Category: Accounting

Student Loan Myths

Student Loan Myths

Many people take out student loans in an attempt to ensure they earn more over their working lives. Overall student loan debt in the US is now more than $1.5 trillion. Those in such debt generally have a great desire to pay it off. This leads to many myths around the subject of student loan debt. Here are a few to avoid.

You Can’t Pay Student Loans Early

There is a common myth that says you have to pay the stated amount each month and that it’s impossible to pay off student loan debt early. This is not the case. It is indeed possible to pay extra and take care of student loans before the actual term of the loan is finish. There’s no penalty for paying early, and you may be able to save thousands in interest costs in the process.

You’re Stuck With Your Interest Rate

Student loans can come from the government, and they can come from private lenders. Those who take out loans from multiple lenders will likely get stuck with a variety of interest rates. Private loans can come with higher interest rates, but there’s no need to be stuck with a bad rate. It’s possible to refinance these loans and save money in the process. There is the possibility to consolidate the loans into one loan if you have a good credit score.

You Can Skip Payments

Some borrowers are stuck with very large student loan payments each month. There is an option for income-based repayment plans. Others might think skipping a payment or two is a good idea from a cash flow standpoint. Actually, this idea could not be further from the truth. Going into default on a student loan will hurt your credit score. Additionally, the interest will continue to compound on the unpaid amount, which will increase the amount of debt you actually owe.

Public Service Forgiveness Is Free Money

There is a program in place that allows borrowers who work in public service to have their student loan debt forgiven after spending 10 years serving the public. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not free money. You’ll have to claim the amount of the debt that gets discharged as income on your tax return, and you’ll owe taxes on that amount.

Student loans can be scary. The amount that college students are willing to borrow has grown in recent years. There are many myths that surround repayment. Don’t get caught up in believing them. They can wind up costing you even more money.

4 Ways to Wisely Use Your Tax Refund

4 Ways to Wisely Use Your Tax Refund (1)

Now that tax season is fully underway, you may be thinking about what you want to do with your tax return when it comes in.  For some, it might go right into a savings account.  For others, it might be an opportunity to splurge on different items you’ve had your eye on.  A healthy balance between the two, is looking into some wiser ways you can utilize your refund.  If you’re waiting on your refund to come in, consider some of these great options to put it towards:

Contribute to Your Emergency Fund

You may have one already, and if you don’t, it might be a good time to consider starting one.  An emergency fund is a great tool to have in case you encounter an unfortunate major expense that you wouldn’t regularly have the funding for.  You can contribute to your emergency fund on a regular basis depending on your pay schedule. However, when your tax refund comes in, depending on the amount, you may be able to make a large contribution, and give yourself a better financial cushion in the event of an unexpected expense.

Invest in a Down Payment

You may be in the process of looking for a new home, or even a car.  Both of these purchases are likely to require some sort of down payment, especially if you want your monthly payments reduced as much as possible.  Your tax return is a great way to contribute to a downpayment and significantly lower what your monthly costs or the length of your finance or mortgage term will be.  If you’re buying a home, for example, this lump sum of money will be a great contribution to your down payment or even your closing costs.

Pay Down High-Interest Debt or a Mortgage Payment

Any debt you’ve been carrying for a while is likely racking up interest, and depending on the company or what type of loan it is, the interest rate could be extremely high.  Your tax return would be a great way to pay down some high-interest debt and bring you closer to having it paid off completely. Additionally, you can also consider contributing to your mortgage payment if you’re a homeowner.  However, you should always make sure that your mortgage company isn’t going to charge you a penalty for early or pre-payment.  If you’re certain you won’t get a penalty charge, consider using your tax return to make some additional mortgage payments.

Make a Home Investment

If you’ve been wanting to make some interior or exterior home updates, refund time is a great time to do it.  This extra money may help you make improvements or updates that you might not have been financially ready for before.  In the long run, this will ultimately improve the value of your home while turning it into exactly what you envisioned.

Great Ways to Boost Your Credit

Great Ways to Boost Your Credit

 

One of the many ways we are “defined” by society, is by our credit score and history.  Your credit information has a very significant impact on not only your personal finances but also a majority of your life and different events you may experiences, such as buying your first home.  The first step in credit management is establishing your credit score. Once this is done, it’s important to remember that you’ll want to continue to build your credit up in various ways; you can do this by gradually making small credit charges or larger transactions such as financing or leasing your first vehicle.  Always remember that any credit charges you make need to be paid back within a specific period of time, and late payments can negatively impact your score, as well as result in late charges and higher interest payments. Here are some great tips for boosting your credit:

Make Payments On-Time

Whenever you make a credit charge, you should keep the payment due date noted somewhere where it will help you remember.  Credit cards are a great tool for boosting your credit when they are used properly; however, they can do more harm than good when they aren’t managed correctly.  Any credit card charges you make should always be paid on early or on time. This will give you a good rapport with the credit company, as well as boost your score.  You’ll also avoid any late charges, and you’ll have a better chance of getting future credit cards and other purchases with low-interest rates.

