Is Online College for You? Answer 5 Questions to Find Out

Amelia Roberts, a nurse in Washington, D.C., knew she needed to return to college for a bachelor’s degree if she wanted to win a care coordinator position at her hospital. But attending college on a campus wasn’t a practical option for her.

“I was in the workforce, so traveling to a class in the evening wasn’t going to work. Everything pointed to online university,” Roberts says. She enrolled in a bachelor’s of science program in nursing online through Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey. Soon after Roberts got the promotion.

Roberts found the independent and self-paced style of online learning suited her well.

Millions of college students enroll in online courses every year. Nearly a third of all college students take at least one online course, and one in seven students take online courses exclusively, according to the most recent data available from Babson Survey Research Group, which conducts national surveys annually on online learning in the U.S.

But it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering an online degree program, ask yourself these five questions.

1. Are you self-motivated?

You need to be a self-starter to succeed in any classroom, but it’s critical for online learning. Online degree seekers are often older than typical freshmen, and classes aren’t always the top priority.

“The majority of our students are working adults with full-time jobs, children and other commitments outside of the classroom,” says Joe Chapman, director of student services for Arizona State University Online. “Attending in class on campus is not an option for them, and it’s been several years since they last attended school. … It can be daunting and scary for some people.”

To thrive in an online setting, you’ll need self-discipline. You’ll also need a strategy to manage your time and energy to balance classwork with other responsibilities, experts say.

2. Do you have the right equipment?

You can take a course online at any time and place — that’s its primary appeal. Yet that doesn’t mean you should be using your smartphone to do it, experts say.

“You may have a phone, an iPhone or an iPad and you can access our classes that way, but to be effective, you really should have a reliable computer,” says Lynne M. Lander Fleisher, director of Clarion University Online.

You’ll need a desktop or laptop and regular access to Wi-Fi to complete coursework online. You may need to download software your school requires as well.

3. Can you adapt to learning online?

Learning in an online setting may not be the best way for you to absorb information. If you’re not a reader, then you probably won’t enjoy online courses, which tend to require a lot of reading. You’re unlikely to interact much with your professor or peers in an online course. A solo learning style may not be a fit if you rely on communicating with others.

“Everyone learns differently, so the people who can learn better by reading or hearing have an advantage,” says Megan Pederson, teaching specialist and online academic advisor for University of Minnesota Crookston. “People who learn by doing tend not to enjoy the online experience.”

4. Is the school you’re interested in legitimate?

An online degree program’s quality will vary by institution. Programs offered by established, nonprofit public or private schools are usually safe bets. You should research the credentials of schools without a brick-and-mortar counterpart.

Start by finding top online colleges from “best of” lists by reputable publications. For an extra layer of quality control, inquire about accreditation, both institutional and program-specific, with the admissions department.

5. How will you pay?

If you can’t afford to pay for your degree with savings and income, the financial aid process is the same as if you were attending a traditional college campus. You’ll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Then you’ll receive a Student Aid Report detailing aid you qualify for.

The amount of aid you can get will depend on your enrollment status, dependency status and income. The rule of thumb is to accept any grants and scholarships, followed by work-study, before taking on a loan.

Schools that are accredited will offer financial aid. Be wary if your school does not offer federal financial aid or pushes its own loan programs.

The article Is Online College for You? Answer 5 Questions to Find Out originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Ask Brianna: How Do I Make a Money Resolution That Succeeds?

“Ask Brianna” is a column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to

This week’s question:

I never keep my New Year’s resolutions. But this year, I set a goal to save more money. How can I finally stick with it?

When we set money goals, our motivations are pure. A new year has just begun, we recently got engaged or we’re trying to stockpile a down payment.

But we give ourselves too much credit.

“The No. 1 reason that people end up not meeting their goals is they try to do too much too soon,” says Laura Morganelli, a financial advisor at Abacus Wealth Partners in Philadelphia.

Drastically cutting your spending and saving a big portion of your income might sound seductive in a dramatic, start-a-blog-about-it way. But saving a lot so suddenly is hard. You’ll get discouraged. You’ll fail, and you’ll feel like a disappointment. A disappointment who still doesn’t have any savings.

So dial it back a bit. Give yourself a break. Making realistic goals to save money doesn’t mean you’re lazy, just pragmatic; set yourself up for small wins, and they’ll add up to bigger ones.

Make your goal bite-sized

Maybe you’ve heard your boss talk about S.M.A.R.T. goals. They’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. A broad goal to save more money doesn’t qualify. But saving $500 for emergencies by the end of June — that’s more like it.

