15-Year Fixed vs. 30-Year Fixed: The Pros and Cons

It’s that time again, where I take a look at a pair of popular mortgage programs to determine which may better suit certain situations. Today’s match-up: “15-year fixed mortgage vs. 30-year fixed mortgage.” As always, there is no one-size-fits-all solution because everyone is different and may have varying real estate and financial goals. For example, [&hellip

The post 15-Year Fixed vs. 30-Year Fixed: The Pros and Cons first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator

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Your grocery bill can add up fast. From dinner entrées to snacks, the amount you spend directly affects your other financial goals. Luckily, there are some guidelines to ensure you’re not overspending. 

Use the grocery calculator below to estimate your monthly and weekly food budget based on guidelines from the USDA’s monthly food plan. Input your family size and details below to calculate how much a nutritious grocery budget should cost you. Of course, every family is different. Some love coupons and leftovers, while others prefer fresh fish and aged cheese. Once you’ve established your budget, use the slider to adjust your estimate to your spending habits. 

Getting your food budget on point takes practice. With this grocery calculator and the right spending habits, you’ll have enough for your living expenses and exciting financial goals like paying off loans or buying a house.

Grocery Budget Calculator

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A moderate grocery budget will run you:

Weekly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.

$0.00

Monthly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.

$0.00

What kind of spender are you?

Does your estimate look right? If your spending habits don’t add up, explore these other budget options and choose what’s best for your lifestyle.

Thrifty This is the USDA’s estimated food budget for families that receive food assistance like WIC or SNAP.

Cost-Conscious This is an ideal budget for nutritious meals if you’re looking to save a little extra cash with leftovers and coupons.

Moderate This is the standard for affordable, nutritious, and balanced portions for most families.

Generous This budget gives you some spending wiggle room for finer foods or extra portions.

See where the rest of your budget is going Sign up for Mint

Monthly Grocery Budget

Ever wonder how much you should spend on groceries? The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.

Here’s a monthly grocery budget for the average family. This is based on the national average and likely varies by location and shop. For instance, New York City grocers are going to be far more expensive than Kansas City shops. Additionally, organic grocery stores like Whole Foods are pricier than places like Walmart or Aldi.

You’ll also want to consider dietary choices, like gluten-free or vegan diets. These can significantly affect your budget, so consider planning your grocery list online to compare prices and find your preferred alternatives.

FAMILY SIZE SUGGESTED
MONTHLY BUDGET
1 person $251
2 people $553
3 people $722
4 people $892
5 people $1,060
6 people $1,230

Finding a reasonable monthly grocery budget ensures you and your family have what you need, while not overspending. Look back at previous months using a budgeting app or credit card statements to see what you’ve spent at the grocery store. Decide if you want to maintain your current budget or cut back.

Purchasing Groceries vs. Dining Out

Mockup of grocery list and food inventory printables with fresh produce

 

Download grocery list and inventory printables button.

Don’t forget what you spend at restaurants when you consider your food budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend 11 percent of their take-home income on food. It doesn’t all go towards groceries, though. Approximately six percent is spent on groceries, while five percent is spent dining out — including dates, lunches with coworkers, and Sunday brunch.

With this framework in mind, you can calculate your total food budget based on your take-home income. For example, Rita makes $3,500 per month after taxes. She would budget six percent for groceries ($210) and five percent for restaurants ($175). So she’ll need a total of $385 for food each month. With a little practice, she’ll better learn her habits and be able to accurately adjust her budget.

Tips for Reducing Your Budget

Illustration of grocery coupons and meal planner.

There are several ways to cut back on what you spend without sacrificing the quality and taste of your food. Trimming your food budget can help you stow away more for your financial goals, such as building an emergency fund or saving for a dream vacation.

Cut Coupons

Coupons are easy to find in the mail, in store, in your inbox, and even in a Google search. Many popular grocery stores are rolling out apps that track your coupons and savings. Be sure to download and register your email for new updates and sales. These usually work in person or online, so you can shop when and how you like. 

While a single coupon might not give you a large discount, you can save a lot with multiple coupons. It’s also important you make sure you actually need the item you’re purchasing instead of buying it for the sale. This can quickly get out of hand and push you over budget. 

