What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a convenient way to store funds specifically for medical expenses. If you qualify for an HSA, you will get to enjoy a few tax advantages as well. While this might sound like an ideal setup, not everyone is eligible for a health savings account. To qualify for a health savings account, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The details of these plans are revised every year by the Internal Service Revenue (IRS), which sets the bar for:

  • The minimum deductible a plan must have to be considered a HDHP.
  • The maximum amount that a customer who purchases a plan is able to spend out-of-pocket.

The benefits of a health savings account

Here are some of the key advantages of having a health savings account:

  • It covers a large variety of medical expenses: There are many different kinds of medical expenses that are eligible, such as medical, dental and mental health services.
  • Pretty much anyone can make contributions: Contributions to your health savings account don’t have to be made by you or your spouse. Employers, relatives, friends or anyone who would like to contribute to your account can do so. There are limits, however. For example, in 2019, the limit for individuals was $3,500 and $7,000 for families.
  • Pre-tax contributions: Since contributions are generally made at your employer pre-taxes, they are not considered to be part of your gross income and are not federally taxed. This is usually the same case when it comes to state level taxes as well.
  • After-tax contributions are tax-deductible: Any contributions made after taxes are deductible from your gross income on your tax return. Doing so minimizes the amount you would owe on taxes for that year.
  • Tax-free withdrawals: You can withdrawal money from your account for approved health care costs without having to worry about federal taxes. Most states do not tax, either.
  • Annual rollover: Any unused HSA funds that are left over by the end of the year get rolled over to the following year.
  • Portability: Even if you change health insurance plans, employers, or retire, the money in your health savings account will continue to be available for qualifying health care expenses.
  • Having a health savings account is convenient: Most of the time, you will receive a debit card that is connected to your health savings account. This way, you can use your debit card to start paying for eligible expenses and prescription drugs on the spot.

The drawbacks to having a health savings account

While there are many advantages to having a health savings account, there are a few things to consider. For one, in order to qualify for an HSA, you must hold a high-deductible health insurance plan. The tax benefits might entice you to purposely sign up for insurance coverage under one of these health plans but think before doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages to having a health savings account:

  • The High-Deductible Health Plan: These types of health plans can end up being a lot more expensive in the long run, even with an HSA. If you have other options for health insurance that offer lower deductible, definitely consider those and don’t only choose a High-Deductible plan so that you can open an HSA.
  • You need to stay on top of your spending: If you have an HSA, you need to be willing to hold yourself responsible for recordkeeping. Keep track of all of your receipts so that you can prove you spent your HSA funds on eligible expenses.
  • Taxes and penalties: Using money from your HSA on other expenses that do not qualify as eligible health care expenses could result in you owing taxes. If you do this before the age of 65, you will have to pay taxes with a 20% penalty tacked on. If you are 65 or older, you will be responsible for paying taxes, but the penalty gets waived.
  • Fees: Sometimes, health savings accounts will charge additional fees, either per month or per transaction. Check with your HSA institution for more information on extra fees.

How an HSA works

In many cases, if your employer offers high-deductible health plans, they probably offer health savings accounts as well. Talk to your employer to find out what they offer. If your employer doesn’t offer HSAs, then you can sign up for a separate one through a different institution.

You get to decide how much you would like to contribute to your HSA annually, but keep in mind that you cannot exceed the HSA contribution limit. Once you are set up with an account, you will either receive a debit card or a series of checks that are linked to your HSA. Right away, you will be able to use the funds in your account for:

  • Deductibles
  • Copays
  • Coinsurance
  • Other eligible health care expenses that your insurance does not cover.

Generally, you cannot use HSA funds to pay your insurance premiums.  HSAs are not the same as flexible spending accounts, because HSAs rollover. Once you turn 65, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your account, but you can still use the available funds for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. If you use the funds for non-eligible expenses, you will owe taxes on these amounts.

Investment Opportunities

Another benefit of HSA that you may or may not have heard of is that you can invest the money in mutual funds and stocks. If this is something that you are interested in, seek advice from a financial advisor for more information.

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The Highest Paying Trade Jobs On the Market

Pursuing a four-year degree or higher isn’t for everyone. If you fall into that group, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a high-paying job. There are a surprising number of trade jobs that pay salaries at or above careers that require a four-year degree. They pay well because they’re in demand and are expected to grow for the foreseeable future.

To earn that kind of money, you’ll need to land one of the best trade jobs. And while they may not require a four-year degree, most do require some type of specialized education, typically an associate’s degree (which you can often get from an online college). That has a lot of advantages by itself, because a two-year education is a lot less expensive than a full four-year program.

