Saving Versus Investing Over Time

Does one take precedence over the other?

It’s the age-old questionSaveVsInvest_Featured to which everyone wants an answer: Is saving over time or investing your money more likely to make you the big bucks?

While both strategically saving and investing will make you money, investing is more likely to up your financial game over the long term, and is best for helping you reach those faraway goals, such as saving for a wedding or a child’s college education. Savings accounts work better for goals in the near future, such as going on vacation or making a large purchase.

While investing over the long term certainly has its advantages, it can pose many more risks than saving accounts do. With funds ensured by the federal government, money up to $250,000 would be restored if anything happened to your financial institution with a savings account. In addition, savings are ready at hand in the event you need money quickly — a possibility investing doesn’t always provide.

Investing, however, offers the potential for major profit and a higher return than a regular savings account. Over time, your investment may appreciate, which will increase your net worth. So if you sell what you invested in for a higher price, you make a profit. With a savings account, you can earn interest, but that’s generally much less than an investment profit.

Of course, when you invest money, you risk losing some or all of it. The key with investing is focusing on the things in your control.

“The only thing that you can control is the amount of capital you invest. Even during periods of low market returns, the frequent addition of investment capital can have a lasting effect,” says Director of Investor Education Bob Stammers of the CFA Institute. “Consistently adding capital to your portfolio, [when combined with] the long-term returns earned on that capital, is an excellent way to steadily move toward your overall financial goals.”

Even if you’re investing your money, it’s still important to be good at saving as well.

“An average saver will do better than a great investor who doesn’t save,” says CFP Professional and Principal David A. Schneider at Schneider Wealth Strategies in New York City.

In addition, whether you save or invest, it’s best to start sooner rather than later.

“The sooner you start saving and investing, the easier it is on your budget,” says President Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “The sooner you start, the less you have to save because you have time on your side.”

“Every $1,000 saved in your mid-20s grows to over $10,000 at retirement, assuming 6 percent growth every year. But waiting until your mid-30s means that same $1,000 will only grow to $6,000,” explains Chartered Financial Analyst and CEO Shane Leonard of Stockflare. Think of it this way: Investing a mere dollar at age 25 could be more than five times as valuable as doing so at age 45.

Stop by to see what kind of investment and saving options we have for you today.

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Retirement Planning in Your 20s

Five best practices to jump-starting your savingsAprilFeatured_Planning
When you’re in your 20s, you are worried more about starting your career than you are about what you’ll do when your career is over. Still, it’s important to put down some building blocks at this point to lay a solid foundation for your financial future. Here are five tips to get the ball rolling:

Develop financial habits
You will want to become well-versed in the process of saving. Cash flow may be an issue in the present, but your future self will thank you for not letting your expenses get in the way of your retirement savings.

“These years of saving in your early 20s are your prime years. If you deny yourself the opportunity, it will just set you back with retirement planning in the long run,” says Certified Financial Planner Brian T. Jones on Bankrate.com. “You’ve got to have balance.”

To help, you’ll want to develop another habit, one of overall financial organization, recommends Robert Berger of U.S. News & World Report Money. Any simple system for storing digital and hard copies of records will end up saving you a ton of time, hassle and money in the future.

Stick to the basics
When you first start learning about 401(k)s and hearing terms like “diversification,” it can make you turn into a deer in headlights. Don’t let that talk deter you from starting your retirement investments. In the beginning, the simpler the better. There are several options out there that automatically invest you in a portfolio, including a broad range of stock and bond index funds.

Of course, investing won’t get you anywhere if you haven’t saved up anything to invest.

Boost savings as earnings increase
Ideally, this would be each year; regardless, you should boost your retirement savings as you continue up the career ladder.

“Increasing your retirement contributions is easier than you might think,” Berger says. “For tax-deferred accounts, keep in mind that each dollar of additional contribution will only cost you about $0.70, depending on your tax bracket. And one easy approach is to use a portion of your pay raise or bonus each year to boost your contributions.”

