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Advice from 11 Financial Gurus

August 23, 2016

Receiving sound financial advice can change a person’s world, and fortunately, there is no shortage of advice from people who have already lived through and learned how to successfully navigate the financial waters. In fact, simply seeking financial advice can be one of the easiest ways to learn how to save money, pay off debts (like student loans) early, save for the future, or generate enough money for fun expenses.

To help you along your financial journey, we have rounded up information from some of the most well-known and well-loved financial gurus on the planet. Please keep in mind that even as well-known authorities in their field, each person’s advice — or simply their delivery style — may not be for everyone. Therefore, even with different, overlapping, or similar financial philosophies (and their delivery methods), it is ultimately up to each reader to decide which style or kind of advice rings true.

In this quick guide, readers will find eleven of the most well-known financial advisors, accompanied by a quick biography, at least one of their most defining, bestselling financial advice books, and possibly some insightful advice.

11 Financial Gurus

(In Alphabetical Order)

  1. Gary Belsky

Gary Belsky is a columnist for Time.com, the author of several books, and a frequent lecturer to business and consumer groups on the psychology of decision-making. Belsky was a regular commentator on CNN’s Your Money and a frequent contributor to various well-known talk shows and radio programs. He is the former editor-in-chief for ESPN The Magazine and ESPNInsider.com, as well as a former writer at Money magazine, and a former reporter for Crain’s New York Business and the St. Louis Business Journal. In 1990, Belsky won the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, administered by The Anderson School at UCLA.

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them: Lessons From the Life-Changing Science of Behavioral Economics

This book, which Belsky co-authored, explores how informed people might make more rational investment decisions through behavioral economics. Money magazine describes it as: “A terrific introduction to the emerging science of behavioral finance.” Looking for financial advice from Gary Belsky? Look to psychology and behavioral economics.

  1. James M. Dahle, MD

James M. Dahle, MD, is a full-time, emergency medicine physician. After trusting a lot of the wrong people and getting ripped off repeatedly, he started The White Coat Investor, a blog that offers doctors and other high-income professionals advice on personal finance and investing. Since its inception of May 2011, the blog has grown into the most widely-read physician-specific personal finance and investing website in the world, and 95 percent of the advice is actually applicable to anybody.

The White Coat Investor: A Doctor’s Guide to Personal Finance and Investing

Dahle’s book, which followed two years after the blog, responds to the trickiest questions and financial dilemmas shared by thousands of people, especially those in the medical field. His book is considered a high-yield manual that specifically deals with the financial issues facing medical students, residents, physicians, dentists, and similar high-income professionals. The White Coat Investor fills in the gaps and teaches readers what they received little to no training in: business, personal finance, investing, insurance, taxes, estate planning, asset protection, and more. This book is considered great for financial learners of all levels and contains physician-specific tips that cannot be found in other financial books. Extra financial advice from James M. Dahle can be found in this expert interview from Mint.com.

  1. Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D

Wayne W. Dyer is the author of over 40 books — including 21 New York Times bestsellers — related to self-help, finances, development, and spiritual growth. “His main message was that every person has the potential to live an extraordinary life,” and each person can reach their deepest desires by consciously honoring their “highest self,” clarifying their goals, and using their gifts. This message was applied to several books, including these related to finances:

 

Your Erroneous Zones: Step-by-Step Advice for Escaping the Trap of Negative Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life

 

Originally published in 1976, this first book acts as a positive and practical guide for breaking free from the trap of negative thinking or self-destructive patterns, and to instead enjoy life to the fullest. The “erroneous zones” are whole facets of a person’s approach to life that act as barriers to success and happiness. These zones are targeted so readers can learn to become self-reliant, as well as change and manage how much they will let difficult times, people, needs vs. wants, self-image, and more affect them.

