Benefits of an Employer Tuition Reimbursement Program & Policy

While they may not have a line item on a balance sheet, employees are your company’s most important asset. Their knowledge, skill sets, and expertise impact your ability to keep customers or clients satisfied and improve your bottom line.

A tuition reimbursement program is an employee perk that shows you’re invested in their long-term success.

What is Tuition Reimbursement?

Just as it sounds, tuition reimbursement in an employee benefit program or policy where the employer pays back employees for education expenses. Although the program’s rules vary from employer to employer, most cover the cost of tuition as well as textbooks and other required course materials.

Employees still have to pay out of pocket for the courses they take, but when the course is over, the employee can get back some or all of their tuition expenses. At some institutions, students with financial constraints qualify to defer payment until their coursework is complete.


Advantages of an Employer Tuition Reimbursement Program

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2019 Employee Benefits survey notes more than half of employers (56%) offer some sort of tuition or student loan repayment assistance for employees, so education is clearly a priority for businesses.

1. More Skilled Employees

As the International Labour Organization (ILO) states, “Many of today’s skills won’t match tomorrow’s jobs, and skills acquired today may quickly become obsolete.” So workers need to update their skills on an ongoing basis.

Investing in your employee’s education can help you custom-build the skills, talent, and expertise you need to grow your business today and in the future.

2. Higher Retention Rates

Employees who take advantage of tuition reimbursement tend to stay with the company longer.

The Harvard Business Review noted one powerful example: when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles partnered with Strayer University to allow its dealership employees and their families to earn a degree free of charge, participating dealerships saw employee retention rates increase by nearly 40%.

3. Lower Recruiting Costs

Companies can promote educated employees to higher-level positions, saving the company time and money compared to filling vacancies with outside talent.

According to SHRM, the average cost of hiring a new employee is $4,425, or $14,936 for hiring an executive. That includes the cost of advertising the position, training, conducting interviews, and providing new hire orientation. Plus, it can take months for the new hire to acclimate to company culture and become fully productive.

On the other hand, promoting people from within generates little if any additional cost to the company.

4. Tax Breaks

The IRS allows employers to write-off up to $5,250 of tuition reimbursements per employee per year. These reimbursements are considered a tax-free fringe benefit, so they aren’t included in the employees’ wages, and the employer doesn’t have to pay Social Security, Medicare, federal or state unemployment taxes on the reimbursement.

To qualify for this tax perk, the tuition reimbursement plan has to be in writing and meet other requirements, including:

  • The program can’t favor highly compensated employees — generally defined as someone who owns at least 5% of the business or received more than $130,000 of compensation in the prior year.
  • The program doesn’t provide more than 5% of its benefits to shareholders, business owners, or their spouses or dependents.
  • The program doesn’t allow employees to opt to receive cash or other benefits instead of educational assistance.
  • All eligible employees have to receive reasonable notice of the program.

You can find more information about the IRS requirements for educational assistance benefits in IRS Publication 15-B.


Eligibility for Reimbursement

Employers can determine their conditions for reimbursement of employee tuition. Some common conditions include:

Length of Service and Performance

The first condition that may limit eligibility is length of service. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement only to full-time employees who have worked at the company for at least six months to a year. They also require the employee to still be employed with the company when they complete the course.

Employers can also require that the employee is meeting all performance expectations for their current position or require that the employee hasn’t been formally disciplined during the previous six to 18 months. The definition of discipline can vary from company to company but typically includes written warnings, demotions, or suspensions.

Program of Study

The next condition that may hinder eligibility is course of study. Many employers require that the courses or degree program can be applied within the organization. For example, a consulting firm may broadly define relevant subjects; on the other hand, a small IT firm may only reimburse specific technology-related courses.

The program can also require the employee to take classes only at a pre-approved educational institution such as a local university or community college or an accredited online college.

Cost

Another potential condition is the level of cost the company is willing to reimburse. Most tuition reimbursement programs have an annual cap on what they’ll cover. This limit varies greatly from company to company, but most employers base their caps on IRS limits.

