Is An Emergency Fund Really Necessary?

Is an emergency fund really necessary for college students?  Of course it is!  Everyone, even college students, need an emergency fund as unexpected expenses can happen at any time.

  • Good Habits.  Making wise money management decisions at an early age provides a path to good financial decision-making in the future.  In addition, the habit of placing funds consistently into an emergency fund will spill into other parts of your financial life.  Individuals are more likely to achieve their future savings and investment goals if they start as young adults.
  • Less Headaches.  Prepared or not, unexpected expenses will occur at some point in your life.  Your car breaks down, an unexpected illness occurs, or the water pipe in your apartment bursts.  Being prepared for emergencies can save you a headache when life throws a curveball.
  • Investment in Yourself.  When you place money aside for an emergency fund, you are investing in yourself.  As your account grows, feelings of accomplishment and success will show as a result of your efforts.

Unexpected expenses occur, it is just a matter of time.  Being prepared with an emergency fund is a way to combat these situations.  For more information on emergency funds, schedule a coaching session or visit the Financial Literacy Center today!

Budget Adjustments

Monthly changes of your budgeted amounts are to be expected.  Changes in spending and income result from the realities of life – both expected and unexpected.  For this reason, continuous adjustments to your monthly budget are just a part of the process.

Income Increase.  Taking on a new or additional job, receiving a monetary gift, or gaining income through other sources are all ways to increase your income.  With this new income, you may want to pay down debt or add money to your emergency or savings accounts.

Income Decrease.  Losing a scholarship, being let go from a job, or having to spend money on unexpected car expenses will force you to tighten your spending.  As a result, you may need to identify non-essential spending areas to cut back. Figure out how much you will need to decrease your spending and decide which categories can be reduced.

Be flexible and reasonable each month when reassessing your budget or spending plan.  For more information on budget strategies, visit the Financial Literacy Center.


Cyber Security Tips When In-Store Shopping

Technology has provided additional convenience while shopping, but taking a few safety precautions with your devices while out and about will provide a more safe and secure shopping experience.

Stores and service providers are beginning to track your whereabouts when your devices are within a certain range.  To prevent these business from accessing your device, disable the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features when not in use.

Public Wi-Fi connections are targets for identity fraud.  Be wary of completing any transactions over these open connections.  This includes accessing any bank or credit information and logging into any email or financial accounts.

Basic and simple precautions can make your in-store shopping experience more safe and secure.  For more information on cyber security awareness, contact the UWW Financial Literacy Center.


Refunds: What To Do With The Extra Money?

A financial aid refund is excess money left over from your financial aid package after your tuition and allowable fees have been paid.  Although it can be tempting to use this extra money on non-essentials, such as gaming consoles, vacations, or designer clothing, financial aid is meant for education-related expenses. In many cases, the refund check is actually a student loan which will need to be repaid in the future with interest.

Here are the recommended priorities for refund usage:

  1. Pay Outstanding Account Balance. Even though you may receive a refund, your student account may still have charges that need to be paid (see Note below).
  2. Purchase Essential School Supplies.  Depending on your course load, various school supplies are needed for class success such as books, calculators, and other materials.
  3. Pay for Living Expenses and Transportation.  Consider needs versus wants.  Depending on your personal situation, rent, groceries, meal plans, utilities, and basic transportation costs may be necessary expenses.
  4. Place Funds into Savings for Future Education-Related Expenses.  Although it may be tempting to use refund money on non-essentials, such as vacations or designer clothing, financial aid is meant for education-related expenses.
  5. Give Money Back.  If you have over-borrowed, consider giving the money back to reduce your overall student debt.

For more information and resources on financial aid refunds or other financial needs, reach out to the appropriate campus departments.

Note:  Due to financial aid restrictions, your student account in WINS may continue to have non-tuition charges that will need to be paid using personal funds.  Students are encouraged to authorize the Federal Title IV Financial Aid (WINS/Student Center/View Student Permissions) to pay additional charges on their student account such as parking permits, bookstore charges, health center services, and library fines.  Pay plan activation fees and finance charges cannot be covered with Federal Title IV permissions, therefore these will need to be paid with personal funds.

