Five Good Reasons to E-File Your Tax Return
If you haven't tried IRS e-file before, now is the time. Most taxpayers - more than 80 percent - file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1 billion individual tax returns safely and securely since the nationwide debut of electronic filing in 1990. Fewer people file a paper tax return every year. Here are five good reasons to e-file your tax return:
1. Accurate and complete. E-file is the best way to file an accurate and complete tax return. Tax returns that are incomplete or include errors take longer to process.
2. Safe and secure. Tax preparers and software companies who e-file must meet strict guidelines and provide the best in encryption technology. You receive an acknowledgement within 48 hours that the IRS received your tax return. If the IRS does not accept your tax return, you will receive notification and can quickly correct your return and resubmit it.
3. Faster refunds. An e-filed tax return usually means a faster refund compared to a paper return. The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days. If you choose direct deposit, your refund goes directly into your bank account. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get your refund. About three out of four taxpayers who file receive a tax refund. Last year the average refund was about $2,700.
4. Payment options. If you owe tax, you can e-file early and set an automatic payment date anytime on or before the April 15 due date. You can pay by check or money order, by debit or credit card or by transferring funds electronically from your bank account.
5. It's easy. You can e-file on your own through IRS Free File, the free tax preparation and e-filing service available exclusively at IRS.gov. You can also use commercial tax preparation software or ask your tax preparer to e-file your return. And if you qualify, IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly partners will e-file your return for free.
The above information came from IRS Tax Tip 2013-03, January 30, 2013.
For more information about IRS e-file, visit IRS.gov.
Can Your Smart Phone Make You a Smarter Borrower?
Aside from hurling disgruntled birds at walls that cover evil pigs, smart phones are capable of helping people increase their financial savvy. Consider several free apps out there that are meant to help manage your money. There are different features in every app that focus on various areas of your financial needs. The following are some good examples that are available to you free of charge. See if you can find one or two that are meant for you.
First, consider an app called Mint. This is a very user-friendly app that allows you to input your bank account and credit card login credentials and integrate them to give you an overall view of your financial situation. It categorizes your expenses and highlights spending patterns. You can also manually enter cash or check transactions. Mint promotes smart financial planning and common sense with money. It offers tools so you can make a goal, like saving $1000. This can also be very useful in helping to set goals of paying off your student loans.
Manilla is a great app for keeping track of your bills and household accounts. The app is intended to organize your personal financial accounts, subscriptions and travel rewards programs. You can connect all of your accounts and access them with their Manilla log in. The app will send reminders to alert you to bills that are due so you do not incur late fees or miss a payment. You can also set up customized alerts that are sent by email or text message. You can access your bills, account notices and statements any time from your Manilla account.
EEBA is a perfect app for those who have more than one spender in the household. EEBA stands for Easy Envelope Budget Aid. You can organize your debts and regular payments. The app offers online and mobile access. It caters to individuals and families. Multiple household members can record their spending and earning information using EEBA. The information stays updated so it is always current, even when multiple people are recording data. Payee information is remembered and suggested when the user begins to type in a name. Users can create custom categories and add tags to financial entries. The application doesn't corral you into one budget period. You can work on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, semi-monthly and annual basis. Reports help you visualize your spending and earning.
Payoff is a goal management app that helps you pay off debt and save up for anything you want. You create an account and link your financial accounts to begin monitoring your spending. The app awards you with badges to encourage progress in the right direction. Cash prizes are sometimes awarded as well. You sets your financial goals which can be anything from paying off a long term debt (like a student loan) to saving a set amount of money to start a business. Progress is tracked through Payoff. The site also lets you see how much you spend at specific businesses to help encourage better spending habits.
These are just a few examples of what is available to you. And the best part is that they are free! Consider downloading one or more of these apps in order to help you stay on top of your finances this year. You will thank yourself for having some foresight, organization and discipline. Then you can get back to flinging digital birds.
Start the Year Off Right! Write Down Your Financial Goals!
People who succeed at anything have written goals. Goals determine exactly what we are aiming at. Zig Ziglar said, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."
In terms of success, financial goal setting really pays off. A study of Harvard graduates found that after two years, the 3% who had written goals achieved more financially than the other 97% combined! It doesn't always take an accounting degree or the right connections to succeed on a big scale. For most people, all they need are clear, written goals.
The majority of people have the best intentions when it comes to paying off their debts, yet they fail to write down the specific money goals they desire to reach. Set aside some time to write down some specific short-term and long-term goals in simple terms.