Why? Because hitting small milestones will encourage you to keep going. You won’t lose heart if you have to skip a month of savings to pay a surprise parking ticket, because it doesn’t take much effort to pick back up. Instead of completely reworking your monthly spending, you can make small changes. And once you hit small milestones, you’re free to exceed them — or set new, loftier goals in the future.

Most people can spare $21 a week to hit that $500 savings goal in six months, for example. Perhaps you can cut back on takeout or cancel a gym membership in favor of online exercise videos. Schedule automatic transfers to your savings account so you won’t forget.

This goal is realistic, and it’s also the first step toward financial security. Setting aside $500 for unexpected costs, like a new tire or a dog’s vet bill, means you can pay for them in cash, rather than letting them sit neglected on a credit card.

Make it social

The best of intentions can be derailed by unforeseen expenses.

Keep yourself accountable by sharing your plans with a supportive friend or family member, ideally someone with a goal you can cheer on, too. If it’s uncomfortable to explain the specifics of your financial situation, leave out the details. You can share percentages — “I’m aiming to save another 1% of income for retirement this year” — or simply that you’re saving more per month.

Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner and CEO of Financially Wise Women in Los Angeles, says she meets with her clients every three months. She recommends checking in with your chosen financial buddy on the same timeline. Tell each other whether you’ve kept to your plans, what prevented you from doing so if not, and how you’ll get back on track.

Make it flexible

Don’t lose hope if you fall behind. Fearing that you’ll fail, in fact, can actually be a good sign, Morganelli says; it means you’re paying attention, and that you want to succeed.

Take a realistic look at your expenses and adjust your savings goal if necessary. Maybe you didn’t account for regular bus trips to visit family when you decided to save $100 a month. Try for $75 a month instead. Or consider ways to make extra money that you’ll send directly to savings, Castro says25

There’s a place for big, strategic thinking in your life. That’s what encourages people to go back to school to pursue a dream career or to sell their possessions and travel the U.S. in a retro van. But when saving money, keep the focus small — squarely on where you are right now — so you’ll make consistent, gratifying progress.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

Brianna McGurran is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

The article Ask Brianna: How Do I Make a Money Resolution That Succeeds? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Starting a New Job? Be Prepared to Fill Out These 5 Forms

If you’re starting a new job, you’ve probably already completed your fair share of paperwork. From the job application to the offer letter and everything in between, there’s a lot of filling in the blanks.

Unfortunately, it’s not over. As you might have experienced before, day one of a new job includes completing even more forms.

Remember that they’re no less important. They could determine the size and delivery of your paycheck, for example.

5 forms to complete when starting a new job

You might be wondering why you need to be prepared for your new-hire paperwork. Although a human resources (HR) representative is likely to walk you through these on your first day, it can be helpful to study them in advance. As a result, you’ll complete them correctly and efficiently.

There’s also a practical benefit. This list of five forms will also highlight what to bring with you into the office, such as forms of identification.

1. I-9 documents

Your employer is obligated to have you sign the federal government’s Employment Eligibility Verification form. Also known as the I-9 Form, it proves you’re eligible to work in the U.S.

You’ll complete the first of three pages of I-9 documents by filling in personal information, such as your citizenship status. Your employer’s HR representative will complete the second page after reviewing your forms of identification.

The I-9 Form calls for you to present one or two forms of ID. Typical forms you can provide include:

  • U.S. passport
  • Permanent resident card
  • Driver’s license
  • State, school, or military ID
  • Voter’s registration card

2. W-4 form

Completing the IRS’ Form W-4 helps your employer determine how much of your paycheck to withhold for federal income taxes. The Personal Allowances Worksheet included on the first page will determine the withholding amount for you.

Simply put: The more allowances or exemptions you claim, the less will be withheld from your paycheck. An example of an allowance is claiming dependents on your tax return.

Form W-4

Image credit: IRS

Besides the worksheet, you could use the IRS’ withholding calculator to determine your preferred amount of allowances.

You might prefer withholding even more from your paycheck than is needed. This could help you score a big tax refund at the end of the year. Alternatively, you could have your employer withhold less from your paycheck if you’d rather take a tax hit later on.

Don’t worry if you change your mind. You can adjust your withholdings at any time as you prepare for tax season.

Unlike Form W-4, you don’t have to worry about your W-2 form until tax season. Your employer will complete a W-2 form for every employee, regardless of their elected allowances.

3. Direct deposit form

Once your employer confirms how much you’ll be paid via the Form W-4, it will help you decide how you’d like to be paid.

