Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to cut your monthly bills. Also in the news: College savings mistakes, how to survive a late start in saving for retirement, and what everyone needs to know about credit scores.

6 ways to cut your monthly bills
Every little bit helps.

The Biggest Mistakes People Make Saving For College
It’s all about tools.

Starting Your Retirement Savings Late Doesn’t Mean You’re Screwed
There’s still time.

10 things everyone should know about credit scores
Deciphering the mysteries.

How to Develop a Foolproof Plan to Pay Off Debt
Create your escape plan.

What you need to know about paying for college

My recent Reuters columns have focused on some of the most common issues families face in trying to pay for college, from getting the most financial aid to how to cope when you haven’t saved enough. Read on, and please share these columns with people you know who might benefit.

Increase economic mobility by busting college myths

One way to improve economic mobility in the United States may be to fix the misconceptions that high-achieving, low-income teenagers often have about college.

Avoid easy-to-make mistakes on your financial aid application

One of the worst mistakes you can make with college financial aid is simply failing to file the all-important Free Application for Federal Student Aid. But there are plenty of other ways to mess up this application.

Last-minute moves to boost financial aid

Financial aid filing season starts Jan. 1. It may be too late to rearrange your finances this year, but here are some ideas for maximizing what you can get in future years. First, though, make sure your hopes are realistic.

What to do if you have not saved enough for college

Soaring college costs and stagnant incomes mean many families will not be able to save enough to pay for a typical undergraduate education. But there are still ways to find a college degree you can afford. The good news is that most people will pay significantly less than the sticker prices.

Busting the myths of haggling for college aid

My daughter learned this little ditty in preschool: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Parents who are convinced they can haggle their way to a better financial aid package might want to learn it, too.

No need for irrational fears of student loans

The next generation of college students has heard the message loud and clear about the perils of taking on too much student loan debt – so much so that many are unwilling to go into debt at all in order to attend college. The drawback to this wariness is that most of those who do not borrow are unlikely to get four-year degrees.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How student loan servicers are trying to trick you. Also in the news: When to use your debit card instead of credit, saving for your kids’ college education, and tips on getting and staying out of debt.

6 Ways Student Loan Servicers Are Trying to Trick You
Pay close attention to every correspondence.

7 Times to Use a Debit Card Instead of a Credit Card
Don’t pay the interest unless absolutely necessary.

How Much Do You Plan on Saving for Your Kids’ College Education?
Planning for one of life’s biggest expenses.

10 Ways to Get Out — and Stay Out — of Debt
Good advice.

Does Bad Credit Last Forever?
Waiting it out.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

22856641_SAToday’s top story: How Americans sabotage their savings. Also in the news: Ways you can make your children’s college dreams come true, the best credit cards for holiday shopping, and the multitude of ways you can get a free copy of your credit score.

5 Ways Americans Sabotage Their Savings
Stop doing them.

The Simple Path to Making Your Children’s College Dreams Come True
Relatively speaking.

3 Best credit cards this holiday season
Maximizing bonuses.

The Many Ways You Can Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Score
You have no excuse not to get one.

Babies born today get free $500 mutual fund investment
One day only!

Q&A: Graduation gifts and financial aid

Dear Liz: Our grandson’s stellar high school performance and his family financial situation were such that he was admitted to his state university with grants sufficient to pay all school fees, including room and board, with no loans or work-study. His grandmother and I have a 529 account in his name that has enough money to pay about twice his estimated books and living expenses, given this level of financial aid.

His other grandparents gave him a high school graduation present of a check for four times the annual estimated books and living expenses. Does he need to amend this year’s financial aid form to reflect this generous gift? Should I suggest he put part of the gift aside for future years to diminish the effect on future financial aid?

Because of his unexpected gift, we plan to not use the funds in the 529 account until needed for his undergraduate or possible graduate school expenses. If he doesn’t need the money, we plan to transfer the balance to his younger sister’s 529 account.

Answer: Your grandson won’t have to amend this year’s financial aid forms but he will have to declare the gift on next year’s form. That could indeed reduce his financial aid package, since such gifts are considered to be the student’s income and thus will be counted heavily against him next year.