As mentioned above, the IRS allows employers to deduct up to $5,250 of tuition costs per employee each year. Employers who pay more than $5,250 for an employee’s educational benefits during the year have to include it in the employee’s wages and pay all applicable payroll taxes, thus negating the tax benefits of the program.

Grades

An employer can require the employee to earn a passing grade to qualify for tuition reimbursement. For example, the policy may require that the employee passes the course with a letter grade of C or better.

Employers can also have scaled grade requirements. For example, the employer’s tuition reimbursement plan may specify that an A grade receives full reimbursement, a B grade receives 80% reimbursement, a C grade garners 60% reimbursement, and anything below a C is not eligible.


Final Word

A tuition reimbursement program is an attractive benefit that can help companies find, develop, and hold on to skilled talent. How you design your program depends on the needs of your business and employees.

If you want to try it out, consider starting by reimbursing employees for one work-related course per year, subject to manager approval. This will give you an idea of how popular the program will be with your employees, and you can decide whether to expand it in the future.

Source: moneycrashers.com

7 Other Types of Precious Metals to Invest In (Besides Just Gold & Silver)

When you think of precious metals, chances are the first two that come to mind are gold and silver. Most people would be hard-pressed to name five precious metals off the top of their heads.

As you invest, you often hear that precious metals make great safe-haven investments. So, you’ve looked into gold bullion, silver coins, and maybe even some physical platinum, but are these all your choices?

No! There are several metals that are considered “precious” and act as solid safe-haven investments. So, if you’re not interested in buying silver and gold coins or you want to practice diversification within your safe-haven holdings but don’t want to stray too far away from precious metals, you’re in luck; you have several options.

What Are Precious Metals?

By definition, precious metals are rare, naturally occurring metallic chemicals that hold significant economic value. The vast majority of precious metals will not oxidize (rust) under normal environmental conditions, providing longevity in the value placed on them.

For example, you’re able to wear your gold ring and silver necklace any time you’d like. While they may collect dust and need a good polishing here and there, your ring and necklace will never rust or decay.

Moreover, due to the rarity of gold and silver, these metals maintain a significant value that often grows in times of economic uncertainty.

Why Investors Are Attracted to Precious Metals

Precious metals are a common component of successful investment portfolios, especially during economic downturns. These investments provide protection from market volatility, and often see price growth during economic declines, making precious metals a great store of value when economic and market conditions are uncertain.

Precious metals are attractive during positive economic times as well. Many of these metals are used in the manufacturing of electronics, automobiles, and even batteries, helping to keep the industrial and technology sectors alive.

That value makes precious metals a go-to asset class to include in any well-diversified portfolio.


Precious Metals Other Than Gold and Silver

Gold and silver are great safe-haven investments, but if you want to practice diversification within the precious metals asset class, there are several other metals to choose from. Some of the most popular investments include:

1. Copper

Copper is often referred to as a precious metal, although by the strictest definition, it’s not. For one, copper oxidizes under normal environmental conditions. Moreover, the metal is vastly available around the world, missing the rarity threshold.

Nonetheless, due to its extensive uses, the metal is considered by some to be precious and is an investable asset regardless.

To mine copper, mining companies dig pit mines and collect copper ore, which are materials known to contain copper and, in many cases, iron compounds.

Copper Uses

Copper has a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses. The majority of copper is used in electrical applications because the metal is a great conductor of electricity. Copper is also commonly used in components that keep motors running.

2. Iridium

Iridium is a metal that’s part of the platinum group of metals. It is a hard, brittle metal with a silver look. Iridium is extremely hard, has a very high melting point, and is one of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust, making it overwhelmingly valuable.

As is the case with traditional precious metals, iridium doesn’t oxidize under normal environmental conditions. It is among the most corrosion-resistant known metals. Aside from its industrial uses, it is a prized collectible asset due to its rarity and high value.

Iridium is produced in two ways. Most commonly, it is a byproduct of nickel mining, as nickel is found in the same layer of the earth that iridium is. However, there are also mining companies that focus on the mining of platinum ore, which tends to be rich in iridium.