Once you max out your contributions to your 401(k), which hopefully your employer matches, you can open a Roth IRA or other brokerage options, but you may need some additional assistance for that.

Choose your advisers carefully
When you get to the point where you want to take your retirement savings to the next level, there are plenty of companies and individuals ready, willing and able to help. Therein lies the challenge for you — sorting the proficient, trustworthy and affordable from the ones who are not so. Therefore, do your research. Ask friends, peers and mentors for referrals, and check out reviews online.

Get your debt out of the way
It’s a lot easier to focus on saving when you have fewer bills to pay. Many bills, such as utilities, cannot be avoided. However, high monthly payments to pay down your credit card debt can be one of the biggest obstacles to retirement savings, no matter what your age. Make it your goal to consistently knock out your debt through the years, maintaining a solid, smart payment strategy. Then, ensure that you don’t add more to your debt.

By starting small and starting early, you will give yourself a huge advantage in the quest to achieve a secure financial future.

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Tips From Popular Money-Saving Experts

Easy ways to save money each day

We all want to save money.MoneySavingTips_Featured While it’s a struggle for many, there are lots of simple ways to sock a few — or more — extra bucks away each month. Take a cue from some of these money-saving experts to find out a few easy ways you can cut back on expenses and start saving for whatever it is life throws your way.

Cook your own meals
If you find yourself going out to eat a lot, it might be a good time to evaluate your cooking skills.

“Cooking for yourself can be fast and easy, as well as surprisingly cheap,” explains Maura Judkis, writer, editor and Web producer in Washington, D.C. “Try online recipe finders for meals that use what you already have in your fridge. Make enough for a few days, and then use the leftovers in sandwiches for work the rest of the week. Eating at your desk could save you more than $100 a month.”

Be specific about your goals
When you’re particular about where you want to be financially, it will be easier to actually reach those goals. For instance, determine where you’d like to be financially when it comes to having money set aside for putting your kids through college, your vacation fund or the account for emergencies.

“Your needs will take precedence over your wants, with short-term needs being the top priority,” says Kiplinger contributing editor Cameron Huddleston. “Then you can set goals to meet those needs — and fulfill your wants.”

Use coupons — on everything
“You already know to look for coupons when shopping for groceries, clothes, toys and home goods, but what about all those other items in your budget? A quick Internet search could help you save big bucks on everything from medicine to dental care to car repairs and pet care,” says Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert, writer and TV personality. “Consider this example: I was picking up a prescription at CVS when I decided to search Google for any possible deals. Voila! I found a voucher that will end up saving me $480 on a 12-month supply!”

Get rid of cable
Did you know that cable bills will soon be averaging $123 a month, or $1,476 a year, according to a study by NPD Group?

“With services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, you can now watch your favorite TV shows and movies for a fraction of the cost of cable TV,” says Brittney Castro, CNBC contributor and founder and CEO of Financially Wise Women. By cutting out cable and switching to a more inexpensive service, you can have that money to put toward other financial goals.

Utilize your own skills before hiring a professional
You might be more handy than you think.

“When it comes to home repairs, don’t be afraid to try to fix things yourself. Even if you aren’t the handy type, small jobs like fixing running toilets and patching drywall will cost you over a hundred dollars to hire a professional,” says Jefferson, site founder of See Debt Run. “You owe it to yourself and your wallet to try to find a step-by-step guide online, and at least give it a good try to do the work yourself.”

Remember that a little bit goes a long way
Putting aside money in crafty ways will help you save a little bit each month — and even a little bit can add up quickly.

“When you’re able to eliminate a major expense, put half the savings into your new account,” notes Mary Rowland, writer for WomensDay.com. “When you finish paying for your car, for instance, save one half of the car payment each month. Or suppose you save $75 a week on child-care expenses when your kids start school. Put $37.50 per week into a savings account. That will build up really quickly!”