Short-term financial goals are things you want to save for, pay off, or purchase within the next month or next couple of years. For short-term goals, you should make a "Needs and Wants" list. Brainstorm what you need versus what you want. List the items. Then ask yourself three simple questions about each listed item:
Take a similar approach with your long-term goals, those which you plan on completing at least three years from now. These types of goals can include debt elimination, retirement, purchase of a home, etc. Many of these goals will most likely be necessities and will need to be factored into your budget no matter what. Keep that in mind when you combine your lists of short- and long-term goals.
Now, decide how many goals you can realistically meet in a certain amount of time. How far down the list can you go without breaking your budget?
You will be surprised at how quickly you can pay off your student loan debts with a little focus, a set of realistic written financial goals, and a determination to stay disciplined with your budget.Taken from: http://www.daveramsey.com/article/goal-settings-big-payoff/lifeandmoney_goalsetting/
Make it a Debt-Free Holiday
Anyone can get into the pit of debt during the holidays, but as a student you have to take extra care to balance your expenses. Mary Hunt, author of "Debt Proof Your Christmas" reminds us, "There is no gift as good as debt feels bad. One moment of credit card weakness could create years of financial regret." Since gift-giving is such a prominent part of our culture, here are some tips to approach gift-giving with an eye for financial responsibility.1.) Set your Budget
The above information is provided from "Have a Debt-Free Christmas" by Erin Huffstestler and "Holiday Rules to Live By" by Mary Hunt.
Are You Considering Financing a Graduate Degree?
As you already know, finances are an important factor in everyone's life and with the rise of student loan debt, students are wondering if pursuing a graduate degree makes financial sense. Therefore, before you embark on the graduate journey, the following questions may help you evaluate your current situation and help you decide if funding a graduate degree is a wise financial decision.
1. How much debt do I already have and how much am I willing to accrue?
Making the equivalent of two house payments every month upon graduation is not very appealing. You need to develop a strategy to help keep your student loan debt at bay. The first step is to know how much you currently owe. You can find your total student loan debt by accessing the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This system provides you up-to-date information on your loan balances, interest rates, and lender information. Knowing this information will help you decide if financing a graduate degree is a wise decision.
The second step is to develop ways to decrease your student loan debt. You can do this by making additional loan payments to the principle balance, and contacting your lender to see if you qualify for loan forgiveness programs. Finally, if you do choose to pursue your graduate degree, find ways to fund it through fellowships, grants, and employer assistance programs.
2. What do I want to do when I graduate? What am I willing to do?
College students all strive for their "dream job." That is the career that will pay them significantly and offer them financial bliss. However, the reality is it can take several years to achieve those career goals. Therefore, you need to ask yourself are you comfortable with working in your career field for less money or are you willing to accept another career path that gains you a higher rate of return? Asking these questions will help you determine if pursuing a graduate degree is worth the financial investment.
3. What is the job market like for my desired field?
You need to do your homework with regards to the job market in relation to your graduate degree. Is that graduate degree going to open more doors for you or are you still going to remain stagnant within the job market? A classic example would be of John Doe. He spent seven years training as an IT specialist at a time when those jobs were in high demand, only to find out later that his department was one of the first to be downsized within his organization. After several years as a contract specialist he remarketed himself as a post-IT specialist and has found gainful employment. The job market is very unpredictable, but it's probably worth noting that if a field seems overcrowded now, it may be even more so by the time you graduate.
The above information is provided by Inside Higher Ed
Keep Student Loan Debt to No More Than Your Future Salary
At GCU we promote responsible borrowing, which means we want our students to make conscious, educated decisions regarding how they will fund their educational journey. Student loans are often referred to as "good debt" or "an investment in yourself" - but let's face it, borrow more than you can repay and the debt will overwhelm you, good or bad.
How do you borrow responsibly? The rule of thumb is to borrow in total no more than your expected salary the year you graduate.
Why? Most federal student loans offer a 10 year repayment term. By keeping your borrowing to one year's salary, you're effectively dedicating 10% of your future income to repayment, which is a manageable amount of debt. Statistically speaking, graduates who have 10% or less of their income dedicated to debt repayment are able to manage their debts; those who exceed 15% of their income tend to default.
How can you tell what your salary will be at graduation? If you know or have a strong idea of what you'll be doing during life after graduation, look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics salaries in the area you'll be living or working in. The median salary in your field is a good estimate of what you'll be making when you graduate.
