Important Student Loan Updates

Do you have federal student loans? Then you might have some forms to file this October. My name is Carrie Sorenson and I am an Accredited Financial Counselor who writes for Breathing Room (although I usually write about physical activity and health topics). I wanted to share this important information to make sure you can take advantage of these programs if you qualify.

There are two main programs you will want to pay attention to:

  • Federal Student Loan Debt Relief
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness 

Both of these programs have important things happening this month and you’ll want to pay attention to make sure you don’t miss out. Here are the important details about both programs:

Federal Student Loan Debt Relief

In August, the Biden Administration announced that they would forgive up to $20,000 for some federal student loan borrowers. Over the weekend, the Department of Education announced that the application is live! You can find it here:

The application is available in English and Spanish, is very brief, and only asks you to provide some basic information about yourself like your name, social security number, date of birth, and contact information (it WILL NOT ask for your FAFSA ID). It also asks you to self-certify that you meet the income guidelines. In order to qualify, you must have income that is under $125,000 for an individual or under $250,000 for people who are married and file taxes jointly or with one person listed as head of household. If you are unsure, go back to your 2020 and 2021 tax returns. If your income was under the limit for at least one of those years, then you qualify for the forgiveness. You may be asked to provide proof of income in the future, but not at the time you submit the application. 

You have until December 31st, 2023 to complete the application.

On a personal note, my husband and I both have student loans and completed our forgiveness applications this weekend. We were impressed with how simple and easy the application process was!

One note of warning, be careful of scams! Filing for forgiveness is free and the Department of Education will never ask you for any money in order to process your application. If someone is asking you to pay to file the application, that person is trying to scam you. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness 

This program is for people who are working in public service (typically for a nonprofit, the military, or in federal, state, tribal, or local government). Under this program, your remaining loan balance is forgiven after you make 120 qualifying payments. This is usually 10 years or more of payments and often makes sense for people who are making payments under an income driven repayment plan.

Initially, the program required specific documentation and had strict rules that made it difficult for many to achieve loan forgiveness under the program. However, recently a waiver was passed that makes it significantly easier for borrowers to make qualifying payments and have their loans forgiven.

In order to take advantage of this waiver, you must complete an application before the October 31st deadline! So, if you think you might be able to take advantage of this program, you can visit There, you can check to make sure you qualify and apply for forgiveness. 

If you have questions about your specific student loan situation, check out for additional resources on a variety of topics!

Financial Influencers in Your Home

When we hear the word “influencer,” many of us think of people with large social media followings who use their prestige to sell products and services.

What do you think has the greatest influence on our money habits?

  1. TV and movies
  2. Friends
  3. Parents
  4. Social media

If you answered 3. parents, you are correct! While media and friends do influence our money choices, our parents have the most profound impact on the attitudes and values we hold concerning money. This influence begins early in childhood. 

What does this mean? First of all, “parents” in this case does not only refer to biological mom and dad.  It means the people who are doing the parenting – those who have taken responsibility for raising the child. These are the biological parents, step parents, foster, or adoptive parents, grandparents, or other family members. 

Secondly, it means that there are many ways that children learn from their parents about money. The two primary ways are through our explicit actions and through our implicit example. The characterization of learning as implicit or explicit simply refers to the parent’s level of intentionality.

Implicit, sometimes called vicarious learning, occurs when a child’s attitudes and behaviors about money develop through observation. Some examples of how this might happen include when a child sees a parent’s charitable giving, watches a parent compare prices while grocery shopping, notices a parent’s stress while paying bills, or hears money related arguments between parents. More in general, a child may learn through these implicit scenarios by observing parents’ money management practices and absorbing the level financial of well-being expressed by the parent.

On the other hand, explicit learning occurs through direct experience with money. Perhaps this happens when a parent provides an allowance and guides the child in spending. An older child with a new job might learn budgeting by sitting down with a parent to discuss spending and saving priorities. Just like implicit learning, it could also happen during parent child grocery trips, if the parent actively demonstrates the process and skills needed to compare prices and provides opportunity for the child to try. Explicit learning also occurs when parents engage their children in discussion about money values or provide direct instruction about financial products. 

