Personal finance tips: How to survive between jobs, and more

Three top pieces of financial advice — from finding personal loans online to getting tax credits for college grads

College graduate
(Image credit: (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images))

Personal loans go online

Need a loan? You might want to consider a peer-to-peer lending site, said Ann Carrns at The New York Times. Several new sites, including Prosper, LendingClub, and Karrot, offer loan seekers an online alternative to banks and pricey payday lenders by bringing together "borrowers who need financing and investors who have cash to lend." The sites offer loans up to $35,000 with fixed interest rates, ranging from just over 6 percent to 35 percent, for terms of either three or five years. But consumers should keep in mind that these startups are aimed at "borrowers with credit scores that are considered prime," or at least 640. Origination fees of 1 to 5 percent may also apply, and like most lenders, these companies report your record to the credit bureaus. "While the peer-to-peer label may suggest a friendlier approach," you still need to take your payment deadlines seriously.

Tax credits for college grads

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Recent college graduates would be wise to study up on tax breaks, said Daniel Huang at The Wall Street Journal. There are a number of "money-saving features in the tax code" that can offer them serious savings. Filers paying interest on student loans, for instance, may qualify for a deduction of up to $2,500. For those still in school, the lifetime learning credit "works as a 'nonrefundable' dollar-for-dollar reduction of one's tax bill," up to $2,000. And for grads who are relocating for a new job, some moving expenses can be written off as a deduction, though "the details can be tricky — and those taking it must meet stringent conditions imposed by the IRS."

How to survive between jobs

If you are close to retirement age but between jobs, think twice before tapping into your retirement savings, said Liz Weston at Bankrate. Once older workers lose a job, they "tend to be unemployed longer than younger workers" and must often take a pay cut to find a new gig. If you do decide to withdraw some of your savings, calculate the withdrawals carefully. It's best to choose more conservative withdrawal rates, because if new work doesn't come along as fast as you hope, you might otherwise "put a major dent in your savings." A good approach is to withdraw 3 percent of your total portfolio in that first year. That could translate into "a big cut in pay, yes, but it may be enough for you to live comfortably while you look for either part-time or full-time work."

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Sergio Hernandez is business editor of The Week's print edition. He has previously worked for The DailyProPublica, the Village Voice, and Gawker.