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Monthly Archives: April 2018
April is Youth Savings Month. Here’s how to celebrate!
April is Youth Savings Month, and what better time to remind you about the importance of teaching your kids to save money. Today, financial literacy is one of America’s biggest issues, so the sooner your children understand the how and why behind saving their hard earned pennies, the brighter their financial future.
Effectively communicating the importance of saving for a rainy day can be quite the challenge for parents, especially because stashing your cash isn’t especially fun. That’s the secret, though. Saving CAN be fun if you make it that way, and once your kids realize it was all a lesson, they’ll already understand its importance. Mission accomplished!
Here are some creative and practical ways to tap into savings fun and prepare your kids for a smart and responsible financial future:
Use games to incorporate financial learning. Play “store” and use Monopoly money to show how goods are exchanged for cash. Head to Publix or Kroger with your elementary school-aged children and have them match items and coupons that save money. Love going to garage sales? Give your child $5 to spend on whatever they wish. In time, you’ll see them contemplate their purchases instead of buying everything they see. Sometimes they might even choose to save their money instead of spending it.
Have a gamer? Visit Game Stop and encourage them to purchase pre-owned games instead of brand new video games. Help them find an item they’re looking for on eBay or Amazon where it might be less expensive. Consider giving your child the difference in cost to put in their piggy bank so they can actually see the savings.
Teach the value of hard work
The idea of working to earn money can also be taught early. Assign age-appropriate chores around the house. Help your children at first and gradually they’ll be able to take over the responsibility by themselves. Create a list of chores that earn a specific dollar amount so when your kids need extra money, they learn how to earn it. See, financial learning can be incorporated into almost any situation.
Schedule a field trip
Piggy banks may be the traditional symbol of saving money, but as kids get older, try using a digital coin counting bank. It automatically keeps track of each coin and displays a tally of their savings. Kids love it because they can actually see their money and watch it grow.
Soon they’ll be ready for their very own savings account. Head to your local credit union with your child and ask for a quick tour. Each time they make a deposit, your child can learn a little bit more about the banking system and ultimately the services available to them in the future.
In time, it’ll also open the doors to introduce the concepts of paying yourself first, discipline and patience in spending, needs versus wants, and how credit works.
Don’t let up in the teen years
In the middle school and high school years, teaching your child about earning and saving money gets a little more complex, but it can still be fun.
Take investing, for instance. Purchase a blue-chip stock with fictitious dollars and have them track the daily market fluctuations. How much money would they have lost or gained in three months, six months, and a year? Do the same with a penny stock and you can introduce the idea of risk and return.
Tap into their entrepreneurial skills
Your teen is likely babysitting, mowing lawns, dog sitting, or some other entrepreneurial activity to earn a few bucks. Encourage them to keep track of their earnings and brainstorm with them about how they can improve and expand their business.
What kind of babysitting services do they offer? Do they bring games to play, color with the kids, play outdoors, work on homework together, and make sure the house is picked up before parents arrive home? The combination of all these value-added services will lead to more customers.
Help them market their services. Whether through social media or simply creating a flyer to put in your neighborhood’s mailboxes, show them how to get the word out.
When they talk about their services, they need to communicate in detail. If they’re a pet sitter, they not only walk pups but also spend 30 minutes playing with them. They make sure there’s enough food and water, and that the animals get their daily exercise. People appreciate and will pay for their extra attention.
You can follow your entrepreneurial lessons with the need to assign a certain percentage of earnings to savings versus spending, and creating a budget. With a checking account and debit card, your high school kids will know how much money is in their account and will quickly learn to live within their means, especially if you stay strong and avoid rescuing them with an extra twenty too often. We know it’s hard, but it’s worth it in the end.
Anytime is a good time
Whether it’s across the kitchen table, on the way to a baseball game, shopping for school supplies, or tucking them in at night, there are an unlimited number of ways to work financial responsibility and savings into the conversation. Let’s get going. It’s never too early or too late to start teaching your kids about how they can create a more financially stable future.26
Parents: Should you borrow for your child’s college education?
Congratulations! Your son or daughter was accepted into his or her top-choice university. You have an extra $175,000 lying around, right?
Your offspring’s education may cost that much or even more, now that the average cost of attending a private school has topped $42,000 a year, according to the College Board. If you can’t cover the whole bill with scholarships and savings, you may be tempted to borrow.
But should you? Ask yourself these questions:
How secure is your retirement?
Parents struggle with whether to put their child’s needs before their own. If you’ve followed the financial industry’s advice and prioritized your own retirement savings, you may not have been able to save much for college. Talk to a financial advisor about your retirement planning. This will help you decide whether you can handle education loans.
