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How to Plan and Pay for Your Kids’ College (and Beyond)

This year’s average college graduate left with more than $37,000 in debt, up 6 percent from last year. On TODAY this morning, I talked how to plan for kid’s college expenses.


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Student Loan Debt: How to Reduce Those Monthly Payments

The college class of 2016 will graduate with an average $37,000 in student loan debt. Another surprising number? The $2.7 billion in free federal student aid that goes unclaimed every year. Yikes. Check out my TODAY segment below for how to reduce monthly payments.


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How to get your finances ready for life’s biggest (and costliest) events

On TODAY this morning, Hoda Kotb, Jenna Bush Hager and I had a blast talking money hacks for life’s biggest milestones. Whether you’re having a baby, you’ve got college-bound kids or you’re preparing for retirement, here’s how to get your finances ready (and what order in which to prioritize things)!


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Paying off student loans: How to cut your monthly payments

About 1/3 of college students with student loan debt say they’d rather not have sex for 10 years than carry that amount of debt. Did you know Americans owe more than $1.3 trillion collectively in student loan debt? You can watch it grow $2,726 every second here. This morning, I talked cutting monthly payments on TODAY. Check it out.


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Tips For Recent Graduates To Help Avoid Identity Theft

If you’ve got a newly minted graduate in the family (or you’re one yourself), congratulations! Launching, whether you’re doing it from high school into a college or university, or from college into a new apartment and career, is exciting. Unfortunately, when it comes to your identity and personal information, it’s also a process that exposes you to more risk than usual.

According to research conducted by LifeLock, nearly two-thirds of students reported that they were not very concerned about fraud (one probable reason that fewer than one-quarter even detect fraud when it happens to them). Yet, when it does hit, 15% say the impact is moderate or severe—that’s higher than among other age groups.

More worrisome, colleges and universities—among them U.C. Berkeley—have been victimized fairly steadily by data thieves in recent years. As the head of information security for the school told reporters, it’s difficult to protect an academic institution because you can’t just shut it down in the face of a major breach.

Bottom line: The best way to keep yourself safe during times of life transition (graduation, as well as many others) is to take several steps to protect yourself ahead of time. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Lock up your personal information—and password-protect your computer and phone. Students are four times more likely than other computer users to be victims of “familiar fraud,” in other words, to have their information stolen by people they know. Living in a dorm with a person you don’t know (or don’t know well) and other students frequently popping in and out puts you at risk. Any documents with identifying details, from passports to bills, should be put (or even better locked) away. This is the same reason your mailbox should have a key.
  • Watch the sharing. It’s tempting to broadcast details and photos of this fabulous new life of yours on social media. Be careful. The more you share, the more you’re open to having your identity stolen. Why? Because by providing details like your pet’s name, birthday, mother’s maiden name, and location, you’re giving a smart thief all the information necessary to create a faux you and apply for credit in your name. Be selective about what you share and who you allow to see it.
  • Pay attention to your credit (or, parents, do this for your children). If you’re sending kids off to college or out into the world as an authorized user on your credit card, chances are you’re doing so to help them build a credit history. If you’re not doing this—and your kids haven’t applied for credit themselves—then the mere existence of a credit history is a sign of trouble. You can check your credit report (or your child’s) for free at

Finally, have the talk with your kids. Not that talk, the one about how important their identity is as they enter the adult world—and how taking steps to secure it is up to them.

Money Sense on Fortune

gradShould you refinance your student loan? The answer has changed in recent months. In this week’s Fortune column I highlight the recent deals from both bank and non-bank lenders that can save both students (who hold Stafford loans with fixed rates ranging from 3.86% to 6.8%) and their parents (who hold PLUS loans with fixed rates between 6.41% and 8.5%) some decent money.

Read on here.

Today’s Money: The Bank of Mom and Dad

We’ve seen the research in the headlines for weeks now: Over half of all college graduates are still funded by the bank of mom and dad. Well, this morning on TODAY, I offered a lesson on financial independence to two graduates who make up that statistic. If you missed it, check it out below.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Wheeling Down the Wedding Aisle

iStock_babyAs parents we know there is no greater gift (and expense) than having a child. Don’t get me wrong, parenthood is worth every penny, but as we age, does it become easier financially or more difficult? I ask, because a recent Bloomberg article on how older parents are rewriting their financial plans after having children caught my eye. For example, when 37-year-old Barrow Barre (who by the way is fairly young by the standards you’ll read about in the next paragraph) quit her job to tend to her newborn twins, she asked her husband to increase his retirement contributions. Barre’s husband joked that retirement was irrelevant – he’ll be working until he’s dead. He has a point. If you’re having children in your late thirties, early forties, does retirement get pushed to the backburner? What about life insurance, estate planning, and oh yeah, saving for college?

