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2016

H&R Block Helps High School Teachers Tackle Financial Literacy in the Classroom

H&R Block Helps High School Teachers Tackle Financial Literacy in the Classroom

KANSAS CITY, MO – Aug. 31, 2016 When asked about financial literacy, 86 percent of teens say they would rather learn about money management in a class before making mistakes in the real world. Good news for those teens: the H&R Block Budget Challenge is back with sessions beginning Sept. 8 in high schools nationwide.

Offered free to high school teachers through H&R Block, the online game teaches students to pay bills, manage expenses, save money, invest in retirement and pay taxes as if they were recent college graduates. In addition to gaining important life skills, 10 students will win $20,000 college scholarships based on their real-world readiness after completing the program.

“We are committed to helping teens learn before they earn and have fun increasing their financial fitness,” said Kathy Collins, chief marketing officer of H&R Block. “More than 250,000 students have participated in the H&R Block Budget Challenge to date. Their stories about the difference our financial education and scholarships have made for them make kicking off another school year even more exciting.”

Real-world ready
More than 96 percent of teachers who have participated in the Block-sponsored program applaud its learn-by-doing approach. During game play, participants save an average of $1,350 virtually – a habit Collins and her team hope will carry over to the real world. Currently, 73 percent of millennials say they either have no savings or savings of less than $1,000.

In addition to the importance of savings, Budget Challenge students learn the costly consequences of poor financial decisions, like bank overdraft fees. More than 90 percent of Budget Challenge participants said they’re more likely to check account balances before writing checks rather than adding to the more than $6 billion in overdraft and ATM fees collected by large banks last year alone.

Sugar Land, Texas scholarship winner Angela Lin’s Budget Challenge experience inspired her to take an active role managing her family’s finances including paying the bills and creating a budget to help them meet their financial goals.

A scholarship from H&R Block allowed Emma Fancher of Guntersville, Ala. to attend college debt free where she says her Budget Challenge knowledge was quickly applied. Watching many of her peers apply for credit cards, Emma knows how to analyze the pros and cons of a credit card, including interest rates and how a credit card will affect her credit score.

To learn more; access full terms, conditions and eligibility requirements; or to register as a teacher, visit www.HRBDS.org.

Editor’s Note: Former participants – including students and teachers – are available to share their personal experiences with the H&R Budget Challenge.

About H&R Block Dollars & Sense

H&R Block, Inc. (NYSE: HRB) is a global consumer tax services provider. Tax return preparation services are provided by professional tax preparers in approximately 12,000 company-owned and franchise retail tax offices worldwide, and through H&R Block tax software products for the DIY consumer. H&R Block Dollars & Sense is committed to increasing teens’ financial fitness by providing practical financial skills and has helped more than 1 million teens become more real-world ready. For more information, visit the H&R Block Newsroom, www.HRBDS.org or follow H&R Block on TwitterInstagram or Facebook.

About ProperLiving

Based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, ProperLiving, LLC owns and operates the Budget Challenge Personal Finance Simulation, which received a U.S. Patent in May 2013.

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5.26-blog

Your Teen Wants You to Cosign a Loan—Now What?

Let’s paint a quick picture of the college landscape: there is $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, and, if the current system remains, every graduating class from this point forward will become the most indebted class in history.

That may seem dreary, but it’s important not to paint college affordability with a broad stroke because a picture may still be worth 1,000 words, but a solid financial college plan is worth way more than $1,000.

Part of that plan may include student loans. Before you sign on the dotted line as a cosigner for your teen and send them on their merry way, consider these important facts:

  1. Consider ALL options

Federal loans never need a cosigner and have more favorable terms for students to pay back the money in a fair and timely manner. Look into these types of loans first, along with any and all scholarship or grant opportunities. Only then should you look into private loans, which require a cosigner.

  1. Know the implications of becoming a cosigner

If you’re thinking about making a big purchase like a car or a house, you may want to reconsider your choice to cosign a student loan. Becoming a cosigner makes it more difficult to take out other loans or credit cards. Plus, if you miss any payments, your credit score will suffer. And if you want to get out of the pact, think again. It’s next to impossible to relinquish your responsibility once your teen is 21 years old and your name is still on that paper. In extreme cases, cosigners sometimes remain responsible for payments even if the person who is receiving the loan passes away. That is why many experts recommend a life insurance policy in conjunction with a private student loan.

