As universities work with their students to help them achieve financial wellness, it has become apparent that financial wellness is a journey rather than an event.
Simply providing a class or suggesting students review their student loan documentation will not create financial wellness.
Instead, financially well students are those that make a series of decisions that reduce financial stress and increase financial health.
To this end, many institutions of higher learning now provide a financial wellness program to help students achieve financial wellness.
Of course, offering this benefit is only the first step.
The next step is to help students use the benefit and keep financial wellness at the forefront of their minds as they make financial decisions that could affect them for the rest of their lives.
Bank of America1 suggests that communication is key to helping students engage in financial wellness.
They recommend that those offering financial wellness programs should:
- Distribute information across several channels
- Distribute information in ways that already work for your students. This can be social media, emails, flyers, newsletters, online classes, or in-person meetings.
- Send out information regularly that encourages the use of the financial wellness program and uses healthy financial wellness concepts and behaviors.
- Provide access to links, tools, and apps that help students meet their financial goals.
- Provide more than student loan information. Students want to learn about financial issues that are relevant to them, including such things as budgeting, building credit, and buying a car.
That’s why iGrad has created a Student Financial Wellness Promotion Calendar.
This calendar provides topics for discussion each month meant to help students interact with financial wellness.
The links, tools, and assessments listed on the calendar are a good addition to specific links provided by your financial wellness program.
Financial Aid Considerations: January is the perfect time to begin looking at financial aid for the coming school year.
- Enrich offerings a course, Borrowing Smart and Preparing for Higher Education, to help students understand financial aid and student loans. They can also use the Scholarship Search tool to find quality scholarships to help pay for school.
- As students consider loans, they should also consider how much their occupation will pay. The Student Loan Affordability Calculator can help students see if they will be able to comfortably afford student loan repayment based on their future salary.
- The Financial Aid Award Letter Analyzer can help students compare colleges to see the true cost of attendance and the true value of financial aid.
Saving for Summer Break: Summer break will be upon your students faster than they realize.
This is a good time for students to start thinking about their summer break and potential vacation plans.
This may also be a time of increased expenses as roommates graduate or go home for the summer.
Understanding the upcoming financial changes and needs will help students be prepared.
- iGrad offers the Saving for a Goal Calculator that helps students determine how long it will take to save up enough money for their vacation goal. This calculator analyzes their financial contributions against the cost of the vacation.
- Students may also want to read “From the Couch to the Caribbean: How to Save for That Much-Needed Vacation.”
Low Budget Valentine’s Ideas: Although candy, flowers, and dinner dates are wonderful, they are also costly, especially for students on a budget. Thankfully, lots of money isn’t necessary to prove your love.
Help students consider ideas that don’t cost much money, relying instead on ingenuity, creativity, and time.
- The article “Romance on a Budget: 10 Cheap Date Night Ideas to Revive the Love” can help students consider low-budget Valentine’s ideas.
America Saves Week: The last week of February has been named America Saves Week to help Americans understand the value of saving money.
This would be the perfect time to talk about emergency savings and why a student would need this kind of account.
Help students understand the impact of emergency savings on student financial stress and that an emergency savings account should cover at least three months of expenses.
- The “Setting Up an Emergency Fund” course can help students learn how much to save, ways to grow their funds faster, how to build a habit of saving, and more.
Tax Preparation: Although many students may still be listed on their parents' taxes as dependents, if they had a job during the school year or over the summer, they will need to file their own taxes as well.
Here is a quick list of things students can do to prepare their taxes:
- Gather important documents such as W2s and 1099s. Students (or their parents) will also need the 1098-T to claim education credits and may also use a 1098-E if they repaid any student loans.
- Determine a filing status: The article, “Married Filing Jointly/Separately, Head of Household: What Are These and Why It Matters” can help students determine the best filing status for their situation.
- Determine whether to itemize deductions or take the standard. Learn more with the article, “IRS Tax Tip: Itemizing vs. Standard Deduction - 6 Facts to Help You Choose.” Most students will take the standard deduction.