If you're not sure what you'll be doing when you graduate, use the median salary for all occupations.
Keeping your total debt to one year's salary or less will help you to manage your finances well after graduation, and let you enjoy the benefits of your higher education without the stress of burdensome loan payments.
The above information is provided by the Student Loan Network
Accepting Responsibility for Repaying Your Student Loans
As a GCU student we want you to plan and strategize your academic success. One of the most important strategies you can create is developing a plan for your student loans. It is important to accept the responsibilities for repaying the money you borrow; know how much you have borrowed; and how much more you may need.
Before you borrow, ask yourself:
1. Is the college or program a good investment?
Be fully aware of your college's tuition and refund policies, academic programs, financial aid programs, faculty and facilities, and the graduates' success rates in finding jobs.
2. Does your loan make good financial sense?
Are there jobs in your chosen field of study and how well do they pay? Some jobs and careers are more stable and pay higher than others. You can learn more about hundreds of jobs and how they compare pertaining to salary and training by accessing www.bls.gov/oco
3. What is the true cost of your loan?
Know the true cost of your loan by tracking how much you borrow and how much you owe, including interest costs and fees. If you don't make payments on time, you may have late fees and collection costs.
4. Can you repay it?
Before applying for a loan, determine how much you'll be able to afford to repay. Estimate how much money you'll need, what your monthly payments and expenses will be, and what you can expect to earn after graduation. Also, be aware that the longer you take to pay off your loan, the more interest you'll pay over the life of the loan.
5. What are your rights and responsibilities?
When you accept a loan, you accept legal and financial obligations that last until the loan is repaid. You'll sign a promissory note, which is a legal contract between you and the lender in which you promise to repay the amount you borrowed. Before you sign, be sure you understand all of your rights and responsibilities. Remember, even if you don't graduate, can't find a job or aren't happy with your education, you still must repay your loan.
***The above information is provided by EdFund
The new school term is just about underway and GCU is excited to welcome our new and returning students! As you are preparing for your upcoming courses, you may have some questions regarding your student loans. If you are enrolled at least half time you can temporarily suspend payments on your student loans while you are in school.
How do I qualify for an In-School Deferment?
To qualify for an In-School Deferment you must be enrolled at least half time at an eligible post-secondary or studying fulltime in a graduate fellowship program.
How long is the deferment valid for?
Your deferment will be valid as long as you're enrolled at least half time. Once you fall below half time enrollment, graduate or withdrawal from school your deferment will end.
How do I apply?
To apply for an In-School Deferment you must contact your lender(s) and request the form. You will need to complete the student portion of the form, and your school will need to complete and verify their portion of the form. Upon completion of the form, you will need to fax or mail the form to your lender(s).
If you have any questions regarding deferment or forbearance, please contact your lender(s).
***The above information is provided by Federal Student Aid
40 Money Management Tips Every College Student Should Know
Deciding to attend college is one the most exciting steps that will open many doors for you both professionally and personally. As you know, achieving your educational goals can be overwhelming and may be quite expensive. Therefore, learning the skills to manage your money during college can help build the foundation for successful money management in the years to come.
One of the first steps towards financial success is to create a financial plan that involves the following steps:
1) Defining your money goals
2) Identifying the steps it will take to reach those goals
3) Following through with those steps.
For some guidance on developing your Financial Plan please click on the following link from the National Endowment for Financial Education. It offers advice on creating your financial plan, as well as many other smart ideas for saving, spending, and protecting your money.
***The above information is provided by Federal Student Aid
What Should I Do With My Student Loan Once I Graduate?
When you first graduate from college you may be wondering what to do with your student loan. It is important to begin thinking about paying back your student loan as soon as you graduate. Your student loan payment should be part of the plan for transitioning between college and working. You should plan on paying this loan off as quickly as possible. You do not want to have your student loan for the years to come.
Take advantage of the exit student loan counseling that your college offers. This is required in most areas. It can give you valuable advice on how to cope with your student loan payments. It answers many basic questions about student loans and explains what will happen when you fail to make payments. Student loans will not be excused in a bankruptcy proceeding, so it is important that you work on paying them off as quickly as possible.
Most student loans offer a grace period of six months before you need to begin paying on them. This will allow you time to find a job before you have to make payments. Do not assume that you are automatically put into the grace period. You should contact your student loan company to make sure that you are in the grace period. You should receive a letter from the company stating that you have graduate and the date that your first payment is due. If you do not receive this letter within two months, contact your loan company.
