The relief you feel after finishing your course can quickly be overtaken by feelings of anxiety about money if you don’t plan ahead.
But don’t panic. Whether you’re going straight into full-time employment or if you need a while to apply for your first postregistration position, a small amount of time spent taking stock of your financial situation can make all the difference.
Here are some of the issues that you may need to consider after completing your course. Remember, you will officially be a student until the last day of your course – even if you have finished your final exam or placement earlier than this date.
Every graduate’s situation will be different. Your financial circumstances will depend on whether you have taken out government student loans, have overdraft facilities, are living at home, or have to wait before starting your first job as a registered nurse.
Use the steps in this section as a checklist to ensure you start your postgraduate life on the right financial track.
The Money Saving Expert website has some great tips on comparing the best graduate accounts to suit your specific financial needs.Search ‘graduate bank accounts’ on:Money Saving Expert
As a student it is likely that you will have held a student bank account. These accounts often have an interest free or very low-rate overdraft attached to them.
Before the end of your course you should check the terms and conditions of your overdraft and student bank account to find out what will happen to them after you have graduated. If you do not look into this your bank may automatically switch you to an account that has high bank charges, which will add considerably to your existing debt.
Depending on the type of account, your bank will do one of three things:
- convert your student account into an ordinary current account, thus removing your interest-free overdraft
- offer an interest free overdraft for a very limited period
- significantly reduce or withdraw your overdraft facility.
Exceeding authorised overdraft limits can result in significant daily penalties amounting to hundreds of pounds per month.
Ideally you should be looking for a graduate account with preferential terms, so speak to your bank and see what they can offer you. There’s no need to stay with your current bank. Shop around to see if another can give you a better deal.
Repaying university debts
Be careful about any money you owe your university. The university may threaten sanctions if you do not clear debts, such as accommodation and library fees. If you are unable to clear these before graduation, seek advice from a debt advice agency. They’ll be able to help you negotiate a repayment plan with the university to clear the debts.
As a member of the RCN you can access free debt advice by calling the RCN Customer Service Centre on 0345 772 6100 and requesting to be referred to the RCN Welfare Service Debt Adviser.
Repaying your student loan
If you funded your studies with an income-contingent loan from the Student Loans Company you will be expected to start making repayments in the April after you graduate. These repayments will only start if you earn over the repayment threshold, which stands at £27,295 for the 2021/2022 financial year.
You will have money taken off your salary to repay your student loan during any pay period where your earnings before tax are over the weekly or monthly threshold.
You pay 9% of anything you earn over the threshold.
It’s important to keep an eye on your repayments, so that you know when you’re due to finish repaying your loan. Regularly check your account online via the Student Loans Company repayment portal: studentloanrepayment.co.uk
As interest is charged on the student loan, if you are able to, you may wish to make additional payments to clear the debt more quickly. Details of how to do this are on the government website: gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan/make-extra-repayments
Or search: repaying student loan gov
In some cases there is no advantage of doing this, so do your research about your own personal circumstances before making any additional payments. The advantage of doing this will depend on the amount of loan and your salary over the 30-year repayment period.
Further details can be found at: moneysavingexpert.com/students/repay-post-2012-studentloan/#overpaying1
Or search: 5.4% interest on post-2012 student loans
Dealing with debt
If you have taken all the steps in this chapter and are still concerned or confused about your finances, then you may need specialist debt advice. The RCN Welfare Service will be able to explore the options with you and will be able to offer solutions that will help you get back on track. Feeling that your finances are out of control causes stress and can be time consuming, which can be especially difficult when you have so much else on your mind, such as job hunting or starting a new post. So don’t hesitate to contact the RCN if you need help. You can call us on 0345 772 6100 and ask to be referred to the specialist money advisers or visit: rcn.org.uk/mss
The RCN has produced a money guide for newly registered nurses, which will help you better manage your money by providing advice on:
- first steps to get your finances in order once you start work
- claiming top-up benefits and tax credits for those with dependents
- affordable housing options
- dealing with debt and other important money planning decisions
- the best ways to save money.
Council tax/rates exemption
Once you cease to be a student you’ll no longer be exempt from paying council tax or rates. The certificate provided by your university to present to your council should state the exact date when you stop being a student.
