Financial Literacy

Financial literacy education can provide an understanding of how to manage personal finances, establish financial goals, and form a plan to reach them. SJC’s goal is to provide you with the tools and resources to help build your knowledge, to help you understand your finances, and to develop or refine your money management skills. We will provide information regarding financial resources, budgeting, debt management, credit report and scores, identity theft, and external resources. So, begin to take charge of your Money Management.

This guide will provide basic information regarding filing a tax return for a college student.

Tax Filing Guide for a College Student:

Do You need to file Taxes?

Individuals are required to pay taxes and complete a tax return each year if they make over a certain amount of money.

Filing requirements can be located on IRS Publication 17 at www.irs.gov.

Paying taxes is a federal requirement.

For example, a single student (no children) under the age of 65 generally must file taxes if their gross income was at least $12,550 in the year of 2022. 

Each year, the income threshold changes for each filing status

What tax forms do you need?

There are several forms that a college student should keep track of to file their tax return.

  • W-2        If you made $600 or more last year, your employer will send you a W-2. Use this form to file your tax return.
  • 1098-T   Your school completes this form and states how much you paid in tuition and fees for the last year.
  • 1098-E   If you paid interest on your student loans last year, you could deduct the interest on your tax return.
  • 8863       Use this form to see if you qualify for tax credits for college students.  You will need the 1098-T form from the school.
  • 1040       This is the basic tax form to report your income and any deductions.  You would complete Schedule 1 if you made student loan interest payments.  You will complete Schedule 3 if you are claiming those education (tuition/fee) credits. 

Can I deduct my student loan interest?

If you paid any interest on your student loans during the year of 2022, you can deduct up to $2,500 on your federal tax return.  If you are single, your adjusted gross income on your tax return must be less than $85,000.  You will need the 1098-E form your student loan lender.

Are my scholarships and grants taxable?

Generally, scholarships and grants are not included on the federal tax return.  But, if you have funds left over after paying tuition, fees, books, and supplies…then the remaining about must be included on your tax return.

If you have a job on campus, then those funds must be included on your tax return. You will receive a W-2 from your college/university.

Are there any tax breaks for college students?

Yes, if you are pursuing a degree, you may qualify for an education credit. There are two (2) types of tax credits that exist for a college student filing their own return or the person who claims a college student as a dependent on their tax return.  The person claiming the credit will need to complete tax form 8863 to determine eligibility.

American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)

AOTC is a credit for certain educational expenses up to $2,500. You must be in your first four years of college, enrolled in a degree plan, and your adjusted gross income must be less than $90,000.

Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC)

If you do not qualify for the AOTC, you may be eligible for the LLC.   This credit is for part-time or full-time students enrolled in a degree or job-skill training program.  This credit provides up to $2,000 in credit. 

Is there any tax filing help for Students?

You can seek help from a tax professional or use a “free” online program that will walk you through the filing process.

Here is a list of free Tax filing software for Students:

IRS FREE FILE:  If your adjusted gross income is less than $73,000, you qualify to use their services

H & R Block: You can prepare your federal tax return for free. Customer support for a fee.

Cash App Taxes: Cash App allows you to file a federal tax return for free. Customer support unavailable.

FreeTaxUSA:  You can file federal tax return for free. Live customer support for a fee.

TaxAct: Tax Act offers a free option for federal tax preparation.  Customer support unavailable.

Is there any help on filing taxes on campus?

Volunteers Income Tax Assistance (VITA) offers free tax guidance to anyone who lives with a disability, speaks limited English, or earns less than $58,000 a year.

Baker Ripley (formerly Neighborhood Centers) provides tax and financial services at 11 convenient locations throughout the Greater Houston area.  Services are available to anyone who earns less than $58,000.

Tax resource by MoneyGeek (Tax Guide For Students & Parents You Don't Have to be an Accounting Major to Tackle Your Taxes | MoneyGeek.com)

MoneyGeek  provides additional information regarding tax credits and deductions for education, Undocumented student tax forms (W-7), International student tax forms (1042-S and 8843), and tricky tax issues for Military students.

The resources noted above are designed to assist in a student’s understanding of their federal tax implications.  SJC does not provide tax or investment advice.

Videos: please include these videos from FA TV.

  • How do I claim tuition on my Federal tax return?
  • What is the Student Loan Interest Deduction?
  • What is a 1098-T?

Campus Resource Guide

We know that life can sometimes get in the way of achieving your educational goals. We have compiled a list of “free” resources available to you on the campus. Need Help? We Can Help.