 

It’s Not What You‘ve Got!: Lessons for Kids on Money and Abundance

 

The concepts presented in this illustrated book include: Money does not define who you are, it doesn’t matter what others have, and abundance comes in many forms. “It’s Not What You’ve Got is not a how-to manual on spending and saving for kids, but rather a positive, spiritual approach to the meaning of money.”

 

Financial Tip From Wayne W. Dyer:

 

“If you want to be financially independent by the time you’re 30 years old, pay yourself first…When you get your paycheck, take a percentage — between 10 percent and 30 percent — and put that away…You’ll be rich enough to be financially independent within a short period of time.”

 

  1. Neale S. Godfrey

Neale S. Godfrey is an acknowledged expert on family and children’s finances and is considered the creator of the topic of “kids and money” in the United States. Her main goal is to help people raise financially responsible children and grandchildren by providing learning opportunities through life circumstances. To help people achieve this, she has written 27 books and created three, free iOS money games, all of which are related to financial education and empowering families and their kids to take financial responsibility. Her work has received numerous literary awards, and she has spoken on numerous well-known talk shows. Neale S. Godfrey opened The First Children’s Bank at FAO Schwarz in 1988 and was also part of the Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship in Harlem. Godfrey then created the Green$treets kids cartoon characters in order to entertain and educate kids about money.

 

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children

 

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees is considered the book parents turn to when teaching their children about money, as it offers concrete examples on everything from responsible budgeting to understanding the differences between “wants” and “needs.” The book itself is targeted at children and young adults of all ages, and the newly revised edition has sections that discuss the power of the internet, the tactics of television advertisers, and the world of eBay.

 

  1. George Kinder

George Kinder, a Harvard-trained, certified financial planner and tax advisor, is internationally recognized as the father of the Life Planning movement and is the founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning.

 

The Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life

 

This book is intended to help readers discover a powerful new way to look at their money and their life, including questions surrounding personal attitudes about money and how these factors influence lives. The book attempts to help readers approach financial issues with honesty, and without fear, so that they can gain peace, freedom, and security.

 

Life Planning for You

 

This book is considered an inspiring step-by-step description of “how life planning, either as a self-help phenomenon or as a global movement in financial services, transforms people’s lives.” Along with personal stories, the book allows readers to access the skills necessary to life plan for themselves, as well as find financial advisers they can genuinely trust.

 

Financial Advice from George Kinder:

 

“It’s about the meaning, not the money. If my investing is not really deeply tied to what I think is most important in my life [then] the asset allocation, the estate plan, the retirement plan might as well be thrown out the window.” Furthermore, “hire a registered life planner [a financial planner with additional training in helping clients identify and reach life goals] to help you through this, [as they are] trained in how to elicit from a client what is meaningful and how to keep their eyes on the prize.”

 

  1. Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki is an investor, self-help author, educator, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, financial literacy activist, financial commentator, and radio personality. He is best known as the author of the #1 personal finance book of all time (Rich Dad Poor Dad), but is also well-known for his part in the co-creation of the CASHFLOW® board game, founding the financial education-based Rich Dad Company, his appearances on several well-known talk shows, and as the author of various financial books. While Kiyosaki often conveys perspectives on money and investing that contradict conventional wisdom, he has earned a respected reputation for his form of financial straight talk.

 

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

This #1 personal finance book of all time tells the story of Robert Kiyosaki and his two dads — his real father and the father of his best friend (“his rich dad”). In the book, both men shape his thoughts about money and investing, proving that a person does not need to earn a high income to be rich. The book also intends to explain the difference between working for money and having your money work for you.

 

Unfair Advantage: The Power of Financial Education

 

This book takes a hard look at the factors that impact people from all walks of life as they struggle to change and challenge the confines and preconceptions that impact their financial world. Readers are advised to push aside the belief that they are ‘disadvantaged’ people with limited options, and are instead encouraged to take actionable steps to move beyond what they believe are limited options. Included are actionable steps that any individual can take to move beyond their current financial situation or way of thinking.