Unless you prefer the old-fashioned paper paycheck, you’ll likely complete a direct deposit form when starting a new job. This will automatically send your earnings into the bank account or accounts of your choice at the end of each pay period.

You’ll need to gather two pieces of information to set up a direct deposit: the account number and routing number for any checking or savings account receiving these transfers. You can find both numbers on the bottom of your checks or by logging into your bank’s website.

direct deposit form

Image credit: Bank of America

Your employer’s direct deposit form will also ask what percentage of your paycheck you’d like sent to each account. You might put 50 percent into your checking account for recurring expenses like rent and 50 percent into a savings account that’s used less often.

Think about your short-term expenses and long-term savings goals when choosing your paycheck distribution.

4. Benefits enrollment

You won’t be expected — and might not even be eligible to — enroll in company benefits when starting a new job. But it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the forms you’ll receive on day one.

Your HR representative will likely walk you through your company-provided health insurance options, for example. You’ll be given information about each plan (if there are multiple plans) and their premiums.

There will be an application where you’ll note your choice of coverage. The application will call for basic personal information. It will also allow you to note whether dependent family members will be included in your policy.

Starting a new job is seen as a qualifying event that allows you to switch health plans. It’s important to learn the language of health insurance to make the best possible choice for coverage.

If your company has other perks that require enrollment, you can expect to fill out forms for those as well. Say your new employer offers 401(k) matching, for example. You might be wondering what to do with an older 401(k). If you choose to roll it over to your new company’s account, there will be more paperwork to complete.

5. Company-specific paperwork

Beyond forms coming from the government or your company’s vendors, you can also expect to be handed company-specific paperwork. You might be expected to read and sign the following documents:

  • Non-disclosure agreement: As a legal contract, an NDA ensures the company’s privacy, even after you quit working there. If you work for a high-tech startup, for example, they might be concerned that you’ll take their competitive edge with you when you exit.
  • Compliance: The HR department may also request that you review the company’s employee handbook. It could outline employer policies and ask you to agree to follow them.
  • Expenses: You might be able to request a reimbursement for pre-employment expenses. That will teach you how to expense recurring and one-off costs.

It’s possible that your first day could include other company-specific forms, such as one that provides emergency contact information.

Starting a new job on the right foot

No matter your job title or the company you work for, you were hired to do something other than push papers around. But taking first-day forms seriously will get you off on the right foot with your HR department. Your direct deposit form and I-9 documents might seem unimportant, but they can also affect your wallet and your ability to start work.

Completing the forms efficiently will also allow you to move forward. You can focus on the things that are a little more fun — like requesting time off or finding your new favorite place nearby to eat lunch.

Then, you can focus on your actual job description and ace your first 90 days in your new role.

The article Starting a New Job? Be Prepared to Fill Out These 5 Forms originally appeared on

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4 Steps to Disaster-Proof Your Finances

Mother Nature could be excused if she wondered, “How much more prompting do you people need?”

This year delivered epic wildfires, devastating hurricanes, massive floods and some pretty horrific earthquakes. Yet many people still haven’t taken a few critical steps to protect their financial lives from such disasters.

Consider setting aside a few hours this week to take care of these four essential tasks:

1. Review (and boost) your insurance

Most renters don’t have renters insurance, but they need it since their landlord’s policy won’t cover their stuff. The vast majority of homeowners do have homeowners insurance, but often not enough — especially if their policies haven’t been updated regularly to reflect rising construction costs or improvements.

Ask your insurer to rerun the numbers to ensure you have enough coverage to rebuild your home completely. United Policyholders, an advocacy group for insurance customers, recommends adding as much “extended replacement cost” coverage as you can afford. This add-on boosts the policy’s coverage limits by 20% to 100% if costs run unexpectedly high, as often happens in disaster zones when rebuilding costs soar. Another smart addition: “building code upgrade” or “ordinance coverage” to pay the higher costs of rebuilding to current standards.

Other key points:

  • Homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover floods or earthquakes, so consider buying those policies if your home may be at risk.
  • You want “replacement cost” coverage for your home’s contents, not “actual cash value,” which will pay only pennies on the dollar to replace your stuff.
  • You may need extra coverage if you have certain valuables, such as jewelry, collectibles, guns or computers and other home office equipment. Policies typically limit coverage to $1,500 to $2,500 for each of these categories.
  • Opt for generous “loss of use” or “additional living expenses” coverage, since that will pay your rent and other costs while your home is uninhabitable. United Policyholders recommends having at least two years’ worth of additional living expense coverage.

If you’re concerned your coverage limits are too low and your insurer won’t let you upgrade, shop around for a better provider.

