Legal Forms Every College Student Should Fill Out

Health documents your child should complete before starting school

At times itcollegeforms_featured can seem like the road to college is paved with paperwork. In addition to the roommate questionnaires, room and board forms and other administrative paperwork, there are three other forms that should be taken care of before your child starts college, and they are probably not ones you’ve thought of before.

When your children go off to college, chances are they are or soon will be 18. When your children become legal adults, you and your spouse’s legal rights in matters that concern them become limited. If you aren’t prepared for that change, you could run into some unexpected legal complications.

Below are the three legal forms your college-ready child needs to fill out to ensure that you are prepared for any legal situation ahead:

1. HIPAA Release Form — HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It lays out the regulations that doctors, insurance companies and other healthcare providers must adhere to in order to protect a patient’s privacy. These regulations apply to all adults, so once your child becomes an adult, you are no longer entitled to special parent privileges, like overriding the child’s right to privacy before the age of 18.

“If your student ends up in the hospital, this document, a permission slip of sorts, will allow the doctors to share information with you,” stated Accredited Investment Fiduciary Charles C. Scott, president of Pelleton Capital Management Ltd. “And if your student is on your family health insurance plan, and you need to deal with your health insurance company about any medical claims for your student, this form is very important.”

2. Healthcare power of attorney — A healthcare power of attorney can also be known as a medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy.

“You will need it to make health-care decisions if your student ends up in a medical crisis or has some mental health issues that make him or her unable to communicate or understand their own wishes,” Scott said. “Some states will allow next of kin to make basic decisions, but if it’s a critical situation, such as removal of life support or advanced mental health issues, without this POA, you would have to get a court order to take care of things.”

If there is a medical situation serious enough for a HIPAA release form and a healthcare POA to be applicable, you will be glad that the paperwork has already been taken care of, enabling your child to get the care you know they want as efficiently as possible and with decreased stress.

3. Living will — A living will is a form that helps ensure your child’s medical wishes are carried out no matter what. Because students typically have few possessions of substantial net worth or other assets, a will is far from their mind; however, a living will is a different matter entirely. It deals with medical issues, such as whether or not life-extending medical treatments and resuscitative measures should be used.

“Don’t find out too late that your student has been admitted to a hospital and you’re not authorized to discuss treatment plans or make urgent decisions regarding care,” states Ray Martin, CBS MoneyWatch contributor. “A living will outlines the student’s wishes about life-extending medical treatment and addresses other intentions, such as organ donations.”

It is an exciting time for you and your child, so get these forms taken care of and out of the way now so you can get back to shopping for dorm supplies and celebrating the new chapter ahead.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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Understanding Lease Terminology

Motor vehicle financing terms to know before going to the dealership

Before steppingleaseterms_featured into a dealership to lease a car, it’s important to understand lease terminology to make sure you get the best deal possible and aren’t taken advantage of by a dealer.

Understanding the basics
Cars are often advertised with much lower payments for leases than for purchases. According to a February 2012 article from J.D. Power and Associates contributed by Jeff Youngs, this is because lease payments are based on the depreciation value of the vehicle during the contracted term of operation.

There are, however, additional terms and fees on top of the monthly lease payment. Some—like mileage allowance, purchasing options after the lease term ends and depreciation of the vehicle—are widely known, while others are not.

The following are those you should know that might fall in the latter category:

Acquisition/termination fee
Also known as the bank fee, this covers administration costs and is paid either at the beginning of the lease (acquisition) or at the end (termination), according to Youngs.

Capitalized cost
This is the negotiated total cost of the vehicle. “When leasing a model that is in high demand and low supply, the capitalized cost may be the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) or higher,” Youngs said in an April 2013 article from J.D. Power and Associates.

Capitalized reduction payment
Also known as the cap-reduction payment, this is the down payment made on a lease term to help reduce the monthly payment amounts. It is nonrefundable, Youngs said.

Destination charge
This is the nonrefundable cost for the vehicle to be delivered to the dealership.

Drive-off fee
This is the total amount due at signing. Just as when purchasing a car, there will be title fees, registration fees and sales tax to account for, though leased vehicles incur sales tax on monthly payments only, said Tony Quiroga, Car and Driver magazine senior editor, in a February 2015 article.

Money factor
Also known as the finance factor or finance charge, this number is used to calculate your interest rate by multiplying the money factor by 2,400, Young said. For example, a money factor of .00350 would be an 8.4 percent interest rate.

Rent charge
“This is the amount of the lease payment that comes from interest charges,” Quiroga explained. “To calculate the rent charge, add the adjusted cap cost to the depreciation and multiply by the finance factor,” and then multiply by the total number of months in the lease term.

Residual value
According to Youngs, this is the “predicted value of the vehicle at the end of the lease.” Quiroga pointed out that with residual value, “the less it’s worth, the higher the lease payments.”

Subsidized lease
“Many advertised lease deals are subsidized leases, meaning that the auto manufacturer determines, in advance, the financial variables used to calculate the lease payment and takes on a certain degree of risk in order to create an attractive or class-competitive payment,” Youngs warned. He added that subsidized lease terms are nonnegotiable and often require a cap-reduction payment.

Additional lease information
There are a few other details to note in regard to leasing, depending on the vehicle you choose and any additional services you purchase.

Gap insurance is often included in lease terms as an additional fee. According to Youngs, this automotive insurance helps meet the gap between your insurer’s paid amount and the total residual value due to the leasing company in the even that your vehicle is stolen or damaged beyond repair.

A service contract is also offered as part of a lease contract, in which the consumer agrees to pay a discounted price up front to the dealership to have the vehicle serviced by the dealership for all of its future repair and maintenance needs.

“Before buying a service contract, make sure the brand of vehicle selected does not offer free scheduled maintenance for a limited time,” Youngs said.

