Guides

An Introduction to Internships

Some view internships as resume builders, and others view them as free labor. So should you accept an internship? Better yet, should you accept an unpaid internship? No matter how you view this real world experience, there is no question that by having an experience as an intern under your belt you become a valuable asset to any perspective employer. Finding, accepting, and excelling at an internship can be what puts you over the top in a competitive career field. Here are the steps you should take in order to find the perfect internship match for you.

Internships

Stage 1: The Search

This is the stage where you search out an internship in the field you are interested in. First, search for internships in your area and areas within a 15-20 mile radius. Look online, call local businesses, check with friends of the family; do anything you can to find an internship opportunity. If you are interested in leaving the state or even the country, there are internships that will take you there as well.

Stage 2: Application Process

Applying for internships can take a while, but if it is something that you really want it is worth the time. Answer the questions honestly. Make sure you do a little research into the company of which you are applying so that you know exactly what they are looking for. By doing this, you can boast the skills you have that would best benefit the company. The application is the first impression the company will have of you, so make it good!

Stage 3: Interviews

Though the application is the first impression the employers will have of you, the interview is what will make or break you. Review your application and the questions that were asked. This will help you prepare for what kind of things the company may ask. You should also review the information that you discovered about the company. Employers want to hire people who know about them. It not only tells them that you know about their company, but it also flatters them. Speak slowly, stay calm, smile, and look the interviewer in the eyes. Do not fidget, play with your hands, or look around the room. Show the interviewer that you mean business. Another good, and rather obvious, tip is to practice interviewing. Many college campuses have counselors hired for the specific purpose of helping students perfect their skills before an interview. Take advantage of these options and it will pay off in an internship offer.

Stage 4: The Wait

This is the stage in which your patience will be put to the test. It can take weeks to hear back from perspective internship offers. However, do not be afraid to call, email, or stop in to ask about the selection process and if there has been a decision made yet. This will make you look ambitious and determined. Employers want to see these qualities in an intern and it will excite them to see you taking initiative.

Stage 5: Accepting an Internship

Just about the time you think you are about to burst from the wait, if you followed these tips and stages, at least one of the internships you applied for will call or email you with an offer to join their team. Accept or decline graciously and then go celebrate! A good way to celebrate would be to go on a shopping spree for work appropriate clothes! Not the most exciting thing in the world, but it is necessary. Make sure to ask the company if there is anything you need to do or bring with you on the first day, so that you are fully prepared. Show up at least 10 minutes early with a smile and a positive attitude, and show this company just how good of a choice they made in picking you.

If you do exceptionally well, there is a chance that the company may offer you a job after the internship is complete. You will also be able to use your boss as a reference for future endeavors. Just remember, an internship can be one of the best investments you make in your future. Whether it is paid or not, an internship is more than worth your time.

Renting an Apartment in NYC

Finding an apartment in NYC can seem like one of the most daunting experiences of your life, especially when on a budget in such an expensive city; but if you break the process down, it becomes far less stressful. The first thing you need to consider is your budget. This will help steer you in the right direction regarding realistic locations, and whether or not you will need a roommate(s). Once you have figured out your budget, begin to look into various areas in the city you are interested in to get a feeling for average pricing and availability. Depending on what you find, you will then be able to determine if you need a roommate or roommates to help split the costs of your apartment. It’s very important to have your budget, ideal locations, and roommates all finalized before beginning your search. This way, you won’t waste any time during the process.

 

New York City

Once all your preferences are set, you should first browse various websites to see what’s available. It’s important to be wary of what you see online, though, as many posts are scams. There are websites pertaining to all cities, but two of the most legitimate sites in NYC are www.citihabitats.com and www.streeteasy.com. Though these sites guarantee real listings and great service from licensed professionals, they often come with hefty broker fees. Broker fees are often 15% of one year’s rent. In addition to this, you will have to put down a deposit upon signing the lease, so it’s vital to keep these costs in mind when choosing how to pursue your apartment.

A different approach to take is to use Craigslist or sites like HotPads. These sites are more risky, in that one can never be sure who they are dealing with on the other end. However, some of the best deals are on these sites and often do not come with a broker’s fee. Craigslist has an option to look for only no fee apartments, and you can even look for sublets or roommates if you are having difficulty finding any. Sometimes going with a sublet is a favorable option, because you often won’t have to pay a broker’s fee or deposit, depending on your roommate. This is also a more non-committal option, as you won’t sign a lease. If you are looking for something temporary or short-term, subletting may be ideal.

