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3 Surprising Reasons to Attend Community College First

Community colleges are rarely perceived as having the same level of prestige as many four-year universities. Unfortunately, that can lead eager new students to pass them up despite their many benefits.

What are those benefits, exactly? Few people would be shocked to hear community colleges are less expensive than four-year universities. But you might be surprised at how much a student can really save.

The advantages don’t end there. Money is only part of the picture. Read on to find out why students should seriously consider spending the first two years of their undergraduate career in community college.

1. Average Savings of $11,377

The question of whether college is worth it is a big one these days. Considering that the average 2016 grad who took out loans for school walked away with $37,172 in debt, some young adults might be unsure whether they should attend college at all. (You can read more about the dangers of certain student loans here.)

However, the amount a student has to spend (or borrow) to complete a four-year degree is slashed when the first two years are completed at a community college.

A recent Student Loan Hero study on the cost of a college credit found that, on average, a college credit from a community college is 60% cheaper than one at a four-year public university. This translates to an average savings of $11,377 for a student who earns their first 60 credits at a two-year public school before transferring to an in-state public university. (If this sounds like your plan, be sure to read this guide to federal student loans.)

2. Make Up for Mediocre Grades

Not all teens have the ability or the attitude to do well in high school. Because academic success is largely determined by grades, students who earn poor grades have little chance of getting into a decent college.

There aren’t any do-overs — that is, unless they enroll in community college. “I was a smart kid, but I hated high school, so I didn’t do well. As I look back, I also wasn’t mature enough at the time to have succeeded at a four-year school,” said Roberto Santiago, a community college professor at Ohlone College in Freemont, California.

“Going to community college allowed me to grow into growing up,” Santiago said. “I became an ‘A’ student, was on the Dean’s List and eventually graduated cum laude. I also started to enjoy school. I enjoyed it so much I’m now writing my dissertation and expect to have a Ph.D. within a year.”

Not every high school graduate is ready to take on the demands of a four-year university. Some students need additional support in certain subjects. Others require more time to grow up. Community college allows fresh high school grads to work toward earning their degrees while providing some breathing room during the transition.

3. Flexibility

It’s not a stretch to assume that the typical 18-year-old doesn’t exactly have their life figured out. Even if they do, the plan is likely to change several times. Unfortunately, many four-year programs require students to enroll full time, even if they haven’t chosen a major.

Not all students are prepared to hit the ground running when it comes to pursuing their degrees. Alissa Carpenter, a career discovery and personal development coach who owns the business Everything’s Not OK and That’s OK, explained that it can be a “hard pill to swallow” if a student isn’t sure what they want to do and has to spend thousands of dollars to figure it out.

“Community colleges give you the opportunity to take courses at your own pace,” Carpenter said. “This affords the student flexibility to have a job, decrease course loads and explore potential majors without the pressure and potential financial burden.”

Santiago echoed this sentiment. “The flexible schedule allowed me to work full time and attend school around my work schedule. I was also able to take a reduced course load with no penalties,” he said. “Without that flexibility, I would never have been able to succeed.”

There are a lot of good reasons to start off at a community college, regardless of a student’s situation. Even those who aced their Advanced Placement courses and have clear visions for their careers can stand to reap the financial benefits. By saving money in the first two years, students can accumulate less debt, pay off student loans faster and live their lives with less of a financial burden.

“I believe strongly in the community college mission,” said Santiago. “There are a lot of smart kids who, like me, had poor grades, or a poor attitude, or don’t have the money for a four-year school right after high school. Community college allows these kids to start exploring college at whatever pace they can manage. It can take more time, but it can be a boon for a great many students.”

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Here's What to Do the Next Time a Business Asks for Your Credit Card by Phone or Email

Recently, I was booking a hotel reservation for a family member and in the process was asked to provide certain information. It was a simple third-party credit card authorization. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty.

Beyond the fact that I am professionally paranoid — I wrote a book about it — there are so many ways for your information to wind up in the wrong hands, especially your credit card information. When we provide our credit card information via remote means, we are often made more vulnerable to identity theft by the authentication process itself.

