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Celebrities Caught Cheating to Get Students into College + How to Prepare for the Cost of College the Right Way!

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Actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among the dozens charged with using deceitful tactics to funnel students into top colleges. The alleged crimes, uncovered by the FBI, including bribing officials, cheating on exams and wrongfully claiming athlete status in order to nab spots at top universities such as Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown. “Desperate Housewives” star Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 for her daughter’s answers on the SAT to be corrected and was released on a $250,000 bond by a Los Angeles court Tuesday.

As a student, I understand that you want to do what is necessary to help your children succeed but breaking the law to do so is not worth it in the long run. So if you are a parent who wants to help your child with college what do you do? Although, college isn’t something that they will attend until they become an adult it is important that parents start to plan for this expense as early as possible. With childcare being almost as much as rent or a mortgage it can be difficult to save money for anything these days, especially college expenses.

Fortunately, a 529 Plan can help parents save money for their child ’s future college experience. The 529 Plan is a tax-advantaged investment. It was created to encourage parents, grandparents, legal guardians, etc., to begin saving money for the future college educations of their children, grandchildren, are legal wards. It receives its name from Section 529 in the IRS Code, and it is offered by state agencies and state organizations.

Not all states offer the 529 Plan, but those who do individually decide how the plan is designed and what kind of investment options they will offer. Most plans allow investors to come from out of state. The advantages for in-state residents who apply for a 529 college savings plan within their state can include tax deductions, matching grant and scholarship opportunities, protection from creditors, and even exemption from financial aid debt.

The 529 Plan is offered in two different forms. There is a prepaid plan, sometimes also called a guaranteed savings plan, which allows you to purchase tuition ahead of time, based on the current calculations of what the tuition of a specific university is. It is then paid out when the beneficiary of the policy attends a college or university.

There are also savings plans, which are based around the market performance of an underlying investment. These investments are generally comprised of mutual funds. Forty-eight states, plus the District of Columbia, offer the 529 savings plan. Usually, savings plans become more conservative, the older the beneficiary gets. There are also options for risk-based investments, which allows underlying investments to remain in the same fund, no matter what the age of the ultimate recipient.

The 529 college savings plans are a great way for parents, grandparents, or legal guardians to ensure that their young loved ones will be able to afford to go to the very best colleges and receive the very best degrees. It allows children the opportunity to follow their dreams, like before they are actually capable of reaching them. They are ideal plans for adults who want to provide college funds for their children but are unsure or unable to go about it in the way the movies have always told them they should. The 529 plans are realistic and affordable investments, designed to ensure a child’s future successes.

So as you contemplate whether or not you will start your family, keep in mind of these expenses but also know that there are vehicles available to make the ride smoother (pun intended)

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

The Daily Digm (News)

T-Mobile’s Dream of Telecommunications Domination Is Almost Complete + How to Create Mental Toughness While Pursuing Your Dreams

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T-Mobile received verbal approval from the Federal Communications Commission for its $26 billion deal to buy Sprint but still awaits the blessing of the Justice Department. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said he’ll back the merger based on concessions by the third- and fourth-largest U.S. telecommunications companies, which include pledges to invest in new wireless broadband service in rural areas and to sell Sprint’s prepaid cellphone brand. While the FCC is expected to make a formal announcement within weeks, the Justice Dept. has yet to weigh out antitrust concerns.

Dream chasing isn’t for the faint at heart. It can take years before one sees the financial payoff of what was once an idea. T-Mobile is probably patient on the outside, but internal it is jumping for joy. It took them a few years to get to this point, but I’m sure they will be relieved at the fruits of their patients.

When building a business, your goal has to be more than money, or you will ultimately fail. Your drive has to be based on principle, change, and something greater than yourself. Here is how to stay mentally tough while pursuing your dreams.

Personal Development. The road to success is paved with character and growth. Personal development is one of the key drivers that sustain you on the path of your dreams. Trustworthiness, keeping your word, and dependability are imperative to any industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re a musician or painter, lawyer or doctor, these traits and non-negotiable and forever transferable to success.

Take Breaks. To get there, you must rest one mile at a time. The grind is overrated. Reflecting on how far you’ve come energizes you for the road ahead. Burnout is a danger to your accomplishments and leads to a failure by default.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Steve Jobs popularized this quote from an ad in The Whole Earth Catalog. It read Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. We come to a point when we are happy with a level of progress and think we’ve learned everything. Accepting the truth that we never stop growing, and there is no limit to our success gives us the ability to keep going. To continue, you must never settle. You must always seek new ways of fixing things and solving problems. Discover new opportunities and be open to learning more.

