Why is Giving Important?

When many Calvin students attend church and see the church offering basket go down the rows, there is an awkward moment where they feel as though they should be giving to the church, but may not necessarily have the adequate funds to do so. This feeling in college students is all too familiar to many. Instead of feeling guilty about this, I am going to challenge you to think about why we give and provide alternate ways of how we can give.

            Here at NEXUS Peer Financial Coaching, we believe that God owns it all. From our finances to our time and the talents we’ve been blessed with as well as the way we live our lives and treat others, everything stems from Christ’s bounteous grace he freely gives. Here at NEXUS, we have adopted Ron Blue’s (Christian financial planner and author) approach into our mission. One of Blue’s fundamental biblical money management principles is to give generously. Giving from our God-given resources not only responds to God’s call to give back to Him, but breaks the power that money holds over us. And at this stage of your life, it’s not the amount, but rather the fact that you make it a priority that’s so important.  In our world, many people seldom feel content about the money or overall possessions they own and we believe giving a portion of what we own for the good of others is one way to break free from this stigma and find true contentment. Giving should be a fundamental on-negotiable part of every budget.

            As a college student, I know how difficult it is to even make money last through a single month. However, I believe we all have something to give and it may not necessarily just be our finances. For example, we can freely give our time, our talents, and help relationally. Whether that looks like volunteering at a local church or offering a ride to a student without a car, there are copious ways to give generously. After all, giving is one of the most enjoyable activities one can do with his or her finances, time, or talents and helps to truly see the impact we can make in the lives of others. Beginning this now is very important because this will build a pattern in our lives that will last a lifetime and will become a priority to set us up to be lifetime givers as God calls us to be.

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Are Credit Reports and Facebook the Same?!?

Picture this: Imagine your best friend was in charge of your entire social media profile. Let that sink in a moment.

This means they control what goes on your Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and whatever other social media you use. He or she is your best friend, so they’ll do a reasonably good job showing what you would want to show, but will they do it exactly the way you’d want it? No! Let’s add one more detail: you are allowed to check in with them and tell them if they’re doing an accurate job portraying who you are or not. How often would you check in? Answer honestly: would it be every day? More than once a day? Would you let them know if they did something wrong? Of course you would, and as quickly as possible so they won’t make the same mistake again!

Now you’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with credit reports at all?” Good question! A credit report actually works not unlike the social media scenario I just described. Instead of your social media reputation and image being on the line, however, it’s your trustworthiness with credit. A credit report is a report with a lot of detailed information about how you have handled credit previously, and it includes the credit accounts you have open and some information about each one. You don’t get to manage this, as these reports are generated by the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. However, by law, each bureau will let you check the report they have on you for free once each year. Just as your friend will likely get most things about you right, but may not get everything spot on, credit bureaus are the same way.

Mistakes on a credit report are uncommon, but they happen more often than you would expect. In fact, over the course of your life, it would be rare that you didn’t have an error of some type show up on your credit report (between 20-25% of Americans find an error on their credit report when they first review it). The problem with some of these errors is that it can make you look riskier (in terms of your borrowing/behavior with credit) than you actually are. Just as you would tell your friend their mistakes if they were creating your social media presence, so too you must tell the credit bureaus if they make a mistake.

So what do I do to make sure my credit report doesn’t have any errors? Thankfully, this process is not difficult. First, go to annualcreditreport.com. Find the button that says, “Request your free credit reports” and click on it. Click the “next” button that prompts you for the request again. You’ll have to fill out some sensitive information; DO NOT panic or refuse to give your social security number – this is a secure service and they need this information to be able to provide you the report and want to protect you against identity theft.

Next, after you’ve filled out the requested information, you will be asked which bureaus you’d like to pull a report from. This step is critical because you only get one free report from each bureau each year. To maximize the number of reports you get, just pick one bureau. This gives you a free report every 4 months. In addition, it’s important to regularly and over time continue to monitor each credit bureau as the information can vary across them.

Third, you will be asked 3 or 4 questions that are designed as one last security measure. You must answer these correctly to get your report. Some of them will include information that is NOT on your report to make sure you know what ought to be there. Stick to your guns. Some of these questions ARE trick questions that you will need to choose “none of the above” for. Once you’ve answered these questions, you will get to see your report. If you do not answer the questions correctly, you will not be able to immediately download your report. Should this happen, you can request your report by mail or call the bureau and work out the problem with a representative.

