Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Understanding Your Role as a Financial Caregiver

Over 90 million Americans care for a loved one. This is due to the disabilities, disease or financial struggles associated with aging. (According to the Caregiver Action Network). Financial caregivers play an important role. You want your loved ones to maintain the best quality of life possible. The American Bankers Association has offered the following tips for financial caregivers.

“It’s extremely important that caregivers understand their role in managing day-to-day finances and planning for future expenses to ensure that all their loved ones’ needs are met.” - Corey Carlisle, ABA Foundation executive director.

  • Learn the rights and restrictions that apply to your role. What is a Financial caregiver? It can mean power of attorney, trustee, and federal benefits fiduciary, or someone with a duty to act and make decisions on their loved one’s behalf. Learn the legal responsibilities of your assigned role.

  • Manage money and other assets with wisdom. You may be in charge of daily, unexpected and future expenses your loved one may incur. It is important that you cut unnecessary costs and budget to ensure that all money is properly allocated. (Especially if your beneficiary has a fixed income or limited finances.)

  • Recognize danger signs. Seniors have become major targets for financial abuse and fraud. Make sure to stay alert to signs of scams or identity theft that may put your loved one’s assets in peril.

  • Keep careful records. When acting as a financial agent, proper documentation is not encouraged but required. Organized financial records, up-to date lists of assets and debts, and a streamline of transactions.

  • Stay informed. Watch changes in financial status of the beneficiary and take appropriate action. Also, be sure to stay up to date on changes in the laws affecting seniors.

  • Seek professional advice. Consult a banker or other professional advisors when you’re not sure what to do.

Here is an explanation of the various roles and responsibilities of three types of financial caregivers.

Power of attorney (POA)

POA, designated by your loved one, gives you the authority to act and make decisions on their behalf. This includes managing and their bank and other financial accounts. Authority continues if loved one becomes incapacitated and ends when revoked or your loved one dies.


Authorized once you are named as trustee or co-trustee of a revocable living trust. Your authority applies only to the property noted in the trust. You're authorized to protect, manage and distribute the trust’s assets as directed in the trust document. Authority continues after the death of the trust creator or grantor.

Federal benefits fiduciary
You will accept/delegate federal government benefit payments in the beneficiary's best interest. (Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits). The beneficiary receives funds through an account set up for this purpose. Being a representative payee for Social Security benefits or a VA fiduciary for VA benefits, requires you to keep detailed records of all transactions related to the beneficiary. And, you must file annual reports detailing how benefits were used.

Fun facts:
  • The Caregiver Action Network began promoting national recognition of family caregivers in 1994.
  • President Clinton signed the first NFC Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997.
  • Every president since has followed suit. Each November, they issue an annual proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers.

For more information on the role of financial caregivers, visit For tips and extra resources, visit

Monday, February 6, 2017

Planning for Student Loans

Many graduates are worrying about student debt, and with good reason. In 2006, U.S. student loan debt hovered around $600 billion; today, that number has skyrocketed to $1.3 trillion. On one hand, that isn't a bad thing - it means more Americans are going to college. But, the debt is becoming unmanageable for many graduates. 
Here are strategies you can use to make your student loan experience a success. 

Before Attending:

You Need a Strategy

Create a strategy early, so that you have longer to save. If you're already late, don't pull from other savings like your retirement fund. Parents: never forgo saving for retirement to build up a college fund. Students have many available resources to pay for education, but you can't get a loan to retire. 

Wisconsin College Savings Program

Have you heard of the Wisconsin College Savings Program? It's a great way to save if you're starting early. Made up of the 529 EdVest and Tomorrow's Scholar college savings plans, it enables you to save tax-free for future education costs. You can find more about the program here:


Every strategy should include applying for grants and scholarships. National grants include:
  • Pell Grants
  • Academic Competitiveness Grants
  • National SMART Grants
Often though, local scholarships have less competition (such as Peoples State Bank's scholarships). Check with civic organizations and religious institutions for available aid also. Don't forget to ask the school itself about maximizing their financial aid package. If you've been accepted to several schools, try to negotiate for an even better package.


Federal loans, whether subsidized or not, are usually the better option. They are often cheaper with flexible repayment options. Students with financial need should check into their federal options first. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has more information available: The most important thing to remember when applying for loans is to know how much you need. Having this defined will help stop you from taking on more debt than needed. 

After Graduating:


Organize all the information you have for your student loans. Make a list or spreadsheet that with important information such as:
  • the name of the loan
  • the lender
  • interest rate
  • total principal (amount due)
  • monthly payment
  • when repayment begins

The first payment may be due at different times for different loans. 

Communicate with your Lender 

After college, many people move. You want your lenders to know how to reach you! Update your contact info whenever changes occur. Staying in touch is also wise in case you start having difficulty making your payments. (Due to unemployment, injury, medical condition, or other financial emergency.) Lenders will work with you to adjust your payments or schedule, but you have to let them know first. 


A consolidation loan combines several loans into one. You get a single monthly payment and fixed interest rate. There are pros and cons. Consolidating often extends the repayment period. Meaning while you enjoy a lower monthly payment, it will take you longer to pay off the loan. It can often provide an interest rate break (especially if you have any variable rate loans). And, one payment is more convenient to budget for. Seek expert advice if you're considering consolidation as a strategy. 

Tax Breaks 

 The Student Loan Interest Deduction allows taxpayers to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest paid on student loans (depending on your income). Even if you do not itemize your taxes, you're should claim this deduction. Watch for your 1040 form(s) to arrive - you'll receive one per lender - and follow the instructions on them. 

Are you struggling to make payments? Seek the advice of a financial aid counselor or talk to your lender. Another good resource is It has repayment estimators and info on repayment plans for federal student loans