Tip of the Week
More than 38 million Americans have outstanding student loans amounting to nearly $1 trillion, surpassing both credit cards and auto loans as a leading source of personal debt, according to Pew Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For young people looking to take control of their future, here are ways to ease the strain of student debt:
* Seek out scholarships - If you are still in college or considering getting your degree, be sure to research and apply for a range of scholarships to help lower your education costs. “One of the most powerful steps young people can take to mitigate educational debt is to aggressively seek out scholarships to help fund college,” says Michael Fanning, an executive vice president with MassMutual.
Make a budget that includes all expenses
Expenses fall into three categories: fixed, flexible and discretionary. Sit down and review all of your monthly costs, from meals to rent payments, and identify which category they fall in. From there, you can allocate funds to each area.
Borrow or swap
Before making a purchase, ask a friend or relative if you can borrow or swap for a similar item. This especially holds true for items you may use only once or very few times. Going on a backpacking trip abroad? See if you can borrow a friend’s backpack rather than buying a new one. Looking to update your wardrobe? Ask a friend to swap outfits, doubling each other’s wardrobes instantly.
Keep living at home
Rent is a huge expense. If you’re moving away from your hometown to work, it’s unavoidable, but if your first job is close to home, consider asking if you can move in with your parents for the first year or two to save on expenses. Use the money you’re able to save during that time to make larger payments toward your student loans to pay them down quicker.
Avoid credit card debt
Post-graduation is a crucial point that will help determine your credit score for years to come. To keep credit card debt in check, only use one or two cards at a time with limits that aren’t high, and pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest. Missteps could affect the rate you pay on big purchases down the road, like a car or home loan.
Ask for a raise
Once you have established a solid foundation at your job, usually around the one-year mark, speak up and ask for a raise. Be sure to approach your supervisor prepared, both with how much more you want and why you deserve it. Highlight how you’ve demonstrated value to company over the year and how your work merits a raise.
— Brandpoint

BBB Watch
A common text-message scam involves receiving a message reading something similar to: “Your ATM card has been put on hold. Call Customer Department now 1-205-XXX-XXXX.” If you call the number you’ll be instructed to enter your 16 digit credit card number. Don’t do it. It’s a scam! Share your card information, and you will open yourself up to credit card fraud. Instead find your bank’s phone number on the back of your credit or debit card and call to confirm the status of your card. Do not call the phone number given in the text message.
— Better Business Bureau

The List
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently made a $2 billion offer to buy the Los Angeles Clippers from beleaguered owner Donald Sterling. Opinions from media analysts are generally that he overpaid greatly. Here are the 10 most valuable NBA teams, ranked at the start of 2014:
1. New York Knicks, $1.4 billion
2. Los Angeles Lakers, $1.35 billion
3. Chicago Bulls, $1 billion
4. Boston Celtics, $875 million
5. Brooklyn Nets, $780 million
6. Houston Rockets, $775 million
7. Miami Heat, $770 million
8. Dallas Mavericks, $765 million
9. Golden State Warriors, $750 million
10. San Antonio Spurs, $660 million
— Forbes.com

Number to Know
91: Over a nine-year period, the average student loan balance among 25-year-olds has grown 91 percent, from $10,649 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012.
— Brandpoint

Tech Talk
Smart TVs, or those that connect users directly to streaming services, such as Netflix or allow them to check the weather without the need for a set-top box or dongle, are growing in popularity. Yet, they still represent less than 10 percent of “installed” TVs. That percentage is expected to climb in the future, though, as smart TV shipments represented approximately 39 percent of TV units shipped globally in 2013, up from roughly 25 percent in 2012, according to material presented by Internet analyst Mary Meeker, from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
— TheStreet

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