As the high cost of living and economic downturns leave many people in the U.S. struggling with debt, job loss and foreclosure, CSUN finance students and experts share advice on what students can do to ensure a better future.
Paying for college has never been easy, but in this economy it has become increasingly difficult for students dealing with high tuition costs, books, housing, gas and other living expenses.
“One of the hardest times in life is when you’re a college student and out on your own for the first time,” said Tom Hickey, a realtor with The Real Estate Consultants. “You’re all of the sudden responsible for everything.”
The financial choices that students make while in school can have a big impact on future plans.
Hickey said that he works with many first-time home buyers in their twenties and thirties who don’t get the house they want because “late payments that they made in school come back in the form of bad credit.”
A person’s credit score, which ranges between 300 to 850, is the measurement of their credit history and risk, compiled by consumer reporting agencies. It’s almost impossible to buy a home or get any other type of loan with a poor credit history.
Mismanagement of credit cards is one reason many people in the U.S. are struggling today. Understanding how and when to use them can mean the difference between receiving loans from a bank and not.
“A lot of people use credit cards as if they were money,” said Alex Ebkarian, a math and finance major at CSUN and Treasurer for the Student Finance Association. “Limiting extra spending and making more than just the minimum payment will help.”
Ebkarian said he realizes that saving money is not always easy when students are required to pay for daily living expenses, but offers advice on how to do so whenever possible.
“Calculate how much income you’re getting and estimate your expenses,” he said. “Then try to save for three months (with) an account that gathers interest and (has) no penalty for pulling out.”
While utilizing a savings account is a reliable way to safeguard earnings, simply keeping track of all your expenses can be enlightening.
“Learn to differentiate between your needs, which are the core expenses, and your wants,” said Hickey. “The new cell phone, the gym membership and cable TV – you can live without those. Ask yourself, ‘do you really need this?’ before you buy it.”
Most people get into financial trouble when they “fail to set personal limits, live within their means or budget appropriately,” said Hickey. Responsible spending practices lead to less stress when it comes time to pay for necessities like gas, rent and car payments.
There is help out there for students and others struggling to pay off debt or who need advice.
“Financial advisors and specialists can help you set up a plan for the rest of your life,” said Bryan Clements, CSUN finance major and director of communications for the Student Finance Association. “You have to plan as you would for any other part of your life and you should start talking to professionals when you’re young.”
It is also important to communicate with credit and loan companies before things get out of hand, said Hickey. Many people save themselves from even bigger problems by negotiating with creditors, loan officers and bill collectors.