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Take Advantage of Free Financial Resources

April 10, 2019

By Arsadur Rahman

Managing your own finances is a big part of graduate student life, no matter where you are in your personal life. Proper financial planning benefits everyone, especially graduate students. This article will highlight a few resources that help in teaching personal finances and a few personal experiences on how to earn a couple hundred extra dollars by opening a bank account. Financial literacy helps toward a stress free life, and there are many resources which can help you understand how to plan to spend during your graduate years.

Graduate programs often have high price tags since it is a higher-level degree, so paying for the program requires wise planning. If you are wanting to learn more about financing a new car, save more to move to a new place after graduation, or smart ways to pay back student loans, then I suggest looking into the Mason Cash Course. This is a joint initiative by University Life and National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). Graduate students can take this course online free of charge and have a deeper understanding of financial management for financial well-being.

Another Mason resource is our very own Office of Financial Aid. Here you can find information on the different types of aid available to students as well as how to apply.  This page also gives updates on different financial literacy classes and workshops offered throughout the fall and spring semesters, such as understanding credit and paying for graduate school.  If you haven’t already visited this office, I suggest you set up an appointment with the graduate financial aid counselor as soon as possible to learn about all options available to you.

Graduate students can also sign up for Financial Awareness Counseling online offered by the Federal Student Aid website. This resource offers counseling to students to help overcome stresses that financial planning and management can often bring. Another free online resource is 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. 360 Degrees of Financial literacy is a national volunteer effort of the nation’s Certified Public Accountants to help Americans understand their personal finances and develop money management skills. The 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website offers general information for managing personal finances and does not recommend specific financial actions. For financial advice tailored to your situation, please contact an expert such as a CPA or a personal financial advisor.

Often when students move to a new city or country to attend graduate school, they want to open a bank account in a local bank that has easy access and services to meet their needs. Mason’s Fairfax Campus has a branch of Apple Federal Credit Union, conveniently located on the first floor of the Johnson Center. They offer a variety of financial products and services to cover your needs. One interesting thing about opening a bank account is students can earn up to $200 for opening a simple checking account. I personally received a $100 bonus for opening a simple checking account with my bank last month. All major banks have bonus offers for opening different kinds of checking accounts. This is an easy way to get some extra cash, but be mindful of the offers and always read the small print before signing anything.

Sometimes students need to be wary of credit cards, but responsible use of a credit card can help build credit and earn extra cash for just using the card. One method to make your credit card work for you is to purchase items with it instead of your debit card, as long as you make sure to pay off your balance in full every month. Sometimes you can earn at up to 5% cash reward on your spending. Choosing which credit card to apply for takes time and research, there are many with different offers and fees. For credit card sign-up bonuses, check out creditcards.com and see which offers fit your spending lifestyle.

Besides earning all the rewards and cash bonuses, it is recommended that you build your credit history during your graduate years to help with larger life purchases such as purchasing a car or buying a home or other real estate investments. A good credit line can also help in obtaining personal or business loans.

I hope you found this information useful as you think about your financial goals. I wish you well as you navigate your spending and saving goals, which will set you up for financial freedom in the future.

“Financial freedom is freedom from fear”. – Robert Kiyosaki



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