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ICYMI: CNN — Your Money Questions Answered

Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 by Nicole Lapin | 0 Replies |

* Just 54 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 currently have jobs. This is the lowest employment rate we’ve seen for this age ever.

* These numbers suggest that the recession is killing job prospects for many of the younger generation who — keep in mind — were still in high school or college when the downturn began.

I’m $50,000 in debt from student loans and finally found a job. Should I start paying off my loans right away?

Many financial experts will tell you to start throwing money at your student loans before you move on to other big “life” purchases. The thought is that the earlier you can pay them off, the better. But if your student loans operate on a sliding scale, you might want to put on the breaks. It’s a snowball effect: the faster you start paying them off, the faster your monthly payment can ramp up.

Paying off your student loans too aggressively can also damage your credit score, making your creditors take notice if you slow down again too quickly. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, as you never know what curveballs (or pink slips) might come your way down the road. Before getting too aggressive with your student loans payments, you should always tackle the highest interest rate expense you have first, which — especially if you’ve been out of work for a while — is most likely your credit card. These high rates will get you in the long term; get them under control before moving on to student loans.

In this tight job market, what can I do to make myself stand out?

It helps to always be a step ahead, and in this economy most companies are looking for creative ways to make money. Subscribe to a trade magazine, invest some time — and whatever extra funds you might have, if possible — in yourself. Enroll in a class online or at a local university to improve your skills or learn a new one.

Already have a special skill? Offer your services on or, where companies look for freelancers to take on projects on everything from writing to web design to administrative work.

I graduated last May and am still looking for a job  — what are some alternative ways for me to make money?

If you’re looking to make some dough while you wait — or even on the side once you find a full-time job — just remember: play to your work weaknesses, those things you do most often.

Have a twitter addiction?  Seek out a company you can be brand ambassador for and get paid to promote their tweets online. Painstakingly retouch your photos before posting them to Facebook? Offer your services to an online retouching service and make some cash by tweaking other people’s photos. Sucker for the latest apps on your iPhone? Sign up to be a beta tester for apps that haven’t even hit the market yet.

You might already be “that” guy or girl who’s always online – and you’re probably online job searching anyway — now be the smart guy or girl who’s getting paid for it.

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