There is no best way to conduct this sort of business remotely without putting ourselves in danger of becoming victims of identity theft, but there are better and worse ones. These days, it’s more expedient to focus on the very few ways sensitive information can be made available to third parties without creating unnecessary exposure.

A Better Way for Another Day?

If you are unfazed about sending your information via electronic means, consider something similar: paying for a meal with a credit card. We expose our data and send it on a journey every time we pay a bill at a restaurant.

I saw my first portable credit card reader on American soil the other day when paying the bill at a new restaurant. First, I want to say that the lunch was excellent, and I would have gone back even if the waiter hadn’t trotted out that marvelous handheld identity theft reduction device. I am scam-obsessed, and have long envied our friends on the other side of the Atlantic — and locations in other directions as well — for the ubiquity of at-table card payment.

The reason those machines are great is simple: The server has no opportunity to write down or photograph your card information.

Let that sink in … It’s unsettling now that you think about it, right? All those times a server has walked away with your credit card, what stopped him or her from snapping a quick pic of the front and back before returning to your table?

That reader is new technology. The service industry is finally (belatedly) getting hip to the challenge of protecting consumers from identity theft and other scams, but what should you do while it’s still in catch-up mode?

How to Send Your Stuff

The form that was emailed to me by the hotel made the threat of a sneaky waiter snapping pics of my credit card seem like amateur hour.

Obviously, the reservations department asked for my credit card number and expiration date. They also wanted my billing address, work and home phone numbers, email address and signature. Then there was the outline of a box, under which were the words: “Copy front of the credit card” and “Copy of ID.”

Now, I’ve already confessed to being someone who looks for the angle crooks will try to use. The idea of sending, in addition to all the other information requested, an image of a valid form of identification — in my case, my driver’s license — was truly unthinkable. I’d sooner have my Social Security number puffed out by a skywriter over the House that Ruth Built during a Yankees-Red Sox playoff game. (Not convinced? Read up on the surprising ways identity theft can hurt you.)

The form gave me the option of sending my cornucopia of sensitive personal information via email or by way of fax. Which is the better choice?

Hackers Are Really Good at What They Do

Phone calls and faxes conducted over phone lines can be rerouted, emails can be intercepted. Phone calls can also be listened to, and therein lies another problem. When you call a service provider — any kind that costs a set amount every month— there will come a time during the call when you will have to provide your Social Security number so that the company can run a credit check. A service rep is going to ask you for it — the whole thing.

Remember the waiter? Same problem.

Absolutely nothing can stop that person from writing down your information. And before you ask why you can’t input the information on your keypad, remember: Phone calls are not secure, the tones can be intercepted. Encryption is both complex and costly. This is why the federal government has been investigating the possibility of a universal identifier. But in the meantime, those credit checks or authentications pose the same, if not greater, peril as your credit card’s journey at most restaurants.

Old Is New (But Not Fail-Safe)

As counterintuitive as it seems, using the fax in this scenario is the safer path, though it is not completely safe given the possibility of data interception.

Pro tip: Call before sending a fax that contains personally identifiable information or anything else that is for as few eyes as necessary, and ask the person on the phone if they are near the fax machine, or if not if they can be. Call again to make sure the transmission has been retrieved and isn’t just sitting in a tray waiting for a scam artist to come sauntering by with a smartphone and a shopping list of things they want to purchase using your information.

While we await better solutions, you are the ultimate guardian of your personal information, and your vigilance given the myriad threats out there will lead the way for change. In the meantime, get in the habit of monitoring your finances for any sign of mischief. You can view two of your free credit scores, with helpful updates every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Forbes annual billionaires list shows Trump down 200 over slots

Forbes has released its annual list of the richest people in the world, but President Donald Trump’s position on the list has dramatically declined.

USA Today reported that Trump’s ranking dramatically fell 220 slots from No. 324 to No. 544. That ranking is a 20-way tie.