Regardless of how you do it, start saving more and see how quickly your savings account starts growing. Find out how we can help you save money today.

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Top Used Car Values

Buying used can save you thousands!

Buying a new vehicle is always an UsedCars_Featuredexciting venture, but it’s normally associated with a hefty price tag. And even worse, in most cases, the minute you drive that vehicle off the lot, it loses a solid chunk of its value. So if you’re looking for a vehicle that’s new to you, buying something used is a great way to save thousands and still get just what (or even more than) you’re looking for.

Getting a used vehicle doesn’t mean you need to settle. Sure, you can find a Toyota Camry or Honda Civic, and it will provide you with years of hassle free driving. However, if you’re looking for a little excitement, there are still plenty of great bargains out there to be had.

Being comfortable going to a private seller (especially on Craigslist) is a big plus, as they don’t have the markup normally associated with a dealership. Stopping by your financial institution for a loan can help you figure out how much you can afford, and better yet, you could have the cash in hand to make the deal when you choose.

There are plenty of lists that show you what $10,000 can get you. On AutoTraders’ list, you can find a MINI Cooper (2007), a vehicle known for its quirky personality and fun driving manners. Its unique design doesn’t hurt either.

AutoBytel listed the Ford Crown Victoria (a 2010 model can be yours for under $10,000), a great vehicle for those looking for a roomy cabin and excellent highway companion. You can even spring for a 2008 Infiniti G35. Popular Mechanics did their own list and they found a 2000 Chevrolet Corvette (new models sell for over $55,000) and the BMW Z3 sports car.

US News has their own list dedicated to more recent models you can find under $10,000, and a few of them include the 2009 Scion tC, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra, the 2010 Nissan Cube, and the 2009 Pontiac Vibe.

A vehicle you previously thought was out of your price range may be closer than you think if you do your research. Regardless of which model you choose, start with the right auto loan, and you’ll be on your way to saving money while driving a vehicle that’s new to you.

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Guide to Investing in Your 20s

The ages between 20 and 29 are the best time to begin investing your money

It’s true that millennialsInvest_Featured have a tendency to want to put their money toward anything instead of socking it away — from clothing to concerts to a night out. In fact, only 28 percent of millennials believe that long-term investing is an important path to success, compared to 52 percent of non-millennials, according to a UBS report. But the truth is, your 20s might be the best time to begin investing money.

“The sooner you start saving and investing, the easier it is on your budget,” says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “The sooner you start, the less you have to save because you have time on your side.” That’s because money invested throughout your 20s will continue to gain interest. Think of it this way: Investing a mere dollar at age 25 could be more than five times as valuable as doing so at age 45.

So how can you start investing? It might be easier than you think. Take these first steps and you’ll be on your way to meet your retirement goals:

Evaluate your current financial situation. It’s important to not jump right into investing if you can’t afford to do so — that won’t help anybody.

“If you don’t have at least three to six months’ [income] in a cash reserve account, I don’t think you should start investing,” says Dominique Broadway, a financial planner, personal finance coach and founder of Finances De×mys×ti×fied and the Social Money Tour. “You don’t want to lose your cash cushion or emergency fund.” So if that’s the case, save up a reserve and then take on investing.

Put away 10 percent of each paycheck. Or as much as you can. The key here isn’t so much about what amount to put away but rather understanding to do it now, because time is on your side. Even if you’re just setting aside 5 percent of each paycheck, the amount, over time, will blossom into a good-sized amount in retirement.

“Building habits, especially in your 20s, is so important for long-term success,” says John Deyeso, a certified financial planner.

Start a 401(k) or IRA. Many jobs offer a 401(k), and if yours does, you’ll definitely want to take advantage. A 401(k) allows employees to contribute a percentage of their paychecks tax free. Try to invest as much as you can into a 401(k), and take advantage of whatever your company will match. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), you can open an IRA. It’s important to open one of these accounts in your 20s. In your 30s, you can contribute twice as much and still not have as much as if you’d started in your 20s.

