Affordable Educational Options Abound for Kids

Parents want what’s best for their kids, especially when it comes to their education. But what’s a parent to do if they feel that their child is not getting the schooling, or hand-on assistance they need to excel in life? Fortunately, there are several educational avenues available today beyond public education, among them private schools. But affording private school can prove to be a challenge.affordable-educational-options-for-kids

Creating even more of a challenge is sorting through other options, including charter schools, magnet schools, home schooling/online schooling, and parochial schools. Before delving into affordability, let’s take a closer look at each of these options.

Private Schools/Independent Schools

These two types of schools have some similarities. Funding sources for both include tuition payments, charitable donations, and endowments. Private schools might also rely on religious organizations for funds. Independent schools typically are governed by a board of trustees. Students need to apply for admission to be considered for either type of school.

Charter Schools

These schools are independently operated public schools that are founded by community organizations, teachers, parents, for-profit companies or a mix of some or all. They are funded by tax dollars and often private funding. Students are not charged tuition.

Although charter schools must follow basic curriculum requirements established by the state they’re located in, they are not bound by many of the regulations that conventional schools must adhere to. Oftentimes they specialize in certain areas, such as the arts or sciences, and may be geared toward specific groups such as high-risk and gifted students.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools, which have been around since the 1960s-‘70s, got their start as a way to desegregate public school systems by encouraging students to attend schools beyond their neighborhoods. These free public schools are often highly selective and competitive. They mirror charter schools in that many of them specialize in the sciences or arts. In addition to receiving public dollars, magnet schools are funded by local, state, and federal sources via donations and grants.

Parochial Schools

These are church-related schools that are owned and operated by religious institutions such as Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish denominations. Most private schools in the country are parochial operations. Many of these schools will accept students of other religious affiliations, but most of them require students to attend religion classes and participate in prayer services.

Parochial schools are funded by tuition payments, charitable donations, endowments, and government funds.

Home Schooling/Online Schooling

Many parents choose to educate their children at home using a variety of resources, including online classes and curricula. This type of schooling gives parents more control over the educational process and also frees up kids to pursue what interests them the most. It also provides for more flexibility as far as when a student “attends” school. Parents typically shoulder the financial burden of this type of education.

Several of the types of schools described above offer scholarships as well as financial aid to students, particularly those who are facing monetary hardships. And there are schools that will offer discounts if more than one child from a family attends the school.

In addition to these funding sources, parents can use a special savings account to help pay for schooling. According to Investopedia, “a Coverdell Education Savings Account is a tax-deferred trust account created by the U.S. government to assist families in funding educational expenses for beneficiaries 18 years old or younger. The age restriction may be waived for special needs beneficiaries. While more than one ESA can be set up for a single beneficiary, the total maximum contribution per year for any single beneficiary is $2,000.”

By researching the type of school you want your child to attend and exploring the funding opportunities it has to offer, you can pave the way for an exemplary education.

 

 

Tying the Knot? Consider these Wedding Saving Tips!

The cost of a wedding keeps spiraling higher and higher. According to a survey by popular wedding website TheKnot.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was $33,391 in 2017.wedding-saving-tips

If you’re serious about keeping a financial lid on your wedding celebration, there are dozens of ideas that can help make it more affordable. Taking some time to plan ahead can have a significant impact on the cost of your special day.

Here are some wedding saving tips to consider:

Start saving early. Create a special savings account for your wedding and routinely place money in it. Even if it’s only $50 or $100 per paycheck, your balance will add up over time. Relying on credit cards to carry you through could leave you with a hefty bill for years to come.

Get a good return on those wedding dollars. If you’re planning on having a relatively long engagement, you could benefit from placing your wedding funds in an add-on CD, rather than a savings account. For starters, interest rates on CDs (also known as “certificates of deposit”) are usually higher than that of traditional savings accounts, and an add-on CD allows you to add funds to your account at any time, so you can continue stashing money away on a regular basis. This is in contrast to traditional CDs, which don’t usually allow you to add funds after your initial opening deposit. But remember, if you do decide to go the “CD route”, be sure to choose your term-length wisely! You’ll typically be slapped with an early-withdrawal penalty for taking your money out of a CD before it matures, so before you commit, make sure you can afford to leave the funds in your CD until the maturity date.

