Financial Services & Resources For Young Adults

Student with stack of books in front
Now is the time you’ve been waiting for; the time to decide what you want to be when you “grow up.” Well, sort of – if you’re thinking about higher education, you may be considering college or trade school to earn a degree or diploma in a specialized field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2012, 66.2 percent of 2012 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities.

If you are one of the students who comprise this majority, then you are probably already thinking about the college application process. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Sending Your App To A Private College Or University
There is sometimes a cost (about $35-$50) involved with applying to a college or university, although some schools will allow you to apply for free. Also, making a trip to apply in person could save you the application fee – and make an impression – according to U.S. News.

The personal essay is one of the most talked-about portions of the college application. Here is a fun anecdote from Heather Long of The Guardian“One admissions counselor told me that his favorite personal essay of all time was by a young woman who wrote about working at Dunkin’ Donuts for the summer. She described several of her favorite ‘regulars’ who would come in daily – what they ordered and how she interacted with them. It was a funny piece, but it also showed how she handled tough situations, and it almost read like a psychology paper on these various characters in her town.”

Sending Your App To Community College Or Trade School
Applying to a community college or vocational school typically is a less-involved process, although it will still require some research. Oftentimes you can apply for free – but it really depends upon what your schooling interest is.

The websites US News and College Board offer additional information on the college app process and financial details, although there are many other resources as well. Check out the other articles in this section for more information.
Students walking into school
When it comes to actually paying your tuition bill, you don’t want to end up with more expenses than you need.

This is one of the reasons why you may want to narrow down your major before reaching college campus, or at the very least, shortly after taking the gen ed requirements. Maybe you know someone who went to school and dropped out – those Student Loans aren’t forgiven.

Take your dollars further by taking only the classes you need. The less debt you have after graduation, the better. So how do you narrow down your choices and decide on a major? Let’s consider the following:

1. Think about what you really like to do, no matter how off-the-wall the activity may be. Do you like to hike? Head to your local National Park and take a nice long hike. Being in nature clears your thoughts and helps you focus on what your next step will be.

Or, if you love watching the Food Network, consider baking something for a group bake sale, and give the proceeds to charity. If you are more creatively motivated, consider singing in the choir or taking art classes.

Investing time in your hobbies may help you pare down what you really like to do, so when it’s time to pick your major, you may have a better idea where your talents lie.

2. Don’t be overly hard on yourself. If you need some time to make this important decision, that’s okay. Just focus on doing the best you can in your classes, and take part in some extracurricular activities so you can have some fun, too. The more variety, the better – but be sure to not overextend yourself and burn out. It’s easy to do!

3. Ask a counselor.  Most (if not all) accredited colleges, universities, and trade schools will have a counseling (or guidance) department that offers advice and testing to shed some light on which major you may want to pursue. Schedule a meeting; if you don’t jive with the first counselor you meet, don’t be afraid to talk to someone else. A variety of opinions will serve you well when making this important decision.

Most importantly, allow yourself to have some fun! Stressing too much leads to poor school performance, sleep difficulties and many other problems. Enjoy this time while you prepare to take the “real world” head-on.
Woman holding credit card
How To Build Good Credit
As you transition from college to the real world, your credit score will become more and more important, especially as you get ready to set up bills and make big purchases like cars and a home. But building credit doesn’t have to be difficult or painful.

Pay Your Bills On Time
This may seem obvious, but your credit will take a ding if you don’t pay bills like power, phone, car, and student loans on time. Budget accordingly so you have enough after every paycheck. Set up automatic bill payments through your checking account so you don’t miss any payments.

Use Credit Cards Wisely
It’s very tempting to use your credit cards when you want something, but don’t let your credit usage get out of hand. Balances can buildup quickly and that could lead to a late payment, which you really don’t want. Limit the number of cards you have and make sure you pay on time and pay off balances. Making regular payments and keeping balances low will help you build your credit smartly.

