loans

How I Dumped $22,500 of Debt Using Student Loan Forgiveness

Adulting, Author: #NAMB Guest Author

Yes, that’s right, $22,500! It took me five years of working as a teacher, but that’s 22.5 grand that I didn’t have to pay off, and it’s 22.5 grand in my pocket!

Now, how did I do this?

Well, it all started in college, when I was told about the opportunities to teach in a low income school and have my student loans forgiven. I took this opportunity and ran to a position that would allow me to reap the benefits of loan forgiveness for teachers.

Due to the fact that I am a math teacher, I was eligible to receive up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness, but it’s important to note that other teachers in different fields received different amounts. Not to mention, other professions — including medical, nursing, and federal government work — offer student loan forgiveness in different amounts.

Above, I’ve only accounted for $17,500 of my student loans. You may be thinking, where did the other $5,000 come from then? I got lucky enough to stumble onto a second form of student loan forgiveness. This program forgave 100% of my Federal Perkins loans over the course of five years. Luckily, I stumbled onto this option a year after I started teaching and was still able to have $5,000 of my $5,700 loan forgiven.

Now, what steps did I take?

My process of having my student loans forgiven can only be explained as confusing. To try and avoid as much confusion as we can, let’s look at some background knowledge on each loan type, and explain the steps to receive student loan forgiveness.

Federal Perkins Loans forgive 100% of loan balance to teachers in low-income schools over five years. During those five years of teaching, loans are deferred (no payment required). Interest accrued is also forgiven at the end of each year. At the end of each school year, applicants have to fill out a form. This form defers the payments for the upcoming school year, and forgives a portion of the balance each year.

What did this all mean for me? After five years of filling out forms, my Federal Perkins Loan was forgiven in full. That’s $5,000 gone — so now, let’s talk about the other $17,500.

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans and Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans forgive up to $17,500 for Math/Science/SPED Teachers after completion of five years of teaching. During those five years of teaching, monthly payments are still required, and interest still accrues. If you are in school, you can defer payments to these loans. Direct Subsidized Loans (undergrad) do not accrue interest during the deferral period, and Direct Unsubsidized Loans (graduate) accrue interest during the deferral period.

It took some creative measures to receive the full $17,500 in loan forgiveness. In December of 2013, I only had $11,573 of Direct Subsidized Loans left. Based on my required payments, the loan would have been paid off prior to my completion of five years of teaching.

I was averaging paying off $4,000 of principal in six months. December of 2013 was just over 18 months from the date of completing my 5th teaching year. Luckily, I was looking into graduate school and a representative from a university had mentioned that I could have my loans for graduate school forgiven at the end of my 5th year of teaching. I was shocked, but I also had to use this newfound knowledge. I made the decision to take out a loan for more than $6,000, which would put me over $17,500 in student loans. I did this in the spring semester of 2014, and just let the money sit in my savings account.

While that money sat in a savings account, the student loans were in deferral, because I was attending graduate school. Therefore, my loans from undergrad remained at $11,573, and they did not accrue any interest. My loans from grad school, however, did accrue interest.

In June of 2015, I printed out the required forms and filled them out as described. On August, 11, 2015, I was notified that my student loans had been forgiven in full!

Crazy things happen all the time in life. Just make sure to have a backup plan, like some of the tips offered here about refinancing your student loans. We made sure to have $17,500 in the bank, just in case something happened. Nothing crazy did happen, and we were able to put a down payment on a house.

 

About the Author:

 

Seth Boschen is starting his 8th year as a teacher and runs his own personal finance blog over at Summit of Coin. Through meticulously watching his money and extreme frugality, he was able to pay down over $29k in student loan debt in just seven months. You can learn more about his story and follow him here.

Travel Secrets for Millennials: A Chat With a Travel Industry Expert

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

Millennials, we love to travel, right? Whether it’s for work, for vacation, for a break from work, or to find new adventures, the ability to travel is important to us.