Avoid Making Minimum Payments

While minimum payments are an option that you’ll usually see when you’re making a payment, it’s best to pay your bills in full if you can.  Minimum payments tend to extend your payback period, as you’ll incur interest that can sometimes make a minimum payment useless. Do your best to make any payments in full.  If you’re unable to make them in full, try to pay back well over the minimum, to tackle the balance the best you can.

Address Any Late Bills or Payments

Late bills or payments can happen sometimes.  As humans, we forget, and it isn’t uncommon. You may have changed bank accounts or hit a financial hardship that caused you to get set back on some payments.  If that’s the case, once you’re in a better financial position, work on getting any late payments or bills settled as quickly as possible. This will help bring your credit score back up if it’s taken a hit recently.

Steps to Setting Up a 529 College Savings Plan

As a parent, your number one concern is always your children and how you can best provide for them.  While they may be young still, the future of their education is likely only a few years away, and as time goes on, college tuition costs are increasing drastically.  This may concern you, especially if you’re still paying off your own loans from your college days! Luckily, there’s hope, and a great way to get your little one’s future college finances in order.  The solution: a 529 college savings plan. Wondering the best way to set one up? Here are some simple tips:

Pick a Plan that Works Best for You

When it comes to 529 plans, it’s not as simple as just one.  There are two main types of 529 saving plans that you can choose from.  You can decide if a prepaid plan works best for you, or if an investment plan is a better choice.  If you decide on a prepaid plan, you can think of it as a locked-in plan. You generally pay for a year or a portion of the tuition ahead of time, locking in the price.  Depending on your state, the requirement can vary. Investment plans give you the ability to choose how you want to invest your funds, and how you can use the money depending on the institution that’s chosen down the road.

Open the Account

To open your 529 account, you’ll need to submit an application; this can generally be completed online; however, in some cases, you may need to mail it in.  Additionally, you’ll need to choose the right account to work with, whether it’s an Individual (Custodial), Trust, or Business account. From there, you’ll choose the custodian (likely yourself), and the beneficiary, (your child).

Choose the Right Investments

Your investment portfolio is the next step in your process, and it usually depends on your investment preferences.  In most cases, you can choose an age-based portfolio that lines up with the age of your child (beneficiary). This way is usually the easiest way to manage your investments.  You can also go with an individual portfolio that will give you the ability to build your investments on your own, any way you’d like. Either way, you’re able to switch your options and change them if you want to down the road.

Submit Application & Deposit Funds

When your application is completed, either a physical copy to mail in, or done electronically online, you can submit everything with either a check or electronic funds sent to the account.  It’s always important to make sure the submitted information is accurate, or it could prolong the process.

Saving for Your Child’s College Education

SAVING FOR YOUR CHILD'S COLLEGE EDUCATION

 

With the rapidly rising cost of college tuition, parents are well-justified in their anxiousness about how to pay for their child’s education. There is a myriad of options for parents wanting to get a head start in saving for this big investment. Although it can often be overwhelming deciding what path to take when planning for your child’s educational future and how to pay for it, here are a few of the top options to consider for your savings plan:

529 College Plan

The gold standard of college saving is the 529 plan. Also known as Qualified Tuition Programs (QTP), this plan allows parents to invest after-tax money into a qualified fund and then withdraw that money and its gains tax-free to put toward use for educational expenses. With more than 30 states offering these type of plans, it pays to shop around to find the best fit for your individual needs.

Roth IRA

Although this type of investment is most associated with retirement savings, a Roth IRA can also be an invaluable vehicle when saving for college expenses. The withdraw rules are similar to the 529, however, investors can use the Roth dividends to also go toward retirement, giving this type of plan more flexibility should your child not pursue a higher education.

Prepaid College Tuition Plans

Self-explanatory in nature, these plans allow parents the benefit of pre-paying for college at today’s prices. By locking in current prices, parents can guard themselves against rapidly escalating costs while also saving money.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

This trust applies to both college education expenses as well as costs incurred at K-12 levels. Although the terms are more flexible, a Coverdell account comes with a $2,000 annual limit, making this choice a deterrent for families wishing to contribute more.

UGMA and UTMA Custodial Accounts

Although these accounts do not have as many tax advantages as its Roth or 529 counterparts, they can be gifted to a child for any reason. Unlike other investment accounts geared toward education, these accounts are placed in the child’s name, giving them full control over the money when the term expires. Conversely, since the child owns the fund, the amount of qualifying aid might be affected.

