Speak with a team who understands 480.729.8000
Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Do you worry about changes in the economy? Have you recently been fired or a victim of downsizing? Whatever your situation, you may be wondering if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits. For a basic understanding of how unemployment benefits work, read on!

Am I eligible?

Although specific eligibility requirements vary from state to state, most states have the same basic standards for collecting unemployment benefits. They include:

  • You must be unemployed or working less than full time
  • You must meet certain income requirements
  • You must be ready, willing, and able to work
  • You must have involuntarily left your job

In general, you won’t be eligible for benefits if:

  • You quit your job simply because you didn’t like it
  • You’re fired for committing a crime (e.g., stealing)
  • You’ve never worked before

For more information, contact your state’s local employment office. You can also look in the state government section of your phone book under Unemployment Insurance, Unemployment Compensation, Employment Insurance, or Employment Service.

Where does the money come from?

In most states, unemployment compensation is financed by employer contributions through a payroll tax. In a few states, employees are also required to contribute a minimal amount to the fund.

How do I apply?

Most states will allow you to apply for benefits:

  • In person
  • Online
  • By telephone

When filling out the application, you’ll be asked a lot of questions, so have the following information handy:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your last employer’s name, address, and phone number
  • Your last day of work and the reason that you’re no longer working
  • Your salary history
  • Your proof-of-citizenship status

How are benefits calculated?

Regardless of which state you live in, you’ll receive a weekly unemployment benefit based on how long you were employed and your prior wages. The state will calculate your average weekly wage, and you will receive a percentage of that wage based on your state’s formula. You can figure out your average weekly wage by adding up 12 months’ worth of pay stubs and dividing that number by 52. If you were salaried, just divide your annual salary by 52.

How long can I receive benefits?

In most states, you can receive benefits for up to 26 weeks. However, federal laws and some state laws provide for additional benefits to be paid to workers who exhaust their regular benefits during periods of high unemployment. These additional benefits may be paid up to 13 weeks (20 weeks in some states) and are funded partly by state governments and partly by the federal government.

Are unemployment benefits taxable?

The answer to this question comes as a big surprise to many people. Yes, the unemployment compensation you receive is generally taxable. It’s not a free gift from Uncle Sam, and you must report this money as income. Some types of unemployment compensation are taxed differently based on the program paying the benefits. The IRS website provides an interactive tool to help determine what you will owe.

Disclosure:The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

How Disability Income Insurance Policies Define Disability

How Disability Income Insurance Policies Define Disability

When was the last time you read the fine print of an insurance policy? The fine print tells you some important information–how the policy defines disability, what your benefits will be, what exclusions apply, and more. The disability definition used in the policy determines how you qualify for disability benefits.

To be considered disabled under most policies, you must be unable to earn income. However, many policies narrow down this definition quite a bit. They may specify that you must try working in another occupation if you can’t do your own job, or they may pay benefits if you can do some but not all of the duties of your own occupation. Other policies aren’t concerned with occupation at all; they consider you to be disabled when, because of illness or injury, you earn less than you did before.

Own occupation coverage

Although the terminology used to define disability varies from policy to policy, an own occupation policy generally defines disability as the inability to perform the material and substantial duties of one’s own occupation. This definition of disability is liberal, because even if you can work in another occupation, you still receive disability benefits. Own occupation coverage is often more expensive and may be available only to individuals who have a clean medical history and work in a relatively risk-free occupation.

Any occupation coverage

An any occupation policy defines disability as the inability to perform the duties of any occupation. This definition of disability is strict. To receive benefits according to this definition, you have to be unable to work in any occupation, not just your own. Generally, however, the wording is modified to take into consideration your earning level, education, training, and experience.

Split definition coverage

Many disability policies incorporate both an own occupation definition of disability and an any occupation definition. You purchase a policy that provides own occupation coverage for a limited period of time. After this period ends (usually two years), you must meet the any occupation definition of disability to continue receiving benefits. This is sometimes known as short-term own occupation coverage.

Presumptive total disability coverage

No matter how your insurance company defines total disability, most companies automatically consider certain catastrophic ailments to be totally disabling. If you are disabled by one of these ailments, you don’t have to meet the conditions normally required in order to be considered totally disabled. Not only do you receive immediate benefits, but you also continue to receive benefits even if you are able to return to work. These ailments (which may be caused by injury or illness) are the loss of sight in both eyes, hearing in both ears, speech, the use of both hands, the use of both feet, and the use of one hand and one foot.

