Debt

student loansIt may not be your first priority, but preparing to repay your student loans should be on your pre-graduation to-do list. How you manage your student loan payments will shape your finances for decades to come, so know what you’re dealing with before you get swept up in the day-to-day demands of post-graduate life.

Before you leave school, also make sure you know the answers to the following questions. Good news: We’re giving you them (or at least telling how to find them on your own).

1. What Kind of Loans Do I Have?

You either have private student loans or federal loans. You can look up your federal loans using the National Student Loan Data System (NLDS). You should have the paperwork from your lender or student loan servicer (private and federal) from when you took out the loan. Private loans generally come from traditional banking institutions, while federal loans are issued by the government. Common federal loans include Direct subsidized loans, Direct unsubsidized loans and Perkins loans.

2. Whom Do I Owe?

You can find this information in the resources referenced above. Your financial aid office should have information on file as well, since they receive the money. If you haven’t gone through student loan exit counseling at school, you need to before you graduate. They’ll explain whom to pay, and it’s the perfect time to ask any questions. Once you know who’s managing your loans, set up an online account to access all your information.

3. What Are My Repayment Options?

This depends on the type of loans you have. Private student loan repayment tends to follow a typical installment loan repayment structure, in which you make monthly payments for a fixed loan term. Federal student loans offer more options. The default play is called standard repayment: fixed monthly payments for 10 years. If you want a lower monthly payment when you start out, you can change your repayment plan at any time for free, though the change may not take effect immediately. If you want to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan, graduated repayment or extended repayment, be sure to request a new plan through your student loan servicer as soon as you can. You can learn more about student loan repayment options here. ...continue reading

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bare bones budget
via stockmonkeys.com

If you’re in debt, you may find yourself trying to balance bills, debt repayment, and miscellaneous expenses. A great way to start paying off your debt is to create a bare bones budget. This budget will show you how to live on less, and get your financial life back in order.

Go Through Your Current Budget

The first step to creating your bare bones budget is to evaluate your current budget. If you don’t have a budget, it’s time to create one. Go through your income and expenses from the last few months, and write everything down in categories. Once your current budget has been assessed, it’s time to determine your wants vs. needs.

Wants vs. Needs

Looking at your current budget, are there ways that you can cut back? A bare bones budget is exactly what it’s called...bare. It involves your needs only, with very little room for wants.

Could you be spending less on food? Could you live in a smaller or cheaper place? What about current bills? If you are trying to pay off debt a little faster, it’s best to cut bills like cable and phones until you can really afford them. There are other ways to enjoy TV for free, and you could always get a to-go phone. ...continue reading

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debtTaxes can get confusing — just looking at the names of some of the forms you have to fill out can be enough to get your head spinning. Like the 1099-C, for example. What is that, and why is it in your mailbox? Well, we’re here to help and answer all your 1099-C questions.

What Is a 1099-C?

“A 1099-C is a document sent by a bank when they have canceled a debt,” Craig W. Smalley, EA, founder and CEO of CWSEAPA, LLP and Tax Crisis Center, LLC, said. “For instance, if you have negotiated with your credit card company to pay them a lesser amount than you owe them, the difference would be reported on this form.”

Bruce McClary, the vice president of communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said this is an important reason to “be familiar with the tax consequences when considering debt settlement as an option. You don’t want to be blindsided by a costly IRS bill when you may already be struggling financially.”

Why Did I Get a 1099-C?

If you have had a canceled debt, expect to see a 1099-C arrive in your mail, as “the bank is required to send this form, because it is taxable income,” Smalley said.

According to the IRS, lenders file a 1099-C if you have $600 or more of debt that is canceled. Here are four common reasons that may be the case. ...continue reading