Update your student loan company with your new address. This helps the student loan company inform you of any changes in your payment amount. Even if you have your student loan payment directly debited from your account, you need to make sure they have your current address. You should receive tax information at the end of each year, which can save you money.
Consider consolidating your student loans. This can lower your monthly payment, but more importantly it locks in your current interest rate. If you want to pay off your student loans at the same rate, then simply pay the amount that you would have before you consolidated your loans. You will save money by locking in a lower interest rate.
If you have difficulty making your student loan payments contact your student loan company. They can offer temporary or hardship deferments. This will help you to avoid late fees and other penalties. If you do this you can prevent a negative mark showing up on your credit report. The phone call is well worth your time.
***The above information is provided by About.com
Top Ten Ways to Graduate with Less Debt
With Graduation just around the corner, many students are realizing just how expensive achieving their degree will be. However, it's an excellent investment and graduating with less debt is easier than it seems. The good news is there are things you can do right now to help you owe less when you graduate.
1. Take Advanced Placement (AP) Classes and Exams to Earn College Credit
Compared to the cost of one college class, an AP course is free if it's part of a high school's curriculum and the exam costs less $100.2 Before taking the exam, check with your college to ensure they will award you the credit.
2. Buy Used Books
Used textbooks are just as good slightly worn as they are brand new and they can help you reduce costs. When it comes to shopping for books, you can find some great deals online from:
www.textbooks.com, www.bn.com, www.amazon.com, www.biblio.com
You may want to explore renting textbooks at www.chegg.com
3. Live at Home if You Can
When looking at this price tag, commuting from home costs much less than living on campus or on your own off campus. To help you figure out your living arrangements, make sure you weigh your options carefully.
4. Go to a State School
Consider going to a state school instead of a private college to save some money because they tend to cost less. When looking at state schools, always compare prices for in-state and out-of-state residents. In-state schools can be significantly cheaper. Also, don't forget to compare your financial aid packages because some private schools may offer a competitive award package with costs comparable to those of a state school.
5. Find Scholarships
There's a scholarship for almost everyone. With a ton of resources at your fingertips, there's no reason to pass up an opportunity to get free money. Do your research and apply early. To help you locate scholarships, here are a few great places to get you started:
By having a job, you can limit the amount you need to borrow because you're able to "pay now, not later." When looking for jobs, search for opportunities on campus (like work study) and off campus by using popular job sites like www.monster.com and www.indeed.com. Also, check outwww.CollegeHelpers.com for part-time, off-campus jobs, summer jobs, and even internships.
7. Get a Paid Internship
You'll score valuable real-world experience, build a network of professional contacts, and earn extra cash. Start your search by talking to your school's career services department and your professors for guidance and basic requirements. You can also search for internships online with www.college.monster.com andwww.CollegeHelpers.com. Remember, before accepting any internship, check with your school to verify the suitability of the position for your background and interests.
8. Join ROTC
Join a ROTC program while in college. ROTC, which stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps, provides valuable training and experience along with tuition assistance and money to help pay for college expenses. Learn more by visiting www.gcu.edu/Student-Life/ROTC.php.
9. Enroll in Teach for America
Teach in an underprivileged area by enrolling in Teach for America. As a member of the corps, you get to make an impact on student achievement. And for your commitment, you may be eligible to receive assistance in repaying certain student loans or receive other benefits, such as scholarships for grad school. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org.
10. Borrow Only What You Need
If you must borrow, accept only what's necessary to cover your college costs (tuition and fees, housing, meals, books, personal expenses, and transportation). Remember, when it's time to repay your student loans, you'll have other financial obligations as well. Financial professionals recommend that monthly student loan payments be no more than 10% of your monthly income (before taxes).
***The above information is provided by citi
Do's and Don'ts of Using Credit Cards Responsibly
Do you remember the first time you were approved for a credit card? Do you remember anyone sitting you down and explaining the benefits and drawbacks of having a credit card? In most cases, no one told you the rules regarding credit card usage. In fact, the average credit card debt per household is $15,956*. The following "Do's and Don'ts" of credit card usage will encourage you to have healthy spending habits that you can utilize for the rest of your life.
