There is really no reason to wait.
October is here – the ideal time for college students to apply for financial aid. October 1, in fact, marks the first day a current or future college student can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for the 2019-20 academic year. Since some states offer aid on a first-come, first-serve basis, submitting a FAFSA as soon as possible is wise.1,2
You can even apply using your phone. Install the new myStudentAid app created by the Department of Education, available for iOS and Android operating systems. While filling out the FAFSA takes time whether you use a PC, tablet, phone, or pen, it may feel easier to start on a phone. In fact, Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of SavingForCollege.com, just remarked to CNBC that the mobile app was “much easier to use, even fun.” The FAFSA asks students and parents more than 100 questions, so any degree of “fun” is good. (Thanks to the new app, you can start filling out a FAFSA on a computer and finish it on a phone, and vice versa.)1,2
Due to the new phone app, more FAFSAs might be filed this year. Slightly more than 20 million FAFSAs were submitted for the 2014-15 award cycle; in contrast, just over 10 million were filed for 2018-19. This decline might reflect an improved economy and a boost in household wealth, but it may be temporary.2
What should your student have handy while filling out the form? After creating an FSA ID (a username, a password), your student will need to reference all kinds of personal information, some of which will be yours. The FAFSA asks for birth dates, Social Security numbers, and driver’s license numbers. It asks for financial information: savings account balances, home values, investment account values. (It does not require you to report balances of workplace retirement plan accounts, pension plans, or IRAs.) Untaxed income must be figured; interest income and child support fall into that category.1
All FAFSAs now require federal tax information from the year that is two years prior to the current award cycle. In other words, on this year’s FAFSA, you need to include federal tax information from 2017. This may not be as arduous as it sounds because you can use the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (irsdataretrievaltool.com). This online tool lets you import your 2017 federal tax information straight into the FAFSA; it is accessed through a “Link to I.R.S.” button. (Information input into the Data Retrieval Tool must match what appeared in the federal tax return.)2,3
A FAFSA must list at least one college or university that the student currently attends or wants to attend. When multiple schools are listed, grant awards are made to the school listed first. (Colleges and universities can also be removed from a list of multiple schools.)1
Anyone who provides data for a FAFSA (a student, a parent, a college access advisor) must also sign that FAFSA. Without the appropriate signatures, the application is invalid. When it comes to these signatures, here is a tip all parents should remember: never hit the “Start Over” button when you log in to add your signature. If you accidentally click on that, all the information that your student has spent hours entering will be erased.1,2
Financial questions should not be left blank on the FAFSA. If the answer to a question is “none,” put a zero instead of nothing at all. Every monetary amount that includes cents should be rounded to the nearest dollar.1
Unsurprisingly, some families want help when filling out the FAFSA. Recognizing this, the Department of Education offers a 66-page guide to completing the form; you will find it at studentaid.ed.gov. It also provides a FAFSA hotline: (800) 433-3243. You may want to chat with a financial professional who focuses on college planning or a university financial aid officer for additional insight.1
The FAFSA is often a pathway to considerable financial assistance: grants, work study programs, federal student loans. The average FAFSA applicant for the 2015-16 school year received roughly $8,500. A FAFSA costs nothing to fill out or send around, and there is absolutely nothing to lose in submitting one.2
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - tinyurl.com/yd7l9u9z [9/12/18]
2 - cnbc.com/2018/09/18/you-can-now-apply-for-financial-aid-on-your-phone.html [9/18/18]
3 - studentaid.ed.gov/sa/resources/irs-drt-text [9/27/18]
As you start a family, consider these ideas.
Being a parent means being responsible to a degree you never have been before. That elevated responsibility also impacts your financial decisions. You are now a provider and a protector, and that reality may make the following financial moves necessary.
