Money Matters

We know that a college education is a big investment, and want to help you improve your financial literacy and wellness. GMercyU's Money Matters program provides students with resources that cover multiple areas of responsible money management, including budgeting, investing and student loans. You can also register for one-on-one financial counseling sessions hosted on campus twice per year!

What's Happening:

Money Matters hosts several programs each year, including:

 

 

Learn more about:
Budgeting
Saving
Student Loans
Building Credit
Investing
Taxes
Resources

Budgeting

Budgeting is the foundation of financial planning. Having a budget allows you to take a good look at your spending habits and make adjustments based on your income and financial goals. As a student, it's important that you have a budget and stick to it! You're already investing a lot of money into your education, so you need to be aware of how much money you have and how you're spending it. Otherwise, you might find yourself eating pasta for dinner every night until graduation!

Sound intimidating? Don't sweat it! The best thing about living in the 21st Century is that there's an app for everything. And, many of them are completely free!

  • Mint is a one-stop shop for money management. In addition to paying bills, tracking investments, and providing free credit scores, Mint makes building your budget a breeze! It calculates your spending by category and uses that information to make a basic budget, which can be adjusted as needed. This can allow you to have a budget you'll actually stick to.
  • Prefer something a bit more personal? Give Penny a try. This app actually "chats" with you about your financing, kind of like texting your friend. When you first open the app, Penny shares information about your finances with you, making it easy for your to save money and stick to your budget. She makes money management a little simpler and stress-free.
  • Prefer putting everything down on paper? MyMoney.gov is a website produced by the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission and has great resources, including budget worksheets that allow you to type in your information and then does the math for you. Print it out when you're done or save a copy to your desktop for reference.

Saving

You may think you're just a "poor college student," but that doesn't mean you shouldn't start saving for your future now. Start small, but think big!

  • Set goals: Want to move out of your parents' house after graduation? Considering buying a car? The first step is saving some money! Research the kinds of costs you'll incur from these big life changes and start putting money aside to help cover them
  • Make a plan: Did you know that people with savings plans are twice as likely to save successfully than people who don't? Come up with a plan to help you reach those big financial goals. Find ways to build your wealth and put that money toward savings, pack your lunch more often, or cash in your piggy bank.
  • Save Automatically: Before tending to bills and other expenses, the firth thing you should do after getting paid is pay yourself. All it takes is a check on a form or a click on a mouse. If your job provides benefits, have them deduct a portion of your paycheck and deposit it into a retirement account such as a 401K. Schedule an automatic transfer of a fixed amount from your checking account to a savings account. Your bank or credit union can help you arrange this.

To learn more, check out America Saves, a campaign by the Consumer Federation of America that encourages and supports people to save money, reduce debt and build wealth. BuzzFeed also has you covered with 25 Money Saving Tips Every College Student Needs to Know.

Student Loans

A lot of students take out loans to pay for their college education. Despite what you may hear on the news, student debt isn't scary- especially if you learn to manage it properly. Having student loans can teach you to be a responsible borrower, which can help improve your credit score and help when it comes to making big purchases, such as a car or house. The key is understanding exactly what you're getting yourself into, especially what different kinds of student loans can entail.

Federal Loans: These loans are awarded to students by the Federal Government as part of financial aid packages. Every student with a high school diploma is eligible for a federal loan, you just need to fill out the FAFSA. There are three types of federal loans:

  1. Subsidized: The federal government pays the interest on these loans during your college education and during deferment - a temporary, authorized time after you graduate during which your payments may be postponed.
  2. Unsubsidized: Students are responsible for paying the interest on these loans, so try to get a leg up on it by paying off interest while you're still in school.
  3. Direct PLUS: These are loans that allow parents to borrow on a student's behalf if they are a dependent child, enrolled in an undergraduate degree program, enrolled at least half-time, and submitted a FAFSA and any supplemental financial information requested by the school. Parents must also have a satisfactory credit history to be eligible for these loans.

Private Loans: These loans are offered by private banks and financial institutions. Interest rates and eligibility are based on your credit score, but you can apply and state a parent or guardian as a co-signer. Generally speaking, private loans tend to come with less generous repayment options and higher interest rates than federal loans, so make sure you research all of your options.

Looking for more information? Check out 3 Basic but Crucial Things to Know About Student Loans from the New York Times and Forbes' 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Student Loans.