>> Read more trending news

At No. 1 for the fourth year in a row is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, 61, whose net worth increased over $10 billion from $75 billion to $86 billion. Warren Buffet is in the second spot. His net worth increased $14.8 billion from 60.8 billion in 2016 to $75.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had a significant net worth increase from $45.2 to $72.8 billion and closes out the top three.

Here are the top 10 richest people in the world, according to Forbes:

  1. Bill Gates: $86 billion 
  2. Warren Buffett: $75.6 billion 
  3. Jeff Bezos: $72.8 billion
  4. Amancio Ortega: $71.3 billion 
  5. Mark Zuckerberg: $56 billion
  6. Carlos Slim Helu: $54.5 billion 
  7. Larry Ellison: $52.2 billion
  8. Charles Koch: $48.3 billion
  9. David Koch: $48.3 billion
  10. Michael Bloomberg: $47.5 billion

You Won! Congratulations — Now Pay Your Taxes

 

March Madness is one of the biggest gambling events of the year. Americans bet $9.2 billion last year on the tournament through office pools, offshore sites and bookmakers, according to the American Gaming Association. But few people realize that if they get lucky, the IRS gets lucky too. That’s because many kinds of financial windfalls may be taxable.

Here’s a head-to-head look at how lucky winners — of the office brackets pool, but also winners of others sorts — can make tax season a slam dunk, according to the pros.

Matchup: Office brackets pool vs. the IRS

Winner: the IRS

If your bracket doesn’t bust and you end up winning your pool, be sure to think about your tax return while you’re counting your winnings and bragging about your prowess for picking Cinderellas, says Jeff Fosselman, a CPA and certified financial planner at Relative Value Partners in Northbrook, Illinois.

“You are, according to the letter of the law, obligated to report that as income,” he says.

>>MORE: Find the best tax software

Matchup: Overachievers vs. Uncle Sam

Winner: Overachievers

The dollar values of small rewards from the boss, such as a turkey during the holidays or a free dinner for working late, are usually considered “de minimis”— Latin for, essentially, “concerning trifles” — and probably won’t show up on your W-2 as compensation, says Cynthia Kula, CPA, certified financial planner and director of tax at Walthall CPAs in Cleveland.

But be sure to ask about the tax consequences of those free cruises, weeklong trips or other big noncash awards the boss might dole out for beating performance goals, Fosselman says. They’re typically considered taxable at their fair market value.

“Generally, with those sorts of awards there’s no opportunity for withholding, so when you go to pay your taxes at the end of the year, your W-2 is going to have a lot more income and thus you’re going to be subject to a lot more tax and might not have enough withholding to cover that. You could have a substantial tax bill,” he says.

It’s OK to say “no thanks” if you’re not thrilled enough about an award to want to pay the extra taxes, Fosselman adds.

“Whether you enjoy it — even whether you go [on the trip] or not — if you have the award and you have the opportunity to go, you’re going to have to pay the tax bill on it,” he says.

>>MORE: Calculate your tax burden with our income tax calculator

Matchup: Lottery winners vs. the taxman

Winner: Lottery winners — if they play their cards right

If you’ve won the lottery, lock down the ticket before worrying about the tax bill, Fosselman says.

“You make the photocopy of it, you stick it in the safe deposit box, you lay low, hire the team of advisors and come up with a plan before you claim it. And hope you’re in one of the few states that allow you to collect it anonymously,” he says.

Deciding whether to take the lump sum or an annuity option is often a dilemma. For Kula, who says she once advised a group of employees who won a jackpot of around $23 million, lump sum is usually the way to go for tax purposes.

“There is planning to be done, and I think that overall it’s better to bite the bullet — pay [the taxes upfront] — instead of spreading it out so you’re paying that maximum in taxes forever,” she says.

But Fosselman warns: Depending on the size of the jackpot, the amount automatically withheld for taxes when you claim your winnings might end up being too low, which means winners could have a second tax bill coming. The annuity option could be better from a tax perspective, he says, if the payments are small enough to keep you in a lower tax bracket than you’d be in if you took the lump sum.

Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: torem@nerdwallet.com.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

 

Costco to offer home grocery delivery in 50 cities by the end of 2017

Costco customers across the country will soon be able to get groceries delivered to their doors, according to the company that will make the deliveries. 

Shipt, a subscription delivery service, said in a news release Tuesday that it has begun delivering orders for Costco customers in the Tampa area.

According to Costco, the company plans to extend the service to 50 U.S. markets, serving more than 30 million households, by the end of 2017.

According to a story from Fortune, the move comes as grocery retailers work to figure out the growing home delivery market in an industry with stiff competition.

Online grocery sales hit $7 billion in 2015. That number is expected to more than double by 2020, according to Statista.

Shipt will charge members $99 a year for unlimited grocery delivery, and will offer free delivery for two weeks for Tampa-area customers, according to the news release. Customers will also get $15 off their first Costco order. Shoppers can download and place orders using the Shipt app.

Costco has already teamed up with the company Instacart, which delivers groceries from the retailer to customers in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Female Faces of Student Loan Debt

How Much More It Costs to Own vs. Rent in Your State

Owning a home is often considered the American dream — and it’s an expensive one. Homeowners in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., pay from 33% to 93% more for housing each month than do renters living in the same state, according to a new NerdWallet analysis.

But many homeowners reap benefits that you can’t get from renting, such as financial security and stability, tax deductions and a vehicle for retirement savings. With each mortgage payment, you get closer to fully owning the home. The equity you build can be leveraged for loans like cash-out refinances, home equity loans and lines of credit that can be used to improve the home and boost its value or be used in financial emergencies.

While renting can’t offer those long-term financial benefits, it’s cheaper to rent on a month-to-month basis, the analysis found. If you’re wondering how to save money for a down payment, renting can help you build that nest egg — but in extremely expensive or competitive markets, renting might be better for the long haul. If you’re considering buying, before entering the market, use a mortgage calculator to estimate the costs and compare mortgage rates to find the best deal.

To determine the monthly homeownership premium — the additional cost of owning instead of renting, expressed as a percentage — NerdWallet compared 2015 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau for the median gross rent and median homeownership cost in each state and Washington, D.C. Median gross rent includes the costs of monthly rent and utilities for all kinds of rental properties, and median homeownership cost includes monthly mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance and utilities. This comparison doesn’t include the down payment required to buy a home, which is traditionally 20% of the home price for conventional mortgages, but is lower for FHA or VA loans.

Key takeaways
  • Owning is more expensive everywhere. Across all 50 states and Washington, D.C., it costs more each month to own a home than to rent. The median cost people pay nationwide to own a home is 54% more than the median cost to rent each month.
  • The smallest difference is still a third more to own. The state where the premium to own a home is lowest is Florida, where it costs a median of 33% more to own than to rent. The states with the next lowest premiums are Colorado (40%) and Arizona (41%).
  • In some states, the cost of owning far eclipses renting. In New Jersey, the state with the highest homeownership premium, the median monthly cost of owning is nearly double that of renting (93%). The next most expensive places to own are Rhode Island, where the median homeownership cost is 84% higher than renting, and Connecticut, where owners pay a median of 82% more than renters each month for housing.

 

Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: emily.crone@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @emstarbuck. Dan Tonkovich is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email: dtonkovich@nerdwallet.com.

METHODOLOGY NerdWallet analyzed one year of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2015, the most-recent data available. To determine the homeownership premium, we used the median gross rent for all rental properties and the median homeownership cost for all states and Washington, D.C., to determine a percentage that shows the added cost, as a premium, that people pay each month to own a home.

Your State’s Most Popular Mortgage Lender Is Probably Local

Home buyers have ample options when choosing a mortgage lender, including neighborhood credit unions, big-name national banks and online-only lenders. But which type appeals the most to consumers across the country? A new NerdWallet analysis shows that for many people, a local bank or credit union — one headquartered in their state — is the top choice.

NerdWallet reviewed 2015 data —the most recent available — from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which collects mortgage transaction information from all lenders in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. In more than 60% of cases, the top mortgage lender was a local one.