“Every $1,000 saved in your mid-20s grows to over $10,000 at retirement, assuming 6 percent growth every year. But waiting until your mid-30s means that same $1,000 will only grow to $6,000,” explains Shane Leonard, a chartered financial analyst and the CEO at Stockflare.

Don’t be afraid of risks. When you’re young, you can risk jumping at every opportunity and not having them work out, because it gives you more leeway for a reward later in life.

“You may need to take risks when you’re younger,” says Erin Baehr, author of “Growing Up and Saving Up.” “You may take one job over another and find it doesn’t work out. But when you’re younger, you have the ability to do that. And then that can parlay into a bigger return down the road.”

Investing early should pay major dividends in the future. Stop by today and speak with one of our representatives to see your options.

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Should You Have More Than One Savings Account?

We answer the question for you and explain why

Savings accounts are not justmultiSavings_featured for use in an emergency. Actually, they are best utilized when allocating money for large purchases, such as a home or a new car. However, to properly save money for these different goals, you will need differing savings accounts.

Neal Frankle, a CFP and blogger at WealthPilgrim.com, says that fuzzy savings goals usually don’t pay off, resulting in chaotic finances. Without targeted savings accounts, people are more likely to raid their emergency savings accounts for big purchases. Instead, specific savings targets spur good spending behaviors because you must monitor your savings and spending to meet your goals.

Here are four more reasons you should have multiple savings accounts:

Internal transfers are usually fee-free
Sign up for direct deposit through your employer for your paycheck to be electronically deposited into your checking account. Then, schedule an internal transfer for any extra money that you don’t need to pay your monthly bills with to a base savings account. From there, divide that money into your additional savings accounts based on your goals. Remember, your base account should generally maintain a balance of three to six months of pay at any given time in case of emergency.

Your savings goals can be tracked
Using online banking, your progress toward reaching each individual goal can be easily traced. You can also utilize spreadsheets to follow your goals. In fact, more and more financial institutions are offering online tools such as downloadable budget spreadsheets and weekly spending journals to help depositors.

Prioritizing or tweaking accounts is easier
Some goals can be fast-tracked over others by using targeted savings accounts — for example, if certain goals are time sensitive or carry a heftier price tag. Multiple accounts make it easier to meet goals than by just lumping money into one big account; plus, as mentioned above, this money can be easily organized with the click of the computer mouse or a tap on your smartphone.

The reason multiple accounts make the savings process streamlined is simple: It makes the goals themselves, along with the amounts of money needed to meet them, clearer. You will be better able to tell how much money you need for each individual purchase and can divide that by the amount of time you are allotting for yourself to determine how much you will need to save per month or per week, for instance.

Of course, once you accomplish one savings goal, any of that money can be diverted in the future to more quickly reach the goal of another targeted account.

You can play the yield game more simply
For more advanced bankers with a solid financial bedrock, multiple savings accounts can be a savvy way to play the higher-yield game because you can shift money from lower-yielding bank accounts into higher-yielding bank accounts. Furthermore, you can take advantage of websites such as Betterment.com that have online investing tools. You can link your accounts with the site’s secure tools to direct savings into preselected Treasury bond exchange-traded funds.

Put plainly, yes, you do want multiple savings accounts because it will help you reach your goals more quickly and efficiently, thanks to the numerous organization and financial planning tools that are available for savers these days.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Paying Down Debt vs. Investing vs. Saving

Best tactics to improve your bottom line

Paying down debtCut Card is a tricky process. Not only is it hard finding the money to do so, and it takes a while, but there are different strategies to employ based on your goals. Some people may contemplate saving throughout the year to get a solid nest egg before starting to pay down on that debt. Others opt to invest in hopes to make more money back in order to pay money off more quickly later. There are many considerations when it comes to deciding what to do with your money. Here are just a few of them.

