Planning for College – Managing Wants and Desires

Children are often influenced in ways that are not always obvious.  As mentioned in part 1 of this 3 part series on planning for college, family conversations about fond college memories and experiences, likely occur long before a child narrows their choice about where to apply and enroll.  Children will also be influenced by friends and their ideas or maybe where a teacher encourages them to explore.  Ideally, they consider their intellectual and vocational gifts and settle on a few schools that align well with their longer term professional or vocational aspirations. All the while, parents may be trying to gauge how much feedback to give and wondering whether their financial preparations will be sufficient to cover the costs of their child’s choice.  Before leapfrogging to the subject of how the cost will be reconciled with resources, first let’s address how a parent can best approach helping a child explore options. While children may be influenced by similar factors, every child is unique and very likely to make decisions based on different objective and subjective criteria.  Add to this, a Read on! →

Planning For College Part 1 of 3 – Parent and Family Expectations

During May of this year, my son completed his sophomore year of high school.  Next year brings the task of visiting colleges and the beginnings of selecting where he would like to apply, preparing and submitting applications and eventually choosing a school for the next stage of learning.  This pending adventure serves as motivation to write a series of blogs about what I believe lies ahead and the possible challenges. Part 1 will address immediate and extended family dynamics that may influence children when they are young and impressionable.  Part 2 will focus attention on how children reconcile these family preferences and opinions with their own.  Part 3 will tackle the financial aspects of paying the costs of their choice. Some readers may have completed this journey but others may have yet to start. Regardless of where parents and children fall on this education continuum, hopefully some of what is written will resonate and be used to more successfully navigate what is to come. Planing for college can be a daunting task.  The primary focus tends to be setting aside money Read on! →

4 Last Minute Tax Tips to Help You Save

Reducing your tax liability and saving more are noble goals and are both still possible.  The key to achieving this double bonus during tax season is to take advantage of annual opportunities before it’s too late. [Please note: all contribution and limit numbers that follow are specific to 2014. If you would like updated numbers for 2015 contributions and limits, please visit www.irs.gov] 1. Fund a current or new traditional individual retirement account (IRA) The quickest and easiest way to lower your taxes and increase your savings is to make a Traditional IRA contribution.  If you already have one, contributing is easy and can be done in a matter of minutes.  If you don’t have an existing IRA and you haven’t yet filed your 2014 return, it’s not too late to get started and meet the 2014 deadline.  IRA contributions can be made up to the time you file your return or no later than April 15th. Contribution limits and deductibility vary based on income and filing status.  Below is quick reference to contribution amounts and filing status variations. Contribution Read on! →

Year End College Financial Aid Considerations

2014 is quickly coming to an end but financial moves you make in the next two weeks could make a difference in the financial aid your child may receive in the 2015/2016 academic year. Because college financial assistance is based primarily on the previous year’s income and assets, be certain of the financial impact before selling an investment, receiving gifts, spending on big ticket items or borrowing to make improvements to your home. Financial Aid Forms The amount of need-based financial aid a student may receive stems from information parents provide The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA and the CSS/Financial Aid Profile. The new FAFSA form will be available beginning January 1 at FAFSA.ed.gov and the CSS form is available now at collegeboard.org. The somewhat less familiar CSS form, typically used to seek financial assistance directly from the school, is often used for private universities to gather more information about your family. It uses much of the same information provided to FAFSA but goes further requesting data such as three years of income history. CSS also allows families Read on! →

Give Smart this Giving Tuesday

Today marks Giving Tuesday 2014. It is well known that giving comes from the heart and is not typically financially motivated, but it doesn’t hurt to receive a little benefit when your tax liability is reduced.  Taxes and charitable giving are unique to the individual. Since these recommendations might not be appropriate for everyone, always check with a professional advisor before making any final decisions. Donating Appreciated Stock Starting with the basics, you can typically donate appreciated stocks and mutual funds directly to a charity equipped to accept them.  If you want to make several gifts to multiple recipients consider opening a donor advised fund with either Charles Schwab or Fidelity Investments.  The donation to a donor advised fund is tax deductible in the year deposited to the account.  If you want to make several donations or you aren’t sure which charity you want to give to, the donor advised fund is ideal.  For more information on donor advised funds please visit the Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments websites by clicking the links below. https://www.schwabcharitable.org https://www.fidelitycharitable.org Qualified Charitable Distributions The Read on! →