Going back to school as an adult

Going back to school as an adult
It’s estimated that a record 21.8 million students are attending American colleges and universities this school year and roughly 8.7 million of them are older students, ages 25 and up.* Determining how to balance work, family, personal passions and other demands with college courses can be challenging for adults who return to school. Another challenge for many is determining how to pay for those credits — regardless of whether they’re still working and earning income, returning to school due to a lay-off or choosing to take a break in their career. Ameriprise advisors can offer advice like:
  • How to calculate the entire cost of returning to school and determining the best ways to fund it – with savings, loans, tuition reimbursement or other options
  • Methods of calculating the potential earning power increase based on the education program an individual pursues
  • Information and tips for applying for federal aid, grants and scholarships
  • Potential tax credits or deductions one is eligible for an adult student
  • Savings vehicles – like 529s – that can help individuals save for their own and their family members’ education

Taking Social Security: When is the right time?

As an individual’s retirement (and eligibility to begin receiving social security) draws near, a crucial question must be answered: when is the best time to start receiving benefits? Does it make sense to file for benefits as soon as possible – age 62 under current guidelines – or wait until full retirement age or even longer? Waiting may result in a bigger check, but it still has a few downsides. Filing for benefits as soon as possible also has pros and cons. To help those nearing retirement sort through their options, Ameriprise financial advisors can talk about several things to consider in determining when to receive Social Security benefits like:
  • Defining the “breakeven point” and how it may impact the decision to wait to receive benefits
  • The ways consumers’ past and current income affects Social Security payments
  • How current health and marital status can factor into determining when it makes sense to receive benefits
  • Resources that help inform and educate pre-retirees about Social Security

Financial Planning and Adoption

This Saturday (November 17, 2012) was National Adoption Day. Adopted children and adoptive parents across the country celebrated their ability to become family, and the day also likely prompted many more to consider adoption. Adopting a child is rewarding in many ways, but it can also be expensive. Ameriprise financial advisors are available to discuss some of the following things individuals and couples should consider as they prepare to adopt:
  • Ways to help prepare financially for an adoption – from the very beginning stages of the process to bringing home a new child for the first time
  • Employer, community or government aid that may be available to families who are adopting
  • Unexpected costs that may occur during or after the adoption process
  • The tax implications of adopting a child
  • Smart ways to budget and perhaps borrow money to help cover the costs of adoption

Financial tips for U.S. military and veterans

For members of the U.S. military, traveling and re-locating often, returning home following a lengthy deployment and living with uncertainty isn’t always easy. Establishing a routine after a big life event like a re-location, deployment or completion of your military service can be challenging, and comes with many new decisions – including new or changing financial choices and obligations. As we honor those who’ve served our country this Veteran’s Day, Ameriprise financial advisors are available to talk about:
- How members of the military should establish or re-fresh their household budget and long-term financial plan after returning to the U.S. or relocating to a different part of the country or globe.
- Ways to plan for necessary big purchases or life events when returning stateside after a deployment. These may include everything from purchasing a home or vehicle to planning a wedding or to start a family.
- Special financial considerations for spouses of deployed service members and the importance of ensuring that they are equipped with the tools and knowledge to address financial matters while their spouse is deployed.
- Strategies for planning for retirement and college education (for oneself or family members) as a member of the military or a veteran.
- Where to find various financial and educational resources available to members of the military and veterans, and the impacts of laws and programs such as the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act and the G.I Bill.
- The importance of establishing a support network for active military members and veterans, their spouses and their families.
- Helpful tips for veterans conducting a job search in the civilian world.

Parents: Paying for kids’ activities can be expensive

The cost of participating in extracurricular and summer activities adds up fast. Just consider the fees and discretionary costs tied to kids’ sports, art and foreign language lessons, dance classes, music instruction and other clubs. While these activities certainly enrich children’s lives, how can parents avoid breaking the bank to provide their children with these opportunities? Ameriprise financial advisors are available to discuss how parents can manage these costs, including:
- Ways to assess an activity’s true cost and how to plan for the unexpected expenses that may arise from it.
- How to effectively budget for extracurricular costs and include them in an overall financial plan based on how many children a family has and what kinds of activities they’re involved in or wish to be involved in.
- Steps to reduce costs. Parents can work as a group to determine what expenses they can and can’t help pay and how to get involved in lowering costs by making decisions as a collective group.
- Strategies for parents to communicate with their children about the costs of activities and how to help a child prioritize from a financial standpoint if he or she is interested in too many things.
Ultimately, the benefits of enrolling children in extracurricular activities usually outweighs the costs of doing so, but being strategic about the way parents pay these out-of-pocket costs can help them create a more comprehensive budget and better save for their short and long-term financial goals.

