6 Ways You Are Missing Out on Free Money
There are many money-saving opportunities available that a majority of Americans may not be aware of. Here are a few of them:
1. Use your nonworking spouse to increase your IRA contributions: If you have a nonworking spouse, your spouse can contribute the maximum amount to your individual retirement account each year, meaning you can increase your saving contributions simply by paying through your spouse. That's an increase of $6,000 if you are under the age of 50, and $7,000 for couples over 50.
2. Be rewarded for saving for retirement: According to Matt Becker, founder of Mom and Dad Money, contributing towards your retirement fund can offer more savings than you might think. "Your retirement savings can actually put money back into your pocket, above and beyond whatever deductions you get for contribution," explains Becker. "One potentially big savings that people rarely talk about is the saver's credit, which is actually a tax credit given to certain people as a reward for saving for retirement."
The Savers Credit, or Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, is a tex credit given to individuals who make eligible contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an individual retirement arrangement. The credit can be as high as $1,000 individually, and $2,000 for couple who file jointly. For more on the rules of eligibility for this credit, click here.
3. Consolidate your student loans under "Pay as You Earn": We've talked previously about the Income-Based Repayment Plan -- but it also happens to be the most generous student loan repayment program in the world, according to the director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation. The recently expanded College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, includes IBR, a student loan repayment plan that ties graduate payment amounts to their income.
"Under 'Pay As You Earn,' your student only has to pay back an amount equal to 10% of their discretionary income each year," says Jack Schact, president of MyCollegePlanningTeam.com. "Accordingly, regardless of the size the debt, the payments remain the same." Even if the total student loan amount isn't paid, payment stops after 20-25 years, and any individual is eligible to enroll as long as their monthly payment under a standard repayment plan is greater than what they would pay under IBR.
4. Check whether your student loan balance is forgiven: Any college student that goes on to work in the non-profit, education, or government sector has their student loan balance forgiven in 10 years, as long as they make small monthly payments. It's essentially the same as IBR, because students going on to work in the for-profit sector has their loans forgiven in 20 years. "33 million workers qualify to have their student loans forgiven and don't know it -- that's a big number," says Schact.
5. Tax-advantage your commuter expenses: If you work, you can use pre-tax dollars from your paychecks to pay for qualifying commuting costs, such as mass transit passes and parking. Doing this, you reduce your taxable income and get a lower tax bill because of it, while getting something you would have had to buy regardless.
6. Wait to collect social security: According to CPA Angela S. Deppe, two-thirds of Americans are claiming their Social Security Benefit before they reach their full retirement age. "These people are effectively denying themselves payouts that could be more than 75% higher if they just waited a bit longer to start collecting," says Deppe. "Maximization of the Social Security Benefit could increase retirement savings by as much as $200,000." According to the official social security website, for people born in 1959 or later, the full retirement age is 68 years old, so plan accordingly.
Nobody likes owing money -- but if you have to shell it out anyway, why not be strategic about how you do it? By taking advantage of tax-advantaged programs and loopholes designed to help you save, you can find money in places you previously wouldn't have even thought to check. By double-checking your finances, you can take back the unclaimed money you're leaving on the table.