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Getting Ahead
3rd Quarter 2015

In this issue:

Tis' the Season Already? How Holiday Shopping Now Can Save You Money Later

529 Educational Savings Plan: Top 3 Misconceptions

Transfer Money to Anyone with Google Wallet's IOS App Update

Tis' the Season Already? How Holiday Shopping Now Can Save You Money Later

It might be hard to come to terms with, but the holiday shopping season is only a few weeks away due to so-called Christmas creep. While the holidays are typically filled with friends, family, food and fun, it's also one of the biggest spending periods of the year. However, there are some things you can do now to help alleviate the strain it might put on your budget.


1. Start Making a List

When it comes to holiday shopping, staying organized is key. Taking the time to sit down and write out a shopping list can help you avoid making costly, unnecessary purchases. You can even take non-gift-related purchases, like decorations or meals, into account. With this information you should be able to keep track of your holiday-related expenses, build yourself a budget, and keep yourself focused in a hectic shopping environment. Proper preparation now can wind up saving you tons later on.

2. Subscribe to Newsletters

If you already have a pretty good idea of where you'll be doing your shopping, consider subscribing to those store's mailing lists and social media channels. Retailers tend to provide their subscribers with special deals and early alerts on upcoming sales. And if that wasn't enough, some brands will even reward you with a coupon (typically anywhere between 10% and 15% off one purchase) for signing up or subscribing. All of this can provide you with some great opportunities to knock out some of your holiday shopping for less.

3. Sign Up for Layaway

An often overlooked tool, layaway allows consumers to spread out the cost of big-ticket items over the span of several months. When opting to place an item on layaway, you'll be required to make some sort of down payment (the amount of which will vary from store to store) and then make smaller payments over time. Unlike credit card purchases however, layaway payments are interest-free (though there may be fees, always read the fine print before signing up). Buying something on layaway will also ensure that it will still be around come the busy holiday shopping season. Just keep in mind that not every store offers layaway and policies vary from store to store. That said, if you're looking for a way to make that new TV or video game system a little more affordable, layaway might be a good option for you.

4. Buy Some Things Early

Despite the massive amount of savings buzz Black Friday generates year after year, there are some items that rarely (if ever) get marked down on the big day. Gift cards, vacation packages, furniture, designer clothing and high-end electronics are all examples of products that typically don't receive any special treatment during the holiday season. This means you could find some savings by purchasing these items ahead of time, whether when they are on sale, or by financing them through a credit card or the previously suggested layaway option.

If you decide to use a credit card to finance your purchases, consider coming up with a plan to pay it off so you don't have to deal with the dreaded holiday debt hangover, and wind up carrying that debt far into the next year. Also, be careful about using too much of your available balance, as doing so can have a negative impact on your credit scores, especially if you're maxed out.

While the holidays might be a stressful time for shoppers, you can opt out of the madness by planning ahead and getting your shopping done sooner. Not only will you find yourself more relaxed, but you could greatly decrease the chances you take on debt this holiday season. Remember, the holidays are about spending time with your loved ones, not scouring the aisles for expensive gifts.

Article courtesy of

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529 Educational Savings Plan: Top 3 Misconceptions

College FundMost parents have every intention of saving for their child's college education - and as early as they can. But putting money aside for an expense that's years away can easily be bumped lower on the list of priorities, especially when you're confused about the best way to go about it. Of the parents that do try to save, many are bogged down by misconceptions that are costing them. As a result, too many are stowing money away in their savings accounts and 401(k)s rather than using 529 plans that reduce the amount you lose to taxes.

In a recent survey by T. Rowe Price, nearly half of parents said they are using a regular savings account to save for college. And while 31% said that they are using a 529 account, 28% said they don't even know what a 529 plan is.

If you're among those not in-the-know, here's the deal: 529 plans are investment accounts that let savings grow tax-free, and earnings are completely tax-free if withdrawals are used for qualified college expenses; these plans have no income limit, and many states' 529 plans give parents a tax credit or deduction for contributions.

Stuart Ritter, certified financial planner and vice president of T. Rowe Price Investment Services, hears from parents who want to do what's best for their families, but are often misinformed.

Here are three of the biggest misconceptions causing the most confusion about 529 plans:

#1 Misconception: Saving for college will hurt how much financial aid you receive

"A number of parents mistakenly believe that every dollar you save is a dollar less you're getting in financial aid - and that's not how it works," says Ritter.

When you apply for financial aid, only 5.6% of what you saved as a parent is factored into the expected family contribution (EFC), which is what a college will expect you to pay for one year at your child's school. So if you have a thousand dollars saved, it means about $56 less in financial aid. With soaring college costs, T. Rowe Price says you'll need to save $450 per month from the time your child is born to pay for the total cost of an average public college, which is projected to cost more than $200,000 according to a calculation by T. Rowe Price.

#2 Misconception: Money saved in a 529 can only be used for education

You will always have control over the money even if you decide to use it for something other than an educational expense. There will, however, be a 10% penalty on the earnings from the fund, for a non-qualified withdrawal.

Money in 529 accounts can be used for undergraduate or graduate studies at any accredited two- or four-year university. This includes tuition, fees, room and board, computers and textbooks.

If you're lucky enough to have money left over after paying your child's tuition expenses, you don't have to forfeit the funds. To avoid tax penalties, you can change the designated beneficiary, or roll over the funds to another member of the family.

#3 Misconception: You can only use your own state's 529 plan

Some people think you can only choose from your state's available 529 plans. Not the case. Start by checking your own state's plans because many states give their residents additional tax breaks for using their own plans, but you can choose from any state's options.

So even if you may decide on transferring your funds to a different 529 plan down the line, it's important to start saving in any 529 plan right away, says Ritter.

Article courtesy of Yahoo! Finance.

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Transfer Money to Anyone with Google Wallet's IOS App Update

Google Wallet now makes it simpler to send money via the app or a debit card. Google has updated its Wallet app for iOS to make it easier to send and receive money.

Google Wallet version 10.16.10 allows you to send money to or receive it from anyone. You can send money to another person simply by using your recipient's email address. The other person doesn't need the Google Wallet app.

Further, you can spend the balance in your Google Wallet account without using the app. Instead, you can now get a Google Wallet debit card, which you can use to buy items at retail stores or take out money at an ATM. You can then transfer money from your Wallet account to that debit card or to a bank account and send money directly from either source.

Google Wallet was a type of precursor to such services as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay, all of which allow you to spend money directly from your smartphone. But Google Wallet may have been ahead of its time; it never really caught on among consumers, merchants or other necessary players. In May, Google unveiled Android Pay as a successor to Google Wallet. For now though, Google Wallet remains alive with the latest changes focused on more easily transferring money to and from individuals rather than paying for items at retailers.

The latest version also lets you split bills and other expenses with people so you can request the exact amount owed by each person. That would come in handy at a restaurant, for example, if you're dining with a group of people and you need to settle the bill among all of you.

The app also helps you keep track of transactions by adding a set amount to your Google Wallet balance. You can also cash out any or all money floating in your Wallet balance by transferring it to your debit card or bank account. Google said that the Wallet app comes with continuous fraud-monitoring and will cover all verified but unauthorized transactions.

Click Here to download in the Apple Store or Here to download in Google Play.

Article courtesy of

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