Freeze Your Food

Freezing your fresh food before it goes bad helps your wallet and the environment. You can plan ahead and freeze prepared produce to save time on weekday cooking, or chop and freeze last week’s produce before shopping for more. Frozen vegetables are great in soups and stews, and you can use frozen fruits for healthy breakfast smoothies. 

Plan a Weekly Menu Ahead of Time

Plan your meals ahead of time to determine the food items and quantities you need before you head to the grocery store. This way you’re more likely to buy the exact items you need and can plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to plan for recipes that use the same ingredients so there’s less to purchase. You can also make larger meals and plan leftovers for lunch so you have less to plan and purchase.

Download meal planning printable button.

Bring Lunches to Work 

A $13 lunch out might not seem like much, but it can blow your food budget fast if it becomes a habit. Push your monthly food budget further with delicious lunches from home. Salads, sandwiches, and leftovers are all easy, inexpensive, and nutritious. 

Buy Store Brands 

Many packaged products have a huge price disparity between brand name and generic items, and store brand items tend to be cheaper without sacrificing much quality. You can easily save 10 cents to a dollar per item, which adds up quickly over many trips. 

Shop at a More Affordable Store

Your local farmers market, chain grocery, and organic store will all offer different specialties and sales. Check out the different shops in your area to find the best combination of quality and price. Some stores might even offer bulk items — great for your favorite products and those with a long shelf-life. Choosing cheaper staple items like milk and yogurt can also make a huge difference over time. 

An accurate food budget that works for you helps you feel more confident and in control of your finances. Build a budget, learn your spending habits, and keep a grocery list to keep you on track and responsible so you can reach bigger goals, like a new vehicle or a down payment on a house. 

Sources: USA Today | EurekAlert | Persistent Economic Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet

The post How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Mortgage Rates vs. the Coronavirus: We Might Test New All-Time Lows

Mortgage rates can be pretty volatile. Just like stocks, they can change daily depending on what’s happening in the economy. Beyond that, mortgage rates can move based on news that doesn’t involve a report on the economic calendar, such as a jobs report, GDP, housing starts, inflation, etc. Even if there isn’t a direct financial [&hellip

The post Mortgage Rates vs. the Coronavirus: We Might Test New All-Time Lows first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

Advantages And Disadvantages of Money Market Accounts

Saving money in a place like a money market account can assure that the money will be there safely when you need it. A money market account is an alternative to savings account, and usually pays more interest rate than a savings account.

See, Money Market Vs. Savings Accounts: What’s The Difference.

Overall, money market accounts are worth it, especially if you’re saving for a short-term goal. However, like any investments, there are some disadvantages to money market accounts. 

In this article we will address three main things: what is a money market account and what are the advantages and disadvantages of money market accounts.

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What is a money market account?

Before we get to the advantages and disadvantages of money market accounts, it’s best to define what a money market account is.

A money market account is an interest bearing account that you can open at a bank or credit union. It is more like a savings account, though there are some key differences.

Money Market Accounts Advantages and Disadvantages.

Advantages

Let us consider the advantages of money market accounts.

Interest rate: The main benefit of a money market account is that the interest rate is much higher than that of a regular savings account. For example, CIT bank offers a money market account with 1.00% APY. Whereas the interest rate for a typical savings account is anywhere around 0.10%. MMAs interest rates are similar to those of certificate of deposits. The main difference, however, with a CD you earn a fixed interest for a fixed amount of time. And CD rates are higher than MMAs. And a penalty may apply if you withdraw your money early.

FDIC Insured. One of the benefits of money market accounts is that they are FDIC insured. Your money is secured by the federal government of up to $250,000. If you have more money than that, then you will need to open another account so all of your money can be protected.

To recap, money market accounts are FDIC insured, they offer higher interest rates than savings accounts, and they permit check writing privileges. Despite these many advantages, money markets also have disadvantages.

What are the disadvantages of a money market account?

Minimum balance: Most money market accounts require a minimum deposit account of $1,000. Although, that’s not a big amount, it may not be feasible for a young saver. Plus, a penalty will apply if your balance falls below the minimum requirement.

Limited check writing: While MMAs offer check writing privileges, there is a limit. With a money market account, you can only write six checks per month against your balance, which can be a disadvantage if you pay a lot of bills every month. So, money market accounts are a disadvantage for those who need to write more than six checks per month. 

