Cut These Costs TODAY

Man buying groceriesHave you ever unexpectedly found out you’re quickly going to have less income? It’s enough to throw you into a panic. But the best way to get through hard times is to take a few deep breaths and put a plan together. Check out these common targets for quick and effective expense cuts.

Food
You might find it obvious that evenings dining out at fancy restaurants probably aren’t the best idea when experiencing a budget crunch. But think about your groceries too. Consider avoiding the higher-priced stores and stocking up on the basics at the more reasonably priced spots. You might find that cooking at home and taking your lunch to work saves you lots of money and ends up being healthier too.

Cable/Movies/Rentals
If you’re like most people, your visual entertainment comes from multiple sources. You may watch movies on cable, in the theater, via rental or online. In crisis situations, it’s best to focus on watching movies at home and using one particular way to do it. In other words, if you have both Netflix and premium movie channels, it’s probably time to go with one or the other.

Phone plans
It’s nice to use a smart phone to be able to look up information on the go, but you could probably make do without the data plan if you had to. Did you know that you could also be on a prepaid smart phone plan? Call your service provider to ask them to perform an analysis on which plan is best for you. You might be paying for more than you actually need. Also consider eliminating your house phone if you have one.

Gym
It’s important to get some stress-relieving exercise during this trying time, but there’s no reason why you should have to spend money to do it. Brainstorm ways to be active without having to fork over a big chunk of your paycheck. The main thing is to just get moving!

Shopping as entertainment
One activity that could put you in the trouble zone is shopping for fun or to ease tension. “I won’t buy anything, I’ll just browse” too often can lead you down the path of unnecessary spending. Eliminate leisure shopping or other activities that put you in temptation.

Gas
Is it an option to work from home more? Can you carpool or combine your errands into fewer trips? If your family has multiple vehicles, can you sell one and share the remaining?

Insurance
With the ease of using the Internet to compare rates, the insurance business is much more competitive than it used to be. Shop around for the best deals on any type of insurance you have—auto, home, life, etc. Check into bundling these with one company to save even more. How is your credit score? This might affect the cost of certain insurances. Also be sure to ask about discounts you might apply for, and the option of raising your deductible in exchange for a lower monthly payment.

Utilities
Think of ways to stay warm or cool more efficiently. Put on more layers in the colder months and spend more time outside during the warmer times. Be conscious of turning everything off and even unplugging electrical items when you leave a room.

Habitual items
When you have a comfortable financial situation, it’s easy to buy coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and convenience store snacks without thinking too much about it. But in these tighter times, think about what you are really getting out of these purchases and if there are expenses that are more important.

Taxes
If you have more money taken out of each of your paychecks than is necessary in order to get a large income tax refund check in the spring, you are over-paying the government each month. Cut this expense by using the IRS withholding calculator to determine the appropriate amount to have withheld from each paycheck.

None of these cost-cutting measures alone is guaranteed to immediately solve all cash flow issues, but in concert they can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per month.

Used with Permission. Published by BALANCE Includes copyrighted material of BALANCE.

The True Value of a College Education

Is higher education worth the cost?
As tuition at universities and both public and private colleges rises, so does student debt—this begs the question: is a college education valuable enough to make it worthwhile?

The second edition of the Gallup-Purdue Index from 2015 found that 50 percent of college graduates surveyed nationwide strongly agreed that college was worth the investment; however, the answers varied based on the type of institution they attended, when they graduated, and how much undergraduate debt they accumulated. But do the statistics support this overall opinion? In general, the answer is yes.

A 2016 study from Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz via the National Bureau of Economic Research found that since the Great Recession, only about 9 percent of recent college graduates have begun their careers in a low-skilled service job. Furthermore, Brittany Hackett of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Advisors summarized report findings that about 40 percent of recent college graduates were employed in the two highest-paid tiers of jobs, compared with only 18 percent of those without degrees. Additionally, more than half of those in the workforce without a college degree are working within the lowest paying and skill categories of jobs—double the amount of college-degree holders.

That same study from Abel and Dietz found that even the underemployed college graduates are making more than those without a degree in the same fields. Almost a quarter of them hold positions in fields making more than $55,000 per year, in contrast to the 9.8 percent of workers without a college degree that make the same. Making those numbers even more significant is that 59% percent of student loan borrowers owe less than $20,000 in debt, so the average debt-to-income ratio is very manageable, according to Jason Furman, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors.

