Copyright 2014

Paying for College: How to Make a Plan

Written by Super User

(StatePoint) When it comes to planning for college, it can be easy to thumb through glossy brochures while ignoring one important reality: cost.

"The conversation about paying for college can be an overwhelming one to initiate, but it shouldn't be swept under the rug," says John Rasmussen, head of Wells Fargo`s Personal Lending Group.

The average tuition and fees at private four-year colleges and universities increased by 11 percent (in 2015 dollars) over the five years from 2010-11 to 2015-16, according to the College Board. With this figure in mind, Rasmussen and the experts at Wells Fargo are offering tips to help families make a financial plan for college:

Get a Ballpark Figure

College costs can vary widely, depending on the institution. Will your student be attending a private or public college? Will you be paying in-state tuition? Will you be factoring in housing costs or commuting costs?

"Having answers to these questions can help you avoid sticker shock down the line," says Rasmussen.

Check out a specific institution's published college costs for an accurate number that takes into consideration different factors. Many schools offer a cost calculator on their site to help you do the math.

Outside Funding

Explore every avenue for supplementing college costs. All families should start by completing the FAFSA, which is a free application for federal student aid, to determine your eligibility.

Next, investigate merit-based scholarships. From small grants to full rides, a scholarship of any size can reduce costs without the stress of payments or interest. A database of scholarships can be found online at

Private student loans can expand possibilities for many families, fully funding most college expenses. To learn more about how private student loans work, visit

Look Ahead

Four years goes by more quickly than you think. Have a loan repayment plan in place. While many responsible lenders defer repayment on loans until after school is over, and some even allow graduates to postpone payments for a number of reasons, being prepared is essential. Students should spend time before graduation on a job search to help ensure they have income when loan payments start becoming due.

While students are in school, they should consider part-time work in order to earmark earnings for loan repayment. Also, being mindful of spending and maintaining great credit will help students avoid significant credit card debt on top of student loan debt.

Get Savvy

There are plenty of free resources available to prospective students and their families. For information on scholarships, student loans, federal and state aid, building credit, as well as money management tips and tools, visit Wells Fargo's "Get College Ready" website at

College-bound families should make financial plans as soon as possible. From identifying and securing funding to amassing adequate savings, the sooner you get the discussion started, the better.

UAE expats count the cost after falling into investment trap

Written by Super User

When the British entrepreneur Steve Cronin was looking to invest his savings a couple of years ago, he quickly realised the pitfalls facing many expats. The fees on most financial investment schemes are outrageously high and long-term savings plans are often sold without disclosing key details such as what is being invested in or the penalties for breaking a contract early.

To top it off, there#x2019;s little recourse to right wrongs when disputes with the sellers of these products (such as complex insurance-linked offshore investments) arise because the regulation in the UAE is still nascent. This allows many dodgy purveyors of financial products to bilk the unsuspecting.

Mr Cronin, 38, a Cambridge University-educated former management consultant who now runs his own health businesses in Dubai, says he was advised against signing up for a long-term investment scheme #x2013; which typically range from five years to 25 years #x2013; by a friend who had lost money after breaking his own plan.

#x201c;I nearly signed up for a 25-year plan but stopped when my best friend said #x2018;Please don#x2019;t do this, I did it and lost quite a bit of money#x2019;, he says. #x201c;I didn#x2019;t particularly know where to invest my money. I had some funds in the UK and thought #x2018;I am in financial services and I don#x2019;t know where to invest stuff#x2019;.

So Mr Cronin spent time researching options, eventually shifting his money into Vanguard Funds, a low-cost asset manager, back home in the UK.

US-based Vanguard was one of the first firms to offer low-cost indexed mutual funds #x2013; funds that mimic any given financial asset benchmark. It has received cash flows into its funds in recent years as investors start to cotton on to the benefits of investing in the cheapest possible way. Investors poured US$236 billion into Vanguard funds last year.

While many mutual funds that are actively managed typically charge about 1.5 per cent management fees per year, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds that just follow an index, can charge a sliver of that. For instance, Vanguard#x2019;s Total World Stock exchange-traded fund, a fund that tracks more than 7,000 stocks globally, charges 0.14 per cent in annual fees.