Residual disability coverage

Disability policies can pay benefits in the event that you cannot work at all (total disability), can work some time but not all the time (residual disability), or both. Residual disability or income replacement policies pay benefits according to the amount of income you have lost due to disability. These policies pay benefits even if you are not totally disabled and can work part-time. Your benefit will be based on the percentage of income you earn working part-time in relation to what you used to earn working full-time. In some policies, to qualify for residual disability coverage, you must first qualify for a period of total disability. This is the least desirable method.

You can purchase a total disability policy with residual coverage as a rider, or an income replacement policy (as residual coverage is known when that is the only way benefits are paid) as a stand-alone policy. The income replacement policy will generally cost less than the total disability policy with the residual rider.

Partial disability coverage

Partial disability coverage is usually offered as a rider to a total disability policy, although it may be included in base coverage. It is similar to, but not the same as, residual disability coverage. Both types of coverage pay benefits if you can perform some but not all of the duties of your occupation. However, unlike residual disability, a partial disability definition does not consider loss of income. Rather, you are paid an amount equal to 50 percent (occasionally less) of the benefit that you would earn if you were totally disabled. In addition, the benefit period is much shorter than that for residual disability (a few months or a year at most).

Does your policy cover illness, injuries, or both?

Most policies offer coverage for both injuries and illnesses. Some policies, however, offer accident-only protection and don’t cover illnesses. Also, because work-related disabilities are covered by workers’ compensation, most policies will reduce their benefits by any amount of benefits paid by workers’ compensation, as well as any benefits received from Social Security and other government programs.

Sickness is usually defined in disability policies as illness or disease that manifests itself while the policy is in force. This definition covers mental as well as physical illness, but most policies limit payments for mental illness and drug- or alcohol-related disabilities to two years of benefits. Some policies have exclusions for disabilities caused by pregnancy, war, and self-inflicted injuries as well as other exclusions. All of the exclusions will be detailed in the policy.

Disclosure:The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Buying a Car

Buying a Car

Maybe you’ve always pictured yourself driving a shiny red convertible. Or perhaps you’ve had a recent addition to the family and you’re looking for the practicality of a minivan. Whatever the reason, you’re in the market for a new car. Here are some tips to help make the car-buying process a bit easier while keeping your financial situation in mind.

Choosing a car

As you try to decide what type of car you want to buy, consider the following:

  • If you already have a car, what do you like and dislike about it?
  • Do you want a lot of passenger space?
  • Do you want two doors or four?
  • Do you prefer a standard or an automatic transmission?
  • How much does prestige matter?
  • What about better fuel economy?
  • Is your heart set on purchasing a new car, or are you willing to settle for a well-maintained used one?
  • How much can you afford to spend?

You’ll also want to keep in mind such factors as resale value, maintenance, and insurance costs. It may be helpful to consult one of the many car-buying guides to help you choose a vehicle and give you information on pricing, reliability, and safety. Many are available on-line.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, you’ll want to visit some dealerships and take those cars for a test-drive. When you get behind the wheel, ask yourself:

  • Is there plenty of legroom and headroom?
  • Is it easy to load passengers and cargo?
  • Is the seat comfortable?
  • Is the control panel visible and accessible?
  • Is there enough trunk space?
  • Does the car ride smoothly?
  • Does the car have good acceleration and handling?

Determining your target price

Once you’ve settled on a car model, you should do some research on the invoice price, including the cost of any options that you want. That way, you can negotiate the price based on the approximate cost of the vehicle to the dealer, rather than try to bargain down from the sticker price. Keep in mind that the dealer’s cost is often less than the invoice price because of factory-to-dealer incentives. That’s why a good target price is approximately 3 percent above the invoice price, although this will vary depending on the car model.

