Money Minute: Colleges With Best ROI; How Else Speeding Can Cost You

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Which colleges offer the best return on your tuition investment?

We all know that college can be amazingly expensive, leaving many students with huge loans to pay off. According to Payscale, students at Harvey Mudd College in California get the highest return in the 20 years after graduation. Four years at the school costs a whopping $230,000, and after 20 years the average grad has earned $981,000. Harvey Mudd is followed on the list by CalTech, MIT, Stanford and Colorado School of Mines. You'll note that these are also among the hardest schools in the country to get in to. Breaking it down by major, the best returns come from the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math.

A warning to drivers who flout the law. A study by insurancequotes.com finds that moving violations can send your insurance premiums up by as much as 93 percent. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The biggest increases are for DUI violations and reckless driving citations. But even a speeding ticket for going just 1 to 15 mph over the limit can lead to a 21 percent premium hike.

Keep an eye on banking stocks today. After passing the Federal Reserve's stress test last week, the Fed is allowing 25 of 30 large banks to raise their dividends. But five banks were told they can't, including industry giant Citigroup (C). The others are: Zions Bancorp (ZION), and three foreign banks with U-S affiliates -- Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), HSBC (HSBC) and Banco Santander. Sixteen of the other banks immediately announced plans to increase their shareholder payouts.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 99 points Thursday, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) slid 60 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) fell 13 points.

Finally, a survey by Charles Schwab (SCHW) finds that retail investors -- that's you and me -- have turned more bearish. Twenty percent of individual investors had turned bearish this month, double the number from December. However, a majority of investors still believe the market will continue to rise this year.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

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Money Minute: Colleges With Best ROI; How Else Speeding Can Cost You
The 1099 forms you received from brokerages and other financial institutions might not be the last ones they send. It's common for them to issue corrected versions a little later. Consider getting your tax return ready to go, then waiting until close to April 15 before submitting it. That way, you can incorporate any last-minute changes and avoid having to file an amended return.
Pay attention to when you sell any holding, because the capital gains tax rates differ for long-term and short-term holdings. Short-term capital gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, which could top 30 percent. Long-term gains (those held for more than a year) get preferential rates, which are zero percent for those in low-income brackets and 15 percent for most of us.
If you own underwater stocks, consider selling them for a loss. You can use those losses to offset gains from other sales, reducing your taxes owed. You can always buy back the asset later, if you still believe in it -- just be sure to wait for 31 days to pass, to observe the "wash sale rule."
If you're planning to sell one or more holdings that will give you a really big gain, submit an amended W-4 form to increase your withholding, or send the IRS an estimated tax payment. Underpaying your taxes significantly during the year can lead to a penalty at tax time. You may be protected by a "safe harbor" provision, though, which can save you from having to jump through those hoops.
If you're planning to buy shares of a mutual fund, determine when it will distribute its dividends. Many funds do so near the end of the year, and when that happens, the fund's share price will drop by the amount of the distribution -- which is taxable to shareholders. It's better to just wait until after that payout to buy in.
Mutual funds with high turnover ratios (reflecting a lot of buying and selling in a fund) have expenses for these trades. It's worth favoring funds with low turnover ratios, especially index funds and index-tracking ETFs, which simply hold onto the mix of securities in a given index, without a lot of trading activity. (Index funds generally outperform their higher-turnover counterparts, too.)
Boost the power of your Individual Retirement Accounts by making your annual contributions early in the year, giving the funds more time to grow. Over decades, it can make a significant difference.
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