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College Financial Aid And The Slippery Slope Into Debt


College students across the country are facing high student loan debt taken out to pay for their college expenses. Even those students who found themselves the recipients of generous financial aid packages are finding that they must take on thousands of dollars of debt to complete their studies. In fact, the ability to obtain significant amounts of financial aid during the freshman and sophomore years of college bites some of these students as grants and scholarships dry up during their final years before graduation.

Many students coming from middle- and lower-income families choose to go to the college that offers them the most money in financial aid. Because grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, like student loans, these students see the financial aid as a way to attend a more expensive college without incurring a massive amount of debt. Unfortunately, these students make the mistake of believing that they will be getting the same amount of financial aid each year that they are in college.

Financial aid began to become a potent recruiting tool several decades ago. Colleges found that they could make themselves more attractive to students that may be sitting on the fence about enrolling by offering substantial financial aid to help them pay tuition. After investing so much time and effort during their first years of college, these students would be likely to do all that they could to finish their studies at that particular college.

The personal costs of college can increase considerably for a student during the course of an undergraduate career, due to fewer opportunities for monetary aid, tough academic requirements for grants, and unanticipated tuition and fee increases. When students do not receive enough money in financial aid to cover their college costs during their final years of college, they often resort to student loans to be able to finish their studies and graduate. For a single year of college, this often amounts to tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

There are also concerns that financially troubled colleges and universities are front-loading financial aid to entice students to enroll, then lowering or cutting the award in later years. In fact, complaints from consumers suspecting these sort of practices have caused several advocacy groups to recommend that students avoid certain colleges where scholarship cuts had been occurring frequently. The issue also caused the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators to update its code of conduct in 2014, expressly recommending that members clearly spell out scholarship renewal requirements.

There are a number of things that a student must do to keep as much of their financial aid as possible during each year of college. They must keep up their grade point average to ensure that they remain eligible for their financial aid. They must also be aware of deadlines for filing aid forms. Students can also lose their aid if they don’t take the correct distribution of credits or don’t complete at least two-thirds of the credits they are attempting to earn.


Capital One And Amazon Launch Voice Activated Banking


Capital One and Amazon have launched a new voice activated banking application that can be used with Amazon’s Echo device and the Alexa personal assistant program. Now, Capital One customers can use their voice to get information and conduct transactions with their checking accounts, credit cards and other financial products. Capital One customers can try out the new application by downloading the Alexa app on their phone, enabling the program and signing in with their online banking credentials.

voice Activated Banking Features

There are a number of features built into the voice activated banking application that Capital One customers may be interested in. Using the program, customers can hear a list of the most recent transactions in their Capital One checking account, find the balance of their saving account, ask when their next credit card payment is due, and pay their credit card bill using a pre-linked payment method. More features are expected to be added in the future.


Amazon and Capital One said they have made the security of the application a very high priority. Access to the account is protected in several different ways. First of all, when you enable the Capital One program, Capital One asks you to sign into your Capital One accounts using their encrypted authentication process. The bank says it won’t share your banking login with Amazon.

You can also create a 4-digit “Personal key” that has to be verified out loud in order to hear transaction information or perform a transaction. Before you can access your account information, you’ll be prompted to recite your personal key by Alexa. Capital One will also perform local security checks to protect account access.

Compatible Devices

The Capital One voice activated banking application will work on the Amazon Echo, FireTV, or the new Amazon Tap and Echo Dot. The first orders for the portable, battery-powered Amazon Tap smart speaker are expected to ship out by the end of March. The same goes for the Amazon Echo Dot, a puck-like mini-Echo.

Capital One is the first company to provide banking information through Amazon Echo. This may lead to Capital One becoming a go-to payment method on Alexa-equipped devices. Becoming the “lead card” for Alexa-based transactions could be very lucrative to Capital One once the devices become a platform for buying a variety of goods and services.

Amazon’s Echo has emerged as a hot-selling hit gadget and is being called the standard-bearer for an entirely new computing paradigm. Amazon’s team worked on the project for years under the watchful eye of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who held the team to extremely high standards. During the device’s development, the team did thousands of internal tests and weekly data analysis with speech scientists. The result was a device that is widely considered to be the next big technology platform.


New Rules Issued For Retirement Planning Advice


The Labor Department recently announced new rules for retirement planning advice that could save investors a lot of money. Put simply, the new rules require brokers and advisers to put their clients’ interests first when offering retirement planning advice. While it seems as if this is something that the brokers and investment advisers should already be doing, these rules are designed to make sure that all advisers are in compliance. Financial firms would have until January 2018 to get into compliance.