Think about a budget. As a couple, you may have lived for years without budgeting. As parents, this may change. You will face new recurring costs: clothes, toys, diapers, food. Keeping track of weekly or monthly expenses will be handy. (The Department of Agriculture has an online calculator where you can estimate the total cost of raising a child to adulthood. The math may surprise you: the U.S.D.A. puts the average cost at $233,610 for a middle-income family.)1,2
Take care of health and life insurance. Your child should be added to your health insurance plan quickly. Most insurance providers require you to notify them of a child’s birth within 30 days. You can get started before then; be aware that a Social Security number and birth certificate can take weeks to arrive in the mail. If you are in a group health plan, talk with the human resources officer or benefits administrator at work, and let them know that you want to add a dependent to your health care plan. (If you have coverage through a private plan, your premiums may go up after you notify the carrier.) Under the Affordable Care Act, a parent or legal guardian who has health coverage arranged through the federal or state Marketplace has 60 days from the date of birth or adoption to enroll a child as a dependent on their plan; once that is done, health care coverage for the child will apply, retroactively.3
Term life insurance provides an affordable way for new parents to have some financial insulation against a worst-case scenario, and disability insurance (which may be available where you work) provides coverage in the event of an extended illness or injury that stops you from doing your job. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), you can contribute more per year when you have a child. The maximum annual contribution for a family is currently set at $6,850 (and for the record, the I.R.S. is allowing families to contribute up to $6,900 in 2018).4
Draft a will and review beneficiary designations. A will can do more than declare who receives your assets when you die. It can also name a legal guardian for your child in the event both parents pass away. Additionally, you can specify a guardian of your estate in your will, to manage the assets left to a minor child. While you may have named your spouse or partner as the primary beneficiary of your IRA or investment account, you may decide to change that or at least add your child as a contingent beneficiary.5
See if you can save a little for college. The estimated cost of four years at a public university starting in 2036? $184,000, CNBC reports. That may convince you to open a 529 plan or have some other kind of dedicated college savings account with investment options. Most 529 plans require a Social Security number for a beneficiary, so they are commonly started after a child is born, rather than before.2,6
Review your withholding status and tax forms. An addition to your family means changes. You may also become eligible for some federal tax breaks, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Adoption Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Child & Dependent Care Credit.7
Keep the big picture in mind. You still need to build retirement savings; you still need to have an emergency fund. Becoming a family might make accomplishing those tasks harder, yet they remain just as important.
After reading all this, you may feel like you need to be a millionaire to raise a child. The fact is, most parents are not millionaires, and they manage. Whether you are wealthy or not, you will want to take care of many or all of these financial and insurance essentials before or after you bring your newborn home.
1 - cnpp.usda.gov/tools/CRC_Calculator/default.aspx [9/20/18]
2 - tinyurl.com/y8rlmm7w [2/26/18]
3 - healthcare.com/info/health-insurance/baby-health-insurance-newborn [10/18/17]
4 - tinyurl.com/ya5g75ez [5/1/18]
5 - everplans.com/articles/what-does-a-guardian-of-the-estate-do [9/20/18]
6 - cnbc.com/2018/05/07/this-is-how-much-parents-need-to-save-to-cover-college-bills-in-2036.html [5/7/18]
7 - efile.com/tax-deductions-credits-for-parents-with-children-dependents/ [9/20/18]
Riding all of the stock market’s ups – and none of its downs – is a popular fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to skip rough patches such as early 2018, late 2015 or all of 2008?
Alas, it’s impossible. Even the greatest investors are wrong maybe a third of the time.
But here’s some good news: You don’t need perfect timing to achieve marvelous returns. Time in the market beats timing the market – almost always.
Why? Consider three make-believe siblings, each with $10,000 to invest in U.S. stocks each year from 1977 to 2018 – a stretch that includes five bear markets.
Pretend they bought the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index (broader than the Dow).
Janette, with perfect timing, invests at each year’s monthly market low, earning each year’s full upside. Jebediah, a terrible timer, invests at each year’s monthly market high, missing more gains and capturing more downside. Jackpot, the clever youngest brother, knows he has no timing ability. He invests the first day of each year.
Fast-forward to June 2018. Janette’s 41 years of perfect timing earned an average annual return of 11.4 percent for a cool $8.2 million. No-timing Jackpot was close behind, with an 11.1 percent return and $7.8 million – still great. Even terrible-timing Jebediah got a 10.8 percent return – turning his $410,000 in contributions into $6.7 million. Sure, it's rewarding enough, but lagging little brother, no-timing Jackpot by $1.1 million is a high price to pay for bad timing.
Being Janette is impossible. Even trying to be Janette runs the risk of becoming Jebediah – or worse. Fancy timing increases the likelihood of errors.People want to buy after stocks rise, not after they drop. Were you eagerly buying this March, when the early-year correction avalanched? Or in February 2016 as headlines hyped election risks at the bottom of an eight-month slide? Or in March 2009 at the depths of the financial crisis? As I said last week, the best time to buy is surely when people least want to.
But time overwhelmingly swamps timing, good or bad. How so?
Consider Jill and Joaquin. Jill invests $10,000 in U.S. stocks each year, starting in 1977. Like Jebediah, Jill has terrible timing, buying at each year’s monthly market high. Then, Jill stops contributing after 10 years, stops trading and just lets her S&P 500 stocks ride. Meanwhile, procrastinating Joaquin waits till 1987 to start investing his $10,000 annually. Yet Joaquin has perfect timing and, unlike Jill, keeps adding $10,000 every year through 2018. Surely this deck must be stacked against Jill.