What’s your current debt level?
Are you still paying off your own education? If so, you wouldn’t be the only one. Many people are still chipping away at their college loans well into their careers, even as their own children near adulthood. Taking on more education debt may not be advisable if you haven’t eliminated your own.
Mortgage loans are also a consideration. Paying off your mortgage before retirement can help reduce the amount of monthly income you need once you stop working, so crushing this debt may be a big priority later in your career. If your home is worth significantly more than you owe, that equity may be a good source of college money. The interest rate on a home equity line of credit is likely to be lower than the rate on a federal loan for parents of college students. And, like other types of mortgages, the interest on home equity lines of credit may be tax deductible.
What are your other obligations?
If you buy your eldest a car as a 16th birthday present, your younger children will expect their own wheels, too. Over-extending yourself for one child’s education may be hard to replicate when the next kid enters college. Make a realistic plan that includes all your children’s likely college costs.
So should you borrow?
If your retirement savings are healthy, the rest of your finances are strong and you don’t have much debt, borrowing to pay for your child’s college might make sense. But it’s a last-resort option. Before you take out a loan, exhaust all possible financial aid options. Consider choosing a less expensive school, or having your child start at a community college and transfer to a four-year university later.
Many families find that it’s best for the student to be the borrower, rather than the parents. The interest rates on federally subsidized loans are better if they’re in the student’s name, and you can always help pay it off later if your own budget will allow it.
Your role as a parent is not coming to an end just because your son or daughter has earned a high school diploma. You still have to model good decision-making practices and healthy financial habits. That may include saying no to borrowing money for your child’s education.
Check out our list of the 35 best indoor activities in and around Atlanta
Spring in Atlanta is the perfect time to play outdoors, unless, of course, you’re one of the 25 million Americans who is allergic to trees, grass or ragweed pollen. Maybe we shouldn’t mention this season’s higher than normal rainfall or the sweltering summer temperatures that come with living in the southeast.
While we would never give up the SEC, Chick-fil-A, or sweet tea, sometimes you have to head indoors — at least for a little while. Here are 35 of the very best, fun, wacky, weird and unique things to do in the ATL:
1. The World of Coca-Cola – You’ll be amazed at the history behind the iconic drink, visit the Secret Formula vault, and have the chance to sample 100+ Coca-Cola beverages from around the world. Have a coke and a smile!
2. LEGOLAND Discovery Center – Visit the 4D Cinema, experience the thrill of the interactive rides, check out the race car Build & Test area, and join the Master Builder Academy to build with experts. It’s the ultimate indoor playground for both adults and kids.
3. College Football Hall of Fame – 95,000 square feet, a 45-yard indoor football field, and 50+ interactive exhibits dedicated to the greatest players and coaches in the history of college football.
4. Center For Civil and Human Rights – Explore the history of the civil rights movement and how it’s impacted civil rights around the globe.
5. Georgia Aquarium – Dive into the underwater world of tens of thousands of sea animals, including 500 species from around the world. Be sure to check out the Behind the Seas tour, too!
6. Andretti Indoor Karting & Games – Take adventure to a new level with Andretti-style action, speed, and excitement. From go-karting and ropes courses to zip lines and racing simulators, it’s fun at every hairpin turn.
7. Dad’s Garage Theatre – Enjoy the hilarious improv comedy–or jump into an 8-week class–at this award-winning non-profit theatre.
8. Delta Flight Museum – Tour vintage jets and explore rare artifacts, learn about aviation’s cutting-edge technology and fly the only Boeing 737 flight simulator open to the public.
9. Fox Theatre – The hour-long guided tour will take you back to the golden era of the Fox Theatre. Learn the secrets and the history of the largest movie palace in the southeast.
10. High Museum of Art – One of the nation’s leading art museums, the High houses 11,000 pieces comprised of classic and contemporary African, American, and European art, decorative and folk art, and photography.
11. Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum – The only Presidential Library in the southeast, you’ll be able to visit a life-size replica of Jimmy Carter’s Oval Office and study the historical memorabilia that showcases the former president’s time in office.
12. Atlanta Movie Tours – For all you movie buffs…hop on a comfortable, climate-controlled bus and visit your favorite movie and television locations. Their insider tour guides are great at share fascinating behind-the-scenes stories you won’t hear anywhere else.
13. Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Catch an Atlanta Falcons game or an Atlanta United Soccer game at the best sports and entertainment complex in America, or sign up for a guided tour that will give you a behind-the-scenes look into through the state-of-the-art facility.
