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Get Your Finances in Shape

Kate Traynor

By taking the time now to learn about managing your finances, you can get off to a good financial start when you leave school.

Mapping Your Future, a group sponsored by agencies that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan Program, has assembled for students an online list of "10 Steps to Financial Fitness." Some of the practical advice featured there is described below.

Signs of trouble. A 24-item checklist can be used to see if you might be losing control of your finances. If three or more items on the checklist describe your situation, you may need to take action.

Budget calculator. Budgeting advice and an online budget calculator can help you keep track of where your money goes.

Credit. Find out how to request a copy of your credit report from the three major credit-reporting agencies in the United States. People who have been denied credit can get a copy of their credit report free of charge. Residents of Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont can receive one free copy per year even if credit has not been denied; Georgia residents can receive two free copies each year.

Loans. Learn how the U.S. Department of Education, your school, your lender, and your loan guarantor work together to administer your student loans.

Investing. The Web site’s information on investing is not comprehensive, but it does discuss such basics as setting goals and learning about your investment-risk tolerance.