Once you have found a bunch of places to look at, check them all out to get a feeling for what you like best. Walk around the area at night to make sure you feel safe, and get a feeling for the neighborhood at large. Other factors to consider are pets, walk-ups versus elevator buildings, and whether or not you prefer having a doorman. Once you figure out exactly what you want upon viewing these apartments, your search will narrow down quite a bit.

Once you’ve found the apartment you love, sign a lease – FAST! Apartments go off the market like rapid fire in NYC, and it can be horribly disappointing to lose a place you love; however, this is incredibly common. Once you do get to lease signing, read the fine print extremely closely, as you may be surprised by what you see. One of the biggest issues today with apartments in NYC is bed bugs. Landlords are required to tell you if there have been cases of bed bugs within the past year in the building, but they may not be as forthcoming with that information as you would like. If there have been bed bugs in the building recently, it will be in your lease, so be sure to look for that disclosure or anything else that seems out of the ordinary.

After you’ve signed your lease, celebrate and enjoy your new life in one of the greatest cities in the world!

How do I Improve My Credit Score?

When it comes to the importance of improving your credit score, it is almost as important as losing weight!
Credit Score
Whether your credit is bad or relatively okay, you need to know your current position before you try to improve your credit score. Free credit reports can be obtained one every calendar year. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, now is the time to do so. Before proceeding with anything, make certain there are no mistakes on your credit report. If you find something fishy, be sure to report it, have it investigated and maybe even have it removed from your report.

If you want to improve your credit score, like we all do, then here are a few steps that will help you quickly improve your credit score:

1. Pay Down Your Current Cards – While it may not be at the top of your list, it is important to pay down your current credit cards. When you go into a bank for a loan, lenders want to see a significant difference between your available credit and the credit that you’ve used – or are currently using. Balances under 30% of your credit limit are great, but lower than 10% is fantastic! Start with the highest-rate credit card or the credit card that is closest to be being paid off.

2. Get a Credit Card – If you don’t already have a credit card or just have one, apply for a new credit card. You can build your credit by using your credit and then paying off the balance. If your credit happens to be too poor, get a secured credit card. These are similar to that of a pre-paid debit card, as you load money onto the card and that is your credit limit, except that these report to the credit bureaus. Make sure to get a secured card that reports to all three of the major credit bureaus in order to benefit the most.

3. Get an Installment Loan – Revolving, which is considered a credit card, and installment, which is a student loan, a mortgage and a personal loan, are known to be the best types of credit to improve your credit history and your credit score. Get an installment loan if you can – even if it’s a small personal loan.

4. Don’t Max Out Your Cards – There’s no reason to max out every single one of your credit cards. Regardless of whether you pay it back quickly or not, your credit score will not benefit from maxed out credit cards.

Most delinquencies will appear on your credit history for as many as seven years, so you can’t expect to rebuild your credit history and improve your credit score overnight. It is possible to improve your score, though, and it is worth the time and effort to do so. Follow the four steps above and you’ll be well on your way to improving your credit score!

Smart Online Shopping, Part 1: Security

Online shopping has become so mainstream that much of the early hysteria over the potential identity theft associated with online purchases has waned. In place of this hysteria, though, many have adopted a rightfully placed healthy fear of having their purchasing data compromised. There are always risks associated with making online purchases, but there are also many ways to protect yourself and your financial data from being misused.

Sticking to secure websites and transactions for your online shopping can significantly reduce your risk of compromising your financial information. A simple way to see if the website is secure is to look for some sort of symbol and logo along the top or bottom of the website indicating that the company has protected it’s purchasing process. Often times, you’ll see a padlock, a key, a checkmark or some other symbol indicating that the company has secured it’s website for the protection of their customers.

Not all websites advertise their security, though. Another way to see if the website is secure is to look to the URL, that is, the address bar at the top of your Internet browser. Most URLs you see start with “http,” but some will start with “https.” The “s” stands for “secure,” and that little “s” means you can trust the security of the transaction you’re about to make, even if the website is not otherwise labeled as protected or secured.

But the presence of an “https” or a logo with a lock and key is never a guarantee of security. If you’re looking for added security, or if the website you’re dying to shop on doesn’t display the security indicators above, there are other methods for protecting your purchasing information.

Many banks offer alias cards for your credit or debit accounts. These cards, also called “virtual accounts” or “secure cards,” allow you to make online purchases without having to enter your actual credit or debit card information. Alias credit cards or accounts often have single-use numbers that wouldn’t work if someone tried to re-use their information maliciously. In the case of alias debit cards, you can transfer money to the alias account before making your purchase. Should the debit card number become compromised, the would-be thief would not have access to your full account, but would instead be limited to the amount you had transferred for the purpose of the purchase.