I covered the best jobs with no college degree previously, and this post is specifically about trade jobs. Choose one that interests you – and fits within your income expectations – then read the description for it. I’ve given you the requirements to enter the trade, the income, working conditions, employment projections and any required education. After reading this guide, you’ll already be on your way to your new career!

Benefits of Pursuing Trade Jobs

For a lot of young people, going to a four-year college is the default choice. But when you see how well the trade jobs pay, and how much less education they require, I think you’ll be interested.

Apart from income, here are other benefits to the best trade jobs:

  • You’ll need only a two-year degree or less, so you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars on your education.
  • You’ll graduate and begin earning money in half as much time as it will take you to complete a four-year degree.
  • Since trade jobs are highly specialized, you’ll mainly be taking courses related to the job, and less of the general courses that are required with a four-year degree.
  • Some schools provide job placement assistance to help you land that first position.
  • Since most of these jobs are in strong demand, the likelihood of finding a job quickly after graduation is very high.

Still another major benefit is geographic mobility, if that’s important to you. Since the best trade jobs are in demand virtually everywhere in the country, you’ll be able to choose where you want to live. Or if life takes one of those strange turns – that it tends to do – you’ll be able to make a move easily without needing to worry about finding a job. There’s an excellent chance one will be waiting for you wherever you go.

The Best Paying Trade Jobs

The table below shows some of the highest paying trades you can enter without a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, most do require at least an associate’s degree (AA) or equivalent education. Not surprisingly, occupations in the medical field are the most common.

The salary indicated is the median for the entire country. But there are large differences from one area of the country to another. Salary information is taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Trade Median Salary Education Requirement
Air traffic controllers $122,990 AA or BS from Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative Program
Radiation therapists $85,560 AA degree
Nuclear technicians (nuclear research and energy) $82,080 AA degree
Nuclear medicine technologists $77,950 AA degree
Dental hygienists $76,220 AA degree
Web developers $73,760 AA degree
Diagnostic medical sonographers $68,750 AA degree
MRI technologists $62,280 AA degree
Paralegals $51,740 AA degree
Licensed practical nurses $47,480 AA degree or state approved educational program

The table doesn’t list other common trades, like electricians, plumbers, elevator repair techs, welders or mechanics. To enter those fields you’ll usually need to participate in an apprentice program sponsored by an employer, though there may be certain courses you’ll need to complete.

The Best Trade Jobs in Detail

The table above summarized the best trade jobs, as well as the median salary and the basic educational requirements. Below is additional information specific to each job – and more important – why it’s a career worth considering.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers coordinate aircraft both on the ground and in the air around airports. They work in control towers, approach control facilities or route centers. The pay is nearly $123,000 per year, and the job outlook is stable.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need at least an associate’s degree, and sometimes a bachelor’s degree, that must be issued by the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative Program. There are only 29 colleges across the country that offer the program. Some of the more recognizable names include Arizona State University, Kent State University, Purdue University, Southern New Hampshire University (SHNU), and the University of Oklahoma.

Job Challenges: The limited number of colleges offering the program may be inconvenient for you. The job also requires complete concentration, which can be difficult to maintain over a full shift. You’ll also be required to work nights, weekends, and even rotating shifts. And since the pay is high and demand for air traffic controllers expected to be flat over the next few years, there’s a lot of competition for the positions.

Why you may want to become an air traffic controller:

  • The pay is an obvious factor – it’s much higher than most jobs that require a bachelor’s degree.
  • You have a love for aviation and want to be in the middle of where the action is.
  • Jobs are available at small private and commercial airports, as well as major metropolitan airports.

Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists are critical in the treatment of cancer and other diseases that require radiation treatments. The work is performed mostly in hospitals and outpatient centers, but can also be in physician offices. Income is well over $85,000 per year, and the field is expected to grow by 9% over the next decade, which is faster than average for the job market at large.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy, and licensing is required in most states. That usually involves passing a national certification exam.

Job Challenges: You’ll be working largely with cancer patients, so you’ll need a keen sensitivity to the patient’s you’re working with. You’ll need to be able to explain the treatment process and answer questions patients might have. There may also be the need to provide some degree of emotional support. Also, if you’re working in a hospital, the position may involve working nights and weekends.

Why you may want to become a radiation therapist:

  • You have a genuine desire to help in the fight against cancer.
  • The medical field offers a high degree of career and job stability.
  • The position pays well and typically comes with a strong benefits package.