Finally, it’s important to note that your base monthly payment is not the total amount you have to pay each month within a lease. The base monthly payment is simply the depreciation value plus the rent charged, divided by the number of months in the lease term. Your total monthly payment—what you actually pay each month—is the base payment plus tax.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Investing vs. Paying Off Debt

Deciding factors include your financial resources and goals

Some people willinvestvsdebt_featured decide to pay off all their debts before ever investing money, while others will say it’s better to carry livable debt and be able to grow your savings over time. There are pros and cons to either option, depending on your financial situation.

What to consider first
According to an October 2014 article in U.S. News Money by contributor Joanne Cleaver, paying off debt first means losing potential compound interest earned on any investments you would have made during that time. On the other hand, investing first means having to manage your debt and pay more in interest over time. And if you’ve invested your money, you likely have fewer funds to make payments toward your debt.

Cleaver says that understanding your financial situation and what you can handle is the largest determinant. She suggests you find your tipping point for affordability by looking at the interest rates of your loans and calculating how much it will cost you on a monthly basis to maintain the debt. If the number doesn’t fall within your affordability parameters, consider paying off the debt before doing any investing.

To do this, Paul Heising, a financial adviser with California-based investment firm Smarter Decisions, recommends “[organizing] consumer debt accounts according to their interest rates so you can see which are costing you the most,” and to “pay back loans with the higher interest rates first, especially if those rates are over 10 percent annually.”

Advantages of doing both
Other experts recommend striking a balance of paying off your debt and investing, but only with certain, less-risky investments at first. Joshua Kennon, author of Investing for Beginners, suggested such a balance in a January 2016 article on the financial resource website TheBalance.com.

According to Kennon, you should fund any workplace retirement accounts, like a 401(k), and start an emergency fund using an FDIC-insured institution while paying down any high-interest rate loans, like student loans and credit cards. Then, he advises to circle back to investing more money into such savings vehicles as an IRA or Roth IRA, and begin building assets in mutual fund and brokerage accounts.

He listed three main points in his reasoning:

  1. “You minimize your tax bill, both from earned income and on investment income, which means more money in your own pocket.”
  2. “You create significant bankruptcy protection for your retirement assets. Your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as 401(k), has unlimited bankruptcy protection under the current rules, while your Roth IRA has $1,245,475 in bankruptcy protection as of 2015.”
  3. Reducing debt over time allows you to build up while you pay down, so that when you are debt-free you suddenly have a major stream of cash to do with what you want.

An article by CFP Nick Holeman for investment management firm Betterment suggested a similar plan to pay off debt while investing in certain funds.

Holeman advised making at least the minimum payment on your bills, on time, while taking advantage of any employer retirement savings as you pay off major debt. Then you can build your emergency fund and finally invest further for retirement and savings.

Contributing to your company 401(k), even with debt, is important, said Holeman. Especially if your employer has a match contribution, making your contribution maximum to earn the match can yield a higher return on your investment than can many other investment alternatives.

“If you have debt that’s costing you over five percent in fees, pay it off as fast as you can. Start with the highest-interest debt first,” Holeman suggested.

In the end, the decision between off all your debts first, investing all your money first or balancing a plan of both depends on your financial risk-taking and resources.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How Online Banking Leads to Greater Awareness

Managing your accounts online helps with budgeting, spending and fraud prevention

Online banking, nowgreateraware_featured accessible from any mobile device, helps people be more aware of their spending and bank account data. With online banking, it’s much easier to prevent and detect fraud, manage your budget and ensure bill payments are received by the correct institution.

Transaction and Fraud Awareness
Most, if not all financial institutions now offer customers the ability to sign up for an online banking account. There are even some financial institutions that operate solely online. This makes it much easier to track your spending and manage your budget.

“People may find that online banking makes sticking to a budget easier because you can easily sort payments to see how much was paid to specific budget categories … and [it] allows you to compare spent amounts with budgeted amounts — so your budget resembles your real life as closely as possible,” wrote Investopedia contributor Ryan Barnes.

In fact, with online banking, you can stay up to date with your transactions and account balance almost in real time. It’s important to note that the balance and data listed on your online account statement may not be precisely accurate, as transactions could be pending or larger amounts than what you’ve purchased could be posted, such as with gas station purchases or hotel reservations.

However, Barnes reported that “some personal finance software programs (such as Quicken) can be linked directly to your online accounts to provide real-time analysis of all your balances and cash flows.” There are also money management apps, like Mint, that can sync with your online accounts to provide real-time information.

This is especially important in safeguarding against fraud. Some financial experts recommend checking your accounts and balances daily so you can quickly catch identity theft. If a fraudulent charge is made or money is withdrawn from your account without your authorization, you will be able to resolve the issue quickly, before more damage can be done.

Overdraft Fees and Bill Pay
Being able to track your account data also helps you protect yourself (and your money) from overdraft fees from the financial institution.

“If you sign up for online alerts with your [financial institution], you will receive an email when your checking account balance dips below a certain limit, say $50 or $100,” Lucy Lazarony, Credit.com contributor, wrote in an April 2014 article. Then you can make sure to transfer or deposit money into the account to avoid the penalty, which is $20 to $35 for most institutions.

Online banking also helps automate bill payments to help you ensure that your bills are paid on time and that they go to the correct person or business.

“You can have the payment go out on pre-determined dates (as in every month on the 15th) or simply log into your account each month and manually trigger the charges to your accounts. Either way, there is no postage to pay—and you can see the effect on your account balances immediately,” said Barnes.

With online banking, you will not only be more likely to think about what you’re buying but also be more aware of your transaction history, allowing you to catch and prevent identity theft and stay within your planned budget.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.