Boomers, Seniors & Retirees
Going Back to College
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Search Information on Career Fields
Then decide if you need additional training to enter this field or search for a job.
The U.S. Department of Education's website http://www.mynextmove.org provides useful information on career fields, some of which are appropriate for boomers, seniors and retirees. This site also has information on cities where opportunities exist, and salary expectations. It is a good site to explore possibilities regarding what you might wish to do. Search jobs with key words, search jobs by industry and get answers by asking questions about the type of work you might enjoy. The site then suggests jobs that match your interests and training. To search for jobs go to our page Employment Assistance
Get Matched With Top Ranked Schools!
Search 1000s of U.S. News Top-Ranked Schools Find The Perfect Program Today Certificates | Associate's | Bachelor's | Master's | DoctoratE Check the U.S. News University Directory
Free online courses
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Classes offered on Coursera are designed to help you master the material. When you take one of their classes, you will watch lectures taught by world-class professors, learn at your own pace, test your knowledge, and reinforce concepts through interactive exercises. For information click here.
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Their mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. All of their resources are completely free forever, regardless of whether you're a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology.
Students can make use of their extensive library of content, including interactive challenges, assessments, and videos from any computer with access to the web. Courses available in most languages. Click here for information.
Get Financial Aid
If you are studying more than half the time at some participating schools you can take out a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan (www.studentaid.ed.gov).
The current professional-school interest rate is 6.21% (but this will change).
Check out www.FinAid.org and www.Edvisors.com for information on scholarships and grants for older students.
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American Opportunity Tax Credit
This is one of the best benefits for those who qualify. It's a dollar-for-dollar tax offset of up to $2,500 per student per year, for up to four years of undergraduate (but not graduate) education for students enrolled at least half-time in a degree program. Up to $1,000 of the credit is "refundable," meaning the family can get a check for that amount from Uncle Sam if no tax is due. If the taxpayer writes a tuition check in December for the spring semester, the credit may be claimed for that year's taxes. The credit can be used for books, supplies and equipment as well as tuition, but it can't be claimed by anyone with a felony drug conviction.
If the family can't claim the credit and the student has earned income, some advisers suggest running the numbers to see if the student qualifies for the credit on his own. Lifetime Learning Credit. While less generous than the American Opportunity Tax Credit, this is a useful tax offset of up to $2,000 for tuition and fees per year per family. It applies to graduate as well as undergraduate education, plus continuing-education courses taken to acquire or improve job skills.The credit fully phases out at $122,000 of AGI for most joint returns and $61,000 for most single returns.
Qualified Tuition Programs ("529 plans")
529 plans are often the best education benefit for taxpayers who don't qualify for other breaks, in part because there are no income phaseouts. Individual donors (often parents and grandparents) may put up to $65,000 per beneficiary into a 529 plan once every five years, without gift tax consequences. In 2008, President Obama and his wife used this provision to put $120,000 each into 529 plans for their two daughters. 529 plans are run by the states, which set terms and limits within federal guidelines; some give a tax deduction to in-state residents. There's no federal deduction on money as it goes into an account, but the earnings are tax-free if used for either undergraduate or graduate tuition, fees, room, board, books and supplies. (For more, please see "529 Plans Roll Out New Perks," Page B8.)
Grandparents often like 529 plans, because they control the account and can withdraw funds if circumstances change. (The earnings portion of a withdrawal are subject to a 10% penalty and are taxable.) So if a grandparent stocks a 529 account with $50,000 but later needs the money for medical bills, he or she can reclaim the money. What's more, 529 funds aren't considered part of an estate. While federal taxes don't matter for many while the estate tax exemption remains $5 million per individual, many states still have significant estate taxes.
Universal Pictures/Everett Collection
It's often possible to change a 529 account's beneficiary, so if Mom or Dad wants to go back to school, the plan could be shifted; check your state's rules. Because of the double-dipping rules, taxpayers with 529 plans who also qualify for another credit will want to use the credit first and then withdraw remaining funds from the 529 plan.
For example, if qualified college costs come to $12,000 after merit scholarships and there's a sizable 529 plan, pay the first $4,000 out of pocket in order to preserve the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and then withdraw the rest from the 529 plan. Many 529 plans are currently "underwater" because of high fees or poor market performance over the last decade. In that case, the taxpayer may close the account without penalty or tax. A net loss can be taken as a miscellaneous deduction.
Business Deduction for Work-Related Education
This deduction allows a full write-off for tuition, fees, transportation and other expenses. There is no dollar limit on the size of the deduction, nor is there any income phase-out. There's a big catch, however: The education can't qualify the taxpayer for a new trade or business, such as a law, medical, or nursing degree. An advanced law degree or an M.B.A. can work, if the taxpayer isn't switching fields. Mr. Baker, the small-business adviser in Washington, is writing off the costs of his Masters degree at American University, plus transportation. "Many of my students have claimed this deduction with success, even when it has been challenged by the IRS," says Robert Willens, an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Business School.
