College Debt a Big Concern for Millennial Parents

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Ah, the plight of parents with college-bound children.
According to the just-released 9th annual national “College Savings Indicator Study” conducted by Fidelity Investments, while more parents than ever before are socking away money to finance their children’s college educations — 69 percent nationwide, up 5 percent from last year — they’re still on track to save just 27 percent of their stated goals by the start of freshman year.
Even non-math whizzes can see what’s described as “the challenge ahead” implied by these two numbers: $232 (the median monthly amount parents report saving) and $31,231 (the current average annual cost of tuition and fees at private colleges).
Of particular interest may be the behavior of millennial parents.
This is the generation, born between 1981 and 1997, whose particular revelation from the 2008 recession was how tough it is paying off their own student loans while trying to establish a career (56 percent who graduated with such debt remain saddled with it). So it’s understandable, as the study found, that they “appear particularly determined to help their children” avoid the same plight — specifically, by planning on covering 8 percent more than the 66 percent of their offspring’s college costs than parents overall.
“Millennials have weathered challenging conditions for much of their adulthood, and have adopted smart savings habits at a higher rate than their older counterparts,” says Keith Bernhardt, vice president of retirement and college products at Fidelity.
Here are some ideas you might not have thought of to keep from underfunding your own kids’ higher education:
* Consider opening a 529 Plan. According to the survey, 93 percent of parents using one of these state- or state agency-sponsored, dedicated college accounts say it helps keep them on target. Savings can be used for tuition, books, and other education-related expenses. And the best part? Federal income taxes are deferred on any earnings, and separate state tax deductions may also apply.
* Get with the trend. You’ve heard of wedding registries set up to help finance a honeymoon in, say, exotic Bora Bora, right? Well, it’s the same for college. If you have a 529 Plan through Fidelity, for example, its free 529 Online Gifting Service lets friends and family contribute to your account — with a private dashboard provided for you to send invitations and track gifts.
* Reallocate pre-school dollars. If your child has aged out of day care and afterschool care, that’s an average of $730 in monthly fees that could instead be squirreled away in a dedicated college savings account.
One other finding to emerge from the study: 70 percent of all parents say they need more “guidance” on the whole subject. Among the most popular Fidelity resource is an interactive, online College Savings Quick Check that lets you see how you’re progressing.

Millennials Are Determined to Lessen Their Kids’ College Debt

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Pity the parents of college-bound kids.
According to the just-released 9th annual national “College Savings Indicator Study” conducted by Fidelity Investments, while more parents than ever before are socking away money to finance their children’s college educations — 69 percent nationwide, up 5 percent from last year — they’re still on track to save just 27 percent of their stated goals by the start of freshman year.
Even non-math whizzes can see what’s described as “the challenge ahead” implied by these two numbers: $232 (the median monthly amount parents report saving) and $31,231 (the current average annual cost of tuition and fees at private colleges).
Of particular interest may be the behavior of millennial parents.
This is the generation, born between 1981 and 1997, whose particular revelation from the 2008 recession was how tough it is paying off their own student loans while trying to establish a career (56 percent who graduated with such debt remain saddled with it). So it’s understandable, as the study found, that they “appear particularly determined to help their children” avoid the same plight — specifically, by planning on covering 8 percent more than the 66 percent of their offspring’s college costs than parents overall.
“Millennials have weathered challenging conditions for much of their adulthood, and have adopted smart savings habits at a higher rate than their older counterparts,” says Keith Bernhardt, vice president of retirement and college products at Fidelity.
Here are some ideas you might not have thought of to keep from underfunding your own kids’ higher education:
* Consider opening a 529 Plan. According to the survey, 93 percent of parents using one of these state- or state agency-sponsored, dedicated college accounts say it helps keep them on target. Savings can be used for tuition, books, and other education-related expenses. And the best part? Federal income taxes are deferred on any earnings, and separate state tax deductions may also apply.
* Get with the trend. You’ve heard of wedding registries set up to help finance a honeymoon in, say, exotic Bora Bora, right? Well, it’s the same for college. If you have a 529 Plan through Fidelity, for example, its free 529 Online Gifting Service lets friends and family contribute to your account — with a private dashboard provided for you to send invitations and track gifts.
* Reallocate pre-school dollars. If your child has aged out of day care and afterschool care, that’s an average of $730 in monthly fees that could instead be squirreled away in a dedicated college savings account.
One other finding to emerge from the study: 70 percent of all parents say they need more “guidance” on the whole subject. Among the most popular Fidelity resource is an interactive, online College Savings Quick Check that lets you see how you’re progressing.