 

Financial Advice From Robert Kiyosaki:

 

“My rich dad gave me lots of advice. One of the better ones: There’s good debt and bad debt. Bad debt is debt you have to pay for and makes you poor. If I use credit cards to buy new shoes, it makes me poor. Good debt makes me rich and someone else pays for it.” One example: “I’m closing on a $17 million property and financing $14 million. That $14 million is good debt. It makes me richer every month by putting $20,000 in my pocket.”

 

  1. Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is an author at Small Business Trends (along with an editor and contributing author to several other sites), the President and Founder of GrowBiz Media, and a nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, she was an Editorial Director of Entrepreneur magazine. She has appeared on hundreds of radio and talk shows and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. Along with her six year service to the Small Business Administration’s National Council, Rieva Lesonsky was honored by the Small Business Administration as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate. In 2003, she was inducted into the Business Journalism Hall of Fame.

 

Start Your Own Business: The Only Startup Book You’ll Ever Need

 

This book, written by Lesonsky and the editors of Entrepreneur magazine, has helped hundreds of thousands of readers start their own businesses. The sixth edition features amended chapters on choosing a business, adding partners, getting funded, managing the business structure and employees, and also provides ways to understand information and legalities related to the latest tax and healthcare reform.

 

Startup 101: Quick Tips for Starting a Business

 

This ebook contains all the insider advice needed to form a startup business, including: secrets, shortcuts, and smart ideas to help get any business up and running—fast!

 

  1. Peter Navarro Ph.D

Peter Navarro holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and has been a professor of economics and public policy at the University of California-Irvine for more than 20 years. He is a distinguished author, keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and has appeared frequently on various well-known financial talk, news, and radio shows. He also often produces investment videos for thestreet.com. His business-related books, among others, are listed here.

 

Financial Advice from Peter Navarro:

 

“Take every piece of advice you get from any investment adviser with a barrel of salt. Most are trying to sell you things you probably don’t need or want. Think for yourself.”

 

  1. Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is a nationally recognized, best-selling author, radio host, television personality, and motivational speaker. His show and writings strongly focus on encouraging people to get out of debt and save money along the way. After rebounding from a financial crash of his own, Dave Ramsey formed Ramsey Solutions in 1992 (to counsel those hurting from the results of financial stress), followed by his first book (Financial Peace) and the local radio show called The Money Game, which is now nationally syndicated as The Dave Ramsey Show. After six bestselling books, the 400+ members of Ramsey Solutions are continuously coming up with ways to help people reach their financial goals.

 

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

 

Dave Ramsey’s seven, organized, and easy-to-follow steps are aimed at leading the reader out of debt and into a total money makeover.

 

Financial Advice From Dave Ramsey:

 

“A friend of mine who is a billionaire told me he reads a book to his grandkids and I should read that book. The book is ‘The Tortoise and the Hare.’ Every time he reads the book, the tortoise wins. Slow and steady wins the race, and consistency matters. Get-rich-quick never wins…If you try to impress other people, you’ll lose the wealth race, as well,” Ramsey says. “It’s a reminder to somebody like me to keep me in check. It has implications for debt, mutual funds, budgets — an overlay for everything.”

 

  1. Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D

Thomas J. Stanley was a highly regarded authority on America’s affluent and wealthy. He wrote over 40 books on the subject, several of which were award winning and New York Times’ bestsellers. Dr. Stanley made appearances on several well-known talk shows, is cited in several well-respected journals and news reports, and served as chairman of the Affluent Market Institute, which develops research-based marketing and selling strategies for identifying, attracting, and retaining wealthy clients.

 

Author: The Millionaire Next Door

 

This bestselling book identifies and chronicles the seven most common traits and patterns that frequently show up among those who have accumulated wealth…and they are not always what others might assume. This newest edition (since 1998) includes a new foreword for the twenty-first century by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley.