Student-Loan Interest Deduction
Interest paid on student loans for tuition, room and board, transportation and other expenses may be deductible up to $2,500 per year, depending on the type of loan, if the student was enrolled at least half-time in a degree program. It applies to debt from graduate and undergraduate programs. The benefit fully phases out by $150,000 of AGI for most joint returns and $75,000 for most single returns.
Employer-Provided Educational Assistance
Both an employer and an employee may exclude up to $5,250 from tax per year for payments for education. The exclusion applies to undergraduate and graduate tuition, and there's no income phaseout. No payroll tax is due on the payment, either, and the aid may be used for books and supplies as well as tuition.
Philip Vogt, a 28-year-old M.B.A candidate at Monmouth University in New Jersey, is using this benefit. He works at a division of Parexel International, a clinical research firm, and wants to add accounting skills to his degree in management. "It's a great benefit for an employer to offer," he says. To offer it, the employer must have a "127 plan" in place, and it must be publicized to all employees. A family business might be able to provide this assistance to a relative who works in the business, if he or she doesn't own 5% or more of the business. "Check with an expert about age requirements and other issues," says Monmouth's Mr. Stives.
Tuition and Fees Deduction
Experts suggest thinking twice before taking this $4,000 deduction for tuition and fees. In most cases, the offset of a tax credit is more valuable.
Get Training in These Areas for the Best Chances of Getting Hired
Some Boomers Are Retiring Near a College or University
From an article in the New York Times
Like the Dunns, many other retirees are opting for college retirement communities, where they can take lifelong learning courses, mentor college students and even get a degree. Though exact estimates vary, there are now about 60 college retirement communities in the United States, like those near Stanford, Notre Dame and Penn State.
As baby boomers retire in large numbers, these communities will experience significant upticks in popularity, said Andrew J. Carle, an assistant professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and a senior-housing expert. People want intellectually stimulating environments, he added.
Learning-driven communities offer other benefits, experts say. Housing prices are usually stable in college towns, since there’s a steady influx of people, says Jan Cullinane, author of “Retire Happy” and other books. And retirees can also attend plentiful cultural and sports events.
Even more important, medical care near universities is usually cutting-edge, Ms. Cullinane added. “Universities have medical institutions that do ongoing research,” she said, adding that the University of Michigan, which also has a retirement community nearby, is doing research on celiac disease.
Retirees Back at School
By Robyn Tellefsen
When you look ahead to your retirement years, what images come to mind? Will you be spending more time with the grandkids? Tending your garden and cooking mouth-watering meals? Sitting on a beach somewhere sipping Mai Tais? However you envision the ideal retirement, the reality may turn out to be a bit different than what you had in mind.
And the reality is this: Unemployment is high, home values are low, and retirement accounts are in the toilet. So for many of us, getting out of the workforce entirely just isn’t an option anymore. Last year, about 36 percent of workers said they expected to keep working past age 65, compared with 20 percent in 2001, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
That’s why a good chunk of the 78 million baby boomers entering their retirement years are heading back to school to boost their job skills. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students ages 50 to 64 increased 17 percent nationwide between fall 2007 and fall 2009.
If you’re wondering where the 50+ set is going in droves, the answer is clear: community college. According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 388,000 older adults were enrolled nationwide in fall 2009 – up 6 percent from 2007 and more than 12 percent from 2005. Nationwide, people over the age of 50 typically make up between 5-6 percent of community college enrollment.
Going back to school isn’t a death sentence for retirees, though. For many, it has breathed new life into their golden years and given them purpose that they’d been missing.
Just look at the students benefiting from the Plus 50 Initiative of the AACC, which is tailored to the needs of adult learners/workers. Through the Plus 50 Initiative, community colleges create or expand campus programs to engage the 50+ population in learning; training or retraining programs; and volunteer, civic, or service activities.
Michael Wright is one of these students. After working for 30 years in Washington State’s Department of Corrections at McNeil Island, he was left without a job last year when the island prison was shut down.
“I was down to $139 in my savings account, not knowing where my money was going to come from,” he says.
Fortunately, Wright discovered the aerospace composite technician program for military veterans at Clover Park Technical College (Lakewood, WA), and is now looking forward to starting a new career with Boeing or another corporate partner.
“This program is going to allow me to rise above being a feeder fish from the people above. I feel blessed,” he says. “I’m on a mission. I know I’ll succeed.”
As seen http://www.collegesurfing.com/blog/retirees-back-at-school/