  1. Be sure your teen is on board with the plan

Every parent will differ in their approach to their teen’s financial contribution. If you expect your teen to contribute, ensure that they can do so responsibly. You can get your teen accustomed to this responsibility by setting up a chores-for-allowance system. A more extreme option is to have your teen sign a document that stipulates they will repay any missed payment and/or fees you cover over the life of the loan. In an ideal world, this will mostly serve as a real-life reminder of the loan and not a first step toward a date in daytime television family court.

  1. Be realistic with the loan

One of five things all students should know about loans is to only take out the amount of money they truly need. The general rule of thumb is to estimate the salary your teen could earn upon graduation and stay below that number. If you learn better through hard figures, The Wall Street Journal reported that between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015, private debt collection companies hired by the Department of Education garnished more than $176 million in wages from defaulted student loan borrowers in order to pay back their debts. You don’t want that for your teen, do you?

After poring over the reality of the situation, you may find it in the best interest of both you and your teen not to cosign a student loan. You may get a cold shoulder or two because of it, but you will be able to say, “I told you so,” when they graduated debt-free.

Spending Your First Bit of Hard-Earned Cash [VIDEO]

Do you remember your first job? Of course you do! But do you remember how you used the money you earned? H&R Block Dollars & Sense asked parents and teens about how much they earned, and if they made smart financial decisions with their earnings. How does your experience compare? Watch the video to hear what people had to say.

Houston Student Wins National Financial Literacy Competition, Takes Home $120,000 College Scholarship

Angela Lin’s persistence in the H&R Block Budget Challenge will pay her college tuition

KANSAS CITY, MO – May 25, 2016 – High school senior Angela Lin thought a lot this year about the university she would attend. With two older brothers already in college, a mother who teaches, and a father working abroad to help cover costs for the family, she also worried about how she would pay her tuition. That all changed this week when Angela won the H&R Block Budget Challenge and earned $120,000 in college scholarships.

Lin, age 18, of Sugar Land, Texas, was named most “real-world ready” out of more than 150,000 high school students competing in the national personal finance competition this school year. Lin earned a $20,000 scholarship through the H&R Block program this fall and was surprised at the Clements High School year-end ceremony for graduating seniors to learn she had also earned the competition’s $100,000 grand prize.

Lin said she knew participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge would help her learn more about money management and be beneficial for her future. But she had no idea just how beneficial.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Lin, who plans to enter the University of Houston this fall, studying management information systems. “This scholarship will pay for my entire college career and then some. This is such a tremendous help for my family, and my parents can retire now knowing my education is covered.”

The H&R Block Budget Challenge offers high school educators free online curriculum that replicates an adult’s financial life by requiring students to pay bills, save for retirement and repay student loans from the safety of a classroom. Lin’s home state of Texas is one of only seven states that requires high school students to be tested on personal finance concepts before graduation1.

“Too many teens graduate each year without personal finance skills or the confidence to succeed on their own,” said Kathy Collins, H&R Block chief marketing officer. “The H&R Block Budget Challenge helps address a critical need in thousands of high schools each year. Hearing what this program means to teachers and students is so rewarding and reinforces how important this program is.”

In addition to providing free curriculum, H&R Block has awarded more than $6 million in scholarships and grants nationwide through its Budget Challenge. Lin’s classmates, Jonathan Chang, Ashvin Nihalani and Christopher Winters were among the 132 students who earned $20,000 scholarships this year, and their business education teacher, Gregory Eppes, was among the 60 teachers awarded a classroom grant.

A new season of the H&R Block Budget Challenge will launch in September. More details will be available at www.hrbds.org.

About H&R Block

H&R Block, Inc. (NYSE: HRB) is the world’s largest consumer tax services provider. More than 680 million tax returns have been prepared worldwide by and through H&R Block since 1955. H&R Block Dollars & Sense helps increase financial literacy among teenagers through curriculum and resources, grants to supplement the cost of personal finance education and scholarships to help young Americans pay for higher education. Since 2009, H&R Block Dollars & Sense has donated more than $8.4 million in grants and scholarships. For more information, visit the H&R Block Newsroom, www.HRBDS.org or follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @TeenMoneyTips and our Facebook page, HRBDS.