2. Scan important documents into the Cloud

You may be away from home or not have time to grab your bug-out bag in your scramble out the door. Keeping documents or copies off site is one solution, but anything in your safe deposit box or lawyer’s office could be compromised by the same disaster that wrecks your home, says financial planner Leonard Wright, who evacuated his family from their San Diego-area home during the 2007 wildfires.

“You want it out of the area,” says Wright, a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist who contributed to a detailed disaster guide that the American Institute of CPAs created with the American Red Cross and National Endowment for Financial Education.

Wright uses DropBox, a file sharing and storage site, for family pictures and Box, a similar site known for its security features, for financial documents. Other cloud services include Microsoft’s OneDrive, Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive. Documents can be scanned with mobile apps or desktop scanners, which typically cost $200 to $400.

Disaster survivors say the following documents can be particularly important, according to United Policyholders:

  • Insurance policies
  • Passports and birth certificates
  • Family photos
  • Tax and loan documents
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Wills and trusts
  • Home blueprints or surveys, if you have them

3. Do a quick home inventory

This can be as simple as walking around your home, inside and out, recording your stuff with your smartphone’s video camera and storing that video in the cloud. Or you can use an app, such as Sortly, MyStuff2 or United Policyholders’ UPHelp Home Inventory, to photograph and itemize your possessions.

4. Add emergency access to your passwords

Security experts recommend using a password manager to securely store unique, hard-to-remember logins for each account while only having to remember one master password. Password managers also can help a trusted person to take over for you if you die or become incapacitated — but that person needs access to the account.

Some password managers let you offer emergency access to others. Another option is to keep copies of your passwords, or your master password, with your estate planning documents. Services such as Everplans and Fidelity Investments’ FidSafe offer online storage with secure sharing options.

Finally, make a note on your calendar to do all this again next year so all your important documents are kept up to date. Investing a few hours each year can pay off in an easier recovery if disaster ever strikes, and peace of mind even if it doesn’t.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article 4 Steps to Disaster-Proof Your Finances originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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5 Well-Paying Careers for People Who Love the Outdoors

If you were asked to describe a job, many people might say it involves sitting for long hours behind a desk in an office. But what if you’re not a confined-to-a-cubicle kind of person and would rather spend most of your time outside?

Don’t worry; you don’t have to live a hippie life to earn a good salary while enjoying the sunshine. There are a number of well-paying careers where you can spend most of your time outdoors. Here are five great ones to consider.

1. Landscape Architect

You know all of those neighborhood homes and parks with perfectly curated plants? Well, someone needs to come up with the design.

Before landscapers can come in and plant any trees, there needs to be a landscape architect to make the whole vision come together. This can be anything from designing campus grounds and parks, to the landscape around businesses and private homes.

Like any architect, there is some time required for an office to draw up plans. But, there is still a decent amount of time is spent outdoors at the actual job site chatting with clients and watching the project come to life. It’s a great career if you love design, drawing, and art but would prefer to be in nature than a studio.

  • Average salary: $63,480 per year*
  • Education requirements: To be a landscape architect, you need a license. That licensing process varies by state, but typically requires you to have a bachelor’s in landscape architecture, hands-on internship experience, and you must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.
  • Potential career growth: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is expected to increase 6 percent from 2016 to 2026. As new commercial properties continually get developed, and older developments refurbished, there will continue to be a need for landscape architects.

2. Park Ranger

With 417 national park sites in the United States, there needs to be people willing to watch and take care of the 84 million acres. That’s where park rangers come in.

These individuals are required to take on several roles at national parks and historic sites, including acting as law enforcement, responding to any injuries, and providing information to guests. They also help to ensure the parks and sites are well-maintained, report any abnormal behavior from both guests and animals, and indicate if there’s an increase for natural disasters, such as a fire.

Best of all, all of this requires you to spend a ton of time outdoors. So much so, the parks warn prospective rangers that they will have to endure all sorts of weather and temperatures. You better like the cold and the heat!

  • Average salary: $37,382 per year
  • Education requirements: A bachelor’s degree in forestry, wildlife management, or environmental science is typically required. Any additional training in something such as emergency medical services could help with both securing a job and increasing level of pay. Additional onsite training, similar to other patrol careers such as policemen, could also be required.
  • Potential career growth: The exact details of park ranger employment prospects are not clear, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates careers in forestry and conversation to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026. An important reason for the continued need of park rangers is to help prevent wildfires.

3. Chemical or geological oceanographer

If your ideal day involves taking a dip in the ocean or putting your toes in the sand, you may want to consider an outdoor career as an oceanographer. Not only are you outside for several days to several months at a time, but often on the open seas.