Faith. Steve Jobs also mentioned faith throughout his journey. Believing so deeply in an idea that you make it come to life. Belief takes ideas and materializes them; and when you realize you can actually make something come to life, the sky becomes your launching pad, not the limit.

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The Daily Digm (News)

Retail Wars Are Getting Real Competitive + How to Stay Competitive in the Marketplace

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Walmart has announced plans to offer next-day delivery on about 220,000 of its “most frequently purchased” online items, after rival Amazon promised free one-day delivery for Prime members. The retail giant says the offering, which applies to orders over $35, will reach about 75% of the U.S. by the end of the year. The more limited inventory makes Walmart’s offer more of a competitor to Target’s Restock than Amazon, says TechCrunch. But retailers need to get a better handle on their inventory and demand for fast delivery before making such moves, execs and analysts told The Wall Street Journal.

Competition is fierce no matter what the genre is and as it relates to these entrepreneurial streets, you have to make sure that you are staying ahead of the competition so you won’t get Walmart’d by your Amazon… So what can you do? Luckily, Marketing Donut has come up with Ten ways to keep ahead of the competition:

  1. Know the competition. Find out who your competitors are, what they are offering, and what their unique selling point (USP) is. This will identify the areas you need to compete in, as well as giving you a platform for differentiating yourself.
  2. Know your customers. Customer expectations can change dramatically when economic conditions are unstable. Find out what matters to your customers now – is it lower prices, more flexible or premium service, the latest products? Revise your sales and marketing strategy accordingly.
  3. Differentiate. It’s essential to give your customers good reasons to come to you rather than a rival. Your USP should tap into what customers want, and it should be clear and obvious – no-one should have to ask what makes you different.
  4. Step up your marketing. Improve your market positioning statement. Make more effort to tell people who you are, what you sell, and why they should buy from you. It doesn’t have to be expensive; marketing can range from posters in your window and leaflet drops through to viral campaigns on social media.
  5. Update your image. Simple steps such as painting the front of your premises can make your business look more modern and inviting. But also look at business cards, social media presences, your website, branded packaging, clothing and so on. Does your image reflect your USP?
  6. Look after your existing customers. They will be your competitors’ target market. Provide better customer service by being more responsive to their needs and expectations. If feasible, consider offering low-cost extras such as improved credit terms, discounts or loyalty schemes – remember, it’s cheaper and easier to keep customers than to find new ones.
  7. Target new markets. Selling into a greater number of markets can increase your customer base and spread your risk. Consider whether you can sell online or overseas, for example. Are there groups you’ve never targeted before who might be interested in your offer? Remember the benefits of market segmentation and don’t waste time marketing to people who won’t be interested.
  8. Expand your offer. What related products or services might your customers be interested in? You might even consider diversifying into another area – many bars and restaurants have successfully offered business networking events, for example.
  9. Be the best employer. Skilled, motivated staff underpin vibrant, growing businesses. But attracting them means more than paying a competitive wage – people are often more impressed by a good working atmosphere and benefits such as flexible working and structured career development.
  10. Look to the future. Businesses that plan for growth are more successful than those that are happy to stay still. Keep up with developments in your sector, follow consumer trends, invest in new technology and – crucially – have a clear idea of where you want to be in one, three and five years’ time.
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The Daily Digm (News)

Negotiating Better Pay May Be Getting Easier + How to Easily Stay Ahead of the Game

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Salaries were once a taboo thing to discuss. Yet, with unemployment at a five-decade low and the gig economy requiring people to compare salaries, attitudes are shifting in the conversation, according to The New York Times. Keeping salary information secret favors managers who want to pay people less, say experts. More information about salaries may benefit workers, giving them wider room to negotiate better pay.

This is great news for those who in the past have been cheated out of a fair wage because they didn’t understand how to play the negotiation game. But it doesn’t only take negotiation to get top dollar; there are other tricks to the trade. Here are four ways anyone could use to get ahead of the career game:

  1. Know Your Strengths and Capitalize off of Them. Don’t try to be something you’re not or learn new tricks overnight. Stay in your lane and become stronger. The stronger you become, the more value you will have in the workforce.
  2. It’s Never Too Late to Intern or Volunteer. As adults, these can be such humbling terms, but it can still get your foot in the door. Just look at Chris Gardner. Not only did he become wealthy, but his rise to riches also led to a movie based starring Will Smith & Jayden Smith
  3. Building Your Connections. Who you know is just as if not more important than what you learn. Being authentically connected to others in your field of interest can open up a world of opportunities. One rule of thumb is never settled or compromise for relationships but do, however, seek to build solid ones.
  4. Create Your Own Platform. Don’t underestimate your ability to build an empire. Many successful entrepreneurs and professionals created their own jobs. Combine all of the above and consider investing them in your own enterprise.
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