Nuclear Technicians

Nuclear technicians work in nuclear research and energy. They provide assistance to physicists, engineers, and other professionals in the field. Work will be performed in offices and control rooms of nuclear power plants, using computers and other equipment to monitor and operate nuclear reactors. The pay level is about $82,000 per year, and job growth is expected to be slightly negative.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need an associate’s degree in nuclear science or a nuclear related technology. But you’ll also need to complete extensive on-the-job training once you enter the field.

Job Challenges: There is some risk of exposure to radiation, though all possible precautions are taken to keep that from happening. And because nuclear power plants run continuously, you should expect to do shift work that may also include a variable schedule. The biggest challenge may be that the field is expected to decline slightly over the next 10 years. But that may be affected by public attitudes toward nuclear energy, especially as alternative energy sources are developed.

Why you may want to become a nuclear technician:

  • You get to be on the cutting edge of nuclear research.
  • Compensation is consistent with the better paying college jobs, even though it requires only half as much education.
  • There may be opportunities to work in other fields where nuclear technician experience is a job requirement.
  • It’s the perfect career if you prefer not dealing with the general public.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs that are administered to patients for imaging or therapeutic procedures. You’ll typically be working in a hospital, but other possibilities are imaging clinics, diagnostic laboratories, and physician’s offices. The position pays an average of $78,000 per year, and demand is expected to increase by 7% over the next decade.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need an Associates degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. In most states, you’ll also be required to become certified.

Job Challenges: Similar to radiation therapists, you’ll need to be sensitive to patient needs, and be able to explain procedures and therapies. If you’re working in a hospital, you may be required to work shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays.

Why you may want to become a nuclear medicine technologist:

  • You have a strong desire to work in the healthcare field, participating in the healing process.
  • Nuclear medicine technologists are in demand across the country, so you can choose your location.
  • The field has an unusual level of job stability, as well as generous compensation and benefits.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists provide dental preventative care and examine patients for various types of oral disease. They work almost entirely in dentists offices, and can be either full-time or part-time. The annual income is over $76,000, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a healthy 11% growth rate over the next decade.

Education/Training Required: An associate’s degree in dental hygiene, though it usually takes three years to complete rather than the usual two. Virtually all states require dental hygienists to be licensed, though requirements vary by state.

Job Challenges: You’ll need to be comfortable working in people’s mouths, some of whom may have extensive gum disease or poor dental hygiene. But you also need to have a warm bedside manner. Many people are not comfortable going to the dentist, let alone having their teeth cleaned, and you’ll need to be able to keep them calm during the process.

Why you may want to become a dental hygienist:

  • Dental hygienists have relatively regular hours. Though some offices may offer early evening hours and limited Saturday hours, you’ll typically be working during regular business hours only.
  • You can work either full-time or part-time. Part-time is very common, as well as rewarding with an average hourly pay of $36.65.
  • Dental hygienists can work anywhere there’s a dental office, which is pretty much everywhere in the Western world.

Web Developers

Web developers design and create websites, making the work a nice mix of technical and creative. They work in all types of environments, including large and small companies, government agencies, small businesses, and advertising agencies. Some are even self-employed. With an average annual income of nearly $74,000, jobs in the field are expected to grow by 13% over the next decade. That means web developers have a promising future.

Education/Training Required: Typically an associates degree, but that’s not hard and fast. Large companies may require a bachelor’s degree, but it’s also possible to enter the field with a high school diploma and plenty of experience designing websites. It requires a knowledge of both programming and graphic design.

Job Challenges: You’ll need the ability to concentrate for long stretches, as well as to follow through with both editing and troubleshooting of the web platforms you develop. Good customer service skills and a lot of patience are required, since employers and clients are given to change direction, often with little notice.

Why you may want to become a web developer:

  • It’s an excellent field for anyone who enjoys working with computers, and has a strong creative streak.
  • Web designers are needed in just about every area of the economy, giving you a wide choice of jobs and industries, as well as geographic locations.
  • This is one occupation that can lead to self-employment. It can be done as a full-time business, but it can also make the perfect side hustle.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Diagnostic medical sonographers operate special imaging equipment designed to create images for aid in patient diagnoses. Most work in hospitals where the greatest need is, but some also work in diagnostic labs and physician’s offices. The pay is nearly $69,000 per year, and the field is expected to expand by 14%, which is much faster than the rest of the job market.

Education/Training Required: Most typically only an associate’s degree in the field, or at least a postsecondary certificate from a school specializing in diagnostic medical sonography.

Job Challenges: Similar to other health related fields, you’ll need to have a calm disposition at all times. Many of the people you’ll be working with have serious health issues, and you may need to be a source of comfort while you’re doing your job. You’ll need to develop a genuine compassion for the patients you’ll be working with.

