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Still trying to decide whether you should consolidate your student loans? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 27, 2014 2:06PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyAre your student loans putting a dent in your wallet? Fortunately, there are forms of relief available to assist.


College diploma on top of cash © Corbis Whether you're having a tough time keeping up with the payments due to carelessness on your part or a lack of funds, consolidation is an option worth considering.


How it works

A direct consolidation loan, which is offered by the federal government, lumps all outstanding federal student loan balances into one new loan and grants you a repayment term of anywhere between 10 and 30 years.


About 60 days after the new loan is disbursed, repayment commences.


Important considerations

While it may be convenient to consolidate all of your loans into one product, here are some factors you should consider before moving forward:

 

A new report finds that lost transfer credits can sometimes doom graduation plans for college students.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 27, 2014 12:46PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyA new study suggests that 1 in 7 transfer students lose nearly all of their course credits when they switch from a community college to a four-year university.


The research paper -- "The Community College Route to the Bachelor's Degree" -- was co-authored by two academics from the City University of New York and funded by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.


College student © Stockbyte, Getty ImagesThe unfortunate result of requiring those students to essentially start over by accepting only a scant 10 percent of college credits they earned is that they're much less likely to earn a bachelor's degree. According to Inside Higher Ed:

The research also dumps cold water on several other explanations for why many community college students fail to eventually complete bachelor’s degrees, such as assumptions about lowered expectations, a vocational focus or inadequate academic rigor during their time at two-year colleges.

In fact, students who were able to transfer nearly all of their credits were 2.5 times more likely to go on to earn a bachelor's degree than students who transferred less than half of their credits, the study said.


Inside Higher Ed also said it pointed out that "community college transfer students are just as likely to earn a bachelor's degree as equivalent students who started at a four-year college."

 

Several forces are conspiring to raise your bar tab.

By Money Staff Mar 27, 2014 12:07PM

This post comes from Catey Hill at partner site MarketWatch.


MarketWatch on MSN MoneyYou're not seeing double: Your bar tab really is that big.


Man with tropical drink © CorbisMargaritas, screwdrivers and Bloody Mary's are among the cocktails that could become more expensive in coming months. And drinkers can't blame the actual alcohol for that -- thanks to a convergence of factors ranging from weather to bacteria, the price of many of the ingredients in cocktail mixers has jumped.


In general, the prices for fresh fruits — including many used as cocktail mixers — climbed 2.5 percent from January to February this year, compared with just 0.4 percent for food overall. And Vernon Crowder, the senior vice president and senior analyst at Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory, says that fruit prices could continue to climb through the summer.

 

The second-ranking Republican in the US House says the minimum wage doesn't need to be raised -- it's the Affordable Care Act that's hurting workers' wages.

By Credit.com Mar 27, 2014 11:00AM

This post comes from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at partner site Credit.com.


Credit.com on MSN MoneyOn Jan. 31, a fry cook asked President Obama why his hours were being cut to part time because of Obamacare, and the President responded by saying he was pushing to raise the minimum wage.


House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va © J. Scott Applewhite/AP
This moment between the fry cook and the president reveals the entire reasoning of the Democratic Party’s push to raise the minimum wage. Rather than restore wages and hours lost by working middle-class Americans due to Obamacare, Democrats are hiding these losses behind a false debate about the minimum wage.


Just look at the math. In 2013, President Obama supported a $9 minimum wage. This year, he proposed a $10.10 minimum wage, which at the federal level turns out to be an increase roughly equal to the amount of wages a minimum wage employee would lose if they had their hours cut by 25 percent, as is happening under one provision of Obamacare. Coincidence?

 

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren writes that the minimum wage in the US is too low to raise a child in a secure environment. The Massachusetts Democrat says almost 5 million single mothers would get a needed raise.

By Credit.com Mar 26, 2014 5:20PM

This post comes from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at partner site Credit.com.


Credit.com on MSN MoneyI have 17 million reasons for wanting to increase the minimum wage.  Yes, 17 million -- the number of children whose lives would be a little more secure if their moms and dads earned at least $10.10 an hour.


Caption: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) © Joshua Roberts/Reuters
When I was in junior high, my daddy had a heart attack. He was home for a while, the medical bills piled up, and we lost our family station wagon.


So my mother did what she had to do: She went to work answering the phones at Sears. The job paid only minimum wage, but it was enough to make sure we could keep our home.


No one should work full time and live in poverty. In 1968, the minimum wage was high enough to keep a family of three out of poverty. In 1980, the minimum wage was at least high enough to keep a family of two out of poverty. 

 

Looking for nearly new gizmos at a lower the price? Buying reconditioned laptops, phones and more is a good way to go.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 26, 2014 1:51PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyRight now, you could spend $299 on a brand-new 32GB iPod Touch or you could spend $219 for the refurbished version. Both come from the Apple store in a sparkling white box with new accessories, a new battery and a one-year warranty.


Which do you choose?


You may be hesitant to go the refurbished route, but have no fear. Refurbished electronics are an awesome deal and can save you up to 50 percent off the sticker price.

 

Renting a car in the near future? Don't make the mistake of paying more than you intend to or more than you should.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 26, 2014 1:44PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyAre you a frequent patron of rental car companies? If so, you may be well aware of their shrewd practices that can leave you in the hole if you fail to be a responsible shopper.


And what about all of the hidden or surprise fees that come with the territory?


Woman in car adjusting mirror © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, Blend Images, Getty ImagesWhen I made my first rental car reservation, I was stunned at how low the rate was. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that things aren't always what they appear to be when I picked up my ride for the weekend.


The initial figure was just an illusion. I wish someone had warned me beforehand.


Here are a few common rental car "gotchas" to watch out for:


1. Penalties and extra fees

This is usually where the trapping begins. You walk into the rental car company, hand them your reservation, and you drive away with exactly what you reserved at the quoted price, correct?


Well, not quite if you are offered a more luxurious ride, need to extend the rental for a day or so or bring the car back early, plan to use a debit card, or alter the return destination.


These are just a few of the scenarios in which your wallet can take a hit. Want to avoid these fees?

 

The deadline for purchasing individual health insurance is quickly approaching, although some will get some extra time to complete their application.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 26, 2014 12:50PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyJust a handful of days remain to buy a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act. The March 31 deadline is less than a week away.


Pills © ImageShop/CorbisIf you have qualifying health insurance through your job, or through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, or you have purchased an individual policy, you're good to go. If you still haven't signed up for coverage, and aren't exempt, you need to act.


1. Deadline

The deadline to enroll for individual health insurance is March 31. But don't wait until the last minute, because it's not a 10-minute process. The application and selecting a plan take some time to complete.


Unless you qualify for an exemption (more on that below), this deadline is for everyone, regardless of whether or not you're eligible for a subsidy. (Note: Only those who buy health insurance through a government online marketplace can qualify for a subsidy to help make premiums more affordable.)


With few exceptions, you cannot buy an individual health insurance plan after March 31, period. For coverage starting in 2015, the open enrollment period begins Nov. 15.


2. Deadline grace period

If you've begun the application process to sign up for health insurance by the deadline and cannot complete it because of technical issues or other problems, you'll be given a grace period to complete your application.

 

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