14. CNN Center – Take the behind-the-scenes tour of CNN’s world headquarters. See how a live broadcast works and how the world’s largest news organization operates.
15. TopGolf – Swing by this climate controlled, luxury, driving range complex to challenge your friends to fun, point-scoring golf games that appeal to every skill level. You don’t need to be a scratch golfer to have fun at this venue.
16. Michael C. Carlos Museum (Emory University) – Study the legacies of ancient civilizations when you visit the Southeast’s largest collection of antiquities and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Near East, and the Americas.
17. The Painted Pin – It’s not only an upscale boutique bar and bowling alley, but you can also try your hand at indoor bocce ball, ping pong, shuffleboard, skeeball, giant Jenga, darts, southern skittles, and more!
18. Margaret Mitchell House – Whether you love literature or frankly, don’t give a darn, you’ll be intrigued by the history behind the most well-know and beloved southern soap opera—both the novel and the movie–of all time.
19. The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse – Eat, drink, and nourish your inner poet. Costumes, sword fights, live music, and an enchanting night of theatre awaits.
20. Atlanta History Center – This 33-acre experience explores historical homes, exhibitions, miles of garden trails, and interactive activities that lend themselves to Atlanta’s historic relevance.
21. Bodies the Exhibition: Atlanta – Amazing, weird, educational, and beautiful, the exhibition offers an intimate and respectful view into the extraordinary uniqueness of the human form.
22. Starlight Six Drive-in Theater – Watch a movie in the comfort of your own…car! Take a ride back into the 1950s at this multiple screen drive-in that offers double features every day of the week.
23. Pop The Cork Wine Tours – Wine connoisseur of not, you’ll learn how to swirl, sip, and savor during your public or private tour of the North Georgia Wine Country. Tours include chauffeured transportation, a gourmet picnic lunch, and a full day of wine tasting.
24. Fernbank Museum of Natural History – Explore cultural artifacts, marvel at the prehistoric world of dinosaurs, enjoy science interactives and experience the thrill of the IMAX® Theatre.
25. iFLY Atlanta Indoor Skydiving – Not the daredevil you’d like to be? You can still experience the thrill of skydiving as you free fall on a smooth cushion of air. No parachute, not tether, but super safe and super cool!
26. Cascade Skating Rink – An integral part of Atlanta’s music scene, you’ll discover a whole new world of roller skating dance. Family, teen, and adult nights feature both regulars—of which you’ll be in awe–and novices, so go get your groove on.
27. Decatur Glass Blowing – Nate Nardi, glass artist, owner, and operator has created a full showroom of stunning glass blown art. Stop by to marvel at his creations or sign up for a glass blowing class yourself—or make it a date night!
28. Bury The Hatchet – Learn about the competitive sport of axe throwing, practice wielding an axe at a wooden target, and participate in a tournament-style game with your friends! Take out your frustrations and have some fun. Don’t worry; most everyone is a first-timer.
29. Board & Brush – You don’t have to be an artist to create a masterpiece. Head over to this creative studio to build, distress, and paint custom, on-trend, classic farmhouse style décor. Come on your own or bring a group of DIY-ers. No experience necessary!
30. Paint the Town – Eat, drink, and paint your way to a beautiful piece of art. This BYOB paint and sip art studio, staffed with friendly and talented artists helps to create a fun and relaxing night with friends.
31. Salud! Cooking School – Whether you’re a seasoned chef or prefer to make reservations, these hands-on cooking classes teach culinary skills, techniques, and recipes, that are educational, practical, fun, and most importantly, delicious!
32. The Booth Western Art Museum– The only museum of its kind in the southeast, the main art galleries feature the Western artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Come see America’s story.
33. Medieval Times – Travel back to medieval Spain as you’re entertained by brave knights who compete in a 2-hour jousting tournament while you enjoy dining with the royal court. Who will be crowned champion?
34. Room Escape Atlanta – If you can follow the clues and solve the puzzle, you might just be able to escape. But can you do it in time? An exciting and thrilling test of teamwork, cooperation, and out-of-the-box thinking.
35. SkyView Atlanta – Sitting 20 stories above Centennial Park—in a climate-controlled gondola–you’ll enjoy the most spectacular panoramic view of downtown Atlanta. Upgrade to the VIP ride and your gondola will sport Ferrari style seats, a glass floor, and longer flight time.
Mortgage Process – The Loan Process Flow
Georgia’s Own mortgage experts, Todd and Earica, discuss the mortgage loan process flow.