Paying down debt
It’s never a bad idea to work on improving your credit score by paying down debt. Furthermore, there’s no right or wrong way to do so. There are multiple schools of thought regarding how to go about the process:

  • Pay down the loan with the highest interest rate first. Debt with high interest costs you more money over time, so you may want to take care of them primarily.
  • Pay down the loan with the smallest balance first. Clear up many smaller loans more quickly, giving you more money to apply to big loans later.
  • Combine the two approaches. “Average” the methods in a way where you use both approaches at different points in the year. For example, knock out a few of your small loans in a few months and then work on larger interest debt before going back to paying on small loans again.

Regardless of the plan you choose, just make sure to stick with it. However, it is okay to change your approach if your financial circumstances change. Also, don’t use any money saved on frivolous items; keep it in the budget for loan payments only or for the next two options.

Investing
Now, should you pay off those bills using one of the above methods, or should you use your finances instead to invest? This head-to-head debate is not cut and dry. There are many questions to ask regarding the amount of your debt, its interest rate, the possible return on investment and the legitimate likelihood of that return. Neal Frankle, a financial expert writing for Forbes, said that aside from the factual considerations, there are also the emotional aspects at play, such as how you’d feel if you paid off the debt, if you opted not to invest, or if you did and it didn’t work out?

“I have found that these emotional questions are just as important as the financial questions. What good is it to make an otherwise smart financial decision if at the end of the day you are left feeling miserable?” Frankle asked.

There are four inquiries Frankle conjured up to address both the financial and emotional issues:

  • What happens if you decide to pay off the debt and the other investment does well? The answer will likely depend on each unique situation. Would you be giving up the chance of a lifetime to pay down your debt, or are the upsides of the investment actually very limited?
  • What happens if you pay off the debt and the other investment does poorly? Good for you! Do a little dance because you made an amazing choice.
  • What happens if you don’t pay off the debt, make the investment and it turns out well? Be honest—what reasonable outcome can you expect? Will it be enough to cover the interest rate that you are paying on your debt? Will your money double? Be practical in your expectations.
  • What happens if you hold the debt, make the investment and it turns out badly?

What is the risk involved? Can you afford to lose the money at stake and still be stuck with the debt?

By taking a look at how you would feel and how your life would be impacted from two competing alternatives, you can likely make a better decision for your specific situation.

Saving
If investing isn’t for you, maybe you would rather save up some money in a rainy day fund. Actually, some personal finance experts say building a safety net of cash should come before any other money move, according to Casey Bond in U.S. News and World Report.

“The idea is you need to be prepared for financial emergencies — car repair, job loss, etc. — so that you don’t load up on more debt should an unexpected bill arise. Not to mention, it’s psychologically satisfying to see a positive savings account balance,” Bond said.

However, Bond added that feeling good just doesn’t pay the bills. Statistically, you are losing money by saving, as interest rates against debt are much higher than the interest you would be earning in a savings account. The solution, again, is to average the points of view. Strike a balance between saving and paying on debt that is feasible for you and your family.

Regardless of what you choose to do with your money, carefully considering all factors at play in the situation should always be the first step. Hasty decisions regarding your finances are never beneficial.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Money-Saving Tips From Top Bloggers

A roundup of the best cost-cutting tips from bloggers
Who can’t useSavingMoney a little financial advice? We all want to sock away extra money; however, most of us more commonly check our bank statements, wondering where exactly the money has gone. Every cent spent — from groceries to gas — may not immediately feel hefty, but these costs do add up.

Pinching pennies doesn’t have to be difficult, however. A few simple cost-cutting tips can be incorporated into your everyday life, and make all the difference. Take a cue from these top bloggers about how to save your money, and start applying their advice to your own situation today:

Save spare change – You know those annoying coins swiveling around on the bottom of your purse or in a front-seat car compartment? It’s money that you don’t think twice about, but if you toss all of that spare change into a bucket, you may be surprised at how quickly it can add up. That’s what The Thrifty Peach blogger Robin’s husband did and the couple saved $357.