Iridium Uses

Like most precious metals, iridium has many uses. Most importantly, it is used as a hardening agent for a wide range of platinum alloys. These alloys are used for tipping pins and compass bearings.

The precious metal is also used in crucibles and equipment used at high temperatures as well as a source for heavy-duty electrical contacts.

3. Lithium

Lithium is a versatile precious metal. Although it is deposited around the world, found in rocks and brines, it is always found in low concentrations, making it quite rare overall.

Lithium is a relatively soft, silvery metal used in various applications around the world. Lithium salts, the raw material from which lithium is developed, can be found in many areas around the world. These salts are found in underground deposits of clay and mineral ore, in geothermal brines, and even dissolved in ocean water, and there is a wide range of extraction methods.

Lithium Uses

Lithium is used in a wide array of applications. Most notably, the precious metal is used in some batteries, including those used in electric vehicles, solar power systems, and marine applications. Many point to the use of the metal in electric vehicle batteries as the catalyst for the recent gains in value it has experienced.

Lithium is also known as a stabilizer in the world of psychiatric medicine. Lithium compounds are used to treat some serious mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia.

4. Osmium

Osmium is another precious metal in the platinum group. The metal is hard and brittle and has a silvery-blue hue. Osmium is one of the rarest metals found in the earth’s crust and has multiple applications, leading to its high economic value.

Osmium can be found naturally in platinum-bearing river sands in North America, South Africa, and the Ural Mountains of western Russia, but its concentrations are so low and difficult to find that osmium is more efficiently produced as a byproduct of nickel refining operations.

Osmium Uses

Compared to other precious metals, osmium has relatively few industrial uses but is useful in multiple applications. Osmium is often found as a component of platinum alloys and has also been used in fountain pen tips, instrument pivots, needles, and electrical contacts.

5. Palladium

Palladium is a prized precious metal among investors. It is highly resistant to corrosion and bears an attractive silvery-white appearance. Palladium is a relatively soft metal and is particularly rare — significantly rarer and more expensive than silver or gold.

Palladium is found in very small concentrations in nickel and copper ore. However, because so much nickel and copper ore are processed, these small concentrations collected as a byproduct can add up to a substantial secondary income stream to mining companies.

Palladium Uses

If you own a vehicle, there’s a strong chance you own a small amount of palladium because the metal is likely present in your catalytic converter, its most common application. However, it’s not the only use of the metal.

Palladium is used in medical applications like blood sugar test strips, surgical instruments, and dentistry. The precious metal can also be found in aircraft spark plugs, electrical contacts, and even jewelry.

6. Platinum

Platinum is a very soft metal with a white-silvery look. The name platinum comes from the Latin “platino,” meaning little silver. Not only is the precious metal highly resistant to corrosion, but it also has high levels of conductivity and maintains stability at high temperatures.

Platinum occurs naturally deep inside the earth’s crust and is generally mined in deep pit mines found in South Africa.

Platinum Uses

Platinum is recognized as a metal commonly used in jewelry, but bling isn’t this precious metal’s only thing. It also has several applications in the medical industry, including in dental work, medical equipment, and laboratory equipment.

You’ll also find platinum used in some of the world’s strongest magnets. Finally, with its high levels of conductivity, platinum is often used in electrical contacts and fine resistance wires.

7. Rhodium

Rhodium is an ultra-rare, silvery-white, hard metal. Like others in the platinum group, rhodium is highly resistant to corrosion under natural environmental conditions.

Rhodium is a very rare metal, naturally occurring only in small concentrations. It is generally mined as a byproduct of other mining activities. This is yet another precious metal commonly found in small concentrations in nickel deposits; it is also found in platinum ore.

Rhodium Uses

Rhodium is a versatile metal with several commercial applications. Rhodium is used in jewelry and catalytic converters. However, the metal is most commonly used as an alloying material in platinum and palladium alloys that are found in airplane spark plugs and medical and laboratory equipment.

8. Ruthenium

Finally, ruthenium is yet another member of the platinum family of metals. The silvery-white metal is hard and brittle, yet incredibly shiny, and will not tarnish.