No. Even with poor timing, Jill turned her $100,000 in contributions to $216,576 in stocks by the time Joaquin invests his first $10,000. Her head start more than offsets Joaquin’s perfect timing and greater total contributions. In June 2018, she has just over $5 million. Joaquin has less than half that, around $2.1 million. Jill’s compound time-in-the-market growth trounced Joaquin’s perfect timing.
Think you’d never be Joaquin? As I wrote last month, many investors left stocks after the financial crisis and stayed away for years. Many still haven’t returned. Yet since the March 9, 2009, low, U.S. stocks are up 419 percent with dividends. Since the precrisis peak? Up 132 percent. You didn’t need marvelous timing to come out ahead.
Remember these examples the next time markets sag and you want to bail – or the next time you have cash you’re waiting to invest. Is your desire to avoid bad times worth the risk of being Jebediah or Joaquin?
Author: Keneth Fisher
For millennials, today is the right time.
If you are under 30, you have likely heard that now is the ideal time to save and invest. You know that the power of compound interest is on your side; you recognize the potential advantages of an early start.
There is only one problem: you do not earn enough money to invest. You are barely getting by as it is.
Regardless, the saving and investing effort can still be made. Even a minimal effort could have a meaningful impact later.
Can you invest $20 a week? There are 52 weeks in a year. What would saving and investing $1,040 a year do for you at age 25? Suppose the invested assets earn 7% a year, an assumption that is not unreasonable. (The average yearly return of the S&P 500 through history is roughly 10%; during 2013-17, its average return was +13.4%.) At a 7% return and annual compounding, you end up with $14,876 after a decade in this scenario, according to Bankrate’s compound interest calculator. By year 10, your investment account is earning nearly as much annually ($939) as you are putting into it ($1,040).1,2
You certainly cannot retire on $14,876, but the early start really matters. Extending the scenario out, say you keep investing $20 a week under the same conditions for 40 years, until age 65. As you started at age 25, you are projected to have $214,946 after 40 years, off just $41,600 in total contributions.2
This scenario needs adjustment considering a strong probability: the probability that your account contributions will grow over time. So, assume that you have $14,876 after ten years, and then you start contributing $175 a week to the account earning 7% annually starting at age 35. By age 65, you are projected to have $1,003,159.2
Even if you stop your $20-per-week saving and investing effort entirely after 10 years at age 35, the $14,876 generated in that first decade keeps growing to $113,240 at age 65 thanks to 7% annual compounded interest.2
How do you find the money to do this? It is not so much a matter of finding it as assigning it. A budgeting app can help: you can look at your monthly cash flow and designate a small part of it for saving and investing.
Should you start an emergency savings fund first, then invest? One school of thought says that is the way to go – but rather than think either/or, think both. Put a ten or twenty (or a fifty) toward each cause, if your budget allows. As ValuePenguin notes, many deposit accounts are yielding 0.01% interest.3
It does not take much to start saving and investing for retirement. Get the ball rolling with anything, any amount, today, for the power of compounding is there for you to harness. If you delay the effort for a decade or two, building adequate retirement savings could prove difficult.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/average-stock-market-return/ [2/28/18]
2 - bankrate.com/calculators/savings/compound-savings-calculator-tool.aspx [7/26/18]
3 - valuepenguin.com/average-savings-account-interest-rates [7/26/18]
Save and invest, year after year, to put the full power of compounding on your side.
Have you been saving for retirement for a decade or more? In the foreseeable future, something terrific is likely to happen with your IRA or your workplace retirement plan account. At some point, its yearly earnings should begin to exceed your yearly contributions.
Just when could this happen? The timing depends on several factors, and the biggest factor may simply be consistency – your ability to keep steadily investing and saving. The potential for this phenomenon is apparent for savers who start early and savers who start late. Here are two mock scenarios.
Christina starts saving for retirement at age 23. After college, she takes a job paying $45,000 a year. Each month, she directs 10% of her salary ($375) into a workplace retirement plan account. The investments in that account earn 6% per year. Thirteen years later, Christina is still happily working at the same firm and still regularly putting 10% of her pay into the retirement plan each month. She now earns $58,200 a year, so her monthly 10% contribution has risen over the years from $375 to $485.1
The ratio of account contributions to account earnings has tilted during this time. After eight years of saving and investing, the ratio is about 2:1 – for every two dollars going into the account, a dollar is being earned by its investments. During year 13, the ratio hits 1:1 – the account starts to return more than $500 per month, with a big assist from compound interest. In years thereafter, the 6% return the investments realize each year tops her year’s worth of contributions to the principal. (Her monthly contributions have grown by more than 20% during these 13 years, and that also has had an influence.)1
Fast forward to 35 years later. Christina is now 58 and nearing retirement age, and she earns $86,400 annually, meaning her 10% monthly salary deferral has nearly doubled over the years from the initial $375 to $720. This has helped her build savings, but not as much as the compounding on her side. At 58, her account earns about $2,900 per month at a 6% rate of return – more than four times her monthly account contribution.1
Lori needs to start saving for retirement at age 49. Pragmatic, she begins putting $1,000 a month into a workplace retirement plan. Her account returns 7% a year. (For this example, we will assume Lori maintains her sizable monthly contribution rate for the duration of the account.) By age 54, thanks to compound interest, she has $73,839 in her account. After a decade of contributing $12,000 per year, she has $177,403. She manages to work until age 69, and after 20 years, the account holds $526,382.2
These examples omit some possible negatives – and some possible positives. They do not factor in a prolonged absence from the workforce or bad years for the market. Then again, the 6% and 7% consistent returns used above also disregard the chance of the market having great years.