‘A Sunday Horse’: This Year’s Heartwarming Horse Story

(NewsUSA) – A talented young woman and her horses defy the odds to rise to the top of the show jumping world in a new family film, "A Sunday Horse," scheduled to debut in 2016.The movie is inspired by the true story of Debi Connor, a rider and trainer from Ocala, Florida. The story is set in the present, although the main events occurred in the 1980s. The star of the film, Debi Walden (her maiden name), has drive and talent, and dreams of becoming an Olympic champion in the sport of show jumping. Unfortunately, she lacks the money and resources to train for the top tier of the sport and she is unable to afford the expensive horses needed for Olympic-level competition.Debi defies the odds, doing farm chores in exchange for training and earning the emotional and financial support of an African-American entrepreneur with similarly humble beginnings. She buys several horses with no formal jumping skills, trains them herself and starts taking the Grand Prix jumping world by storm. When Debi and her horses make the U.S. Olympic team, her dream is within her grasp, but an accident during a training exhibition leaves her comatose and paralyzed. When she finally comes to, Debi sells her top prize-winning horse Touch of Class to her co-trainer, who takes the horse to the Olympics and wins a pair of gold medals for the USA.Despite a dire prognosis of never riding again, Debi perseveres through months of painful rehabilitation and enters the Governor’s Cup at the Virginia Horse Show, where, despite her ongoing struggles with paralysis and seizures, she competes against her old horse Touch of Class and wins.A "Sunday Horse" features a well-known cast, including Nikki Reed (Twilight), Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible), Ryan Merriman (Final Destination), and screen legends William Shatner (Star Trek) and Linda Hamilton (Terminator). The director is Vic Armstrong, renowned stunt coordinator and second unit director on hundreds of films including Indiana Jones films, Terminator 2, Mission Impossible 3, and six James Bond movies. Armstrong has a personal connection to the story: He is a lifelong horseman whose father coached Great Britain’s equestrian team for five Olympic Games.The film premieres at the Equus Film Festival in New York in late November 2015.To learn more, please visit www.festival.net. The film premieres Saturday morning during the Li’l Herc Family Fest at the Equus Film Festival in New York. 

How to Help Your Child Get Over Math Anxiety

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Were you a math whiz growing up, or did you struggle and feel anxious at the mere mention of math? As a parent, you surely don’t want your child to experience the same thing.
“It’s easy to help your child not only excel at math but also enjoy it,” says Raj Valli, the founder of Tabtor Math, a tablet-based math learning program for K-8 children personalized by a dedicated tutor. “Create a math-friendly environment, make math a playful language and participate in an ongoing dialogue about math.”
Valli offers the following advice for helping your child enjoy math.
Create a positive environment around math. Since children model the attitudes of those around them, speak positively about math (even hiding your true feelings). Say encouraging phrases like, “It’s really cool that you can use math every day.”
Think about math as a language. Because children begin using language when they are very young, they don’t feel the same anxiety about reading and writing as they do about math. To transfer this positive attitude over to math, approach math as a language, rather than as a “problem.” Count things together, measure things together and talk about the numbers involved in any activity you are doing together. Don’t worry too much about getting answers “right” or “wrong.” Instead, help them think through the process of using math aloud, in words.
Hold a math “dialogue” centered on everyday activities. Once your child is comfortable with thinking about math in language terms, ask at the supermarket how many cookies are in a package and how your child calculated this answer. She might refer to the size of the package or the size of the cookies inside. Whether right or wrong, it’s important to emphasize the process used in her head to make the guess. This gets her thinking about math as a visual subject involving shape and volume, rather than just as numbers in a line.
You might ask an older child how many slices of bread are in a loaf, how thick each slice is and how long the loaf is. Open the package to see how close the estimate was. He will learn to feel comfortable with estimating and will enjoy a conversation with you using math as a focal point.
If you set the stage correctly, you’ll find that your child enjoys math more than you did — and then you can relax and enjoy your child’s future success in the classroom.
To learn more, please visit www.tabtor.com.

