This is part two of my three-part Student Life blog series. (Part one)

When heading off to college, don't forget to move your money out too. Most financial institutions offer student checking, savings, credit cards and other programs to help you start healthy financial habits and build credit history.

Here are three steps to making your financial move:

  • Step One: Before you leave for college, find a financial institution in the same city as your college--one that also has a branch in your hometown could be convenient. Don't just pick any institution. Look around and compare to find a place that treats you with respect and offers services that fit your needs. Then open a checking account with them. Student accounts usually don’t have fees attached and most have a minimum opening deposits under $100. They usually don’t have minimum daily balance requirements or maintenance fees either. Checks are usually free, as is a debit card. Some institutions offer programs that reward you for your good grades.
  • Step Two: Open a savings account if you have enough money.  Student savings accounts have similar features as checking, but usually require more money to open. A savings account separate from checking can help you avoid spending money that you're trying to save up.
  • Step Three: Apply for a student credit card. They will have a low credit limit, usually around $500, a low fixed APR (Annual Percentage Rate), and no annual or extra fees. You can compare different credit cards online, but it’s always best to inquire about them with your financial institution. Remember to be careful when it comes to credit card use. The average undergrad carried a credit card balance of $3,173 and had 4 cards, according to a 2009 Sallie Mae report.

Three little steps can have you on your way to practicing good financial decisions while building credit for your future. As a student you usually don’t have to pay extra fees and aren’t expected to keep high balances in your accounts, but that won’t last forever. Check with your financial institution about any other student specials, discounts, or offers.

Check back next week to learn how you can utilize student discounts to save money on shopping, entertainment, and eating out.

-Makenzie 

Everyone knows that cell phones are ubiquitous. However, we're quickly reaching the point where laws are catching up to life as we know it. Across the country, new laws are going into effect limiting cell phone usage, especially texting, while driving. Here's the breakdown by the numbers:

  • 20 states ban texting for all drivers. 22 are currently considering similar legislation.
  • $2,750 is the maximum penalty for commercial truck or bus drivers caught texting on the road.
  • 276.6 million wireless subscribers sent 135.2 billion text (SMS) messages in June 2009, and 1.36 trillion text messages for the year.
  • 3 million federal employees were prohibited from text messaging while driving by an Executive Order in October 2009.

You need to be aware of the laws in your state; no two are alike. On the other hand, you might consider not texting on principle: AAA estimates that between 4,000 and 8,000 crashes related to distracted driving occur every day in the U.S. Plus, you're 23 times more likely to crash while texting. There's no need to put your life and others' lives in danger for the sake of an an "LOL OMG" or a "k cya l8r!"

The U.S. unemployment rate is holding steady at 10%. Here's the scary part: even as the economy begins to recover, the fear is that there could be a jobless recovery--economic indicators will stabilize, but people will still be out of work.

This is because the jobs lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007 outweigh all the jobs created since 2000. A decade's worth of job creation/growth has been wiped out. 

Job losses have hit some sectors particularly hard. Lost construction jobs alone account for one-fifth of total job losses. The unemployment rate for construction is 22.5%; farming, fishing and forestery unemployment is 21.8%; and production unemployment is 14.7%.

Some jobs, such as those in construction, may not be coming back. Construction jobs grew by leaps and bounds during the height of the housing bubble. Once the bubble popped, those jobs disappered. They aren't likely to come back because the growth didn't have any substance.

In other sectors, like administrative work and directory services, jobs were going to be lost even without the recession because their tasks are becoming automated. The recession sped up the job losses.

Even if the economy stops losing jobs, the unemployment rate won't necessarily go down.To fill these lost jobs, new jobs will have to be created. This is difficult to do and takes time.

If you find yourself unemployed or in a shrinking job sector, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) projected job growth table.  Look for a job sector with expected growth and consider getting education or training to make a job switch.

Jobs aren't going to create themselves. As a country and as individuals we have the opportunity to take this recession and make it a positive. Perhaps it will provide the spark we need to start producing more and consuming less. Our economy's last two booms were based on widespread speculation and ill-advised investment. The dotcom bubble from 2000 to 2002 was based on nothing more than pipe dreams. The housing bubble began about the same time the dotcom bubble burst, and by 2006 it was ready to pop. We are still feeling the effects.