 

  1. Suze Orman

Suze Orman is a two-time Emmy Award-winning television host for the Suze Orman Show, a New York Times bestselling author, a magazine and online columnist, a writer/producer, a motivational speaker, one of the most well-known experts on personal finance, and the winner of numerous awards. Suze Orman’s philosophy is “People first. Then money. Then things.”

 

The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke

 

This book was written to address the specific financial realities that young people face today. In essence, it is “Generation Debt” and “Generation Broke’s” cry for help. Those who are part of this “young, fabulous, and broke” generation will find the following contents especially helpful: a personalized action planner, step-by-step instructions to improve financial futures, an interactive online community to share thoughts and questions, ongoing advice from Suze, and free online resources.

 

The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical and Spiritual Steps So You Can Stop Worrying

 

This personal finance classic changes the way readers think, feel, and act about money by approaching money from both a spiritual and an emotional point of view. Suze Orman’s advice leads readers through nine simple steps to reclaim their power and embrace her philosophy: you are worth more than your money.

 

Financial Advice and Continued Learning

Becoming a financially independent individual may take some time and plenty of research, but it is well worth the effort. The good news is that when you start with sound advice, strategic help, and personal education, the journey towards financial success can be much smoother and shorter. At Education Loan Finance, we hope that you (and your family) are able to find the perfect financial guru for your long-term financial plans.

 

How Much Of Your Income Should Go Toward Rent?

 

Disclaimer: Any information shared on ELFI.com does not constitute financial advice. This blog and website are intended to provide general information only and does not attempt to give you advice that relates to your specific circumstances. Readers are advised to discuss specific plans with independent financial advisers and lenders. This website has not been compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs, or otherwise.

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Young woman holding keys to first home
2020-07-13
Top Finance Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Buying a new house can be a daunting experience. From getting prequalified, finding the right house, being approved, to coming up with the necessary funds, the whole experience can feel a bit overwhelming. Have no fear – here are ELFI’s top tips for first-time homebuyers to overcome the challenge.

 

Make a Budget

Deciding on a budget before you start shopping will help you choose a home you love that falls within your price range. In building a budget, be sure to consider your total income, as well as necessary expenses like utilities, food, and gas you’ll incur each month in addition to housing costs. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to keep the cost of your mortgage below 25% of your take-home pay.

 

Maintaining a budget is a great way to continue to meet other financial goals, like paying down student loans, saving for a car, or building an emergency fund, while searching for your dream home. If you’re not sure where to start, SouthEast Bank’s fixed and adjustable-rate mortgage calculators can help you determine your initial budget and launch a successful house hunt!

 

Here’s an extra tip. Don’t forget to include closing costs in your final total! Many first-time homebuyers make this mistake and find themselves over-budget at the end of the transaction. Average closing costs fall between 2-5% of the total cost of the home. In some situations, the seller may agree to cover the closing costs, so be sure to consider including that in your home offer as well.

 

Boost Your Credit Score

When you’re considering buying a home, give yourself every advantage by keeping your credit score in great shape. If your credit could use a little extra help, try these tips to polish your score:

  • Make bill payments on time. Late payments are a credit score’s worst enemy, as payment history is the most heavily weighted category in determining your score. Set reminders in your phone, leave yourself sticky notes, and do whatever it takes to get those payments submitted by their deadlines!
  • Slow down the spending. Hitting your credit limit can also damage your score, so be careful to use different forms of payment, like cash or debit, or cut down on unnecessary spending.
  • Don’t close that card. Closing lines of credit can be damaging to your score, even if they’re linked to cards you rarely or never use. Instead, put your card in a safe place and use it for occasional transactions, or set it up on autopay for a small monthly expense. If you do need to cancel the card, take these steps from U.S. News to avoid significantly dropping your credit score.

If you found this advice helpful and you’d like to take a deeper dive into your credit score, check out ELFI’s blog, “How to Build Credit: A Beginner’s Guide.”