New Standards Under The Rules

The new rules create a new standard for brokers and advisers that is stricter than current regulations. Currently, brokers are categorized as registered representatives and are only required to recommend “suitable” investments based on an investor’s personal situation. After the implementation of the new rules, a broker that is handling retirement investments must act exclusively in your best interest, even if it would cost the broker some potential income. Investment advisers, who generally must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission or a state securities regulator, are already charged with putting their customers’ interests first under a fiduciary standard, regardless of what accounts they work with.

The rules from the Labor Department are intended to guard retirement investors from poor or conflicted investment advice. According to an estimate from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, conflicted investment advice costs these savers roughly $17 billion a year. The implementation of the rule should reduce the number of retirement savers being steered into complicated and pricey investments, leaving them with more money in their accounts.

The rules are also supposed to improve disclosures about conflicts of interest. In many cases, a firm is paid by a mutual fund company or other third party for recommending a particular investment. While the new rule won’t ban commissions, brokers may have to explain why they are recommending a particular product when a less expensive option is available. Some firms may decide to move investors from commission-based accounts to fee-based accounts, where what brokers and advisers are paid would not depend on the type of investment product they sell.

What Industry Insiders Say About The New Rules

Critics have voiced concerns that the new rules would not go far enough to properly protect investors. The final rules clarifies that there is no bias against selling proprietary products. It also has no specific language regarding the need to disclose the amount of fees and other charges being paid. These issues have been responsible for many of the problems and abuses seen in litigation and arbitration against brokerage firms over the years.

However, many proponents of the rule change said they believe the final rule is balanced on the whole, including the Financial Planning Coalition and the Consumer Federal of America. Regulators are requiring firms that only sell proprietary products to fully disclose that they are offering a restricted menu of products and they must offer a best-interests contract to customers. All new money being invested must be in the best interest of the client and any new retirement planning advice for money already invested must be as well. If advisers do not adhere to the standards, retirement investors would have greater recourse to recover their money.


Use These Money Saving Tips On Your Next Vacation


Vacations are supposed to be relaxing events that allow you to spend time with family, but for some, concerns about money spent during the vacation causes stress and tension. Fortunately, proper prior planning can help alleviate some of this stress by providing you with an affordable spending plan during your vacation. Incorporating a number of these money saving tips into your spending plan will cut down on your fixed costs, freeing up more of your money for experiences. Here are some great money saving tips to use on your next vacation.

Money Saving Tips For Lodging

Be Flexible On Lodging – You can often get a better deal on lodging farther away from notable attractions, so widen your search area to save money on lodging. For example, lodging a couple blocks away from the Virgina Beach Boardwalk is half as expensive as lodging located on the beach.

Rent A House – If you have a larger family, renting a house for your vacation may be more cost effective than paying for several hotel rooms. Renting a house through sites like,, or airbnb gets you far more space for an average nightly price of $217.

Money Saving Tips For Food

Minimize Restaurant Visits – Purchasing food at restaurants will eat up a large portion of your vacation budget if you eat out all of the time. Save money by visiting restaurants at lunch time only and use some of the following options for the rest of your meals.

Visit A Grocery Store – Purchasing snacks and drinks from a grocery store is much less expensive than buying food from a restaurant. Stock up on items that the family enjoys at the beginning of the trip and store the items in the hotel fridge or a cooler you brought along. Some grocery stores have a hot foods section with items that would be perfect for a hotel room dinner.

Choose Lodging That Allows You To Cook – Cooking meals during your vacation can save you a lot of money during your trip. If possible, choose lodging that includes a sink, stove, and microwave so you can cook when you want and clean up afterwards.

Money Saving Tips For Entertainment

Search For Discount Tickets Before You Leave – Deal sites like GroupOn, Living Social, and Travelzoo list discounts and deals for nearly any city you may be visiting. Before your trip, scan these sites for deals that your family would be interested in. Just make sure they won’t expire before you can use them.

Use Money Saving Apps – Download money saving apps that have a national presence to be alerted to deals that might pop up during your trip. These apps can help you save on everything from event tickets to meals to clothing purchases.

Find Deals Through Memberships – If you are a member of any organization or hold a season pass to certain attractions in your hometown, you may qualify for discounts at attractions at your vacation destination. If you are a member of a science museum, children’s museum, or zoo, you may be able to get free admission to similar attractions around the country. You can also see if your company has an employee discount program or if there are reduced rates for members of groups such as AAA.