Going to the dealership

Armed with your target price, you should be ready to begin shopping around for the best purchase price. Try to visit more than one dealership, since prices vary. At the dealership, you’ll want to be sure to negotiate, keeping in mind the following tips:

  • Don’t set your sights on just one car model. Many manufacturers offer similar models, and one may be much more affordable than another.
  • If you’re trading in your old car, don’t discuss the trade-in price until you have established a purchase price for the new car. You don’t want to negate a good purchase deal by accepting far less than your trade-in vehicle is worth.
  • If the dealer isn’t willing to give you a deal that you’re happy with, don’t hesitate to take your business elsewhere.
  • If you want to avoid negotiating over price, you may want to consider a dealer with a no-haggle policy.

Closing the deal

After you and the dealer have settled on a purchase price, you may need to sign some preliminary paperwork and give the dealer a deposit. If you need a loan to purchase the car, you’ll also need to obtain financing. If you don’t mind making financing arrangements ahead of time, many banks, credit unions, and auto clubs offer favorable interest rates on car loans.

At the dealership, you have a couple of financing options. First, you’ll want to ask about special financing programs available through the car manufacturer. These are usually the best deals, offering low interest rates. Unfortunately, though, qualifying for these programs can be hard because special restrictions often apply (e.g., large down payment, limited payment terms).

You can also apply for a traditional car loan through the dealer, who makes additional money by arranging on-the-spot financing. But don’t assume you’re getting the best deal available. The interest rate on dealer-sponsored loans is usually higher than the interest rate that you would receive on your own.

Around this time, the dealer will try to sell you extras such as an extended warranty, service contract, or rustproofing. Watch out–these extras are expensive and often overpriced. If you’re interested in purchasing them, be sure to negotiate a favorable price, or look into buying them elsewhere.

The dealer can also help you arrange proper insurance coverage of your car and make sure that the registration and plates are in order, or you can choose to do this yourself. In either case, once all the paperwork is signed, the dealer will hand you the keys, and the car will be yours!

Disclosure:The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Benefits

Like most people, you probably don’t expect to become disabled. However, you are three times more likely to become disabled due to illness or injury than to die during your earning years. (Source: 1985 Commissioner’s Individual Disability Table A.) That’s why it’s important to know what disability benefits you may be entitled to under Social Security.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two programs that pay disability benefits. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to qualified individuals who are under full retirement age, regardless of their income. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to qualified individuals with limited income. Only the SSDI program is discussed here.

To qualify for benefits, you must meet a strict definition of disability

Because the definition of disability that the SSA uses is strict, it’s hard to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. To receive benefits as an adult, you must have a physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or is expected to result in your death. Your impairment must also be severe enough to prevent you from performing any “substantial gainful activity” or, in other words, the work that you were doing when you became disabled or any other work.

The SSA has a list of impairments that are considered so severe that they automatically define you as disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the SSA must decide if it’s severe enough.

When determining your ability to work, the SSA will consider your medical condition, age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills. If you’re working, the amount of income that you are able to earn also plays a role. If your earnings from work average more than $980 per month (in 2009), you generally won’t be considered disabled for Social Security purposes. Special rules and income limits apply if you’re blind.

You’ll also need sufficient work credits to qualify

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits that enable you to qualify for Social Security benefits. You can earn up to 4 credits per year, depending on the amount of income that you earn. The number of credits that you need depends on how old you are when you become disabled. For instance, if you’re age 31 to 42, you’ll need to have earned 20 credits within the last 10 years, ending with the year in which you became disabled. If you’re younger than 31, you’ll need fewer credits; if you’re older than 42, you’ll need more.

Your family members don’t need work credits

If you qualify for disability benefits, certain family members can also collect monthly disability benefits based on your work record. Eligible family members may include:

  • Your spouse age 62 or older, if married at least one year
  • Your former spouse age 62 or older (if you were married at least 10 years)
  • Your spouse or former spouse of any age, if caring for your child who is under age 16 or disabled
  • Your children under age 18, if unmarried
  • Your children under age 19, if full-time students (through grade 12) or disabled
  • Your children older than 18, if severely disabled

Each eligible family member may receive a monthly check equal to as much as 50 percent of your basic benefit. This is in addition to your benefit–your check doesn’t get reduced.

The amount of money that you’ll receive depends on your Social Security earnings record

The amount of your monthly disability check is based on your average lifetime earnings. Generally, you’ll receive an amount equal to what you would receive were you to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits at full retirement age. You can review your earnings record and get an estimate of the Social Security disability benefit that you might be eligible to receive by ordering a Social Security Statement from the SSA, either by phone at (800) 772-1213, in person, or on its website. Or, you can wait for it to come in the mail–you will automatically receive a Social Security Statement from the SSA annually about three months before your birthday if you are age 25 or older and not yet receiving Social Security benefits.