1- http://www.councilforeconed.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-Survey-of-the-States.pdf

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Money Savvy Tips for Planning the Ultimate Vacation

How do we love thee, summer? Let us count the ways: warm weather, no school, no homework and vacations!

But before you pack up a suitcase with bathing suits, sandals and sunscreen, consider this: the average vacation expense per person in the United States is $1,145. Sorry to rain on your seasonably warm and sunny parade.

With Memorial Day right around the corner, this is no reason to stay cooped up at home in front of the AC; just an excuse to get creative and frugal with your vacation plans. Follow these savvy tips to plan the ultimate vacation this summer without breaking the bank:

Create an overall vacation budget

A budget is kind of like the Clarendon filter of money management — that is to say it works every time. Check out how much money you have saved and then determine how much of that you are willing to spend. This should without a doubt be your first step, as it will dictate where you can go and for how long.

Create a food budget and stick to it

Yes, another budget. It’s important to consider this separately because it sometimes gets overlooked — and also because food is sort of essential to keep on living. Meals can be the activities in and of themselves when on vacation, and they can also simply be fuel for a larger activity. Decide how many times you want to eat out so you can afford it. The other meals you can pack up and eat while you explore your new surroundings.

Look for alternative accommodations

Hotels aren’t the only place to lay your head at night. See if a distant relative or long-lost friend lives in area you’re visiting. Hostels and rooms on Airbnb also provide much cheaper options. And last but certainly not least, consider the old tent and sleeping bag. Camping out is a fun way to spend a vacation — and it will make your vacation seem like an adventure!

Keep an eye out for deals

If you’re flying, make sure you use all the tools at your disposal to find the cheapest flight. It’s also possible to find package deals or guided tours that combine all the possible expenses of a trip into one fee. It may seem like a large amount of money up front, but it usually ends up being cheaper than paying for everything separately. Plus, it helps you stick to your budget.

Off-the-grid “staycation”

As much as you may want to travel to a distant land or tropical locale, remember that vacations serve as a great way to spend quality time with family and friends. Exploring a new area that’s close by will still be fun with the right people, and it won’t send you into debt until next summer. Take it a step further and go “off the grid,” and try not to check your social media notifications or check email.

So get out there and make your summer frugal and fun! Before you know it, it’ll be fall, and we’ll be packing our backpacks to heading back to school.

5.19 blog

What Do I Need to Know About Credit Reports?

Credit scores, credit reports, credit bureaus — you hear these terms thrown around on TV commercials, but what do they really mean for you?

Think of it like this: your credit score is kind of like a quick snapshot that shows lenders your financial reliability. It affects your ability to get a loan and determines how much you will have to pay to borrow money.

The most reliable and widely used credit score is the FICO® score. It is used by 90 percent of lenders, so this is the credit score you should always look to pull. FICO scores range from 300-850 — the higher the score the better.

Where can you find your credit score?

That’s where the credit report comes in. The Federal Trade Commission allows every person in the United States one free copy of their credit report every 12 months. That includes one report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies — also called credit bureaus — which are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

What’s the difference between the three bureaus?

Each bureau serves the same function (to keep information about your credit history) but they remain independent of each other, sort of as a way to keep the whole process honest. They generally all have the same info on you but not always. That’s why the individual credit scores can differ from one another. You can pull all three reports at once to get the clearest picture of your overall credit health, or you can stagger them over the course of the year to see how your credit score has fluctuated and keep an eye on accuracy.

Where should I pull my credit report?

The only authorized website where you can obtain your free credit report is annualcreditreport.com. Since you will be providing personal data like your social security number, it’s imperative that you use a trusted site for this service and this resource is recommended straight by the US government.

Keep in mind that you can only pull your credit report if you have accumulated enough information. That means you must have at least one account that’s been opened for a minimum of six months and at least one account that has reported to a credit bureau within that timeframe.

JosephBLOG

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Joseph Cain

Joseph Cain, a student at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, was determined to win a scholarship through the H&R Block Budget Challenge. He had played last year, but this year Cain made sure he paid his bills, stuck to a budget and took the quizzes. The hard work paid off and this year, he won a $20,000 scholarship!

