Obama Administration Raising Awareness for Federal Student Loan Options – Lori Youngston

By on Dec 7, 2013 in General Tips

This month, the Obama Administration began sending email notices to over three million federal student loan borrowers. The Department of Education is targeting four groups: those whose six month grace period is now ending, borrowers who have fallen behind in their monthly payments, loan holders with a higher than average amount of debt and those who are already in deferment due to financial hardship or because of unemployment. Of particular interest seems to be those borrowers with total loan amounts exceeding $25,000. Everyone in these categories should receive a notice by mid-December.

This push is part of the suggested reforms proposed by President Obama and his Education Department in August of 2013. The purpose behind it is to remind the loan borrowers of the options available under the government’s Income Based Repayment(IBR) programs and to hopefully increase the number of federal student loan holders in those programs. However, it is not the first attempt to encourage student loan borrowers to take advantage of the Federal Repayment Programs.

Federal Student Loan Options - bigstock-President-Obama-40747615 Project Done Lori Youngston 2

The Income Based Repayment Program offers many benefits:

  • Affordable payments based on your discretionary income, not loan size and interest rates
  • If your payment does not cover the accumulating interest on your Direct Loan, the interest will not be capitalized for a period of three years
  • Forgiveness at the end of your term if any balance remains on the loan
  • Payments in the IBR qualify for public service loan forgiveness on a Direct Loan

Despite previous attempts over the last three years, enrollment in one of these programs remains below seven percent of all federal student loans currently in some form of repayment. In fact, overall household debt has increased to $11.28 Trillion according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with student loan debt being almost ten percent of that at $1.03 Trillion. Nearly twelve percent of those student loans are behind in payments for 90 days or more.

This is particularly bad for a still recovering economy. The very people who need to take the risk of starting businesses and begin buying their first cars and homes are unable to do so because of the amount of monthly debt they have. Worse, student loans are not like mortgages and cannot be discharged under current bankruptcy laws and once graduates begin to get behind on their payments, the resulting damage to their credit rating further drags out the time that they are unable to help grow the economy.  All of this drives the President to try and keep these borrowers in the ‘black’ as it were and creating new jobs and start-up businesses. 

Most of this renewed push for Income Based Repayment and other repayment plans is trying to keep borrowers active in this economy. Some of it, unfortunately, is also to combat recent bad attention from the media given to the sometimes shady recovery practices of Sallie Mae and other loan servicing companies.

Federal Student Loan Options - bigstock-College-Students-Preparing-For-31421852 Project Done Lori Youngston 1

While the Education Department is again actively advertising Income Based Repayment, it falls to the loan servicing agencies contracted with the Department to work with the individual borrowers. The problem with this is that it is these same agencies also collect on their own defaulted student loans. It has been pointed out on many consumer advocate websites and by an increasing number of government officials that a loan in default can result in much more money going directly to the loan servicer as opposed to a student loan in good standing. Because of this obvious conflict of interest, many politicians and consumer advocates have questioned the ability of the servicing agencies to remain unbiased in their business practices and operate the different government repayment plans with any transparency.

Even so, the National Consumer Law Center believes that this new spotlight on the repayment programs will be useful in educating borrowers on the Income Based Repayment Program. The trick, in their opinion, will be getting them enrolled. One of their lawyers, Deanne Loonin, stated that “Once somebody knows about it, we need to do a better job of helping people get into the program and stay.” Agreeing with her is the President of College Access and Success, Lauren Asher felt that “This is a positive step towards making sure that people who need to know and might benefit from the income based programs are getting the information they need. We’re happy to see this is moving forward.

Even happier are the student borrowers and their families. Getting more federal student loan borrowers enrolled into Income Based Repayment or another repayment plan helps not only the graduate today, but also the future they intend to create for themselves. Fortunately, the Obama Administration has also recognized that reducing the load of debt and raising the graduate’s credit rating back where it belongs also serves to support the local, state and national economies.

Lori Youngston Headshot Project Done Lifestyle Guest Blogger
Lori Youngston is currently a writer for www.StudentDebtRelief.us whose primary objective is to educate and assist student loan borrowers on the many federal programs available to them, including student loan forgiveness.

 

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Shiny Objects Can Clutter Ones Head and Interfere with Goals – Missy Bystrom

By on Dec 7, 2013 in General Tips

Book Shelf Organization Missy Bystrom Project Done Guest PostI often sit back and look at my clients and business  colleagues, observing the ways in which they can remove clutter from their loves and become more productive and organized.

It’s not always the ‘stuff‘ that clutters our environment.

Clutter comes in many forms. One popular form is ‘The Shiny Object‘ Form. This occurs when one does not have a pinpointed direction or focused goals. There is so much out there. So many messages, ideas, advice promising newer and bigger and better. Unless one is 110% committed to a direction and HOW to achieve their goals, it’s easy to become distracted. Self-doubt may set in. Wavering on goals occurs. Then ‘Clutter‘ sneaks in. It comes in the form of confusion, cloudy thinking, and head chaos. It’s no wonder why many entrepreneurs have a hard time succeeding!

So the next time you are distracted and veer off your path – STOP. Send that shiny object back to where it came from, and remain focused on your path. Re-organize your goals or steps if need be, but keep that clutter out of your head space and your work environment.