Eligibility for other state and federal benefits may affect the amount of your SSDI check. And because the SSA will periodically review your case and decide whether you are still disabled, your disability benefits may stop altogether. This will happen if your medical condition improves to the point that you’re no longer considered disabled, or if you are able to earn a substantial amount of money. Finally, once you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically convert to Social Security retirement benefits (the amount is usually the same).

You should apply for benefits as soon as possible

You should apply for benefits at a Social Security office as soon as you become disabled, and it appears that the disability will continue. That’s because there’s a five-month waiting period before you’ll get your first check. You can file for benefits in person, through the mail, online, or over the telephone. You’ll be asked to provide the following information:

  • An original or certified copy of your birth certificate (if you were born in another country, you’ll need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency)
  • An original or certified copy of your military discharge papers (DD 214) if you were in the military
  • A copy of your W-2 form (or, if self-employed, a copy of your federal tax return for the past year)
  • Workers compensation information, including date of injury, claim number, and payment amount
  • Social Security numbers of your spouse and children
  • Your checking or savings account number
  • Name, address, and phone number of a person who can get in touch with you if necessary
  • Medical and job information, including information about physicians who have treated you, names of medicines you are taking, medical records you have, and jobs you worked in during the 15 years before your disability began

Once your application is complete and has been reviewed by your local Social Security office, it will be sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state. There, the DDS will determine whether you are disabled under Social Security rules. If your claim is approved, you’ll receive a letter showing the amount of benefit that you’ll receive and when your benefits will begin. If your claim is denied, you’ll receive a letter explaining the decision and telling you how to appeal if you don’t agree with it.

For more information on Social Security disability benefits, visit your local Social Security office, look at publications available on the SSA website, or call the SSA at (800) 772-1213.

Disclosure:The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Medicaid Planning Basics

Medicaid Planning Basics

The best time to plan for the possibility of nursing home care is when you’re still healthy. By doing so, you may be able to pay for your long-term care and preserve assets for your loved ones. How? Through Medicaid planning.

Eligibility for Medicaid depends on your state’s asset and income-level requirements

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides medical assistance to various low-income individuals, including those who are aged (i.e., 65 or older), disabled, or blind. It is the single largest payer of nursing home bills in America and is the last resort for people who have no other way to finance their long-term care. Although Medicaid eligibility rules vary from state to state, federal minimum standards and guidelines must be observed.

In addition to you meeting your state’s medical and functional criteria for nursing home care, your assets and monthly income must each fall below certain levels if you are to qualify for Medicaid. However, several assets (which may include your family home) and a certain amount of income may be exempt or not counted.

Medicaid planning can help you meet your state’s requirements

To determine whether you qualify for Medicaid, your state may count only the income and assets that are legally available to you for paying bills. That’s where Medicaid planning comes in. Over the years, a number of tools and strategies have arisen that might help you qualify for Medicaid sooner.

In general, Medicaid planning seeks to accomplish the following goals:

  • Exchanging countable assets for exempt assets to help you meet Medicaid eligibility requirements
  • Preserving assets for your loved ones
  • Providing for your healthy spouse (if you’re married)

Let’s look at these in turn.

You may be able to exchange countable assets for exempt assets

Countable assets are those that are not exempt by state law or otherwise made inaccessible to the state for Medicaid purposes. The total value of your countable assets (together with your countable income) will determine your eligibility for Medicaid. Under federal guidelines, each state compiles a list of exempt assets. Usually, this list includes such items as the family home (regardless of value), prepaid burial plots and contracts, one automobile, and term life insurance.

Through Medicaid planning, you may be able to rearrange your finances so that countable assets are exchanged for exempt assets or otherwise made inaccessible to the state. For example, you may be able to pay off the mortgage on your family home, make home improvements and repairs, pay off your debts, purchase a car for your healthy spouse, and prepay burial expenses.

For more information on this topic, contact an elder law attorney who is experienced with your state’s Medicaid laws.

