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.

Share Awesome Contest

Awesomeness is all around us. At least that’s how it appeared during a recent #ShareAwesome Twitter party. For an hour, 140 character stories of kindness to the homeless, to people in hospitals and neighbors in need, to kids left out on the fringe pored into the twitterverse – some accompanied by pictures, one more heartening than the next. Judging by the speed at which she was retweeted @caraleeball said it best when she tweeted, “so hate to see this party end…love talking about kindness and caring #shareawesome.”

What’s the fuss all about?  Believe it or not, digital safety. That and the fact that kids and teens do awesome things on a daily basis – and that they should be able to tell their friends, BFFs and the rest of their social networks in a safe way that parents approve of.  (more…)

New Beginnings Part Two

suburbFor Part One, head here.

Times of transition – think: getting married, having a baby, moving into a new home, even getting divorced – are noted for being exciting and daunting, energizing and exhausting. They can make us stressed-out and blissed-out simultaneously. But did you know they also change (and sometimes increase) your risk of falling prey to identity fraud?

Truth be told, neither did I. But some surprising new research conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of LifeLock shows that’s exactly what happens. By understanding how these life shifts impact your vulnerability, you also give yourself the opportunity to mount a good offense during these transitional times. Here, the highlights of the research and what you should do next.

(more…)

New Beginnings Part One

Work life balance conceptTimes of transition – think: getting married, having a baby, moving into a new home, even getting divorced – are noted for being exciting and daunting, energizing and exhausting. They can make us stressed-out and blissed-out simultaneously. But did you know they also change (and sometimes increase) your risk of falling prey to identity fraud?

Truth be told, neither did I. But some surprising new research conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of LifeLock shows that’s exactly what happens. By understanding how these life shifts impact your vulnerability, you also give yourself the opportunity to mount a good offense during these transitional times. Here, the highlights of the research and what you should do next.

(more…)

The Death of Bake Sales on Morning Joe

This morning I chatted with Leigh Gallagher on the demise of U.S. bake sales in schools. See what we had to say on Morning Joe:

*Not seeing the video? Some browsers block videos on secure websites like ours. In your address bar, remove the “s” after http at the start of the web address, then reload the page. The video should appear. If you still have issues, contact us.

Money Sense on Fortune and Survey Results

Senior adults with their adult children.Last week, I asked my newsletter subscribers and some of my Twitter and Facebook fans to take a survey about how they feel when discussing money — if they talk about money at all, that is. In this week’s FORTUNE column, I go over my survey findings and discuss how couples can break down the barriers that prevent us from having regular talks about our money.

You can head over to Fortune.com to view the column, but below are some additional results from Talking Money in Your Social Circle: A Do, or a Taboo?

Want in on the fun next time? Subscribe to my newsletter here.

 

Q: Please rank the following conversation topics (sex, money, politics, religion and health) on the level of discomfort you experience, lowest to highest (1-5), when discussing them in your social circles.

A: Out of the above, you’re more likely to break a sweat when the conversation turns to what happens behind the bedroom doors. Over the weekend, politics replaced money for second place.

Q: Now, tell us how you feel discussing money with each of the following groups.

A: When discussing money in specific social circles, you’re more uncomfortable having the conversation with your colleagues and siblings than you are with your friends, parents and partners.

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 8.45.26 AM

Q: In general, how often do you avoid having conversations about money?

A: Roughly 38% of you answered “sometimes,” while 33% answered “rarely.”

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Q: Why are you less likely to talk about money in your social groups? Check all that apply.

A: With colleagues, it’s privacy and competition. With family, you said it either turns into a conflict — or conversely, it’s not a problem at all. And with friends, it’s both privacy and jealousy.

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Q: Which of the following money-related topics do you avoid discussing at all costs? Check all that apply.

A: Total assets and income top the list.

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Financial Resources for Caregivers

stressStepping in to help your parents with their finances is no easy undertaking. Here’s a list of resources that you may find helpful – as many people before you have:

Benefitscheckup.org. Do your parents qualify for special programs to help pay for medications, healthcare, food, utilities and more? This site, run by the National Council on Aging, can help you find out – and guide you through the process.

Eldercare.gov. This site, run by the U.S. Administration on Aging, can help you search out resources in your community for a wide variety of needs including Alzheimer’s, financial assistance, fraud prevention, housing options, legal assistance, long term care, and many more. If you’re more comfortable speaking with a person, lines are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. M-F ET at 800-677-1116.

AARP’s Planning Guide For Families. A downloadable guide to walk you and the rest of your family through the ins-and-outs of stepping up to provide care, financial and otherwise.

SHIP or the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. The program provides one-on-one counseling about Medicare to Medicare recipients and their families. If you’re confused about your parents’ options, SHIP counselors can work with you face-to-face or on the phone.

Alzheimer’s Association. If you’re concerned about the warning signs of Alzheimer’s or have a diagnosis and need to explore options for care, financial planning or find other local resources, the caregiver center on the Alzheimer’s Association website is a good place to begin.

My Weekly Meal Plan

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who recently attended my Mom Corps webinar — or for anyone looking to save a little extra money on groceries — I share with you my Weekly Meal Plan worksheet. As always, making a plan, and sticking to it, will help you save. Enjoy!

Download here!

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 WealthPilgrim.com and MCMHA.org.  He is a regular contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post and other mainstream media publications.   

Mailbag Monday: Overwhelmed by College Costs

gradI have two children in college (and one in high school). We have exhausted their 529 accounts. I have already taken out Parent Plus loans to the extent I can afford at this point due to other financial setbacks. After financial aid, we still need to borrow to cover all the tuition/room and board costs. What are the best options, or what should we look for in obtaining loans for our children? Anything you can provide would be appreciated. I’m overwhelmed at this point.

– Nicolette

Hi Nicolette. I get where you’re coming from – it is overwhelming. And you’re smart to recognize when you’ve come to your own limit in terms of borrowing. At this point, the borrowing will fall to your children and the rule to stick to is to make sure they’ve exhausted their ability to take out federal loans before even considering private ones.

I also want you to take another look at your financial aid situation and call the financial aid offices at the schools your children are attending. Talk to a financial aid officer about the financial setbacks you’ve faced – particularly if they occurred after you originally applied for aid – and ask if there’s anything the school can do to help. Then have a very frank talk with your children about borrowing and how much they will have to repay when they graduate from school. Break it down for them so they can see what their monthly loan payments will look like. And if they’re overwhelmed by the thought, talk to them about the fact that they have options. They may want to consider transferring to schools that will offer them more in aid or working while they’re in school (and perhaps taking a lighter course load) to minimize borrowing.

Finally, the website fastweb.org has a terrific database of scholarships and grants and you’ll want to pore through it together. And when your next child goes through the process of selecting a college, make sure a good value is one of the criteria on your list.

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