Community Resource Guide

This guide was created to help students access community resources that are available to assist with food, housing, and related needs. We realize that challenges and stressors that occur outside of the classroom can affect student success.

Student Discounts

Put your college student ID and college e-mail address to work. You can use them to save you money. Always carry your college ID with you. You never know what kind of goodies, freebies, and savings are available to you. You should always ask. Most places do not advertise that they have a discount.  

211 Texas

2-1-1 Texas, a program of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, is committed to helping Texas citizens connect with the services they need. Whether by phone or internet, their goal is to present accurate, well-organized and easy-to-find information from state and local health and human services programs. They accomplish this through the work of their 25 Area Information Centers (AICs) across the state. 2-1-1 Texas is a free, anonymous social service hotline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

Additional Resources

Selling Your College Textbooks

More Campus Resources

A budget is not a dirty word or some restrictive money diet. A budget gives you the knowledge to spend your money on what you want and alleviates the stress of doing so. It empowers you to take control of your financial life. A budget allows you to look at what you make compared to what you spend. Before you run away and scream, a budget involves not only numbers, but also taking action and using self-discipline.

Budget Process

  1. Create a one-month estimated budget. Write down what you think your expenses are for the next month. Add up all your expenses and subtract from your income for the next month.
  2. Track a month of expenses. Track your expenses for the next month to see where your money is actually going. Don’t forget to account for any cash purchases or if you withdrew money from an ATM.
  3. Compare estimated budget to the actual budget. At the end of the month, compare the estimated expenses to the actual expenses. This is the first step to taking control of your financial success.
  4. Determine if your expenses are “wants” or “needs”. A need  is something you must have to survive: roof over your head, food and water to maintain your health, basic health care and hygiene products, appropriate clothing, basic communication. A want  is something you would like to have: a big house, name brand clothes and shoes, a new car, fancy foods and drink, the latest electronics.
  5. Write down your short-term and long-term financial goals. This way you will know what your goals are while following your budget. 
  6. Create a budget for a month and stick to it. Not every month is the same. You should account for irregular expenses that occur quarterly, every six months, or even once a year. Divide those expenses by the month and include in your monthly budget. For example, your car insurance is due in 6 months from now for $600. So, you should include $100 in your monthly budget for the next six months.
  7. Begin to track, review, and adjust your budget. Now you can use what you tracked previously to project future income and expenses. This will allow you to begin aligning your budget to your financial goals. This is your real power of a using a budget.

Remember, financial success is achieved by controlling your expenses not by increasing your income. A budget is a primary tool for managing your expenses.

Use a Budgeting Tool to Manage Your Expenses

Tracking and managing your expenses through an app, computer program, or bank service can simplify the process and reduce human error.  Here are a few tools:

  • Excel provides Budgeting Templates for College Students
  • Mint connects with your bank account and automatically organizes and categorizes spending habits.
  • Level Money is an app that automatically updates your spendable income each day for real-time budget tracking. You can view how much money you have left by the day, week, or month.
  • Check with your bank. They may offer a tool or app to help you organize your budget especially if you are new to budgeting.

Tips for Staying Within Your Budget

Although there's more options to stay within your budget than we can list here, below are a few helpful hints to start:

  • Do not pay full sticker price for textbooks
  • Cook for yourself
  • Frequent thrift stores
  • Use your student discounts
  • Take advantage of campus resources and events

Additional Resources

Consumer Credit and Budget Counseling

Money Management International

Bay Area Financial Opportunity Center

What is Money Management?

Money management is the act of keeping track of your budget, spending, and investments. See the Budgeting menu on this page for more information.

What is Debt Management?

Debt management is learning to live on a budget day by day to eliminate your debts. Such a plan works well with unsecured debt. 

Types of Debt

Credit Cards

Yes, a credit card is a debt and a loan. This debt will appear on your credit report. Credit card companies set the Interest rates. The 2009 Credit Card Act changed rules for the protection of the consumer. A credit card is a powerful tool to managing your finances. It is not an excuse to ignore your budget, your goals, or skirt your financial self-control. 

Consumer Loans

Some of us know this to be a personal loan. These loans tend to have the highest interest rate. This debt will appear on your credit report. Your interest rate and term of the loans depends upon your credit history and is at the discretion of the bank.

Payday Loans

This the most dangerous and expensive form of credit/debt. These are loans issued against your paycheck and are the highest interest rate charged on debt. Payday laws vary by state.

Automobile Loans

This is a budget buster. Many people purchase a car with payments higher than they originally wanted.

Home Loans

You may also known these as mortgages. Interest rates can be fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgages. Be careful.

