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This Week In Your Wallet: How To Haggle On College Tuition

In today’s issue of This Week In Your Wallet, we tackle the age-old question: What does flossing have to do with your finances? Nope, it’s not that skimping on oral health can lead to big doctor bills down the road (although Dr. Mike Roizen, my AgeProof co-author, says that’s true). It’s that you need to set aside dedicated time for both. “We don’t floss, we don’t eat well or exercise as much as we should,” Annamaria Lusardi, the chair of economics and accountancy at the George Washington University School of Business, told CNBC. “Personal finance is the same. We need to put aside time to do it well.”

What’s the best way to deal? For tasks that take more than, say, a couple of minutes — like having a chat about money with your spouse or partner or hitting the gym — block out time in your calendar. For short-term tasks, like flossing or paying a single bill, try to adopt a rule for how you’ll handle them. For example, I pay bills as soon as I receive them with a quick couple of keystrokes on my computer or phone. As for the flossing, do it before you brush your teeth every night. Then brush those teeth for at least two minutes while standing on one foot. Not kidding. Dr. Mike says it helps maintain balance as you age. (Try the uppers on your left, the lowers on your right. Or alternate the coordinating foot with the same side of your mouth). It’s not easy, so practicing will make you better. And if you’ve got other #AgeProof hacks, shoot them my way. We’ll share in the newsletter next week and send books to the ones we include. Just drop me a line at jean@jeanchatzky.com.

Haggling On College Bills

Haggling isn’t just for the flea market anymore (though I’ve been binge-watching Flea Market Flip on Sundays. You can learn a lot from watching Lara Spencer whittle down prices.) You can use it to shave a significant amount of money off the price of college. How much? Joel Peck, certified public accountant, told The New York Times that haggling can cut $5,000 to $10,000 per year off tuition. That’s a big chunk of the average $33,480 tab for private nonprofit colleges, according to the College Board. Peck says for top candidates, many schools will offer updated and additional financial aid, which they “call… merit aid to deflect from the fact that it is discretionary.” Over the next few weeks, as students officially choose their schools, some financial aid dollars are freed up and reallocated to other potential freshmen. So how can you grab that cash? Stay in touch with the financial aid office — ideally one officer you’ve been in contact with — and let them know about any changes since filling out the FAFSA that might change your aid eligibility (lost job, medical expenses, etc.). Before the May 1 deadline — and again in June before deposits are due — check in with colleges and have your student write an appeal letter asking for additional financial aid. If you’d like an extra set of eyes, NextGenVest is a free service that can help you craft your plea (they work with you via text message.)

Healthy Places To Plant Your Cash

There’s no getting around the fact that the stock market — over the long term, well-diversified — is the preferred solution when it comes to growing your assets for retirement. There’s also no getting around the fact that these days, the stock market is making many people nervous. As Suzanne Wooley writes for Bloomberg, there are other ways to grab a decent (sometimes more than decent) return on your cash. For example: paying off any high-interest debt, especially credit card debt where the interest rate is equal to the return on your money. Or, funding a health savings account (HSA), which can shave 25 percent off the cost of your medical care. (Note: Investing the money in your HSA can make it go even further, but then you’re in the markets again.) Even think about turning your 30-year mortgage into a 10- or 15-year mortgage. No, you won’t likely match market returns — but particularly as you head into retirement, doing so debt-free can be a huge relief.

Timeless Money Tips

Redbook published a list of the “best money tips of all time” and included some of my go-to guidelines (Thanks Redbook!) starting with controlling the things you can control. (This isn’t always salary. Focus on controlling how much you save and spend.) Another rule close to my heart? Declaring some financial independence. Partnering with someone long-term doesn’t mean you need to share everything — to avoid a relationship feeling too parental, it’s important to each have some of your own money in order to make smaller purchases without checking in. Finally, if you’re a parent, know that saving for your retirement down the line trumps paying all of your child’s tuition — and try not to feel guilty. There’s no financial aid for retirement, but there’s a significant amount for college.

Have a great week,


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