Start Small And Build
Your credit union may have a better rate for your credit card, so start there, or get a secured card – where you make a deposit and it becomes your credit line. Get a lower credit limit so you’re not tempted to over-borrow. When you get into a habit of paying on time, you can build your limit to match your earnings and needs.

Be smart with your credit and it will build with you. Make sure to get your annual free credit report to track your progress.
Analytics on tablet
Did you know that you can pull your credit score for free from each credit reporting company once a year? This is something every young consumer should do to keep informed about their credit status, and the top of the year is a great reminder to check. The one government-authorized site to do this is

Try not to be tempted by advertising campaigns to pull your “free credit report” from other sites. Those ads usually tout websites owned by one of the three big credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. While they may allow you to pull a free report from that one credit bureau, they may also try to sell you products and services you may not need or want.

Reviewing your credit report is extremely important. Once you have your report in your hand, verify that all of the content of the report is accurate, from your personal information to your list of creditors. If you spot any errors, please follow the credit bureau’s instructions for investigating and updating inaccurate information. An investigation and subsequent file correction can take up to 90days to complete, so you may have to be patient. You can speed up the correction process if you have documentation from a creditor showing accurate payment history or balance information.
Girls looking at computer
It’s nearly impossible to get through life without a credit card nowadays. Whether you want to purchase concert tickets online or just need to fill your gas tank and you’re in a hurry, plastic is the way to go.

However, choosing between paying cash/using your debit card and using credit can be tricky. It is often tempting to just “throw that purchase on a credit card” and worry about paying for it later.

But that can get you into trouble quickly. Let’s think about some of the pros and cons associated with choosing a credit card over cash or your debit option:
Pros Cons
Low-limit credit cards are usually easy to get (you may need a cosigner if you haven’t already established credit somehow) It can be tempting to spend up to your credit limit if you aren’t careful
Worry about paying off the bill later You must be careful not to miss your credit card bill’s deadline
By using your credit card and paying it off in a timely manner, you start building a good credit history Having available credit can lead to impulse spending, so only purchase what you can afford to pay off
There are lower or no fees associated with credit union credit cards Other card lenders may charge fees for a variety of transactions, so always read the fine print
Credit cards give you immediate access to credit Credit cards give you immediate access to credit – yes, it’s both good and bad!
You may earn rewards on purchases Sometimes first-time credit card holders aren’t eligible for rewards on low-limit cards

Keep Your Credit On The Up And Up
The best way to start on the fast track to building a solid credit history is to apply for a low-limit credit card – and to pay off the balance on the card each month. This way you won’t be sitting with a pile of debt and no end in sight (which is incredibly stressful, as you may have already learned).

Having good credit ensures you get the lowest loan rates, which means you will spend less on things like a house and a car if you have to borrow in the future!
Woman stressed holding credit card
Since getting into credit card debt is so easy, it doesn’t seem fair that getting out of it is so hard! However, if you stay focused and work at it, it is possible to get out of credit card trouble. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way!

Evaluate What You Owe – When you sit down and look at the reality of the situation, you can create a game plan to get out of it. If you go around paying the minimums on your credit card account balances, you’re only ignoring a problem that will lurk around for years until you address it. Figure out what you owe and create a budget to pay it off. has many calculators you can use to set up different payoff game plans.

Check Your Credit Score – If your credit score is below 660, you need to work at improving it, so you can qualify for better rates on credit cards. By paying down debt and making payments on time, you’ll take some important steps toward raising your score. If you lock in a better card and a good balance transfer rate, you can often cut your interest rate in half or more. This will help tremendously since it will allow you to pay off the balance even faster.

Get A Better Credit Card Deal – Head to your credit union where they will work with you to get the best deal possible. Especially if you’ve taken the time to improve your credit score, you’ll have a good chance of getting a good rate. Explain the situation to your credit union and they will be able to work with you to find the right card for your particular situation.