Skip the wedding planner. It would be nice to have someone else handle all the details surrounding your big day, but is it a necessity? Probably not. Rather than shell out the big bucks for a professional, recruit a friend or two to help you pull the big day together.

Give yourself enough time to plan. The more time you have, the more research you can do to make the event more manageable money-wise. You’ll have a better chance of finding money-saving deals, and you’ll be able to avoid rush-delivery fees.

Tie the knot during the off-season. June and October have become the most popular months to get hitched, mainly because it’s usually neither too hot nor too cold during those months in most areas of the United States. Wedding dates around Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day are also popular choices. But keep in mind the concept of “supply and demand”. Holding your wedding during a coveted time period is going to be more expensive than other dates. But by picking a date during the off-peak season, you can save yourself some big money – not just on a venue, but on everything from flowers to photographers and food!

Choose flowers that are in-season. You may have been dreaming about having a specific flower in your wedding bouquet since you were a little girl, but if that floral favorite isn’t blooming during the season you’re marrying, you’ll likely end up paying a premium for it. Visit a florist to get a sense of what flowers will be in-season during the time of your wedding, and pick from that selection to ensure you don’t break the budget. Chances are you’ll have plenty of beautiful options to choose from.

Stay away from Saturday. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Saturday is the most popular day of the week to hold a wedding. But just because it’s the most popular choice, doesn’t mean it needs to be your choice. If you’re serious about being smart with your wedding budget, you should at least consider an alternative day of the week. You could possibly save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by selecting a day other than Saturday. Speak with your preferred venue and other vendors before committing to a date, to get a sense of just how much money you could save.

Pick a venue that allows you to choose your own vendors. This wedding saving tip alone can make a huge difference in your budget. If you go with a wedding venue that is tied to (and mandates) specific vendors, it’s usually a given that those vendors are going to cost a lot more than if you shopped around yourself. Between the DJ, caterer, florist, and photographer, you could save a pretty penny in the end by hand-selecting each of your vendors.

Avoid the sit-down dinner. Needless to say, per-person plate costs can really whack you in the wallet, depending on what you’re serving. Why not opt for a buffet instead? Another option is to have a cocktail reception and serve only hors d’oeuvres.

Do you really need a wedding cake? Considering the price tag tied to a formal tiered or fondant cake, you could come up with a less expensive alternative that’s just as enjoyable. Consider trying a cupcake spread instead. Or, if your weakness is ice cream, set up a “sundae shop” with all the fixings. And, if your heart’s set on a traditional treat, another option is to order a “dummy cake”As a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! with a small layer you can cut into, and then have your venue serve a less expensive sheet cakes to guests. They’ll never know the difference!

Tap into your crafty and creative side for table decorations. There’s no rule that you have to have flowers at each table, let alone flowers that are professionally arranged. Go online and see what ideas are floating about. If you’re having a fall wedding, a small pumpkin, a few gourds and some colorful autumn leaves can add a special seasonal touch. Photo albums can also make unique, conversational centerpieces.

Sometimes, it pays to think “outside of the box”. With careful planning and an eye on your budget you can have a memorable wedding celebration that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life, but won’t break the bank!

 

 

P2P Payments = The Quick & Easy Way To Pay!

It’s a lot easier to send money to people these days thanks to peer-to-peer payments, commonly referred to as “P2P payments”. Using money transfer systems like Popmoney®, Venmo, and PayPal, you can easily send cash to friends and family over the internet – a lot more convenient than writing a check and sending it through the postal mail!p2p-payments-the-quick-easy-way-to-pay

So how does this technological marvel work?

In the case of Popmoney, which Bank5 Connect uses to power its “Pay People” feature, funds are moved directly from one bank to another bank using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network. This is in contrast to other P2P payment platforms like Venmo and PayPal, where an account is created and holds a balance.

