Volunteer as a financial coach? Philly's nonprofit Clarifi wants you

Want to volunteer as a financial coach?

At Clarifi, a credit-counseling nonprofit in Center City, volunteers learn about the organization's financial “boot camp” mission and programs, and receive comprehensive training on how to be an effective coach.

Three new training dates have been scheduled: Monday, April 3, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday, April 4, from 1 to 6:30 p.m.; or Saturday, April 15, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The training will take place at Clarifi’s main office, 1608 Walnut St., 10th floor. 

If you’re interested, call or email Antoinette Minor at volunteer@clarifi.org or 215-320-1484.

Clarifi's boot camp is an intensive program that combines financial education, counseling, and coaching to help participants meet their goals. Common goals include improving credit, reducing debt, saving money, or buying a home. After attending three preliminary sessions and meeting with Clarifi counselors, participants who have signed up are then paired with volunteer coaches.

Rather than providing specific financial advice, coaches act more as motivators and sounding boards for class participants. No prior financial background is required to serve as a coach.

But volunteers must meet the following criteria: Commit to six months in the program, volunteering a minimum of one hour each month; maintain a nonjudgmental, positive regard for their participants and be supportive of their views, lifestyles, and aspirations; and assist clients in resolving current financial situations while shifting the focus to long-term proactive financial management and stability. 

Education tax write-offs

As tax time approaches, remember that you can write off student-loan interest and other goodies on your returns, according to Sallie Mae.

• Student-loan interest: Borrowers may be eligible for up to $2,500 in interest deductions to offset income subject to tax. Available for both federal and eligible private student loans in repayment, single filers with adjusted gross income of less than $80,000, and joint filers with adjusted gross income less than $160,000 qualify for this deduction.

Tuition and fees: Students and families can claim up to $4,000 in expenses for higher education to offset income subject to tax. This deduction is taken as an adjustment to income, and an individual does not need to itemize other deductions. Individual filers with adjusted gross income of up to $80,000 and joint filers with adjusted gross income of up to $160,000 can claim this deduction. Families can claim this credit for only one student in a given year.

• American Opportunity Credit: Taxpayers may qualify for a maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student for the first four years of higher education. To be eligible, a student must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree or other recognized educational credential program. The credit can be applied to course-related books and supplies in addition to tuition and fees (even if you live at home). A single taxpayer can have 2016 income of up to $80,000 to receive the full credit; a partial credit is available for income amounting to $90,000. Married filers with adjusted gross income up to $160,000 are eligible for the full credit, up to $180,000 for a partial credit.

• Lifetime Learning Credit. Eligible taxpayers may qualify for up to $2,000 per tax return to help pay for undergraduate, graduate, and professional-degree courses – including courses designed to improve job skills. There is no limit on the number of years an individual can claim the credit, which is available to taxpayers with adjusted gross income of less than $65,000, or $131,000 if filing jointly. The credit is reduced gradually for single filers making more than $55,000, and for joint filers making more than $111,000.

• 529 plans: In addition to federal tax benefits, more than 30 states offer full or partial tax deductions for contributions to 529 plans. Five offer taxpayers  deductions for contributions to any state’s 529: Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, and Pennsylvania. Eight states offer no deductions for 529 contributions: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

Additional information on education tax credits and deductions is available through Internal Revenue Service Publication 970, which can be found at http://irs.gov and the website SavingForCollege.com.