Account fees: Another disadvantage of money market accounts is the fee. If you don’t maintain the required minimum balance, a fee will apply. So, maintaining the minimum balance is important because any fee will eat out your interest or earnings.

Taxes: Taxes are another disadvantage of money market accounts. You will pay taxes on whatever interest you earn in a MMA.

Inflation: just like taxes and account fees can reduce your interest, inflation can do the same thing. Let’s suppose you generate a 3% return on your money market account per year, and the inflation is 4%. That can impact your total return significantly.

Best Money Market Accounts

CIT Bank Money Market Account

The CIT Bank money market account is one of the best ones out there. Currently, the money market account offers a 1.0% APY.

This is very competitive comparing to other MMAs.  Moreover, CIT Bank’s MMA has a required account minimum of only $100.

Open a CIT Bank Money Market Account.

Bottom line:

While money market accounts offer several benefits, there are disadvantages as well. The main disadvantages are that the minimum balance can be high for a young investor. Moreover, taxes and account fees can eat away whatever interest you might earn. 

Related: 

  • 7 Best Short-Term Bonds to Buy in 2020
  • Vanguard CD Rates: How Much Can You Earn
  • Grow Your Money: Mutual Funds & CDs

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions about your finances, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
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The post Advantages And Disadvantages of Money Market Accounts appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

First Time Home Buyer Programs for Veterans

Numerous programs exist to help veterans and service members who are first-time buyers with their closing costs and other expenses.

Indeed, it’s perfectly possible for those who are eligible for VA home loans to become homeowners with very little — or even nothing — in the way of savings.

Check today's VA rates by completing this quick online form.

Advantages of VA home loans for first-time buyers

The most famous housing benefit associated with the VA loan program is the zero down payment requirement. That can be hugely valuable for first time home buyers.

But it’s just one of a whole range of advantages that come with a VA home loan. Here are some more.

Low mortgage rates for VA loans

According to the Ellie Mae Origination Report, in October 2020, the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage backed by the VA was just 2.75%. That compares with 3.01% for conventional loans (ones not backed by the government) and 3.01% for FHA loans.

So VA home loans have lower rates. And that wasn’t just a one-time fluke. VA mortgage rates are lower on average than those for other loans — month after month, year after year.

Lower funding fees for first-time buyers

When you buy a home with a VA loan, you need to pay a funding fee. However, you can choose to pay it on closing or add it to your loan so you pay it down with the rest of your mortgage.

But, as a first-time buyer, you get a lower rate. For you, it’s 2.3% of the loan amount (instead of 3.6% for repeat purchasers) if you make a down payment between zero and 5%.

That’s $2,300 for every $100,000 borrowed, which can be wrapped into the loan amount. It’s a savings of $1,300 per $100,000 versus repeat buyers.

Put down more and your funding fee drops whether or not you’re a first-time buyer. So it’s 1.65% if you put down 5% or more, and 1.4% if you put down 10% or more.

Although it might seem like just another fee, the VA funding fee is well worth the cost since it buys you the significant financial benefits of a VA home loan.

No mortgage insurance for VA loans

Mortgage insurance is what non-VA borrowers usually have to pay if they don’t have a 20 percent down payment. Private mortgage insurance typically takes the form of a payment on closing, along with monthly payments going forward.

That’s no small benefit since mortgage insurance can represent a significant amount of money. For example, FHA home buyers pay over $130 per month on a $200,000 loan — for years.

Mortgage insurance vs funding fee

Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of the mortgage insurance vs. funding fee costs of a $200,000 loan:

  VA Loan FHA Loan
Payable on closing $4,600* $3,500
Payable monthly $0 $133 per month**
Paid after five years (60 months) $4,600 $11,500

*First-time buyer rate with zero down payment: 2.3%. $200,000 x 2.3% = $4,600
** $200,000 loan x 0.8% annual mortgage insurance = $1,600 per year. That’s $8,000 over five years. $1,600 divided by 12 months = $133.33 every month

It’s clear that mortgage insurance can be a real financial burden — and that the funding fee is a great deal for eligible borrowers.

Better yet, that makes a difference to your buying power. Because, absent mortgage insurance, you’re $133 a month better off. And that means you can afford a higher home purchase price with the same housing expenses.

Ready to buy a home? Start here.