Oceanographers can have a variety of duties, such as studying the changing chemical makeup of the ocean and seafloor, or the movement of tectonic plates. You could specialize in the currents and tides, or volcanic activity. The options are endless, so long as you love the ocean.

  • Average salary: $58,971 per year
  • Education requirements: You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as marine biology, marine geology, biological oceanography, hydrology, geosciences, etc. Also, an internship with field work is usually required and a background in research and computer skills for completing math calculations and inputting data.
  • Potential career growth: Oceanographers encompass so many specialized careers, so it’s a bit difficult to pinpoint an exact career growth prospect. But, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that employment of geoscientists is expected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. That’s quicker than the average for occupations as a whole. Why? There is an ever-growing need for energy and environmental protection. Various institutions, both public and private, continue to look for ways to promote “responsible land and resource management.”

4. Wildlife Biologist

While we’ve already got you covered for a list of careers for animals lovers, there’s a job for animal lovers who also love the outdoors. A wildlife biologist gets to combine these two passions by studying animals and their habitats.

Day-to-day duties can include studying the physical traits of animals, their behaviors, how they’re impacting humans, and what they’re doing to the environment. Most of this work can’t be done sitting behind a desk. It requires a lot of time outdoors in the animals’ natural environments, observing and collecting data.

  • Average salary: $60,520 per year
  • Education requirements: You will need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions in this field, but having a master’s degree is typical for higher-level scientific work. If you’re interested in actually leading a study for a university, a Ph.D. is necessary.
  • Potential career growth: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of wildlife biologists is expected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026. Wildlife populations are evolving and changing creating a demand for people to study them. Unfortunately, budget constraints on governmental agencies limit funding for such research.

5. Archeologists

Calling all real-life Indiana Joneses! Ok, so Harrison Ford may not play you in a movie, but you can still spend plenty of time outdoors studying ancient cultures.

As an archaeologist, you will research the physical traces left behind by our ancestors to better understand historic languages, behaviors, and the ways of life from the past. This happens all over the world, and can involve fieldwork to examine these objects and locations. You could find a job with a research organization, governmental body, or private research firm.

  • Average salary: $63,190 per year
  • Education requirements: You need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in anthropology or archeology. Experience doing fieldwork in either discipline is also important.
  • Potential career growth: Unfortunately, employment of anthropologists and archeologists is growing slower compared to other occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the field to only grow 3 percent from 2016 to 2026 because there are fewer positions available in these fields. The fewer number of jobs is due to cuts in funding from the government, but organizations can still seek private funding.

So whether you like the ocean, animals, the dirt, or the trees, there’s a career for every type of outdoor lover. The main commonality: No suits or watercooler chats required. If that sounds appealing, search on job sites like Indeed or LinkedIn with these titles and see where some outdoor career opportunities lie.

*Average salaries are based on available data (as of Dec. 2017) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale.

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Why Some Students Quit College — and How They Can Finish

Growing up in Cookeville, Tennessee, a university town about 80 miles east of Nashville, Hayley Furcean was determined to be the first college graduate in her family.

“I’ve always been the smart kid,” she says.

After graduating from high school in 2008, she earned a full academic scholarship for her first year at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville and began studying early childhood education. But things took a turn the summer after freshman year, when her grandmother died.

Furcean began questioning whether teaching preschool was what she wanted to do with her life. She moved out of her parents’ home, which meant picking up more shifts at work to pay rent and bills. She suffered from depression and often skipped class.

“My grades went from A’s to F’s,” Furcean says. “It was really tough at that time to prioritize school when I felt like everything else was falling apart.”

After sophomore year, she left school.

Furcean’s story is personal, but her situation is common. In 2016, 36 million people ages 25 and over had earned some college credit but no degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Students’ reasons for stopping short of a diploma are wide-ranging: poor grades, strained finances, negative college experiences, programs that weren’t the right fit.

Without a degree, it can be impossible to qualify for many jobs. By 2020, 65% of all U.S. jobs will require some kind of higher education, according to estimates by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. It’s also challenging for people with no diploma to earn enough to repay student debt. College dropouts who started school in 2003-04 were more likely to have defaulted on their school loans by 2015 than students who had completed an associate or bachelor’s degree, according to National Center for Education Statistics data.

To help students, colleges should do more to identify those at risk for dropping out and help them avoid doing so, says Hadass Sheffer, president of The Graduate! Network, an organization working to increase the number of adults who complete college. For instance, institutions could unintrusively track students’ attendance and whether they turn in assignments, and intervene with those who show signs of trouble, Sheffer says.