Hopefully we can become a nation of innovators and producers, making needed products and providing solutions based on real needs--not just a quick profit. Let me know what industries you think have growth potential and where America can shift its priorities on the road ahead. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/julieedgley/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Oh, to be educated. In a three-part blog series, I'll show you how being a college student can have its rewards at school, with finances, and when shopping for everyday items.

Today we're covering school perks.

Schools offer discounts on everything from healthcare to software. For instance, shopping through your student bookstore can mean big discounts on Adobe and Microsoft software like Photoshop and Office. You can also get discounts online, but if you buy at the bookstore you won't have to prove you're eligible

Don't forget that school computer labs (free) have many expensive types of software for use at your convenience. College departments also offer free access to expensive equipment and facilities like video cameras, testing labs, surveying equipment, etc.

There are many extracurricular activities around campus to take advantage of. Take a gym membership for example: you may have full access to your school's gym for free (because you pay for it with your tuition fees). Check your school's events calendar regularly too, as there are usually free opportunities to listen to great speakers, watch movies, attend concerts, and participate in other campus activities (like Oregon State University's Snow in the Quad). Athletic events are usually free or discounted for students as well.

There are more opportunities beyond the fun stuff, of course. Most schools offer limited healthcare resources, making it possible to see a nurse or physician at no charge. Check your school's student health and counseling services to see what is covered under your tuition. It's also possible to purchase health insurance at a cheaper yearly rate from your school.

Campus clubs and organizations are great resources for social and professional interaction. Career centers are great places to get free counseling and advice about interviews, resumes, and job/internship opportunities.

I have only mentioned a handful of things that your school will offer for free or at discount. All of these are going to cost you more in the future, so take advantage of them while you can!

Check back in the coming weeks for parts two and three of the series.

--Makenzie

 

In February 2008 we featured The Buried Life--Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn and Jonnie Penn--on the cover of brass|MAGAZINE.  These four guys are on a mission to complete a list of 100 things they want to do before they die, and help encourage others to create and live out their own lists. Since 2006 they've been cruising around the U.S. and Canada completing 46 of the items on their list. Among them: go to a rock concert in full leather, approach the most beautiful girl you've ever seen and kiss her, party with a rockstar, learn how to surf, and give a stranger a $100 bill.

Last time we saw them they were still trying for #53, start a television show. Tonight they can officially check that one off the list. The Buried Life premieres at 10 p.m. on MTV.

The show is unscripted reality. An MTV camera crew follows the guys around as they go about completing their list. According to The Buried Life Fact Sheet, "the guys are not funded so they have to accomplish their tasks by their own creativity, wit and asking for assistance from others." During each episode they will try to accomplish goals from their list, as well as fulfill the dream of a total stranger.

Tune in.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Cary.  

By Cody Wetmore on January 15th, 2010 • exercise, Life

During the winter months, deciding you can't exercise is as easy as looking out a window. "It's raining/snowing/sleeting; clearly I can't work out."

Going to the gym is less than ideal if you're up against monthly fees and protein shake-swilling types, or if you have limited time after already trying to fit in work, school and some semblance of a life.

Plus, most home workout programs like 6 Second Abs (pictured at right) aren't much more than novelty items (a coworker received this in our annual white elephant gift exchange).

These convenient excuses, coupled with delicious nog-related beverages, can lead to the dreaded winter weight gain.

But fear not, there are many exercises that you can do in the home or office that only require a few minutes of your time:

  • Stretching--Whether at work or school, sitting for hours at a desk can leave you in a daze. Try these stretching exercises to help keep you alert.
  • Pushups and Pull-ups--Pick up a doorway pull-up bar for around $15, or push yourself up off the ground for free. Start with a small goal, even if it's only one or two repetitions, increasing the number of reps every week.
  • Ab Wheel--$10 or less new, or even cheaper used, ab wheels work your abs, back and arms.
  • Seven-Minute Workout--A great way to wake up in the morning, this workout focuses on all your major muscle groups, stretching and balance, all in seven minutes.

