Winning a scholarship can be as competitive as gaining entrance to the college of your choice. While academic performance, extracurricular activities and character all matter, your success often boils down to discovering scholarships that fit your credentials and properly promoting your accomplishments. These tips will help you prepare scholarship applications that get you noticed — and could get you some extra cash to help pay for school. Read the full Medium article here.
(BPT) - If you had to grade your financial literacy, what would it be? Are you an A+ saver, investor and planner, or do you think you could do better? If you grade yourself average at best, you’re not alone.
When asked to grade their own financial literacy, more than half of Americans say they’d earn a “C” or lower, according to new data from Prudential Financial. This isn’t surprising, considering data from Prudential’s Financial Wellness Census shows less than half of Americans are on track to meet their financial goals, including planning for retirement.
“Regardless of where you are on your family’s financial wellness journey, the best way forward is through financial literacy,” says Prudential Advisors President Brad Hearn. “Researching, educating yourself and getting advice from a financial professional can help you make the best decisions based on your life stage, risk tolerance and goals.”
Hearn says each family’s situation and goals are unique, and things like life stage and personal preference will impact how they choose to prepare for their financial future. To get started, here are five financial wellness basics every family should master:
Set up an emergency fund
Life is a series of experiences, and sometimes the unexpected can hit your finances hard. Whether it’s a car breaking down, your AC unit on the fritz or even losing a job, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. If you don’t already have an emergency fund, start saving a little each month until you reach your goal. A good rule of thumb is to have three months’ worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund. So, if your monthly expenses are $2,500, you should have $7,500 saved.
Create a budget
Saving for college? A new car? How about starting that emergency fund? Whatever your family’s financial goals are, it’s important to have a plan in place that helps you achieve those goals. Budget to manage day-to-day expenses, and include in that budget a commitment to save for bigger milestones. For tips on getting started, do some research. There’s no shortage of advice, whether you decide to go it alone or consider using the help of a professional financial advisor.
Plan for the unimaginable
If you have people who count on you for financial support or caregiving, you should have life insurance. A life insurance policy can help give your family financial peace of mind should the worst happen. There is no rule as to how much life insurance you need, but important things to consider are your annual income, mortgage debt, potential college costs for kids and other future financial obligations.
Save for retirement
According to Prudential data, of Americans who have retirement savings and debt, nearly one-quarter have more in total debt than in retirement savings (23%), while 15% of Americans say that they have no debt, but also have nothing saved for retirement. Planning for retirement is something that should start as soon as possible. If your work offers any type of matching program, make sure to take advantage. If you don’t, you’re essentially leaving free money on the table.
Seek professional advice
Retirement, life insurance and savings can be confusing. Information overload is partly to blame. According to Prudential data, two-thirds of Americans agree that the list of things they need to learn to successfully manage their finances keeps growing, not shrinking. That’s where financial literacy programs and professional financial advice can play a key role. Nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t have a financial advisor. They say they cannot afford one (42%) or don’t believe their financial situation warrants needing an advisor’s help (26%). The reality is that advice is more within reach than ever before — and it’s not just for the wealthy. A financial professional can help at various stages in life and work with you to create a strategy based on your timeline, risk tolerance and goals.
“Financial wellness isn’t always a matter of having more money,” says Hearn. “Instead, it’s a journey that takes a combination of proactive effort, dedication and professional guidance.”
Prudential Advisors is a brand name of The Prudential Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries. Life insurance is issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ and its affiliates.
From heading off to college to marrying the love of your life to taking those dream vacations, life’s biggest moments are often tied to being financially responsible. A credit card is one tool that can help you achieve your financial goals while offsetting some costs along the way. These tips from financial experts can help you maximize financial tools like credit cards throughout life’s milestones.
A Financial Planning Tool for Every Stage of Life
(Family Features) From heading off to college to marrying the love of your life to taking those dream vacations, life’s biggest moments are often tied to being financially responsible.
While memories of your first dance as newlyweds don’t often include the cost of the band, money is frequently front and center when planning for some of life’s larger events. From early adulthood through retirement, a credit card is one tool that can help you achieve your financial goals while offsetting some costs along the way.
“No matter your stage in life, it’s important to plan ahead and have the right tools to meet your financial needs,” said Jason Gaughan, credit cards executive at Bank of America. “A credit card offers flexibility, convenience and an increasing amount of rewards that can make your budget go even further.”
These tips from financial experts can help you maximize financial tools like credit cards throughout life’s milestones.