Creating an emergency fund – how much is enough?

Cash reserve. “Rainy day” fund. Emergency savings. Call it what you like; creating a stockpile of available cash remains a smart part of any financial plan. Consider the recent economic woes that have impacted many American families. When unanticipated events like an economic recession or lay-off strike, a safety cushion liquid savings can make all the difference for the individuals and families involved. Ameriprise financial advisors are available to discuss cash saving topics like:
- How much individuals should plan to save and store in their emergency funds.
- Various options that enable people to build their savings rapidly in a smart way.
- Strategies to find some extra room in a family budget to build a monthly reserve fund.
- Situations when an emergency fund may come in handy that individuals may not have previously considered.
Saving for the unexpected may seem like a drag, but when a sudden expense arises, it’s better to have planned for it than to simply reach for a credit card.

Caring for a child with special needs

Caring for a child with special needs can be rewarding in many ways, but careful planning for the future is critical. Parents often need to adjust their financial and lifestyle goals in order to meet their child’s long-term needs as well as their own. Ameriprise financial advisors are available to discuss:
- How to approach planning for the future – emotionally and financially
- The types of professionals families may want to engage to help plan for multiple aspects – expected and unexpected - of their financial future
- Strategies for balancing financial obligations – such as saving for retirement and funding a child’s ongoing care needs
- Topics families should research such as tax exceptions and other state or federal government programs
Read about an Ameriprise advisor who specializes in working with clients who have a family member with special needs.

Spring Cleaning: Start with a financial review

Spring is a time of new beginnings, and though financial plans never begin completely anew each year, they can use some refreshing. Ameriprise financial advisors are available to discuss ideas to help individuals and families maximize their spring cleaning by getting their finances in order. Possible topics include:
- Effective ways to track income, expenses and overall progress toward specific financial goals.
- Ideas for creating and maintaining a budget.
- Ways individuals can establish or evaluate the proper balance for their investment portfolios and other financial investments.
- Strategies for consolidating accounts and taking full advantage of retirement accounts like a 401(k).
- Ideas for going paperless with your financial account statements and other related documents – and how to organize them electronically.
While the days get longer and the weather warms, spring is a perfect time to set new personal and financial goals. Check out Suzanna de Baca’s 2012 financial resolutions for appropriate financial goals for people in various stages of life.

Blended Families: Paying for stepchildren

Blended families are becoming increasingly common, but the politics and etiquette of financially supporting stepchildren is still unique to each family. Determining which parent pays for what – and for whom – can be complicated. Ameriprise financial advisors are available to discuss the things that new and soon-to-be stepparents should consider and discuss as they blend their families and finances with a new partner. Possible topics include:
- Specific financial topics that should be discussed between new partners ahead of time before blending finances or making a hasty financial decisions.
- Financial agreements that should be included in a divorce settlement concerning current and future expenses for the children.
- Ways to approach discussions with biological children and step children about which parent pays for what and when it’s appropriate to ask for things from either parent.
- How and when to begin discussing plans for significant financial goals for children and step-children like financing a vehicle or college education.
- The benefits of having financial conversations early and often, and putting plans in writing.
Sometimes the biggest challenge in having family financial discussions is finding the right way to approach them and avoid causing tension. Check out Suzanna de Baca’s tips for avoiding financial disagreements between partners.

Young and Hesitant to Invest?

Economic uncertainty and erratic markets can make anyone nervous to invest their cash, but it can have an even bigger psychological impact on those who are investing their money for the first time. Though their hesitation may be understandable, with some knowledge and guidance young people can invest wisely now – with time still on their side. Ameriprise financial advisors are available to discuss:

- Ways to begin investing and learning about investment vehicles and options.
- The benefits of saving and contributing to 401(k) and other accounts early on.
- The various kinds of investment vehicles and accounts that may be appropriate for different financial goals such as buying a home and retirement.
- Strategies for creating a diverse portfolio that assumes the proper balance of risk and conservatism – and determining what that may be.
- The importance of allowing investments to weather market swings though time, and how to manage impulsive emotions that may interfere.