Why you may want to become a diagnostic medical sonographer

  • The field has an exceptionally high growth rate, promising career stability.
  • As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you’ll be able to find work in just about any community you choose to live in.
  • It’s an opportunity to earn a college level income with just a two-year degree.

MRI Technologists

As an MRI technologist, you’ll be performing diagnostic imaging exams and operating magnetic resonance imaging scanners. About half of all positions are in hospitals, with the rest employed in other healthcare facilities, including outpatient clinics, diagnostic labs, and physician’s offices. The average pay is over $62,000 per year, and the field is expected to grow by 9% over the next 10 years.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need an associate’s degree in MRI technology, and even though very few states require licensing, employers often prefer candidates who are. MRI technologists often start out as radiologic technologists, eventually transitioning into MRI technologists.

Job Challenges: Similar to other healthcare occupations, you’ll need to have both patience and compassion in working with patients. You’ll also need to be comfortable working in windowless offices and labs during the workday.

Why you may want to become an MRI technologist:

  • With more than 250,000 jobs across the country, you’re pretty much guaranteed of finding work on your own terms.
  • You’ll typically be working regular business hours, though you may do shift work and weekends and holidays if you work at a hospital.
  • Solid job growth means you can look forward to career stability and generous benefits.

Paralegals

Paralegals assist lawyers, mostly by doing research and preparing legal documents. Client contact can range between frequent and nonexistent, depending on the law office you’re working in. But while most paralegals do work for law firms, many are also employed in corporate legal departments and government agencies. The position averages nearly $52,000 per year and is expected to grow by 12% over the next 10 years.

Education/Training Required: Technically speaking there are no specific education requirements for a paralegal. But most employers won’t hire you unless you have at least an associate’s degree, as well as a paralegal certification.

Job Challenges: You’ll need to have a willingness to perform deep research. And since you’ll often be involved in preparing legal documents, you’ll need a serious eye for detail. You’ll also need to be comfortable with the reality that much of what takes place in a law office involves conflict between parties. You may find yourself in the peacemaker role more than occasionally. There’s also a strong variation in pay between states and even cities. For example, while average pay in Washington DC is over $70,000 per year, it’s only about $48,000 in Tampa.

Why you may want to become a paralegal:

  • There are plenty of jobs in the field, with more than 325,000. That means you’ll probably be able to find a job anywhere in the country.
  • You’ll have a choice of work environments, whether it’s a law office, large company, or government agency.
  • You can even choose the specialization since many law firms work in specific niches. For example, one firm may specialize in real estate, another in family law, and still another in disability cases.

Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurses provide basic nursing care, often assisting registered nurses. There are more than 700,000 positions nationwide, and jobs are available in hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, extended care facilities, and even private homes. With an average pay level of over $47,000 per year, the field is expected to grow by 11% over the next decade.

Education/Training Required: At a minimum, you’ll need to complete a state approved LPN education program, which will take a year to complete. But many employers prefer candidates to have an associate’s degree, and will likely pay more if you do. As medical caregivers, LPNs must also be licensed in all states.

Job Challenges: As an LPN, just as is the case with registered nurses, you’ll be on the front line of the healthcare industry. That means constant contact with patients and family members. You’ll need to be able to provide both care and comfort to all. If you’re working in a hospital, nursing home, or extended care facility, you’ll be doing shift work, including nights and weekends.

Why you may want to become a licensed practical nurse:

  • With jobs available at hospitals and care facilities across the country, you’ll have complete geographic mobility as well as a choice of facilities.
  • You may be able to parlay your position into registered nursing by completing the additional education requirements while working as an LPN.
  • Though most positions are full-time, it may be possible to get a part-time situation if that’s your preference.

Start On Your Career Path by Enrolling in a Trade School

If you want to enter any of the trades above, or one of the many others that also have above average pay and opportunity, you’ll need to enroll in a trade school. However, in many cases it will be better to get the necessary education – especially an associate’s degree – at a local community college. Not only are they usually the least expensive places to get higher education, but there’s probably one close to your home.

Steps to enrolling in a trade school

Whether you go to a community college, a trade school, or enroll in a certificate program, use the following strategy:

  1. Develop a short list of the schools you want to attend to give yourself some choices.
    Make sure any school you’re considering is accredited.
  2. Do some digging and make sure the school you want to attend has a job placement office with a solid record of success.
  3. Complete an application form with the school, but be sure to do it well in advance of the beginning of the semester or school year.
  4. Apply for any financial aid that may be available. You can use the tool below to get started.
  5. Consider whether you want to attend on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time will be quicker, but part-time will enable you to earn money while you’re getting your certificate or degree, as well as spread the cost of your schooling over several years.

