Brian O’Connell, a former Wall Street bond trader, is the author of two best-selling books, The 401k Millionaire and CNBC’s Creating Wealth. He also wrote the book Free Yourself from Student Loan Debt. With 20 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the business and financial sectors, he believes education is the best gift a financial consumer can receive – and brings that philosophy to every story he writes. Brian O’Connell has written for dozens of top-tier national business publications, including CBS News, Bloomberg, Time, MSN Money, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, TheStreet.com, Yahoo Finance, CBS Marketwatch, and many more. Mr. O’Connell is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and currently resides in Bucks County, Pa.
These Credit Cards Can Help You Pay Back Student Loans
In general, student loan borrowers cannot use credit cards to pay their student loan bills, but that doesn’t mean some credit cards can be useful while paying off student loan debt. Sallie Mae launched three new credit cards - one designed specifically for student loan borrowers and the other two offering cash back rewards students can use to repay their student loans.
Can Income Share Agreements Replace Student Loans?
Income Share Agreements are a new financing trend that could be an alternative to traditional student loans. Here’s how an Income Share Agreement (or an ISA) works: An investor or the college itself provides funding for students – which is still a loan. When the student graduates, he or she agrees to pay a portion of their salary back for a certain number of years – not a set minimum payment as with traditional student loans. This means you can end up paying back less or more of what you were given, depending on your income.
College Savings Can Make a Big Difference on Student Loan Debt
What the press and the public don’t talk about – but should – is the game-changing impact savings-minded parents have on their children’s student loan debt load. Every dollar they save for college is a dollar less their children will have to borrow.
Award Letters: Five Signs You’re Getting a Lousy Financial Aid Deal
Many financial aid award letters leave mom and dad scratching their heads in confusion and unsure if what they’re seeing is a good or bad financial aid package. There are a few signs, however, that the financial aid offer will fall short of the family's need.
Emergency Student Loans
No college student wants to face a mad scramble for emergency funds in the event of a personal financial crisis, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. When times are tough, emergency student aid or emergency student loans may fit the bill, but there are no shortage of twists, turns and some turbulence involved with getting an emergency loan on the fly.
How to Get a Student Loan Without Parental Help
There are several ways college students can get student loans without a parent borrower or cosigner. These include federal student loans, increasing federal student loan limits by qualifying as an independent student, getting a private student loan with someone other than the parent as a cosigner and tuition installment plans.
College Majors with the Highest Unemployment Rates
College students looking for a reliable income in their working years may want to bypass majors which have unemployment rates above 6.5%. Unfortunately, there are more occupations than you might think that fall into the category of having a high unemployment rate.
Need More Time to Pay Off a Student Loan? Take These Steps
Most college graduates and their parents have a six-month grace period before repayment begins on their student loans. For students who graduated in May or June, that means payments are due starting in November or December. But, what if you need more time to pay your student loans? There are options that can further delay your student loan payments.
Key Steps to Take as Your Student Loan Grace Period is Ending
Your student loan vacation period is over and it’s time to get back to work, now that your student loan grace period is coming to an end. The student loan grace period starts after you graduate (or drop below half-time enrollment) and typically lasts for six months after your college graduation.
GAO Finds Signs of Fraud in Income-Driven Repayment Plans
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found signs of potential fraud involving more than 110,000 borrowers who are repaying their federal student loans in income-driven repayment plans. These borrowers may have understated their income or overstated their family size to reduce their student loan payments in the income-driven repayment plans.
How to Take Advantage of College Tuition Discounts
With college tuition costs skyrocketing, private colleges are increasingly offering more generous financial aid packages to struggling students – with tuition discount rates doubling in the last decade. What’s behind the tuition discount trend and how can students get in on the deal?
Parents are Packing on Parent PLUS Loans, A Big Problem
There’s a disturbing new trend on the college loan borrowing front, and it’s parents and not students who are negatively impacted. The data over the past several years shows that parents who help pay for their children’s college costs are increasingly doing so by borrowing instead of saving.
Questions to Ask Admissions on a College Campus Visit
Taking your high school student on a college tour is a rite of passage for both the student and the parent. But, too often it doesn’t deliver maximum impact on the family’s college experience because many parents aren’t asking the right questions.
Can Saving $10 Per Week Really Pay Half a Student’s Student Loan Debt?
New data from the College Savings Plan Network (CSPN) estimates that just $10 stashed away per week in a 529 plan will raise about $15,000 in 18 years. That’s half of the estimated student loan debt facing new graduates, according to CSPN. Does this really work?
How to Choose a Bank Account for New College Students
Incoming college freshman have a long “must do” checklist before they hit campus, and getting a good bank account should be at the top of that list. A bank account provides a way for new college students to organize and manage their money, while teaching them to be stronger stewards of their (likely) limited finances.