You can attribute this to modern medicine, actively going against the grain, and probably a number of other factors, but the birth rate for women between ages 40-44 has risen 2% annually since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re among them, there are a few guidelines to follow.

“First, you need your safety net in place,” said Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. “All the things that you as a parent want to make available for the rest of your family wouldn’t be able to happen if something happened to you – so you have to get life insurance.”

Chances are you probably need more than you think, but it probably costs a lot less than you feared, Ritter added. Ahem, how much are you spending on cable? This is where prioritization comes in.

Ritter is quick to suggest term insurance over more permanent options like whole life and universal, but as for how much you’ll need – that requires you to do the math…and thankfully calculators do exist. Unlike younger parents (i.e. twenties, earlier thirties), whose families would be missing out on more years of income (if the breadwinner were to die), older parents have fewer years to account for. The logic: Retirement savings should come into play for income replacement. That is, if you’ve been saving adequately for retirement.

Your second priority: retirement savings. And, yes, it trumps college. On an airplane, you’re instructed to put your oxygen mask on first, then your child’s – the same goes for retirement versus college savings. If you don’t have enough to save yourself during retirement, your kids will likely have to bail you out just as they are saving for college for their own children. Yes, it goes against every natural instinct we have as parents to tend to our children first, but as Ritter puts it: “Sacrificing your retirement may feel right in the short term, but it will have a high probability of causing problems in the long term.”

Once you’ve filled your retirement buckets, moving onto college savings makes sense. In this arena, 529 plans are the ultimate allies for both younger and older parents according to Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president at Edvisors Network and author of “Filing the FAFSA.”

On the topic of FAFSA, don’t fail to fill out the form. CNNMoney recently reported on Kantrowitz’s analysis of government data that shows millions of students missing out on financial aid for college education. To see more from Kantrowitz, head over to the article.

Money Sense on Fortune


This week’s column is the second part to my two-part series on credit scores. If you missed last week’s on the murky waters of credit scores (i.e. FICO vs. Vantage), you can catch up here. As for this week’s piece, I tackle the misconceptions surrounding millennials and credit, and how both parents and twentysomethings can get started on building (and maintaining) solid scores.

You can see the full column on Fortune.

Wednesday Welcome: The Benefit of Being a Big Fish in a Small Pond

Today’s guest poster is financial planner Neal Frankle, who writes about how his daughter got a great college education — and a wide network of contacts — for a fraction of the cost of an Ivy League school. If you’ve got your eyes set on a pricey school for your kids, this may help change your mind.

headshotAre you concerned about the astronomical cost of a college education? If so, I have some very good news.  My daughter just finished her degree in Finance and received a world-class education for a fraction of what it would have cost had she attended an Ivy League school.  Oh and by the way, she had a far better educational experience at the same time.

Before she started college we learned that graduates of high-priced schools don’t necessarily earn more than state school grads.  Still, we were concerned about the social scene at the state school.  We knew that it was important for her to be around other high achieving students in order to keep her motivated and working hard.

Fortunately, our daughter solved the problem herself. She got an expensive college education without the price tag.  How?  By becoming immersed in student government and an honors business fraternity (yes, the fraternity accepted both men and women).  She learned that the students involved in these groups were highly motivated, uber-achievers, super responsible and strong role models.

In order to excel in these organizations she had to be:

  1. Punctual.
  2. Responsible.
  3. Professional.
  4. Results focused.
  5. Work well in a team.

What more could any parent want?  Most of what I learned in college wasn’t taught in class.  My guess is that was your experience as well.  My daughter  flourished in college .  And she had that successful experience because she set herself up to succeed from day one.

My daughter told me that she never would have had the chutzpah to undertake student body politics and honors business organizations had she gone to an Ivy League school.  That’s  because she felt intimidated.  The state school gave her more opportunity to do well than the pricier schools.

Sometimes being a medium size fish in a small pond works out great.  My daughter had to deliver even though she had great demands placed on her.  She spent time with and learned from the best students on campus.  She also has fantastic networking opportunities that will help her for years to come.  As a result, she’s highly equipped to succeed in her professional life .  And best of all, she doesn’t have any college debt to worry about. Neither do we.

Before you decide on which school to send your children, take a look at the extra-curricular activities.  Look for academic opportunities that your kid will feel comfortable getting involved in yet pushed at the same time.  I am convinced that dollar-for-dollar, this is a far better way to go.

About Neal: Neal Frankle is a Certified Financial Planner in Los Angeles.  He helps clients make smart financial decisions so they don’t have to worry about their future.  He also is the editor for and  He is a regular contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post and other mainstream media publications.   

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