A program that provides free assistance with state and federal tax forms is preparing for a new tax season. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program of the Milwaukee Asset Building Coalition will begin filling out and filing taxes on Tuesday, January 22. This free service will be offered at locations across Milwaukee County including offices for the Social Development Commission and MATC’s Downtown Campus. For a complete list of sites, dates they are open and their hours, visit the SDC website at http://www.cr-sdc.org/Programs/VITA.htm.
Online resources and lowered repayments expected to lower monthly costs
by Charlene Crowell
As many as 1.6 million responsible student loan borrowers could benefit from a new order that ties loan repayment to income and family size. Beginning September 30, an expanded option called Income Based Repayment (IBR) can reduce monthly loan payments. Coordinated with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and the Secretary of Education, an online application enables borrowers to apply for the program directly instead of going through a loan servicer.
To be eligible for IBR, a borrower’s current repayments must impose a “partial financial hardship”. A “partial financial hardship” occurs when the monthly payments under a Standard Repayment Plan with a 10-year period is more than the monthly payments required under an IBR for those same loans. In married households where both spouses have IBR-eligible student loans, the combined payments under a Standard Repayment Plan and under IBR are compared.
Loans eligible for the IBR are: Stafford, Grad Plus and Consolidation Loans made under either the Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan Program.
Several loans are ineligible for an IBR: private loans, federal loans in default, and parent Plus. Borrowers who want to determine if they are eligible for IBR can use the Department of Education’s IBR calculator: http://rspnsb.li/OnQaBA.
Once approved, eligible borrowers could see their monthly repayments capped to no more than 10 percent of their discretionary income. Should household size or income change, the IBR option may not remain available.
To sign up for an IBR before September 30, interested borrowers will still need to contact their loan servicer, the company that receives monthly student loan payments. Borrowers uncertain as to who their servicer may be can enter information online at www.nslds.ed.gov to determine their servicer and also find out their loan balance and interest rates.
Since 2009, former students have been able to enroll in a similar plan that called for higher payments of 15 percent. Two years ago, President Obama signed into law an IBR plan that lowered the monthly cap to 10 percent for federal student loans taken out after July 1, 2014. With a June 2012 executive order, the waiting time is cut and borrowers may begin applying this fall.
Additional benefits derived from the executive order are:
Since July 15, borrowers now repaying student loans and in good standing may become eligible for some student loan forgiveness after 25 years of responsible payments;
After September 30, federal direct student loan borrowers will no longer be required to contact their loan servicer as the first step to apply for IBR;
Streamlined, online applications enable income and household verification that eliminates the likelihood of errors or missed information; it also enable applicants to complete the process in one visit;
Other new online resources available through the Department of Education that now include tools to help students make better financial decisions, become more financially literate and knowledgeable of other options for monthly repayments;
Higher education institutions will have an enhanced ability to help students understand repayment options while still enrolled including choices for repayment plans.
Today, nearly two-thirds of college graduates borrow to pay for their education with an average debt at graduation around $26,300. However, for students enrolled in private institutions and/or graduate programs, loan debt can easily reach six-figures.
This new reform is an important step towards enabling those who value education the chance to make affordable payments. It may not change the cost of a college education; but it will likely make repayment more manageable.
At a time when the American economy is still struggling to fully recover from a severe recession, with fewer jobs available than there are people looking for work, some financial relief is better than none. Despite the high cost of higher education, it remains a solid investment for the future.
For additional information on IBR and other student loan information, interested persons may phone 1-800-4-FED-AID or visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.
Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: [email protected]
Instead of spending retirement on a sailboat, golf course, or beach, more and more baby boomers are launching encore careers. Whether it’s because you need the income or miss the daily work challenge, starting a second act can be the chance to pursue a dream or something new.
“Now that we’re living into our 80s, the thought of ending our careers in our mid-60s isn’t financially realistic [for most],” says Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn.
Older workers tend to not only be looking for an income and benefits, but also to make a social impact. According to Amanda Augustine, job search expert at career website TheLadders, second careers tend to be in the social sector or public interest: education, environment, health, government, social service or other not-for-profit work. “It’s the feel good stuff.”
Since any career transition can take up to 18 months, experts advise having enough savings for living expenses during this time. “The key to any career change is that it doesn’t happen fast-it’s a marathon,” says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, chief career writer and partner at Career Trend.
As you look for work during your retirement years, experts suggest being strategic with your job search and how you present yourself.
Be open minded and adventurous. To enter a new career, experts say you must have an open mind about today’s workplace. “The workforce today is ‘what you have done for me lately’ and not ‘what you did last year,'” says John Sumser, chief executive officer of HRExaminer.com.
Know your strengths. “In this second phase career, you have experience and maturity that others may not have,” says Williams. You’ll likely have the skills to work smarter and can offer a level of maturity to a young team-you just have play this up to fight off stigmas of being past your prime or not fresh.
Retool your skills. “We now live in a technical world,” says Sumser. “There’s no job that doesn’t have a technical component which means you have to find a way to get technical skills.” Experts recommend grey workers become proficient with technology, especially software like Microsoft Office, have an email account, and are very comfortable navigating the online world and social networks.
Start now to ensure your family receives maximum benefit from your hard work
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Rising commodity prices and the boost in demand for grains and soybeans have been a boon for farmers in recent years. They’ve also sent land prices soaring. Farmers in the Midwest find the average price for farmland is around $2,400 per acre, and sometimes the highest producing land goes as high as $9,000 per acre.
Prices like these impact not only short-term purchases and tax values, but also the longer-term succession strategy of the family farm. A little extra planning can yield a better result and help ensure your heirs are not overburdened with steep estate taxes, income taxes, gift taxes, etc. that can take a toll on your business assets and leave your heirs strapped for cash.
The most important step in the succession of your business is to start now. Developing a strategy does not mean giving up control – it means you’re taking control of your future. Working with a team that may include your accountant, attorney, banker, financial advisor and your Farm Bureau agent, you can assess your business today and define your goals for your exit strategy. You can begin thinking through these items using the business transition assessment questionnaire.
Once you’ve established broad goals for yourself and your business, your succession strategy team will help you understand your options. “The transition of the family farm is often a sensitive topic. Each operation has its own dynamic and requires a unique succession strategy,” says Jim McCarthy Advanced Markets Vice President at Farm Bureau Financial Services. “Sorting through these issues is a major step toward avoiding the personal conflicts and family feuds that can arise during the settlement of a farm estate. We helped clients Miles and Joyce work hard to keep everyone involved during their transition of land that has been in the family since 1878.” Watch their story here.
The most successful family business transition strategies create advantages for everyone. Parents are reassured the business will remain in the family and goodwill among the children will also be preserved. Active business heirs are provided enhanced opportunities to explore funding options for a buyout of non-active heirs. And non-business heirs know that their inheritance is not dependent on the business heir’s work with the business.
“Once you establish your family farm transition strategy, don’t forget to revisit it and make updates as needed,” says McCarthy. “Rising land prices have rendered many old strategies ineffective. An annual discussion with your business transition team can help you rest easy knowing your strategy is in order.” For more information, visit www.small-business-transition.com.
About Farm Bureau Financial Services
Farm Bureau Financial Services salutes the work of farmers across the country. Join us in saying thanks to those who work the land day in and day out at www.FBFS.com/SayThanksToAFarmer. Through an exclusive, multi-state agent force, the companies affiliated with the Farm Bureau Financial Services brand underwrite, market and distribute a broad range of insurance and financial services products to individuals and businesses. Neither the Company nor its agents give tax or legal advice. Consult with your attorney and other professional advisers for tax and legal advice to determine the best solution