* Calculated by dividing the total revolving debt in the U.S. ($801.0 billion as of December 2011 data, as listed in the Federal Reserve's February 2012 report on consumer credit) by the estimated number of households carrying credit card debt (50.2 million)
***The above information is provided by About.com http://credit.about.com/od/creditcardbasics/a/dosandonts.htm
To get a glimpse of your financial future, many businesses look at your financial past. This history is contained in credit report. Your credit report determines everything from whether you qualify for a loan and the rate you'll pay on that loan, to renting an apartment and obtaining car insurance.
What Is a Credit History?
Your credit history is a financial profile. It lets lenders, landlords and employers know how you have managed money in the past and helps them decide whether or not to do business with you. This history is contained in a credit report that is kept on file by the three independent credit bureaus listed below. It may include such information as:
How promptly you have paid off credit cards and loans
How well you have handled paying other bills, such as rent and utilities
Your total outstanding debts
How much available credit you have on credit cards and home equity loans
Who Can See Your Credit Report?
Your credit report can and most likely will be reviewed by anyone planning to give you a loan or credit, such as banks and credit unions, credit card issuers, auto financing companies, and insurance companies. Your report also may be checked by landlords and potential employers. Some lenders may also use the details in your report to determine how much credit they are willing to offer you and at what rate. Anyone with a legitimate business need can access your credit report, though an employer (or prospective employer) typically requires your written consent to do so.
Beware of "Fast Fixes" For Accurate Credit Problems
If you've had any late payments, foreclosures, or repossessions, this information stays in your credit report for up to seven years. If you've filed for bankruptcy, this information can stay in your report for up to 10 years.
Some companies claim they can "fix" such problems for a fee. However, it is legally impossible to alter an accurate credit history. If you find yourself in financial trouble, contact a member agency of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the nation's largest national nonprofit credit counseling network, by calling 1-800-388-2227 or visiting www.nfcc.org.
Credit Bureau Contact Information
Once a year, it's a good idea to check your credit report for accuracy, and you can do so for free through the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union). Get your reports at www.annualcreditreport.com.
***The above information is provided by Visa®
14 Simple Financial Resolutions to Make Now
January is a month of financial strain for many who have spent beyond their means during the holiday season. What better time to make changes that will lead to a brighter financial picture than at the start of the New Year? The trick is to avoid setting unclear, overgeneralized goals that are difficult to measure or meet, like "save more" or "pay off my debt." Instead, identify a specific and measurable change you plan to make. The resolutions below may be small, but their impact can be remarkable over time. Resolve to:
***The above information is provided by Visa®
Prepare to pay back your loans before you graduate.
Student loans are as much a responsibility as any other loan a person can acquire. Student borrowers are required to repay their education loans, even if they do not complete school or cannot find a job after they leave school.
Before you take out a loan, you should take certain steps to help you avoid default, such as finding out about repayment guidelines and talking to your lender about the particular terms of a loan. Planning for repayment can help you avoid the difficulties that may come with the responsibilities of borrowing money and help you avoid default.
Planning for repayment can help you avoid problems later.
Part of your plan for repayment should include actively beginning your search for full-time employment.
Keep in touch
If you borrow, keep in touch with your lender, especially if personal circumstances change. Lenders are often willing to work with borrowers to make repayment possible and easier. You may be eligible for consolidation programs or deferment/forbearance plans.
Contact your lender if you:
Tax Benefits of Paying for College
For many students and their parents, tax season is a time of grumbling and groaning. Forms, paperwork, and the April 15 tax filing deadline can add stress to an already hectic life. However, if you're paying off student loans or paying for college tuition and fees, your higher education investment might help you in a way you didn't expect - by reducing your tax bill.
The higher education related tax benefits that students and parents may be able to take advantage of include but are not limited to:
The student loan interest deduction, which can reduce the taxable income of many student and parent loan borrowers based on the amount of interest paid by the borrower or on the borrower's behalf over the tax year.
The tuition and fees deduction, which can reduce the taxable income of taxpayers based on college tuition and fees paid during the tax year.
The American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning tax credits, which allow many taxpayers to claim a credit against their federal income taxes for college tuition and fees paid during the tax year.
Where can I get more information?
Publication 970, published by the IRS, along with the instruction booklets for Form 1040 and Form 1040A, include instructions on how the various tax benefits should be applied to an individual tax return. These publications and other useful information can be obtained at the IRS website, located at www.irs.gov. The IRS also offers taxpayers free answers to tax questions at 1-800-TAX-1040 (829-1040).