More research, this time from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, showed that a staggering 97 percent of all 2.9 million “good jobs” (defined as those paying more than $53,000 annually for a full-time, full-year worker) that were added since the economic downturn in 2010 went to college graduates. Significantly, “good jobs” made up nearly half of the total jobs added during that time of recovery. Additionally, researchers Anthony P. Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera and Artem Gulish also found that middle- and low-wage jobs were much more likely to be filled by workers with some college or an associate degree.

“The numbers are clear: postsecondary education is important for gaining access to job opportunities in the current economy, and job seekers with Bachelor’s degrees or higher have the best odds of securing good jobs,” their report stated.

What’s more, the return on investment increases in the long term. According to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, new college graduates begin with earnings only slightly higher than high school graduates–about $5,000 to $6,000 more–but over time the gap increases.

“Higher education is one of the most important investments individuals can make for themselves and for our economy with bachelor’s degree recipients typically earning $500,000 more in present value over their lifetimes compared to high school graduates,” Furman said, solidifying the point.

Despite the studies, reports and evidence, the bottom line, and as much of the above has suggested, is that the true value of a college education is always dependent upon your unique outlook and circumstances.

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

Vehicle Details: Best Cars for Summer

Get ready to hit the road in style
With the warmer months finally here, it’s time to start planning that summer vacation you’ve been dreaming of. Here are a few vehicles that are ideal travel companions whether you’re heading out alone or with the family.

Kia Soul
For the money, you can’t get much better than the newest Kia Soul. Currently residing as the No. 1 ranked Compact by U.S. News & World Report, the Soul was also named to the Best Cars for the Money and Best Cars for Families list. The Soul (MSRP $16,100) is available in Base, + and ! trim levels, and is now also available with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes over 200 hp. You can haul over 60 cubic feet of stuff, and the Soul can also be equipped with leather upholstery, ventilated front seats and a Harman/Kardon® audio system, making it a great choice for road trips.

Ford Mustang
There are few vehicles as iconic as the Ford Mustang, and whether you choose the Coupe (also referred to as Fastback) or Convertible, summer is always better with a sports car. Starting with the 2017 Mustang Fastback (MSRP $25,185), you get a 300 hp V6 with the Shelby GT350 cranking out a tremendous 526 hp. There are four engine choices. For those who want the open-air feeling of a convertible, the Mustang gives you the best of both worlds. “For the money, in the segment, nothing can touch it. Not even excuses,” says Autoblog about the Mustang. Available features include the SYNC infotainment system, Shaker Pro audio system and a navigation system.

Honda Ridgeline
A pickup may normally be associated with winter driving, but the 2017 Ridgeline (MSRP $29,475) isn’t your typical compact pickup. Currently sitting atop the U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best Compact Pickups, the Ridgeline has many features that set it apart from the competition and make it a great summer vehicle. A lockable in-bed trunk with drain plug can be used as a 7.3 cubic foot cooler, while the truck bed audio system and available 150-watt/400-watt trunk-bed outlets allow you to plug in a TV or other electronics, making it the ultimate party vehicle. “No matter how it’s outfitted, the Ridgeline is a no-brainer of a truck: unmatched in smoothness and comfort, and full of innovation well beyond its unibody construction,” Car and Driver writes. “It deserved far more sales than it netted in its inaugural generation. Here’s hoping this one realizes its full potential.”

Chrysler Pacifica
A minivan is a great vehicle for any family road trip and the new Pacifica ensures everyone will be comfortable and happy. It was recently named the Best New Family Car for 2017 by Cars.com. Some of the family-friendly features you’ll find are the available Uconnect Theater with 10.1-inch touchscreens and integrated games, and a 20-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. The Pacifica benefits from the convenience of Stow ’n Go and a class-exclusive Easy Tilt Seating that gives third-row passengers easier access to their seats. The Stow ’n Vac integrated vacuum helps clean up any messes that may happen along the way too. All Pacifica models are efficient, but you can also get a hybrid model—the only one in the segment—with a remarkable 84 MPGe rating.

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

The Benefits of Going to a Community College

Why you should consider starting small
Though they tend to have a subpar reputation, community colleges give prospective students a lot of options and offer a ton of advantages. When deciding on higher education, consider what benefits a community college can give you.

Save money
Tuition is traditionally much cheaper at community colleges, and you’ll also save on room and board since, according to The Princeton Review, there is a community college within commuting distance of 90 percent of the U.S. population.