There’s not much that can be done about it now, but generous grandparents in this situation might think about holding off on their gifts until the student’s final year in college when financial aid is no longer a consideration. Paying that last year’s expenses, or paying down any student loan balances, would be a gift without repercussions.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to protect yourself from credit card breaches. Also in the news: The best ways to pay for college, how to avoid year-round tax scams, and what happens to your debt after you die.

Shelter yourself from payment card breaches
How to protect both your finances and your identity while shopping.

The Best Ways to Pay for Your Child’s College Education
How to combat the rising cost of a college education.

Tax-related scams don’t hit just during tax season
Beware of these year-round scams targeting your taxes.

Who Will Inherit Your Debt When You Die?
One thing you don’t want to leave behind.

Why These 4 Personal Finance Myths Perpetuate Money Problems
Monday mythbusting.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: The consequences of never checking your credit report. Also in the news: How your smart phone can help your budget, how bad America is at saving for college, and are memberships to big box stores worth it?

What Happens if I Never Check My Credit Report?
You really, really don’t want to do that.

How Your Phone Can Boost Your Budgeting
Savings at your fingertips.

How Bad Is America at Saving for College?
Needs improvement.

What Member Discount Programs are Worth the Cost?
Are the gigantic packs of toilet paper worth it?

In 30 Minutes, She Cut Her Credit Card Debt by $3,128
Negotiating skills are a must.

Q&A: How to get the maximum in financial aid

Dear Liz: I’m having trouble finding information about how to structure my finances to get the maximum financial aid for my kids when they enter college. For example, will contributing to an IRA instead of a taxable investment account matter? Should I focus on paying off my mortgage or should I buy a bigger house and acquire debt in the process if I want my kids to qualify for more aid? There’s plenty of advice out there about how to minimize taxes — for example, by contributing to 401(k)s or selling losing stocks at year-end. But I’m interested in legally and ethically shielding my assets from the family contribution calculations used by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Any idea how I can learn more about the inner workings of the FASFA formula?

Answer: Before you rearrange your finances, you need to understand that most financial aid these days consists of loans, which have to be repaid, rather than scholarships and grants that don’t. Wanting your kids to qualify for more aid could just lead them to qualify for more debt.

Also, the FAFSA formula weighs income more heavily than assets. If you have a six-figure income and only one child in college at a time, you shouldn’t expect much need-based financial aid, regardless of what you do with your assets.

That said, there are some sensible ways to shield assets from the formula, and often they’re things you should be doing anyway: maxing out your retirement contributions, for example, and using any non-retirement savings to pay down credit cards, car loans and other consumer debt.

Using non-retirement savings to pay down mortgage debt helps with the federal formula, but may not help much with private schools that include home equity in their calculations. Either way, taking on a bigger mortgage with college looming is rarely a good idea.

You can get some idea of how much the federal formula expects you to pay for your children’s educations by using the “estimated family contribution” calculator at FinAid.org. Another great source of information is the book “Filing the FAFSA: The Edvisors Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid” by Mark Kantrowitz and David Levy.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: What numbers identity thieves want the most. Also in the news: How identity thieves will sell those numbers, expecting the unexpected if you retire at 67, and should you be saving for your retirement or your child’s education?

8 Numbers Identity Thieves Want to Steal From You
It starts with your phone number.

4 Ways Crooks Cash In On Your Personal and Financial Data
The black market for data.

Are You Planning to Work Until 67? And Will You Be Able To?
Preparing for unexpected changes.

Which Comes First: Saving Money for Your Retirement? Or Your Kid’s College?
Which priority is most important?

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Why new graduates need to keep a close watch on their identities. Also in the news: How to get someone to resolve your banking complaints, why travel medical insurance is essential for international travel, and five ways to start saving for your child’s education.

4 Ways New Grads Are Vulnerable to Identity Theft
Protecting yourself and that diploma.

How to Get Your Banking Complaints Resolved
Knowing who to complain to could change everything.

Travel Medical Insurance: Don’t Leave Without it
Don’t rely on your existing insurance to cover you internationally.

5 Ways to Save for Your Child’s College Education
The earlier you start, the more you can save.

My Dream Retirement: 5 People Reveal Their Strategies
How to save for your ultimate retirement.