Thursday, August 17, 2017

Families Are Getting Savvier Paying for College

Families Are Getting Savvier Paying for College

College costs may be on the rise, but families are as determined as ever to make higher education a reality for their children. What’s more, families are becoming savvier about how they meet the expense, suggests a new study.
   According to “How America Pays for College 2017,” a national study from Sallie Mae and Ipsos, students and parents shared paying for college responsibilities equally in academic year 2016-17, each contributing about one-third of the expense, with scholarships and grants covering most of the rest.
   In addition, 98 percent of families surveyed took proactive measures in order to reduce college costs. That included choosing an in-state school, living at home, and enrolling in an accelerated program.
   “Throughout our 10 years of conducting this study, families have consistently demonstrated they are determined to make college happen, and they’ve also become more value-conscious as they pay for higher education,” said Raymond J. Quinlan, chairman and chief executive officer, Sallie Mae.
   For those families with college-bound students, Sallie Mae recommends a 1-2-3 approach.

• Maximize money that doesn’t need to be repaid. Scholarships and grants paid 35 percent of college costs last school year; and scholarships were used by 49 percent of all families.

You can get in on this action by utilizing free scholarship search tools from companies like Fastweb, Chegg, and Sallie Mae. To stay organized, maintain a spreadsheet of each scholarship’s details, including application due dates.

• Explore federal student loans. All college-bound students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, no matter what they believe their eligibility is – and repeat this every year they are in school. This is the key to securing federal and state financial aid for college. To learn more, visit

• Consider a responsible private student loan. Regardless of cost, nearly all families (98 percent) agreed college is an investment in a student’s future, and 86 percent of families said they expected their child to attend college since he or she was preschool age or younger. Even further, 59 percent said they expected their child to pursue a graduate degree. Making these dreams happen may require seeking out a private student loan. Be sure you turn to a responsible lender so there are no surprises down the line when it comes time to pay back the loan.
   Higher education remains an important aspect of the American dream for many families. As cost remains a deciding factor, more families are taking creative and proactive steps to make college affordable. (StatePoint)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Estate Planning: Selecting An Attorney

 Estate Planning: Selecting An Attorney

Planning what to do with your estate is no easy task. There are emotional and financial decisions that go into creating a solid estate plan, so hiring an attorney should be among your first steps.
   What exactly is your estate and why is it important to plan what happens to it after your death? Your estate is made up of all of your personal property, real estate, retirement accounts, investment accounts and other assets. While the law contains an official chain of events related to the disposing of these properties, it is best to figure out the details of what happens to your assets well before the task falls to the courts.
   This is where an estate planning attorney is key. You want your will and trust to be written in a way that covers all your bases. This can be a complicated issue, so it’s best to leave it in the hands of a licensed professional.

When looking for an estate planning attorney, be prepared to invest significant time and energy to find the right fit for you. This is an important decision that requires diligent research on your part. Start by visiting your state or local bar association’s website, where you will find an active list of members that can be searched by specialty.
   You also can call a local attorney’s office for an initial consultation to go over your specific needs. Some attorneys will charge you for this session, while others won’t. Be sure to ask up front so you know what kind of investment will be required.

Board Certified Specialists
Some states allow attorneys to become certified specialists in a particular area of law, such as trusts and estates. If professional certification is available in your state, the bar association will have information about the requirements.
   Before applying for certification, an attorney must have a certain number of years of experience practicing law in a particular area, usually at least five. To become certified, an attorney must submit a number of professional references, take additional courses in that area of law and pass a lengthy written exam.

Ask Around
There are no better referrals than trusted friends and family members. Ask the people around you if they or someone you know has had a great experience with an estate planning attorney.
   Be sure to get all of the pertinent details from your connections, including cost of the estate planning process, the length of time it took to build the necessary documents and their thoughts about the attorney’s professionalism and communication skills.