A major thing I regret from my childhood is not asking my parents more about my college fund. They were secretive people — never liked to discuss finances with their children. But when I got to college, it turns out they didn't have enough. Not only did I feel betrayed, but also insecure about my own future.
I'm not saying you should save every cent you earn from the moment your little bundle of joy pops out, but there is a method to stress less and still secure a financially stable position for your child, even if they don't want to go to college.
Where do I start?
Hey, if you're good and ready, you can start even before they're born! But only do this if you know for certain that a child will come along somewhere down the road and if you are already financially stable. Make sure that you have enough for your retirement, an emergency fund and any outstanding loans you need to pay. Consider slashing off the high-interest loans and student loans first since they are often the trickiest.
How do I start?
Sign up for a college savings account and start contributing as soon as you can. The 529 plan is a good call because they are federal tax free and low maintenance, but IRA's have a higher interest rate. Even if you only put in $100 a month, by the time they're 18, you'll have about $38,932 in the account based on a 6% return.
There are two options for the 529 plan — prepaid tuition and college savings. The prepaid tuition only allows the funds to be used for tuition and mandatory fees, are backed or guaranteed by state and have a beneficiary age limit to list some of its qualities. The college savings plan allows funds to be used for any kind of college expense, has no state guarantee and are open to all ages.
IRA's are mostly for retirement, but if you had or are planning to have kids later on, it might be better for you. However, if you withdraw from a traditional IRA before age 59.5, it'll result in a ten percent penalty. Another advantage is that you can roll funds from your 401k into the IRA.
Standard savings accounts are also another option but probably the least practical. When you're applying for financial aid, they literally ask you anything and everything. So, having too much money under your child as the beneficiary might be hurtful instead of helpful.
College is not only going to be $40,000 like mentioned above. However, if you qualify, SUNY and CUNY schools in New York City have recently become tuition-free for qualifying families. But even most state schools like UMass Amherst in Massachusetts has a tuition of $15,000 for in-state residents.
If your child wants to go to a private institution, tuition can be as high as $40,000 to $50,000 for schools like New York University and Trinity College. You should apply for as many scholarships as you can, even sending your child to preschools and programs that are known to give out scholarships to their alumni.
Also note that tuition and fees do NOT cover the cost of room and board, transportation and books. So where we're at right now — that $40,000 might cover one year of a public institution with scholarships and financial aid.
What else can I do?
So over time, you'll want to invest more and more for your child — if you can of course. Work on paying off debts and loans as you invest and have your child take summer jobs. If you do end up taking out loans, make sure you let your child know how they work and how much time they'll have to pay them off.
I was lucky enough to have a wealthy family member that loaned me the rest of my college tuition. The result was an interest free exchange that also didn't have a time limit.
Now that I've finally scared most of you off from having a kid, I want to tell you that it isn't all bad. College is a sound investment because most jobs require a degree nowadays. Securing a spot at a top university with a strong alumni network will give your child opportunities for more internships and job offers during and after their undergraduate experience. Thus, saving for college is not only an investment in your child, but also an investment for you to be taken care of in old age.
- College Savings Plan Network ›
- The Internet Guide to Funding College and Section 529 College ... ›
- The Five Best College Savings Plans ›
- College savings plans: Picking the right one | Vanguard ›
- What Is a 529 Plan? ›
- NY's 529 College Savings Program | NY 529 Direct Plan ›
- College Savings Iowa 529 Plan ›
- Simple Rule for Calculating Where You Stand on College Savings ... ›
- College Savings Iowa 529 Plan ›
- College Savings Bank ›
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.