Building Credit

So, what is credit anyway and why is it important? Credit is borrowed money that you can use to purchase goods and services when you need them. Credit grantors give you these funds you agree to pay back the amount you spend--and any applicable fees--at an agreed-upon time. Having good credit is crucial for making major purchases--like a car or house--and can also be used by employers and landlords as part of the selection process. There are four main types of credit:

  1. Revolving credit: You are given a maximum credit limit and you can make  charges up to that limit. You carry a balance (i.e. revolve the debt) and make a payment. The most popular example of revolving credit is credit cards.
  2. Charge cards: Although similar to credit cards, if you use a charge card for purchases, you must pay the total balance every month.
  3. Service credit: This includes agreements with service providers--like electricity, cell service, and cable--where you agree to pay them for a specific service each month.
  4. Installment credit: Creditors agree to loan you a specific amount of money, which you agree to repay along with interest in regular installments of a fixed amount over time. Car loans and mortgages are examples of installment credit.

The goal is to make sure you have good credit, which is measured by your Credit Score. Building credit takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. The best thing you can do now is be a responsible borrower: Open a credit card and use it wisely, pay your bills on time, and do your best to minimize your debt.

Want more tips and tricks for managing your credit? Experian, a global leader in consumer and business credit reporting, covers a lot of useful topics on its blog.

Investing

Take your money and make it grow! Warren Buffett describes investing as “the process of laying out money now to receive more money in the future.” By choosing to invest, your money starts to work for you! Investments help your money grow over time, allowing you to reap the benefits later in life--you’re investing in your future. It’s never too early or too late to start and you have plenty of investment options to choose from.

The three most popular types of investments are:

  1. Stocks: Investing in stocks allows you to buy ownership shares in a company. Your return on investment (ROI) depends on the successes or failures of that company; this is highly affected by what’s happening in the stock market in general and the economy as a whole. This volatility can make investing in stocks alone risky.
  2. Bonds: Bonds are loans that investors make to corporations, governments, federal agencies, or other organizations in exchange for interest payments over time and repayment of the bond itself at its maturity date. Investing in bonds produces the risk that you might lose money, especially if you buy an individual bond and want to sell it before it matures; the level of risk depends on the type of bond you own.
  3. Investment funds: These funds pool the money of many investors and invest according to a specific strategy. They offer diversification and professional management featuring a variety of investment strategies and styles.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a non-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect investors, is a great resource for first-time investors.Check out their website for information on a variety of topics.

Want to talk to a professional one-on-one before investing? Sign up for a financial counseling appointment! Representatives will be on campus October 23rd-24th, 2017 and March 19th-20th, 2018. Contact studentactivities@gmercyu.edu for details.

Taxes

Taxes are something nobody enjoys thinking about, but it is very important that you educate yourself on critical issues related to your taxes! This will ensure that you fulfill your legal and fiscal obligations and avoid penalties or other problems. Even if you only work part time because you’re in school, you’ll still be expected to file a tax return each year--especially if you file the FAFSA and receive federal or state aid to pay for your education.

Why do we pay taxes anyway? It’s our civic duty! Paying federal and state taxes is a stipulation expressed in our Constitution’s 16th Amendment and gives our government the bulk of its operating budget. Without income taxes, our country’s financial foundations will collapse. So, what kind of taxes are we responsible for paying?

  • Federal Income Tax: This tax is levied by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the annual earnings of individuals, corporations, trusts, and other legal entities. They are applied on all forms of earnings that make up a taxpayer’s taxable income, including employment earnings or capital gains. You can find additional details on federal income tax (including how to file your tax return) on the IRS website.
  • State Income Tax: Forty-three states levy individual income taxes--it is a major source of government revenue. Tax policies and procedures vary by state. In Pennsylvania, the personal income tax rate is 3.07% and is levied against residents or non-residents; if you’re an out-of-state student that works in Pennsylvania during the school year, you need to file PA state income taxes on eight different classes on income: compensation, interest, dividends, net profits from business operations, net gains or income from dispositions of property, net gains or income from rent/royalties/patents/copyrights, income derived from estates or trusts,and gambling or lottery winnings. The Department of Revenue has detailed information about PA tax code and how to file state income tax.
  • Local Earned Income Tax: This varies by state, but here in Pennsylvania, employers are required to withhold and remit the local Earned Income Tax (EIT) and Local Services Tax (LST) on behalf of their employees. These tax percentages vary by county and might be higher for non-residents. You can  look up your withholding rates by address online through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.

Does all this tax talk have you rattled? Don’t worry! Carlo Silvesti, an Assistant Professor in GMercyU’s Accounting Program, put together some helpful tax tips for students and first-time filers.

If you have specific questions about tax processes, contact a registered tax preparer practitioner--like CPAs, Attorneys, or Enrolled Agents. Your friend that’s an Accounting major doesn’t count!. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also has useful information about filing your federal taxes. Residents of Pennsylvania can find information regarding state taxes through the Department of Revenue.

Resources

Find practical money tips to help better manage your finances.

Financial Calculator: This one-stop-shop can help you obtain information about budgets and goals, credit and debit, loans, family and life, savings and investments, and more.