“The path to giving up is the path of least resistance,” Sheffer says. “What if you had to jump through hoops to quit?”

A second chance

In January, Furcean returned to Tennessee Tech University for her second go at a bachelor’s degree. She’s taking classes at night and online in workplace leadership and business management, and works full time as a preschool teacher.

Her schedule is demanding, but Furcean, now 27, has extra support. She works with an advisor at her local branch of Tennessee Reconnect, an organization that offers free services for adults going back to college. These resources are crucial because many returning students struggle with understanding how to re-enroll in college and pay for it, Sheffer says.

Programs like Tennessee Reconnect are available in more than 20 communities across 13 states — students can find one near them through The Graduate! Network’s website. Those who don’t have access to free help can navigate the process independently by following these tips:

  • Contact your original school’s admissions, advising or registrar’s office to find out what you need to do to finish your degree.
  • Consider other schools, particularly if you had a bad experience at your previous institution. If you need a more flexible class schedule, explore options including online or hybrid programs, which mix online and in-person classes.
  • Look for a college that offers a prior learning assessment program if you plan to study in a field you’ve already worked in, says Lexi Anderson, a policy analyst at Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based organization focused on state-level education policy. You may be able to earn college credit for experience and skills you already have.
  • Apply for grants and federal student loans, which come with flexible repayment options, by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. Contrary to what some believe, adult students are eligible for financial aid, including Pell Grants. Additionally, search for scholarships designated for adult learners.

The article Why Some Students Quit College — and How They Can Finish originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Ask Brianna: Should I Quit My Job Without Another Lined Up?

“Ask Brianna” is a column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to

This week’s question:

“I’m miserable at my job. Should I quit even though I don’t have another one lined up?”

We both know that ideally, you’d effortlessly pirouette to your next job to avoid exhausting your savings, running up credit card debt or languishing in job-search purgatory.

But that’s not where we’re at. You’re unhappy, depleted and maybe even desperate to make a change. Another job isn’t waiting offstage, ready to hand you a bouquet once you take the final bow at your current gig.

So let’s take a breath together and make a plan. Unless you’re working in an abusive environment, keep working while you double down on the job search, supercharge savings and replace the benefits you’ll lose when you quit. Build financial reserves now, and you’ll be better prepared to leave this chapter behind.

Set a deadline

Poring through job postings is tough when you feel emotionally drained or overworked. Decide on a future quit date a few months from now. That can motivate you to connect with professional contacts who may have job leads, and to spend evenings and weekends on applications.

Kim David, 25, set a deadline for six months from the date she decided to leave her former employer.

“I think I realized that I was sort of falling into a downward spiral,” she says. “The situation that my job was presenting,” including demanding hours, “was kind of taking over my life.”

She searched for jobs — unsuccessfully — and finally resigned without having a position lined up. A month later she landed her current job as a strategy director at a public relations agency in New York.

Salwa Kyobe, 30, discovered this spring that she didn’t want to pursue a career in casting in Los Angeles, where she worked at a video production agency. She gave her company four months’ notice; they had a good relationship, she says, and she wasn’t willing to pursue a promotion they’d discussed.

Giving that much notice can be a risk in the event the company decides to let you go sooner. But Kyobe’s company was supportive. She used the time to network to find her next job, which is more in line with her goal of becoming a produce buyer.

Start a ‘quit this job’ fund

If your workplace is toxic or your mental health is suffering, it may be in your best interest to quit sooner than four to six months from now. But in whatever time you have, set aside money to cover rent, food and bills (including any student and car loans) while you’re out of work.

To save more, stop eating meals out, cancel subscription services or take on additional part-time work. It’s also OK to halt automatic retirement contributions for a short time, says Dominique Broadway, a personal finance coach and founder of Finances Demystified in Washington, D.C. Pick them back up at your next gig.

Ideally, save at least three months’ worth of basic expenses; use an emergency fund calculator to come up with a total. But you may be unemployed for longer than that. Moving in with your parents — while it sounds like a nuclear option — can make sense. This is especially true if it helps you get out of an unhealthy job, and you can all agree on how much you should contribute to household expenses.

Safeguard your benefits

This is particularly important for young people, whose retirement savings have a long time to grow: Your 401(k) isn’t an emergency fund. Act like that money isn’t there, Broadway says. Instead of cashing out a 401(k), roll it over to your next company’s plan or into an individual retirement account.

