• Now that the political conventions are over, can we here in Worcester all just not pay any further attention to the daily gamesmanship and back-and-forth of politics? No? But wouldn’t that be nice …

    Unfortunately, one thing I’m beginning to see (and something these conventions definitely encourage) is that we’ve almost become a nation of sports fans, when it comes to our politics. If you’re on the “R” team, you fight tooth and nail for your guy, and don’t back down an inch in the face of the analysts who think you’ll have a 4-12 season. And those who root for the “D” team do something very similar. It’s almost like we all just shout past each other, not willing to concede when the “other” side makes a good argument because that would mean admitting that you could be wrong.

    In some ways, this is how our founders envisioned it, though — they put together a government full of checks and balances, all so that it wouldn’t devolve into monarchical authoritarianism. Teamsmanship is a (perhaps ugly) symptom of this good system, unfortunately.

    Now if we could only do something about that tax code …

    (Of course, it being so complicated is what keeps us in business as Worcester’s best tax service, fortunately or unfortunately!)

    But, you can either IGNORE the tax code, and pay the consequences … or you can do the smart thing and have someone who knows what they’re doing (ahem) advise you along the way, so that you’re not nailed with a big surprise come spring.

    Or, you could go the OJ Simpson route, and just not pay. Up to you! ;)

    Give us a call if you prefer the “smart” route: (508) 753-3532

    Now, this week’s Note is about something different. It’s for those of you who have children just starting college — or who are well underway, but need a little financial “kick in the pants”. I’m happy to be your proxy scold!

    Worcester’s Best Tax Service Shares:
    What I Wish I’d Known About Finances In College
    When I started university, I was a little nervous about what was about to transpire. Honestly, I thought I might be biting off more than I could chew. I should have known that I had little to worry about. But there are a few things I wish I had known — or at least thought about — before entering college…

    Who is paying for college?
    Many have their undergraduate education paid for by parents, scholarships, and/or loans in their name [or their parents’]. If your parents are paying for your education, be careful not to fail any courses. If you fail a class required for your degree, you will have to take that class again, paying for it twice. It’s not worth it, particularly since it’s usually difficult to outright fail a class. Paying for college yourself supposedly gives you ownership of your academic decisions while in school, but if you’re in a situation where you don’t have to worry about affording your own tuition, then consider yourself lucky.

    Work shouldn’t interfere with studies.
    I am quite grateful I didn’t have to pay for all of my undergraduate education. It allowed me to focus on my education and extracurricular resume-building activities in my field rather than focusing on earning income to afford tuition. I did find a few jobs, however. I stayed on campus for winter and summer sessions to take more classes, but with a lighter load during these in-between semesters, I held various part-time jobs, and these jobs provided me with a little extra cash. I probably spent it just as fast as I was earning it, however.

    Open a Roth IRA.
    These retirement accounts were brought into existence about 16 years ago. If I had had a way that I could put money away for retirement in a tax-advantaged account while I was in such a low tax bracket, I might have taken advantage of the opportunity. Then again, I might not have. It’s hard to imagine retirement before you’ve officially begun a career, but it’s harder to argue with long-term investing in the stock market–even in these times of economic uncertainty.

    Like many, I played the “stock market game” in elementary school. By the time I entered college, I probably knew only a little more about investing, but my interests lay elsewhere so I did not particularly think about having a secure financial future. I’m not going to go on and on about the power of compound interest here, but suffice to say–it’s incredible when you start in college.

    Avoid credit cards.
    The credit card companies are (still) vultures on college campuses. The companies set tables outside the dorms with applications and free tee-shirts, enticing sub-fashionable freshmen (like myself, at the time) to sign up. Although I escaped relatively unscathed, having a credit card without a job is asking for trouble.

    One particularly sneaky aspect of college-geared credit cards is the introductory offer. Even with the recently-passed CARD Act, the fine print on these deals are heavily weighted AGAINST the college student, and (of course) in favor of the banks.

    Further, here are some other goodies for the financially-savvy student:
    * Use credit cards sparingly
    * Pay all credit card balances in full
    * Get the best deal on a checking account
    * Start saving
    * Keep track of your spending
    * Set a limit on entertainment
    * Shop at second-hand stores
    * Keep an eye out for free money
    * Get a part-time job with tips
    * Walk or ride a bike — don’t drive
    * Look for student discounts
    * Don’t eat out all the time

    Had I known what I know now about compounding interest and the tendency for the stock market to increase over time, not just theoretically but from experience, I’d be in an even better financial position right now.

    And it’s not about having more money, it’s about having more options for doing the things we like to do.