Education and Career

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Do I qualify for student loan forgiveness?

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If you are a teacher or nonprofit worker, you might qualify for student loan forgiveness from the federal government. Some states offer forgiveness based on other occupations as well. 

Teacher Loan Forgiveness 

To qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, you must have worked for five consecutive academic years at a school listed in the Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory, a school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, or an educational agency that serves low-income families. Loans that they are currently in good standing and were taken out after October 1, 1998, are eligible for the potential $17,500 forgiveness benefit. The finer details can be found on the Federal Student Aid Teacher Loan Forgiveness page.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

You might qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, commonly known as PSLF, if you have made at least 120 payments on a Direct Loan and are working at least 30 hours per week at a nonprofit or in a government job. 

The 120 payments do not have to be consecutive, but in order to qualify:

  • You must have Direct Loans. Although other types of loans — such as Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and Federal Perkins loans — cannot be forgiven under this program, they can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Just keep in mind that any payments made before consolidating do not count toward the 120 payments. 
  • You must be in active repayment status and be repaying through Income-Based Repayment, Income-Contingent Repayment, Pay As You Earn Repayment, or Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment.
  • You must work full time for the government or a nonprofit with a 501(c)(3) tax status. You can combine part-time positions as long as you are working a total of 30 hours or more each week with qualified employers.

Start your quest for loan forgiveness on the  PSLF Program page. Federal student loans also may be eligible for cancellation or discharge.

State-Sponsored Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Some states offer student loan forgiveness for residents who meet certain guidelines. For example, the state of New York offers student loan forgiveness for:

  • Licensed social workers
  • Nursing faculty
  • District attorneys
  • Indigent legal services attorneys
  • Young farmers
  • Graduates of New York state colleges and universities who make less than $50,000 per year

To find programs in your state, check with the organization that handles higher education funding in your state. This will be the same organization that provides state grants. Some colleges and universities also may provide student loan forgiveness for specific occupations.

If you are a teacher or nonprofit worker, you might qualify for student loan forgiveness from the federal government. Some states offer forgiveness based on other occupations as well. 

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How can I help my child get financial aid for higher education?

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The first step to getting financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available at

Even if your child applies for aid in his or her own name, you will have to provide your financial information as the parent unless your child:

  • Is age 24 or older at the start of the school year for which he or she is applying
  • Is working toward a master’s or doctorate degree
  • Is married or legally separated
  • Has children or dependents of his or her own that receive at least half of their support from your child
  • Is on active duty or a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Is an orphan, ward of the court or emancipated minor
  • Is homeless, or self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless

Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, you can file your FAFSA starting on October 1 using the prior year’s tax return. For example, those applying for the 2017-18 school year can file their FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016, using data from the 2015 tax year. You will be able to import your data from the IRS, making the process simpler, although manual entry still will be available. If you did not file a tax return, your child still is eligible to fill out the FAFSA.

The FAFSA is used to apply for three types of aid:

  • Grants. Financial aid that does not have to be paid back unless a student withdraws from school.
  • Loans. Borrowed money that must be paid back with interest, generally at the end of one’s schooling.
  • Work Study. Work opportunities on campus that help students earn money to pay for school expenses.

State Grants

Your state department of higher education also may provide grants. Check with your state’s department of higher education to find out when to apply and what types of aid are available.

School-Sponsored Financial Aid

After receiving your child’s FAFSA, each school that your child designated to receive a copy of the FAFSA will send an award letter outlining how much aid is available. The amount awarded may vary from school to school, and your child is not obligated to take any of the aid that is offered. On top of federal awards, inquire about financial aid options through the school itself by contacting the financial aid office at your child’s college or university.


Scholarships are another source of college funding that never have to be repaid. Search for scholarships based on the following criteria:

  • Organizations in your local community
  • The school your child will be attending (through state funding or alumni associations)
  • Your child’s skills
  • Your child’s grades
  • Your child’s extracurricular activities
  • Your child’s volunteer efforts
  • Your child’s race or ethnicity
  • Your child’s religion
  • Your employer or union
  • Your child’s employer or union
  • Professional organizations in your child’s desired field
  • Your child’s intended major
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How can I keep my job if I’m worried I will get fired?