With traveling comes making travel plans, and sometimes, there’s a lot of money and red tape involved. Well, we want to help make that a bit easier. We chatted with Deborah Orgel-Gordon, a travel professional and owner of Extravagant Travel, Inc.,  and asked her for some of her trade secrets.

Should millennials use a travel agent rather than booking online? Why?
When I book a hotel for my clients, that is not the end of it. I’ve then reached out to the managers of hotels to make sure they know my client is coming and to “VIP them.” My agency has over 1,000 hotels all over the world on our “Hotel Collection” program.  If one of these hotels are booked, even more benefits come like possible upgrades, amenities to the room, possible early and late check outs and many times, extra food and beverage credits or more. What millennials need to understand is travel professionals have connections to many of the destinations they go to. In a world where life is so busy, and everyone works longer hours to survive, why not use the professional who will go the extra mile to book restaurant reservations, transfers, tours, tickets to shows, and more?  The key is: that not all travel professionals are created equal just like other professions like attorney, accountant and doctor.  You need to find the right one by recommendations and possibly one that specializes in the destinations where you like to travel.

Are millennials better off with the booking process in person or through the internet?
I suggest finding a travel professional in person, rather than booking though the internet, to book vacations. Interview your travel professional like you would if you were looking for an attorney or accountant. Find someone from recommendations other friends and family have used. Travel professionals with years of experience have the knowledge of properties and destinations. Mistakes are easily made when booking on your own, and then really difficult to fix.  If you are booking airfare and want to skip the travel professional, I always recommend booking directly with the airline you choose so if there are changes or delays you go right to the source. I find many millennials are turning back to using a travel professional, especially for honeymoons. They want to make sure they are in good hands. A good travel professional can make sure you possible get an upgrade on a room, or extras of being treated special at a hotel or resort.

What are the perks to using a travel agent?
Travel professionals have the connections to many places traveled to. Most have relationships with hotels and airlines. For instance, as an example, I booked a honeymoon couple on Delta Vacations package to Italy for a honeymoon and they made a deposit on — air and hotels — and I always watch carefully all my bookings to see if a price drops before final payment. In this case, it dropped $700.00.  I contacted my sales rep and they honored the drop in price and I saved them the $700!

What do you think is a great low-budget option for a weekend trip?
Traveling off-season to a destination can get you some better low-budget vacations. I have planned some low-budget trips to Dominican Republic off-season for quick three-night getaways. Also some shorter cruises can sometimes over very low prices for three-night sailings.

Based on your clientele, where are millennials traveling?
The top destination I book for millennials is Italy.

Where can you find the best deals?
Stick with a travel professional. Do your homework on the internet, and many times, the travel agent can get you these same deals.

Depending on where you’re going, is it worth it to join a tour group?
If you are the type that wants to make new friends, or be with others, then it is worth considering a tour group. Not everyone is set up to be their own tour guide, and tour groups hit all the highlights that one would see at a destination. Not everyone likes to travel this way, so if you are more adventurous type or like to be more flexible when traveling, I would not recommend a tour group.

What’s the best month to travel?
That is based on the destination that is picked. For instance, if you’d like to go to Europe, the high season is summer, and low season would be winter. Spring and fall would be called “Shoulder Season,” which sometimes offers good deals. With the Caribbean, from September to mid-December, you can usually grab great deals. So, it all depends on the destination.

Is “booking a flight at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night” really the cheapest? 
Sometimes, but if you have your heart set on a specific flight and exact date, and there are limited seats on those flights because they are popular, “booking on a Tuesday,” as they say, would not matter.

Do you think travel agency is a dying business?
Definitely not. I am very busy and my company that I am an Independent Contractor (IC) specialist for has thousands of agents all over the world. They actually started a travel school to now train the millennial generation in the travel industry because there was a need for it. The millennial generation likes services, and once they try a great travel agent they are very loyal and recommend that agent to other millennials. If you want a quick Florida flight or one night somewhere, sure, use an app or a website, but when you want to go away and know you will be in good hands from A to Z, seek out that recommended travel professional. I have no doubt everyone would become a loyal client.

