Welcome to the student loan jungle, my friends. In this podcast we will show you a few student loan secrets that you must know. 

If you are in school, than surely the FAFSA is your friend. If you are out of school, welcome to the land of student loan payments. 
The “F” Word
The FAFSA, or Free application for federal student aid, is the online document that you need to complete to see how much money the federal government will give you for your student loans.

FAFSA sets the amount of aid needed by calculating the cost of attendance less the “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC) or the minimum amount a family is expected to pay toward the costs of college.

Financial aid comes in two flavors need and non-need based aid. Examples of need based loans would be Pell Grants, Subsidized loans, Perkins Loan and Federal work-study. Non-need aid is un-subsidized loans, Teach Grants and Federal Plus Loans.

Let’s break it down even more. An unsubsidized loan means that the loan doesn’t require you to prove your financial need and the school determines the amount you can borrow based on cost of attendance. You pay all interest costs during this period. Get it…you are paying for all costs.

Subsidized is the preferred type. The US Department of Education pays the interest on these loans while you are in school and during the first six months after you leave school PLUS during deferment. This is what you want if you qualify for it.

I recently spoke with Rick Castellano, who is VP of Communications with Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae is one of the biggest providers for student loans.

He’s got 4 go-to FAFSA tips:

To fill out the fafsa you are going to need your parent’s 2014 tax information. Of course taxes aren’t due until April 15th , but you can estimate based on their 2013 taxes. Just don’t wait to fill it out based on taxes.

Let’s talk Pin- you are going to need that to fill out your fafsa. Coming in the spring of 2015 is a long-awaited revision to this tired pin system. Fafsa is going to simplify, hooray, and offer a standard username and password. Until then, you’ve got to know your pin.

Remember the 3 “I”’s – income, income tax, and investments. While you might want to feel high and mighty and overstate your income to your friends, it’s best not to do this on the FAFSA. Also, your home is not an investment…it’s a home, an asset, but not an investment. Things like values in life insurance, annuities and pension plans don’t count either. That’s good news.

File online always – you will get your student aid report back in a quick 3-5 days versus 2-4 weeks via mail. Who even uses mail anymore anyway?

FAFSA & Scholarship Money
Think of the FAFSA and Scholarships as a 1-2 punch. You’ve got to fill out the FAFSA to see how much money you will get in support. Once you’ve got that number, than you can go scholarship shopping to try to fill in the rest.

There are so many scholarship books, tools, and resources you could go crazy. Just find one or two that you like best and use those. Sallie Mae even has a pretty comprehensive scholarship search.

Scholarships aren't just merit based for those brainy ones. Whatever skill or talent you have, there is a scholarship out there for you. Always check with your school first, because there are a lot of unclaimed scholarships right under your feet. Plan to invest a few hours a day searching for scholarships for a week straight. Apply to anything that might be a possible fit.

Remember the key to being smart financially? Free money is always simply free money. Never pass up free money!
The Payback
If you are lucky enough to be in the payback period of your student loans, then you need to know these 5 Key Student Loan Secrets.

1. Your payments don’t begin until 6 months after you graduate. That means you have time to save. Even just kicking your coffee addiction for a few …

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