College Loans

There are two types of student loans. Federal student loans are owned by the United States Department of Education with a fixed interest rate and private loans. Financial Institutions own Private student loans where interest varies by your credit history and you have very little protection.

How to Manage Your Debt

You can manage your debt with a little patience and focus. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Stop getting into more debt
  • Change your mindset
  • Use cash, check, or debit card
  • List all of your debts and develop your budget
  • Establish an emergency fund ($1000)—Allows you stop digging the debt hole deeper
  • Arrange your debts by the minimum monthly payments
  • Pay off the first debt-concentrate all of your resources on one debt at a time
  • Use the money from the first debt and add that to the amount you pay on the next debt

It is wise to pay off the mortgage and student loans last. Federal student loans are borrower friendly and you have a tax deduction on both debts.

Know Your Rights

Make sure the collection agency has the right to collect the debt before beginning any negotiation. Most states have a statute of limitations. Each state is different. Be careful of credit repair scams.

I Am in Real Trouble With Debt

Perhaps, your situation may demand more drastic measures. You can contact a credit counseling service that will assist you in managing your debts. Some charge a monthly fee or a one-time fee. Others offer their services at no cost. 

SJC has collaborated with two such agencies:

Visit Money Management International or download this flyer for more information

Visit Bay Area Financial Opportunity Center or download this flyer for more information 

Additional Resources

Family Credit Management

Teachmefinance.org

Consumer Credit Debt Management Program

Money Management Checklist

What is Credit?

It is your reputation as a borrower. Credit is made up from the information on your borrowing history. What you do with your credit stays with you for a very long time. Having credit is a privilege, not a right. If you abuse your credit, you can lose your ability to get more credit.

What is a Credit Report?

Your credit report is like your academic transcript. You can view your financial history as your academic transcript views your academic history.

A credit-reporting agency is like the Registrar’s Office (where your classes and your grades are recorded for the college). Lenders send information regarding your borrowing history to agencies called credit-reporting agencies (credit bureaus). The three (3) major credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. 

You have the right to request one free credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus. It is a good idea to request a credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies. This way you are always aware of your credit history or any suspicious activity that can lead to identity theft. Please use this Credit Report Quick Reference Guide for more information. 

Credit Score

Your credit score is like your Grade Point Average (GPA). The higher your GPA, the better; the higher the credit score, the better. Like your GPA, your credit score is a three (3)-digit number. Your credit score also known as the FICO score can range from 300 to 850.

Scores are determined by using complex mathematical formulas that take into account how you make your payments, the age of your credit accounts, the types of credit you use, the number of recent inquiries, and the number of new accounts that you have opened. This score can affect your interest rate, if lenders will loan you money, if you will get that apartment, car, or credit card. It is important to pay your bills on time and keep your credit balances low. Download our Better Credit Tips for more information.

Several factors account for your credit score:

  • Your payment history accounts for 35% of your score
  • How much you owe on your accounts is 30%
  • How long you have had the accounts is 15%
  • The types of credits that you have is 10%
  • The amount of new accounts/credits you have is 10%

You can view your “score" through such outlets as your credit card companies, credit karma, your bank, and credit sesame. This “score” is known as an “educational credit score”. You may obtain your official credit score at www.myfico.com for a fee. You can expect to pay form $10 to $15 for each request.

Monitor Your Credit Report

Credit monitoring can help you spot errors or even signs of identity theft. Errors on your credit report can affect your credit score negatively. Spotting suspicious activity or even new inquiries without your permission or new accounts you did not open allows you take steps to address these issues.

You can get FREE credit monitoring by signing up for a Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Wallet Hub, Mint, or Quizzle account. You can view your credit report yourself. See above information from the credit reporting agencies. Learn more about credit reports and scores

Credit Cards: Pros and Cons

Credit cards get a bad reputation. They can be a key financial tool if used responsibly. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Convenience — You do not have to worry about carrying cash, but you are increasing your debt load when using this plastic card.
  • Record-keeping — A credit card provides a useful record of your spending through a monthly statement and online statements. Some, if not most, credit card companies send year-end summaries separated into categories.
  • Member perks — Wide range of discounts based on purchases.
  • Purchase protection — Your credit card can assist in returning a defective product.
  • Building good credit history — Using such low-cost loans by making purchases and paying them off on time helps, you get a good credit rating from the credit agencies.

Cons:

  • Fees — Some accounts have annual fees. There are fees for cash advances.
  • Interest charges — If you make a purchase and do not pay it off immediately, you will end paying the purchase price and interest.
  • Temptation — Convenience has a price. You can overspend.