When trying to fit in exercise around your current lifestyle, it helps to get creative. A few minutes of exercise a day (and the end of nog season) will help keep post-holiday weight off until getting your exercise outside is more appealing.

--Cody

If you haven't heard already, textbook renting has become a new popular way to study for assignments without having to sell a limb to cover the price tag. In fact, it's becoming such a big thing that even Barnes & Noble is getting into the game. Here's how it works at most sites.

  • You rent the books online, use them for the duration of the rental period (usually measured in terms, semesters or months), then send them back.
  • Highlighting may be allowed. However, as with any textbook, if you aren't going to be the last one to read it, be polite and keep highlighting and notes to a minimum.
  • Many offer free shipping options. In some cases, return shipping is free as well.
  • Some offer discounts on re-rentals (retaking a class, for example) or offer a full refund if the book is returned within 30 days.

There are many rental sites around. Check out chegg.com, bookrenter.com, and campusbookrentals.com to start. Make sure to check all the details (shipping, length of the rental and lost or stolen policies) before renting. If you don't find your book at one site, try another.

One last thing: Just because renting is cheap doesn't mean it's the best deal. Make sure to shop around--you may be able to find a better deal on a used book.
 

One of the most beneficial New Year's resolutions you can make this January is to get your finances in order. Some 75% of people said they plan to make at least one personal-finance resolution this year, according to a survey from online broker TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. Here are five goals to help you get your personal finances in order in 2010, so you don't have to worry as much come the next decade.

Learn how to budget
A great pointer in budgeting is simply remember to spend less than you earn. Don’t rack up unnecessary loans or credit card bills. Regardless of income, remember to spend only what you need to.

Check out these articles from moneycentral.msn.com and brassmagazine.com to learn how to build your first budget.

Knock out debt
The average American household has up to $8,000 dollars in credit card debt. If you have credit card debt, make a goal to pay it off this year. Learn how to start mapping your way out of debt.

Plan on retiring

We all want to be able to retire and live a life of relaxation at some point, right? It may seem far away, but all those years creep up faster than expected, so start planning now. This article from bankrate.com (via msn.com) explains how saving $2,000 a year starting in your twenties results in roughly half a million dollars forty years down the road. Start investing in your future.

Learn how to save
You'll also want to make a point to save money in general. This can help keep debt under control and lay a foundation for your spending habits. Check out these saving strategies.

Take charge of your credit
Start monitoring your credit.  Having good credit will prove particularly significant when applying for large loans like a home mortgage or business loan. To get started, check out  Extra Credit: Your guide to understanding credit.

-Makenzie

Going to (or back to) school is a great backup plan if you lose a job or are just looking for a change. I've been toying around with the idea of getting a Masters degree lately. I'm not entirely sure what I would study (law, psychology or library sciences are my current top three choices), or even if it's the right decision for me, but I like the idea.

If you're having the same idea, you'll know how much research goes into a decision such as this. Considering whether it's the right decision for you and then choosing a school and program, take a lot of work. If you decide to go for it, here's what you need to know.

This list just hits the highlights. Check out The Princeton Review's grad school application timeline for more details. It's a long process, so be patient and do your best to impress.

 

A lot has changed since the first commercial cell phone call was placed in 1983. The "brick" was replaced by smaller "bricks," that eventually led to the banana-phone made famous in The Matrix. There's even a site for fans of old cell phones, and a video morphing cell phones from 1985 to a first-generation iPhone.

One difference between 1985 and now is the number of subscribers: 340,000 then, compared with over 260 million at the end of '08. Another is price. The "brick," more formally the Motorola DynaTAC, cost $3,995 when it hit the scene in 1983. That's $8,677 in today's dollars.

Today, prices aren't quite so steep. Lots of phones cost nothing with a 2-year agreement, or have a steep price discount--like Google's new Nexus One phone--when you sign up for a plan. But there are plenty of people (42% to be exact) who feel trapped with their plan because of cancellation fees that can be hundreds of dollars.

There is hope. Sites like cellSwapper.com and celltradeusa.com allow you to dump your contract without a termination fee by hooking up with another person who wants to adopt it. Great for the 42% of teens who say they can text blindfolded, and those who weren't looking when they signed on with their service provider.