Finally, you are primarily looking for inaccuracies when you look through your report. Make sure that your personal information and account information match with your personal records. If you don’t keep any records, it’s never too late to start! If you see something that doesn’t look right, call the company you got your report from and tell them to change it. Note that they are developing online tools to report errors so you may be able to correct the errors via a self-service portal.

Remember, this is just like your friend who was managing your social media profile. You have to make sure to check in to make sure they’re doing it correctly. And if you ignore this, it can have the same negative effects.

Vocation

Many students at Calvin face this question their very first couple of months of school. “What is your vocation?” My intent is to help you find your vocation by providing various resources, and various ways to help you determine your vocation.

First, let’s get a better understanding of what vocation means. By dictionary definition, vocation means: “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.” The most important part of finding your vocation is knowing your passions.

I met with Rosalba Ramirez from the Career Center here at Calvin to talk about vocation, and some ways students can get a better understanding of vocation. I asked Rosalba to define vocation, and her answer built off of the definition above. Rosalba said that it was important to understand that vocation is more than just a feeling of suitability towards a particular job or career–rather it was your calling from the Lord. Rosalba went on to talk about how it (vocation) was the channeling of your gifts and hobbies. I asked Rosalba what you should do if you already know your vocation. She told me how important that it was to find ways to gain exposure and interact with people that are already working in the industry to which you feel called and to ask them questions to better understand what they do as well as for advice. Another interesting tip is to ask for feedback on things you are working on, whether this is from your professors or your boss. Feedback is important, especially constructive feedback on what you aren’t doing as well or could do better.  Our general notion is that this constructive “negative” feedback is bad, but Rosalba mentioned that this is crucial in making us stronger in our vocation. She told me that constructive feedback is a great learning opportunity, and helps you to develop and makes you stronger.

If this is your final year at Calvin and your vocation is still a little fuzzy, don’t fret. Meeting with a career coach can help you identify your passions and how those may translate into specific types of jobs. The Career Center can be extremely helpful in providing resources for students at all class levels who are still are discerning  their vocation.

My final question to Rosalba was how she sees vocation relating to our personal finances. She and I discussed how our finances are not our own. She said it was important to remember that God owns it all, and that we are stewards of his resources. To recap, everyone has a vocation or a calling, and if you are struggling to figure out what yours is, don’t panic. Calvin has a ton of great resources available to you, and you don’t need to look far. Your vocation is more than just your job, and it continues to constantly develop and be shaped by your experiences and how you grow as a person.

Where Will You Live as an Upperclassman?

This is the question all sophomores are inevitably faced with and one which is dreaded by many due to the overwhelming number of choices students have surrounding housing opportunities. In an effort to ease this tension, we have provided a guide to make this decision a bit easier on you and show you what options are out there!

  • Upperclassmen Floors:

This option allows a student to live in the upperclassmen halls of the dorms located in Bolt-Heyns-Timmer (BHT). The cost for upperclassmen floors is $5,510 if you have a roommate and buy the Knight Plan meal plan which provides you with a 100 block meal plan along with 20 additional meals over interim. This plan equates to being $648 per month because this price only covers the 8.5 months of the school year. Having this living space for only 8.5 months per year could be a pro or a con depending on the person. For instance, if you typically live at home over the summer months then you can save on rent costs. Additionally, you do not have to worry about finding a sub-leaser or paying for rent over the summer. However, if you need a place to stay in the summer, you will have to search elsewhere for housing until the following September.

Other important factors to consider are the amenities that are provided (or lack thereof). The upperclassmen floors function very similarly to the dorms, but with slight differences. These floors include internet, laundry, cleaning supplies, and trash services which is very convenient. You also are provided with all of your furniture and have access to a kitchen located on the floor. This is definitely the most convenient option since it is on campus and you can easily walk to class rather than worrying about the cost of driving a car.

  • Knollcrest East Apartments:

KE apartments are also located on campus, but are slightly further away near DeVos Communication Center. These apartments are made specifically for juniors and seniors wanting to continue to live in a community setting with other Calvin students. These apartments cost $4,111 per year and equate to $484 per month because again this price only covers 8.5 months of the school year like the upperclassmen floors. Also like the upperclassmen floors, you do not have to worry about finding a subleaser or paying for rent over the summer which can be beneficial or harmful depending on a person’s specific situation.

Another perk of KE apartments is that they also provide internet, laundry, cleaning supplies, and trash services along with furniture and kitchen amenities. KE also handles all maintenance should something break or stop working. This housing option provides students with a super convenient location that allows them to walk to class, yet feel a little more off campus due to the location. It also allows students to continue living together in a great community.

