How Will You Pay for College?
Graduation season has passed, and there are just a few months of summer vacation before our new graduates are heading off to college for the very first time. If you're a parent, you might be wondering how you're going to help your child pay for their post-secondary education. College costs have risen 1,120 percent in the past 30 years, so what students today pay is nearly 12 times as much as what their parents paid. Fortunately, paying for that education is not impossible, and doesn't require taking on insurmountable debt. Here are a few tips to help you create a plan to pay for college:
Create a Strategy
First and foremost, create a strategy early. The longer you have to save, the bigger the impact will be. However, if you're starting late, resist the temptation to pull from other savings like your retirement fund. Never forgo saving for retirement in order to build up a college fund. There are many resources available to help students obtain loans in order to attend college, but there's no such thing as a loan to retire.
Wisconsin College Savings Program
A great way to save money for college, if you're able to start early, is through the Wisconsin College Savings Program. This program, made up of the 529 EdVest and Tomorrow's Scholar college savings plans, enables consumers to save tax-free dollars to pay for future post-secondary education costs. You can find out more about the program from the Wisconsin Treasury website at http://www.statetreasury.wisconsin.gov.
Scholarships and Grants
Applying for grants and scholarships should be part of every college-bound student's strategy. National grants include Pell Grants, Academic Competitiveness Grants, and National SMART Grants, but local scholarships often have less competition. Civic organizations and religious institutions often have meaningful amounts of aid available to students willing to fill out an application. Don't forget to ask the school itself how you can maximize their financial aid package. If you've been accepted to more than one school, it might even be possible to negotiate for a better package.
Student Loans and Tax Credits
Federal loans, whether subsidized or not, are a better option than private student loans for most consumers. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) nearly two thirds of undergraduate students rely on loans to pay for their college education. Because federal loans are cheaper and have more flexible repayment options, students with financial needs should always exhaust their federal options before looking to private loans. CFPB has more information and resources on student loans available on its website at www.consumerfinance.gov/paying-for-college.
The best way to pay for college is to be a smart consumer. Compare the costs of attending each school, including tuition, room and board, travel expenses, as well as income potential after graduation. Choosing the right school is the first step in an effective strategy to pay for a college education.
Safe Deposit Box Benefits
Want to get organized and ensure that your financial life runs smoothly? One of the easiest and most cost-effective steps you can take is to rent a safe deposit box at your bank.
Storing your vital records in a safe deposit box can help when:
- You need a birth certificate or Social Security card to apply for a passport or job.
- You need a passport to begin your overseas adventure.
- A tornado blows through your area and you need a copy of your insurance policy and household inventory (perhaps accompanied by photos or a video).
- The attorney helping to settle an estate has asked to see property deeds.
- You need adoption records for any reason.
- You need vehicle loan, leasing, or ownership records in order to sell a used car.
The list goes on. If you misplace your in-home list of credit card numbers, online passwords, or tax returns, having a copy in a safe deposit box can save you hours of searching and megawatts of frustration. Other documents often stored in safe deposit boxes include wills, citizenship papers, military records, and marriage and death certificates.
Even if you have copies of these documents at home, keeping the originals in a safe deposit box can save you time. While you can request a copy of your Social Security card from the Social Security Administration, or a copy of your birth certificate from the city hall or courthouse of the county where you were born, keeping these documents at your community bank can save you the effort of tracking down and requesting duplicates.
Many people also store small valuables in their safe deposit boxes, from seldom worn jewelry to gems, stamps, baseball cards, comics, or old coins. If you have small heirlooms that you would like to hand down to your children, but not necessarily display in your home (old letters, an ancestor's diary, military medals, or tintypes and photo negatives), you may want to keep them in your safe deposit box as well. While you can keep copies of many of these items at home, storing the originals in a safe place gives you peace of mind.
When you rent a safe deposit box, you will receive two keys to it. Remember to keep them in two separate places, including one site that is outside of your home. Avoid placing a safe deposit box key on your key ring, which might be lost or stolen. Also, remember to pay the rental fee annually. After five years of nonpayment, banks transfer the contents of abandoned boxes to the Wisconsin State Treasurer's Office.
Business Article: Tackling the Challenges of the Multigenerational Workforce
Workplaces have always had multiple generations working side by side. There's the fresh-faced younger generation of newcomers, the established middle generation that holds most of the management roles, and the older generation of senior executives who are 30 or 40 years into their careers. Each of these distinct age groups comes with their own generational differences, which can cause some friction among colleagues and bosses.