“Though credit can be a somewhat foreign topic for beginners, online resources such as Bank of America’s Better Money Habits offers tips to help young adults learn about things like how your credit score is calculated, the difference between a credit report and credit score and explains why it’s important to understand before signing up for a credit card,” said Lysandra Perez, a relationship manager for Bank of America who is responsible for educating clients on establishing strong financial habits including managing and building credit.”
According to BetterMoneyHabits.com, an important rule for building strong credit is to spend no more than 30 percent of your available credit line. The online resource also recommends that students look for credit cards that offer low interest rates and no annual fee to help minimize finance charges if they aren’t able to pay their bills in full each month.
“Establishing strong financial habits early on can help set you up for future credit opportunities later in life,” Perez said.
Using a credit card that offers rewards tied to interests is a strategy some young adults utilize. According to a Bank of America survey, 91 percent of Millennials ages 23-29 plan to use a rewards card to help pay for upcoming travel.
“It’s common for people in their mid-to-late 20s to prioritize maximizing credit card rewards,” Gaughan said. “They understand using a card for smaller, everyday purchases like coffee and groceries can be an easy way to earn points to pay for fun events like a trip abroad or home for a college reunion.”
Saving and tracking rewards is key during this period, too. Digital tools like My Rewards provide new visibility into the rewards you earn and how to maximize their value. Also look to explore banking rewards options like Preferred Rewards, which can offer special perks and benefits like credit card rewards bonuses, discounts on home and auto loans, interest rate boosters and no-fee ATM transactions.
Marriage and Parenthood
These years typically require more financial savviness to make every dollar count as large expenses requiring loans, such as houses and cars, are more prevalent during this stage.
Along with larger purchases, these years also often come with grocery store trips, filling up the gas tank for carpool duty and buying new clothes as your kids grow. Look for a cash back card that lets you earn rewards on your everyday purchases and offers redemption for cash back to cover expenses or invest in a savings account.
“There are many ways to continue saving and investing once in retirement,” said David Poole, head of Merrill Edge Advisory, Client Services and Digital Capabilities at Bank of America. “Credit cards that allow you to invest rewards back into your retirement fund is an easy way to continue contributing to your 401(k).”
Credit cards can also help retirees fulfill long-standing travel goals. Some like the Bank of America Premium Rewards card offer lucrative travel benefits such as earning two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. Look for points that are flexible and can be used toward future travel purchases or as cash back.
“With so many credit card options available, it’s important to understand what your current needs are,” Gaughan said. “Do your research, develop a strategy and work with your financial institution to determine the best card for your lifestyle.”
Find more information and credit card options at bankofamerica.com/creditcards.
Photos courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Bank of America
(BPT) - Most people want to help their children pay for a quality college education, but it can be difficult to balance personal financial goals and funding your kids' educational aspirations. When retirement savings is sacrificed for college costs, it can be a disservice to the entire family.
To help guide you in determining the best way to pay for your kids' college while still funding your retirement savings, personal finance expert and host of the So Money podcast Farnoosh Torabi offers seven smart tips.
Tip 1: Don't put retirement on the back burner.
While funding your children's college education is important, your retirement savings should take priority. Strive to contribute 10 to 15 percent of your take-home pay toward retirement savings. The reality is college is four years and retirement can be 30+ years. Plus, there's no scholarship for retirement like there is for college!
Tip 2: Take the free money.
If your workplace retirement plan comes with a match, take it. Contribute the minimum to receive your employer match. At the end of the day, it's free money and that's the best kind.
Tip 3: Involve your children in the college cost discussion.
College is expensive, so make sure you're discussing with your kids overall costs and what you're willing to contribute. Have them help research financial aid and scholarship opportunities, too. Remember, you want to find a school that's the best fit — so don't let the initial "sticker price" scare your children from applying. Some private colleges may give the best aid packages, but other times they may not. Don’t make assumptions and always keep your options open. The goal is to find the college with the best value.
Tip 4: Don't take on more than you can afford.
While involving your children in the discussion, it's also important to make sure you're not setting them up for failure when they graduate. As they research student loan possibilities, make sure they'll be able to comfortably afford payments once they graduate, and that they're not taking on too much debt.
An easy way to start researching together is to visit College Ave Student Loans and use the configure-it-out tool. Answer a short series of questions regarding how much you'll borrow, how many years of schooling are left, whether you want to make payments during school or not, etc. This shows your child what repayment will look like under each option so you can both be clear on the details and agree on a game plan.
Tip 5: Consider the college savings plan that's best for you.
Consider opening a 529 that allows flexible spending toward higher education. Should your child choose to forgo traditional college education or not require the funds set aside, you can easily change the beneficiary to another child or relative.