  • Alliance Apartments:

Alliance Apartments are an intentional living-learning community for student-athletes and any other students who are seeking to live an active lifestyle. Alliance is located in the Rho and Tau apartment buildings on the east end of Knollcrest East. These apartments cost $3,750 per year and $441 per month. Alliance Apartments provide a great way for Calvin College athletes to live and grow together while building a Christ-like community.

Additionally, this option provides all of the same amenities listed above and is also very convenient for anyone who is wanting to save on car expenses and chooses to walk to class.

  • Project Neighborhood:

Project Neighborhood (PN) is an off-campus housing option for sophomores, juniors and seniors where a select, co-ed group of students live together in a PN house with mentors. This housing opportunity costs $2,475 per year and $291 per month. This is a great opportunity if you are looking to live with a new group of Calvin students and a family that will be your mentor. You have the opportunity to live in a family’s home and take part in a tight-knit community.

The amenities vary, but typically Include internet, laundry, cleaning supplies, and trash services. They also typically provide all of the furnishings you would need. The cost of living here cannot be beat, but the only downside is that these houses are usually 10-20 minutes away so a car would be needed.

  • Off-Campus Housing:

The last option is getting together with a couple of friends and find a house close to campus to rent. The pricing around Grand Rapids typically varies between $3,600-$4,800 per year or between $300-$400 per month/person. This is also nice if you are wanting to live in the area throughout the entirety of the year as most all leases are annual so include the summer months. If not, you will have to look to sublease your space in the summer months.

The utilities and amenities vary greatly depending on the home and the landlord specifically. These houses can be a cheaper option than apartments for many, but require a commute and the need for a car oftentimes. They are also not typically furnished so that is an important factor to take into consideration.

See more information by clicking this link:

https://calvin.edu/offices-services/residence-life/housing-options/

Budgeting

Do you have $2.50 in your bank account? Are you unsure of where all your money goes each month? If you said yes to either of these things, then you need a budget. I know what you’re thinking, the dreaded budget.

Budgeting isn’t that bad once you learn all of the neat tips and tricks. First off, you are going to want to start with the basics. The first step in this process is to track your expenses. What I mean by that is you need to write down every single transaction you make to the dollar for a period of time, at least a month, but longer with give you better information. There are a lot of different ways that you can do this, there are apps for iOS and Android that can make this process very easy my favorites are Mint, Quicken, and excel. The next thing you need to do is now set up a realistic budget by spending category based on what you learned by tracking your spending.  It’s important in this process to set goals for your budget and define what you are saving for. That can be anything from a small “rainy day” or emergency fund to cover larger unexpected expenses such as a car repair, a month you have lower income, etc. It can also be bigger than that such like new car or house, or simply ensuring you live on what you earn each month. A couple of good rules to live by: Save first, Spend Second. Give. Spend less than you earn.

Budgeting is extremely important for many reasons. Budgeting allows you to know how much you’re spending thus giving you an idea of where your money is going. It also gives you peace of mind and will allow you to have enough money to do what is important to you. Budgeting is also the most effective way to get out of debt, so if you have a car payment, or credit card debt, a well-designed budget can help you pay those debts in a timely manner.  

Budgeting is one of the best things you can do for your financial well-being, and the earlier you can develop these habits, the better. Budgeting is also one of the most important financial practices that you can start at any age. Having a budget has certainly changed my life, how will it change yours?

Why Your Credit Score Matters!

by Nate DeWindt

Many students find that they do have a credit score, even if they do not have or actively use a credit card. Your credit score is not just a number tied to a card, but a score that tells lenders how trustworthy you are based on all your reportable credit accounts. A credit card is one type of account, but a car loan or student loan are a few others!

But why do I care about my score? Whether I have a credit score or not, does it matter what it is? It does matter, and even if it does not right now, it will at some point soon. Whenever you want the ability to borrow money (and sometimes when you don’t – think prospective employers or landlords), people look at this score (and some other factors) to try to figure out ahead of time if you will responsibly pay them back. A better score greatly increases your chances of getting a loan application accepted. For example, I have had a credit card for a few years now, and I decided to call my provider and ask for an increase in my line of credit, which can be useful for a variety of reasons (as long as you are responsible!). While they did not ask me directly what my score was, this is something my provider has on file and would look at to determine my credit-worthiness. In the end, I got accepted for an increase, but this would have been less likely if my score was lower.

