College Planning During Your Junior Year

Young man with school book

You probably aren’t surprised to hear that planning for college shifts into high gear in your junior year of high school. Your objectives: to prepare yourself for the standardized tests, to
understand the admissions process, and to end the year with a well-researched
list of schools that you will apply to during your senior year.
We’ve included a junior year planner to help keep you focused as you take
those first steps toward college. Remember, your guidance counselor is
an important resource – keep in touch from the moment you start thinking
seriously about college:

Sign up for the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). This test gives you an indication of how well you will score on the SAT and is necessary for you to be eligible for a National Merit Scholarship. You should also start to consider if you should take the ACT test in addition to the SAT. You don’t have to decide that right now but it is worth learning more about. Remember, your guidance counselor is here to help with your questions.

September/ October
Communicate with your guidance counselor and family as you start to research schools. Discuss your interests, academic standing, budget, geographic areas you’re considering, and other relevant concerns. Research schools you are interested in online. Remember not to rely exclusively on official websites and materials; get real students’ points of view by examining online student newspapers and social media. Find students who went to your high school who are currently enrolled in the college(s) you want to attend, and talk to them about their experiences. The more you learn at this stage, the easier the rest of the process will be.

Take the PSAT/NMSQT. Continue your research. Don’t get overwhelmed!

Some colleges and universities offer early admission or an early decision program. If this
option is one you are considering, you need to register to take the Scholastic
Aptitude Test (SAT) by the fall of your senior year. Discuss the value of early
admission with your guidance counselor; it may be the way to go if you have
one “favorite” college, but you will usually have to commit to attending the school
before you know what their financial aid offer is. If you do decide on early
admission, start reviewing for the SATs. There are a variety of SAT preparation plans ranging from online practice tests to school-sponsored programs to private, paid prep classes. Keep in mind these also vary greatly in cost so make sure you determine what the right choice is for you and your family.

College is expensive, and financial aid is a major concern for most college
students. Start to investigate financial aid options and scholarship opportunities with your guidance counselor. Sit down with your parents and discuss what you and your family
can afford to spend on college. There is lots of aid available, but there are also
many students seeking it.

Keep in mind that there are good schools in every price range, from
community colleges and trade schools to state colleges up to the Ivy League. Remember, other college financing strategies, including student loans and home equity loans, are available through your credit union.

Include them as part of your financial research – they are there to help!

Check with your guidance counselor for dates to register for the SATs or the
ACT if you plan to take them late in your junior year or early in your senior year. Spring break is a great time for you and your parents to start visiting the schools on your list; make sure that each school is in session then, so you can see things in action and talk to the students.
Continue your visits through the end of the school year.

Continue to visit colleges, and start to narrow down your choices. Some
colleges have summer weekend programs for prospective students; take
advantage of these to get additional insight and on-campus experience.
Continue to narrow your perspective choices based on how well each school fits your long-term goals, financial situation and other factors you’ve deemed important. Ideally, you should be happy to attend any school on your shortlist because you’ve done the research, visited, checked them out thoroughly and know that each will meet your needs. Good job!

Planning Ahead For That Car

redheaded woman pumping gas

You can see yourself behind the wheel, smiling as you cruise down the road, music playing, not
a care in the world…but wait! Before you make a move toward getting your first car, take this quick quiz; simply answer yes to no to the following:

  1. Do I need a car?
  2. Can I afford to buy a car?
  3. Can I afford to keep a car running?

Let’s review, especially if you weren’t sure about some of the answers.
Do I Need A Car?

This is a very different question from “Do I Want A Car?” We all know the answer to that one. But first, ask yourself if you really need your own transportation:

  1. Do you have a job you need to get to?
  2. Do your extracurricular activities keep you at school after the buses leave?
  3. Is there a shortage of vehicles in your household?
  4. Is there any other reason you need your own wheels?
  5. If the answers to these questions is yes, getting your own vehicle may be a practical choice. But there’s more to consider.

    Can I Afford To Buy A Car?
    We’re talking thousands of dollars here. Where is it coming from? Consider savings, income from a job or a loan. How much can you afford to spend? A car is probably the largest purchase you’ll make until it’s house-buying time. If you put a lot of money into a car, how much will realistically be left for all the other things you like to buy – music, movies, clothes, eating
    out, and all that other good stuff. And remember, once you have the car, the expenses continue to add up.