Irrevocable trusts can help you leave something for your loved ones

Why not simply liquidate all of your assets to pay for your nursing home care? After all, Medicaid will eventually kick in (in most states) once you’ve exhausted your personal resources. The reason is simple: You want to assist your loved ones financially.

There are many ways to potentially preserve assets for your loved ones. One way is to use an irrevocable trust. (It’s irrevocable in the sense that you can’t later change its terms or decide to end it.) Property placed in an irrevocable trust will be excluded from your financial picture, for Medicaid purposes. If you name a proper beneficiary, the principal that you deposit into the trust (and possibly any income generated) will be sheltered from the state and can be preserved for your heirs. Typically, though, the trust must be in place and funded for a specific period of time for this strategy to be an effective Medicaid planning tool.

For information about Medicaid planning trusts, consult an experienced attorney.

If you’re married, an annuity can help you provide for your healthy spouse

Nursing homes are expensive. If you must go to one, will your spouse have enough money to live on? With a little planning, the answer is yes. Here’s how Medicaid affects a married couple. A couple’s assets are pooled together when the state is considering the eligibility of one spouse for Medicaid. The healthy spouse is entitled to keep a spousal resource allowance that generally amounts to one-half of the assets. This may not amount to much money over the long term.

A healthy spouse may want to use jointly owned, countable assets to buy a single premium immediate annuity to benefit himself or herself. Converting countable assets into an income stream is a plus because each spouse is entitled to keep all of his or her own income, in contrast to the pooling of assets. By purchasing an immediate annuity in this manner, the institutionalized spouse can more easily qualify for Medicaid, and the healthy spouse can enjoy a higher standard of living.

Be aware, however, that for annuities purchased on February 8, 2006 and thereafter (the date of enactment of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005), the state must be named as the remainder beneficiary of the annuity after your spouse or a minor or disabled child.

Beware of certain Medicaid planning risks

Medicaid planning is not without certain risks and drawbacks. In particular, you should be aware of look-back periods, possible disqualification for Medicaid, and estate recoveries.

When you apply for Medicaid, the state has the right to review, or look back, at your finances (and those of your spouse) for a period of months before the date you applied for assistance. In general, a 60-month look-back period exists for transfers of countable assets for less than fair market value. Transfers of countable assets for less than fair market value made during the look-back period will usually result in a waiting period before you can start to collect Medicaid. So, for example, if you give your house to your kids the year before you enter a nursing home, you’ll be ineligible for Medicaid for quite some time. (A mathematical formula is used.)

Also, you should know that Medicaid planning is more effective in some states than in others. In addition, federal law encourages states to seek reimbursement from Medicaid recipients for Medicaid payments made on their behalf. This means that your state may be able to place a lien on your property while you are alive, or seek reimbursement from your estate after you die. Make sure to consult an attorney experienced with Medicaid planning and the laws in your state before taking any action.

Disclosure:The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

And Baby Makes Three

And Baby Makes Three

So you’re going to have or adopt a baby. Congratulations! Parenthood may be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. As you prepare for life with your baby, here are a few things you should think about.

Reassess your budget

You’ll have to buy a lot of things before (or soon after) your baby arrives. Buying a new crib, stroller, car seat, and other items you’ll need could cost you well over $1,000. But if you do your homework, you can save money without sacrificing quality and safety. Discount stores or Internet retailers may offer some items at lower prices than you’ll find elsewhere. If you don’t mind used items, poke around for bargains at yard sales and flea markets. Finally, you’ll probably get hand-me-downs and shower gifts from family and friends, so some items will be free.

Buying all of the gear you need is pretty much a one-shot deal, but you’ll also have many ongoing expenses that will affect your monthly budget. These may include baby formula and food, diapers, clothing, child care (day care and/or baby-sitters), medical costs not covered by insurance (such as co-payments for doctor’s visits), and increased housing costs (if you move to accommodate your larger family, for example). Redo your budget to figure out how much your total monthly expenses will increase after the birth of your baby. If you’ve never created a budget before, now’s the time to start. Chances are, you’ll be spending at least an extra few hundred dollars a month. If it looks like the added expenses will strain your budget, you’ll want to think about ways to cut back on your expenses.

