The Health/Wealth Conundrum
For those who are healthy, the odds are in favor of a long retirement. And because women live longer than men, on average, they may face higher lifetime health care costs and greater risk of outliving their savings.
Source: Society of Actuaries, 2021
Building Blocks for Financing College with Less Debt
Financing a college education with the least amount of debt involves putting together a variety of resources in the most favorable way for your family. It requires planning, savings discipline, an understanding of financial aid, smart college research, and good decision making at college time.
Your College Fund
Your savings are the cornerstone of any successful college financing plan. It’s helpful to think of your college savings as a down payment on the full cost, similar to a down payment on a home. Then at college time you can supplement your savings with other available resources.
Setting aside money for college over many years takes discipline, and in many cases sacrifice, including lifestyle changes. Every family’s situation is different. But if you save regularly over time, you might be surprised at how much you could accumulate in your college fund.
Financial aid is the next piece of the puzzle. It’s a broad term that can mean a lot of things, with concepts that are often used interchangeably. At its core, financial aid is money to help pay for college: loans, grants, scholarships, and work study. Your overall goal is to get the most amount of grants and scholarships (grant aid) and the least amount of loans.
Colleges are the largest source of grant aid, with annual need-based and/or merit-based grant awards that can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. By contrast, the federal government’s two main grants, the Pell Grant and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, are generally smaller amounts and reserved for students with the greatest financial need.
To help find colleges with the most generous grant aid, use a net price calculator, which is available on every college website. A net price calculator provides an estimate of how much grant aid a student might expect based on his or her financial information and academic profile. By completing a net price calculator for several colleges, you can compare what your out-of-pocket cost (net price) might be at different schools and rank colleges based on affordability.
The federal government’s main contribution to the world of financial aid is in the form of student loans. All students, regardless of financial need, are eligible for federal student loans.
Additional Funding Sources
Other potential resources at college time might help reduce the overall amount you’ll need to borrow: what you can contribute from current income during the college years; your child’s earnings from a school or summer job; education tax credits, which could be worth up to $2,500 per year; financial help from grandparents or other relatives; and scholarships from civic, private, or nonprofit groups.
On the cost-cutting side, your child might consider graduating in less than four years; attending community college for two years and then transferring to a four-year college; becoming a resident assistant to get free or discounted room and board; living at home for a semester or two; exploring all in-state public college options; and deferring enrollment for a year to earn money and take advantage of any employer educational assistance.
After taking everything into account — the amount of your college fund, the grant aid your child might receive at specific colleges, the amount of money you and your child can contribute from current income during the college years, and the availability of other resources and cost-cutting measures — you can determine how much borrowing would be required for specific colleges and make an informed choice.
Borrowing money to pay for college can easily spiral out of control. Make sure your child understands what the monthly payment will be for different loan amounts over a 10-year repayment term. If the numbers look daunting, don’t be afraid to say “no” to certain colleges. Most teenagers are not financially experienced enough to fully understand the negative consequences of extreme borrowing, so it’s up to parents to help eliminate options that aren’t financially viable.
Are You a HENRY? Consider These Wealth-Building Strategies
HENRY is a catchy acronym for “high earner, not rich yet.” It describes a demographic made up of young and often highly educated professionals with substantial incomes but little or no savings. HENRYs generally have enviable career prospects, but many of them feel financially stretched or may even live paycheck to paycheck for years, especially if they are working in cities with high living costs and/or facing large student loan payments.
If this sounds like you, it may be time to shed your HENRY status for good and focus on growing wealth — even if it means making some temporary sacrifices. One simple metric that can be used to gauge your financial standing is your net worth, which is the total of your assets (what you own) minus your liabilities (what you owe).
Pay Attention to Your Spending
It’s virtually impossible to increase your net worth if you don’t live within your means. After studying long hours and working your way into a good-paying job, you may feel that you deserve to spend some money on fashionable clothes, the latest smartphone, a night on the town, or a relaxing vacation. However, if you can’t pay for most of your splurges without relying on credit — or wiping out your savings — then you may need to rein in your lifestyle. Budgeting software and/or smartphone apps can help you analyze your spending patterns and track your financial progress.
Utilize a Workplace Retirement Plan
Making regular pre-tax contributions to a traditional 401(k) plan is a no-nonsense way to accumulate retirement assets, and it helps reduce your taxable income by the same amount. Experts recommend saving at least 10% of your income for future needs, but if that’s not possible right away, start by contributing 3% to 6% of your salary to your retirement plan and elect to escalate your contribution level by 1% each year until you reach your target (or the contribution limit). The maximum you can contribute to a 401(k) plan in 2022 is $20,500 ($27,000 if you are age 50 or older).
Many companies will match part of employee contributions, and free money is a great reason to save at least enough to receive a full company match and any available profit sharing. Some plans may require that you remain employed by the company for a certain amount of time before you can keep the matching funds.
Source: Federal Reserve, 2021
Assess Your Housing Situation
Paying rent indefinitely may do little to improve your financial situation. Buying a home with a fixed-rate mortgage could help stabilize your housing costs, and you can build equity in the property over time as your loan balance is paid off — especially if the value appreciates. A home purchase may also afford tax advantages, but only if you itemize rather than claim the standard deduction on your tax return. Interest paid on up to $750,000 of mortgage loan debt is deductible, as are the property taxes, subject to a $10,000 cap on state and local property taxes.
Homeownership is a worthwhile financial goal if you plan to stay put for at least several years. And in many places, owning a home can be less expensive than renting, thanks to low interest rates. But there could be hurdles to overcome, including a hot real estate market, high prices, lingering student debt, and the large chunk of money required for a down payment.
When shopping for a home, resist the temptation to buy more house than you can afford, even if the bank says you can. And don’t forget to factor property taxes, insurance, and potential maintenance costs into your buying decisions and household budget.
How to Correct an Error on Your Credit Report
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), credit report errors more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the CFPB found that many pandemic protections which were designed to help consumers, such as loan forbearance periods on federal student loans and federally backed mortgages, ended up negatively impacting their credit reports as a result of complications such as processing delays and suspended payments being marked incorrectly. 1 This is a significant issue for many consumers, because credit report errors may negatively impact creditworthiness and potentially lead to negative financial consequences, such as being offered higher mortgage interest rates or being turned down for a job or an apartment lease.
Fortunately, changes made during the pandemic have made it easier to stay on top of your credit report. Under new expanded rules, you are now eligible to obtain a free weekly credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus until April 20, 2022. To obtain free reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com where you can fill out an online form, choose the reports you want, and, after answering some security questions, review your reports online.
If you find an error on your credit report, there are steps you can take to correct it. First, contact the credit reporting agency to dispute the error. You can do this online or by mail. Explain why you are disputing the information and be sure to include documentation that supports your dispute. The credit reporting bureau generally has 30 to 45 days to investigate the disputed information. Once the investigation is complete, the credit reporting bureau must provide you with written results. If the credit reporting bureau confirms that your credit report does contain errors, the information on your report must be removed or corrected.
If you do not agree with the credit bureau’s investigation results, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You can also contact the creditor that reported the information to the credit reporting bureau and dispute it with the creditor directly. If the creditor finds that the information is inaccurate, it must notify each credit bureau to which it has reported the information so the information can be updated or deleted. If you believe the error is the result of identity theft, you may need to take additional steps to resolve the issue, such as placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report.
Keep in mind that correcting a credit report error can often be a time-consuming and emotionally draining process. If at any time you believe that your credit reporting rights are being violated, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at consumerfinance.gov.
1) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2021
IRS Circular 230 disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matter addressed herein.
Prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions Copyright 2022.