Protect the Financial Future of Your Loved Ones

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – NewsusaInfographic – In life, you work hard to take care of those you love. And when people depend on you, it’s important to ensure financial support for the future. Whether you have a mortgage, childcare expenses or student loans, the cash benefits from life insurance policies can help provide financial stability for family members down the road. Read below for additional information about the ins and outs of life insurance. For more information, visit aflac.com.

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Creating Curb Appeal to Get Buyers in the Door

CurbAppealIf people wanted their houses to look like all others on the block, they wouldn’t be so concerned with “curb appeal.”

Regardless of whether you want to sell—the National Association of Realtors says 49 percent of all houses are bought based on that one factor—or planning to stay put longer than the lines for Powerball. Every homeowner wants what’s been described as the “wow factor”—that quality that makes you say, “Wow!” when you first see it.

But, how to achieve it? Read on for some ideas from the pros:

Painting Isn’t Just An Art, It Can Be Fun Too

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – For anyone who ever wished for an easy way to take a beverage on the go, a GenieBag will grant that wish. At first glance, a GenieBag looks like a designer handbag. But the unique design of GenieBags allows them to serve as stylish, discreet, and effective beverage carriers.
For situations where it’s difficult to bring a drink, such as taking your wine to the ballpark, concert, or movie theater, a GenieBag can be the solution. Another scenario in which a GenieBag might be helpful: if you want to add a shot of vodka to your iced tea at a summer party.
The bags currently feature three styles: Cosmo, NY Nights, and Pino. Each can hold two liters of the beverage of your choice in a discreet, safe, subtle carrier that can go from a casual summer baseball game to an elegant concert to a party at a friend’s house.
Entrepreneur Beth Walters targets several demographics, including busy moms, professionals looking to relax on the weekends, and friends gathering to catch up. The GenieBags team has learned that women love the look of the handbags, but are also impressed with both the concept and the practicality.
The business started with a few key people creating prototypes for the bags, which are available in three styles and three colors. Demand is increasing, and the company has listed www.geniebags.com at the crowdfunding site: www.fundable.com/geniebagscom. At the site, GenieBags can be preordered for 30 percent off the original retail price, and orders will be fulfilled as soon as possible once financing is secure.
GenieBag handbags are designed for fun and convenience. The distinctive, discreet design allows anyone to pull out a glass or two and share a drink without bothering anyone or making a scene. You and a few friends can enjoy your Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, any other favorite with ease.
To learn more and assist with the development of new products for the current GenieBags product line, visit the crowdfunding site www.fundable.com/geniebagscom. GenieBags.com is in the philanthropy business, too. A portion of all sales go to disabled vets and others in need through a relationship with the Gift of Health Foundation.

