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FAFSA 101

The U.S. Department of Education provides more than $150 billion in financial assistance for education each year. However, if you want your child to have a chance at receiving any of this aid, you’ll have to fill out FAFSA. FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is one of the most significant determinants of how your child’s higher education will be funded. Administered by the Department of Education, FAFSA analyzes your income and other household financial information to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which in turn determines how much financial aid your child is eligible to receive. Learn why it’s important to submit FAFSA and what you’ll need to do during the submission process. Who should fill out FAFSA? The short answer to this question is everyone that wants to pursue higher education. There is technically no income limit for who can receive federal aid, and FAFSA also makes you eligible for non-need-based aid, such as federal loans. There ...

Time for Graduation Season: Time to Talk Money

It's May, also known as graduation season. Do you know of a graduating senior or do you have one in your household? Many new graduates find themselves in a new, more independent role, along with the financial independence that often comes along with living on their own. Although this is an exciting time, it can also be intimidating as money management is a big part of adulthood. In order to help get students started on the path to financial independence, we wanted to offer the following tips:   Help your student learn the importance of creating a budget. The first step in managing your own finances is to create a realistic budget and sticking to it. Watch spending. Keep all receipts and track spending. Pace all spending (even minor purchases) and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses, like eating out or shopping for new clothes, so that your money can last longer.  Use credit wisely. Understand the responsibilities that come with using cred ...

Tax Facts: Charitable Deductions

This year the deadline for individuals to file or request an extension is April 18 th. If you owe taxes, filing an extension does not mean you get an extension to pay. With the tax deadline looming, individuals who gifted cash or goods to charity in 2016 may be able to claim a deduction on their federal return. Before you do there are some important facts to know before taking the deduction: Qualified Charity - The donation must be made to a qualified charitable organization. Gifts to specific individuals, political organizations, social clubs and foreign organizations (certain Canadian, Israeli or Mexican charitable organizations allowed) are not deductible. Confirm with the organization their status. Beware of fake charities set up by scam artists. Itemize Deductions - In order to deduct charitable contributions the taxpayer must itemize deductions. Benefit in Return - If you get something in return for the donation, this may reduce the amount you are able to deduct. Taxpaye ...

Tax Updates for 2017

Every year in the fall, the Internal Revenue Service announces the annual inflation adjustments for the next year. For 2017, the biggest news is there is very little change. Due to the low cost-of-living index, most of the figures did not meet the threshold to trigger an increase. Summarized below are a few highlights comparing 2016 and 2017:

2017 Tax Update chart comparing 2016 to 2017

The data contained in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended for legal, tax or accounting advice. The information was taken from sources we believe are reliable and may be subject to change.

Is Saving Time One of Your New Years Resolutions?

We’re just a couple of weeks into 2017 – time to begin (or maybe make) those New Year’s resolutions. Mine happen to include a few healthful goals, devoting more of my personal time to charitable organizations with causes I hold dear, and, like so many others, to simply find more time in my day. Do these mirror any of your resolutions? Time and time again, my colleagues and I hear from our clients one resounding request, “How can you save me time?” Similar sentiments from leaders at all levels of organizations always include “the need for more time.” If this is also on your list of to-do’s this year, take comfort in knowing you are certainly not alone. Whether it’s time to implement new career goals, time to build or explore business expansion, more time for the things we enjoy, some time for quiet tranquility, or more time for family, there’s one thing we all want more of–time. I’ve heard it said, time management is life management; ma ...

Financial Planning Tune-Up

October is Financial Planning month and around the nation cities are hosting free Financial Planning Days. The events are a combined effort of four non-profit organizations: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Financial Planning Association, Foundation for Financial Planning and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Local CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals volunteer their time to offer free advice in one-on-one sessions or workshops. If you cannot attend your local event or do not have one in your area, it is a good time to do your own financial tune-up. Know Where You Stand The first step is to evaluate your current situation. Just like using a navigation system to find the best route to your destination, you need to know your starting point. There are four keystones to a comprehensive financial review. 1. Goals and Concerns: Evaluate where you want to be and any potential road blocks along the way. 2. Net Worth: As the foundation of achieving your financial dreams, get an idea of ...

How to Talk to Your Kids About Money

How soon is too soon to talk to your kids or grandkids about money? If they are old enough to ask for a toy or a bike, they are old enough to start learning financial lessons that will last a lifetime. The best financial lessons are part of everyday experiences. Look for opportunities to talk about money, read books aloud and play games that center around spending money wisely. Be open and honest when you discuss your financial experiences—good or bad. Here are some examples of teachable moments to help you get started: At the bank When you go to the bank, bring your children with you and show them how transactions work. Get the manager to explain how the bank operates, how money generates interest and how an ATM works. Ask the manager for a tour. On payday Discuss how your pay is budgeted to pay for housing, food and clothing, and how a portion is saved for future expenses, such as college tuition and retirement. At the market It’s easy to give clear examples of “need ...

Back-to-School Edition: College-Bound

In an increasingly competitive job environment, obtaining a degree after high school has become even more necessary. The average estimated cost to attend at a public four-year in-state university is $24,061. The tuition is only a fraction of that figure but the total cost more than doubles when you factor in other room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. The cost of a bachelor’s degree can vary based on several factors: attending public vs. private university; attending in-state vs. out-of-state university; location; or living at home vs. living on campus. Who pays the bill? Based on the most recent study from Sallie Mae, currently contributions from parents have surpassed scholarships and grants. What are the options to plan ahead? Save: Investing early and allowing the funds to compound can be an efficient way to pre-pay for higher education. There are different types of accounts that are available such as brokerage, Roth IRA, 529 Plans, Coverdell sa ...

Top 8 Tips for Saving Money While on Vacation

You got a great price on your airfare and your accommodations but your battle to save on vacation isn't over. Our tips at First Bank to spend smart on vacation when you are tempted to splurge. BYOF: Bring your own food Airports and airlines are notorious for charging high prices. Pack a meal or pick up food ahead if your boarding time is around a meal. Bring snacks or a meal on a flight rather than purchasing the more expensive menu options offered on the flight. You can also pack healthier meal options than what is normally offered at the airport or on the plane. Plan ahead Busy schedule and didn’t have time to research ahead? Most airports offer free Wi-Fi. While waiting to board your flight is a good time to search for deals before you arrive at your destination. For example, museums may offer a discount for booking ahead or restaurants with happy hour deals can be a great alternative to a formal dinner. Websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are helpful resources to begin in your research. ...

Tips for Savings Success

In order to help you meet your financial goals, we’d like to take this opportunity to assess and improve your overall savings strategy. Financial Literacy Month is a good time to ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to meet our savings goals. A few small changes daily, weekly, and monthly can have a big impact on your overall financial future. To help put you on the path toward savings success, we’re offering the following tips: • Set a goal. The first step is to establish a realistic savings goal. Consider your expenses, make a budget, and determine how much you can put away each month. First Bank offers online planning tools and calculators to help you set a goal! • Track your spending. Hold yourself to the budget you’ve set by tracking your expenses. Consider using websites that will segment your spending so you can easily see what areas, if any, you are going over budget. Then, you can adjust accordingly. • Pay yourself first. Arrange to have a specifi ...

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Disclosure

All First Bank blog information and content is strictly informational. It is not intended to be specific investment, tax, or legal advice. If you need detailed financial, investment, or tax advice, please contact a First Bank qualified professional. Please note, First Bank occasionally shares third-party content we find to be relevant and helpful to our audiences.