P2P payment systems are steadily growing in popularity. According to one reportAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!, there were more than 63 million adult mobile phone peer-to-peer payment users in the United States in 2017, up 40% from 2016. But with the rise in usage, just how safe are P2P payments?

All of the major P2P systems use encryption technology to protect customers’ financial information. Many platforms also use fraud monitoring and offer support services to deal with questions and issues, and to address unauthorized transactions. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the provider’s security policy, as well as your financial institution’s policy, before signing up for a P2P payment service.

Another way to protect yourself when using a peer-to-peer payment platform, is to sign up for, or opt-into, transaction notifications and alerts. Doing so will allow you to get a text message or email every time money is moved from your account. This can help you to spot any fraudulent transactions as soon as they occur, so you can alert your financial institution or P2P provider.

Other security tips to keep in mind include:

  • Only send and receive money from people you know.
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recommends linking a credit or debit card, or a bank account, when using P2P payment services. By following this advice, if your money is misdirected, you can have the matter resolved by federal law. Keep in mind that if you keep funds in a P2P account, rather than a bank account, you are subject to the P2P provider’s policies and state laws, which can vary.
  • Always double-check the phone number, name, and email address of those you’re conducting transactions with to avoid making a mistake and sending money to the wrong person.
  • If you use a provider that requires you to set up an account with them, check the account activity on a regular basis and immediately report any suspicious activity to the provider.

While P2P payments are typically a lot more convenient than writing and sending paper checks, understand that they’re not instant. While transactions and notifications are sent and received almost instantaneously, it may take two to three business days for the transactions to actually be completed and posted to your account. The amount of time these transactions will take to post will vary depending on the P2P service or bank used.

It’s also a good idea to read all of the fine print before signing up for and using a P2P payment service. While Bank5 Connect’s “Pay People” service (powered by Popmoney) allows users to send and receive money using standard processing times, expedited payments may result in a fee. Other services may have fees associated with their services as well, so it’s best to do your homework before choosing the service that’s right for you!

 

Starting the Financial Aid Process with the FAFSA Application

Going to college is expensive, and it seems to get more expensive every year. That’s why parents and students turn to the FAFSA application to explore their chances of obtaining financial help for college expenses.AdobeStock_78887285

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the FAFSA determines a student’s eligibility for financial aid, which can take the form of grants, loans, and work-study funds.

Every year, billions of dollars are handed out to eligible students who submit a FAFSA application. But those funds aren’t available to you if you don’t apply. Believe it or not, it’s recommended that every student considering college fill out the FAFSA form. Some students think they won’t qualify for financial aid because their parents earn too much money, or they already have a college savings plan. However, what a lot of students and parents don’t realize is that the majority of students who submit a FAFSA are eligibleAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! for at least some form of funding. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2014-2015 school year, 86% of first-time, full-time undergrads received some type of financial aid.

One important thing to note is that the FAFSA should be submitted every year you’re attending college. The deadline for submitting a FAFSA application varies depending on which state you live in and what school year the aid is for. To determine which deadline applies to you, visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/deadlines.htmAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. Regardless of when your FAFSA deadline is, you should keep in mind that some schools award financial aid on a “first-come, first-served” basis, so it’s best to apply as soon as possible. You can submit your application as early as October 1st each year.

Before you jump into your application, you should first determine whether you qualify as a “dependent” student, or an “independent” student. This distinction is very important, as a dependent student must enter both their own financial information, and their parents’ financial information on the form, while an independent student only needs to enter their own information. To help determine which type of student you are, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/dependencyAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!.

It’s also important to gather some specific information and items before starting the application process, such as:

You can easily complete and submit your application online, just be sure to do so via the official FAFSA website: https://fafsa.ed.gov/As a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. Keep in mind that FAFSA will never charge you to submit an application, so if you see any mention of fees, or are prompted to enter your credit card information, it should serve as a warning that you’re on site that is not affiliated or endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education.

If you submit your application on the FAFSA website, it will be processed faster than if you sent in your application by postal mail, and it’s likely to be more accurate because the FAFSA website is designed to automatically catch common errors. With an online application, you can also save and continue your FAFSA form at any time using an FSA IDAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. An FSA ID consists of a username and password that can be used to log into the FAFSA website.