 

Understand Your Mortgage

Buying a house is a big decision, but understanding your mortgage will give you the confidence to take the next steps in finding your perfect home! Here are a few ways to determine which mortgage loan is right for you:

  • Choose a mortgage term that fits your budget. Mortgages generally have terms of 15, 20, or 30 years, meaning the length of time it takes to repay them.
    • If your goal is to keep your monthly payment low, then opt for a longer-term loan, which will allow you to make smaller payments over time. While long-term loans are great for lowering your monthly payment, however, they increase the number of total payments and result in more interest than short-term mortgages.
    • On the reverse side, short-term mortgages have higher monthly payments but less total interest. Either way, the important decision is choosing the term that allows you to remain within your budget and keep your financial goals on track!
  • Find the right mortgage lender. All too often, first-time homebuyers make the mistake of stopping their mortgage search after being approved by one lender. Instead, take the time to reach out to multiple lenders and determine who can offer the best rate. By being selective, you could save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
  • Get preapproved by your top lenders. After you’ve decided which lenders you’re most interested in working with, show sellers you’re serious by getting preapproved for a loan. A preapproval letter shows that a lender has researched your credit and financial history and determined they’d be willing to offer you a mortgage loan.
 

Choose the Right Insurance

Once you’ve built your budget, boosted your score, and finished your mortgage research, it’s time to close on your dream home!

 

As part of the closing process, you’ll be required to purchase homeowners insurance. Like mortgage lenders, several companies offer homeowners insurance with different rates and benefits. Take the time to research which insurance plan is right for you to ensure you’re receiving the best protection.

 

If you could use some expert help, reach out to SouthEast Insurance Services1. Their experienced representatives can compare rates from more than 40 major lenders to be sure you’re getting the most for your money. Visit them here to learn more to receive a complimentary, no-obligation quote.

 

Congratulations! You’ve done your research and found a dream home within your budget. With our first-time house hunter tips, you’ve also built your credit and received competitive rates on your mortgage and insurance. Now, it’s time to enjoy the home you’ve worked so hard for.

 

At ELFI, we’re proud to support your financial goals and are here to help you along every step of the way. Check back soon for new blog posts, and happy house hunting!

 
 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

 

1SouthEast Insurance Services Products

  • are not a deposit
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  • are not insured by any federal government agency
  • are not guaranteed by the bank
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Insurance products are not insured by FDIC or any Federal Government Agency; are not a deposit of, or guaranteed by the Bank or any Bank Affiliate; and may lose value. Any insurance required as a condition of the extension of credit by SouthEast Bank need not be purchased from our Agency but may, without affecting the approval of the application for an extension of credit, be purchased from an agent or insurance company of the customer's choice.

2020-07-13
How to Save for Retirement While Making Student Loan Payments

If you have student loans, you know how your debt can affect your ability to pursue your other financial goals, especially saving for retirement.    According to a recent survey by TIAA, 84% of responding adults said that their student loans negatively impacted the amount they were able to save for retirement. For those who aren’t saving for retirement at all, 26% said their student loan balances were why they couldn’t afford to do so.    However, putting off saving for your retirement is a costly mistake. It’s important to balance saving for your future with paying down student loan debt now. If you’re struggling to manage both priorities, here’s how to save for retirement while keeping up with your loan payments.  

Why you need to save for retirement now

When it comes to saving for retirement, the earlier you begin saving, the better. Compound interest and the power of annual returns can help your money grow over time. The longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the more you’ll have to invest your own money to have enough saved to retire comfortably.   For example, let’s say Jen begins saving for retirement at the age of 25. She contributes $250 per month into her retirement account, and her average annual return is 9%. By the time Jen reaches the age of 67, she’s contributed just $126,000 into the account, but her retirement account is worth $1,406,746.   By contrast, Jen’s friend Stephanie puts off saving for retirement until she pays off her student loans and doesn’t start contributing to her retirement until she’s 35. She starts putting $500 per month toward her retirement fund — double what Jen contributes each month. Like Jen, Stephanie earns an average annual return of 9%, but by the age of 67, her retirement fund is worth only $1,108,257. Stephanie contributed $192,000 of her own money — nearly $70,000 more than Jen — but her retirement account is worth approximately $300,000 less than Jen’s because Stephanie got a later start.   Chart showing the impact of saving for retirement earlier  

Retirement savings options

If you’re not sure how to save for retirement, here are some popular retirement plans.   