Affordable ways to get your Master’s degree
There are countless advantages to securing your master’s degree in your chosen field, but really? Who can afford it? If you’re like most recent college graduates, you’re still paying off your student loans and not looking to rack up any more debt. So how can you fund the next step in your education without resorting to a diet of Ramen Noodles and living in your parents’ basement?
According to Sallie Mae’s 2017 How America Pays for Graduate School Study, 63 percent of students begin graduate school within 12 months of an undergrad degree. The average amount spent was $24,812, and 77 percent of it was paid by the student.
The study also says that 8 in 10 graduate students said they were more responsible for making decisions about how to pay for school than they were as undergraduates. Nearly three-quarters created a plan for how they’d pay for grad school before they enrolled in a program.
Here are some smart and creative financial strategies that will help make the journey more affordable, and your future career plans more easily attainable:
Let your company to foot the bill
A recent report from the Society for Human Resource Management says that 54 percent of employers offer a tuition assistance program. If you work for a company that provides any type of tuition reimbursement, and you’re interested in furthering your education, this is the first and best place to start. Tuition assistance is a way for your employer to invest in you, your career, and the company’s future. With an advanced degree, you bring a broader perspective, better understanding, and valuable decision-making skills to your position. Your skills may also lend themselves to increasing revenue, reduced expenses, or other similar benefits for the company. Overall, it’s a win-win for both sides.
Be sure to investigate the details of your company’s education assistance program. You may need to stay at the company for a given period of time after you complete your degree, or the reimbursement percentage may depend on your final grade. Not all plans are the same, so take time to meet with your Human Resources Department for the details. If you work for a smaller company that doesn’t offer tuition assistance, don’t give up too easily. You could present your boss with the benefits that a specific course of study could bring, and how it would help you add value to the company. You’ll never know until you ask, and even if it’s a no, it’ll show your desire to improve your position and further your career.
Apply for a scholarship
Yes, graduate programs offer scholarships and fellowships, but they’re typically based on merit. Check with the school’s Financial Aid office, as well as the Graduate Admissions department. They’ll be aware of any aid awarded through the different academic departments. Search for trade and professional associations in your field that may also be looking to financially support graduate student education. And, of course, check out the many online scholarship databases, like GoGrad, Scholly, FastWeb, and ScholarshipAmerica.
You may be busy balancing work, researching schools and programs, and figuring out how you’re going to afford your continuing education, but start your scholarship search as early as possible. You stand your highest chance of scoring some cash when the scholarship pot is full.
Apply for an assistantship
Work-study programs are more common than you’d think, especially in grad school. Assistantships usually pay a portion of the tuition cost and a small stipend as compensation for your research or classroom instruction time. These positions, generally considered training and not necessarily employment, usually require an average of 20 hours per week. They’re granted by the different academic department so, if you’re seriously considering an assistantship, seeking out faculty members or department heads in your program of interest is the smartest strategy. And, again, the earlier, the better.
If you must borrow, be smart
More than 75 percent of all grad students wind up taking out some type of education loan. Your first choice should be a federal loan, so fill out the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s required for access to any federal student aid.
With a Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan, you can qualify for up $20,500 for each year of study with a combined undergraduate and graduate loan limit of $138,500. All Stafford loans are unsubsidized, so interest is not deferred, but payments are not required until six months following graduation.
Once you’ve exhausted your Stafford Loan eligibility, you can move onto a Graduate PLUS loan. The Graduate PLUS loan is a federally guaranteed loan that can be used to pay the full costs of graduate school, including reasonable living costs. You must be enrolled at least half-time and have minimally acceptable credit.
Private loans through banks and credit unions are also available for graduate study. These loans are based on your individual credit rating, so the higher your credit score, the more likely you’ll be approved, and at a better interest rate. Just as with federal loans, you’ll pay back the principal and interest. Many offer the option of making payments while you’re in school or deferring your payments until after you graduate.
Get credit for credits
As a graduate student, you’ll also want to see if you qualify for the federal Lifetime Learning tax credit. It’ll allow you to subtract up to $2,000 per year from your tax bill. It’s available to single filers whose adjusted gross income is $62,000 or less, or to married filers whose AGI is $124,000 or less. The credit applies to 20 percent of your tuition and other required educational expenses, up to a maximum of $10,000. Talk to your tax advisor for more details.
When it comes to education and expenses, there are lots of ways to find financial support, but it takes some legwork. Invest some time, exhaust your resources, and you’ll make the right financial decision about how to fund your future success.
Mortgage Process – Why Georgia’s Own?
Georgia’s Own mortgage experts, Todd and Earica, tell you why you should trust Georgia’s Own for your mortgage needs.