- File your taxes: A majority of your students will be able to prepare and file their taxes for free. “Free Sources for Tax Help” provides students with several free sources. Those with more complicated tax situations can hire a tax accountant or use online tax software.
Get Free Annual Credit Report: Federal law allows students to get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) once a year.
The “Who, What, When, and Why of Free Credit Reports” explains the ins and outs of this report. Students should check their credit regularly to:
- Understand their credit
- Understand how others use their credit information
- Correct any incorrect information on the report
Finding Summer Employment: For students, summer employment often has more than one goal.
Yes, a job will help pay for college expenses, but it can also be a way for students to gain valuable experience related to their field of study.
- iGrad offers over a dozen articles on internships, from finding an internship to budgeting considerations while interning.
Update Resume: Although not directly related to financial wellness, a strong resume is a key to getting summer employment, internships, and first jobs after graduation.
Most college students won’t have a lot of work experience.
However, students should also include their education, volunteer work, internships, and even extracurricular activities.
- Students can drop and drag their resume into the Resume Critique tool for a free, confidential review from a resume expert.
Learn About Consumer Fraud and Scams: Students believe they know enough to avoid being financially scammed.
The truth is that those aged 20 to 29 are twice as likely to be scammed than those aged 60 to 69. In fact, the millennial age group has the highest rate of scams, followed by those 30 to 39 and then those under 19.
To help avoid consumer frauds and scams, students should become familiar with terms like phishing and spoofing and some of the major types of scams like debt collection and imposter scams.
- iGrad offers the “Protecting yourself from identity theft and scams” course to help students protect their identity and sensitive information from online scams and real-world threats.
Protect Against Identity Theft: According to one survey, students are the least concerned about identity theft but are four times more likely to experience identity theft by a family member2.
Additionally, due to their lack of financial understanding and usage, many college students are unaware that their identity has been stolen until they are notified by a debt collector or denied credit.
- The video “How to Avoid Identity Theft” explores steps to help students protect themselves.
- Students can also use the ID Theft Risk tool to determine their risk level for fraud and identity theft.
Student Loan Repayment: June is a good time to think about student loan repayment.
For graduates, most student loan repayment will begin six months after the big day.
For students continuing their education, the summer months are when they are most likely to decide if they will take out more loans for the following year.
It is crucial for students to understand how loan repayment works, when interest begins to accrue on their loans, and how much their payments will be regardless of their job situation.
- The Student Loan Snapshot tool can help students track their student loans in one place and compare repayment options.
- iGrad’s student loan debt letter provides universities a template to send personalized, detailed student loan information to students.
Create Next Year’s Budget: With a new semester about to start, students would be wise to create a budget to follow during the upcoming school year.
By creating a budget, students will have the money they need and a plan for not going into debt.
Tip: Once a budget is set, students should track every cent spent – from every coffee and frozen yogurt to every Uber Ride.
This will help them be in charge of their money instead of having their money in charge of them.
iGrad offers two courses on budgeting: Creating a budget (and sticking to it) and Creating a financial plan for your priorities and goals.
Look at Debt: If a student already has debt, this is a great time to consider a debt reduction plan to go in tandem with their budget.
The best way to do this is to:
- Calculate current debt, including credit cards and loans
- Create a debt reduction goal for the coming year
- Create a debt payment strategy to help meet your goal
Students can use the Credit Card Pay Down tool and the Consolidate My Debt tool offered by iGrad to help them reduce their debt.
To read more on this, check out Are Your Students Majoring In Debt? Here's How a Financial Wellness Program Can Help
Conduct an Insurance Review: Each year, your students should conduct an insurance review to determine if their current insurance meets their current needs at the right price.
This review should include medical, car, and rental insurance.
Due to the latest insurance regulations, most traditional college students will still be on their parents’ medical and car insurance.
However, finding an affordable renters insurance policy is a good idea.
- The iGrad course, Assessing Your Insurance Needs, explores the various types of insurance products available to students to help them determine what they might need.
- Students may also want to read “5 Tips for Buying Renters Insurance” to help them find the best policy for their situation.