Decide if one of you should stay home

Will it make sense for both of you to work outside the home, or should one person stay home? That’s a question only you and your spouse can answer. Maybe both of you want to work because you enjoy your jobs. Or maybe you have no choice if the only way you can get by financially is for both of you to work. But don’t be too hasty–the financial benefits of two incomes may not be as great as you think. Remember, you may have to pay for expensive day care if both of you work. You’ll also pay more in taxes because your household income will be higher. Finally, the working spouse will have commuting and other work-related expenses. Run the numbers to see how much of a financial benefit you really get if both of you work. Then, weigh that benefit against the peace of mind you would get from having one spouse stay home with the baby. A compromise might be for one of you to work only part-time.

Review your insurance needs

You’ll incur high medical expenses during the pregnancy and delivery, so check the maternity coverage that your health insurance offers. And, of course, you’ll have another person to insure after the birth. Good medical coverage for your baby is critical, because trips to the pediatrician, prescriptions, and other health-care costs can really add up over time. Fortunately, adding your baby to your employer-sponsored health plan or your own private plan is usually not a problem. Just ask your employer or insurer what you need to do (and when, usually within 30 days of birth or adoption) to make sure your baby will be covered from the moment of birth. An employer-sponsored plan (if available) is often the best way to insure your baby, because these plans typically provide good coverage at a lower cost. But expect additional premiums and out-of-pocket costs (such as co-payments) after adding your baby to any health plan.

It’s also time to think about life insurance. Though it’s unlikely that you’ll die prematurely, you should be prepared anyway. Life insurance can protect your family’s financial security if something unexpected happens to you. Your spouse can use the death benefit to pay off debts (e.g., a mortgage, car loan, credit cards), support your child, and meet other expenses. Some of the funds could also be set aside for your child’s future education. If you don’t have any life insurance, now may be a good time to get some. The cost of an individual policy typically depends on your age, your health, whether you smoke, and other factors. Even if you already have life insurance (through your employer, for example), you should consider buying more now that you have a baby to care for. An insurance agent or financial professional can help you figure out how much coverage you need.

Update your estate plan

With a new baby to think about, you and your spouse should update your wills (or prepare wills, if you haven’t already) with the help of an attorney. You’ll need to address what will happen if an unexpected tragedy strikes. Who would be the best person to raise your child if you and your spouse died at the same time? If the person you choose accepts this responsibility, you’ll need to designate him or her in your wills as your minor child’s legal guardian. You should also name a contingent guardian, in case the primary guardian dies. Guardianship typically involves managing money and other assets that you leave your minor child. You may also want to ask your attorney about setting up a trust for your child and naming trustees separate from the suggested guardians.

While working with your attorney, you and your spouse should also complete a health-care proxy and durable power of attorney. These documents allow you to designate someone to act on your behalf for medical and financial decisions if you should become incapacitated.

Start saving for your little one’s education

The price of a college education is high and keeps getting higher. By the time your baby is college-bound, the annual cost of a good private college could be almost triple what it is today, including tuition, room and board, books, and so on. How will you afford this? Your child may receive financial aid (e.g., grants, scholarships, and loans), but you need to plan in case aid is unavailable or insufficient. Set up a college fund to save for your child’s education–you can arrange for funds to be deducted from your paycheck and invested in the account(s) that you choose. You can also suggest that family members who want to give gifts could contribute directly to this account. Start as soon as possible (it’s never too early), and save as much as your budget permits. Many different savings vehicles are available for this purpose, some of which have tax advantages. Talk to a financial professional about which ones are best for you.

Don’t forget about your taxes

There’s no way around it: Having children costs money. However, you may be entitled to some tax breaks that can help defray the cost of raising your child. First, you may be eligible for an extra exemption if your annual income is below a certain level for your filing status. This will reduce your income tax bill for every year that you’re eligible to claim the exemption. You may also qualify for one or more child-related tax credits: the child tax credit (a $1,000 credit for each qualifying child), the child and dependent care credit (if you have qualifying child-care expenses), and the earned income credit (if your annual income is below a certain level). To claim any of these exemptions and credits on your federal tax return, you’ll need a Social Security number for your child. You may be able to apply for this number (as well as a birth certificate) right at the hospital after your baby’s birth. For more information about tax issues, talk to a tax professional.

Disclosure:The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Sterling Group United recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.