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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.
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.
Congratulations to our 2017 John B. White, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Recipient, Edward Holliday!
Should you borrow to get an MBA?
If you’ve decided that an MBA is an important investment in your career, then your next step should be to determine how to finance your next two years of study. While many students rely on a combination of their own savings, help from family and other outside sources, other students have only to rely on the availability of grants, loans, and employment. If you’re a member of the latter group, don’t be discouraged. There are multiple resources that can help you overcome the financial challenges.
Start where the money is free. Grants, also called fellowships, fall into this category because they do not need to be repaid. A grant is awarded from the government, a foundation, or a trust and is typically given to an institution, a business, or an individual. The criteria for receiving a grant is not necessarily achievement based and can be more general in nature.
A business degree makes you a valuable asset to your employer, which is why your company may be willing to finance your post-baccalaureate education. They may already have a tuition reimbursement program in place. If not, submit a proposal that highlights the benefits of investing in you and your future at the company. Interviewing for a new position? Consider using tuition reimbursement as a negotiating tool.
Student loans, the most popular education financing tools, fall into the opposite category because they require repayment. Federal student loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized, which determines whether the government or the borrower is responsible for paying the interest while you’re in school, as well as the generosity and flexibility of the loan repayment terms.
Private loans designed to meet the needs of an MBA student can also be attractive options when it comes to supplementing other sources. In fact, if you have excellent credit, a private lender may be able to offer a more competitive interest rate and friendlier repayment terms. Most private lenders don’t charge application, disbursement or origination fees and you can refinance your loan if interest rates go down or your credit score increases.
While they may not be your first choice, don’t cross private loans of your list quite yet. They do have their advantages, especially when you combine them with other sources to create a flexible and smart financing package.