 

Deborah Orgel-Gordon is the proud owner of Extravagant Travel Corp., a boutique travel agency in Glen Head, NY, committed to offering standout, customized service. As a successful travel consultant/agent for over 17 years, Deborah has enjoyed traveling the globe, jetting to destinations around the world. She specializes in booking travel to Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, as well as honeymoons, senior travel, family travel, inter-generational travel, cruises, and escorted tours. Extravagant Travel offers customized concierge services for personal leisure travel needs including spas, restaurants, theater/concert tickets, golf vacations, limousines, personal jets, meetings, and more. Deborah is also a certified IC specialist with a reputable international travel company. 

How to Write a Professional Email

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Career Advice

Ah, the dreaded professional email… full of conundrums: how to greet the other person, what to put in the subject line, to use or not to use (smileys), how to sign it, what would be most likely to get me a response, etc. Fear not, I am here to help you out!

First tip: Make sure your contact information is correct in your signature, your greeting, your contact card, etc. We all had that one embarrassing phase where we decided to go by initials or “coolsmartcuzimadevilangle” in our contact card. Take it out. That is the height of being unprofessional. Make sure it clearly states your name (which your actual email address should as well). First impressions, they count.

  • This holds true even if you already have a job and are writing an internal email. It is still extremely important to appear professional at all times.
  • Maybe avoid the punny one-liners in your signature. If you work in a creative industry or you truly think it brightens your recipient’s day, go for it. But in my experience, it just leads to an eye roll and an audible groan.

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Second tip: Keep the subject line short, yet descriptive. No need to go spilling all your deepest secrets right off the bat. The subject line should give the recipient an idea of what you want to discuss without being the body of the email. Think of the subject line like a movie trailer. Would you want to go see the movie if the whole plot is in the trailer?

Third tip: When you don’t know the person all that well (meaning you are either applying for the job, or have just started, or the person is powerful in the organization), use Mr., Mrs. or Ms. “Last Name” when addressing your email.

  • Use “Hello” or “Dear” depending on if this is a job application or an internal email. Not “Hi” or “Hey.”
  • In addition, use Ms. if you aren’t sure about the marital status of the person you are addressing. Nothing is worse than assuming someone is married when she is not.
  • Also, make sure that the person to whom you addressed the email is the person to whom you refer in the body. That confusion can lead to some seriously awkward situations!

Fourth tip: When it comes to the actual content, keep it short and simple, but with enough information to elicit a glance and a response.

  • The key here is clarity and consistency.
  • Make your point as clearly and quickly as possible.
  • Underline, bold or italicize key points.
  • Leave extra space between different thoughts to allow for a break and to show that they are in fact separate thoughts.
  • There are apps and websites out there to help you with this part. Boomerang Respondable for Gmail will analyze your draft according to several criteria, including: subject length, word count, question count and reading level to tell you how likely it is that you will receive a response to that email. The truth is, it’s not always right, since it definitely cannot account for human behavior.
  • LinkedIn has several articles on this topic to help you refine the body of your email.

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Fifth tip – Attachments:

  • If you include an attachment, make sure to make reference to it. It should be clear that you had a reason for the attachment.
  • If you write “refer to attachment,” make sure the attachment is actually attached. You do not want to have to send another email because you forgot the attachment. Nowadays, Google has a “Labs” feature, which will remind you to upload an attachment when you write “see attachment” or “please find attached” in the body of your email.

Sixth tip: Be careful when using smileys and abbreviations.

  • Smileys are generally not professional. As always, there are exceptions to every rule, but it is best to err on the side of caution. So, do not use smileys.
  • Abbreviations like “BTW” (by the way) have no place in professional emails. Spell it out!

Seventh and final tip: Don’t worry about it too much. Careers are not made or broken on email — despite what the last Presidential election might cause you to think. So relax and be yourself, even in your emails. Whatever you write will probably end up sounding like you — just your best you!