Tax credits can help you afford your education

Even if you don’t qualify for financial aid, the government may still be able to help by providing tax credits. Tax credits can be even better than tax deductions, because they provide a direct reduction of your tax liability.

For example, the American Opportunity Credit is available for students for qualified education expenses paid for the first four years of higher education. The credit is $2,500 per year, covering 100% of the first $2,000 in qualified education expenses, plus 25% of the next $2,000.

Another credit is the Lifetime Learning Credit. It’s a credit for tuition and other education expenses paid for courses taken to acquire or improve job skills, including formal degree programs. The credit is worth up to $2,000 per tax return, based on 20% of education expenses up to $10,000 paid.

What to watch out for when looking for trade schools

When choosing a trade school it pays not to be too trusting. While that shouldn’t be a problem with community colleges, since they’re publicly accredited, there are a large number of for-profit trade schools that are not only expensive, but they often don’t have the best reputations. That isn’t to say all for-profit schools are scam artists, but the possibility is real.

Make sure the school is accredited by your state.
Don’t rely on assurances by the school that they’re accredited by some poorly known and totally unrecognized industry trade group.

Check out the school with reliable third-party sources.
This can include your state Department of Education, the Better Business Bureau, and even reviews on Yelp or other social media sites. If the school has burned others, you could be a future victim.

Interview people already working in your chosen field.
They’re likely to know which schools are legitimate, and which have a less than savory reputation.

Don’t ignore cost!
Don’t pay $30,000 at a for-profit school when you can get the same education for half as much at a community college. This will be even more important if you will be using student loans to pay for your education. Overpaying for school means you’ll be overpaying on your student loan.

How We Found the Best Trade Jobs of 2021

Just so you know our list of the best trade jobs isn’t just our opinion, we used the following methodology in including the occupations we did:

  • The occupations frequently appear on published lists of “the best jobs without a college degree”.
  • We focused on those occupations that appeared frequently across several lists.
  • We specifically chose fields that could best be considered semi-professional. That means that while they don’t require a four-year degree or higher, they do require at least some form of education, and in most cases, a certification. We consider this an important criteria, because career fields with a low entry bar can easily become saturated, forcing pay levels down.
  • As the table at the beginning of this guide discloses, statistical information for each of these occupations was obtained from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Summary: The Best Trade Jobs

If you’re a high school student, a recent high school graduate, or you’re already in the workforce and looking to make a career change, take a close look at these trade jobs. They pay salaries comparable to jobs that require a four-year college degree, but you can enter with just a two-year degree or less.

That will not only cut the time, cost, and effort in getting your education in half, but it will also enable you to begin earning high pay in only one or two years.

Pick the field that’s right for you, choose a reputable trade school or community college, then get started in time for the next semester.

The post The Highest Paying Trade Jobs On the Market appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

529 Plans: A Complete Guide to Funding Future Education

Do you have kids? Are there children in your life? Were you once a child? If you plan on helping pay for a child’s future education, then you’ll benefit from this complete guide to 529 plans. We’ll cover every detail of 529 plans, from the what/when/why basics to the more complex tax implications and investing ideas.

This article was 100% inspired by my Patrons. Between Jack, Nathan, Remi, other kiddos in my life (and a few buns in the oven), there are a lot of young Best Interest readers out there. And one day, they’ll probably have some education expenses. That’s why their parents asked me to write about 529 plans this week.

What is a 529 Plan?

The 529 college savings plan is a tax-advantaged investment account meant specifically for education expenses. As of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (in 2017), 529 plans can be used for college costs, K-12 public school costs, or private and/or religious school tuition. If you will ever need to pay for your children’s education, then 529 plans are for you.

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529 plans are named in a similar fashion as the famous 401(k). That is, the name comes from the specific U.S. tax code where the plan was written into law. It’s in Section 529 of Internal Revenue Code 26. Wow—that’s boring!

But it turns out that 529 plans are strange amalgam of federal rules and state rules. Let’s start breaking that down.

Tax Advantages

Taxes are important! 529 college savings plans provide tax advantages in a manner similar to Roth accounts (i.e. different than traditional 401(k) accounts). In a 529 plan, you pay all your normal taxes today. Your contributions to the 529 plan, therefore, are made with after-tax dollars.

Any investment you make within your 529 plan is then allowed to grow tax-free. Future withdrawals—used for qualified education expenses—are also tax-free. Pay now, save later.

But wait! Those are just the federal income tax benefits. Many individual states offer state tax benefits to people participating in 529 plans. As of this writing, 34 states and Washington D.C. offer these benefits. Of the 16 states not participating, nine of those don’t have any state income tax. The seven remaining states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, and North Carolina—all have state income taxes, yet do not offer income tax benefits to their 529 plan participants. Boo!

