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SPOTLIGHT

Check out online money management tools


Technology keeps getting better and easier to use. The editing gear available for today's high school film students is of a higher quality than the old-school equipment pros used not too long ago. New "smart" thermostats are saving energy and keeping homeowners cool. Camping out? You might consider taking along a lightweight solar panel to recharge your batteries. The warp drive engine and the sonic screwdriver are clearly right around the corner.

The windfall of cool and easy-to-use tech resources also applies to managing your finances. Readily available (and generally free) resources can help you learn about money management and clarify the variables in key financial decisions.

Credit Card Calculators

You've probably seen the seductive approach of credit card offers geared to students, who may not notice the bait-and-switch terms of the offer. No interest for six months? Woo-hoo! Of course the interest may then skyrocket, meaning the effective rate on purchases made during the "free" period turns out to be quite high. Credit card calculators, like the ones available on Bankrate, can help students see through the monetary sleight-of-hand and make better decisions. Educational tools such as AIE's Skills Builder add a fun game element as you learn how rolling over interest can lead to very expensive consumer goods.

Student Loan Calculators

By definition, student loans are a particularly important area of student financial decision making. Borrowing to pay for higher education is often a very good investment, leading students to high-earning careers and low unemployment. That's a strong return on investment! Overborrowing, though, can lead to years of being burdened with debt and a sense of bewilderment. "How did I get into this mess?" borrowers may wonder.

To help avoid this scenario, check out this daily interest calculator from AIE, which drills into the details of daily interest so that borrowers can see if it's to their benefit to make payments early, as well as how much of a payment is applied to interest and how much to principal. There are also loan payment calculators, such as this one from FinAid!

A relatively new tool on AIE helps students to see how their choice of major and career affects loan repayment affordability. The tool, Major Choices, is an online debt-to-income calculator in which students can enter their chosen majors and schools to get an estimate of how much of their first-year income may go to loan payments. The bottom line? More informed choices. (Note: This information is only available for public college and proprietary institutions within Texas).

Being smart about financial choices is easier than ever, as technology continues to improve, providing tools to assist you on your way to success.