Saving for College While Repaying Your Own Student Loans
Parents who are still repaying their own student loans, but have to save for their own children’s college costs, are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Some parents are stuck repaying student loans they borrowed as college students themselves or loans they borrowed on behalf of their older college-bound children, with younger siblings still needing college financing help.
How Single Parents Can Save for their Children’s College Education
Single parents – especially single moms who struggle to obtain adequate child support and have to live on a single income – have an uphill climb in generating enough college savings for their children. The good news is that there are ways for single moms and dads to set aside enough money for college. It isn’t easy, but single parents can get the job done.
Transferring Colleges? Check these Items off Your List First
Making the decision to transfer colleges is one that college students shouldn’t take lightly. Consider that all of your credits may not transfer, financial aid does not transfer and when you transfer matters. But, students who successfully transfer are more likely to graduate.
An Insider’s Guide to College Merit Scholarships
Scholarships and non-need-based grants are a great way to curb college costs, but getting merit aid isn’t easy. Merit scholarships are awarded to high-achieving students. But, it’s not just about academics, although high grades and admissions test scores are a significant factor in the merit scholarship calculus. Other important attributes include demonstrating strong leadership qualities, volunteering and superior abilities in a specific area.
Taking a Semester Off? Make These Moves with Your Student Loans
Taking a semester off from college doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it can be if you don’t handle the financial side of the equation correctly. When you drop below half-time enrollment, your student loans start using up the grace period before repayment begins. Interest on unsubsidized and private student loans will be charged.
Are Custodial Accounts a Good Option for Parents Saving for College?
Custodial savings accounts are getting a closer look from parents saving for college, with about 2 percent of parents using them to save for college. They work just like bank savings accounts and anyone in (or out) of the family can contribute to custodial accounts for college, among other benefits. Recent changes in the tax treatment of custodial accounts have reduced the financial benefits of saving for college in a custodial account.
How to Get Friends and Family to Pitch in on College Savings
For many parents, convincing friends and family to give the gift of college stills feels a bit awkward. These tips will give you a few ideas on how to get friends and family to pitch in and help grow the dollars in your child’s college fund. Birthdays, baby showers, graduations and major holidays all present an opportunity to get a gift with a long-term impact on the child's future instead of the usual wrapping paper and cardboard boxes.
Private Parent Loans
Even when parents save for college, sometimes the college savings and financial aid falls short of covering the college’s net price. Some parents borrow private parent loans to close the funding gap and ensure that their son or daughter has the funding needed for another year on campus. Private parent loans are like private student loans, but with the parent as the sole borrower.
Master College Work-Study Programs with These Timely Tips
A new report states that colleges can do much better with work-study programs, especially in the area of matching up students with work-study jobs that mirror their career intentions. The report has practical implications for students who seek part-time student employment on or near campus.
The Real Deal on Student Loan Income-Driven Repayment Plans
Income-driven repayment plans can help student loan borrowers buried by burdensome debt. These repayment plans establish a more affordable student loan payment by basing the monthly loan payment on the borrower’s ability to pay, as a percentage of the borrower’s discretionary income. But, these student loan repayment plans may not work for everybody:
Signs a Student Loan Repayment Company Might Be a Scam
Student loan borrowers have enough on their plates without being victimized by unscrupulous student loan debt repayment firms. Whether it’s an unscrupulous debt consolidation scam or a loan services company that promises to eliminate your loans entirely, student loan borrowers need to take aggressive steps to protect themselves from financial fraudsters – who seem to be everywhere these days. Beware of companies that charge up-front fees for credit repair services.
Can Mr. Rogers Help Hike 529 Plan Usage?
The College Savings Plan Network (CSPN) is teaming up with Fred Rogers Productions to promote the benefits of a 529 college savings plan. The partnership is aiming their educational campaign at two-year-old eyes locked in on the highly-watched children’s TV show “Daniel Tiger” and the parents who mind them.
The Biggest College Financial Aid Package May Not Be the Best One
Deciphering college financial aid letters isn’t easy. Many college financial aid award letters blend student loans, student employment, scholarships and grants together in random fashion, blurring the difference between free money and money that must be earned or repaid. Bigger isn't always better. Consider the net price, not the bigger aid offer. Appeal for more aid, if necessary.
Great Questions to Ask the College Financial Aid Office
The more you know about financial aid, the better your experience will be for the next four years on campus. To clarify the college financial aid experience, let’s take a deep dive into ten questions every collegian (and his or her parents) should ask when they speak with the college’s financial aid office after receiving the college’s financial aid award letter.
Young Americans Owe $1 Trillion in Debt, Not Just Student Loans
A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York states that the U.S. 18-to-29-year-old demographic owes a total of $1 trillion in debt, as of December 31, 2018. Student loans represent the largest category of debt, at more than a third of the total.
