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Check your credit
Check your credit report annually for possible errors or identify theft. The major credit reporting agencies are:

Equifax: (880) 685-1111
Experian (800) 311-4789

Transunion (800) 888-4213

You may also contact Fair Isaac and Company for a consolidated report at www.myfico.com.

Answers to Frequently-Asked Questions

How can I purchase a stock?

There are two main ways to purchase a stock, by using a stock brokerage firm and DRIPS & DIPS.  The most common method is to use a brokerage.  There are two types of brokerages—full service brokerages, that offer you advice and can help manage your account, and discount brokerages which are cheaper, but do not offer consultation and management services.  The internet offers many discount brokers, making the costs lower and buying and trading stocks simple.

Dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPS) and direct plans (DIPS) are plans that individual companies use, for a minimal cost, to allow shareholders to purchase stocks directly from the company. 



How do I choose an equity (stock) mutual fund?

Choosing a mutual fund can be overwhelming due to the large selection, however, you should generally stick to these 4 simple rules when choosing one:

  • No sales charges (front loads, contingent deferred sales loads, level loads)
  • A low expense ratio (below 1.00%)
  • Low turnover portfolio, no higher than 50% a year, and preferably closer to 20%
  • Full investment policy. Cash reserves of nearly 0%.

For more information on mutual funds, please visit www.YourMoneyCounts.com



What is considered a good credit score?

Credit scores range from 300 to 850.  Vantage scores, 501 to 990. Vantage Scores:

   901-990: A

   801-900: B

   701-800: C

   601-700: D

   501-600: F

With most credit scoring systems the higher the number, the better.   Generally, a score of 720 and above is a good one.


Are there any colleges who have committed to providing free tuition or no loans in the financial aid package?

Browse to: http://www.finaid.org/questions/noloansforlowincome.phtml



What is the difference between a Federal Stafford Loan and a Private Loan?

Refer to the following link for the eligibility, interest rate, fee, loan amount, and repayment differences between a Federal Stafford Loan and a Private Loan.

Business Week http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_46/b3959126.htm



What are the different types of federal loans?

  • Federal Perkins Loan
  • Subsidized Stafford Loan
  • Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
  • PLUS Loans

What is a campus based financial aid program?  How much money does a college have for campus based programs?

Campus Based Programs is aid that is administered directly by the financial aid office at each participating school.  Campus based aid consist of Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work-Study (FWS), and Federal Perkins Loan programs.  Not all schools participate in all three programs.  Check with your school’s financial aid office to find out which programs they participate in. 

The amount of aid you receive depends on (1) your financial need, (2) the amount of other aid you receive, and on (3) the availability of funds at your college.  When the money for a program is gone, no more awards are made from that program for that year.  Make sure you apply for these campus based programs as early as possible.


I am an older student.  Am I eligible to receive financial assistance?

Age is not a factor in determining eligibility for the Federal Student Aid programs. 


What are the types of programs that can provide me with loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge?

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness
  • Teacher Loan Cancellation
  • Total and Permanent Disability Loan (TPD)
  • Federal Government Student Loan Repayment Plan
  • Child Care Provider Loan Forgiveness Program
  • Other Loan Discharge Provisions



Will my student loans help me to establish credit?

Yes.  As with any loans, your student loans will be reported to a national credit bureau.  A good payment record will reflect a good credit rating, and a bad payment record will reflect a bad credit rating.



How much debt is too much?

If your total monthly debt payments, excluding rent and mortgage, exceeds 20 % of net take home pay you have too much debt.



I am interested in buying a home.  How do I determine how much house can I afford?

Monthly housing payment should not exceed 28% of a borrower’s gross income.  For example, with a monthly income of $3,000, the 28% limit would allow a monthly housing payment of $840.

  What are steps that I can take to reduce the risk of identity theft?
  1. Keep your Social Security card in a secure place and give out the number only when necessary. Ask to use other identifiers whenever possible.
  2. Guard your purse or wallet. Never put either one down unless your hand is connected to it.
  3. Limit the number of checks and debit / credit cards you carry to only what you will actually need.
  4. Check credit card and bank statements carefully for unauthorized charges.
  5. Close credit card accounts you don't use on a regular basis.
  6. Shred all documents containing personal information -- especially pre-approved credit card offers -- with a cross-cut shredder.
  7. Before revealing any identifying information, ask how it will be used and secured, and whether it will be shared with others.
  8. Order copies of your free credit reports from the three credit bureaus at least once a year and check them carefully for accuracy. (See numbers on the left sidebar)
  9. Place passwords on credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information such as mother's maiden name, birth date, phone number, etc. Instead use an eight-character combination of letters and numbers.
  10. Use a locked mailbox or a post office box to send/receive mail.

Source: Parker Associates: Business & Career CoachingTop 10 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft.  August 2004. http://www.asparker.com/ppts0804.html

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