Types of first-time homebuyer programs for VA loans

You may find two main types of assistance as a first-time buyer:

  1. Down payment or closing cost assistance
  2. Mortgage credit certificates

Down payment and closing cost assistance

There are thousands of down payment assistance programs (DAPs) across the United States and that includes at least one in each state. Many states have several.

Each DAP is independent and sets its own rules and offerings. So, unfortunately, we can’t say, “You’re in line to get this …” because “this” varies so much from program to program.

Some help with closing costs as well and down payments. Some give you a low-interest loan that you pay down in parallel with your main mortgage. Others give “forgivable” loans that you don’t pay back — providing you stay in the home for a set period. And some give outright grants: effectively gifts.

Mortgage credit certificates (MCCs)

The name pretty much says it all. In some states, the housing finance agency or its equivalent issues mortgage credit certificates (MCCs) to homebuyers — especially first-time ones — that let them pay less in federal taxes.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation explains on its website (PDF):

“MCCs are issued directly to qualifying homebuyers who are then entitled to take a nonrefundable federal tax credit equal to a specified percentage of the interest paid on their mortgage loan each year. These tax credits can be taken at the time the borrowers file their tax returns. Alternatively, borrowers can amend their W-4 tax withholding forms from their employer to reduce the amount of federal income tax withheld from their paychecks in order to receive the benefit on a monthly basis.”

In other words, MCCs allow you to pay less federal tax. And that means you can afford a better, more expensive home than the one you could get without them.

Speak with a mortgage specialist today.

Dream Makers program

Unlike most DAPs, the Dream Makers Home Buying Assistance program from the PenFed Foundation is open only to those who’ve provided active duty, reserve, national guard, or veteran service.

You must also be a first-time buyer, although that’s defined as those who haven’t owned their own home within the previous three years. And you may qualify if you’ve lost your home to a disaster or a divorce.

But this help isn’t intended for the rich. Your income must be equal to or less than 80% of the median for the area in which you’re buying. However, that’s adjustable according to the size of your household. So if you have a spouse or dependents, you can earn more.

It’s all a bit complicated. So it’s just as well that PenFed has a lookup tool (on the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD’s) website) that lets you discover the income limits and median family income where you want to buy.

What help does the Dream Makers program offer?

You’ll need a mortgage pre-approval or pre-qualification letter from an established lender to proceed. But then you stand to receive funds from the foundation as follows:

“The amount of the grant is determined by a 2-to-1 match of the borrower’s contribution to their mortgage in earnest deposit and cash brought at closing with a maximum grant of $5,000. The borrower must contribute a minimum of $500. No cash back can be received by the borrower at closing.”

So supposing you have $2,000 saved. The foundation could add $4,000 (2-to-1 match), giving you $6,000. In many places, that might easily be enough to see you become a homeowner.

You don’t have to use that money for a VA loan. You could opt for an FHA or conventional mortgage. But, given the advantages that come with VA loans, why would you?

The Dream Makers program is probably the most famous of those offering assistance to vets and service members. But there are plenty of others, many of which are locally based.

For example, residents of New York should check out that state’s Homes for Veterans program. That can provide up to $15,000 for those who qualify, whether or not they’re first-time buyers.

Start your home buying journey here.

State-By-State Home Buyer Assistance Programs

We promised to tell you how to find those thousands of DAPs — and the MCC programs that are available in many states.

It takes a little work to find all the ones that might be able to help you. But you should be able to track them down from the comfort of your own home, online and over the phone.

A good place to start is the HUD local homebuying programs lookup tool. Select the state where you want to buy then select a link and look for “assistance programs.”

Your best starting point is probably the state’s housing finance office though it might be called something slightly different. You should find details of programs or just a list of counties with phone numbers. Call the number where you want to buy, explain your situation and ask for advice. It’s their agents’ jobs to point you to local, state, or national programs that can help you.

If you look in the right place, you could secure some very worthwhile financial help to assist you in buying your first home.

Check today's VA rates by completing this quick online form.

Source: militaryvaloan.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.

Kimmy Schmidt College GIF by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Find & Share on GIPHY

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!

Baby Baby Baby GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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?

Taxes GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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).

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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

15-Year vs. 30-Year Mortgages: Which is Better?