If you're skeptical of a 529, consider a Roth IRA if your income limits allow. Although typically used for retirement, the Roth IRA has an exception where you can withdraw your contributions from the account at any time tax- and penalty-free for qualified education expenses. The remaining money can be collected in your retirement.
Tip 6: Starting late? Play catch-up.
If saving for retirement has not been a priority, it's time to get aggressive. Pare down costs where possible and take advantage of catch-up contributions. People who are 50 or older can contribute an extra $6,000 to their 401(k) or an extra $1,000 to an IRA this tax year.
Tip 7: Don't become the "bank of Mom and Dad."
You want to help your kids, but once you set the precedent that it's OK for your children to ask for money (or a contribution toward college), they may feel they can frequently approach you later in life for funds. Don't set the tone that you'll always be there to financially support them. You want them to grow wings so they can fly independently (and so you can happily enter retirement and enjoy those golden years).
While you should talk with your child about potential majors and career paths, it's important also to add financial conversations into the mix. For more tips, and to learn more about personalized student loan solutions, visit www.collegeavestudentloans.com.
Retirement is supposed to be a reward for decades of hard work, but if you haven’t planned well, the milestone may be a dark cloud on your horizon. New data shows that nearly 50 percent of Americans are most afraid of outliving their income or the inability to maintain their current lifestyle, and nearly 20 percent are worried about having enough money to cover health care expenses. Take control of the uncertainty and create peace of mind when it comes to retirement with these simple steps.
Face Your Financial Fears
Take action to save for retirement
(Family Features) Retirement is supposed to be a reward for decades of hard work, but if you haven’t planned well, the milestone may be a dark cloud on your horizon. In fact, new data shows that nearly 50 percent of Americans are most afraid of outliving their income or the inability to maintain their current lifestyle, and nearly 20 percent are worried about having enough money to cover health care expenses.
The research, released by the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council (IALC), also found that despite these very real fears, Americans are failing to take action to address them. For example, a quarter of Baby Boomers, the age group closest to retirement, have less than $5,000 saved for retirement and nearly one in five Americans have no idea how much they’ve saved.
The findings indicate that Americans are afraid of the unknown when it comes to managing their money and retirement. While you can budget for leisure and travel, health care expenses and life expectancy are unpredictable.
“Americans are living longer than ever, so it’s no surprise that the No. 1 retirement fear is that they’ll run out of money in their final years,” said Jim Poolman, executive director of the IALC. “Thankfully, there are strategies and products out there that can help you create sufficient retirement income to last throughout your lifetime, which can help with this crippling fear.”
To take control of the uncertainty and create peace of mind when it comes to retirement, here are some simple steps you can follow:
Make a budget.
Balance is key.
Plan to adjust.
Monitor the balance.
Small changes count.
Make it automatic.
Understanding Fixed Indexed Annuities
According to the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council’s research, 45 percent of Americans are interested in retirement products, such as Fixed Indexed Annuities, that offer steady lifetime income and protect your principal even if the stock market goes down.
Find more tips and tools to guide your retirement planning at FIAinsights.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Even the most savvy money handlers can fall on hard times when unexpected circumstances push your budget beyond its limits. These ideas may help you emerge from a tough financial situation and get back on track.
How to Conquer Tough Financial Times
(Family Features) Even the most savvy money handlers can fall on hard times when unexpected circumstances push your budget beyond its limits. These ideas may help you emerge from a tough financial situation and get back on track.
Cut non-essential spending
Start by taking a close look at where your money goes by listing every bill you pay each month and the amounts you pay. Then include all the day-to-day extras, such as eating out, shopping and other entertainment. If the total of your bills and extras don’t match or exceed your income, it’s time to make cuts, and the extras are the best place to start.
Eliminate overwhelming debt
Fortunately, Smith recalled a conversation with her neighbors John and Corinne Tesh, owners of Citygate Homes LLC in Greensboro, North Carolina, an independently owned and operated HomeVestors franchisee.
The Tesh’s toured the house and felt it needed a lot of renovations, but they knew it would sell quickly after they rehabbed the property because of the neighborhood. They made an offer to purchase the home in cash. After the renovation was complete, they listed the home and received a full-price offer the first day on the market.
Extending their sensitivity and kindness, HomeVestors – largest home buyer in the U.S. with more than 65,000 houses bought since 1996 – hired movers for Smith and paid for six months of storage for items that did not fit in her new place. This allowed Smith to move without the burden she was expecting, including costly, time-consuming repairs and showing the home to potential buyers.
Learn more about the real estate resources available to help you overcome a difficult financial situation at homevestors.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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