See what he said he learned from the H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

Do you think your peers are financially literate?

I definitely don’t think they are. I talk to my friends a lot about finances and they recognize they don’t really know a lot. Recently, my friend blew his car transmission and was talking to his dad about how he was going to pay for it; I asked if they had a certain type of insurance to cover it because it would help fix that. Turns out he’d have to pay a lot less if they did have it.

What kind of financial education or background did you have prior to taking the Budget Challenge?

I had a little because I’ve been participating in Ms. Loggie’s LifeSmarts club since I was a freshman. Also, my dad works in the financial industry so he keeps me knowledgeable on the subject.

Do you talk to your parents about money ever?

I do. My dad and I talk about it sometimes if the conversation comes up. My parents are really informative.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve gotten from your dad?

He’s taught me that it’s really about trying to stay out of debt, but it’s also about managing the risk and reward when spending your money.

 

What did you think when your teacher introduced the H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation to your club?

Originally last year I thought it was interesting. I didn’t think we had any chance of winning a scholarship or grant this year so I wasn’t excited initially. In the end I’m glad we did it!

What was your motivation for participating in the simulation?

My whole class was actually in it together, helping and motivating each other along the way. It was a team effort.
What was the most important thing you learned from the Budget Challenge?

The most important thing I learned is that there’s going to be a lot of unexpected things that happen to you along the way so it’s important to be prepared for any circumstances.

How did you react when you found out you won a scholarship?

The day before I was in position 30 and so I accepted that it was a bit too far off for me to win. But the next morning Ms. Loggie called me and told me to look at the scores. I was really surprised. I kept checking it for the next couple days because I couldn’t believe it!

What are your plans for after high school?

I’m planning on going to University of Central Florida to study political science and then go to law school after that.

How has winning the scholarship impacted your post-grad plans?

It’s a large sum of money and since I plan on doing extra schooling after I get my bachelor’s degree, it’s really going to help me pay for it.

Do you think the skills you learned in the Budget Challenge will be beneficial to your real life?

Absolutely. The simulation is pretty similar to real life. No matter who you ask, they’ll say it’s pretty accurate and can teach you so many lessons.

What advice do you have to other students who might take the Budget Challenge?

You have to be prepared and just look ahead and figure out when you have to pay certain things so you’re never caught off guard with bills.

Tuffa-blog

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Tuffa Said

Through the H&R Block Budget Challenge learning financial literacy is both fun and applicable to real life! If you don’t believe us, just ask Paxon School for Advanced Studies senior Tuffa Said.

By paying his bills on time and being financially savvy, Said climbed to the top of the ranks in the simulation and won a $20,000 college scholarship. He is also part of the Life Smarts club coached by Ms. Kathryn Loggie, which won a $5,000 classroom grant.

Read below to learn more about his experience.

Did you have any knowledge about managing money before participating in the Budget Challenge?

I had a very small amount of financial knowledge before the Budget Challenge. I mostly learned what I knew from the Life Smarts club and my teacher Ms. Loggie.

Do you ever talk to your parents about money? If so, what kind of things do you talk about?

I’ve started to do it more recently. Since I’m going to the university, we talk about tax returns, what forms are required and how to fill out the FAFSA correctly.

Was this your first year participating in the Budget Challenge?

No, I participated last year as well. This year I made sure I paid my auto insurance!

When you started the simulation, did you think you would win?

At first I was really determined to win. Then, in the middle I realized that the bills were starting to appear and that kind of threw me of. I really couldn’t believe it when I saw that I was winning toward the end of the simulation!

What would you say was the biggest thing you learned by participating in the Budget Challenge?

To pay my auto insurance on time! But fortunately, I don’t pay auto insurance in real life, my parents pay it for me.

How have you taken the financial skills you learned and applied them to your real life?

I’ve encouraged my parents to pay their bills on time! It also helped to ensure that I don’t go into credit card debt.

Where do you plan on continuing your education?

I plan on going to the University of North Florida to study electrical engineering.

How has the scholarship changed your financial outlook when it comes to college?

The scholarship will help me focus on my schoolwork rather than having to worry about how I’m going to pay for school.

Now that you’re a financial whiz, do you plan on passing along your wisdom to your friends?

No! I want to keep it all to myself (laughs).