Make sure you’ll have health insurance during the transition, too. Most employers with 20 or more workers must offer temporary health coverage to former employees through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, known as COBRA. If that’s too expensive, consider applying for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s special enrollment period. You can sign up within 60 days of losing job-based coverage, and if you have no income, you may qualify for Medicaid, depending on your state and family size.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article Ask Brianna: Should I Quit My Job Without Another Lined Up? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

10 Top Ways Students Can Have More Money This School Year

College students not only have to figure out how to cover the cost of books and tuition, but they need to somehow survive on a pittance.

Many end up dropping out because they just can’t deal with being broke much of the time and having to watch friends who have full-time jobs flash the cash.

Not you, though. With smart planning and determination, you can make it through to graduation. Yes, you can.

There are 10 heavy duty savings tips to help you think differently about finances and make it through college with money to spare!

1. You Can Cash in on Move-Out Day!

The end of spring signals an exodus of students from college campuses everywhere.

Some are off to jobs, some to further schooling, and some will return in the fall. But all of them will have a problem to deal with: too much stuff.

Here’s how you can not only get your own furniture and supplies for free, but even set yourself up to earn money from your efforts when fall rolls around.

Cash in on Move-Out day!

  1. Plan ahead. Most of the action will occur during finals week and the week after.
  2. You’re not limited to your school. Check the schedules of neighboring colleges too. Maximize the opportunity.
  3. Determine your route. Map out areas that house abundant student populations.
  4. Get to know the maintenance people at those properties. Ask them about move-out time and whether it would be okay for you to help dispose of items left behind. Most will be overjoyed to get some assistance. They know the area is going to look like a train wreck after finals week and dumpsters won’t hold it all.
  5. Set up your hauling equipment. You may be wise to rent a U-Haul truck or trailer. Generally speaking, the quicker you can collect throw-away items and the more you can get per load, the more you’ll profit. Crunch the numbers. Be advised that some storage companies offer a free truck with a storage rental. See step #7 for more tips on storage.
  6. Arrange help in advance. The number of extra hands needed will depend on the size of your truck and/or trailer. You may even want to run two or more crews – especially if you’re planning on collecting enough to store and sell later.
  7. Arrange storage in advance. If you try to sort and distribute the items while you’re collecting them, you’re going to severely cut into your optimum collection time. Load it, haul it, and store it. Sort it later. If you don’t see specials being advertised, it often pays to ASK. You can even play companies against one another. Many are willing to meet or beat quotes from competitors.
  8. Get your packing supplies together. Start early to collect boxes and bubble wrap. Break them down flat, sort them by size, and get plenty of strapping tape. Compare prices on necessary supplies at local stores and online. You’ll want sturdy tape dispensers and good quality tape. You’re not looking for furniture only, but for table settings, appliances, and décor. You can even collect leftover detergent, paper goods, and such. You may also need an appliance dolly.
  9. Visit local thrift stores to get an idea of how much used items are selling for. Let your imagination go wild. Can you collect $1,000 worth of goods? Even more? It’s entirely possible. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
  10. Starting a few weeks before finals, get the word out that you’re willing to haul and dispose of stuff for free. Many students know they have to clear out their belongings and won’t be able to take it all. They’ll be overjoyed to arrange for you and your helpers to come pick up the overflow and haul it off. You can start setting appointments early. Get creative about where to tack up your notices (with tear-off phone numbers). Use social media and forums for free online advertising.

Once you’ve collected a storage unit full of goods, you can begin selling right away. Much of what you gather is in demand by non-students. Everyone needs a sofa, television, or bicycle. Take advantage of Craigslist and local bulletin boards.

When fall rolls around, be sure to get ads up early to let students know you can help them with special prices and a delivery service for their must-have items.

2. Check Local Banks for Cash Giveaways

Banks love to see college students open accounts. They know that once trust is built and excellent customer service provided, you could end up being a customer for life – one with a rapidly expanding income after graduation.

You may have already built that special relationship with your hometown bank, but don’t let that stop you from looking around to see what the banks in your new locale are offering.

It’s perfectly fine to have more than one account, especially if your new account comes with benefits.

Here are some of the specials we’ve seen banks offer students:

  1. Deposit a certain amount and get hundreds of dollars added to that account (free) once you’ve maintained it for a certain period.
  2. No monthly charge for student checking and savings accounts and no minimum balance to get the deal
  3. Free paper checks, free money orders, free cashier’s checks, free debit card and other standard banking services

Make sure you understand all requirements and stipulations before signing. Some of the offers may seem too good to be true, but banks really do sometimes pay you to do business with them. Why miss out?

