myRA Might Be the Solution for High School and College Students

myRA

If you’ve read “10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money” you know that I am a HUGE advocate of young people investing from retirement as soon as they have earned income. For many people that time is while in high school or college while you’re working part-time or eeking a living out of financial aid. Often, young people don’t know how to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or don’t think they have enough money to open one (get my list of investment accounts you can open for less than $100 here).

The United States government is here to help with the new myRA (my retirement account, get it?). According to the U.S. Treasury,  these accounts are:

  • Easy to set up (you can have the money deducted from your payroll check if you wish)
  • Designed to help people with little money or no access to a retirement plan from work.
  • No risk of losing money (funds are invested in a Thrift Savings Plan-like account)
  • The funds you invest are NOT tax-deductible but you also can take them out whenever you like without penalty.

The best part? There is no minimum amount required to start an account and according to Forbes, ” additional contributions only have a minimum of $5.” The goal is really to get you into the habit of investing when you are young and have few dollars. The return isn’t great (think 1% or 2% per year) compared to a regular traditional or Roth IRA or 401(k)/403(b) but starting now with a few dollars and little interest is better than not doing anything.

Fool.com also notes:

Account holders can contribute up to $5,500 per year ($6,500 if over 50) and may continue to contribute until their total account balance reaches $15,000. All funds are invested in a newly created Treasury bond

Once you’ve grown a nest egg big enough to open a traditional or Roth IRA, or you have a job that provides a 401(k) or 401(b) hopefully with matching, you can roll the money over into a new account.

Click here to find out more about myRA accounts.

 

 

Financial Resources for Foster Care Students

AllMyMistakesCover

I attended undergrad and grad school.

I started my company, Bigger Than Your Block, back in 2008.

I have traveled to 18 countries on 5 continents.

I was a foster kid that aged out of the system at 17 years old.

Fewer than 3% of foster kids earn a degree. I was one of the lucky ones. There shouldn’t be “lucky ones”. We have to do better.

I found this list of scholarships and grants for college students that are wards of the state. The Fostering Access to College Education (FACE) page has tons of good stuff.

First, eligible current and former foster youth may apply online for the Chafee Grant at www.chafee.csac.ca.gov. Grants are for eligible applicants ages 18-23 for up to $5,000 to assist with college tuition or job training. Youth must have been in foster care at or after the age of 16 to be eligible.

Other valuable sources for scholarship money are as follows: 

  • Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars Program (www.promises2kids.org). The Program provides scholarships also up to $5000 per year to former foster youth enrolling in two and four-year colleges. Applicants should apply at the same time as their FAFSA filing (between Jan. 1 and Mar. 2). 
  • Just in Time for Foster Youth: www.jitfosteryouth.org (approximate deadline is May 1–check website for updates). Its “College Bound” program provides laptops, printers, school supplies and/or dorm room/apartment furnishings for selected youth.
  • Fostering Opportunities Dollars for Scholars: www.mydollar.org (approximate deadline is July 1 for fall semester and October 1 for spring semester–check website for updates). A $500 grant per semester is available to former foster youth enrolling in San Diego colleges or universities.
  • San Diego Foundation (http://www.sdfoundation.org/GrantsScholarships/Scholarships/ForStudents.aspx) or call 619-814-1307. The San Diego Foundation is a clearinghouse for a large number of private scholarships, each with different sets of criteria. Scholarship applications may be filed online between Dec. 1 and February 9th (for first-time users). All application  materials are due February 13, 2012 at 5 PM. Check the website for details.
  • Change A Life Foundation: http://www.changealife.org/how_to_apply/default.aspx. You may file your scholarship application between Dec. 1 and March 15. San Diego residents with questions may contact Cat Gomez-Holly at cgomezholly@changealife.org.
  • Orphan Foundation of America (OFA): www.orphan.org (approximate deadline is Mar. 31–check website for updates). OFA serves foster teens throughout the country and provides college scholarships.
  • Gates Millennium Scholars Program: www.gmsp.org (early January deadline for outstanding African American, Native American, Hispanic American and Asian Pacific Islander American students)
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund: www.hsf.net (for Latina/Latino students–deadlines vary)
  • UNCF: www.uncf.org (for African-American students–deadlines vary)

 

 

Finally, you may search the internet for other private scholarships by using a free Webbased search engine. Try www.fastweb.com or www.collegeboard.com/pay. You should never pay to find, apply, or receive a scholarship.

