Seven Things You Didn’t Know About 529 College Savings

Most 529 Twitter Party

 

When your children are young, your top priorities are getting dinner on the table, scrubbing grass stains out of baseball jerseys, and remembering to take the trash can to the curb (because smelling those diapers for another week is NOT an option).  It seems like a lifetime will pass before they make it to college, and figuring out how to pay for it is the last item on your to do list.  Then, in what feels like the blink of an eye, you’re filling out college applications and financial aid paperwork.

Missouri (along with many other states) offers a 529 plan to help you get a jump start on your college savings.  A MOST 529 plan can be set up in as little as 10 minutes and provides some pretty awesome benefits to both the account holder and beneficiary.

  • It’s FREE to open!  That’s right- there are no fees to create your MOST 529 account.  You can easily open one online here:  Open a MOST 529 Account. 
  • Even though your account is state specific, the benefits can be used at any eligible university or college in the United States or abroad.
  • If you’re an account owner and you live in Missouri, you can deduct up to
    $8,000 ($16,000 if you’re married filing jointly) of your MOST 529 Plan
    contributions when you file you state income taxes.
  • You can contribute up to $14,000 ($28,000 if married filing jointly) per year without triggering federal gift tax. You can contribute up to $325,000 total with a MOST 529 plan!
  • A 529 plan isn’t just used for 4-year degrees.  It can be used to pay for any eligible 2 or 4 year college, vocational or trade school, or even postgraduate studies.  This can also be used on some housing, textbook, and even computer costs!
  • You can set an account up for virtually anyone that has a valid social security number: children, cousins, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or even yourself!
  • Qualified withdrawals are tax free, too! If the original beneficiary decides not to continue their education, you can transfer the benefits (with no penalty)  or withdraw the balance (penalties and taxes will be assessed upon withdrawal).

On Wednesday, May 25th  at 1:00 p.m. CST,  we’ll be co-hosting a Twitter Party with experts on the MOST 529 plan.  You can follow me on Twitter HERE or with the handle @SensibleFamily   We’ll be using the hashtag #MOSave4College and will be giving away some great prizes!

Sling Offers Streaming Cable Channels with NO Contract- and a Free Amazon Fire TV Stick!

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I’ve been waiting quite a while for Sling TV to be released to the public and they sure came in with a BANG!

Sling TV is a streaming service that gives you access to channels such as ESPN, TNT, HGTV, the Food Network, and more!  The basic service is $20/month (for the channels shown above), with no contract or credit check.  The billing is similar to any other streaming service.  They are also adding AMC in the next few weeks!

You can also add packages with additional channels for $5/month.  Packages are in categories, such as kids, cooking, sports, or news.

It also allows you to watch any show that’s aired over the past three days- not just live episodes.

They are offering a FREE Fire TV stick or $50 off of Amazon Fire TV if you prepay for 3 months ($60).  Sign up here and you will receive a promotional code to redeem on Amazon.  The Fire TV stick retails for $39 and we absolutely LOVE ours.  It allows stream Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix straight to your TV- and now Sling TV.  Check out Amazon Fire TV Stick to learn more about what it can do.

If you’ve got a sports nut, Disney fan, or love HGTV, you can ditch the cable!

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Tools to Help You Budget in 2013

New year, new budget!  For many, the new year brings a fresh start to managing your finances.  Budgeting is one of the most popular resolutions made.

There are many tools available to help you meet your financial goals, so many that it can be overwhelming. 

I’d like to share a couple of tools with you that I personally use (and have used for quite some time).

1.  Credit Sesame:  This service provides you with an instant view of your credit report and score.  It also sends you email notifications if the score changes so that you can stay on top of things.

This free service was developed at Stanford University and even includes tools to help lower your debt. 

2.  ManillaManilla is a free service that allows you to manage everything in one place.  You can track all of your accounts, utilities, loyalty cards, subscriptions, rewards cards, and more. 

You can elect to receive text and/or email reminders when a bill is due, subscription is expiring, and other financial changes.

3.  Budget and Bills Printable Planner:  As techie as I am, I still prefer writing important things down on paper.  It helps me remember easier, I can see the whole picture, and it’s always accessible.  This printable set is my favorite!

Both of these have made my hectic life MUCH easier!  They are both secure and extremely safe to use.

How Anyone Can Afford to Start a Savings Account | And a Challenge for You!

A reader sent me a link to this article at CNN Money this morning, regarding the startling number of Americans that do not have adequate (or any) savings account.  Here is my favorite quote from the article:

"The biggest barrier to saving is not being in the habit of saving," he said. "By establishing that habit, even if an unplanned expense comes up and wipes out what you’ve accumulated, you’re only one paycheck away from restarting the saving process."

We used to have a really difficult time saving any money.  It wasn’t because we didn’t have a little extra, it was because it was not easy to save with our bank.  They didn’t offer any automatic savings programs.  In order to put money into the savings account, I had to go to the bank itself to do it.  I don’t like going to the bank, and when I did, it always slipped my mind.

When I started looking into additional banks, I ran across ING Direct.  I was leery of using an online bank, but they are one of the highest rated AND offered much higher interest. 

With ING Direct, you can set up as many savings accounts as you’d like- for FREE! I quickly set up accounts labeled: Christmas, General Savings, Home Down Payment, Emergency, and one for each of the kids.  I decided a small amount of money that we could put forward each week and set up the automatic transfers.  I can transfer money between the accounts at no charge.

A couple of weeks after the cash started coming out, I realized that I didn’t notice it was missing!  I can still get it out if I choose, but when I see the sum of all accounts, I don’t want to spend any of it.

Here’s how easy it is to set up an account:

 

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After saving for just over two years, we used our ING Savings Account to pay for nearly HALF of our house in cash.  I honestly think that we never could have done it if we hadn’t started using ING Direct as our savings account.

Here’s my challenge to you:  Pick something you REALLY want to save for.  Set up an ING Direct savings account and start putting a small bit aside for it.  You can set one of these up with as little as $1 a month (but that’s going to take a while to add up!).  This can be something as small as a new pair of shoes or as big as a house!

Once you sign up, leave a comment below telling us what you’re saving for!  One lucky winner will receive a $10 contribution to their savings!