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What Is FAFSA and Should You Fill Out an Application?

Posted on Feb 1, 2016 with No comments

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the ticket to federal cash for university and many other types of scholarships as well.

The FAFSA, referred to as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the form that families submit to obtain government grants, loans, as well as work-study funding for college students. It is provided by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides more than $150 billion in student assistance each year.

Your acceptability for government grants (which do not need to be repaid) as well as federal loans (which do) will typically be based upon your monetary need, as figured out by the information you provide on your FAFSA. You could obtain a preview of whether the FAFSA is expected to qualify you for federal grants by using the FAFSA4caster on the Department of Education web site.

Even if the FAFSA4caster indicates that your family's income and also assets keep you from the range for grants, it's still worth going ahead and finishing the FAFSA. That's because the majority of universities, state scholarship companies, along with organizations make use of the FAFSA in deciding who gets their scholarship money, along with how much each individual will get. Also, filing a FAFSA automatically qualifies you for low-cost government student loans of at the very least $5,500 a year.

Individuals can find out even more about the FAFSA, including the deadlines for finishing it, at the Federal Financial Aid web site. Click Here to start your application at FASFA

FASFA deadlines for 2016-2017 School Year Here


How to Maximize Financial Aid for college using 529 plans

Posted on Jan 28, 2016 with 1 comment
I wrote in 2014 about a method involving 529 plans designed to take full advantage of the financial aid an university student could receive. To sum up the original strategy: If you split your financial savings into two 529 plans-- 75 percent in one managed by the student's parents and 25 per-cent in one owned by the student's grandparents-- you will limit the effect the funds in those plans will have on your expected household contribution each year and consequently take full advantage of the financial aid your student possibly might be provided throughout his or her college pursuit.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order altering the regulations a couple of months ago. As a result, the above strategy must be upgraded.

Why the modifications? Primarily to make the procedure of filling in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) easier and quicker. Starting with the 2017-2018 school year, the declared earnings for the student and his/her parents will be based on records from 2 years preceding (2015) rather than the previous year (2016). This resolves an issue applicants experienced every January trying to figure out their previous year's earnings when they had not yet finished their previous year's taxes.

Still better, applicants will now have the ability to use the IRS' automatic Data Retrieval Tool to fill the FAFSA, making the procedure quicker and less error-prone.

Lastly, the first application procedure is shifted back to October of the preceding year (a full 11 months before the student will matriculate), providing students more time to think about expenses as they evaluate schools to which to apply.

Effect of guideline change

So what's the impact of this policy change? Basically, it gets rid of the third year of college costs from the FAFSA calculation. In other words, it makes no difference how you pay for the student's junior year since income and assets in that year will have no impact on his or her senior year.

As a result, the new financial aid maximization strategy should be to separate your cost savings equally (50 percent each) between the parents' 529 plan and the grandparents' 529 plan. The parents' 529 plan should be used for the first 2 years of college and the grandparents' plan for the last 2. If your kid takes five years (or more) to finish school, it's often the last two that should be funded by the grandparents' 529 plan.

One fascinating side effect of the modification is that your 2015 earnings will be utilized for the 2016-2017 school year, as well as for the 2017-2018 school year. If your (and/or your kid's) earnings was unusually low during that year, it will count double towards maximizing his/her aid prospects.

As I have written before, there many other tax-efficient methods you can implement for college savings beyond saving through a 529 plan, so be sure to invest time discovering them well before your child comes close to college age. And always bear in mind that it's important to have a contingency plan simply in case he/she chooses not to go to college.

Use Your Christmas Bonus to Start Your Kid's 529 Plan

Posted on Dec 21, 2015 with 2 comments
Did your company shower you with a fantastic Christmas bonus this year? Lucky you! Although it maybe easier to go out and spend like crazy, we believe that bonus cash is best used to place yourself on solid financial ground.

We reached out to our group of readers and asked them for their top tips on ways to make use of Christmas bonus cash. Here's what they said.

One particular method people use their holiday bonus is to set it aside for important purchases in the future. If you have kids, it's simple to postpone saving for a college education, yet you have a certain amount of time during which you can start saving and invest before your kids graduate from high school. Setting up a 529 plan account is a fantastic solution to get your educational savings going on the right foot.

A 529 plan lets you invest money in a tax-deferred account and minimize tax on profit and gains as the funds accrue and your kids approach high-school graduation. Furthermore, distributions from a 529 plan are free from federal income tax as long as you apply the earnings for qualified academic expenditures. 529 plan investments are typically treated as being owned by the parent or guardian instead of the student, and that can have positive financial-aid effects too.

You need to take care and stay clear of high-fee programs, however a wide variety of options around the country give you lots of budget-friendly alternatives that will let you take full advantage of how far your college savings will go over the long term.


Congress Approves Computers as a Qualified Higher Education Expense for 529 Plans

Posted on Dec 19, 2015 with No comments

The nation's lawmakers passed and the President is presumed to sign the "Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015" The passage of this bill qualifies personal computer devices and associated technology and services as "qualified higher education costs" when acquired for usage principally by the recipient of a 529 college savings plan in the course of any years the recipient is enrolled at an eligible university.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 was designed to extend or completely revitalize a range of federal tax regulations, together with a variety of brand-new tax updates.

