I was honored to help US News and World Report recently in their article “How Grandparents Can Help Save for College” the author of the article and I discussed how difficult it can be for families to discuss money and saving for college and different ways to broach the subject. We also discussed how the money that a Grandparent has saved for a grandchild can sometimes hurt their financial aid prospects depending on how it is managed. We also discussed different investment vehicles and the pros and cons of each.
I was honored to help US News and World Report recently in their article “6 Mistakes Grandparents Make When Helping Pay for College” we had a nice long conversation which was used for a couple of articles. Discussed in this article are making sure that you do not miss tax breaks, that if you choose to use savings bonds that you title them correctly, and that you are careful about the timing of your gift to the grandchild so that you do not harm their financial aid chances.
If you own a television, you have probably seen one of the many versions of commercials touting the free credit reports. Or as you have browsed the internet, you surely have seen the banner ads with enticing “click here for your free credit report” messages.
The problem is, with so many companies saying that they offer the free reports; I have found that many people don’t know where they are actually supposed to go to get their free reports. But they do know that if they go to those places that are advertising, they are going to be offered something to buy.
The website to use is www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
Equifax, TransUnion, Experion
Well, I hate to break it to you, but when you go to the official website, the three credit bureaus are going to try to sell you something too. They are going to ask you if you want to buy your scores. Do not buy them. They are not the FICO scores that banks use so the score is not very helpful. Getting the reports; now that is tremendously helpful, so definitely do that once a year.
What to look for on your reports
Make sure that there are no duplicate accounts, errors in information reported, or activity that isn’t yours. For information about identity theft refer to the FTC identity theft website.
Which one to get first
This is my personal preference; I like the summary that Equifax provides at the beginning of the report. If you have not printed your free credit reports before, I suggest printing the Equifax report first and looking over the summary, it is educational as well as informational.
How often to get your Free Annual Credit Reports
You can pull all three at once and be done with it until next year. Or spread it out and get one every four months as a way to monitor your information on an ongoing basis. Just keep in mind that, surprisingly, information can vary from credit bureau to credit bureau so spreading it out does not guarantee that errors will be caught in a timely manner. But if you consistently pull them, any errors will be caught once a year.
For further information see the Federal Trade Commission website for the Free Annual Credit Report.
The MOST – Missouri 529 College Savings Plan recently announced that they are offering a dollar-for-dollar match up to $500 per year per account up to a $2,500 lifetime maximum for qualified accounts. This is a privately funded grant, rather than funded by Missouri taxpayers.
Qualifying for the MOST – Missouri 529 College Savings Plan Matching Grant
In order to qualify for the matching grant, you must meet certain criteria. Quoting from the website https://www.missourimost.org/ :
* Applicant must be a parent or legal guardian of the beneficiary.
* Both you and the beneficiary must be Missouri residents.
* You must be the account owner of a MOST 529 account.
* The beneficiary must be 13 or younger (when you are first approved for the matching grant).
* Your household Missouri adjusted gross income must be $74,999 or less.
You must submit an application by June 30th. You will be notified by August 31st if you receive a matching grant. The matching funds will be applied to the account January 31st. You must reapply each year.
For details and to get the application, go to https://www.missourimost.org/.
Saving for college
There is $125,000 available for the matching grant program per year over the next four years for a total of half a million dollars. With the high cost of college constantly in the news, and frequently on the minds of parents, this seems like a no brainer if you are a Missouri resident with a child under 13 and an income under $75,000.
College can be so expensive; it makes sense to create a nest egg to offset as much of that cost as you can. People are often surprised to learn how much small regular investments can grow to over time. If you save $40 a month (think of it as just $10 a week) for 18 years assuming 6% annual growth you would have $15,611 for college. Length of time invested is such a terrific boost to your investment, the longer you have the better. However – being invested is the most important factor. The key is to get started.
College graduation season is here and you know what that means. You have to give up your mancave, junior is moving back home! Boomerang kids are returning home to save money.
Here is a simple idea which will:
1) Allow you to steal a little extra time with your grad before they leave the nest for good
2) Teach your grad to establish a habit of monthly money communication
3) Establish a strategy for your grad to accumulate cash for their own place
Treat the arrangement like a practice run for “the real world” with parents playing the part of the landlord and the grad playing the part of the tenant. On the first of each month the grad pays “rent” to the parents. The parents deposit the “rent” to a savings account for the grad to later use to get their own place.
In the beginning this is about establishing the monthly habits of talking about money with the important people in their life and paying rent, even if the amount is minimal. Then, when the grad has a job, the “rent” should increase making sure it remains affordable. The goals is to eventually get the monthly “rent” up to an amount that is equal to the amount that the grad will be paying once they are out on their own. Do some online research to see what local apartments cost, preferably with roommates.
Agree in advance on a term for the “lease.” Will it be for six months? A year? By the time the “lease” is up on the grad’s childhood bedroom, they should be well on their way to having established a nest egg for a deposit on an apartment and first and last months’ rent. Consider extending the “lease” so they can set aside enough for an emergency fund of six months’ living expenses to set them on a firm foundation.
If you have an especially responsible young adult, let them handle the monthly deposit into the savings account. The real key is to pull out the bank statements and have the monthly discussion about savings and bill-paying. This will establish the habit for future money conversations with roommates and more importantly, one day, a spouse. Savings in the bank and a monthly habit of open communication about money; what a great graduation gift!