The modern workplace is no different than those of years past, with Generation Y, Generation X, and Baby Boomers all coexisting in the same office. But as more Boomers work past retirement age, and tech-savvy Millennials continue to graduate and enter the workforce, the stark differences in values,communication styles, and work habits of each generation are becoming increasingly pronounced.
With post-Millennials (known to some as Generation Z) quickly approaching college age, the next generation will be joining the ranks of working professionals within the next few years. This means that a four-generation office will soon become the new norm. Leaders must be ready to take on the challenge of integrating newer workers, while still respecting the seniority and experience of older ones.
"As new generations join the workforce, there is a period of adaptation that's required on both ends," said Rich Milgram,CEO of career networkBeyond.com. "New talent needs to respect and assimilate, while established talent needs to adjust and remain flexible. Companies should challenge their employees to rise above generational differences, think outside their comfort zone, and tackle problems together."
How can leaders make a multigenerational workplace more productive, efficient, and harmonious? Here are the biggest challenges that have come out of the modern work environment, and how to deal with them head-on.
The difference in preferredcommunicationstyles between older and younger generations has almost become a cliché. Generation Y sends text messages, tweets, and instant messages to communicate, while Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers tend to prefer phone calls and emails. Throw in the fact that younger workers tend to use abbreviations, informal language, and colloquialisms, and you've got a recipe for serious communication breakdowns.
"In some instances, older workers have been accustomed to communicating, particularly to senior management, with much more formality," said Dana Brownlee, founder of training and managementconsulting firmProfessionalism Matters. "They may equate this formality in communication with respect.When they're not given the same formality incommunications, they may misinterpret this as a lack of respect."
Brownlee recommended that leaders and employees make a concerted effort to communicate with their colleagues in the ways each person prefers. Bringing staff members of different generations together for face-to-face team-building exercises and ice breakers can help break down some of the barriers that can occur with digital communications, she said.
Lazy. Entitled. Tech obsessed. Over eager. These are just a few of the terms that come to mind for many older workers when they think of Millennials, and this generation is well aware of the stereotypical ideas they're up against. But Milgram pointed out that Gen Y isn't alone: Baby Boomers may be perceived by younger workers as difficult to train and stubbornly set in their ways.
"Overcoming existing stereotypes is hard," Milgram said. "It takes a conscious effort to distinguish your own talents and not let preconceived notions do that for you. Workers need to match their vision of success with the work ethic that it will take to get there; meaning a willingness to go beyond what's expected."
Leaders can help the situation by actively looking for and intervening when there's a dysfunction in the workplace caused by misunderstandings and generational judgments, said Joyce Maroney, director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. "Older workers' experience is valuable, but can also become an obstacle if they rely on "been there, done that" attitudes that preclude new ideas," Maroney said."Younger workers' enthusiasm and willingness to try new things need to be encouraged, but also channeled. They may not have the perspective to understand all the costs and risks associated with the opportunities they wish to pursue."
As the typical workplace evolves to keep up with changing technologies andmobile worktrends, a consequent shift in cultural expectations has also occurred. This can be an especially jarring transition for older workers, who are used to having performance measured by the number of hours spent at their desk.
"For many younger managers, time spent in the office is not as vital as the results you produce," said career expert Kerry Hannon in an article she wrote forAARP. "Your well-honed work ethic of being an early bird at your desk might not impress.Teleworkingtends to be looked on more favorably, especially if you can get more work done by not cooling your heels in rush-hour commutes."
On the other end, Generation Y values and expects a healthy work-life balance. "Younger workers are more likely to come from families where both parents were working, and therefore place a greater premium on work-life balance," Maroney said. "Their older co-workers may have expected to sacrifice a lot of their personal time to the job.Having seen parents lose their jobs despite their loyalty, Millennials are looking for jobs where they can have a life outside of work."
For leaders, a good way to approach this issue is to allow individuals to work in the style that's best for them and acknowledge the efforts of each team member, regardless of their work style. "Everyone wants recognition for the work they do, access to the resourcesthey need, and feedback that is delivered in an appropriate way," said Paige Graham, a core faculty member at the University of the Rockies. "Honor each person's contribution to the group and acknowledge each individual's need for affirmation."
For real progress to occur in the multigenerational workforce, flexibility and openness on the part of every age group is critical. "Each generation brings their own set of skills and cultural norms," Milgram said. "A successful office should be a melting pot of different generations, personalities and talent, all coming together toward a common goal. That is the only way a company will ensure they are bringing fresh perspectives to oftentimes common problems."
