Six things graduates can do to mitigate loan debt

The statistics have become more alarming with each passing year loan. Currently, more than 70% of all college graduates carry student loan debt into the next phase of their lives. Americans now have more than $1.4 trillion in unpaid education debt, according to the Federal Reserve. Trillion. That’s 1,400,000,000,000. Students graduating today can expect to spend the next two decades of their lives paying down their collegiate debt. In fact, according to a study from the OneWisconsin Institute, it takes graduates of Wisconsin universities 19.7 years to pay off a bachelor’s degree and 23 years to pay off a graduate degree. Fortunately, there are things a graduate can do almost as soon as he or she tosses their mortar board into the air to help mitigate student loan debt. First, consider putting that graduation gift money to good use by investing it in a Roth IRA.  Even $500 accrues handsomely if you invest it early enough in your career. You also can use your graduation gift money to begin making payments on your loan. Most loans allow a grace period after graduation, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it. Interest accrues during grace periods and it’s much better to start knocking down your debt as quickly as possible. Second, choose your next step with care. Consider the options for housing and transportation when you weigh job offers. Also, look at the overall cost of living and how that might affect your social life. The average monthly payment on a student loan in 2017 (for borrowers aged 20 to 30 years) was $351. That’s a sizable chunk to factor into a monthly budget. Third, if it fits with your long-term employment plans, consider a job (like Teach for America) that offers some form of loan forgiveness. It is important to note, however, that you may have to pay income taxes on forgiven loans. Fourth, take advantage of available apps… | Read More »

Five tips for #WorldPasswordDay

When Under Armour announced the My Fitness Pal® data breach earlier this year, my first concern was the potential exposure of my exercise schedule, eating habits and, worst of all, weight. Of course the real risk in any data breach is not potential embarrassment, but actual financial loss. In announcing the hack, Under Armour noted that user names, email addresses and hashed passwords had all been exposed. These episodes remind us how vulnerable we are with so much of our private information stored on line. In honor of #WorldPasswordDay, here are some tips to keep yourself and your accounts as safe as possible: When possible, use multi-factor authentication. This is one of the best ways to prevent hackers from accessing your information and it is well worth the slight inconvenience. This means chose a log in process that requires not only a password and username, but also a piece of information that only you would know. Another form of multi-factor authentication occurs when you are sent a code to input after you enter your password or login. You use multi-factor authentication each time you access your accounts through your debit card, as it requires the physical card, occasionally a chip and a pin number. It’s tempting to avoid these extra layers of security, but, if you take them seriously, they will add an extra level of protection to your account. Consider using a password manager, which will store, encrypt and create passwords for you. Then, all you need to remember is your master password (which you should protect with two-factor authentication). Do not share your passwords via text or email. Choose answers to security questions only you would know. Another trick is to choose the wrong answers to the security questions (as long as you remember what you answered). Choose an answer that is incorrect but related – instead of your mother’s maiden name, maybe use your mother in-law’s maiden… | Read More »

Why we’re wearing #LotsofSocks

We’re changing up our footwear today to demonstrate our support for Down syndrome awareness. The #LotsofSocks campaign is designed as a conversation starter that eventually leads to both deeper understanding of Down syndrome and recognition of the gift uniqueness offers. We celebrate uniqueness every day in our office, and we’re especially pleased to join Down Syndrome International as it hosts the 12th annual World Down Syndrome Day. The date, 3-21, represents the third replication of the 21st chromosome, the marker for Down syndrome. Most human cells have 46 chromosomes, or 23 sets of two. In Down syndrome, the cells contain 47 chromosomes, specifically a third chromosome on the 21st set. Since 2006, people have come together across the globe on March 21 to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of individuals with Down syndrome. According to the WDS website, “Down syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has affected people of all racial, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds, and has occurred all through human history.” In addition to wearing silly socks today, and participating in the annual Down Syndrome Awareness Walk in the fall, we offer educational strategies for Down syndrome families, including why you might need a special needs trust and how to work with an estate attorney to set one up. If you have questions regarding how to set up a legacy plan that will take care of your special needs child, call the office or email the office. We’re always glad to help. If you’re also participating in the #lotsofsocks campaign, please share your photos in the comment section of this post. We’d love to see them!  

Beware the #IdesofMarch and the #IdentityThieves of spring

Beware the Ides of March and the ide-ntity thieves of spring. Historically, the former was the date Romans settled debts accrued during the previous year and it marked Julius Caesar’s assassination.  These days, though the latter pop up throughout the year, they seem to thrive during tax season when they can pose as IRS agents or tax preparation software representatives to con well-intentioned citizens of their hard-earned money. According to last week’s Federal Trade Commission report on fraud and identity theft, 1.1 million people reported that they were victims of fraud last year and lost a total of $905 million. The IRS posts a list of scams on the website and, every year that list grows. You can find it here. While these scammers are becoming more sophisticated each year, their approach remains reasonably consistent. They prey on their victim’s good faith by pretending to represent the government, a relative in trouble, a well-known business or a company’s technical support. Never give your personal information directly to people who solicit it, either by email or phone. The IRS, for instance, will always send a letter to notify you of any fines or underpayment and will never demand immediate payment. Likewise, no tax preparation software representative, like Turbo Tax, will call or email you to solicit further person information from you. Be very wary of people who solicit charitable donations from you and demand immediate payment. Do not donate to a charity or individual through Facebook Messenger, because it’s too difficult to verify the identity of the person or charity behind the profile. Likewise, be very wary of people who contact you regarding any sweepstakes you may have won, especially if you didn’t enter. If you ever have any questions regarding a phone call or email you’ve received, call our office before you respond. We’ll be glad to help you determine the veracity of the request. As Caesar said, “Men are… | Read More »

Financial tips for women in honor of #InternationalWomensDay

In honor of the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day, Winch Financial CEO Christina Winch, CFP®, a trailblazer in the financial planning field, offers seven key tips for women to take control of their finances. According to her, the biggest issues many women face are an unawareness of the resources available to them and a misinterpretation of safety. “All women should have at least a basic understanding of their money,” she said. “Many women who are married depend on their spouses to manage their money. They have a husband who takes care of them and that makes them feel safe. But, that’s not safe.” True safety requires understanding and that takes a little work, but the payoffs can be enormous both in monetary gain and confidence. Treat yourself to an education. Take a class, read financial literacy books, listen to podcasts. We know you’re busy, but the time you carve out for financial education will pay off in the long run. Meet with a trusted financial advisor, preferably one who will have a fiduciary relationship with you. This means your advisor will have a legal responsibility to act in your best interest. Don’t skip the meetings. They provide an invaluable opportunity for you to learn about what’s happening with your money. Ask questions. In her 37 years as an advisor, Christina has fielded all kinds of questions from clients and students. She assures everyone that the only stupid question is the one they were afraid to ask. To maximize your appointment time with your advisor, you might want to bring a list of questions to the appointment. Talk to your friends about money. It does not have to be a taboo subject. Start an investment club with your friends and combine a little socializing with some real-time education and, hopefully, portfolio growth. Who knows? You might be a natural. In any case it’s a good idea to have conversations with… | Read More »