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Jill on Money: The Fed, Rates, Estate

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Forget the Royal Wedding -- the story of the week was the Federal Reserve's first-ever regularly-scheduled press conference. You will be happy to know that despite Ben Bernanke's best efforts to be a great communicator, we still need "Fed Decoder Rings" to understand what the heck he says.

The big impact of the Fed on our real lives can be seen or felt with mortgage rates. I fielded a bunch of questions about mortgage refinancing from Debra in SC, Kim and Jeff from LA. As a reminder, it's important to run the numbers to see whether a refi makes sense for you--of course, we know it makes sense for the bank, which will happily collect another round of fees! Here's a link to a refi calculator.

Stephanie from NJ is lucky enough to already have a 4.5 percent mortgage, but should she pay it down, when she needs to save for her nine-month old twins? According to FinAid.org, the cost of the twins' public college education will be $190,000 EACH -- $435,000 if they attend private universities. Stephanie and her husband need to save an astounding $75,000 today to fund just one public education, let alone two, and $171,000 for one private. That's why most people can only do a little bit at a time--as always, I like 529 plans.

Another area where consumers have all-too much experience with interest rates is credit cards. We were lucky enough to have Curtis Arnold from CardRatings.com join us to discuss the best credit cards for college graduates.

Jason from Atlanta is a new investor, who has started by choosing individual stocks. I reminded him that he need not be a great stock-picker; rather he can make his life easier by using index funds.

There were a bunch of questions about estate and gift taxes. Remember to consult with an estate attorney and a CPA before making any big decisions about gifting assets from your estate.

Here are web sites and resources mentioned in this week's show:

This is a more in-depth conversation on college funding, financial aid, scholarships and student loans, here's the fabulous Mark Kantrowitz, the Publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org.}


Thanks to everyone who participated and to my producer Mark T. ("Mr. 18 percent"), who remains crestfallen, now that Kate Middleton is married. If you have a financial question, there are lots of ways to contact the show:

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