529

529 Plans and College Savings

Happy belated #529Day, a day when states try to boost interest and participation in 529 education savings programs with various incentives.

To mark the occasion, we have one of the foremost authorities on 529 plans, Andrea Feirstein, founder and Managing Director at AKF Consulting Group, a leading strategic advisor to public administrators of state investment programs.

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Andrea was extremely knowledgeable and we touched on several topics, including:

What is a 529? A tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs. 529 plans are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.

What’s the tax benefit of a 529 plan? Withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses and earnings in the account are not subject to federal income tax and, in most cases, state income tax. Additionally, some states offer residents of the state specific incentives, like the ability to deduct contributions from state income tax or a matching grant.

What does a 529 plan cost? Fees and expenses vary widely from plan to plan and can include start-up fees, maintenance fees, or sales charges. In general, advisor-sold plans cost more than direct-sold plans. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has developed a tool to help you compare how these fees and expenses can reduce returns.

What happens if my kid doesn’t go to college? Most states allow you to tap the accounts for other children in the family or even for the parents. Those withdrawals that are not used for qualified higher education expenses will be subject to state and federal income taxes and an additional 10 percent federal tax penalty on earnings.

What has changed with the 2018 tax law? Americans can now withdraw funds tax-free from 529 plans to pay for K-12 tuition and other eligible expenses at private and religious schools, up to $10,000 per year. But there’s a caveat: Not all states will conform to the new federal rules. That means before you pull money, be sure to double check with your state.

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529 Plan Q&A

529 Plan Q&A

Happy 5-29 day, a day when states try to boost interest and participation in 529 education savings programs with various incentives. To mark 5-29 Day 2018, it’s time for a refresher Q&A on the popular plan and an update as to what has changed after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act was enacted.

Listener Questions: Student Loans, Retirement Planning, 529 College Savings

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The questions from you guys continue to pour in, and at the current rate of taking one or two a week, we’re never going to clear out the inbox.

Hence today’s episode, one that’s devoted entirely to you guys and your questions! We’ll probably start doing this on a regular basis, maybe once a month or maybe more if you like it. So please let us know by sending a quick note or by leaving a comment in iTunes.

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The first question on today’s episode comes from Britton in South Carolina. There’s cause for celebration as Britton and his wife just learned that a baby is coming! Woot woot! As a police officer and teacher it’s safe to say they’re not raking in the bucks. With a small savings account, and a small chunk of student loan debt remaining, does it make sense to beef up the savings or just get rid of the outstanding loan before the baby comes?

Next up was Alex calling from somewhere overseas. Alex is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Married, no kids, federal employee, making good money, and perhaps most significant, virtually zero expenses, including housing. With the goal of becoming financially independent at a young age, which approach should she be taking with her investments.

The final call comes from Allen in Dallas. Planning for college way down the road, Allen is wondering what’s the best strategy to fund a couple 529 plans for his two kids. These guys are in great shape. If all goes according to plan, college should be taken care of when the time comes.

Before wrapping up, we read a quick listener email regarding the absurd cost of college. It was prompted by our interview with New York Times reporter John Schwartz and his comment that when he went to college at the University of Texas in the 1970s it cost less than $200 a semester. And guess what people, he didn’t graduate with any debt! Amazing how that works.  

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

Have a money question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask

Home ownership has always been considered an essential part of the American Dream.

And while it may be getting harder to accomplish—especially for the millennials—it’s still pretty high on the list of goals. If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it right by doing your homework and asking the right kinds of questions:

  • What can you afford?
  • What do you want in a home, and what do you really need?
  • What does "location, location, location" really mean?
  • How do I decide what to offer on a house?
  • What exactly does the closing process look like?

While it’s hard to ignore all the financial implications of making such a large investment, there are, of course, the equally important issues related to life, family and relationships that arise in buying a home.

And quick postscript to all you millennials out there who want to buy, but feel like the cards are stacked against you...hit up the app store on your phone and put all the tools and technology at your fingertips to use to help you find the best deal possible.

And remember, the American Dream is still very much alive and achievable.  

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

Have a finance related question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

We love feedback so please subscribe and leave us a rating or review in Apple Podcasts!

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Inflation-Proof Your Life

Inflation-Proof Your Life

Worries about rising inflation have spooked stock and bond investors. As a reminder, inflation occurs when the prices of goods and services rise and as a result, every dollar you spend in the economy purchases less. The annual rate of inflation over from 1917 until 2017 has averaged just over 3 percent annually. That might not sound like much, but consider this: today you need $7,272.09 in cash to buy what $1,000 could buy in 50 years ago.

Better Off BONUS call: Investment Property

If there's a piece of property in the family that's on the market, would it make sense to buy it and keep in the family as an investment property? That's the question from Ryan on the latest BONUS call.

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

Have a finance related question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

We love feedback so please subscribe and leave us a rating or review in Apple Podcasts!

Connect with me at these places for all my content:

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Stock Market Correction: What to do Now

Stock Market Correction: What to do Now

We knew that a stock market correction was coming, but why then did everyone seem so shocked when it arrived on Februarys 8th? Corrections, defined as 10 percent drops from the recent highs (January 26th), usually occur every year or so. Until last week, it had been two full years since the major US indexes had corrected. In other words, we were overdue for a drop.

CBS This Morning: Why Stock Market's Recent Volatility is Healthy

A wild week on Wall Street came to an end with a small rally on Friday. I joined CBS This Morning to explain why such volatility might not be a bad thing. 

CBS This Morning: Wall Street Market Correction

Wall Street opens after the Dow suffered its second-worst points drop ever. It closed more than 1,000 points lower Thursday. The worst drop in history, nearly 1,200 points, happened Monday. I join CBS This Morning to discuss why the market is in correction territory.