By Nina Smith
Originally published on Advocate.com August 05 2009 12:00 AM ET
A new federal program is primed to relieve your student loan burden.
Federal student loan payments take a giant bite out of many a paycheck, but a new relief program could help you pocket more cash. Here's how the plan, part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (which just went into effect this summer), works: Qualified participants (which you probably are if you owe as much as or more than you make in a year) have their loan payments capped at 15% of their discretionary income-a figure determined by your income, family size, and state of residence. So a single person who makes less than $30,000 could, in most cases, cut a $350 monthly payment in half. Better still, any outstanding loan balance (interest included) will be automatically forgiven after 25 years, or 10 years if you have a government job or work for a nonprofit. Determine your eligibility and estimate your monthly payments at IBRinfo.org.
140 Characters to a Better Portfolio
Do you use Twitter? Do you trade online? If so, check out StockTwits.com. Equal parts social hub and virtual trading floor, this is a free service that aggregates and filters stock-related tweets. It's like a stock market forum that offers added features, including graphs and filtering means not found on traditional message boards. Because anyone and everyone can offer tips about specific stocks, new StockTwits users should start by following the top finance-focused tweeters recommended by the site.
Charity Loves Company
Bisexual anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Savvy philanthropists are now taking those words to heart by forming "giving circles," where members' charitable contributions are pooled in order to have stronger influence. A Washington, D.C., group called SuperFun Hearts, for example, masquerades as a monthly card game but has raised more than $12,000 for humanitarian efforts and LGBT-specific charities. These giving circles are turning an individual activity (check writing) into a social outing with a more robust charitable bottom line. Think of it as a cross between a lesbian potluck and an investment group. Learn more about these groups-and how to start one of your own-at GivingForum.org.