4 Ways to Make Money During Your Morning Commute

It’s normal to dread your morning commute as you spend time in traffic before arriving at the office for a long day of work. Although it may seem like a waste of time sitting on the bus or train, there are ways that you can earn extra money before arriving at the workplace. If you want to make cash during your commute, there are a few different methods to consider to occupy your time each morning.

Sell Items on eBay

Selling items on eBay.com or Amazon.com is an excellent way to supplement your income and enjoy a fun hobby. You can create a seller’s account and list items that are sitting in your attic or that you find at yard sales. Drop shipping is also available where you purchase items for lower prices on other websites and list them for a higher price. Drop shipping is convenient because you don’t have to worry about having the items in your possession and manually shipping everything.

Sell Your Handmade Goods

Whether you enjoy making knitted scarves or jewelry items, you can sell your handmade goods on Etsy.com without worrying about having to get a business license. Take high-quality photos of each product and write a thorough description that engages the reader to attract more customers.

Write

If you’re good with words, you can make extra cash by writing articles and selling them to clients online. Creating your own blog is also a great way to earn money by attracting traffic to your website when you write posts based on topics that you enjoy and are knowledgable about, which can include cooking or fashion. You can integrate SEO tools to increase your ranking on search engines and make it easier for people to find your blog online.

Take Surveys

According to lovemoney.com, many websites offer gift cards and cash to individuals who take surveys. The websites will also pay you to watch commercials and ads. Each activity that you perform will allow you to earn points, which can be redeemed for money over a period of time. You can use the money to save for an upcoming trip or use for Christmas gifts, which can allow more wiggle room in your budget for your daily expenses.

6 Tips for Saving Money

When it comes to saving money, Americans are notoriously bad. Last month CNN reported that “nearly six in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 or $1,000 unplanned expense” (Vasel). If you are one of the six Americans that CNN is referring to, then you’ll find the below tips useful.

Track the Money You Spend

You can’t save money if you’re not sure how much you spend each month. Every time you buy something make sure you get a receipt. Then at the end of the month tally up all of your expenses. If you’re comfortable with online tools, Mint is one of the easiest ways to track everything in one location. Tracking your expenses will show you where you spend the most money. If you find that you spend too much money on entertainment each month, then you might need to rethink your spending habits.

Plan a Budget

After tracking your expenses for a couple of months, you can create a monthly budget. This budget will help prevent you from overspending. Once you have a budget you’ll be better able to make spending decisions each month.

Start Saving

You should include a savings category as part of your budget. Saving 10-15% of your income each month is a good starting point. If you find that percentage to be too high, you might need to take a second look at your expenses. Think about cutting back on non-essential expenses like buying coffee each day or dining out each week.

Create a Savings Goal

It’s easier to save money when you have a goal you’re saving for. It’s easier to give up your daily latte when you’re saving for a vacation or a house. An emergency fund is another good savings goal. The above CNN article mentioned how unplanned expenses can catch a lot of people off guard. An emergency fund will help you avoid this unpleasant situation.

Pick Your Priorities

Saving money is easier when you prioritize what you’re saving for. For example, if you are saving for a new car you shouldn’t neglect your retirement savings in the process. Once you prioritize your goals you’ll find it easier to start saving money.

Decide How to Save

When most people think about saving money they think about savings accounts. While savings accounts are a great way to save your money, they aren’t the only way to do so. Take a look at this article to learn about the different ways you can save money.

How To: Setting Financial Goals

In order to attain a desired financial security and status, there is a great deal of planning that goes into it. This is where detailed financial goals come in. Goals allow you to set realistic end points and then develop an action plan to achieve them. Before you go setting goals there are a few things you need to consider. The steps below take you through the steps of how to create realistic financial goals that you can achieve both now and in the future.

Set Guidelines

Guidelines are the first step of setting your financial goals. Guidelines will keep you accountable, but also keep you from putting things out of your reach. There are a few parameters you will want to keep in mind.

First, be specific. Vague goals only muddle the process and will distract you.

Then, you will need to make sure the goals you set are measurable. If there is nothing to gauge your success of off, how will you know when you’ve gotten there?

Be honest with yourself. Set goals that are attainable. Lofty goals are great, but a lofty goal should still be possible with enough tenacity and planning.

Finally, have time constraints. If you do not set a deadline, nothing will get done. It’s in our nature to work harder for goals that have a reasonable, concrete deadline.

Identify Financial Goals

Now that you have guidelines in place, it’s time to think about what your goals actually are. What do you want to achieve? When identifying goals, ask yourself the tough questions about your finance to see where improvements can be made.