Download the Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards Flyer for more information. 

Tips for Living Without a Credit Card

Commit to a budget

Add your monthly income, subtract your regular necessities and determine what is left. With the extra money remaining, decide how you want to spend it. For more information, please view the budgeting menu on this page.

Take the Plastic Out of Your Wallet

If you are tempted, cut them up. Rely on traditional or prepaid debit cards.

Save for Unexpected Needs

Is it really a need or a want? Save for the holidays, birthdays, or summer vacation. Determine the costs and begin to set money aside in a savings account ahead of time.

Pay Off the Outstanding Balance

No more interest to pay on this outstanding debt. No more temptation. This will add more money to your monthly budget. 

Get Creative

Use your debit cards that have a MasterCard or Visa logo for down payments when attempting to secure a hotel or other reservation. Other alternatives are using cash, PayPal, V.ME, Serve, Zashpay, or other alternative. Call ahead to determine the company’s policy.

Additional Resources

Obtain your official credit report

Information regarding credit cards

Credit card payoff calculator 

Saving:

Saving money takes discipline and a sacrifice.  More than half of Americans are behind in saving for retirement and 21 percent of Americans do not save at all.  Savings is one of the most basic and repeated financial advice.  This gives you a place to safely store money for the long term while helping your money grow with regular interest payments. Don’t ‘wait until you graduate to start making a habit of saving money. 

Why should you save:

  1. Savings gives you freedom. 
  2. Savings provide financial security
  3. Savings mean you can take risks

How do you save:

  1. Pay Yourself First
    1. This is one of the most important strategies for saving. The usual problem for most employees is that they pay off their bills and buy the things they want first before setting aside an amount to save. But in doing so, it becomes difficult to save as more often than not there is no money left over.
    2. In paying yourself “first,” it simply means that you should set aside an amount for your savings account before anything else. Treat it as a “bill” you have to pay like your other monthly expenses. Include it as an automatic deductions
  2. Start with a Small Amount
    1. Most employees say they can’t save because they don’t have enough money left over. There is no minimum amount to your savings. Start small. What is important is that you start saving early. Compound interest can make even the smallest amount grow substantially.
    2. 1% of your net income is a fair amount to start with. You can increase this amount over time, at a pace comfortable to your financial situation.
  3. Write a shopping list and stick to it.  No impulse buying.
    1. When you purchase items not necessary or needed, you are wasting money.

Resources:

54 ways to Save Money

https://americasaves.org/resource-center/insights/54-ways-to-save-money/

118 Ways to Save Money in College

http://www.collegescholarships.org/student-living/save-money.htm

Banking:

Banks sell services – financial services such as a car loans, home mortgages loans, business loans, checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposits and credit card services.  Banks are utilized for safe keeping of money as well as lending institutions.  It is the place that you store your money, and it is important to choose the correct financial institution.

  • Determine your needs and choose a bank or credit union that works for you.
  • Banks offer the following services
    • Checking/savings accounts
    • Home and personal loans
    • Auto loans
    • Physical or strictly online
  • Credit Unions
    • Member owned Co-op
    • Members are associated
    • Return profits to members via lower loan rates and higher savings rates
  • What to look for in a bank/credit union
    • Great online reviews
    • Digital capabilities
    • FDIC insured
    • No balance minimums
    • No costly fees (returned check fees, Overdraft, Monthly fees, ATM fees)

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your good credit to take out loans, buy items with a stolen credit card or forged checks, and even get medical care in your name. As the result of identity theft, millions of people per year have their credit reports damaged.

Your personal information is valuable and misusing it can affect your financial future, your employment, and your online identity.  Identity theft starts with use of your Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This includes your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, financial account numbers, date of birth, student ID numbers, your Federal Student Aid ID (financial aid), address, and mother’s maiden name.

Avoiding Identity Theft

While identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Maintain control of your personal information.
  • Regularly check your bank and credit card account statements for unauthorized use.
  • Check your credit card reports at least once per year for unauthorized debt.
  • Free credit reports are available from the government mandated www.annualcreditreport.com website.
  • Protect your children's online activity
  • Protect your online security from scammers and hackers
  • Shred, shred, shred all important information, especially pre-approved credit card applications, offers, cards, medical paperwork, and other documents that have your PII.

How to Limit Unwanted Emails and Calls

Telemarketing

To remove your home and call phone number from the telemarketing phone lists log on to www.donotcall.gov. Never give your personal information over the telephone unless you initiate the phone call.

Opt Out of Prescreen Offers

If you decide that you do not want to receive prescreened offers of credit and insurance, you have two choices: You can opt out of receiving them for five years or opt out of receiving them permanently. Call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.