3. Eat for Free On Campus

There’s a well-known maxim event organizers are keenly in tune with: “Feed them and they will come.” You may hate fine art, but what if that Friday night showing includes free wine, cheese, and hors d’oeuvres? Would that perk up your interest a bit?

Just about every meeting, special event, or other gathering you see advertised on or near campus is going to include some form of food. It may be pizza and soft drinks, sandwiches and chips, or just soup and bread… but it’s food, and it’s free!

Here are some pointers on how to uncover and take advantage of thosespecial occasions:
  • Pay attention to the zillions of posters you see around campus. Get in the habit of scanning them all for event announcements. You may love heavy metal music, but if the local blues club is putting on a free buffet, you may want to expand your musical exposure. Avoid the trap of only reading posters that appeal to your personal tastes.
  • Check your school’s roster of clubs and club meetings for topics of interest. Of course, the primary reason for attending should be to join others in a common cause, but there’s nothing wrong with getting fed while you’re participating.
  • Scan school publications and websites weekly to find out what’s happening.Most will have a special section for meetings and events. To find out in advance who’s serving what, just ask. One more time: event organizers know food is a big drawing card, and they love to play it.

We’re not advising you to become an expert on scavenging food or to barge into social gatherings without concern for others. The point is there’s free food available all over campus. Why not eat it?

Click here to read the full article and check out the rest of the ways you can have more money!

Ask Brianna: How Do My Finances Compare With My Peers’?

“Ask Brianna” is a column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to

This week’s question:

It seems like I’m falling behind my friends financially. They take nicer vacations and drive more expensive cars than mine. How am I really doing compared with others my age?

It happens every morning, from Wichita to Washington: We wake up feeling good. We pick up our phones and scroll through Instagram.

We guess at the carat weight of a college friend’s engagement ring and marvel at a cousin’s shiny new truck. We’re lifted into tornadoes of jealousy over photos of a friend’s puppy. We puzzle over how they afford it.

But this social media highlight reel leaves a lot out.

“You don’t find people posting about missing a rent payment,” says Doug Amis, a certified financial planner and president at Cardinal Retirement Planning, Inc. in Cary, North Carolina.

Know where you really stand

If you’re under 35, here’s how your peers are really doing, according to the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances:

The median income for families with a head of household under 35 was $40,500 in 2016. Nearly half of families under 35 had credit card balances, with median debt of $1,400 per family. About 42% of families under 35 had retirement accounts, and their median value was $12,300.

Lastly, about 45% of families with a head of household under 35 had education debt. The median amount was $18,500 per family, but the amount varies widely by income level and highest degree attained.

Follow rules of thumb, not Instagram

You won’t find a real answer to how you’re doing in a Federal Reserve survey or a social media feed.

You will find it by measuring yourself against rules of thumb, refined over decades and endorsed by financial pros, that point the way toward true financial health. Start with these:

  • Do you have an emergency fund of at least $500? It should eventually include three to six months of basic expenses.
  • Are you paying down high-interest debt, like credit cards and personal loans? That should come before attacking lower-interest debt like student loans.
  • Do you spend less than you earn? A budget based on the 50/30/20 rule can help: You’ll spend no more than 50% of after-tax income on necessities, no more than 30% on wants and at least 20% on savings and debt repayment.
  • Do you follow the 28/36 rule? Lenders use this to qualify you for a mortgage, but Amis suggests it’s also a helpful way to assess cash flow even if you’re years from buying a home. Housing costs should be less than 28% of your pretax income. With other debt payments, like credit card, car or student loan bills, the total should come under 36% of pretax income.
  • Do you save for retirement? Socking away 10% to 15% of your pretax income is the goal.
  • These guidelines are aspirational. But your progress toward them is a better measure of whether your money is working for you than surveys or Instagram. In the end, your financial well-being boils down to whether you can meet your basic needs today, plan for a better tomorrow and enjoy life as you go.

Set your own goals

While these best-case scenarios might not seem feasible right now, don’t wait to start saving until you can set aside the amount you feel you’re supposed to, says Emily Guy Birken, author of “End Financial Stress Now.” For instance, save even 1% of your income for retirement if that’s all you can afford. Increase the amount by 1% every six months as you get accustomed to having less in your paycheck — or at least whenever you get a raise.

And most importantly, set your own goals — when to buy a house, say, or how quickly to pay off student loans — based on what you value most. While some friends may take fancy vacations, they may also have massive credit card debt you don’t know about.

Besides, Birken says, “Would you really choose to have all of their problems, and have all of their foibles, flaws and issues, just because they’ve got one thing you don’t have?”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

The article Ask Brianna: How Do My Finances Compare With My Peers’? originally appeared on NerdWallet.