Once you decide to become a homeowner, it’s likely that you will need to take out a mortgage to purchase your new home. While the conclusion that you need a mortgage to finance your home is usually easy to arrive at, deciding which one is right for you can be overwhelming. One of the many decisions a prospective homebuyer must make is choosing between a 15-year versus 30-year mortgage.

From the names alone, it’s hard to tell which one is the better option. Under ideal circumstances, a 15-year mortgage mathematically makes sense as the better option. However, the path to homeownership is often far from ideal (and who are we kidding, under ideal circumstances we’d all have large sums of money to purchase a house in cash). So the better question for homebuyers to ask is which one is best for you?

To help you make the most informed financial decisions, we detail the differences between the 15-year and 30-year mortgage, the pros and cons of each, and options for which one is better based on your financial priorities.

The Difference Between 15-Year Vs. 30-Year Mortgages

The main difference between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage is the amount of time in which you promise to repay your loan, also known as the loan term.

The loan term of a mortgage has the ability to affect other aspects of your mortgage like interest rates and monthly payments. Loan terms come in a variety of lengths such as 10, 15, 20, and 30 years, but we’re discussing the two most common options here.

The Difference Between 15-Year Vs. 30-Year Mortgages

What Is a 15-Year Mortgage?

A 15-year mortgage is a mortgage that’s meant to be paid in 15 years. This shorter loan term means that amortization, otherwise known as the gradual repayment of your loan, happens more quickly than other loan terms.

What Is a 30-Year Mortgage?

On the other hand, a 30-year mortgage is repaid in 30 years. This longer loan term means that amortization happens more slowly.

Pros and Cons of a 15-Year Mortgage

The shorter loan term of a 15-year mortgage means more money saved over time, but sacrifices affordability with higher monthly payments.

Pros

  • Lower interest rates (often by a full percentage point!)
  • Less money paid in interest over time

Cons

  • Higher monthly payments
  • Less affordability and flexibility

Pros and Cons of a 30-Year Mortgage

As the mortgage term chosen by the majority of American homebuyers, the longer 30-year loan term has the advantage of affordable monthly payments, but comes at the cost of more money paid over time in interest.

Pros

  • Lower monthly payments
  • More affordable and flexible

Cons

  • Higher interest rates
  • More money paid in interest over time

15-Year Mortgage

30-Year Mortgage

Pros

• Lower interest rates
• Less money paid in interest over time
• Lower monthly payments
• More affordable and flexible

Cons

• Higher monthly payments
• Less affordability and flexibility
• Higher interest rates
• More money paid in interest over time

Which Is Better For You?

Now with what you know about the pros and cons of each loan term, use that knowledge to match your financial priorities with the mortgage that is best for you.

Best to Save Money Over Time: 15-Year Mortgage

The 15-year mortgage may be best for those who wish to spend less on interest, have a generous income, and also have a reliable amount in savings. With a 15-year mortgage, your income would need to be enough to cover higher monthly mortgage payments among other living expenses, and ample savings are important to serve as a buffer in case of emergency.

Best for Monthly Affordability: 30-Year Mortgage

A 30-year mortgage may be best if you’re seeking stable and affordable monthly payments or wish for more flexibility in saving and spending your money over time. The longer loan term may also be the better option if you plan on purchasing property you couldn’t normally afford to repay in just 15 years.

Best of Both: 30-Year Mortgage with Extra Payments

Want the best of both worlds? A good option to save on interest and have affordable monthly payments is to opt for a 30-year mortgage but make extra payments. You can still have the goal of paying off your mortgage in 15 or 20 years time on a 30-year mortgage, but this option can be more forgiving if life happens and you don’t meet that goal. Before going this route, make sure to ask your lender about any prepayment penalties that may make interest savings from early payments obsolete.

Best of Both- 30-Year Mortgage with Extra Payments

As a prospective homebuyer, it’s important that you set yourself up for financial success. Fine-tuning your personal budget and diligently saving and paying off debt help prepare you to take the next steps toward buying a new home. Doing your research and learning about mortgages also helps you make decisions in your best interest.

When picking a mortgage, always keep in mind what is financially realistic for you. If that means forgoing better savings on interest in the name of affordability, then remember that path still leads to homeownership. Try out these budget templates for your home or monthly expenses to help keep you on a good path to achieving your goals.

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The post 15-Year vs. 30-Year Mortgages: Which is Better? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com