Cook – It’s that simple. Even just a few meals a week, preparing a homemade meal can save you big (and it’s healthier for you, too).

“The best way to save money on groceries is to prepare meals at home using as few convenience items as possible — this means hamburger helper, frozen dinners, and canned soups that have ridiculous amounts of sodium. Prepared foods are more expensive than staples,” according to Gary of Gajizmo.

Find a creative way to reduce energy expenses – A great example of this is curtains. These pieces of fabric are all you need to lessen the costs of heat or air conditioning.

“Look at ways to regulate the temperature in your apartment so you can use less energy on cooling it during the summer and heating it during the winter. A simple way to do this is invest in some ‘blackout’ curtains that cover windows and can reduce energy costs by up to 25%,” says Ben Feldman of ReadyForZero.

Track your net worth – “Tracking your net worth is an essential step to managing your finances,” says Rob Berger of the blog Dough Roller. “In a single number your net worth can measure your financial progress, whether you are climbing out of debt, building an investment portfolio, or both.” Your net worth is a way to measure your financial progress each year. That said, you don’t have to have a large income to have money in the bank, as long as you have a high net worth.

Use (and decode) coupons – Something you might already know is to spend time clipping coupons — they are, after all, free paper money. But what you also should know is how to make sense of them, which will save you more money in the end. Tracie Fobes of PennyPinchinmom.com explains further:

“When you look at a coupon, you should disregard the photo you see printed. Many manufacturers will run a shot of the most expensive item in the product line in hopes that you will spend the most money.”

Repurpose items – Before dumping things in the trash, consider if you can use them again.

“Look twice at things before throwing them away. Could you cut off the fronts of some of your Christmas cards to use as gift tags next year? Could you paint that old piece of furniture or spray paint a chandelier to give it a new life? Save nice glass jars for giving. You’ll never have to buy a box for shipping if you save a stash!” says Kristl Story of TheBudgetDiet.com.

Save on gifts – If each year during birthdays or around the holidays you realize you’re spending a lot of cash on gifts, you may need to slow it down. If you have a large family, consider picking a name out of a hat to find out whom to buy a gift for.

“Instead of giving gifts to each one of your siblings and their children consider drawing names. In my family, we only give gifts to the children, no longer to my siblings,” says Mercedes Levey of CommonSensewithMoney.com. Also, consider gifts that don’t cost physical money. “Offer to bring me a homemade dinner for my family, or maybe just come and visit while I get stuff done around the house. Consider doing this also with older relatives. They probably appreciate more you coming over to visit and helping with household chores or maybe doing their holiday shopping for them. Help is an often overlooked gift and it’s probably one of the most appreciated.”

There’s advice everywhere, so be sure to do what’s best for you.

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Why You Should Automate Your Savings

Jumpstart your savings this way

Do you have a savings account? Most people will respond “yes.” But the real question is: is it actually accruing money?

Many people want to save, but when it comes to essentially adding money to their savings account, they’ll find they’d rather use the income for other things. Evidently, saving money is easier said than done. But in the long run, putting money away is much more helpful than harmful.

So how can you make sure that you’re saving as much as you can? One of the best ways to save is to set a certain payment from your paycheck to automatically go directly into your savings. It is worth it.

“You have to automate your savings,” says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst at Bankrate. “If you wait until the end of the month and try to save what’s left, there’s typically nothing left over.”

The easiest way to go about this is to treat your savings like your other bills. “That automatic payment toward your retirement or your emergency savings is just like any other bill,” McBride says. “You’re getting it taken care of right off the bat when you receive your paycheck.” So if you get paid bi-weekly, you’ll be putting aside money twice a month.

“Paying yourself first clears the biggest hurdle for saving, which is simply not being in the habit of saving,” McBride continues. “It takes care of saving money before you have a chance to spend it. About how much to put aside, experts recommend putting 10% of your take-home salary into savings. But if you’re not able to put away that much, don’t fret. As long as you’re consistent, your savings will build.”