401(k) 

A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement plan, meaning it’s a benefit offered through your job. With a 401(k), you invest a portion of your pre-tax salary in the investments you choose. Your contributions and the earnings are not taxed until you withdraw from the account.  

401(3)b 

401(3)b plans are very similar to 401(k) plans, but they’re offered to employees of non-profit organizations, churches, public schools, and universities. You make contributions to your retirement plan on a pre-tax basis, and your contributions and earnings aren’t taxed until you make withdrawals.  

IRAs

Another great option is to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) on your own. There are two options: a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA.  

Traditional IRA

Anyone can contribute to a Traditional IRA, regardless of income. With an IRA, your earnings can grow tax-deferred, meaning you only pay taxes on your gains when you make withdrawals in retirement. Your contributions may be tax-deductible depending on your income level and if you have access to an employer-sponsored plan.  

Roth IRA

If you meet the income restrictions, a Roth IRA may be a useful option. With a Roth IRA, you make contributions with after-tax dollars. Why is that a good thing? While your contributions aren’t tax-deductible, your earnings and withdrawals are tax-free. And, you can take out the money you contribute to your Roth IRA — but not your earnings — before you reach retirement age without paying any penalties, so your Roth IRA can double as an emergency fund in a pinch.  

How to save for retirement while paying student loans

Finding a balance between saving for retirement and paying down student loan debt can be tricky, but it can be done if you follow these three steps:  

1. Make the minimum payments on all of your student loans

It’s important to stay current on all of your debt to maintain and protect your credit score and prevent racking up costly late fees. Keep making all of the required minimum payments on your federal and private student loans to avoid falling behind and entering student loan default.*  

2. If your employer offers matching contributions, contribute enough to earn the full match

If you have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) and your employer offers matching contributions, contribute enough to your account to qualify for the full match. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on free money that is a key part of your compensation package. Over time, skipping the match could cost you thousands of dollars.   For example, let’s say you make $40,000 per year, and your employer will match 100% of your contributions, up to 5% of your salary. That means if you contribute $2,000 per year to your retirement plan — 5% of your salary — your employer will match your contribution, giving you an additional $2,000 per year toward your retirement fund.   If you didn’t take advantage of the match while you were with that employer for five years, you’d miss out on $10,000. But the long-term consequences are even worse. If that money earned an average 9% annual return, in 30 years, that $10,000 would be worth over $147,000. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of employer matching contributions if they’re available to you.   If your employer doesn’t offer a match, or if you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored plan, contribute to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA  instead.  

3. Tackle your high-interest student loan debt

If you have extra money left over each month, put it toward high-interest student loan debt, meaning loans with an interest rate of over 5%. You can also consider student loan refinancing to lower your interest rate and reduce your monthly payment.   By refinancing your student loans, you can save money and free up more money in your monthly budget to save for retirement. Use the student loan refinance calculator to see how much you can save.*  

The bottom line 

When it comes to saving for retirement while paying student loans, you should develop a balanced strategy. Aim to both save for retirement and pay down your student loans at the same time. By taking advantage of employer contributions and tackling high-interest debt, you can improve your finances and build a secure future.  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.    Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
tax documents
2020-07-06
How Can I Get the Most Out of My Tax Return?