Ruthenium is primarily collected as a byproduct of nickel mining. The metal is extracted through a series of chemical processes that separate it from other platinum group metals like platinum, palladium, and osmium.

Ruthenium Uses

Ruthenium has multiple commercial uses. It is commonly used as an alloying agent in platinum jewelry. It’s also used as a hardening agent in platinum and palladium alloys, which are found in electrical contacts designed for severe wear resistance.

Interestingly, ruthenium is an important component of various solar panels. The metal is used to convert solar energy into usable electrical energy.


Pros and Cons of Investing in Precious Metals

Precious metals are hot commodities that are just about always in high demand, so it makes sense that many people want to invest in them. However, as with any investment vehicle, investments in precious metals come with advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of Precious Metals Investing

Some of the most significant benefits to investing in precious metals include:

  1. Stability. Precious metals aren’t known for volatility. Investments in this category are generally stable, and these investments can provide a shelter against economic hardship as safe havens.
  2. Predictability. With the exception of those used largely as industrial materials, like copper, precious metals have an inverse correlation with the economy. When economic conditions are negative, investors ditch stocks and squirrel their money away in safe havens like precious metals. Conversely, when economic conditions are booming, investors ditch precious metals to dive into the stock market. Therefore, by following economic trends, you’ll be able to correctly predict the direction of most precious metal prices.
  3. No Credit Risk. When you own precious metals, you own that metal. When it’s time to sell, you can turn that metal into cash. When investing in a company through stocks — or even in a municipality through bonds — you’re accepting the risk that the organization may default and you may lose a significant portion or all of your principal investment. That’s not the case with precious metals — at least in terms of owning the hard assets. You own a real, physical asset and aren’t dependent on any particular company or government succeeding in order for your investment to hold its value.

Cons of Precious Metals Investing

Although there are plenty of reasons to be excited about investing in precious metals, there’s always a downside. The most significant cons to investing in this category include:

  1. Slow Growth. Investing is all about growth, but precious metals are stable. These commodities tend to experience slow, steady price growth, whereas the right stock picks can result in significant gains over a short period of time.
  2. Numismatic Markup. Precious metals bullion comes with a numismatic markup. Essentially, creating coins and bars takes work, which costs money. As a result, you’ll pay more per ounce for coins and bars than the spot price of the precious metal you’re investing in.
  3. Liquidity. If you hold physical precious metals, it may take time to find a buyer who’s willing to pay a reasonable price. As a result, certain precious metals investments come with liquidity risks.

Should You Invest in Precious Metals?

Precious metals have a place in just about every investment portfolio out there today. Due to their rarity and the generally high level of demand for these metals, they provide a level of stability that few assets on the market have the ability to provide, making them a perfect asset class for the safe-haven allocation within your portfolio.

So, it’s not necessarily a matter of if you should invest in precious metals, but a matter of when.

As a result of the relationship between precious metals and the global economy, when economic conditions are positive and markets are bullish, it’s best to keep your precious metals holdings to a minimum.

On the other hand, when economic conditions falter and markets fall into bear territory, it’s time to rebalance your portfolio, putting an emphasis on precious metals and other safe-haven investments.


How to Buy Precious Metals

When most people think about buying precious metals, they usually think of buying silver and gold bars and coins by the troy ounce. Although that is an option, there are several ways to gain exposure to the precious metals market, especially to alternative metals that aren’t typically minted into coins.

1. Buy Physical Precious Metals

One way to go about investing in precious metals is to buy hard assets like ingots and coins or even buy gold bars through Vaulted. Often referred to as bullion, for some precious metals these coins and bars are available at market price from various websites or at your local coin or pawn shop.

2. Buy Precious Metals Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) and Mutual Funds

If you’re not interested in having bars and coins made out of high-value metals in your home or safe deposit box, you have the option to invest in precious metals without physically possessing a single coin.

There are several exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds that are centered around investments in the precious metals market. These funds use assets pooled by a large group of investors to buy physical precious metals or shares of stock in industrial or mining companies that focus on the production of precious metals.

