A hidden risk for small businesses
Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:
The grad school debt scandal
Graduate school programs may be the worst culprits in the student debt crisis, said Kevin Carey at The New York Times. New college loan data released by the Department of Education frequently reveals "debt levels that make little sense." For instance, M.F.A. graduates of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco "earn only about $35,000 a year." But on average, they borrowed more than $85,000 — nearly twice the national figure. A master's in architecture at Pratt Institute required average borrowing of $157,000, "while the same degree from Ohio State produced average debt of $38,000." At the University of Southern California, the average sum borrowed for a master's in social work was $109,486 — in a field in which no one expects to get rich.
A hidden small-business risk
"Even the smallest companies can be vulnerable" to cyberfraud, and you don't need to have a working website for your business to be affected, said Ruth Simon at The Wall Street Journal. Innovative Higher Ed Consulting, a two-person startup in New York designed to help academics promote their research, had to close after receiving a $27,000 bill from Bank of America for reversing nearly 4,000 questionable charges over a two-month span. IHEC had not turned on the bank's recommended security features on its credit-processing system because "it wasn't yet linked to the company's website, which was still under construction." But within days, fraudsters started sending in fake charges — one dollar at a time as the scammers tested stolen credit card numbers — even as the two founders desperately tried to get the bank to shut down the account.
IRS plans a new withholding form
The IRS this week released a draft of its new tax-withholding form, said Darla Mercado at CNBC. The new W-4 form, which the IRS expects to start using in 2020, "looks for greater specificity" in the total amount of allowances you're claiming, asking for details such as multiple jobs within your household. "An additional section calls for taxpayers to claim their dependents" and provide details of "other income that didn't have taxes withheld up front, including interest, dividends, and retirement income." The IRS is currently taking comments on the proposed form from the public. This past year was the first time that filers submitted returns under the new tax law, and the average refund check went down from $2,778 last year to $2,729.