What the experts say
New deadline for financial aid
College students and their parents have only just unpacked the U-Haul for this school year, but already they’re facing “the unexpected chore of tackling the mind-boggling paperwork for financial aid for the 2017-18 academic year,” said Susan Tompor in the Detroit Free Press. Beginning this year, the filing season for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, starts Oct. 1 instead of in January. The earlier timeline is designed to better line up with the college application season, so that high school seniors and their parents have a clearer understanding of what their aid package might be as they figure out which schools they can afford. It’s important not to wait too long past the October kickoff; in many cases, “financial aid is offered on a first come, first served basis.”
Premium at the pump? Don’t bother
“Drivers are wasting their money on premium gas,” said Eli Blumenthal in USA Today. Amer i cans spent more than $2.1 billion over the past year pumping expensive premiumgrade gas into cars designed to run on regular fuel, according to a new study by AAA. In tests run by the driver advocacy organization, premium fuel offered “no benefit” to engine life, fuel economy, or emissions control compared with regular gas. Cars with turbocharged engines need the higher-grade fuel, but they are in the minority on American roads. Cars with engines built for regular fuel make up 70 percent of U.S. vehicles. Using premium gas in a car that doesn’t need it, said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, is like “putting dollars out the tailpipe.”
Finding a lost 401(k)
“It’s surprisingly easy to lose track of your retirement savings,” said Ben Steverman in Bloomberg.com. It’s estimated that nearly a million workers lose track of a 401(k)-style account each year, but currently there is no central database where you can look up old retirement accounts or pensions. Congress is now considering a bill that would create a retirement “lost and found” for abandoned accounts. In the meantime, the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.—the federal agency that insures traditio nal private-sector pensions— is planning to expand its searchable database for lost pensions to include 401(k) plans that have been shut down. Beginning in 2018, the agency will add information on stranded assets to its database, then look for account owners and pay out the benefits when it finds them.
Charity of the week
After miraculously surviving the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left more than 230,000 people dead, Petra Nemcova was inspired to help rebuild the devastated communities that had been left behind. Two years later, the former model established the Happy Hearts Fund (happy heartsfund.org), which works to rebuild safe, resilient schools in areas affected by natural disasters. Over the past 10_years, the organization has rebuilt more than 130 schools in 10 countries. Dozens of schools have been constructed in Indonesia, Haiti, Nepal, and Mexico following recent earthquakes; computer labs have also been donated in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru following devastating floods. These efforts have helped educate some 50,000 children.
Each charity we feature has earned a four-star overall rating from Charity Navigator, which rates not-for-profit organizations on the strength of their finances, their governance practices, and the transparency of their operations. Four stars is the group’s highest rating.