If your banking company doesn’t offer an alias card or virtual account, you can still use a single-use gift card for your purchases. These gift cards are often sold at grocery stores or gas stations, and are most commonly Visa or American Express cards. This is probably the safest way to purchase online, as the cards are not in any way linked to your actual banking information. Just like with the alias debit cards, any would-be thief who obtained the card number would be limited to the amount of damage they could do. In this case, the only thing compromised would be whatever amount remains on the gift card.

With so many easy ways to protect your purchasing information, there’s no reason to be afraid of online shopping. And, if you’re going to move forward with shopping online, check out “Smart Online Shopping, Part 2: Saving” for tips on getting the most bang for your now-protected buck!

How Does a Credit Score Work?

A credit score is a number that is arrived at after an individual’s credit files or reports have been statistically analyzed based on particular criterion that are used to determine that person’s creditworthiness, or the risk involved in extending that person further credit. Unknown to a lot of people is the fact that this score is not only determined by how faithfully you keep to repayment deadlines or fulfill your debt obligations but also how often you successfully apply for credit services and fulfill their obligations.
credit card

Legally, credit bureaus are mandated to collect this information. Companies then involved in extending credit seek this information from credit bureaus and are furnished with it. It is against this information that the decision to extend an individual credit is made.

Credit scores have several functions as a financial tool within an economy, both at micro and macro-economic levels. They help credit and financial institutions decide the credit worthiness of an individual or a firm, and the risk involved in extending them credit, thereby allowing them to make informed, calculated decisions. They also act as a form of control, helping individuals monitor their own credit performance or worthiness while at the same time letting them know that any indiscreet behavior will be noted. Credit scores can also help at a fiscal policy level in determining whether measures and tools in place to govern the credit provision industry are actually effective, or working, and to actually inform fiscal decision makers what credit levels the economy is operating at.

Typically banks and credit card companies use this information but several other firms, like government departments, utility companies, mobile phone companies, landlords and the hotel and leisure industries all source this information from credit bureaus.

The calculation of credit scores varies from bureau to bureau but some general rules of thumb exist, and a typical simplified format is outlined below:

35 – Payment History
30 – Credit to Debt Ratio
15 – Credit History
10 – New Credit
10 – Credit Types in Use

Thus the credit score or credit rating is calculated as a percentage of 100. The break-down above implies that if you excel in one area and lack in another, only fixing the areas which you lack are going to improve your score.

The advantages of having a good credit score are about as obvious as the ones resulting from having a bad credit score. With a good credit score, it is easier to get credit extended to you, at lower interest rates, and with simpler terms. Bad credit scores often imply that requests for credit are either ignored or end up having credit extended at high interest rates with additional built-in costs like insurance and stringent terms to guard against bad debt.

Different scoring systems are used, but in the United States, the most commonly utilized system was designed by a company called the Fair Isaac Company and runs under the acronym FICO; a resultant score derived when using this system is called a FICO score. FICO controls the greatest percentage of the credit score market in the United States and Canada although there are several other competing firms that collectively share a very small percentage of the market as well. In the US, FICO scores range from 300-850, with 723 being a median score as of 2010. This figure reflects the likelihood that a consumer will go 90 days past due or more in the subsequent 24 months after the score has been calculated. The higher the consumer’s score, the less likely he or she will go 90 days past the due date in those subsequent 24 months.

It is important to note that different services recognize different limits of scores below which they are not willing to operate, depending on the economic situation and their own financial situation. The risk, indeed, varies from credit service (mortgage, credit cards) to companies as well.

How to Find the Cheapest Textbooks

It is no secret that buying text books for your college courses can really drain your bank account. College book stores boast being the only place you can find the book you need at such a discounted price. Do not believe this! Your college’s book store is not a bad place to pick up a book, but you do have other options. Here are just a few other places to start looking for books before you give in to the book store.

Online

Buy your books off resale stores online. They usually list the books at different prices, depending on the condition of the book. Personally, I have found buying the cheaper, not as pretty, books work just as well as the brand spanking new ones. Sites like Chegg.com are great sources for books.

Friends

Make friends who have been going to your college. Find people who are studying what you are studying and make a deal. Work your schedules so that you are both taking classes that the other will need, but take them at different times. That way you can split the cost of the books and share them. It’s a simple and easy way to cut your book budget in half.

Talk to Your Teachers

Some classes barely use the books that they say are required. The library will almost always have copies of these books as well. Email, call, or speak with your teacher and ask how necessary the book is to your success in the class. Most teachers want you to get through college with as little financial expense as possible. But be warned; check the author of the book before you ask your teacher. There is a good chance that the teacher is also the author. Do not ask them how important the book is if they are the one who put the time into writing it. You will not be one of their favorites.