Missy Bystrom PortraitMissy Bystrom is the owner of The Organized Connection located in Cleveland, OH and Orange County, CA.  Missy’s blog gives weekly tips and tricks on becoming more organized and having a more peaceful household.
If you would like to become a certified professional organizer, follow this link.
If you would like to get more extensive information on organizing your household, business or personal life, follow this link.
You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Planning Your Budget for the New Year

By on Dec 7, 2013 in General Tips

Are you already thinking about the 2014 budget?

Don’t wait until the New Year, start planning now so that you are ready next week with a plan. Others will wait and spend the entire year thinking about getting their finances together. Not us, we start mapping out the annual spending plan now.

Try a free online template or create your own spreadsheet in Excel. First list your income. If you have many sources, list each one separately. If the income varies, take an average of your earnings from last year (the year divided by 12) to come up with a reasonable monthly total.

Then multiply the monthly total by 12 and this is your annual income. This is on a separate line to be used later in our budget.

2014 Income Annual Budget Project Done Excel Worksheet 5

Next calculate your monthly fixed expenses. This would include anything that is due on a monthly basis from regular bills to recurring expenses that are charged to your credit or debit card. Total this column to come up with your monthly number. Then on the next line, multiply this total by 12 for your annual expenses.

2014 Fixed Expenses Budget Project Done Excel Worksheet 4

Then total up the miscellaneous expenses that happen each year but not necessarily every month. Things like car repair, medical expenses, family vacations, meals & entertainment, emergency fund savings, etc. Take a look at your expenses for the last 2 years to come up with your categories and annual expenses. In this section, we have some control of what is spent. If we don’t spend the money in a category, we can keep it in savings ~ so be watchful of this section and see how much extra you can save each year.

Once the annual numbers have been calculated, divide this by 12 to come up with a general monthly number for easier tracking. Setting this money aside each month will take the stress out of emergencies and not drain your bank account in its urgency.

2014 Annual Expenses Budget Project Done Excel Worksheet 3

The next part of the budget is to calculate any debt that you want or need to pay off like credit cards, loans, etc. We will set this in motion when we have our annual totals in order.

2014 Debt Budget Project Done Excel Worksheet 2

Now we are ready to total up our year and see where we are. Start with your annual income and subtract your annual fixed expenses then subtract your miscellaneous annual expenses. This is your annual savings or loss to pay off the debts/credit cards listed. Divide this number by 12 for your monthly payment amount.

2014 Annual Budget Project Done Excel Worksheet 1

If this number is negative, it is time to take a hard look at your Miscellaneous expenses and see if you can narrow these a little to get closer to a positive number. You might even need to increase your income if reductions aren’t enough. The bottom line is that we need money to pay off any outstanding debts and to have a cushion for the just in case. Just in case car repair costs more than expected. Just in case we have a serious unplanned medical expense above our projection.

The next step is to track the money on a monthly basis. You can do it weekly or monthly but by reviewing your numbers, you are always in control of your money and your money won’t rule your life!

2014 Annual Budget Monthly Tracking Project Done Excel Worksheet 6

(Click the image to see the larger view)

Print a copy of the 2014 projections, keep it with you and go over it often. Because it is with you, fine tuning is happening all the time so less money and time are wasted.

The final step would be to snowball your debt to zero and have more money in your savings. I just read the book Pocket Your Dollars by Carrie Rocha and she and her husband used a similar budgeting plan to get out of debt and they have stayed out of debt!

To snowball your debt, arrange them in balance order listing the lowest balance first. Make your monthly payments on everything but apply extra money to the lowest debt until it is at zero. Then take this money along with any extra money and start applying it to your next debt until it is zero. Repeat until your debt payments are all zero! Now this money can be aggressively put towards your emergency fund or the purchase of a house or retirement investments. The less you owe and the more you save, the more options you have! Life gets really fun at this point.

Dream big and enjoy the future. Let me know if you need any help putting your spending plan in order and stay in touch with your progress. Let’s make 2014 a big savings year!

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Pinspiration: 9 DIY Wreaths!

By on Dec 7, 2013 in General Tips

Want to make your own wreath this year? Maybe you’re just looking around for some inspiration? This post is full of my favorite wreaths and ideas I’ve found through Pinterest. Enjoy and happy crafting! 🙂

See also: 16 Christmas Decor Ideas and Tips, 12 Tips for Present Wrapping and Organization

All of these photos have been found via Pinterest. Each link will link directly to the Pinterest pin in which it was found.

5 Wreaths – Inspiration:

1. Fern wreath with light touches of baby’s breath

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas 1

2. An awesome Grinch Christmas wreath!

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas 2

3. This is just way too cute!

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas 3

4. Wreath + Chalkboard = Love!

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas 4

5. Snowman wreath!

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas 5

4 DIY Wreaths + Tips and Tricks:

1. Keeping your pine cone wreath clean and dust free – Use salt!

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas Extras 1

2. How to make a boxwood wreath – Tutorial

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas Extras 2

3. Turn an old picture frame into a great wreath!

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas Extras 3

4. Buy any Hobby Lobby letter and wrap it in Christmas tree garland and add lights.

Wreath Inspiration and Tips Project Done Christmas Extras 4

Do you have DIY tips that you’d like to share?

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