Web-Based Financial Planning Tools for College Students and others

In advising a senior going to study abroad, I learned that he did not know how to obtain his own credit card, how to set up banking before and during his trip and how to manage the entire process. This was a surprise, as some many web sites seem loaded with information.

However, the bank sites tell you some but not all of what you need to do. Similarly, college sites may mention ATMs without connecting to Handbooks may suggest Parents may have no clear understanding of

No single place gives you a complete road map, let alone telling you how to connect all the resources to get your answer, so you have to turn the web into your own tools.

The first step is contacting the overseas college for local banks, currency exchanges and connecting to close by ATMs and banks. The next step is getting your own credit card or a additional cars on your parent’s account. Then you get to finding a US bank into which your parents can deposit or from which they can wire so you have funds in you bank at college.

The key is to link all the information that is on the web to create a plan for your study abroad, using the web sites to answer and obtain all you need

Cash Management and Financial Planning – use your credit card for more than just purchasing

(This is a summary of a recent post by Kiplinger’s)

You may have selected a card for points or for cash back. However, there are many other benefits to keep in mind, from on-line purchase protection to vacation and travel insurance.

Prices
: many gold and platinum cards, and now the Citi premium card, will give you up $250 back if you find an item you purchased for a lower price within 60 days.
Warranties: several cards extend the manufacturer warranty for up to a year, ending the need to pay for an extended warranty that a sales clerk tries to get you to buy at check out or a company e-mails urging you to purchase after you buy on line. AMEX, Visa Signature, gold, and platinum MasterCards do this when used for purchases. Some add a 90-day protection for loss or breakage of a laptop or digital camera. Citi Premier and some replace the item.

Theft – Coverage on the road: If your laptop is stolen from your hotel room, MasterCard will reimburse you if you used a gold or platinum card to pay for the room. Likewise, if your luggage does not arrive when you do, MasterCard will reimburse you for the cost of replacing essential items. In addition, MasterCard will cover the cost to repair or replace damaged luggage. Use your Visa Signature card to buy your airline ticket and you can be reimbursed up to $3,000 for lost or stolen luggage.

Avoid checked-baggage fees. You can redeem points for an airline ticket with your U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature card and receive a $25 credit toward the checked-bag fee. Gold Delta SkyMiles cards from American Express cover the cost of checked bags (up to $50 per person round-trip) for up to nine people on the same reservation. American Express’s platinum card offers a $200 annual credit for flight-change and baggage fees.

Free admissions: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders receive free admission to 150 museums in 85 cities on the first weekend of the month. Participating institutions include New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago’s Art Institute, Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, in Oklahoma City.

Concierge services. The 24-hour service (available to Visa Signature and MasterCard World Elite cardholders) can help with restaurant reservations, party planning, travel arrangements and getting tickets to sold-out events. Visa cardholders can see what is available by visiting Visa’s Web site or by becoming a fan of Visa on Facebook.

Getting back home: Chase customers can call Global Lifeline (the number is on the back of their card) and get help with hotel and airline reservations and medical assistance. For example, Chase helped a cardholder stranded in the Dominican Republic get a flight back to New England this past winter after a massive snowstorm forced flight cancellations.

We added checking these benefits to the Finance Health Day page .

Let me know if you have questions or comments.

Finance Health Day (you own financial planning focus)

Taking a financial health day (like a mental health day, but for your finances)

A recent New York Times article spoke of taking a day that used to be “a mental health day” to work on financial planning matters, or a “financial health day”

With work and other matters demanding attention, many financial matters get put off. One that the author singled out was estate planning – one I often see people put off.

The list he created, as paraphrased and augmented by me, included:

1. Cash back credit cards – switching to or using mileage on existing cards

2. Insurance riders – updating or adding new items for coverage, which may entail appraisals

3. Phone service review – seeing if you have the best phone set up at home (bundling phone, internet and cable to save for example or even dropping the phone for your cell phone)

4. Cell phone service review – seeing if you have the best plan for your usage

5. Nanny tax service setup – setting up payroll for any household employees. The services are inexpensive and save you time.

6. Establishing an estate plan – putting in place a will

7. Insurance benefits – applying for reimbursements

8. In case of emergencies lists – this list tells people were all crucial papers and other items are stored (I have a list on my computer as well as in my safe deposit box)

9. Auto pilot charitable giving – setting up an automatic deduction from a checking account (or doing United Way via payroll)

10. Shopping spree – using the balances on gift cards or, as noted above, using your mileage. The balances do not earn you interest so might as well buy something, as a reward for all the work done on the other items.

These are obviously all worthwhile endeavors. Some take more than one day, such as getting appraisals or executing and estate plan.

I would add to the list the following items:

11. Updating the estate plan you have for changes you want to make in selected fiduciaries or changes in tax laws

12. Checking asset ownership and beneficiary designations for your estate plan so that the plan works as you intend

13. Putting assets in your revocable trusts to avoid probate (this is more important in sates other than Massachusetts)

14. Making sure you have proper liability insurance and an umbrella policy and replacement cost on your home

15. Using your flex plan before year end

16. Tax planning – one we always check with our clients – so that changes during the year are covered by changes in estimates or AMT strategies

17. Cash planning to be sure you have funds for the big purchases….. like cars, with now being possibly a good time to buy

18. Education funding – using 529 plans and any available tax strategies

19. Homestead filing, to protect the equity in your home

20. Reviewing your disability insurance to see if you can add to it

As you know from our work, we can help with many of these items so let me know if you or any of your friends and associates want to improve your Financial Health ….

Let us know if you have questions or comments. Thanks,

Steven