Here’s a few things to get your wheels turning:

How much would you need to save to stop working?
Are you happy with your spending habits or could you make a change?
Do you want to retire early? If so, what will you be comfortable living off of per year?

Once you have given your financial situation proper attention, it’s time to come up with goals. Your goals should range from short term to long term. Some goals should piggyback off each other. They will make a road map on your way one ultimate financial philosophy. For most people, this means financial independance.

Long Term vs. Short Term

Once you have a list of defined goals, you’ll need to label them long term goals or short term goals. Short term goals should be things you can achieve in a year. They will often be the stepping stones for long term goals. You will never be able to declare you’re debt free without paying off things like credit card debt.

Prioritize

Now that you have made a distinction between the goals that are more urgent than the others, we need to take it a step farther. Prioritize the short term goals in order of the most urgent and possibly damaging. If you have many credit cards that are maxed out, they are a financial burden and also detrimental to your credit score. Something of this nature will certainly be put at the top of the list.

Similarly, you will want to prioritize long term goals. If you have a goal that is going to take more aggressive measure of saving or investing to achieve, then this will be your top priority. Labeling each goals in an order of importance, will provide you will clarity and direction to achieve your goals.

Periodically Evaluate

Goals are set with the purpose of signaling when your hard work has paid off. Periodically check in on the progress you are making on your goals. If you are ahead of where you thought you would be – great! If you are behind, you now have the chance to work harder or reevaluate your situation. No matter what, it’s imperative to know where you are and how far you have to go.

Tools Every Accountant Needs

You may not have thought about it, but accountants all need certain tools to do their jobs right. Many of the tools used by accountants are to make the job easier and provide ways of offering better services. Below is a list of a few of the most important things every accountant should have.

Reliable Computer

Invest in a quality computer because it is the one that takes on most of your work for you! Having a fast, reliable computer will allow you to run multiple programs at once. It also gives you the peace of mind that you will be able to do your job effectively.

Tax Software

Tax software eliminates the need to file taxes by hand and saves you a ton of time and headache. Investing in a great tax software will help you serve more clients at a more efficient rate. Plus, tax software will catch any mistakes you may make and gives you the option to correct them. Doing so can save your client a lot of money.

File Encryption

Adding a layer of security to the confidential and sensitive information found on most of the files you have will ensure clients that their information is safe. By having file encryption in place you will be able to email sensitive materials without the risk of the wrong person getting a hold of that information.

Scanner

In order to convert paper files into easily accessible electronic files, you will need a scanner. You can get a traditional scanner/printer combo or even a file scanner specifically for scanning documents and sorting them. These special document scanners often can scan both sides of a double sided documents at the same. They also turn your bulky paper documents into easily accessible PDFs.

Gear Up

You can have the best computer all the software in the world, but nothing beats old school gear. Have a great calculator handy for crunching numbers. Also have plenty of writing utensils and notepads around for note taking. Being able to do the thing the “old fashioned” way never hurts. You may not always be able to rely on technology and having the tools to complete the job are important.

Finance Degree vs Accounting Degree

Students looking to get into finances of any sort are often faced with the dilemma of getting a finance degree of an accounting degree. Each one comes with it’s own unique difficulties and job opportunities. Educating yourself on the difference will give you the knowledge to make a decision that makes sense for you.

Money

Typically, finance degrees yield a higher payout. Wealth managers statistically receive higher salaries because they receive commission off of the portfolios they manage. Accountants on the other hand charge a flat fee for the service they provide. If money is your main motivator – finance may be the better major for you.

Education Requirements

In order to take the CPA exam for accounting, there tends to be a requirement of credit hours that succeed a bachelor’s degree, but fall just short of a masters. If you go this route, it may make sense to continue on your education for a master’s degree for a better understanding. Finance majors on the other hand can get away with a bachelor’s, but will have better job opportunities with a masters. Either way, accounting or finance, a master’s degree seems like the way to go.

Job Opportunities

Both degrees provide graduates with a multitude of job opportunities, but they fall into two separate categories. Those with finance degrees will find themselves with jobs managing wealth and investments. Accountants handle more of the tracking financial data. Again, this comes down to a personal choice of which avenue you will have more of an interest in.

Stress

Who is more stressed – those with degrees in finance or accounting? When it comes to stress, each field has its opportunities to provide stressful work environments, but it all depends on the job you pick. Accountants who tackle tax season may work longer, more stressful hours during tax season but see a significant break for the rest of your year. Those finance majors with wealth management jobs carry their own unpredictable amount of stress depending on the clients and the investments.
Overall, when it comes to picking a major, it all depends on what side of the fence you fall on. Do you want to help people manage and grow their money or track and analyze financial data to create budgets and maintain retirement accounts? Depending on what you choose will be the deciding factor of what degree you will pursue.