Financial Literacy – What is it?

What is financial literacy?  Dave Ramsey, a money management expert, defines financial literacy as “the possession of skills that allow people to make smart decisions with their money”.

The effects of a student’s financial decisions can last a lifetime. As a result, many universities across the country are implementing financial literacy programs on their campuses to provide learning opportunities and resources for students.  UW-Whitewater is no exception, and as a result, the Financial Literacy Center (FLC) opened for students this past April.

The Financial Literacy Center is a financial outreach program, committed to the education of students and the campus community on effective personal money management.  The FLC provides individual financial coaching to any student on campus (free and confidential) and presentations for classes, dorm residents, and student organizations.  Additionally, online learning opportunities are available through our website, Facebook and this blog.

Students are encouraged to become financially literate by visiting the Financial Literacy Center today!


8 Misconceptions About Student Loans

Many students need them, but misconceptions exist surrounding student loans.  To make the best financial decisions, students should be aware of common student loan myths.

  1. Student loan debt is good debt. Potentially, it could be upon graduation and landing a job.  If you leave college prior to receiving a diploma, you are still required to pay back your student loans.
  2. Interest on my student loans does not start to accrue until after I graduate.  This may be true of federal subsidized loans, but this statement does not apply to federal unsubsidized loans and most private loans.  Interest starts to accrue upon receiving the unsubsidized loan; however, the interest does not need to be paid until the student drops below half-time status or after the 6 month grace period after graduation.
  3. My student loans automatically renew each year.  Generally, both federal and private loans are only good for one year.  If loans are needed again, students should reapply each school year.
  4. Since I am going to be a teacher, my students loans will be forgiven.  This statement applies to teachers who meet all the loan forgiveness program requirements.  To qualify, teachers need to have worked full-time for five consecutive years in a designated school or service agency that serves students from low income families.
  5. If I can’t pay my student loans, I can file for bankruptcy.  Only in rare extreme hardship cases will student loans be forgiven due to bankruptcy.  The collateral on student loans is your ability to earn in the future.  For this reason, even upon bankruptcy, you still have the ability to earn and the ability to pay something towards your student debt.
  6. My grades are not high enough to receive student loans.  Federal financial aid programs do not have any initial grade requirements.
  7. My parents have not filed their taxes yet, therefore I cannot complete the FAFSA.  Students can complete the FAFSA application using estimated tax information.  When the parents eventually file their taxes, students can go back and edit the application information.
  8. I am responsible to pay back the student loans my parents took out for me.  Ultimately, if a parent takes out the loan, the parent is responsible for repayment of the loan.

For additional resources on student loans,  visit the UWW Financial LIteracy Center or schedule a free and confidential one-on-one coaching session.  We look forward to working from you!

Warhawk Emergency Fund

(Source:  Investopedia)

Financial setbacks are a reality of adulthood.  For college students, unexpected financial emergencies could result in the added risk of withdrawal from the University.  UW-Whitewater has an emergency aid program to provide students with monetary aid to help them stay in school and graduate, which ultimately, should lead to a better financial future.

The Warhawk Emergency Fund awards up to $1,000 for eligible expenses such as child care, auto, medical, and food.  Interested students need to complete the online application process.  When approved, the monetary aid is usually available within 2 business days.

The Financial Literacy Center provides financial literacy education and resources to students who receive aid through the Warhawk Emergency Fund.  Students are encouraged to attend a group presentation or schedule an individual coaching session to receive these services.

For additional questions or information, students should contact the Warhawk Emergency Fund  ( or the Financial Literacy Center (


Tracking Expenses Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

It’s the end of the month, and you can’t figure out where all your money went.  You should have enough to cover your expenses, but your bank balance is creeping closer and closer to an unacceptable number. Does this sound like a situation you have ever been in?