Student Loan Repayment Scams are Everywhere

scam-alert

A client just alerted me to another student loan repayment scam company (Student Loan Relief Department). She found a link to a blog called After the Diploma (cute name, right?). My first tip was that it only had 3 blog posts. The second tip was that it talked about taking a quiz and “helping” with student loan forgiveness but I couldn’t find a company name. Hmmmm ….

I took the 10 question quiz to see if I qualified for student loan forgiveness to see what would happen. This was on the last page:

Congratulations!
You May Qualify For Student Loan Forgiveness

Please Call This Number In Next 10 Minutes

1-888-969-2385

Zip Code: 60644 – Loan Type: Federal
Ref# 22018429-001


Ask about the following:

Economic Hardship Deferment
Because you answered “Yes” to Q 8/10

William D. Ford Direct Loan Program (Often referred to in media as the Obama Student Loan Forgiveness)

Other deferement options:
Rehabilitation Training
Parental Leave
Military Service

Bankruptcy
In rare cases, Bankruptcy Discharge can be an option if filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

 

It seems fine and well and good until you realize that #1 this is a private company (which means they are looking to make money) and #2 the programs they are offering to help me “qualify” for are already offered by the federal government for free.

If you visit the actual page for student loan relief department (see how they made the name sound like something official? “Student Loan Relief Department”) you’ll see the programs they are offering to help you qualify for are FREE things that you can sign up for on your own.

If you see a company that offers to help you manage your student loan debt, read these articles first:

The Better Business Bureau

Consumers receive a phone call, email or spot a post on social media that claims a company can erase student loan debt. Many claim that their service is made possible by a new government program or policy sponsored by U.S. President Barak Obama.

The company asks for an upfront fee to negotiate with your student loan lender on your behalf. They will claim they’ve helped numerous other clients, but don’t believe them! Student loans can only be forgiven under specific circumstances, which are not fast or easy.  These scammers will take your fee and disappear.

In another version of the student loan scam, con artists claim that they can save you money by consolidating your loans. Some charge a fee for using a free government service. Others may actually move your loans to a private lender with a higher interest rate.

Nerd Wallet

 A growing pack of private companies offers to relieve grads of their student loan debt, when in fact all they do is file paperwork to consolidate borrowers’ multiple federal loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. These companies’ tactics are deceptive and costly, officials say, because they’re charging up to $1,500 for services the U.S. Department of Education offers for free. They work exclusively with federal loans, since private lenders generally don’t offer flexible repayment plans or loan forgiveness.

 

There are lots of scams out there, folks. Stay vigilant.

Kevuntez King Paid for College Before He Began

Kevuntz-King-Memphis-TN-2016

There’s a young man in Memphis, TN that’s very proud of himself, as he should be. Kevuntez King has worked selling newspapers every Sunday for the last five years (from 12 to 17) earning $200 every week. Over the last five years, he’s earned around $50,000! That’s enough to pay for his tuition at Tennessee State University. Fox 13 reports,

King said he grew up in a single-parent home with his mother, whose influence paved his way to success.

“She just taught me how to be independent like she had it, (and) she just wanted me to go get it myself,” he said.

This story shows us:

  • Encouraging young people to work can lead to great things.
  • Encouraging young people to plan for their future brings a sense of accomplishment.
  • Single parents can help motivate a child. Single parenthood isn’t the end of the world.
  • When you set a goal, it’s easier to accomplish it.

I really enjoyed reading about Kevuntez King and I look forward to hearing about all the great things he’s going to accomplish in the future.

Another Reason to Open a Roth IRA: Paying for College

student-loan-debt

I was reading the business section of the LA Times when I came across this nugget:

Because you make Roth IRA contributions with after-tax dollars, you can withdraw them at any time without taxes or penalties, just like 529 plans.

I knew that. I’ve done that, but it never occurred to me to contribute with the intention of using that money for college costs. Do you know what that nugget means? It means that:

  • Instead of opening two accounts and having to schedule two contributions, you can open one.
  • You can take out the money you put in, not the interest that you’ve earned, to pay for college costs after letting it grow for years and years.
  • If you don’t end up using it for college expenses you can let it continue to grow until retirement.
  • If you do want to use the money for college costs, the money in your Roth IRA with not count against your child for financial aid like a 529 plan would.

That is revolutionary. You can contribute, let the money grow, it won’t count against your kid when you apply for financial aid (FAFSA, scholarships, loans, etc.), and you can leave it there to continue to grow until you need it for retirement. The absolute best part? You can leave the funds left in the account after you die to your spouse OR any beneficiary that you designate and that money can continue to grow.

There seems to be no downside to opening a Roth IRA.

 

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