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Financial Health: Financial FAQs

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Personal Finances

How do I create a budget/spending plan?

There are six main steps to creating a budget/spending plan:
  1. Set goals, both short-term and long-term; Keep a weekly spending diary to identify where, on what, and how much you are spending;
  2. Review the money you have spent and identify your needs and your wants, being careful to keep these two separate;
  3. Identify all sources of income (including money coming in from your parents);
  4. Create a monthly spending plan based on what you discovered in #1-#4, making sure to meet your “needs” first, before designating funds for your “wants;”
  5. At the end of the month, compare your spending plan to what you have actually spent and make adjustments accordingly. For more information, or free assistance with creating a budget/spending plan, call 581-7786.

Should I work while enrolled in classes?

This is usually a decision that needs to be made with your parents; however, studies have shown that there is a correlation between working part-time and strong academic performance. Time management, responsibility, and leadership skills learned on the job can go a long way in the classroom!

Where should I store my financial information?

First, record your card numbers, expiration dates, and credit card company and bank phone numbers. (The easiest approach may be to photocopy the actual card.) Be sure to lock up this information in a safe place where only you can access it. Think about purchasing a small safe or renting a lockbox at your local bank.

Loans

How do I begin the search for grants, scholarships, and loans to pay for college?

The first step is to fill out the FAFSA at the beginning of each calendar year. Additionally, Rank 2, 3, and 4 students will often have a separate scholarship form to complete within their college in order to be considered for program-specific funds. Outside sources such as fastweb.com are also helpful. For more specific information, visit the EIU Student Financial Aid web site.

What is loan consolidation?

Consolidation allows you to convert multiple loans into a single loan with a fixed interest rate. In other words, borrowers can extend the repayment period, allowing a reduction in monthly payment amounts freeing up more money for other expenses.

Credit Cards

How can I stop the "pre-approved" credit applications from arriving in the mail everyday?

A 1996 amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act required that the credit bureaus provide an opt-out opportunity for consumers who do not want their names and addresses sold to credit grantors for solicitations. Consumers can take advantage of the right, opt-out by calling 1-888-567-8688. By opting out, you will no longer receive pre-approved credit offers. (Source: The Credit Road Map by Patrick Ritchie.)

How many credit cards should I have?

One is enough. Choose a card with a good APR, as well as a low credit limit. Your local bank may offer the perfect card for you to use to begin building a credit history. For more information about selecting a credit card, call 217-581-7786 to schedule a free appointment with the Financial Education Coordinator at the HERC.

What should I do if my credit card is lost or stolen?

If your credit card is lost or stolen, report it to the appropriate credit card company immediately. If you report in a timely manner, you will typically only be held liable for up to $50 in fraudulent charges made on your card.

Will closing a credit card account erase any late payments I made?

Closing an account does NOT change the history of the account. In fact, it is always better to leave an account open, especially in the case of revolving (i.e. credit card) debt. A single late payment may be removed by the creditor if you ask or are able to demonstrate that you made a good faith effort to get the payment sent in but extenuating circumstances prevented it from taking place. BUT...you will have NO negotiating power if you have already closed the account and are no longer a customer of the institution. (Source: The Credit Road Map by Patrick Ritchie)

Credit Score

How is my credit score determined?

Your credit score is determined based on your payment history (i.e. timely payments, including utilities payments that are in your name) the amount of debt you have outstanding with all creditors; how long you’ve been a credit user very recent history (i.e. signing up for credit cards on campus, etc.) a mix of credit you hold (e.g. loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.).

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a numerical representation of your credit behavior, ranging from 501 – 990 (Vantage Score) and 300 – 850 (FICO). Your score is reviewed by creditors when you are applying for loans, car leases, mortgages, etc. and is essentially used to assess your financial strength.

Why does my credit score matter?

A high credit score may translate to a better rate on a loan in the future. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. A poor credit score can result in being turned down for future credit or paying higher interest rates. Paying bills on time and managing your debt today may have a huge impact on your future financial situation.

Identity Theft

How can I protect myself from identity theft?

Keep a close eye on all your account statements and notify your bank or credit card company immediately if you notice any discrepancies. Shred all financial documents that are no longer needed and store documents you would like to keep in a secure location. Order a free credit report each year and check for any fraudulent charges or inaccuracies on the report. If you have trouble reading or interpreting your credit report, contact the HERC at (217) 581-7786.