If you’re saving for multiple things, consider setting up multiple accounts for each item. Where’s the benefit in that?

“Labeling the various accounts with a specific name that reminds the account holder of what they are saving for can help deter them from withdrawing money from that account and subsequently spending it,” explains Diane Morais, deposits and product integration executive at Ally Financial in Charlotte, NC.

“You can build an emergency savings fund while building a retirement fund or a college fund at the same time,” McBride adds. “You have to attack both at the same time in the same way by automating your contributions.”

Start automating your savings today. It’s quick, painless and, in the long run, will be worth it.


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Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Common Misconceptions About 529 Plans

What you should know about saving for college with a 529 Plan

Helping your childbankingon_e_a002986918 decide where to go to college can be confusing, but understanding your investment options to help pay for it doesn’t have to be. Some simple knowledge about savings plans can help make the process easier. A 529 Plan is one of the safest and most flexible ways to save. The following information can help you clear up some common misconceptions about 529 Plans.

Short term investments aren’t worth it
Some people feel that if their child is going to school in the next few years, or if they themselves are interested in continuing their education in the near future, that a 529 Plan is pointless. This is not the case.

“While it is true that there’s not much opportunity for the money saved in a tax-advantaged investment account to grow if the money is only in there for a year, it’s a myth that there’s no point in adults saving for their own education to put money into a 529 plan,” according to the U.S. News & World Report. “Savers who want to start school in the fall of 2015 should start saving before the fall semester this year.”

Be sure to carefully review the withdrawal guidelines and minimums of a plan before you begin investing. When you find one that meets your needs, you can begin reaping the benefits right away.

“We have a $1,000 tax credit that can be taken right off their income tax,” states Jodi Golden, executive director of the Indiana Education Savings Authority, which has a College Choice Direct 529 Plan that only requires money stay in the plan for 12 months.

There are restrictions imposed by which state the plan comes from
Although many people choose the 529 Plan offered by their own state, you may actually use any state’s plan. The reason so many people pick their home state’s plan is because it can offer more tax benefits.

“Many states give you a state income tax break if you use the plan offered by your home state,” states Dan Danford, CEO of Family Investment Center. “If you don’t like the plan your state offers, you may not get the state income tax breaks, but you still get all the benefits of tax-free accumulation and withdrawals.”

There is one other common myth regarding the flexibility of state plans. Some people are aware that they can choose another state’s plan, but believe that their child must then go to school in that state. Fortunately, your child can go to school wherever they desire, and you can choose a plan from whichever state you prefer.

“There is no restriction or requirement to use 529 assets for a school (in a state) in which the taxpayer or beneficiary resides,” says Mary McConnell, director of college savings products for Charles Schwab in San Francisco.” People can use that money for qualified expenses for any school that’s been accredited for financial aid, and that includes many international programs.”

You can’t change beneficiaries
Many people are worried that they will be penalized for changing beneficiaries if one child decides not to go to college. This may inhibit parents from starting to save early, which is the best way to save. Investors can rest assured, however, because there are no tax penalties for changing beneficiaries.

“While there are tax penalties for taking out money from 529 plans to pay for things that are not considered qualified education expenses, there isn’t a tax penalty for changing the beneficiary,” according to the U.S. News & World Report. “Adults who own an account for a college-age student can change the beneficiary to themselves, especially if the student has finished college.”

You lose control of your investment
Some people may be wary of investing in a 529 plan because they do not want to give up control of the money they have saved for their child to attend college. After working so hard to save, many parents are afraid that their student will use the money unwisely, so they hold onto their funds in their own savings account. The fact of the matter is, however, that you can stay in control of the distributions.

“Each account has an owner (or joint owners) and that person controls the assets, regardless of how many people contribute,” according to Kiplinger. “The owner doesn’t have to be a parent.”


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