Security Tip of the Month: Protecting against Mobile Malware
The volume of cyberthreats to mobile computing devices continues to increase as new applications and devices proliferate. McAfee® reports that there were more than two million new mobile malware samples in 2013. Symantec™ reports that nearly 40 percent of mobile device users have experienced mobile cybercrime in the past 12 months. Some experts estimate that nearly 10 percent of applications sold on particular platforms are malicious.
Most mobile malware gets installed when a user visits an infected website, downloads a malicious application, or clicks on a link or an attachment.Some of the threats to mobile devices include the following:
- Theft of personal data, such as account information, telephone numbers, contact lists, call logs, etc.
- Propagation of malware to your contacts by posting to social media, sending phishing emails, etc.
- Surveillance through audio, video, location, text messages, telephone calls, and other means
- Disabling of monitoring software on the mobile device
- Collection of data, such as GPS readings, to track a user
What Can I Do to Secure My Mobile Device?
The following are examples of how you can secure your mobile device:
- Lock the device: An easy way for malware to get on a device is for someone to manually install it. Locking your device with a strong PIN/password makes unauthorized installation of apps more difficult.
- Install apps from trusted sources: Users must recognize that some apps may be malicious. If an app is requesting more permissions than seems necessary, do not install it, or uninstall the app. Only install apps from trusted sources.
- Don't jailbreak your device: To "jailbreak" or to "root" a device means to bypass important controls and gain full access to the operating system. Doing this will usually void the warranty and can create security risks. This also enables apps, including malicious ones, to bypass controls and access the data owned by other apps.
- Keep operating systems and apps up to date: Manufacturers, telecommunications providers, and software providers regularly update their software to fix vulnerabilities. Make sure your device's operating system and apps are regularly updated and running the most recent versions.
- Use a mobile security software solution: Install anti-virus software, if available.
- Block web ads or don't click on them: Malware can find its way onto your mobile device through a variety of methods, including advertisements. The malicious ads are called "malvertisements." Mobile ads accompany a significant amount of content found in mobile apps, and whether you find them annoying or amusing, cybercriminals have turned their attention toward using them to spread malware to unsuspecting users. What makes these "malvertisements" so dangerous is the fact that they are often delivered through legitimate ad networks and may not appear as outright spam, but can contain Trojans or lead to malicious websites when clicked on. Some mobile devices have software that can block harmful sites.
- Don't click suspicious links and attachments: While it may be difficult to spot some phishing attempts, it's important to be cautious about all communications you receive, including those purported to be from trusted entities. Also, be careful when clicking on links or attachments contained within those messages.
- Disable unwanted services/calling: Capabilities, such as Bluetooth® and near field communication (NFC), can provide ease and convenience in using your smartphone. They can also provide an easy way for a nearby, unauthorized user to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.
- Don't use public Wi-Fi: Many smartphone users take advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots to access data (and keep their phone plan costs down). Smartphones are susceptible to malware and hacking when leveraging unsecured public networks. To be safe, avoid logging into accounts, especially financial accounts, when using public wireless networks.
Coulee Investment Center: Benefits and Drawback of Putting Your House in Your Child's Name
There are several reasons why homeowners may be tempted to put their house in a child's name. However, it's important to understand the risks that come with this strategy.
Altruism may be the most obvious reason to transfer a home to a child. By giving a home to a younger family member, you can help him or her achieve the goal of home ownership without incurring the significant expenses it usually entails.
Estate Planning Benefits
Some people consider transferring ownership for estate-planning reasons. If you are planning to bequeath the family homestead to your child, transferring title while you are alive may enable you to reduce the taxable value of your estate. If your child's name is on the deed at the time of your death, the house will not go through probate.
Before you sign over your property, it's important to consider the risks involved. For example:
After you put the house in a child's name, he or she will be the legal owner of the property. In the eyes of the law, you will have no say regarding decisions such as whether to sell the home or borrow against its value.
If your child is unable to pay debts (such as personal loans or outstanding tax bills), the home could be seized to satisfy those debts.
If you transfer the home within five years of applying for Medicaid, you may not qualify for coverage right away. That's because of Medicaid's "look-back" rule, which is designed to prevent homeowners from artificially impoverishing themselves in order to receive benefits. A better idea may be to put the house in a trust instead.
So if you are considering putting your home in a child's name, consider speaking with a lawyer first. If you have questions or would like to speak with me, please call 608-784-3904. You may also stop into the Coulee Investment Center, located inside Coulee Bank at 1516 Losey Boulevard S., La Crosse, WI 54601.
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