In the meantime, financial advisers are having to reinvent themselves and rely less on commissions and more on fees. In the US, new regulations have been put in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous financial advisers. There are also signs of change in the UAE, with a number of financial advisers shifting from commission-based structures to fee-based, such as AES International and Killik Offshore.

To help expats avoid the pitfalls of investing while abroad, Mr Cronin set up a non-profit online forum last month called Wise, which offers advice on what to avoid when it comes to picking investments and how to dodge unscrupulous advisers. He also plans on helping groups of people, such as teachers, manage their finances through lectures and seminars.

One of his biggest tips is to ignore the cold callers that many expats in the UAE are familiar with. They operate by getting existing clients to give them phone numbers of friends and colleagues, creating a sense of trust and familiarity. But once they get hold of a willing prospect, they will often sell them all sorts of products with sky-high fees, such as so-called mirror funds that mimic a branded stock or bond fund but charges fees that are twice as high.

#x201c;It#x2019;s a legal scam, says Rory Gilbert, a Dubai-based managing director at AES International. #x201c;The main problem is that the regulator to some extent has turned a blind eye and a lot of market participants have taken huge advantage of that. These are many of the things that we saw in the UK 20 years ago and were legislated out of business.

#x201c;But what many financial advisers here particularly take advantage of is the ability, for as long as it lasts, to charge commissions and then they put icing on that by not disclosing the commissions and upfront charges.

Not everyone has been as lucky as Mr Cronin at avoiding the snare of an investment scheme sold by unethical sales people.

Martin Boon, a 57-year old Briton, came to the UAE four years ago in the hope of saving enough extra cash to buy a home back in the UK.

Instead, the Dubai-based executive says he will probably have to work longer in the Emirates to make up the money he lost after being sold a high-risk investment product rather than a low-risk option he specifically asked for.

He says he was introduced to a financial adviser at a social event soon after he arrived in 2012. The adviser promised to help him reduce his exposure to taxation by shifting his UK pension into so-called offshore bonds.

The adviser put #xa3;200,000 (Dh1.03 million) from #xa3;388,000 of Mr Boon#x2019;s life savings, that he had entrusted to the adviser, into two high-risk funds managed by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, with the advice that they could offer up to 11 per cent annual return and that they were low risk. Since then, those two funds have lost half of their value on paper.

While Mr Boon had asked for low-risk investments, these two funds were essentially investing in emerging market stocks through a convoluted product called an auto-callable structured note, whereby there is a measure of capital protection. That protection only kicks in, however, if the value of the investment loses 30 per cent or less after five years. If the funds lose more than 30 per cent, Mr Boon will have to bear the loss himself.

When the executive dug deeper into the funds after noticing their drop in value, he discovered not only was his money invested in the risky world of developing nations, but that a big chunk of his money was in Russian and Brazilian stocks, shares of listed companies in two countries that have been crushed by the collapse of commodity prices and which have also suffered from political fallouts.

Of the #xa3;388,000 initially invested, on paper it is now worth #xa3;290,000. And while you don#x2019;t lose until you sell, Mr Boon is not optimistic that emerging market stocks will rebound to the levels they were at when he bought.

#x201c;How could you take someone who has five years to retirement and asked for something low risk and put them into something high risk? It#x2019;s like expats ripping off expats, Mr Boon says. #x201c;We#x2019;ve had to change a lot of our things in our planning to make up for the shortfall, possibly by staying longer.

When contacted by The National about Mr Boon#x2019;s investments, the investment company said that he had signed documents confirming that the products and the charges had been understood.

#x201c;We are always clear and transparent with clients on product structures, risks and charges where they sign to agree that they have fully understood these risks and agree to the terms and conditions, a spokesman said. #x201c;Clients are always given product provider brochures containing charges and sign to confirm that they have understood them.

Because investment schemes that are administered by insurance companies fall through the regulatory cracks in the UAE, there is often very little recourse to address grievances.

Mr Boon says he has registered a complaint with the Central Bank of the UAE. The irony, he says, is that moving his cash to an offshore bond was largely unnecessary from a taxation point of view.

