Saving for College? Learn More About the 529 Qualified Tuition Program

Saving for College? Learn More About the 529 Qualified Tuition Program

Paying for a college education requires forethought, research and planning. While there are numerous investment options to choose from, a clear favorite for many seems to be the 529 plan.1 Named for section 529 of the Internal Revenue code, a 529 is a state-sponsored savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs.

When you open a 529 plan, you’ll designate a beneficiary — your child, grandchild or any other person, including yourself. You’ll make contributions into the plan until the beneficiary is ready to use the money. Funds can be withdrawn as needed to pay for tuition, room and board, fees, books and certain supplies at virtually any accredited college or university in the United States and even at some foreign schools.

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build an emergency fund

Manage Unexpected Expenses by Building An Emergency Fund

Unexpected expenses come in many forms. Whether it’s an obvious expense, such as a car repair or a medical bill, or something you might not think about, like a trip across the country to care for a sick relative, an unexpected expense can put a dent in your budget. If you’re working to build or repair your credit, your good intentions can be derailed by adding another expense to your carefully planned budget. Many people who are unprepared for such situations often resort to paying for unexpected expenses with their credit card, sometimes sending themselves even deeper into debt.

 

While it helps to have a credit card for emergencies, with some planning and forethought, you can create an emergency fund that will help you be better prepared. You might think “I can’t afford one more expense on my budget,” and if you do, an emergency fund is even more important to you. It is separate from holiday and birthday gifts, monthly bills or vacation money, and it can keep you from incurring the interest charges associated with using a credit card.

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Best practices for your tax refund

How Will You Spend Your Tax Refund?

If you’re waiting for a tax refund, chances are you already have some ideas of your own. For the past few years, the average tax refund in the U.S. has been around $3,0001. That’s a sizeable amount for most of us, but before you spend it all in one place (like a dream vacation), you might consider other options that could be better for your finances in the long run. After all, your refund is not free money from the IRS. It’s your money being given back to you.

A recent Edward Jones survey2 found the following about how respondents planned to use their tax refunds this year:

- 52% — Necessary items like groceries or credit card bills

- 30% — Save

- 8% — Something fun

- 8% — Investments

- 2% — Not sure

 

Though we don’t really know what people actually do with their refunds, maybe their stated intentions are a good place to start with suggestions.

 

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Build your savings

Ways To Start Building Your Savings

With 40% of Americans saving less this year than last, building your savings can seem like an almost impossible task when there are bills to pay and your income doesn’t increase at the same, or a greater rate, as your expenses. But as part of a routine, finding ways to save money helps you to really think through your routine spending habits and can offer an opportunity to learn new habits that might provide better long-term financial outcomes.

 

There are countless ways to save, but these few suggestions offer a good place to start:

 

  • Create a place or places to put your savings — If you don’t have a savings account, you should open one. Some people open more than one savings account to help them set different savings goals (i.e.; vacation, holidays, education, etc.). Even a piggy bank can suffice if you don’t want to open a savings account. The idea is to have a repository for your saved dollars and a tangible savings location that allows you to see the results of your efforts ongoing and whenever you’d like.

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Merrick Bank Financial Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

 

With the fresh start promise of a New Year, many resolutions include things like improving your health or addressing an ongoing challenge or issue. If you have issues with things like budgeting or cutting costs, there are many steps you can take that can quickly support your resolution. Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight, but taking one step at a time toward small improvements, you can begin to establish new habits that can help you budget and save money.

 

Set a reasonable budget and work your way up
First, you need to know what you’re spending and where you’re spending it. Write it down or if you’d rather, work in a spreadsheet. Either way, spend time studying and understanding at a very basic level what is coming in and what is going out every month. Managing budgets can be daunting, but not managing them can be devastating — Hit yours straight on.

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Create a Holiday Spending Budget to Help Ensure a Happier New Year

Holiday Spending Budget

The holiday season can often be stressful for people who become overwhelmed by shopping and preparation. And for many, it results in financial worries when the time comes to pay the bills. However, with some planning and discipline, the holiday season, and the bills that come afterward, can be more manageable and less overwhelming. But to achieve this, you need to start with the “B” word — budget.

Decide how much you can spend and from where the money will come

Websites like http://frugalliving.about.com offer free, downloadable documents, like the Holiday Gift Spending Worksheet, that you can use as a basis for your holiday shopping budget. Your first step is to settle on a total dollar amount that you can afford. Don’t plan to put all your holiday expenses on a credit card, or you could end up facing financial challenges come January.

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