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This makes 529 plans an oddity. There’s a Federal-level tax advantage that applies to everyone. And then there might be a state-level tax advantage depending on which state you use to setup your plan.

Two Types of 529 Plans

The most common 529 plan is the college savings program. The less common 529 is the prepaid tuition program.

The savings program can be thought of as a parallel to common retirement investing accounts. A person can put money into their 529 plan today. They can invest that money in a few different ways (details further in the article). At a later date, they can then use the full value of their account at any eligible institution—in state or out of state. The value of their 529 plan will be dependent on their investing choices and how those investments perform.

The prepaid program is a little different. This plan is only offered by certain states (currently only 10 are accepting new applicants) and even by some individual colleges/universities. The prepaid program permits citizens to buy tuition credits at today’s tuition rates. Those credits can then be used in the future at in-state universities. However, using these credits outside of the state they were bought in can result in not getting full value.

You don’t choose investments in the prepaid program. You just buy credit’s today that can be redeemed in the future.

The savings program is universal, flexible, and grows based on your investments.

The prepaid program is not offered everywhere, works best at in-state universities, and grows based on how quickly tuition is changing (i.e. the difference between today’s tuition rate and the future tuition rate when you use the credit.)

Example: a prepaid credit would have cost ~$13,000 for one year of tuition in 2000. That credit would have been worth ~$24,000 of value if used in 2018. (Source)

What are “Qualified Education Expenses?”

You can only spend your 529 plan dollars on “qualified education expenses.” Turns out, just about anything associated with education costs can be paid for using 529 plan funds. Qualified education expenses include:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Room and board (as long as the beneficiary attends school at least half-time). Off-campus housing is even covered, as long as it’s less than on-campus housing.

Student loans and student loan interest were added to this list in 2019, but there’s a lifetime limit of $10,000 per person.

How Do You “Invest” Your 529 Plan Funds?

529 savings plans do more than save. Their real power is as a college investment plan. So, how can you “invest” this tax-advantaged money?

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There’s a two-part answer to how your 529 plan funds are invested. The first part is that only savings plans can be invested, not prepaid plans. The second part is that it depends on what state you’re in.

For example, let’s look at my state: New York. It offers both age-based options and individual portfolios.

The age-based option places your 529 plan on one of three tracks: aggressive, moderate, or conservative. As your child ages, the portfolio will automatically re-balance based on the track you’ve chosen.

The aggressive option will hold more stocks for longer into your child’s life—higher risk, higher rewards. The conservative option will skew towards bonds and short-term reserves. In all cases, the goal is to provide some level of growth in early years, and some level of stability in later years.

The individual portfolios are similar to the age-based option, but do not automatically re-balance. There are aggressive and conservative and middle-ground choices. Thankfully, you can move funds from one portfolio to another up to twice per year. This allowed rebalancing is how you can achieve the correct risk posture.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Using a 529 Plan

The advantages of using the 529 as a college investing plan are clear. First, there’s the tax-advantaged nature of it, likely saving you tens of thousands of dollars. Another benefit is the aforementioned ease of investing using a low-maintenance, age-based investing accounts. Most states offer them.

Other advantages include the high maximum contribution limit (ranging by state, from a low of $235K to a high of $529K), the reasonable financial aid treatment, and, of course, the flexibility.

If your child doesn’t end up using their 529 plan, you can transfer it to another relative. If you don’t like your state’s 529 offering, you can open an account in a different state. You can even use your 529 plan to pay for primary education at a private school or a religious school.

But the 529 plan isn’t perfect. There are disadvantages too.

For example, the prepaid 529 plan involves a considerable up-front cost—in the realm of $100,000 over four years. That’s a lot of money. Also, your proactive saving today ends up affecting your child’s financial aid package in the future. It feels a bit like a punishment for being responsible. That ain’t right!

Of course, a 529 plan is not a normal investing account. If you don’t use the money for educational purposes, you will face a penalty. And if you want to hand-pick your 529 investments? Well, you can’t do that. Similar to many 401(k) programs, your state’s 529 program probably only offers a few different fund choices.

529 Plan FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions about 529 education savings plans. And I even provide answers!

How do I open a 529 plan?

Virtually all states now have online portals that allow you to open 529 plans from the comfort of your home. A few online forms and email messages is all it takes.

Can I contribute to someone else’s 529?

You sure can! If you have a niece or nephew or grandchild or simply a friend, you can make a third-party contribution to their 529 plan. You don’t have to be their parent, their relative, or the person who opened the account.

Investing in someone else’s knowledge is a terrific gift.