Mr Gilbert says that while there might sometimes be a reason to shift pensions from the UK to offshore equivalents, expats must carefully analyse whether it#x2019;s worth the fees and potential pitfalls of doing so. Most often than not, he adds, it#x2019;s best leaving things as they are.

To ensure investors make the right decisions, Mr Cronin recently arranged a talk by Andrew Hallam, a Canadian financial journalist who has written a book to help expatriates manage their finances. The event was so well attended there were not enough seats to accommodate everyone.

#x201c;He#x2019;s one of the few people spreading the message that you can take control of your fin#xad;ances and you can invest offshore easily, cheaply and flexibly, Mr Cronin says. #x201c;Not many people are doing that.

Mr Hallam advised listeners to do their due diligence when choosing a financial adviser, researching the company and the advisers and making sure that they haven#x2019;t been fined or censured by any regulators. Mr Cronin says it#x2019;s not always easy for expats to open accounts at discount brokerages because some of the major players such as Vanguard and Fidelity don#x2019;t allow you to invest unless you are a resident in the US or UK, or a small number of other countries.

The Briton says there are, however, a number of reputable brokerages including TD Direct Investin in Luxembourg and Saxo Bank that expats in Dubai can easily open accounts with.

For financial advisers, Mr Cronin#x2019;s recommendations include Dubai-based AES International, which Mr Boon eventually gravitated to because the firm works on fees rather than commissions, meaning that it#x2019;s in the best interest of the adviser to see his client#x2019;s wealth grow. He also likes Investme and Killik Offshore.

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Keep a careful eye on your returns over the years

Harvey Jones

Keeping track of all your pensions and savings over the years isn#x2019;t easy, and all too often things can end up in the wrong place.

Financial advice you took years ago may no longer be relevant. Or maybe your money was put into overcharging funds or offshore bonds by rogue advisers more interested in generating fees for themselves than higher returns for their client.

Briton Jackie Pym, who has been living in Dubai for six years, decided it was time to tidy up her pensions and savings and it didn#x2019;t take long for her new advisers from UAE-based AES International to discover that much of her money had been poorly invested.

After taking financial advice from another company, Ms Pym, who works for a real estate developer, had set up a self-invested personal pension plan (Sipp).

This can be a flexible way to save for retirement because it can hold a wide range of investments, including individual company stocks, mutual funds, and trackers such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

This puts savers in charge of their money and allows them to build a low-cost portfolio to maximise their returns.

Unfortunately for Ms Pym, her former adviser had recommended she invest the Sipp in a pair of expensive insurance company bonds, and the high charges were eating into her returns.

Worse, about 30 per cent of her pension wasn#x2019;t invested at all, giving her zero return on her money.

#x201c;My pension wasn#x2019;t being properly looked after, she says. #x201c;I was paying too many fees, and losing money as a result.

Like many busy expats, she failed to make the time to check where her pension was invested, solely relying on the adviser.

#x201c;I didn#x2019;t really think about it, I thought I had been given good advice and was being looked after, but that wasn#x2019;t the case, she says.

Her pension has now been invested in a diversified portfolio of low-charging funds and ETFs, and performance has been transformed.

#x201c;My pension is suddenly growing again, it is worth around #xa3;10,000 more after just a few months.

Ms Pym says it is important that her savings are as flexible as possible, because at some point she plans to leave Dubai, either to return to the UK, or the Costa Blanca, Spain.

#x201c;Some advisers like to put expats into 25-year savings plans, but I don#x2019;t want anything as #xad;rigid as that.

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Traffic stop yields fake credit cards, drugs: police

Written by Super User

Port Authority police confiscated more than 20 fraudulent credit cards and seized drugs and drug paraphernalia at a traffic stop near the Holland Tunnel for an obscured license plate Monday, a Port Authority police spokesman said.

Graylyn Claiborne, 20, of Ohio, was pulled over at about 5 pm, and when he opened his window, the officer detected the odor of burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle, Joe Pentangelo said.

When Claiborne gave the officer an expired vehicle registration, both he and his passenger, Amber Dunson, 23, of Michigan, were asked to get out of the car. Police then found more than 20 credit cards and fake ID cards with different names but all with the photos of Claiborne or Dunson, Pentangelo said.

