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College and money: three ways to stay on track

Knowing nuances of loans and the importance of networking can tee up post-grad financial stability.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — College opens doors to big, bright futures, but the pathway to those openings easily gets obstructed by heavy piles of loan debt and youthful spending. 

As economists predict an "in-transition" jobs market for new graduates, financial literacy author and Debt Sucks University founder Ja'Net Adams emphasized the time is now for current college students to start making sound money decisions.

"One of the best times in your life is when you are in college. Unfortunately, it is also the best time for you to make mistakes with your money," Adams said.

Adams is taking her personal experience of paying off $50,000 in debt to the students at Winston-Salem State University this September, with the goal of opening their eyes to the realities of compounding payments -- particularly student loans.

Know The Difference

On the front end of student loans, Adams said it is crucial to distinguish and understand the type of loan given.

"From the beginning of your college career, you need to learn how to read your financial aid award letter. Knowing the difference between subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans could save you thousands of dollars. One loan balance grows (unsubsidized) and the other does not grow until after graduation (subsidized). Whenever you have the option, always choose subsidized loans," she explained.

Get Involved

Financial health post-graduation goes beyond saving and spending. 

The old adage, "It's about who you know," is important, early in the college experience.

Adams said, "College is a whole new world and needs to be explored. What that means is that as a student, you should get involved on campus. Join clubs and groups that help you meet people. Your network determines your net worth, but you can't get that network without getting out and meeting people."

Save Your Money

Saving money in college, as Adams acknowledged, is a balancing act. From books to meals to Greek life, there are so many expenses, but prioritizing saving is crucial.

"There will be plenty of temptation to spend your money in college. From parties to spring break trips, you could easily spend hundreds of dollars each month trying to have fun. Your goal should be to save any money that comes to you. Save your paycheck, your refund check and any money that comes from your family. If you ever have an emergency, you will have the money to cover that emergency. It's okay to enjoy college. Just make sure that fun doesn't cost you your financial future!" she said.'

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