If you haven’t already filed your 2019 taxes, you don’t have much more time. The deadline to file your federal taxes this year has been extended to July 15, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So if you still need to file this year, or if you’re looking for ways to maximize your tax return for the future, here are some important things to keep in mind.   By Kat Tretina  

Tax Implications of Student Loans 

If you have student loans that you have been making payments on, there is a major benefit you may be able to take advantage of.  

Student Loan Interest Deduction

Each year you pay back your student loans, you may be eligible to deduct up to $2,500 in interest costs off your taxable income. Here are the important things to know about the deduction:
  • The deduction is only for the interest portion of your loan payment. Your monthly loan payment consists of paying back the principal of the loan and interest, so you will not be able to deduct your entire loan payment. 
  • You can take advantage of the deduction whether you have private student loans or federal student loans. 
  • You do not need to itemize your tax return to take advantage of this deduction. This can be taken in conjunction with the standard deduction on your return. This deduction will lower your income, thereby lowering your tax liability. 
  • You have to meet income requirements. You are eligible for the deduction if your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) was below $70,000 ($140,000 for married couples filing jointly) the previous tax year. You may be eligible to deduct a reduced amount if your income is higher, however, the deduction does not apply once your MAGI is over $85,000 or $170,000 for joint filers. 
  • You cannot claim this deduction if someone else claims you as a dependent on their tax return. 
  • The loan must have been taken out for a qualified education expense for you, your spouse, or a person who was a dependent when you borrowed the loan. 
 

How The Tax Deduction Works

A deduction is taken to reduce your income that taxes are assessed on, unlike a credit that reduces your taxes owed. For a simple example of how this works, if your income is $50,000 and you paid $1,000 in student loan interest, you can deduct the full $1,000 and your income would be reduced to $49,000 and taxes would be assessed on that amount. Whereas if you claimed any credits, discussed below, the amount of the credit would be taken off of your taxes owed. If you owe $1,500 in taxes and the credit is $500 you now owe $1,000 in taxes.     It’s important to obtain the tax information from your loan servicer when you are ready to file your return. If you have paid more than $600 in interest, your servicer will most likely automatically provide you the 1098-E form. The form will show the total amount of interest you have paid for the year.     If seeing the amount of interest you have paid gives you a shock, you may want to look into refinancing your student loans. Refinancing is when you obtain a new loan to pay off current student loans and can be a simple process that results in savings. Refinancing may help you obtain a lower interest rate, thereby saving you in interest costs. It can also help you lower your monthly payment. Use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see how much you may be able to save.*      

Other Ways to Maximize Your Return

If you are looking for other ways to get the most out of your return, check to see if any of these could apply to you:  

Education Tax Credits 

If you are still in school paying for tuition, you may be eligible to take a tax credit, even if you used student loans to pay the expenses. Here are the two available for 2019 taxes.  

American Opportunity Tax Credit

This allows you to take a credit of up to $2,500 per year for four tax years. You must be enrolled in school at least half time and be working towards a degree. Parents who are paying for the college tuition of their dependents can take this credit or the student themselves can take the credit. Make sure to obtain Form 1098-T from the school to show how much tuition has been paid. This credit is not available for graduate students. In addition, there are income requirements to meet.    

Lifetime Learning Credit

If you are working towards a college degree or enrolled in courses to help with your career, you may be eligible to take a credit of up to $2,000 per tax year for tuition, fees, books, and supplies. There is no limit on how many years this credit can be taken. There are income requirements to meet for this credit as well.    

Save More and Reduce Taxes

If you have an IRA or a Health Savings Account and you did not contribute the maximum amount allowed for the year, the deadline is extended to allow contributions until July 15. The money saved in an IRA and HSA is not subject to federal income taxes. So you are able to save more in these accounts and avoid federal income taxes on your savings.      Hopefully, you can take advantage of some of these savings to get the most out of your tax return. As with any tax advice, make sure to use a reputable program or speak with an experienced tax preparer for your specific situation. The most important thing to remember is to file and pay your federal income taxes by the deadline, July 15, 2020.   
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