After police found Dunson had crack cocaine and a scale with drug residue on it, she admitted that she had marijuana stored in a body cavity, removed it and gave it to the officers, Pentangelo said.

Claiborne was charged with wrongful impersonation, forgery, credit card theft, and possession of drugs in a motor vehicle.

Dunson was charged with possession of a CDS, possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, forgery and credit card theft.

Both were transported to Hudson County jail. Bail for Claiborne was set a $10,000 with a 10 percent cash option, while Dunsons bail was set at $8,000 with a 10 percent cash option, Pentangelo said.

Woman steals purse, uses stolen credit cards moments later at nearby store

Written by Super User

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Police are asking for help identifying a woman who allegedly snatched a purse from one store and, moments later, used the stolen credit cards at another store just down the road.

Investigators said the first crime happened on Dec. 15, 2015 outside the Target store at 6000 Sawmill Road. A woman who finished shopping at about 5:30 pm was heading back to her car when a brown-colored sedan followed her and her young child to their vehicle. As the woman was unloading purchases, a female suspect from the brown vehicle got out on the passenger side of the car, grabbed the purse, got back into the car and the vehicle drove off.

About 10 minutes later, the same female suspect was spotted using one of the stolen credit cards at the Toys R Us at 6547 Sawmill Road. Surveillance cameras caught her making a purchase at the store.

The suspect, accused of theft and fraudulent use of credit cards, is described as a white female between 25 and 30 years old and about 5 feet 7 inches tall. She has long, straight dark hair which was worn pulled up. She was last seen wearing a gray and black hooded sweat jacket, black pants and shoes.

The suspect vehicle is a late-model four-door brown sedan. There is no description of the driver of the vehicle.

Central Ohio Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward for any information leading to the arrest or indictment of the people responsible for this crime.  Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 614-461-TIPS (8477) or go to website at to e-mail a tip. Tips can also be sent by text to to "CRIMES" 274637, key word CMH.

I Don't Have Any Credit! Where Do I Start? : Savings Corner Presented by ...

Written by Super User

At the credit union, we get asked all the time what the best way to start building credit is. My three favorite options are: share-secured loans, credit builder and savers loans, and credit cards.

Share-secured loans are wonderful to start out with because you're borrowing your own money! You put up a little money into your account (I recommend your savings) and you pay it back with a really low interest rate. Our interest rate for these types of loans is the share rate + 2%. This means that whatever interest rate the share earns, you add that to the 2% (ex: right now, our main share, aka our savings account, earns 0.25%. Your share-secured loan interest rate would be 2.25%). What's even better is you won't have to have a co-signer even if it's your very first loan! We don't even run your credit report for these because it's your money. It's on hold in your account, so it's not really a big risk for us. With this type of loan being used for the sole purpose of building your credit, I would make the minimum payment due, not pay it all off in one big chunk. You want to build a good long repayment history.

Credit Builder and Savers Loans, like the one we offer at Northwest Georgia Credit Union, is solely for building credit. This loan is ideal for people with no credit, or those who are recovering from previous credit problems, bankruptcy, or other difficult life circumstances. Satisfactory repayment will result in favorable consideration for future loans. This loan is a safe way to build credit or help repair damaged credit with a sensible 14% APR. The best part about it is that it also helps you kick start your savings. The way it works is, we give you a $500 loan, which is placed into your regular savings account, with a hold on the funds until the loan is paid in full. At the end of the loan term, you have $500 in your savings account, and a report of your favorable payment history will be sent to the credit bureau.

As for the credit card idea, don't freak out! Credit cards can be awesome things if they're used responsibly. First you want to make sure that you find a credit card that has a low fixed interest rate with no annual fee (by the way, I think ours is pretty great . Also, make sure that you get a low credit limit to start with. You may need a co-signer with this type of loan because it is more of a risk. I'm going to share a piece of advice with you that my dad shared with me on my first credit card: make a small purchase (like a tank of gas) on your credit card each month and pay it off as soon as your statement comes. If you follow this sage advice, you won't have to pay interest on the card and your debt won't spiral out of control.

Whichever option you choose, just make sure you pay the full amount due and make it on time. Follow this simple advice and you'll be a credit super star in no time!