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Gene Todd, Executive Vice President/Managing Director of First Bank's Wealth Management Group

How can families trim college costs?

Trimming college costs up front can help families avoid excessive college borrowing and the burdensome student loan payments that come with it. Here are some ideas. 1. Pick a college with a lower net price. You can use a college's net price calculator (available on every college's website) to estimate what your net price (out-of-pocket cost) will be at individual colleges. A net price calculator does this by estimating how much grant aid a student is likely to receive based on a family's financial and personal information. Colleges differ on their aid generosity, so after entering identical information in different calculators, you may find that College A's net price is $35,000 per year while College B's net price is $22,000. By establishing an ideal net price range, your child can target schools that hit your affordable zone. 2. Investigate in-state universities. Research in-state options and encourage your child to apply to at least one in-state school. In-state schools generally o ...

How much money should a family borrow for college?

There is no magic formula to determine how much you or your child should borrow to pay for college. But there is such a thing as borrowing too much. How much is too much? Well, one guideline for students is to borrow no more than their expected first-year starting salary after college, which, in turn, depends on a student's particular major and job prospects. But this guideline is simply that — a guideline. Just as many homeowners got burned by taking out larger mortgages than they could afford (even though lenders may have told them they were qualified for that amount), students can get burned by borrowing amounts that may have seemed reasonable at first glance but now, in reality, are not. Keep in mind that student loans will need to be paid back over a term of 10 years or longer. A lot can happen during that time. What if a student's assumptions about future earnings don't pan out? Will student loans still be manageable when other expenses like rent, utilities, and/or car payments c ...

Five Myths About Group Disability Insurance

You may think that the chances of becoming disabled during your working years are slight, and even if you did get hurt or had to miss time at work, you could get by because you have group disability insurance. Unfortunately, you may be in for a big surprise. Here are some myths and misunderstandings about group disability insurance. Myth 1: It won't happen to me. You're not really worried about your group disability insurance coverage because you're sure you won't suffer a disability. In fact, your chances of being disabled for longer than three months are much greater than you may realize. Even the healthiest and ablest can become disabled. According to the Social Security Administration, one in five Americans lives with a disability, and more than one in four 20-year-olds becomes disabled before reaching retirement age.¹ So maybe you could miss work for an extended period of time due to a disability. But you have group disability insurance to cover all your income, right? Myth ...

Ten Year-End Tax Tips for 2017

Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year. 1. Set aside time to plan Effective planning requires that you have a good understanding of your current tax situation, as well as a reasonable estimate of how your circumstances might change next year. There's a real opportunity for tax savings if you'll be paying taxes at a lower rate in one year than in the other. However, the window for most tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so don't procrastinate. 2. Defer income to next year Consider opportunities to defer income to 2018, particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year. 3. Accelerate deductions You might also look for opportunities to accelerate deductions into the current tax year. If you it ...

Market Month: October 2017

Market Month: October 2017 The Markets (as of market close October 31, 2017) Despite continuing drama in the White House and the fury of Mother Nature, stock growth remained steady for much of October. Favorable corporate earnings reports, a strong jobs sector, and growing consumer income overcame any trepidations investors may have had. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted monthly gains, led by the large caps of the Dow, which gained over 4% for the month and is up over 18% year-to-date. The tech-heavy Nasdaq has remained steady throughout the year, reaching new highs in October. The small caps of the Russell 2000 gained less than 1.0% for the month, but is up over 10.0% since the end of 2016. By the close of trading on October 31, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $54.54 per barrel, up from the September 29 price of $47.07 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.488 per gallon on October 30, down from the September 25 selling price of $2.583 and $0.258 more ...

What You Can Do with a Will

What You Can Do with a Will A will is often the cornerstone of an estate plan. Here are five things you can do with a will. Distribute property as you wish Wills enable you to leave your property at your death to a surviving spouse, a child, other relatives, friends, a trust, a charity, or anyone you choose. There are some limits, however, on how you can distribute property using a will. For instance, your spouse may have certain rights with respect to your property, regardless of the provisions of your will. Transfers through your will take the form of specific bequests (e.g., an heirloom, jewelry, furniture, or cash), general bequests (e.g., a percentage of your property), or a residuary bequest of what's left after your other transfers. It is generally a good practice to name backup beneficiaries just in case they are needed. Note that certain property is not transferred by a will. For example, property you hold in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety passes to the surviving joint owner(s) ...

The New Estate Tax Rules and Your Estate Plan

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the 2010 Tax Act) included new gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax provisions. The 2010 Tax Act provided that in 2011 and 2012, the gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount was $5 million (indexed for inflation in 2012), the GST tax exemption was also $5 million (indexed for inflation in 2012), and the maximum rate for both taxes was 35%. New to estate tax law was gift and estate tax applicable exclusion portability: generally, any gift and estate tax basic exclusion left unused by a deceased spouse could be transferred to the surviving spouse in 2011 and 2012. The GST tax exemption, however, is not portable. Starting in 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the 2012 Tax Act)permanently extended the $5 million (as indexed for inflation, and thus $5,490,000 in 2017, $5,450,000 in 2016) basic exclusion amount and GST tax exemption and portability of the gift and estate tax applicable exclusion ...

Upside and Downside of Using the Applicable Exclusion Amount Now

The applicable exclusion amount is the amount that can be sheltered from federal gift and estate tax by the unified credit. The basic exclusion amount is $5,490,000 (in 2017, $5,450,000 in 2016). In 2011 and later years, the unused applicable exclusion amount of a deceased spouse is portable which may make it easier for you and your spouse to take full advantage of the estate tax applicable exclusion amount. You have some flexibility over when to use some or all of your applicable exclusion amount.   You could use your applicable exclusion amount to make a gift now. Your estate could use your applicable exclusion amount at your death. Or, if you are married, your estate could elect to not use your applicable exclusion amount, instead transferring it to your spouse for later use. There are potential advantages and disadvantages to using your applicable exclusion now rather than later. Tip: The top gift and estate tax rate is 40 percent in 2013 and later years. Technical Note:In 2011 and later ...

Quarterly Market Review: July-September 2017

The Markets (as of market close September 29, 2017) Trading during the summer months is customarily slow, and the summer of 2017 proved no different. July kicked off the third quarter with equity markets enjoying noteworthy gains over their June closing values. Both the Dow (2.54%) and S&P 500 (1.93%) posted significant gains, as did the Global Dow (3.13%). The Nasdaq posted a very favorable 3.38% monthly increase. The yield on long-term bonds changed very little from June as investors seemed to focus on surging equities. Crude oil prices reached $50 per barrel by the end of July after closing June at $46 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.269 per gallon on July 31, down from the June 26 selling price of $2.288. Equities held their own in August, despite hurricanes that devastated several southern states and Puerto Rico, causing extraordinary economic loss. Conflicts both at home and abroad certainly influenced investor sentime ...

Income Tax Planning and 529 Plans

The income tax benefits offered by 529 plans make these plans attractive to parents (and others) interested in saving for college. Qualified withdrawals from a 529 plan are tax free at the federal level, and some states also offer tax breaks to their residents. It's important to evaluate the federal and state tax consequences of plan withdrawals and contributions before you invest in a 529 plan. Federal income tax treatment of qualified withdrawals There are two types of 529 plans--college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. The federal income tax treatment of these plans is identical. Your contributions to college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans are tax deferred. This means that you don't pay income taxes on the plan's earnings each year. Then, if you take out money and use it to pay for qualified education expenses, the earnings portion of your withdrawal is free from federal income tax. This presents a significant opportunity to help you accumulate funds for college. Qu ...

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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.