Kindles, iPads, and Other Ereaders

Not only do these eReaders help keep your book bag light, they save you money. Purchasing your books on one of these is a great way to save some money. However, some students find it easier to use a classic, paperback book so that they can highlight and take notes. You, also, cannot sell back books purchased through eReaders. These are a great option for saving money, but may not be beneficial for all students.

Spending hundreds of dollars in the book store does not have to be your fate! Be on the lookout for places to buy your books for cheap or for options to split the price in half. And do not forget to sell back your books at the end of the semester. If the book store will not buy back the book, sell it online! If you are willing to look for them, there will always be ways to make or save money on your college text books.

Free Electric Tax Filing

The process of filing for taxes is one considered tedious and somewhat inconvenient. As such, the opportunity to do it remotely is a welcome one for most individuals and businesses. It is with this in mind the Internal Revenue Service provides an opportunity for one to file their taxes electronically. There also other avenues to do this that are affiliated with the Internal Revenue Service.

The advantages, apart from convenience, are two other important aspects: the filing process safe, and free. There are also significant reductions in the time that one needs to wait for a tax refund, with the period being cut in half in some cases. Another often quoted advantage is that if you have arrears or back payments owed to the Internal Revenue Service, the electronic filing process provides you with more options through which you can remedy this problem.

Within the Internal Revenue Service, the process is of filing taxes called the IRS e-file. It has been available since 1990.

The option that is provides for one to file their tax returns freely is called Free File. Free File is open to individuals with an annual income below $57,000 and there are a number of ways a person interested in this facility can access it only through the Internal Revenue Service website, www.irs.gov.

For those wishing to file for their taxes electronically that are open to any income bracket, one can use by forms that are called Free File Fillable Forms. These forms support simple mathematical formulae and can’t be used for the more complicated state tax returns.

There are some tax software companies that can provide you with support software that can be used to file state tax returns. These are also found in the Internal Revenue Service website www.irs.gov. and as such can be trusted with your tax information since they go through a verification process of sorts.

You can also decide to handle the process yourself, especially if you have a working knowledge of how to file your taxes and the calculations involved. E-file software is commercially available and once you have processed the information, you can then send it through the secure channels available through the Internal Revenue Service website.

Yet another method is to use a tax preparer. The law requires that these tax filing professionals be well-versed with the e-filing process and it also makes practical sense for them to be familiar with it. This will certainly help one enjoy the benefits of e-filing while also leaving the process in the hands of experienced professionals.

The Internal Revenue Service provides you with various directions and steps that can help you select which form of electronic tax filing-works for you, making the process conveniently user-friendly.

How to Find Low Cost Banking

Nowadays, our credit defines us. Our credit is often what determines whether we get a checking account free of charge, for a nominal fee, or for an outrageous charge. So many banks are making us pay more to get less. If you want to get the best checking account for the absolute ideal amount of money – you know, the best bang for your buck – check out these tips:
Low cost banking

1. Better prices may be found in smaller places – While large branches will have more branches and ATM’s, they offer convenience, which means higher prices. However, smaller banks will have less branches and ATM’s so the convenience won’t be there, but they price is much more affordable. So, if convenience isn’t an issue for you, then you can find low cost banking easily at smaller branches in your area.

2. Always maintain the required minimum balance – A number of banks will require that you maintain a certain minimum balance in order to have free checking. For example, so long as you don’t dip your account balance under $500.00, your checking account is free; otherwise, you have to pay, say, $10.00 per month for the account services. If your bank requires a minimum balance, find out if it an average balance over a certain period of time or if it is a daily minimum balance, so that you can make sure you are up to code.

3. Get overdraft protection, but don’t bounce checks – As difficult as it may be to not write that check to buy that hip new shirt at the local clothing store, it will save you money in the long run not to write it. Sure, you may have overdraft protection, but writing that check and having it accepted is going to cost you a decent chunk of change. In fact, banks are constantly raising their prices on how much a returned check costs. Then, just think if you have exceeded your overdraft protection limit, you are going to be out even more. Not only will you be paying for the returned check fee at your bank, but you will pay for the same fee at the store that you wrote the check. As a general rule, this is a $30+ charge each time, at each location.

4. Purchase your own checks – Believe it or not, you can save a ton of money by buying your own checks from a third-party source rather than from the bank itself. Sometimes, you can save as much as 50 percent! And, more than likely, you’ll have a much wider selection of excellent check designs than you would have at your financial institution.

The above-mentioned four tips will help you ensure that you get more of what you want and need out of a checking account from a low cost bank for an affordable price that won’t break the bank!