529 College Savings Plans Can Help Ease Your Top Financial Concern

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – People who worry about financing a college education for children or grandchildren have got plenty of company. More than 70 percent of parents with children under 18 say that paying for college is their top financial concern, according to Gallup’s 2001-2015 Economic and Personal Finance survey.
Young adults are worried too. Asked by Gallup to identify the top financial problem facing their families, more than one in five respondents aged 18 to 29 said it was paying tuition or college loans.
Fortunately, there’s a way to put money aside for education in an investment account where the savings can grow over the years, free from federal income taxes. What’s more, the student doesn’t have to pay federal income taxes on withdrawals from the account, as long as the money is used for qualified higher education expenses, which include tuition, books, fees, supplies and other approved expenses at accredited institutions.
“With the costs of higher education continuing to rise, knowledgeable families are taking advantage of 529 college savings plans,” says Kris Spazafumo, Vice President, Investment Services, at Los Angeles-based American Funds, which manages CollegeAmerica. It’s the country’s largest 529 plan, with nearly $50 billion in assets, as of March 31, 2015. “More than 1.2 million families nationwide are now saving for college with CollegeAmerica on behalf of 2.1 million future college students, and we expect that number to grow as more people become aware of the many benefits that 529 plans offer.”
Flexibility is a key feature of 529 plans. Parents and grandparents maintain control of the account, decide when and if to disburse the proceeds and retain the ability to change the beneficiaries. For example, if the child originally named as beneficiary doesn’t need the money or doesn’t go to college, the account beneficiary can be changed to another family member who might benefit. Account owners can even use the money for their own qualifying educational expenses to obtain a graduate degree, for instance, or specialized career training.
Anyone can open a 529 college savings plan, regardless of income, and can contribute up to $14,000 ($28,000 for married couples) annually without gift-tax consequences, and that money isn’t considered part of the account owner’s estate.
Since 529 plans are long-term investment vehicles, it’s important to choose a plan that offers a wide range of investment options and proven management expertise, says Spazafumo, who notes that CollegeAmerica offers a number of choices from the highly rated American Funds mutual fund family.
Financing higher education requires saving consistently over the long term, but it’s not impossible.
“A college education is a great investment, resulting in an estimated 70 percent more lifetime income and a 50 percent lower chance of being unemployed,” Spazafumo says, adding that saving for college is a much less costly approach than borrowing. “Earning an 8 percent return, rather than paying 8 percent interest, a family with a goal of $10,000 in college savings can attain that by saving a total of $7,000 over 10 years, as opposed to repaying a total of $14,000 over 10 years if they had borrowed the $10,000.”
Not only is borrowing more costly than saving your way to college, Spazafumo points out that there’s evidence many students aren’t able to keep up with their loan obligations. According to the Department of Education, borrowers who were due to start repaying their student loans in 2011 had a 13.7 percent default rate last year, thus damaging their credit ratings just as they were beginning their working lives.
Education has always been the pathway to higher incomes and job satisfaction, and that’s likely to be truer than ever in the years to come. Combining a disciplined savings program with the right 529 college savings plan can help make your family member’s dreams of college a reality.

4 Things You Need to Know When Buying or Selling Your Home

TipsBuyingSellingCWho doesn’t love a good scoop or a little insider information—as long as it’s legal?

And when it comes to buying or selling a home, it turns out that some of the very best tips—those that could line your pocket with green instead of dust bunnies—may only come from someone with Brian Williams’ imagination.

Want to know why, for example, your local Starbucks may be the greatest predictor of home-value appreciation? Then read on.

3 Things to Know Before Ride-Booking a Car

(NewsUSA) – If you were some innocent fleeing a terrorist attack, would you expect to be charged four times the normal cost of a car ride?Alas, that’s what happened to some Uber passengers last December when the "off the charts" demand for a quick escape from anywhere near the 16-hour siege at Sydney, Australia’s Lindt Chocolate Café automatically triggered the controversial "surge-pricing" that Uber and other ride-booking services also employ here in the U.S.Even some of the app-based companies’ (former) biggest fans say that’s just a fancy term for price gouging. "#Neverforget, #neveragain," read the hashtags celeb Jessica Seinfeld used in Instagramming a receipt for a whopping $415 Uber fare during a recent New York snowstorm. And so many lawmakers across the nation have their own pro-consumer reasons for wanting to crack down on the industry — lesser players include Lyft and Sidecar — that you’d almost think the very idea of summoning a ride on a smartphone was Evil Incarnate.It’s your call, but here’s what you should know before booking one of those cars:* Your driver may not have been thoroughly screened. Newspapers have reported numerous cases of ride-booking drivers arrested for allegedly raping or assaulting passengers. But efforts to subject the newbies to the same rigorous background checks as taxi and limousine drivers — akin to a "Not Welcome" sign for lowlifes — have been fought by all three services."Background screening is a public safety issue," says Gary Buffo, president of the National Limousine Association (www.limo.org). "Competition is a good thing, but everyone needs to play by the same rules."Uber, for one, has touted what it calls its "industry-leading (vetting) standards." But that claim took a hit last December when prosecutors in California alleged, as part of a consumer protection lawsuit against the company, that their drivers weren’t being fingerprinted — thus making its criminal checks "completely worthless."* Good luck suing if you’re injured. Some ride-booking services allow drivers to carry personal, rather than commercial, insurance. (Hey, they use their own cars.) Testifying at a recent City Council hearing in Buffalo, New York, Kristina Baldwin, of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, called that a "serious insurance gap."* Surge pricing can be a shocker. Uber did reimburse Sydney riders after getting skewered by the media. But New Year’s Eve revelers in New York City, learning a lesson in supply and demand, apparently had no such luck. "The most expensive eight minutes of my life," the New York Daily News quoted one angry passenger.