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60 Minutes Could Save You Thousands in College Costs

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice.” — Pitbull

GROW STRONG

Don’t let this financial aid deadline sneak up on you. Free money for college is out there, if you can spare an hour. But the clock to claim your share is ticking.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (a.k.a. FAFSA) is a widely-used form that colleges and federal and state governments review to figure out how much financial aid you can get. It’s the basis for decisions on everything from grants and merit scholarship which are gifts that you don’t need to pay back to federal student loans which you do.

If you’re a current student or just getting ready to apply for college, spending just 60 minutes filling out the FAFSA could make a huge difference in how much you pay. And yet, about a quarter of families don’t submit the form at all.

How much money could you be leaving on the table? One study estimated students are missing out on almost $10,000 each year in aid, including roughly $2,300 that doesn’t need to be repaid. Throughout your time in school, think about how fast this adds up.

Because the FAFSA plays a part in so many kinds of aid, there’s not just one deadline you need to know about.

There’s one deadline for federal aid. States and colleges have their own earlier deadlines and some even give out aid on a first-come, first-served basis.

A few deadlines have already passed, but many more are coming up in the next few weeks and days. For example, Missouri and Tennessee, are accepting FAFSA applications for state-based aid and scholarships through Feb. 1, while Connecticut’s deadline is Feb. 15. (You can find a list of state, college and federal deadlines from Edvisor.com here.)

“If your state deadline hasn’t passed, you should try to sit down soon and get it done,” says Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of SavingforCollege.com. Students who file early get twice as much in aid, he says, in part because they make those state deadlines.

WHAT’S GROWING ON

SAVE: #Savingsinspo from the playground set

If you’re looking for inspiration to save, look no further than your kid’s piggy bank. In 2018, children ages 4 to 14 received about $471 in spending money from gifts, chores, and other sources, according to allowance tracking app RoosterMoney. Not only did those budding entrepreneurs make bank, they also saved an impressive 42 percent of their money.

Just talking to your kids about money basics helps you create building blocks for good financial decisions down the road. Start simple: Break down your grocery list into needs and wants, for example, show them how you’re using the bank ATM, and talk about how you’re saving for future goals.

SPEND: Super Bowl Penalty flag: “Speculative tickets”

Did you know that the average resale ticket price to see the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta is $5,000 and climbing?

Now, what if I told you that you could pay that much and still not see the game in person?

A recent ESPN piece on Super Bowl ticket brokering highlights a risk you could easily encounter the next time you try to buy seats to any popular concert, sports game, theater show or other fun event.

Some brokers are selling seats they don’t have, betting they can secure those tickets later. This ploy is called speculative ticketing and sometimes, it can mean you’re out of a seat and out of your cash.

There’s a good lesson to learn from this. To avoid that next-level buyers’ remorse, take extra precautions before you buy. The Better Business Bureau and National Association of Ticket Brokers recommend checking the ticket broker’s reputation, reviewing the resale site’s refund policy, and paying with a credit card for an extra layer of buyer protections.

What are you doing on Game Day to enjoy the Super Bowl that doesn’t break your bank? Email us at getgrowing@cnbc.com.

INVEST: Make the most of a rate-hike reprieve

It’s a safe bet that carrying a credit card balance is going to get more expensive this year — but you have time to work on paying it off before that happens.

The rates you pay on credit cards, some mortgages and other debts are based (directly and indirectly) on decisions made by the Federal Reserve (a.k.a. the Fed). It’s the U.S. central bank and its role is to keep our economy healthy. It does so, in part, by setting a benchmark interest rate. The last time the Fed raised that rate was in December. Analysts say it’s unlikely to do so during its meeting this week.

The choice not to raise rates is “a bit of a reprieve for borrowers,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. “But you have to continue to operate under the assumption that interest rates will rise further.”

Now is an opportunity to be more aggressive about paying down any credit card debt. Consider transferring balances to a card with a zero-percent offer. “That’s a great way to protect yourself from additional increases and interest rates,” McBride says. “Every dollar you throw against that balance in that period goes toward the principal.”

INSPIRE: Paul Simon’s tour of good deeds

Paul Simon wrapped up his worldwide farewell tour last fall, but those concerts have made a lasting impact. The legendary musician donated to local groups in every spot on his tour. Portland Public Schools, which received $10,000, recently announced it plans to use the money in projects that will teach its special education students cooking skills to prepare them for the workforce and encourage healthy eating habits.

“As I’m embarking on my Farewell Tour in these cities for what will be the last time, I felt strongly that I’d like to, in a sense, say thank you to the people and communities who have supported me and my music for all these years,” Simon said in his donation letters.

Paul Simon will be missed on the concert tour but his lyrics will play on: “The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.”

GROW A LITTLE EVERY DAY

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." Benjamin Franklin

EMAIL US

We’d like to hear the financial goals you’re fired up about and the milestones you’re hoping to achieve. Let us know your best strategies and successes. If you need us to tackle a specific topic, just ask! We’re in this together, so let’s get this conversation started. Send an email to getgrowing@cnbc.com.

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