“Community college tuition is usually thousands of dollars cheaper than tuition for private and public four-year universities. This total cost is only a fraction of the cost of a private college, and still thousands of dollars less than a four-year program at a state college,” the Princeton Review noted. “Plus, even with the relatively low rates, nearly a third of community college students receive financial aid.”

Flexibility
While four-year schools typically require you to be a full-time student, U.S. News & World Report found that about 60 percent of community college students attend school part time, thus gaining flexibility to pursue other interests or handle responsibilities. Additionally, community colleges usually have multiple campus locations and offer courses both day and night, as well as online.

“This makes community college a good option for nontraditional students like parents and older students who wish to balance school with family or career obligations,” says U.S. News & World Report’s Travis Mitchell.

Give yourself a boost
At a community college, you have the opportunity to improve your academic record or to get ahead, which will also give your confidence a boost. This can be crucial to your future since, as Jeffery King writes in U.S. News & World Report, a large number of students do poorly their first two years, which can impact their educational and professional future.

Personalized attention
Students can also get a boost from the smaller class sizes offered at community colleges. More one-on-one time with instructors and opportunity to learn at a personalized pace can be a great support to young college students.

Ease of transfer
Many community colleges have convenient admissions agreements with select larger schools in the area, which make the entire transfer process nearly seamless.

Transition from high school
Community colleges are a great stepping stone to make hesitant students more comfortable.

“Attending a community college can be a good way for students to ease into the world of higher education and learn at their own pace,” Mitchell writes. “This is especially true for students who struggled in high school or anyone who’s unsure if they want to make the significant time investment in college.”

More time to think about career path
The first two years of college are typically a period of exploring career paths and passions. Though most students declare majors right out of high school, many will end up changing directions once they get more experience in that particular area. If you don’t feel strongly about any area of study right away, know that community colleges are a great tool for undecided students to fulfill general education requirements, saving you from taking unnecessary classes and wasting time and money.

Make an informed, conscious decision about your college experience, and get the best possible start to your future.

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

Does Gender Impact Auto Insurance Rates?

A few facts you need to know

If you drive a vehicle, as most people do, auto insurance is a fact of life. And everyone is continuously looking for ways to cut their rates. But there are some interesting facts that you may not know when it comes to gender and its impact on those rates.

Car insurance rates are based on various factors, including your age; the make, model and year of your vehicle; and both your driving history and driving record. Location is also crucially important, with insurance rates varying greatly by state. But gender can also impact your rates, with women generally paying less than their male counterparts. While this may seem unfair on the surface, when you dig a bit deeper you’ll see there’s a rationale behind this decision as well.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that “Many more men than women die each year in motor vehicle crashes. Men typically drive more miles than women and more often engage in risky driving practices including not using safety belts, driving while impaired by alcohol, and speeding. Crashes involving male drivers often are more severe than those involving female drivers.”

A 2015 study from InsuranceQuotes found that a 20-year-old male will pay just over 20 percent more than a 20-year-old female. “At the end of the day, young men are less cautious, riskier, more distracted drivers,” the study notes.

According to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post, there are three states (Massachusetts, North Carolina and Hawaii) that don’t allow gender to play a role in the setting of insurance rates. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Montana apply the same set of rating factors to both men and women, so there’s no difference in rates in those states either.

There are a few things you can do to alleviate the insurance burden you’re facing; this is especially true for younger drivers who may feel the heaviest crunch of high insurance costs. There are good student discounts of around 20 percent for students who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and take part in a Driver’s Ed course. If you don’t drive a lot, you can also consider a pay-as-you drive policy that factors in how far, how well and how often you drive. Making fewer small claims and shopping around to compare pricing can also keep your premiums low.

There are many things to consider when it comes to auto insurance rates, but the most important thing you can do is speak to your insurance representative and ask about the best ways for you to save. If you do your homework, you may be able to save big.

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

Vehicle Details: Top Vehicles That Are Affordable and Cool

A cool ride doesn’t need to break the bank

There are so many choices if you’re looking for a new vehicle that it can be difficult to know where to start. But if your priorities are on coolness and affordability, here are some great options.

Kia Soul – The Soul is frequently awarded for its value and coolness, and the new 2017 model starts at an MSRP of $15,990 while delivering the same charm that has won over many buyers. The Soul continues to find ways to improve, with the newest model adding a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 201 hp and 195 lb/ft of torque through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and estimated fuel ratings up to 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The Soul is easily spotted in a crowd thanks to its unique design, and some of its impressive features include the UVO infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen display, navigation, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. You can also add a Harman Kardon audio system, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and plenty of advanced safety features like the Blind Spot Detection System, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert.