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Talented people are a company’s best asset. In tough times, companies tend to keep employees who perform well, self-manage and contribute more than the minimum required. If you’re worried you might get fired, now is the time to become an indispensable employee. It’s also time to make plans for what to do if you do get fired or laid off.

Step 1: Gather Intelligence. Keep up with industry news to show your employer that you’re engaged in the company and its future.

  • Read industry trade magazines. If your company is publicly traded, read stock analysts’ research reports and other publicly available financial information.
  • Research competitors. Learn about similar companies in your industry that are doing innovative things and explore whether your company can do something similar.
  • Network in your industry. Check in with your local chamber of commerce — meet others in your industry at local events and join professional organizations in your field as a representative of your company.
  • Get more training. Consider obtaining a professional certification or pursuing further education.

Step 2: Make Yourself Indispensable. Employers rarely make a random selection of which employees will be laid off. They know who adds value to the organization and who doesn’t, which jobs are important, and which can be combined or eliminated. Companies in crisis are looking for those with the skills and vision to bring the company back into profitability, not just to do an assigned job in the short term.

Step 3: Be Flexible. Find an area that needs assistance and volunteer for a transfer. Make yourself even more crucial to the team by taking on extra projects, staying late and volunteering to do the jobs no one else wants to do. If you don’t have the skills your company needs, consider taking a night class (and let your employer know about the new skills you’re developing).

Step 4: Communicate. Discuss your fears with your employer. Find out what you need to do to keep your job. Also, evaluate the costs and benefits of taking a pay cut, a reduction in benefits or reduced work hours. Consider the pros and cons of how any of these options might affect you and your family financially. Offer to become part of the layoff transition team. You also might consider asking for early or phased retirement, which might land you better benefits than if you were involved in a mass layoff.

If you don’t have a strong relationship with your manager, develop one now. Ask for regular, brief meetings so you can update him or her on your projects, concerns and new ideas. By being more visible and engaged, you might be seen as more necessary to the company. 

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How do I write a cover letter and resume that will land me a job?

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Many companies use software to screen resume submissions. That means you should integrate keywords from the job description into your resume and cover letter. If the software scans your resume and those keywords are nowhere to be found, your submission may never be seen by a hiring manager.

While employers are looking for relevant education and training, they also are looking for hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those learned through continuing education, whether that be at a conference or through an online training. They include relevant tech skills and knowledge bases that apply to your occupation.

Soft skills are things like creativity and problem-solving. These are typically assessed in the interview process, but if you can relevantly work them into your resume you’ll be one step ahead.

When you are submitting your cover letter, be sure to get the name of the hiring manager that will be reading it, if possible. This shows that you care enough about the position to do your research and it will immediately put you ahead of many applicants.

Cover letters follow a basic three-paragraph formula:

  • Introduction, including the position of interest
  • Specific examples of times when you’ve demonstrated the qualities or skills the employer is seeking
  • A closing section in which you briefly reinforce why you’d be a good match for the position, request an interview and thank the reader for their time

Having a thorough understanding of the specific job description will help you write the second paragraph. Pull the most important keywords directly from the job description and then cite examples of when you have used them.

Another way to approach the second paragraph is in the form of a table. If the employer was looking for someone with experience in customer service, strong communication skills and the ability to work well in a team environment, the table replacing your second paragraph may look something like this:

 5+ years customer service  experience  Seven years experience in a customer service position at XYZ company with progressive  responsibilities.
 Strong communication  skills  Produced a new electronic worksheet to streamline reporting of customer concerns. Shared with  department head and distributed to co-workers.
 Ability to work well in a   team  environment  Successfully reached team goal of 25 percent increase in customer retention for Q3 2015.

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How can I prepare financially if I’m about to lose my job?

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If you think you’re about to lose your job, make plans now:

Step 1. Create a livable spending plan. Make a list of your income and expenses now and in the near future. A spending plan will help you see where your money goes and get you on track to having money left after the bills are paid.