Mail and Email

You can register with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) consumer website for a processing fee of $2.00 for a period of ten years. Also, you can reduce your unwanted email by registering here — the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not control this site.

Uni-Ball Pens

These pens trap the ink on the paper and deter the efforts of identity thieves.

Types of Identity Theft

Phishing

The act of sending an email to a user and falsely claiming to be a legit establishment. Forward all spam requesting your financial information to spam@uce.gov

Skimming

A phony card reader attached to a device that captures all of your information.

Shoulder Surfing

Someone standing over you as you use your ATM card or your card becomes trapped in the ATM machine. They remove the card after you leave the ATM machine.

Cell Phone Camera Scam

Your wallet was pick-pocketed. The scammer takes pictures of all of your information. Returns your wallet to you with everything in the wallet. They have a copy of all of your information and can use it as they please.

Mail Theft

You place outgoing mail in your home mailbox with the red flag up. You just gave the thief permission to steal your identity.  Deposit mail at the post office box. If you suspect your mail has been tampered with contact the post office

Jury Duty Scam

You receive a phone call that you missed jury duty. The caller asks for your name, social security number, date of birth, and address. 

Dumpster Diving

Identity thieves are always on the search for information through your personal trash and corporate trash. Before you give out your social security number and date of birth ask the business the reason for such information. They must have a privacy notice if requesting such information.

How to Recover from Identity Theft

Fixing the damage can be simple or it can take months. It all depends upon you. Below are the steps you should take to recover from identity theft or download Dealing with Identity Theft for more information.

  • Notify the credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and let them know you want a fraud alert placed on your credit record
  • Contact Law Enforcement and Government agencies (FTC)
  • Close the fraudulent accounts
  • Deal with the debt collectors
  • Continue to monitor your credit reports — You might want to place a credit freeze on your account.

Avoiding Financial Aid Scams

Be careful when applying for financial aid. Use these tips from Federal Student Aid to keep your information safe and to help you avoid scams while searching for scholarships or completing the FAFSA online. Do you have student loans? Students with loans often fall prey to student loan debt relief scams. You’ve probably seen ads from companies promising to help with your student loan debt. Here’s what you should know: there’s nothing a student loan debt relief company can do for you that you can’t do yourself for free. And some of the companies that promise relief are scams. Never pay an up-front fee. It’s illegal for companies to charge you before they help you. If you pay up front to reduce or get rid of your student loan debt, you might not get any help — or your money back. If you believe that you are a victim of a scam, report scams to ftc.gov/complaint and your state attorney general's office


Resources:

Federal Trade Commission    

Do Not Call Registry    

Identity Theft Protection

Don't Get Scammed on Your Way to College

Fraud Departments at Credit Reporting Agencies:

Experian          888-397-3742              

Equifax            800-685-1111              

TransUnion     800-680-7289              

Take charge of your Financial Wellness.  Below is a list of additional resources you may find helpful:

HandsOnBanking – Free 24/7 access to online financial courses that are self-paced 

Smart About Money – Dedicated to helping you make sound financial decisions throughout your life 

Texas Benefits – Apply for health care, food, financial and other benefits 

Annuity.org – Easy to read insight on managing your money

Do you know a group of students who could benefit from a financial literacy presentation?

Presentations are 15 to 30 minutes and cover basic concepts of personal finance including budgeting, debt reduction, identity theft, credit cards, scores and monitoring. The requestor must provide the space and is responsible for the promotion of the event. Computer access and projection capabilities are appreciated. Requests must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the desired date.  To schedule a presentation with your group, please email a presentation request to Elena Olivier. Or, if you prefer, please contact Ms. Olivier at (281) 991-2645. We will need your name, organization/class, email address, phone number, presentation location, date and time preference, and if possible, estimated number of attendees. 

Faculty and Staff

In addition to a classroom presentation, you can have the Personal Finance Basics Course implemented into your Blackboard course.

Personal Finance Basics Module from Hoounit (formerly Atomic Learning):

In this module, your students will learn about basic concepts relating to Personal Finance. We begin by discussing budgeting and the different options to monitor credit. We cover risk tolerance and ways in which it can be measured. Next, we review methods to evaluate expert help and learn how to practice frugality. After considering different loan types, we round out the module by reviewing some of the major savings and investment options available to savers and investors.

By the end of this learning module, the learner will be able to:

  • Use tools to monitor credit
  • Explain risk tolerance
  • Grasp frugality
  • Identify fundamental loan types
  • Define time value of money
  • Describe major savings and investment options