Does a 529 plan affect financial aid?

Short answer: yes, but it’s better than how many other assets affect financial aid.

Longer answer: yes, having a 529 plan will likely reduce the amount of financial aid a student receives. The first $10,000 in a 529 plan is not part of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) equation. It’s not “counted against you.” After that $10,000, remaining 529 plan funds are counted in the EFC equation, but cap at 5.46% of the parental assets (many other assets are capped higher, e.g. at 20%).

Similarly, 529 plan distributions are not included in the “base year income” calculations in the FAFSA application. This is another benefit in terms of financial aid.

Fafsa memes. Best Collection of funny fafsa pictures on iFunny

Finally, 529 plan funds owned by non-parents (e.g. grandparents) are not part of the FAFSA EFC equation. This is great! The downside occurs when the non-parent actually withdraws the funds on behalf of the student. At that time, 50% of those funds count as “student income,” thus lowering the student’s eligibility for aid.

Are there contribution limits?

Kinda sorta. It’s a little complicated.

There is no official annual contribution limit into a 529 plan. But, you should know that 529 contributions are considered “completed gifts” in federal tax law, and that those gifts are capped at $15,000 per year in 2020 and 2021.

After $15,000 of contributions in one year, the remainder must be reported to the IRS against the taxpayer’s (not the student’s) lifetime estate and gift tax exemption.

Additionally, each state has the option of limiting the total 529 plan balances for a particular beneficiary. My state (NY) caps this limit at $520,000. That’s easily high enough to pay for 4 years of college at current prices.

Another state-based limit involves how much income tax savings a contributor can claim per year. In New York, for example, only the first $5,000 (or $10,000 if a married couple) are eligible for income tax savings.

Can I use my state’s 529 plan in another state? Do I need to create 529 plans in multiple states?

Yes, you can use your state’s 529 plan in another state. And mostly likely no, you do not need to create 529 plans in multiple states.

First, I recommend scrolling up to the savings program vs. prepaid program description. Savings programs are universal and transferrable. My 529 savings plan could pay for tuition in any other state, and even some other countries.

But prepaid tuition accounts typically have limitations in how they transfer. Prepaid accounts typically apply in full to in-state, state-sponsored schools. They might not apply in full to out-of-state and/or private schools.

What if my kid is Lebron James and doesn’t go to college? Can I get my money back?

It’s a great question. And the answer is yes, there are multiple ways to recoup your money if the beneficiary doesn’t end up using it for education savings.

First, you can avoid all penalties by changing the beneficiary of the funds. You can switch to another qualifying family member. Instead of paying for Lebron’s college, you can switch those funds to his siblings, to a future grandchild, or even to yourself (if you wanted to go back to school).

Lebron James Mood GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY

What if you just want you money back? The contributions that you initially made come back to you tax-free and penalty-free. After all, you already paid taxes on those. Any earnings you’ve made on those contributions are subject to normal income tax, and then a 10% federal penalty tax.

The 10% penalty is waived in certain situations, such as the beneficiary receiving a tax-free scholarship or attending a U.S. military academy.

And remember those state income tax breaks we discussed earlier? Those tax breaks might get recaptured (oh no!) if you end up taking non-qualified distributions from your 529 plan.

Long story short: try to the keep the funds in a 529 plan, especially is someone in your family might benefit from them someday. Otherwise, you’ll pay some taxes and penalties.

Graduation

It’s time to don my robe and give a speech. Keep on learning, you readers, for:

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

-Ben Franklin

Oh snap! Yes, that is how the blog got its name. Giving others the gift of education is a wonderful thing, and 529 plans are one way the U.S. government allows you to do so.

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

Source: bestinterest.blog

A Guide to Schedule K-1 (Form 1041)

Man prepares his tax returnsInheriting property or other assets typically involves filing the appropriate tax forms with the IRS. Schedule K-1 (Form 1041) is used to report a beneficiary’s share of an estate or trust, including income as well as credits, deductions and profits. A K-1 tax form inheritance statement must be sent out to beneficiaries at the end of the year. If you’re the beneficiary of an estate or trust, it’s important to understand what to do with this form if you receive one and what it can mean for your tax filing.

Schedule K-1 (Form 1041), Explained

Schedule K-1 (Form 1041) is an official IRS form that’s used to report a beneficiary’s share of income, deductions and credits from an estate or trust. It’s full name is “Beneficiary’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.” The estate or trust is responsible for filing Schedule K-1 for each listed beneficiary with the IRS. And if you’re a beneficiary, you also have to receive a copy of this form.