Lastly, for parents, this means that your actions are being noticed, and your lessons are being remembered. It is important to be purposeful in teaching children money skills so they can more successfully manage their money when they enter into adulthood. Take them shopping with you, show them how to make good decisions. Tell them about your successes and your mistakes. If you are unsure about your own money skills, University of Maryland offers personal finance workshops for both youth and adults. For additional workshop information and tips, contact your local Extension office, check out Extension’s Financial Wellness pages, and follow the financial Facebook and Instagram accounts. 

When Your Income Is Not Enough: Learn to track and prioritize

Unfortunately, many of us have been in a position of not having enough money to pay all of our bills in full and on time each month. Even if we have planned carefully, there may be situations where there is not enough money to pay bills. When your income is less than usual or you have had an unexpected expense, your regular bills and living expenses do not stop.

When you can see that you are coming up short to pay your bills and living expenses, there are a few things you can do. For some, balancing personal priorities and family expectations can sometimes be a challenge. If your work is seasonal or irregular, you may be able to cover everything when you are working, but struggle to cover expenses in the months or weeks when you are not working. 

The more you can prepare for your bills you know are coming, the better you can save for them. Having a plan in place for paying bills can make them easier to pay and help reduce stress. To help you gain a better understanding use the spending tracker, bill calendar, cutting expenses, and prioritizing bills strategies. 

Spending Tracker

  • Get a small container or envelope.  Every time you spend money, get a receipt and put it into the case or envelope.  If the receipt does not list what you purchased, take a second to write it on the receipt.  If you do not get a receipt, write down the amount of the purchase, what you purchased on a piece of paper, and add it to the stack. 
  • Analyze your spending. Go through your receipts and enter the total you spent in each category for each week. Add the weekly amounts per category. Once you get have totals, add them together to get your total spending for the month. 
  • Notice trends.  Circle items that are the same every month (rent, car, or cell phone payments). This will help you create your budget easier. Identify any areas you can eliminate or cut back on.

Bill Calendar

  • Gather all the bills you pay in one month or use the information from your spending tracker. 
  • Write down the date when you must send the payment or when the money must be taken out of your account, in advance of the due date. 
  • Write down the name of the company or person you owe the money to and the amount that’s due on the date the bill must be sent to arrive on time.

Cutting Expenses

These are a few suggestions to decrease spending. You can use coupons, switch to lower-fee or no-fee accounts at financial institutions, and bring lunch to work instead of buying it.

Prioritizing Bills

Identify what you need to pay to protect your housing and income, keep your insurance, and meet any court-ordered obligations.

For more about personal finance programs at UME, go to

Check Your Credit

There are three national consumer reporting companies — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.  As a consumer, you must ensure the data about you maintained by consumer reporting companies is accurate and complete.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three national credit reporting companies are offering free weekly online credit reports through April 2022, and individuals can request free copies of those reports by going to  

Other companies collect your information and prepare consumer reports for other agencies.  As a consumer, you have the right to see those reports as well.

View the link to see a list of consumer reporting companies. These companies use reports to inform decisions about providing you with credit, employment, residential rental housing, insurance, and other decision-making situations.  

Who can see your consumer reports?

Consumer reporting companies collect information and provide reports to other companies about you, but they must follow legal restrictions. Generally, they can provide consumer reports and risk scores to businesses such as: 

  • Debt buyers and collectors
  • Lenders (including those that offer credit cards, home, payday, personal, title, auto including auto leasing, student loans, and security deposit financing and lease guarantees on home rentals)
  • Insurance companies
  • Employers, volunteer organizations, and government agencies to determine eligibility for government assistance (employment screening)
  • Landlords and residential real estate management companies (tenant screening)
  • Banks, credit unions, payment process (check screening), and retail stores that accept personal checks
  • Companies that market and sell products and services specifically to lower-income consumers and subprime credit applicants 
  • Communications and utility companies
  • Retail stores for product return fraud and abuse screening; as well as retail store that offer financing, such as appliance and rent-to-own businesses
  • Gaming casinos that extend credit to consumers and/or accept personal checks

Check your reports before making financial decisions

If you are applying for a job, an insurance policy, or a lease, you should fact-check your background screening reports to ensure there are no errors. 

You have the right to dispute the information in your reports

If you find information in your consumer reports that you believe is inaccurate or incomplete, you have the legal right to dispute the report’s content with the consumer reporting company and the company that shared the information with the consumer reporting company, such as your lender. Under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), companies must conduct, free of charge, a reasonable investigation of your dispute. 

To learn more about financial wellness programs at University of Maryland Extension, go to