Step 2. Plug spending leaks, reduce expenses and build an emergency fund. Take steps to cut your spending so you can build a cushion of money to pay for living expenses. You might need to contact creditors such as your student loan servicer or credit card companies to explain the situation and request a forbearance, deferral or hardship payment plan while you look for other work.

Step 3. Explore alternate sources of income. If you do lose your job, you might need money to tide you over until you get another job. Be cautious and evaluate penalties before cashing out part of your retirement fund. Unless it is absolutely necessary, withdrawals from retirement funds should be avoided because of the associated taxes and costs — not to mention the blow to your future retirement income. If you are a homeowner, you might consider a home equity line of credit to bridge the gap, but only if this makes financial sense for your situation.

Step 4. Catalog assets in case you need to sell them. It’s a good idea to catalog your possessions anyway in case of burglary or unforeseen damage to your home from a fire or natural disaster. A home inventory and record of your assets gives you a clearer picture of what you own and what it’s worth. If you own high-value items such as jewelry, art, antiques or collectibles, you might get these appraised by a professional so that you have an accurate understanding of how much you could get for them right now.

Step 5. Start looking for another job now. Tap your network (but be careful not to burn any bridges or raise red flags with your current employer). Put out feelers with your friends and professional connections to get the inside scoop on other potential jobs. Research industry job sites, read trade publications and update your resume to reflect any new skills or responsibilities you picked up at your current job.

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I think I’m going to lose my job – what should I do?

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If you are seeing warning signs that indicate potential layoffs, prepare now by taking these steps.

Get Your Financial House in Order

Assess your current expenses. Is there anything you could cut? Start living without now and throw the extra money into savings. By cutting costs while you still have a steady income, you are making the decision from a place of personal empowerment rather than necessity. You’ll also create a small cushion if the job loss comes to pass.

Investigate possible sources of cash. Evaluate how much you have in savings and investments. Be sure to account for any penalties or tax burdens you may incur for withdrawing money from retirement accounts early.

Search for a New Job

Your best move would be to find a new job before you lose your current one. Not only does this eliminate a gap in income, but it also puts you in a position to negotiate things like salary and benefits with more authority.

Be sure to network without burning bridges. You don’t want to eliminate your position prematurely or lose the recommendation of your current employer. Ask your network about open positions they may have from a place of curiosity rather than making an outright request for employment. Update your LinkedIn profile, but do not make it overtly obvious that you are job-hunting.

Once you secure an interview, be sure to make it known that your search is confidential.

Pull Together As a Family

You won’t be the only one affected by job loss. Include your spouse or partner in discussions about expenses, savings and finding a new position. Your solidarity and the fact that you have a plan will provide some reassurance to your children when you discuss the changes with the entire family.

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What should you do when you get laid off?

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Losing your job is a shock. Even if you suspected you would get laid off, it can be devastating when it actually happens. Take steps to minimize the money-related aspects of your layoff and prepare to move on to better days ahead.


Depending on your position, you may be offered a severance package. This package is negotiable as long as you don’t immediately sign any documents. You can negotiate for more pay as a part of your package or negotiate things like an extension of health care benefits.


After your insurance benefits end, you will be eligible for COBRA if there are 20 or more employees in your employer’s group plan. COBRA allows you to continue enjoying your group health plan benefits for a set number of months, although you will have to pay for up to 102 percent of the premium costs.

You also are eligible to purchase a plan on the health care marketplace regardless of the time of year, as loss of coverage qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period.

Unemployment Benefits

As long as the job loss was no fault of your own, you should qualify for unemployment benefits through your state. Because the process and benefits vary slightly from state to state, you will need to research your own state’s Unemployment Insurance Program.

Get Your Debt Under Control

In order to maintain good credit while money is lean, contact your creditors to set up hardship payment plans or, in the case of student loans, ask about forbearance or deferment options.

Search for a New Job

Start your job search immediately. You want to avoid a gap between the end of your severance and unemployment benefits if at all possible.