This form is required when an estate or trust is passing tax obligations on to one or more beneficiaries. For example, if a trust holds income-producing assets such as real estate, then it may be necessary for the trustee to file Schedule K-1 for each listed beneficiary.

Whether it’s necessary to do so or not depends on the amount of income the estate generates and the residency status of the estate’s beneficiaries. If the annual gross income from the estate is less than $600, then the estate isn’t required to file Schedule K-1 tax forms for beneficiaries. On the other hand, this form has to be filed if the beneficiary is a nonresident alien, regardless of how much or how little income is reported.

Contents of Schedule K-1 Tax Form Inheritance Statements

The form itself is fairly simple, consisting of a single page with three parts. Part one records information about the estate or trust, including its name, employer identification number and the name and address of the fiduciary in charge of handling the disposition of the estate. Part Two includes the beneficiary’s name and address, along with a box to designate them as a domestic or foreign resident.

Part Three covers the beneficiary’s share of current year income, deductions and credits. That includes all of the following:

  • Interest income
  • Ordinary dividends
  • Qualified dividends
  • Net short-term capital gains
  • Net long-term capital gains
  • Unrecaptured Section 1250 gains
  • Other portfolio and nonbusiness income
  • Ordinary business income
  • Net rental real estate income
  • Other rental income
  • Directly apportioned deductions
  • Estate tax deductions
  • Final year deductions
  • Alternative minimum tax deductions
  • Credits and credit recapture

If you receive a completed Schedule K-1 (Form 1041) you can then use it to complete your Form 1040 Individual Tax Return to report any income, deductions or credits associated with inheriting assets from the estate or trust.

You wouldn’t, however, have to include a copy of this form when you file your tax return unless backup withholding was reported in Box 13, Code B. The fiduciary will send a copy to the IRS on your behalf. But you would want to keep a copy of your Schedule K-1 on hand in case there are any questions raised later about the accuracy of income, deductions or credits being reported.

Estate Income and Beneficiary Taxation

Woman prepares her tax returns

If you received a Schedule K-1 tax form, inheritance tax rules determine how much tax you’ll owe on the income from the estate. Since the estate is a pass-through entity, you’re responsible for paying income tax on the income that’s generated. The upside is that when you report amounts from Schedule K-1 on your individual tax return, you can benefit from lower tax rates for qualified dividends. And if there’s income from the estate that hasn’t been distributed or reported on Schedule K-1, then the trust or estate would be responsible for paying income tax on it instead of you.

In terms of deductions or credits that can help reduce your tax liability for income inherited from an estate, those can include things like:

  • Depreciation
  • Depletion allocations
  • Amortization
  • Estate tax deduction
  • Short-term capital losses
  • Long-term capital losses
  • Net operating losses
  • Credit for estimated taxes

Again, the fiduciary who’s completing the Schedule K-1 for each trust beneficiary should complete all of this information. But it’s important to check the information that’s included against what you have in your own records to make sure that it’s correct. If there’s an error in reporting income, deductions or credits and you use that inaccurate information to complete your tax return, you could end up paying too much or too little in taxes as a result.

If you think the information in your Schedule K-1 (Form 1041) is incorrect, you can contact the fiduciary to request an amended form. If you’ve already filed your taxes using the original form, you’d then have to file an amended return with the updated information.

Schedule K-1 Tax Form for Inheritance vs. Schedule K-1 (Form 1065)

Schedule K-1 can refer to more than one type of tax form and it’s important to understand how they differ. While Schedule K-1 (Form 1041) is used to report information related to an estate or trust’s beneficiaries, you may also receive a Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) if you run a business that’s set up as a pass-through entity.

Specifically, this type of Schedule K-1 form is used to record income, losses, credits and deductions related to the activities of an S-corporation, partnership or limited liability company (LLC). A Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) shows your share of business income and losses.

It’s possible that you could receive both types of Schedule K-1 forms in the same tax year if you run a pass-through business and you’re the beneficiary of an estate. If you’re confused about how to report the income, deductions, credits and other information from either one on your tax return, it may be helpful to get guidance from a tax professional.

The Bottom Line

Senior citizen prepares her tax returnsReceiving a Schedule K-1 tax form is something you should be prepared for if you’re the beneficiary of an estate or trust. Again, whether you will receive one of these forms depends on whether you’re a resident or nonresident alien and the amount of income the trust or estate generates. Talking to an estate planning attorney can offer more insight into how estate income is taxed as you plan a strategy for managing an inheritance.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about the financial implications of inheriting assets. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors in your local area in minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • One way to make the job of filing taxes easier is with a free, easy-to-use tax return calculator. Also, creating a trust is something you might consider as part of your own estate plan if you have significant assets you want to pass on.

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