Consumer Guide summarizes it nicely: “The competitively priced Soul is a very compelling mix of personality and practicality.”

Honda Fit – Named to Kelley2017_fit_yellow Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” and currently ranked as the No. 1 subcompact and hatchback by U.S. News & World Report, the Fit has plenty to love. All Fit models have a 130 hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that gets up to 37 mpg highway, but the versatility of the Fit is arguably its biggest strength. A maximum cargo capacity of 52.7 cubic feet is more expected from a small SUV, and clever features like the second row Magic Seat allow buyers to haul larger items. There are also plenty of standard features including Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a multi-angle rearview camera and a five-inch color LCD touchscreen.

Edmunds adds, “If there’s one thing this Honda is known for, after all, it’s the incredible amount of stuff you can fit inside its pint-sized hatchback body. Today’s Fit also has more rear legroom than ever, and it’s got a respectable roster of standard and optional technology too.”

Chevrolet Sonic – Also named tofebruaryfeatured_coolcars Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” the 2017 Sonic is an affordable compact that offers excellent value (a starting MSRP of $15,145), two engines (a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder) and plenty of technology, including a new Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot. Safety is provided by 10 standard airbags and you can also add Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and the new Rear Park Assist.

Autotrader says, “If you’re in the market for an affordable pint-sized champ that won’t make you feel second class for driving it, the Chevrolet Sonic may have your number.”

Other vehicles to consider include the Toyota Yaris iA, Honda Civic, MAZDA3 sedan and hatchback, Nissan Versa Note, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Rio.

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

Benefits of Applying for Local Scholarships and Grants

With the rising costs of higher education, apply for as many scholarships as possible

A couple hundred dollarsfebruaryfeatured_localschol2 from a local scholarship may sound like a drop in the bucket when it comes to paying for college tuition and expenses, but the reality is that every dollar counts and several local scholarships can add up to a significant amount of free money for your education.

The reality of large-sum grants
There aren’t many people who can afford to foot the complete bill for their higher education. Yet most only apply to large-sum scholarships and grants to help pay for college, and while those $10,000 and $50,000 nationally awarded grants could make a significant difference in affordability, the truth is they’re difficult to get.

According to an October 2015 article in U.S. News by contributor Jessica Zdunek, largely-funded government agencies and well-known national brands like Ford, Nordstrom’s and Coca-Cola award significant educational scholarships each year, but applying to these means going up against hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants across the country, which significantly reduces your chances of winning such a grant.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for large scholarships, because there’s still the chance you could win, but you should better your odds of financial aid by applying for local grants as well.

The advantages of local scholarships
A first, albeit obvious, advantage of a local scholarship is just that: it’s local to where you live.

According to Zdunek, local scholarships can have application limitations that can actually increase your odds of being awarded. These grants can be limited to people who live in a specific town or region, to a certain GPA minimum, and even to specific extracurricular activities. As long as you meet the criteria listed, you are more likely to win a local award than a national one.

“Scholarship providers like to see people from their community succeed and so they often offer local scholarships available only to residents of a particular geographic region,” says an article on Scholarships.com, a financial aid and scholarship resource site.

Local scholarships are also less likely to be known, so there will be less competition for them than for a national grant.

According to a January 2011 article in U.S. News by Scholarship America, community organizations that offer scholarships typically inform the local high school, either by contacting the guidance counselor or by posting the scholarship in the school’s career center. Instead of competing against the thousands of people searching the internet, applicants compete only against the other students in their school.

Local scholarships can also be awarded on a relationship basis, such as businesses with financial assistance opportunities available to employees and their families. Some businesses will even award scholarships to students if they plan to work for the company after graduation, as this is seen as an investment for the company.

They are also generally easier to follow up on and there’s often a designated person in the business who can answer questions about the scholarship or application requirements directly.

Every dollar counts
“Local scholarships sometimes aren’t as eye catching because they’re just a few hundred dollars. “This can discourage people from applying, but the truth is these small amounts add up,” says Zdunek.

Even if the dollar amount is less than that of a national scholarship, any amount is helpful in offsetting the expense of higher education. For instance, those dollars could go toward books or equipment, or help cover smaller living expenses.

Find out more about our three $2,500 scholarships by visiting our site!

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