"For many years, many 529 plans around the nation, have actually lobbied lawmakers to recognized the purchase of computer as a qualified 529 expense. This is really a fantastic gift idea and in the nick of time for the holidays," stated Jim Forrell, executive director of the 529 college savings plans.

To clear up exactly what this indicates for 529 plans, the new tax law does 3 things:

  • It makes the purchase of laptop computers, computers, and associated technology and services a qualified college cost-- this modification is retroactive for anybody who made a purchase of such products on January 1, 2015 or later.
  • It enables the re-contribution of certified withdrawals from a 529 plan that are later refunded by an eligible university into a 529 plan without tax penalty-- this also is retroactive for anybody who has actually gotten such a refund from a school January 1, 2015 or afterwards.

This updates the accounting guidelines for 529 plans to remove distribution gathering, which relieves difficult record keeping demands for strategy administrators.

Make your computer purchases by the end of the year to get in on this for 2015.


Relieving Stress In College

Posted on Dec 16, 2015 with No comments

College can be one of the best times of a young person’s life but it can also be extremely stressful. There are tests taken in college which can decide whether a person gets into the medical school or gets the job that they want. It is no wonder that there are plenty of college students have mental breakdowns. Before you lose it you can do some things that will help you relieve stress. The following are some of the things that you can do to relieve stress in college.

Working out at one of the many gyms in your college town is a great way to relieve some stress. This is a time where you just think about a workout rather than the problems that you are having. Staying healthy during exam time is important and having a regular gym routine can help boost your immune system. This is not only a great way to relieve stress but it is a healthy outlet for your stress.

Going out with friends can seem to ease stress although the problems and tests still are looming. Doing things that you enjoy when you are stressed can help bring some perspective to the struggles that you are having. There will always be one friend who knows you best that can help you cheer up. Your friends will forgive you if you are snappy with them because you are stressed about school or money.

Going to get your nails done or a massage can be expensive but it is relaxing. Do not let school or money bother you while you are being pampered. This isn’t the best outlet but it does work wonders for some.

As you can see there are plenty of ways to relieve stress while in college. While grades are important, your mental well being is much more important so make sure to deal with your stress as it comes and not let it build up. Use some of these tips next time you are feeling stressed to help relax.


Eating Healthy in College

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College can be a difficult time for anyone that is trying to eat healthy. Often times, dining halls don’t have the healthiest options available and even if they do, the convenience of grabbing something quick can outweigh eating healthy. If you are struggling to keep your weight and diet on track, there are a few options that you can consider.

The first thing that any student can do is take the simple step of making their own food. This may be difficult if you are living in a dorm, but consider this. If you swap out one meal per day in the dining hall with something quick and easy, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you will be keep yourself away from the “all you can eat” style lines at the dining halls. Making a simple switch like this will not only keep your calorie count down, but you will also save money by reducing your dining plan. The money saved can obviously go towards buying simpler food options, as well as reducing your eventual student loan debt.

College students often go to restaurants off of campus to avoid the dining halls. There is nothing wrong with this, but often times restaurants can have unhealthy options as well. To avoid this trouble when going out to a restaurant, do yourself a favor and simply find a healthier option. Do some research and find a healthy restaurant close to you campus like The Green Owl Cafe in Madison, Wisconsin. The Green Owl Cafe offers vegan menu items that are sure to taste delicious and be a hit with your entire party.

It can be difficult at times to keep your diet in line while being a college student, but with a little planning and thought you won’t have anything to worry about.

When you Wish upon a Starfish

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Remember the starfish story? The one about a guy walking along the beach with his buddy. As they go along, every few yards he picks up one of thousands of starfish that have washed ashore and tosses it back into the ocean. His buddy turns to him and says, “You know that’s not going to make a difference, right?” The guy replies, “it will to this one.”

Depositing money into a 529 savings plan is sort of like that. You know there’s a vast amount of money you need, and every once in a while you look at the balance in the account, and it seems like it’s not going to make a difference. Especially with the rising costs of tuition. Those who’ve used the plan know how important it is. But just as important is saving money on everyday goods and services, and teaching your child to do the same.

Teens love spending money, especially yours, and do so often times with little regard to how much it costs you to buy the trendy items all their friends have. Sit with them and show them how to shop Groupon Coupons to save money at all their favorite stores. You can even have them open their own “starfish account.”

Let’s say they want that cute backpack from JC Penney. Search Groupon for a deal, apply the discount and calculate the amount saved off full price. That becomes the “starfish” they throw into their own savings account. The array of items available is endless, and with holiday saving going on right now, you’ll find discounts on items for the whole family, and everyone on your shopping list. Some stores are offering up to 40% or even 50% off.

Many 529 plans are tailored to the growth of the child over time. Some parents start saving as early as infancy, other parents don’t sign up for a plan until much later. No matter when you do, or what they wish for, you’re sure to find great deals and save a ton of money with Groupon Coupons. And isn’t that what matters most.

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