    Can I Afford To Keep A Car Running?
    Registration. Insurance. Gas. Oil changes. Inspection. Repairs. Tires. Tolls and parking. The freedom that comes with having your car certainly isn’t free. Research vehicle ownership costs online and make a budget to see if a car works with your finances. Even if you’ve been saving up to buy your car, it’s easy to overlook the ongoing expenses that come with owning and maintaining it.

    If you haven’t been scared away yet, congratulations! Buying a car may make sense for you. We’re here to help you understand your auto loan options. Stop by and see us! We’ll help you navigate the traffic jams and get you closer to your dreams of the open road!

Tips To Keep More Cash In Your Pocket

Dollar bill in the back of jean pocket

Saving money can be hard to do! Even adults struggle with it sometimes. That’s why it pays to put these smart spending and saving habits to work as soon as possible.

Here are 7 simple tips that can help you save your hard-earned allowance or paycheck:

  1. Identify what you’re saving for. A savings account is a great idea, but you’re even more likely to put money aside if you name the account something like “Car Fund” or “New Laptop”
  2. Find new ways to make money, including doing chores around the house or neighborhood.
  3. Wait for things to go on sale before buying them but don’t buy anything just because it is on sale
  4. Find something you and your friends like doing that doesn’t cost money like volunteering at an animal shelter or joining a club
  5. Use cash. It is easy to hand over a debit card or send money digitally but old-school cash makes expenses seem more “real” and makes you less likely to spend frivolously
  6. Find a hobby that you can earn money doing like photography, graphic design, painting or video editing and then be sure to tell your friends and family you’re available for hire

Choosing The Right Kind of Car For You

Young woman driving car

The time you’ve waited for so long is finally here – you’ve passed your driver’s license test, and it’s time to pick out a new (or used) car. So how will you decide which car is the one for you? Of course, shopping for a new car depends on your budget, and also on whether your parents/guardians will lend you money – plus a host of other factors. There are many different makes and models of cars, so if you have a choice in choosing a car of your very own, you may want to think about which type of vehicle will work best for your needs.

Sedans are the typical “family car.” They have four doors (as opposed to sportier models, which generally have two) and usually have plenty of room for friends and other light necessities. Some examples of good starter sedans, according to Consumer Reports, are the Ford Focus, the Honda Accord, the Hyundai Elantra and the Kia Soul. Other examples can be found on the Consumer Reports website; just search for “Cars for Teen Drivers.”

Sports cars are generally not recommended for those without a lot of experience on the road, mostly because they have a higher rate of accidents every year and much higher insurance rates.

Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and large pick-up trucks have much more space to carry whatever you need to take with you – but again, these are probably best for more experienced drivers, simply because of their size. You will want to practice driving with a parent or friend first before you go out on the road in an SUV or truck, and even then a sedan may be a better choice for you.

Other considerations are how old the car may be. Obviously, newer cars have better safety features than older models, but you may not always be able to afford the newest car on the block. That’s okay! New cars lose much of their value the minute you drive them off the lot. Buying used is your best bet when you’re searching for your first car. Safe travels!

The Real Cost Of Owning A Car

Young group of friends in car taking picture

If you’re like most teenagers, daydreams about getting your license do not involve driving a beat up clunker, struggling to pay for gas or begging your parents for the cash to pay for repairs. However, unless you prepare in advance, that’s often the reality of the situation. Before you get behind the wheel, make sure you won’t get behind the 8-ball financially. Consider the real cost of owning a vehicle and your individual needs and calculate how much should you save up beforehand based.

Cost Of Vehicle – On Average About $2,000 and $10,000 In most cases, a used vehicle is the way to go, so that is what we will discuss here. However “used” does not necessarily translate to “cheap.” The price of a used vehicle fluctuates but even a very used vehicle can come at a pretty hefty price tag. You want something reliable, so be prepared to fork out at least $2,000 upfront. If you don’t pay that much upfront, you may end doing so on repairs in the long run.

Cost Of Insurance – $1,200 To $4,900 Of Added Premiums Per Teen Driver The average insurance premium for teens is $2,171 per year as of 2009, according to’s research service, RateWatch. That translates to approximately $180 per month. Don’t forget, the newer the car or the worse the driving record, the higher the premiums.

Cost Of Fuel – $2,000 Annually, Per 15,000 Miles With average gas mileage of 25 miles per gallon on many used cars and gas prices at $3.00 per gallon, if you drive just 15,000 per year, you’ll spend approximately $2,000 a year in gas. Of course, that amount rises with the cost of gasoline – not to mention if those road trips add up and you go over 15,000 annually.