Education Column

Your education is your #1 asset. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” It doesn’t matter whether other people think you’re smart or not, education is what sharpens the mind and magnifies the innate skills you were born with.


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Kids & Money: When to Start Saving for Your Child’s College Education

College GraduationOne of the questions that many anxious parents ask themselves is this: When should I start saving for my child’s college education?

The answer, as it is for so many questions related to saving, is, “as soon as possible.” It’s never too early to begin saving for your child’s college education. Indeed, the sooner you start, the more time you will have for compound interest to work on your child’s behalf.

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Should I Invest in a Prepaid College Plan?

What if you could lock in your child’s college tuition at today’s prices? Prepaid college tuition plans are now offered in ten states and for those who are worried about the rising price of a college education along with the uncertainty of investment markets, buying tomorrow’s education at today’s prices seems like an easy decision.

But financial planners are largely unconvinced. Although this chart shows that the college tuition inflation rate has long been much higher than the general inflation rate, the decision, according to the 89% of financial planners who don’t use these prepaid plans, isn’t as easy as the numbers may indicate.

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Two Ways to Make College More Tax Efficient

Graduation!It’s tax time and you’re thinking about all of the ways that you can save money on your both taxes for 2011 and looking forward to 2012. If you have a college student, you’re undoubtedly thinking that although the costs of college are high, there are plenty of ways to recoup that money from the IRS.

We’ve all heard that the best way to set yourself up for a comfortable future is to get a college education and the government believes that as well. They have numerous credits and deductions designed to get more people in to college regardless of their age.

There are two key areas where most of the college tax writeoffs reside. If you later have student loan interest, those writeoffs fall under a different set of tax codes but let’s look at the tax benefits you’ll receive for the more immediate expenses.

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Kids & Money: When to Look for Scholarships

Scholarship Search Secrets eBookIf you plan on sending your child to college, you know that it’s expensive. The cost of an education rises each year. And, while you are hopefully saving up for college with the help of a savings account or a 529 plan, it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways of paying for school.

Scholarships can provide a way for your child to get free money for college. A scholarship can reduce the burden on you, as well as reduce the burden of student loan debt for your child. If you want your child to get a scholarship, though, you both have to start preparing ahead of time.

It’s important to work hard for decent grades, as well as to consider extracurricular activities and involvement. If your teenager starts at the beginning of high school to prepare to be eligible for scholarships, he or she is more likely to find success down the road. You can also start looking around at different scholarship options so that you know what your teen needs to work on.

You also need to start applying before your teen goes to school. Applying late in the junior year of high school, and in the early part of the your teen’s senior year, is often a good idea. Check scholarship deadlines to make sure that you are on track, and make sure to fill out the applications in order so that you don’t miss options.
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Is a Graduate Degree Worth the Money?

Advanced DegreeOne of the furious debates going on right now in the world of finance and money is the one over whether or not getting a college degree is “worth” it. And, of course, the debate only intensifies once you start talking about graduate and professional degrees.

The reason that this is such a debatable subject is due to the fact that different degrees offer different advantages. Not everyone with a Master’s degree or a professional degree (such as a law degree or medical degree) is going to earn the same amount because the salaries you see when you are done vary widely. Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that the median salary with an advanced degree is $73,738. However, that doesn’t mean everyone with an advanced degree. (Indeed, half of those with advanced degrees will earn less.) The Center also points out that payoff from getting an advanced degree can mean as little as a 1% boost to your salary, or as much as 190%.

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How To Find A School That’s Right For You

Right about now, thousands of kids around our nation are taking SAT exams and applying to college. Thousands more are doing neither, their eyes set on vocational schools or local community colleges. In both cases, I think students need to take a good look at themselves, what they want to do, and decide which path will best take them towards their goals.

When I look back at the last ten years, I’m amazed at the path my career has taken. I went to college because “that’s what you did after high school.” I graduated into a horrible tech job market, went into graduate school and I was able to secure a job in the defense industry working software projects a year later. Two companies and five years later, I find myself doing what I do now – personal finance blogging. Crazy huh? Very little that I did academically or professionally, in the last eight years, prepared me for what might eventually be the career that takes me into retirement.

If you want to do one thing to ensure your future success and happiness, it’s finding a career that’s right for you. Once you’ve decided on the career, knowing full well it could change a half dozen times before you get it right, the next step is to find the right school. After seeing this CNN Money piece on the most expensive colleges (Sarah Lawrence College is over $55,000 a year!), it should be clear that not everyone should be going to college… and that’s OK.

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Is College Still a Good Investment?

The troubled global economy isn’t producing good statistics in any sector and some of these statistics are painting college as a less than attractive expense for many families. Although college still remains the best way to thrive financially, making highly informed, detail oriented decisions is even more important. Gone are the days when parents send their children to the college of their choice with very little discussion of cost. The value gained by a college education is in danger of being severely offset by rising costs and lowering wages.

Take a four year public school like Florida State University. For a resident of Florida, the cost of room, board, books and supplies comes out to $11,000 per year. With tuition increase and other expenses, the four year cost would come out to approximately $53,000. A private school such as Princeton University will cost $175,000 for a four year degree. The average scholarship amount of a Princeton student who qualifies for a needs based scholarships is $24,000 per year while Florida State students receive an average of $5,000. There’s a big difference between these schools but the costs don’t stop there.

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Kids & Money: Things Teens Can Do for Scholarships

ScholarshipOne of the best ways for your teens to help prepare themselves to pay the costs of a college education is to get a scholarship. As you and your teen prepare for college, it is important to cultivate different options for paying, from contributing to a 529 plan or some other investment account, to student loans, to free money. A scholarship can be a great way to get free money that can be used to defray the rising costs of a college degree.

However, it is important to note that scholarships, for the most part, don’t just come right to you. Your teen will need to start now to prepare to be eligible for a scholarship. If your teen plans now, works hard, and does his or her best to improve in certain areas, it is possible to earn a scholarship. Here are some things your teen can do now to increase the chances of receiving a little free money:
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