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"Resources for the College-Bound" by Julie Jason

Originally published: October 20, 2023 (distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication)

As a young adult, there are a number of financial matters you can encounter when transitioning from high school to college (and on to the working world). Let's talk about some resources that can help make the transition easier. 

     The Federal Trade Commission addresses many of them at its consumer.gov website (tinyurl.com/mr22mykn). The topics are Managing Your Money, Credit, Loans and Debt, and Scams and Identify Theft. Included in the first category are subjects such as Your Education After High School, Saving Money When You Shop, Renting an Apartment or House, Buying a Used Car and Making a Budget (which includes a budget worksheet you can download).

     If you are curious about possible future careers, take a look at the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook (tinyurl.com/fkyjb7rp), which has information "for more than 300 occupational profiles covering about 4 out of 5 jobs in the economy." You can examine occupations using filters such as median pay, level of education, the projected number of new jobs and the projected growth rate. Once you select a job category, you will find a summary of the job, as well as category breakdowns for what those workers do, their work environment and similar occupations, among other subjects.

     To test your overall knowledge of money, check out the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's How Money Smart Are You? (tinyurl.com/4dcakfra). There are 14 games you can play dealing with everyday financial topics from buying a home to using credit cards to your spending and saving plan. There are resources related to the games as well. A Spanish-language version of the website is also available.

     Let's not forget student loans. The Federal Student Aid Estimator from the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website (tinyurl.com/2a69m77u) is a good resource if you are thinking of borrowing money from federal programs to fund your college education. The estimator takes about five to 10 minutes to fill out; students will need their financial and personal information, along with their parents' financial information (if applicable). The tool can help students calculate their eligibility for Pell Grants, federal student loans and work-study funds.

     Another important tool at the Department of Education website is the Loan Simulator (tinyurl.com/yc8y793z). You can examine different loan repayment strategies, look at options if you are having problems making your student loan payments, and see what the impact might be if you are considering borrowing more money. 

     The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Find Advice for Your Student Loans (tinyurl.com/bdh577ha) is another resource. There you can get answers to questions from missing a loan payment to strategies for paying off loans. 

     The Paying for College tool, offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (tinyurl.com/47ztbm5v), can help future college students understand how much of the overall costs their offer of financial aid covers, and how much student debt they will have. They can also use the tool to compare aid offers from different schools. The website provides PDF downloads of related material at tinyurl.com/yszcwtfv.

     To learn how to avoid student loan fraud, your key resource is the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Advice website (tinyurl.com/ytkw3dae). Pay particular attention to student loan debt relief scams.

     Finally, be aware that 2015 and 2019 resources published by the U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) have been updated for 2023. Look for the "Higher Education Financial Education Resources Updates 2023." (tinyurl.com/mud3f3wk). 

     FLEC was formed through Title V of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (tinyurl.com/mr3e8hkb), with a goal to develop a national financial education website (MyMoney.gov) and a national strategy on financial education. The commission is made up of the leaders of 24 federal agencies and is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury, with the vice chair being the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

     These are the resources that will get you started. It's always a good idea to do some homework before borrowing money or starting down a particular path, whether it's picking the ideal career or buying the car of your dreams. Preparation is the key to success.