Repeatedly, investors are cautioned that past performance is no guarantee or indicator of future success. This is true. It is also true that the yearly total return of the S&P 500 (that is, dividends included) averaged 10.2% from 1917-2017. Just stop and consider that 10.2% average total return in view of all the market cycles Wall Street went through in those 100 years.2
Keep in mind, when the yearly earnings of your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan account do start to exceed your yearly contributions, that is not a time to scale back your contributions. Your retirement account will not do all your retirement saving work for you at that point; you still need to keep the momentum of your saving effort going – and maintaining it will assist the compounding.
1 - time.com/money/5204859/retirement-investments-savings-compounding/ [3/21/18]
2 - fool.com/investing/2018/05/16/how-to-invest-1000-a-month.aspx [5/16/18]
Now is the time to explore the possibilities.
Grandparents Day provides a reminder of the bond between grandparents and grandchildren and the importance of family legacies.
A family legacy can have multiple aspects. It can include much more than heirlooms and appreciated assets. It may also include guidance, even instructions, about what to do with the gifts that are given. It should reflect the values of the giver.
What are your legacy assets? Financially speaking, a legacy asset is something that will outlast you, something capable of producing income or wealth for your descendants. A legacy asset might be a company you have built. It might be a trust that you create. It might be a form of intellectual property or a portfolio of real property. A legacy asset should never be sold – not so long as it generates revenue that could benefit your heirs.
To help these financial legacy assets endure, you need an appropriate legal structure. It could be a trust structure; it could be an LLC or corporate structure. You want a structure that allows for reasonable management of the legacy assets in the future – not just five years from now, but 50 or 75 years from now.1
Think far ahead for a moment. Imagine that forty years from now, you have 12 heirs to the company you founded, the valuable intellectual property you created, or the real estate holdings you amassed. Would you want all 12 of your heirs to manage these assets together?
Probably not. Some of those heirs may not be old enough to handle such responsibility. Others may be reluctant or ill-prepared to take on the role. At some point, your grandkids may decide that only one of them should oversee your legacy assets. They may even ask a trust officer or an investment professional to take on that responsibility. This can be a good thing because sometimes the beneficiaries of legacy assets are not necessarily the best candidates to manage them.
Values are also crucial legacy assets. Early on, you can communicate the importance of honesty, humility, responsibility, compassion, and self-discipline to your grandkids. These virtues can help young adults do the right things in life and guide their financial decisions. Your estate plan can articulate and reinforce these values, and perhaps, link your grandchildren’s inheritance to the expression of these qualities.
You may also make gifts with a grandchild’s education or retirement in mind. For example, you could fully fund a Roth IRA for a grandchild who has earned income or help an adult grandchild fund their Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA with a small outright gift. Custodial accounts represent another option: a grandparent (or parent) can control assets in a 529 plan or UTMA account until the grandchild reaches legal age.3
Make sure to address the basics. Is your will up to date with regard to your grandchildren? How about the beneficiary designations on your IRA or your life insurance policy? Creating a trust may be a smart move. In fact, you can set up a living irrevocable trust fund for your grandkids, which can actually begin distributing assets to them while you are alive. While you no longer own assets you place into an irrevocable trust (which is overseen by a trustee), you may be shielded from estate, gift, and even income taxes related to those assets with appropriate planning.4
This Grandparents Day, think about the legacy you are planning to leave. Your thoughtful actions and guidance could help your grandchildren enter adulthood with good values and a promising financial start.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - forbes.com/sites/danielscott1/2017/09/04/three-common-goals-every-legacy-plan-should-have/ [9/4/17]
2 - wealthmanagement.com/high-net-worth/key-considerations-preparing-family-legacy-plan [3/27/17]
3 - marketwatch.com/story/whats-next-after-planning-your-retirement-help-your-children-and-grandchildren-plan-for-theirs-2017-10-17 [10/17/17]
4 - investopedia.com/articles/pf/12/set-up-a-trust-fund.asp [1/23/18]