It’s important to go into the FAFSA application process with a clear head, and be careful not to rush through the form. Providing the wrong information on a FAFSA application could delay processing and impact your chances of getting financial assistance. Here are some common errors to watch out for when completing your form:

  • Entering the wrong permanent address;
  • Leaving fields empty. Blank fields can cause miscalculations and ultimately lead to a rejected application. To avoid this, enter a “0” or “not applicable” instead of leaving a field blank, if it doesn’t apply to you;
  • Listing an incorrect Social Security number or driver’s license number. Double and triple-check these numbers to ensure they are entered accurately;
  • Forgetting to sign and date the application;
  • Using commas or decimal points in numeric fields. Numbers should always be rounded to the nearest dollar;
  • Listing student or parent marital statuses incorrectly;
  • Entering the wrong amount of federal income tax paid. You should obtain this amount from your income tax return, NOT your W-2 form;
  • Listing your “Adjusted Gross Income” as equal to your “Total Income”. These figures are different; generally, Adjusted Gross Income is larger than Total Income;
  • Forgetting to list the college(s) the student is applying to, or planning on attending.

Although there’s a lot involved with submitting a FAFSA application, it can greatly pay off in the end. There’s a good chance you could receive the funding necessary to make your college dreams a reality, but you’ll never know unless you take the time to apply. 

How Safe are Paper Checks?

There was a time when people didn’t give a second thought to paying their bills by check and sending them out via postal mail. But with all the fraud going on in the world today, you may be wondering just how safe those paper checks really are.AdobeStock_39616999

The truth is that checks can pose a host of problems from a security standpoint. For one, the front of a check typically contains an abundance of sensitive information such as name, address, financial institution, routing number, and bank account number – quite the payload for a crook.

To make matters worse, there are some retailers and government entities that require you to write your driver’s license number or Social Security number on a check before they will accept it. And after the check is handed over, there’s no telling how many employees could have access to that information.

If your check falls into the hands of someone who isn’t trustworthy, it could open a Pandora’s Box down the road, including identity theft and account takeoverAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. Just by having the account and routing numbers, thieves can go on an online spending spree.

And even if you limit your check writing to just paying a few bills by postal mail each month, there’s still a possibility that your mail could be intercepted along the way. According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, in an average year it responds to more than 27,000 consumer fraud complaints, including reports of identity theft. And, it arrests around 10,000 criminal suspects each year for crimes like mail theft and possession of stolen mail.

It’s also important to keep in mind that if fraudulent transactions occur as a result of thieves stealing your bank account information from a check, your legal protections are generally more limited than if your credit card was compromised. In most cases, financial institutions require that any check-related fraud be reported within 2 days, or you could be liable for up to $500 of the fraudulent transactions. What’s more, if you fail to report the fraud within 60 days, you could be liable for all the money that was stolen. It’s worth noting that some financial institutions offer more extensive liability protection for check-related fraud, but they’re not required to by law.

Given how easy it could be for a criminal to access your personal and banking information via a paper check, you might be asking – should I use them at all? The truth is that checks are still around for a reason, and in some cases they still could be your best bet.

  • They can help you avoid extra fees – In some cases, government agencies or utility companies may accept credit card and debit card payments, but charge extra for them. If you’re looking to pay your car tax bill, and you’re going to be slapped with a fee for paying with a card, you might be better off sticking a check in the mail.
  • You can still make payments during a power outage – If your community is hit with a hurricane or other major weather event, you could find yourself without power for days. Unfortunately, you’ll likely still be expected to pay your bills on time. If you don’t have access to the internet to make online payments, you may find yourself needing to pay by check.
  • Not everyone accepts credit card payments – Believe it or not, some independent contractors and small, local businesses don’t accept credit card payments. For a lot of businesses like photographers, home improvement contractors, and flea market vendors, checks are still preferred over credit cards.