Daily Doings for Your Dear Dirt-Free Dwelling

Adulting, Author: Gauri Bhatia

Ah, apartment living. On your own. Now is the time to learn how to do all the little things your parents used to do for you. It’s kind of like being in a college dormitory, but this time, there is no dining hall or Resident Assistant to help you do the things you don’t know how to do.

The most important thing about apartment living is keeping the space clean, so that you make the most of the small quarters. Here are my tips on just how to make the best of your apartment living (with some help from my mother).

  • Practice good housekeeping: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” – Mumsy
  • Any sort of clutter gets amplified, so keep the decorations to a minimum. No need to put out every tchotchke you have ever bought or were gifted. Keep them in a box if you are that sentimental about such things.
  • Clean up after yourself every single day – i.e. putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher (not just in the sink), clean dishes in the cabinets (not still in the dishwasher), dirty clothes in the laundry bin (not on a chair, or the bed, or the couch, or the floor, or on the TV, or in the bathtub) and clean clothes on hangers in the closet (trust me – you will appreciate it the next day when you don’t have to dig through a pile to find clean clothes)!
  • Wipe the sink with a paper towel after every use. You won’t have to clean as massively when you do clean.
  • Put away food in its proper place. Rats, ants and (ew!) cockroaches love leftover food.
  • Spend at least one hour a week dusting, vacuuming, swiffering and mopping every surface you can reach, find, or see. Things in an apartment get dusty fast!
  • Throw out the garbage every day when you leave the apartment. That way you never forget and the house doesn’t smell like rotten banana peels all the time.

If you follow these simple tips, apartment living can be fun, independent and not make you feel like you are living like a sardine in a can. Yes, they can seem tedious, but in the long run, you’ll be grateful!

College is Starting – Here’s What to Do…and Not to Do

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Real Life Stories

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So, being a millennial is not all nostalgia, like Beanie Babies and Saved By The Bell. Some of our millennial population is starting (or heading back to) the big bad journey that is…. college!

Come on, kids. We have all been through it (or at least 61% of us according to the White House’s Millennial Report). Here’s a how-to for that first week – with some tips for freshmen, others even applying to veterans. Because after that, you will be settled and having fun!

  • DO: Figure out how long it takes to get to your classes before the first day. You don’t want to find out that the buses don’t run every hour and miss all your classes for the first week. (I’m looking at my cousin Mohil on that one.)
  • DO: Establish a time that you are going to check in with your parents (whether it be daily, or weekly, or monthly, or any combination thereof).
    • They want to hear from you. You want to reassure them that you are alive.
    • Establishing a set time prevents the awkward situation of having to answer the call from Mom and Dad while the background is filled with things you really don’t want them to hear…(Sorry, Mumsy).
  • DO: Try to make friends early. This one’s for you, freshmen. You might not keep the same friends the whole time, but it’s important to start off the year with a good social life.
    • For example, one of my best friends is someone I met on the first day of school because she lived next door. But the rest of the people I met that day, I no longer talk to. But that’s okay!
  • DO: Take this opportunity to take classes in subjects you would never learn about normally: Tango, Cognitive Psychology and Eastern Religions were my “out of the box” choices.
  • DO: Remember that despite all the fun times, you are still there to get an education. Study as hard as you party/have fun. Seriously, don’t be that seventh-year senior. I had a blast in college and still graduated in three and a half years.
  • DO NOT: Panic. College may be the first time you are living away from home. I know it’s scary. But trust me, you will get through it. You may overload the washing machine and end up in a pool of suds; you may use dish soap in the dishwasher and end up…. in a pool of suds; you may accidentally bleach your favorite black shirt…it will all be okay. Not that I did any of these things…
  • DO NOT: Party too hard. Life is not that serious; there will be more opportunities and less hiding in the closet when the cops come. (I swear, Mumsy, it wasn’t me!)
  • DO: Have fun and enjoy (responsibly). When else will you be surrounded by people your own age who are as confused and lost as you? College will be over before you know it and you will look back and miss these days, once you are out in the “real world.”