If you do not start work immediately, depending on your situation and that of your family, you may qualify for a means-tested benefit called Council Tax Support or Rate Relief in Northern Ireland. You can learn more about this by searching for ‘council tax support’ at: rcn.org.uk
Once you are in employment if you carry on living in accommodation with other students, then any student tenants will need to provide the exemption certificate. However, the property will no longer be exempt and you may face a council tax/rate bill. You will need to discuss with your flatmates how the bill will be paid.
|If you need further advice please contact the RCN Customer Service Centre on 0345 772 6100 or visit: rcn.org.uk/lamplight-eligibility|
If you have dependent children you may have received Child Tax Credit while you were studying. It’s important that you notify HMRC of any change in your circumstances, including completion of your studies and any paid employment you are undertaking. This will ensure that you do not have to repay any overpayments.
HMRC will be able to re-assess your claim to include Working Tax Credit and ensure you are getting all the support available, including help with childcare costs if you are paying a registered childminder to care for your children while you go to work. Notify HMRC of any changes by calling 0345 300 3900.
If you cannot make a new claim for Tax Credits, but you have dependent children and have recently started work, you can do an online calculation to see if you qualify for Universal Credits.
Go to: gov.uk/tax-credits-calculator or search: Tax credits calculator – gov.uk
As soon as you start work, you may be eligible for tax relief on:
- RCN membership
- NMC registration fees
- uniforms (including shoes, tights and laundry costs for your uniforms).
For further details and to download a form, visit: rcn.org.uk/membership/tax-relief
Not everyone is able to work immediately after graduating, so you may need to apply for an earnings replacement while you look for work. There will be instances where newly registered nurses are able to start work, but may also qualify for in-work benefits to top up their income. Usually you cannot claim any benefits until after your official university leaving date, although there are exceptions to this in certain circumstances if you have a disability or look after children. Once you have completed your course, you should make a phone or online application as soon as possible as you will not be able to get backdated payments unless you can prove there was a good reason for not applying sooner.
Further information is available at:gov.uk/working-tax-credit
Jobseeker’s allowance and Universal Credit*
If you do not secure employment upon graduation or you work for fewer than 16 hours per week, then you could be eligible to make an application for Universal Credit or new-style Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).
If you have been working during your studies and have been paying National Insurance contributions for a set period, above a set level, you may qualify for income-based JSA, which can be paid for up to 26 weeks. Other family income is not taken into consideration and you can claim this benefit even if your partner is working.
If you have not got the correct National Insurance contribution record, you can apply for Universal Credit. This is a means-tested benefit, so most family income and capital will be taken into consideration. You will need to meet the qualifying conditions of the benefit.
To make a claim you should contact Job Centre Plus on 0800 055 6688. Further information can be found at: gov.uk/apply-universal-credit
*Note that from April 2013 most claims for assistance with rental costs are being dealt with under the new Universal Credit arrangements. Updates on how your claim will be treated will be available at: direct.gov.uk
If you have a low income and are renting a property or a room, you may be able to claim Local Housing Allowance or the housing element of Universal Credit (UC), which can help you to pay your rent. These are a means-tested benefit and the amount you are eligible to receive will depend on your age, your income, the area where you live, the number of people in the property and household size. To make a claim you should contact your local council, or apply via Universal Credit. Further information can be found at Gov.UK at: direct.gov.uk
If you are renting privately and leaving the accommodation at the end of your final year, you should request that your landlord return your deposit. It’s likely that your deposit will have been put in the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. The scheme will release your deposit once it is satisfied that both parties are happy that the accommodation has been left in a satisfactory condition. If you are having problems with your landlord agreeing to the return of your deposit, then view the student money guide for advice on the steps to take: rcn.org.uk/student-money-guide
TV licence refund
If you are leaving your accommodation and no one in your household will use your TV licence before it expires, you can claim a refund for any unused quarter (three consecutive calendar months). For information on how to do this, go to the Students’ area of the TV Licensing website: tvlicensing.co.uk
Save with RCNXtra
Thousands of us are still paying too much for our goods and services. The good news is that there are some great deals to be had. The RCNXtra scheme (available to RCN members, their family and friends) can help with money-saving ideas:Take me there