Let me provide you an illustration: think of two people: Calvin and Hope. Calvin is a junior, and he has spent his whole college career building his credit. He uses his credit card carefully and only buys what he needs with it. He has never missed a payment and he probably never will because he has an auto-payment set up to pay what he has spent off in full each month. He is considering getting a used car, but he can’t pay for all of it right now. He applies for a loan, and he easily qualifies for multiple offers because his score is great. Hope is different. She is a senior, but she doesn’t have a good credit score, and she’s not taking steps to improve it. She goes on huge spending sprees that use over half of her credit limit. She only pays the minimum balance on her credit card until she feels guilty about her spending and finally pays off her debt. She likes looking at different credit cards and has applied for more than she needs, and that hurts her score too. She just applied for a lease with three of her friends for a new place to live after she graduates, but she got turned down because she wasn’t managing her credit score!

So what can you do if you want to be like Calvin and not like Hope? There are a few things you can do right now to improve your credit score.

First, if you do not have a credit card, apply for one! Look around online to find out what kinds of rewards you can get, and what interest rates are available. Do not apply for more than one to start off.

Second, if you have or get a card, make sure to always pay your bill on time and always pay all that you’ve spent the previous month (the “new balance” in credit card language). And I mean ALWAYS. This is one of the most important things you can do to increase your score or keep a high score high.

Third, use your credit card a little each month for what you normally spend money on, preferably not above 30% of the credit card’s limit. Using and paying it off consistently greatly helps to build your credit score.

Lastly, know that building credit will take time. There is no super-quick way to go from a low to a high credit score. Be patient! The picture below shows the current distribution of Americans’ credit scores; notice that there are many people in all the categories. With time, anyone’s score can become a good one – you can do it too!

 

7 Savings Hacks to Start Now!

by Kaitlin Terschak

Are you finding it more difficult to save money as you progress through your college years? Does it feel like money just slips through your hands? These are prevalent problems in the life of many college students and can be combated through mindfully sticking to a few spending and savings practices listed below.

Spend less than you earn

Spending less than you earn should not surprise anyone, but it is shocking to see how many people do not live this out. It is vital to make this habit in college so that you can stick with it for life. Once this becomes a habit in your 20’s it will become even easier as you secure a job and throughout your life. It is also key to remember that this rule holds true no matter your income level – whether you are a college student working part time or a CEO, you should stick to this rule.

 

 

Create a budget

Set an amount of money that you will save each month. This is a process that can easily be automated each month where this predetermined amount of money (example: $50 a month) or percentage of your monthly income (example: 10% of income) is transferred to a savings or money  market account. In addition, start tracking your expenses each month to gauge how much you spend on average and set goals for your monthly expenditures and savings.

 

 

Search for a bank or credit union that has a higher interest rate than competitors

The average bank account has a measly .06% of interest earned annually so it is wise to shop around and compare rates when looking for a bank (you should currently be able to find a savings rate > 2%). Additionally, online banks typically have higher rates to draw people to them.

 

 

 

Be mindful of any credit you take on

Credit may be a good option depending on the situation. If you are a college student and need student loans, that is typically a beneficial investment that will pay off in the long run. However, if you are a college student who is wanting to take on a car loan, it may be wiser to save in the meantime and use a bike, take the bus, or catch a ride with a friend.

 

 

 

Get creative with cutting down expenses

  • Little expenses add up quickly – especially those that are recurring each month such as subscriptions. For example, you most likely do not need a membership at your hometown gym because Calvin has a fitness center students can use for free. Calvin offers the free use of the pool, gyms, the weight room, outdoor fields, a racquetball court, tennis courts, and our impressive rock wall. There is no need to pay for a gym membership with all of these resources at our disposal!
  • Second, grocery and eating-out expenses can fluctuate drastically each month. This connects to the idea of budgeting because at the very least it is wise to track your spending on these categories to see how much you typically pay for groceries and dining out – you may be surprised! I have learned that I tend to eat out a lot more frequently during interim because my workload is lighter and I have extra time to go out with friends, but this sometimes can get pricier than I would like. Instead, try hosting a potluck with friends where each person can cook a dish and everyone can share rather than paying $10-15 for one meal out.

 

Look for Deals

There are so many great deals – especially available to college students! There is almost no excuse not to find a good deal for whatever you may need. For example: search free-and-for-sale for cheap textbooks or furniture. You can get highly discounted items from this sight. There are also special discounts that college students can get at many retail stores. Lastly, look for special deals or happy hours where you can get half-off appetizers when going out to eat with friends.

 

 

 

Live by the 24 hour rule

If you are shopping and find something you want, instead of buying it impulsively, wait 24 hours and think it over. Oftentimes if you wait 24 hours, you will realize that the item is just a want rather than a need.