Taking the ETF and mutual fund approach gives you the ability to step back and let the pros handle your investments for you. Moreover, like most other investment-grade funds, precious metals ETFs and mutual funds generally practice heavy levels of diversification, protecting your investments from any sudden decline in the value of one or more of the fund’s holdings.

3. Buy Mining Stocks

Without mining companies, there would be no precious metals on the market. These companies are rewarded when spot prices for the commodities they mine are high and feel pain when market prices fall.

As a result, the stocks that represent these mining companies ebb and flow with the values of the commodities they’ve centered their business around. Thus, by investing in the mining companies that produce the precious metals you’re interested in, you’re getting indirect exposure to the precious metals market.

Pro tip: You can earn a free share of stock (up to $200 value) when you open a new trading account from Robinhood. With Robinhood, you can customize your portfolio with stocks and ETFs, plus you can invest in fractional shares.


Final Word

Precious metals investing is about much more than investing in gold and silver bullion. There are several different types of precious metals and multiple ways to invest in them without even holding a piece of the metal in your hand.

Like any investment, it’s important to do your research and get an understanding of what makes precious metals move in value before risking your first dollar.

Nonetheless, with the price stability and shield from inflation offered by this rare class of metals, investments in precious metals are an important part of most well-balanced investing portfolios.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Here Is What It’s Like To Drive A Car Until It Dies

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I had our first child, and just three months after he was born, we bought a minivan. A Toyota Sienna, to be exact.

We planned to own the car for a while, especially since we bought it brand new, but honestly, I never thought that 14 years and 193,000 miles later we’d still be driving that vehicle.

drive a car until it dies

drive a car until it dies

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pay if off early.

We paid it off in four years, so we’ve driven that vehicle for the last 10 years without making a single payment.  The only expenses we’ve had are routine repairs, replacements, and requisite license plate tabs.

Glamorous It’s Not

I’ll admit, now that the car is quite a bit older, it’s certainly not the envy of the neighborhood.

In fact, my kids, especially my older two who are 14 and almost 10, find it quite embarrassing.  However, it’s been a very reliable car, and we plan to keep it until it finally gives out completely.

Our van had one electric sliding door and one manual.  As is common for electric doors, ours stopped working at about year 10.  I didn’t want to pay the $1,500 plus that it would cost to fix it, so we just stopped using that door.

About two years ago, our passenger manual door outside handle became loose.  No biggie.  We just opened the driver’s side door, reached into the back, and used the inside handle to open the slide door.

Was that embarrassing?  Yes, but why spend money when the door did work, just not in a conventional way?

We’ll Never Wash The Car Again

We joke that we’ll never wash the car again, and we probably won’t.  The dirt might be the only thing holding it together at this point!

A year ago we were at a manual car wash when the outside handle that was loose completely broke off.  That, even I can admit, was embarrassing. A motorcyclist was there, and he just stared at us.

My kids were so embarrassed.

When it broke off, we could no longer open the door from the inside, either, so we had to admit defeat and pay $700 to get that door handle fixed.

Surely, that was a fluke, right, and a car wash every now and then would be fine, right?  Right?

Yeah, no.

This summer, we again tried to wash the car at a manual car wash.  After my husband hosed down the car, I heard a loud pop, much like a gun shot.

I looked all around, but didn’t see anything.  Then, I started washing the car and the passenger window on the electronic door that does not work just completely shattered.  Glass filled our entire interior.

We had heard a rock hit the car a few weeks before when we were on the highway, and I think that weakened the window before the car wash.

The Air Conditioner Gives Out

This summer, our air conditioner gave out, which isn’t a good thing in the middle of an Arizona summer when temperatures routinely reach 110 degrees daily.  The problem ended up being two-fold, and we had to pay $2,500.

I can see the day is near when we’ll need to replace this vehicle, but I’m hoping we can hold out for a few more years.

After all, even with car repairs and routine maintenance, owning this vehicle for the past 14 years has been much cheaper than owning a newer model that needs fewer repairs but requires a monthly payment.

What is the longest you have ever owned a vehicle?  What finally made you decide to take the plunge and buy a new vehicle?  Are you comfortable with driving a car that others may find embarrassing just so you can save money?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com