If you’re shopping for a home, getting a mortgage preapproval with your lender of choice before you make an offer can give you a competitive edge.

Key takeaways
  • Wells Fargo wins: Wells Fargo was the most commonly used mortgage lender nationwide during 2015. Quicken was the second most popular, and Bank of America was third.
  • Local lenders go toe-to-toe with big banks: However, for each state’s top lender, local institutions came out on top in 60.8% of cases, or 31 states. And home buyers used local banks or credit unions for the majority of all mortgages in nearly half of the states (22). In Hawaii and South Dakota, the top five mortgage lenders were local. Buyers might trust local lenders more, or in some cases, they might offer lower interest rates.
  • Market share is spread out: The average market share for each state’s No. 1 lender was just over 10%. The top lender held the highest percentage of the market in Alaska, where locally based Residential Mortgage LLC originated 29% of the state’s loans. The top lender had the lowest percentage of market share in Texas, where Wells Fargo originated only 4% of loans.

Mortgage Rate Newsletter Sign up for our biweekly homebuying newsletter now! * Sign me up Should be Empty:

Most popular lender by state StateMost popular lenderMarket share of most popular lender AlabamaRegions Bank (AL)6% AlaskaResidential Mortgage LLC (AK)29% ArizonaNova Home Loans (AZ)8% ArkansasArvest Bank (AR)14% CaliforniaWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)10% ColoradoCherry Creek Mortgage Co. Inc (CO)5% ConnecticutWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)5% DelawareNew Penn Financial LLC (PA)8% FloridaWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)5% GeorgiaWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)6% HawaiiCentral Pacific Bank (HI)9% IdahoIdaho Central Credit Union (ID)13% IllinoisGuaranteed Rate Inc. (IL)8% IndianaRuoff Mortgage Company Inc. (IN)7% IowaUniversity Of Iowa Community Credit Union (IA)12% KansasCapitol Federal Savings Bank (KS)8% KentuckyCentury Lending Company (KY)7% LouisianaGMFS LLC (LA)12% MaineResidential Mortgage Services (ME)16% MarylandFirst Home Mortgage (MD)7% MassachusettsGuaranteed Rate Inc. (IL)5% MichiganQuicken Loans (MI)7% MinnesotaBell State Bank & Trust (ND)10% MississippiBancorpSouth Bank (MS)12% MissouriDAS Acquisition Company LLC (MO)8% MontanaFirst Interstate Bank (MT)19% North CarolinaState Employees' Credit Union (NC)9% North DakotaGate City Bank (ND)18% NebraskaFirst National Bank Of Omaha (NE)14% NevadaGuild Mortgage Company (CA)7% New HampshireResidential Mortgage Services (ME)16% New JerseyWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)11% New MexicoFirst Mortgage Company LLC (OK)13% New YorkWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)10% OhioThe Huntington National Bank (OH)6% OklahomaBOKF, NA (OK)9% OregonGuild Mortgage Company (CA)10% PennsylvaniaWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)5% Rhode IslandCoastway Community Bank (RI)8% South CarolinaWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)6% South DakotaPlains Commerce Bank (SD)13% TennesseeMortgage Investors Group (TN)8% TexasWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)4% UtahAcademy Mortgage Corporation (UT)11% VermontNew England Federal Credit Union (VT)27% VirginiaWells Fargo Bank, NA (SD)6% WashingtonHomeStreet Bank (WA)8% Washington, D.C.First Savings Mortgage Corporation (VA)12% West VirginiaPrimeLending (TX)7% WisconsinAssociated Bank, NA (WI)6% WyomingFirst Interstate Bank (MT)24%

Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: emily.crone@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @emstarbuck. Daniel Tonkovich is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Email: dtonkovich@nerdwallet.com.

Updated March 22, 2017.

METHODOLOGY NerdWallet analyzed 2015 data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and grouped mortgage originations by state and lender. We then counted the number of mortgages written by each lender in each state to find the most popular lenders. Finally, we compared the state in which the lenders were headquartered (provided by the HMDA) with the state in which the loans were written in order to categorize loans as out-of-state or local.
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