So, if you do find that having a checkbook is a necessity for your lifestyle and current financial situation, just keep these tips in mind to help avoid becoming a victim of check fraud:

  • Use online bill pay whenever possible so that payments are withdrawn directly from your checking account without you having to write a check. Another option is to use a peer-to-peer payment system like PopMoney, PayPal or Venmo to pay bills, friends or contractors.
  • Limit the number of paper checks you write as much as possible. That includes reducing or eliminating altogether the use of checks at physical retail locations.
  • If paying bills by postal mail, drop off the mail at a U.S. Postal Service mailbox or at the post office. These mailboxes are typically much more secure than your personal mailbox at home. And make it hard to tell that there are checks in the envelopes, by covering them in plain white paper, or using security tint envelopes.
  • Never carry around a checkbook or blank checks with you. If your purse is stolen, or you lose your checkbook, a crook could easily get their hands on your personal and financial information.
  • Always write a specific name of a business or person on the line that says “Pay to the order of.” And never write “Cash” in this space. If the check is misplaced or stolen, and it says “Cash”, anyone can cash it.
  • Check your bank statements online at least once a week to ensure that any checks you have written are being cashed and that no fraudulent activity is occurring with your account.

Paper checks can still be helpful in some instances, but it’s important to know the risks associated with them. By keeping these precautions in mind, you can help to keep your bank account, and your checks, as safe as possible.

You Have Choices When Your CD Matures

If you have a CD reaching maturing soon, have you given thought to what you’d like to do with the funds in it? Deciding what path to take when a CD matures isn’t as easy as coming to a fork in the road. There are actually quite a few options available. It’s just a matter of weighing all those options, and then choosing the one that’s right for you.choices-when-your-cd-matures

Before exploring your choices, it’s important to note that your financial institution is required to notify you in advance before your CD matures. Once you receive that notification, you typically have only a week or two to decide what you’d like to do with your funds. If you don’t instruct your bank on what to do with your CD when it matures, they will make the decision for you. In most cases, the financial institution will automatically roll over the funds to another CD with a term length similar to your old one. But beware – the new CD may have a lower interest rate than your old CD. To prevent your money from ending up stuck in a CD with an undesirable rate, it’s a good idea to make your own informed decision about your funds when your CD matures, rather than letting your bank make the choice.

  • One option available to you is to deposit additional funds into the CD and then roll it over into a new term. Unless your CD is an “add-on” CD, your maturity period is likely your only opportunity to add funds to your existing balance. If you decide to go this route however, be sure that you know what rate you will receive for the new term before you agree to it.
  • If you have a big purchase on the horizon, it may be a good time to withdraw the funds. Typically, CD maturity is the only time you can pull your funds out of a CD without incurring an early withdrawal penalty. Taking your money out of a CD once it matures can be ideal if you have specific objective in mind, such as placing a down payment on a house or buying a new car.
  • If you think you may need the funds in the not-too-distant future, but don’t have an immediate need for them, your best bet may be to withdraw the money and place it in an interest-bearing savings or checking account. By taking the money out of your CD, it will no longer be tied up for a locked-in time period, and you’ll have the flexibility of withdrawing it without penalty whenever you’re ready.
  • Another option is to pursue a different investment vehicle, depending on your level of risk tolerance, and your financial goals. Other investment opportunities could include stocks or bonds, retirement accounts, or college savings plans. Just remember that it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or an investment advisor before making any major investment decisions.
  • If you’d like to keep your money in a CD, another possibility is to choose an entirely different CD to roll your money into. You could go with a different CD at the same financial institution, or you could open a new CD at another bank or credit union. Sites like DepositAccounts.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! and Nerdwallet.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! can useful when comparing CDs across multiple financial institutions.
  • Depending how much money is in the maturing CD, you may want to consider splitting the funds and placing them into two or more new CDs with varying term lengths. This strategy is referred to as “CD laddering”. Generally speaking, CD laddering involves buying a series of CDs with different terms so they mature at different intervals. So over the course of the CDs’ various term lengths you’ll have access to funds on an ongoing basis, because you’ll have a CD regularly reaching maturity.

No matter where you are in your financial journey, if you have a CD reaching maturity it’s important to think proactively about your goals and immediate financial needs before determining what to do with your funds. A little planning goes a long way, and you’ll thank yourself later!