Understanding Work-Study Jobs vs. Part-time Jobs: Many students need to work during the school year to help them pay for the cost of education.
However, not all students understand the difference between a part-time job and a work-study job.
Help students understand that work-study is part of a financial aid package and that to participate, they will need to have filled out a FAFSA application.
On the other hand, part-time jobs are those open to college students as well as the general population of the area.
Tip: Work-study jobs will work around a student’s schedule and often do not require students to work during final exams.
Learn to Build Credit: Traditional college students tend to have little or no credit.
However, when they graduate from college, having credit may help them when they apply for a job, try to find an apartment, or apply for an auto loan.
Learning how to build credit and use credit wisely is a skill that will be useful throughout their lives.
However, using credit unwisely can cause issues for years to come.
Tip: One of the easiest ways to start building credit is to become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card.
Find other tips by reading “5 Ways Students Can Build Their Credit.”
Look for Automation: One of the best ways to save money and pay down debt is to have it happen automatically.
Students can set up automatic withdrawals from a checking account to pay for fixed expenses and may be able to set up automatic deposits from payroll into various savings accounts.
Tip: Students can use the bill pay feature through their bank or deal directly with vendors to set up automatic payments.
To learn more about automation, students can read “The Benefits of Using Technology to Help Manage Your Money.”
Fill Out the FAFSA: Students and their parents should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after October 1st of the year before you will be attending college.
Everyone, even families who are not low-income families, should fill out the form because they may be eligible for some forms of student aid.
Parents and students should have the following documents ready:
- Parental tax returns
- Student tax returns
- Social security numbers
- Bank statements
- Records of untaxed income
iGrad has dozens of articles and videos to help students apply for FAFSA aid.
TIP: Be sure that students understand that filling out the FAFSA is free.
There are many “services” that will fill out the form for a fee, but this is just a waste of money and could potentially be part of a student loan scam.
Clean Out Closets: With the idea that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, students may want to consider cleaning out their closets to sell things they no longer need.
This can provide extra spending money or be used to help purchase gifts over the holidays.
Facebook Marketplace or university-wide classified ads are ideal ways to sell unused items.
Tip: Look at these ads as a buyer, too. You may be able to purchase gently-used items that are perfect for inexpensive gifts.
Update Financial Passwords: In today’s digital society, students can have upwards of 80 passwords3.
With such a large number, it is impossible to remember all the passwords, which often means students create one master password and use it for everything.
Then, to make matters worse, data breaches render current passwords unsafe.
Students should be encouraged to update all their financial passwords, making each login unique.
Then, rather than remember each password, students can save them in a password protector app.
Tip: Consider using a random password generator.
Audit Subscriptions: It is easy to continue paying for subscriptions that are no longer used, especially if the monthly payment is automatically deducted from a credit card.
Believe it or not, the average American spends $237 per month on subscriptions4 from mobile phones to streaming.
By removing services they no longer want or use, students can save as much as 20% each month and most can easily save 10 to 20% each month just by eliminating those they no longer use.
Perform a Mid-Year Checkup: Financial goals are no different from any other goal and require a checkup to determine if students are still on track.
After finals is the perfect time to look at financial goals to determine if they are still on track.
Students should look at things like emergency savings, budgeting, and debt reduction.
Students may wish to read “Have You Done A Midyear Financial Checkup Yet?”
To learn more about common student financial problems, check out Five Common Student Money Problems that Financial Education Can Prevent
Low Budget Christmas Ideas: Everyone loves giving and receiving gifts over the holidays, but no one enjoys the bills that come due in January.
Instead of overspending, find low-budget gifts that show love without breaking the bank.
To learn more about iGrad’s financial wellness program, watch our demo video.
2 - https://www.javelinstrategy.com/press-release/16-billion-stolen-127-million-identity-fraud-victims-2014-according-javelin-strategy
3 - https://www.newswire.com/news/new-research-most-people-have-70-80-passwords-21103705
4 - https://www.westmonroe.com/perspectives/point-of-view/americas-relationship-with-subscription-services