This Week In Your Wallet: The College Edition
The bills have started to arrive. The big ones. For the college semester that starts sometime next month. If you’ve got a plan for paying them – kudos to you. If you have offspring who lightened the load with merit aid and scholarships – kudos to you and to them.
BUT if you’re thinking, yeah “I’ve got this one but I don’t know how many more years of this I’m really prepared for,” then we’ve got you covered.
Or if you’re wondering how you strategically use the money you’ve socked away in a 529 plan, we’ve got a look at that, too.
And if you’re confused about the landscape of borrowing, particularly once you get past the Federal Direct (Stafford) loans that are a no-brainer gateway loan (understandable because choosing between PLUS loans and private loans is confusing). Then check out our guide.
Yesterday, my team and I launched a series that will run all week called “How To Pay For College,” and here’s how I know that there’s new and valuable information in these stories: I learned a lot while reporting and writing them. That doesn’t always happen when you’ve been on the personal finance beat for 30-plus years like I have, but it did this time around. So, check the stories out, and if you’ve got people in your life who are approaching those college years, please share as well.
You Dip Your Left Toe In…
So, bitcoin hit $40,000 yesterday – albeit only for a hot minute – on rumors that Amazon may begin accepting the cryptocurrency for payment. (If you’re still wondering why that’s a big deal, listen to my interview with the author of Fulfillment about the scary growing role the ‘Zon is playing in our wallets + our world.) And all around the world people who have still not dipped even a pinky toe into the world of cryptocurrency wondered…yet again…is it too late? And maybe, does bitcoin or another form of crypto belong in my diversified retirement-focused portfolio?
The Wall Street Journal’s Anne Tergesen tackled those questions and more, after coming upon a Financial Planning Association survey that revealed half of financial advisors say that their clients are asking about crypto. Her answer: Maybe it’s something to consider for a small slice of your assets (10% of the 5% you have allocated for “alternatives”) and only after you acknowledge the volatile and unregulated nature of the investment. If you’re looking for answers about where and how to buy it, and what sort of account to keep it in, she’s got those as well. (Thank you, Anne, for inspiring this week’s headlines as well.)
Then Think Of Opting Out…
The first round of child tax credit payments has gone out, with the second on the way mid-August. These monthly deposits of up to $250 per child age 6 to 17, up to $300 for children under 6) are undoubtedly a huge help for many, many families. But before you go spending the money, it’s important that you’re sure the IRS isn’t going to ask for it back come tax time.
Here’s the deal. This money is a fully-refundable credit for tax year 2021. It’s the 2021 part that you need to focus on. The IRS is basing delivery of these funds on the information in the last tax return it has for you. If your income fell in 2020 and made you eligible, but then rebounded in 2021, you may get the money but then be asked to pay it back. And there are other complicating scenarios as well, as reporter Tara Siegel Bernard lays out in The New York Times. Among them, divorced parents who alternate years in which they claim a child as a dependent, self-employed folks who file quarterly taxes, and people who have left the country. Any of that ring a bell? Check out her story here.
And You Shake It All About…
Kathryn Tuggle, the producer of the HerMoney Podcast, and I have gotten a lot of feedback on this week’s podcast which explored the world of the #sobercurious. In this judgment-free conversation with Laura McKowen, founder of fast-growing The Luckiest Club sober support community, we dug into the role that alcohol plays in our lives – particularly now, 18-months into the pandemic – and talked about what it has to do with our money. Hint: Only everything. Give it a listen, and let us know what you think.
You Do The Hokey Pokey and You Turn Yourself Around…
Finally, in the pantheon of interview questions we hate, the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question rises to the top. I mean, c’mon. You can’t say something that’s not really a weakness but actually a strength because that makes you sound self-serving. (And frankly, completely out of touch.) And if you say something that’s too much of a weakness, well, that’s no good either. Our reporter Sophia Surrett explores how to keep it real – and still get the job.
And that’s what it’s all about!
Have a great week!