dockers when their kid has to wear black pants for a holiday band performance.

Summer Styles

Summer styles typically go on sale in May and June, and they tend to go to clearance by early July. After the first day of school, your kids will probably spend weeks or even months going to school in shorts and T-shirts (depending on where you live), so you may want to supplement your school wardrobe with summer fashion choices that go on sale during those earlier months.

You won’t find sales on summer styles during back-to-school shopping, but you might find some decent clearance items. Remember, the first markdown on clearance is usually in the 20%–30% off bracket.

That’s not a great deal, and you’ll probably find fall fashion sales with lower-priced options. However, if you see an item for 50%–60% off the original price, it’s a good deal and worth buying if it fits your clothing needs. An item for 70%–75% off retail will generally be out of the store in a week or two, so snap that deal up immediately.

Steep discounts on clearance items don’t mean the product has quality issues. It just indicates that the product didn’t sell well at that particular store. Most stores have limited return policies on clearance items, however, so be sure you know the policy before you buy the item.

Fall Styles

Fall styles typically start to go on sale in mid-July. Kids and teens who like shopping at name-brand stores should watch out for “annual denim sales,” which typically happen in early August. Certain denim styles stay on the market year round, making this the best time of the year to buy jeans.

In general, it’s best to skip most other “fall style” pieces until winter. The most popular fall styles will stick around until November, when you can scoop them up at significant discounts during the holiday discount season. The exception to this rule would be any BOGO (buy one, get one) deals that make sense for your kids’ fashion needs.

Backpacks and Lunchboxes

The new school year means a new backpack and lunchbox, right?

If your kid is still young enough to want cartoon characters or superheroes on their backpack and lunchbox, then a back-to-school sale will yield the best prices. These backpacks usually won’t stick around after September.

Likewise, you can find deals on insulated lunchboxes (which are also appropriate for adults who brown-bag). Buy during the back-to-school sale, and you’ll thank yourself later. While most retailers will stock a few extra lunchbox styles during the peak season, you shouldn’t expect to find these on clearance. Most stores stock just enough lunchboxes to get through the back-to-school rush.

However, teen and adult backpacks are a totally different story. Sporting goods stores will put these on a steep discount during the November and December holiday season. You also may see deals on camping backpacks in April and May. This is one purchase that is worth putting off if you can.

Electronics

One thing I can’t stand is when I see parents buying new electronics for the upcoming school year. Yes, retailers will discount computers, calculators, and the like for the “back to college” rush, but waiting just a few months can save huge coin. So when should you buy?

Calculators

If you’ve got a middle or high school student, they will probably need a TI-83+ for their math class. This is something that you should buy used, preferably in May or June when college graduates are unloading theirs for rock-bottom prices.

If you must buy new, June is the time to do it. Some online retailers will try to compete with the used market by dropping their prices. Set up a notification on CamelCamelCamel.com, and you’ll find deals around $75.

Laptops

College students who want to buy Apple products should shop online or at the Apple Store for the best deals. Usually, Apple will provide student warranties, extra software, or other bonuses during late July and August. Apple doesn’t usually drop its prices, but the bonuses can be worthwhile. Netbooks and other lower-capacity laptops tend to see rock-bottom prices during Black Friday sales in late November.

Generic School Supplies

Ten-cent folders and crayons for a quarter? Deals like these will start rolling in about four to five weeks before schools start. Watch weekly ads to find the local loss leaders (a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services), and buy them right away. If you’re feeling extra generous, stock up on generic school supplies and donate them to your local school. The teachers will thank you for saving their pocketbooks.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to deplete your bank account. In fact, some credit cards will even offer rewards for back-to-school shopping. But before you apply for a card—which could ding your credit when the card provider checks your score—make sure you’ve got the requisite credit by checking your credit report for free at Credit.com.

Hannah L. Rounds is a contributor at CentSai, a financial wellness community for millennials and Gen Xers. She loves talking and writing about the counterintuitive intersections between marriage, family, money, and careers. In addition to “geeking” out over personal finance, she loves cooking, reading to her son, snowboarding, and watching superhero shows on Netflix.

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