Here’s a unique look from Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) at the outcome of the Greek financial crisis. WATCH this three-minute video about managing risk using a broadly diversified strategy.
“22-year-old College Student Blows her College Fund and Blames her Parents.” Maybe you saw that headline, too, last week on Yahoo Finance. That’s the kind of headline that makes you want to read the article, and I’m no exception.
In short, Kim was a guest recently on the Atlanta radio show, “The Bert Show.” She was bemoaning that her grandparents had left her a $90,000 college fund, and she has one year of college left and no way of paying her remaining $20,000 balance. (I’m not sure why she was talking to a couple of morning drive-time personalities about this and not sitting down with her school’s financial aid officer, but nothing really surprises me anymore about money).
She admitted that she squandered her college fund on clothes, spring breaks and a trip to Europe. “Maybe my parents should have taught me to budget or something. They never sat me down and had a real serious talk about it,” she told the hosts. Now her parents won’t help her. They’ve refused to co-sign a loan unless she gets a job. Of course, she’s stressed out about her predicament.
As a wealth manager, I can tell you that $90,000 is not a lot of money to burn through. Just ask any lottery winner who’s lost it all. But putting $90,000 into the hands of an 18-year-old (assuming Kim started college at that age) is grossly irresponsible. No one should ever hand their kid that kind of money up front. It’s like giving your dog a pound of ground beef and expecting him to deliver it to your neighbor in a timely manner.
I think we can all agree that at no other time has it been more expensive to get a college degree, but college funds or college resources of this kind should be designed as incentives. That is, the student gets the money when he or she graduates and uses it to pay down their debt. If the student doesn’t finish school, then they should have to donate it to their favorite charity.
As for Kim, all is not lost. First, however, I would tell her to start with an attitude of gratitude. After all, not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to a college fund. Nearly 70 percent of this year’s graduates have student loans. And as painful as this may be for her, pain is a good teacher. It’s better to burn through $90,000 when you’re 21, and there’s still time to earn it back.
As for Kim’s mom and dad, they’re on the right track. Making Kim get a job before they’ll co-sign for a loan is just good money sense. Kids should have a stake in their education. Besides, real work experience offers invaluable life lessons that you can’t necessarily get in classroom. Who knows? Maybe Kim won’t feel so entitled in the future.
Lastly, parents: it’s never too early to talk to your kids about money…lest you hear them on a radio show someday blaming you for their financial woes.
10,000 people reach retirement age every day in America. Yet, many go through their working lives without giving much thought about Social Security; it’s a payroll reduction that they might read on their pay stub. Besides, it’s complicated, and retirement seems like a long way off. The truth is, though, Social Security could be one of your largest assets and when you choose to collect can impact your lifetime benefits.
Here are five fundamental facts that you should know about Social Security:
1. Age matters. The Social Security retirement age is not 65. The age that you can start collecting full retirement benefits is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954. The official retirement age gradually rises to 67 if you’re born in 1960 or later. It’s important to get the official retirement age right because there’s an additional eight percent financial bonus for each year you delay collecting benefits through age 70. If you retire before the official retirement age, your benefits will be reduced.
2. Income matters. Working can reduce your benefits. If you haven’t reached full retirement age, your Social Security benefits can be reduced if you earn more than certain amounts. For instance, in 2014, you’d have lost $1 in benefits for each $2 you earned over $15,480. You don’t lose the money forever, though. After you reach full retirement age, the reductions will be added on. If you work past your full retirement age, you can keep all your benefits despite how much you make.
3. Celebrate 10 years. You can collect retirement benefits from your ex. That’s right, if you and your ex were married for at least 10 years. Also, if you’re the one who’s trying to collect, you must be single and 62 years old. In fact, you can collect your ex’s benefits while putting off collecting your own.
4. You don’t fit into a box. For sure, the Social Security Administration will do its best to guide you through the process but don’t rely solely on its advice. As I’ll often say about financial planning, no one fits into a box. The Social Security Administration is not designed to provide advice on the best strategy for you. Get input from an objective financial planner. You don’t want to leave money on the table.
5. It’s a big part of your plan. Sure, we have funding problems with Social Security, and it’s easy for workers, especially millennials, to dismiss it. But most experts agree that some form of Social Security will always be in place even if the benefits are lower. Seriously, I doubt if any politician, even Donald Trump, will vow to repeal Social Security this campaign season. That said, you want to be clear about your options. For most retirees, it’s their largest source of income. What’s more, Social Security decisions can affect your other important financial planning issues such as taxes. You want to get it right.