Keeping track of your spending can provide insight as to where your money goes each month, and it provides information on where changes may be needed in future budgets.  Fearing the results or lack of motivation may be reasons some choose not to track, but finding a method that works best for your lifestyle might make the task a bit easier.

  • Spreadsheet. Set up a spreadsheet register with income and spending categories to record all transactions.  This setup has the ability to total the categories at the end of each month, and it can keep a running tally of credit card balances.
  • Apps.  Enter income and expenses into a phone or tablet app each month.  Convenience is the major advantage to this method, and there are free financial apps, like, that have the ability to monitor expenses.
  • Pencil  and Paper.  For some, going ‘old school’ is the preferred method.  Each day, write down all income and expenses into a notebook or calendar, being sure to identify categories.  Add up category totals at the end of each month.  Keep pencil and paper readily available in purse, wallet, car, or pocket.
  • Envelope Method. Label  a separate envelope for each of your spending categories. At the beginning of each month, place the budgeted amount of cash into each envelope. Throughout the month, take out the cash for expenses, and return the receipts to the appropriate envelopes. If no receipt for an expense, simply record on a sheet of paper or directly onto the envelope.  Add up receipts at the end of the month for summary totals.
  • Other.  Additional methods include tracking expenses by store (as opposed to spending category), and waiting until the end of the month to label and total categories.

There is no right or wrong way to keep track of your expenses.  Utilize a system that works best for you!  For more information on budgeting or tracking expenses, visit the UWW Financial Literacy Center or schedule a one-on-one coaching session.  We are here to help!

How is a FICO Credit Score Determined?


When wanting to establish credit or raise your credit score,  a basic understanding of the comprising elements can assist you when making financial decisions.  A higher credit score leads to future benefits including lower interest rates, higher loan limits, and overall approval to credit card and loan applications.

How is a FICO credit score determined?

  1. Payment History (35%).  The most important factor in calculating credit scores is payment history. History is used to forecast future behaviors.  Making consistent and on-time payments to your credit cards and loans is one of the best ways to improve your credit score.
  2. Amounts Owed (30%).  FICO views those who habitually max out their credit cards as people who cannot handle debt responsibly.  Borrowers should maintain low credit card balances, and although there is no exact utilization ratio, many financial experts refer to the ‘30% rule’.  Example – If your credit card limit is $1,000, try not to charge over $300.
  3. Credit Length (15%).  A longer credit history offers more information on financial behavior.  It is impossible for a person who is new to credit to have an excellent score, as it takes time.  Those with credit should maintain their long-standing accounts.
  4. Types of Credit (10%).  A mix of credit (accounts, credit cards, and installment loans) is taken into consideration to determine a credit score.  A borrower with a good mix of credit generally represents less risk for lenders.
  5. New Credit (10%).  Borrowers should avoid opening too many credit lines at the same time, for such financial behavior might suggest financial trouble.  Consumers are encouraged to apply for and open new accounts only when needed.

For more resources and information on credit, visit the UWW Financial Literacy Center.

What is a Credit Score?

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number that calculates the risk a lender takes when you borrow money.  This score is based on your credit report, and is generated by a mathematical algorithm.  The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) credit score is used by 90% of lenders (source:

Why is your credit score important?

Your credit score is an important piece of your personal finances.  It helps lenders accurately predict your ability to repay a debt on time.  FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and a higher number indicates a lower risk to lenders.

If your credit score is low/poor, it may be difficult to find a financial institution or credit card company to lend you money, and if they do, most likely the interest rate will be unfavorable.  An increasing amount of landlords and potential employers are starting to check credit scores before leasing or hiring, and insurance companies may check credit scores when determining your premium costs.

How can I access my credit report and credit score?

As a consumer, you have access to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) using  Unfortunately, your credit score is not included on your credit report.  To obtain your credit score number, you would need to purchase it from a score provider or one of the major credit bureaus.

For additional information on credit and credit management, students should visit the UWW Financial Literacy Center’s website or schedule a financial coaching session today!