The New 401(k)? Employer-Sponsored 529 Plans Shift into High Gear
Parents saving for college tend to look under every rock and couch cushion for some extra cash to cover future college costs. Now, employers are helping by providing easy access to 529 college savings plans with payroll deduction and matching contributions.
Financial Aid and Selective Service Registration: A Primer
U.S. men between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register with the Selective Service System. If they do not register, they may lose eligibility for federal and state student financial aid. Women and transgender individuals who were born female are not required to register with Selective Service.
The Fine Art of Writing a College Scholarship Essay
College scholarships can be a valuable item – maybe the most valuable item - in your college funding toolbox. Scholarships are free money that do not need to be repaid, and come with the gift of prestige. The path to earning a scholarship is filled with lessons learned that you can apply for a lifetime.
How to Maximize Financial Aid for Out-of-State Colleges
If you’re a student or family member looking for a better financial deal from an out-of-state college, there are a few rules of the road you’re going to need to follow. Public colleges do indeed aggressively charge higher prices for academic entrance to state colleges and universities, when dealing with out-of-state and international students. But, there are options that can help defray the cost.
What Should You Look for In a College Meal Plan?
Choosing your meal plan on campus isn’t usually a high priority for college students and their families – but maybe it should be. Nobody’s ever going to call it fine dining, but a college student has to eat, and since there is usually a price tag attached to that experience, you might as well select the best meal plan you can – and understand how to maximize that scenario.
TEACH Grants Undergo Deadline and Reconsideration Makeover
The U.S. Department of Education is tweaking its Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, standardizing the certification dates and issuing a new rule on allowable instances where grant recipients can “reconsider” grants that have turned to student loans.
What You Need to Know about the TEACH Grant
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, or TEACH Grant, provides up to $4,000 per year in grants to help pay for college. However, if the grant recipient fails to teach for four of the eight years after graduation, the grant will turn into a loan, with interest accruing retroactively from the date of disbursement.
Five Steps to Securing Your Dream College Internship
The college internship market is growing, albeit slowly, at a 1.7% clip in 2018, according to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Follow an internship action plan to improve the odds of landing your dream internship.
Start Early with College Savings
Financial gurus often tout the benefits of starting early when saving for college, and at face value, that seems like a logical strategy. After all, the earlier you start saving money, the more time there’ll be for earnings to compound and the more money you’ll have 18 years later.
Renting College Textbooks – A Primer
College students have enough on their plate financially, even before they get to campus and have to shell out more cash for textbooks. At some colleges, the cost of textbooks exceeds the cost of tuition. Renting textbooks is an option for cutting the costs of college textbooks.
How to Optimize Your Student Loan Refinancing Experience
There’s no shortage of student loan borrowers who wish they had a time machine, and could go back in time to make better decisions on their college financing decisions – especially on their student loans. Since time machines are the stuff of science fiction, student loan borrowers may need to refinance their student loans to keep their personal financial lives manageable. If you believe refinancing your student loan is a good idea, then the way forward is having a good blueprint to maximize your student loan refinancing experience.
When Is Refinancing Your Student Loans a Good Deal?
Is refinancing your student loans a good idea? In some cases, yes, there are good reasons for refinancing your student loans, with getting a lower interest rate at the top of that list. In others, however, refinancing your student loans doesn’t add up financially and won’t save you much money. This article considers when refinancing a student loan is worthwhile.
Six Ways Student Loan Debt Can Get Out of Hand
Too many U.S. college borrowers are drowning in student loan debt, and the problem is only getting worse. That’s why it’s so important for student loan borrowers to recognize the “red flags” that can lead to an unmanageable student loan debt problem, and take direct action to eliminate that problem.
Several Cities Offer Free College Tuition Programs
Several U.S. cities and municipalities offer government-sponsored free tuition programs. These programs are either completely or partially free, and most have conditions and mandates that student recipients must follow, similar to the restrictions on state free college tuition programs.
Five Mobile Money Apps for the Financially-Minded College Student
There’s no doubt that smart phone mobile apps have become a way of life – especially for younger Americans. From preparing a college savings budget to taking leftover change and steering it to college loan payments, mobile apps have much to offer college students.
How to Make Sense of College Financial Aid Award Letters
Parents may be vexed on how to figure out exactly how much their son or daughter is getting in a financial aid package, and with good reason. Financial aid award letters are extremely confusing, making it difficult to understand how much the college will really cost.
The Goldilocks Student Loan: When College Debt Is Just Right
While mom and dad are worried about getting enough money for their kids’ college education, there’s another potential problem that flies under the college financing radar – borrowing more student loan money than you actually need and incurring larger financing costs as a result.