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Refile your money see you in 2 wks when couples take separate vacations


(Refiles to remove extra word in editing credit)By Chris TaylorNEW YORK, July 27 This summer, I decided to take a couple of weeks for a much-needed getaway in southern California. I lounged by the Manhattan Beach pier, spent some quality time with my parents and sister, and brought my two boys to the wallet-destroyer known as Disneyland. My wife stayed home. As I write this, she's in Haiti, visiting her hometown in the country's west. She's eating local dishes like diri ak djon-djon (rice with black mushrooms), getting all the village gossip from her father, and getting respite from the summer heat in the river that snakes down from the mountains. I'm here in Brooklyn. There's nothing wrong with our marriage, at least as far as I know. But the last couple of years we've fit in a couple of separate vacations, and it seems to be working just fine. She gets to go where she wants, I go where I want, and we both get a little head space away from the relentless demands of being full-time parents.

"I'm seeing more and more people not even batting an eye about going away alone for a couple of weeks," says Iris Krasnow, who, as author of "The Secret Lives of Wives," interviewed more than 200 women about their marriages. "In fact I get more mail and comments on that subject than about anything else in my whole book. You don't have to be joined at the hip, in order to make your marriage endure."Case in point: Krasnow herself. She recently got back from two and a half weeks along the California beaches, a continent away from her family home in Annapolis, Maryland. Apart from her four sons, two pets and one husband, she was able to carve out a little time just for her."I go to a little hideaway, shut the shades, and sip my glass of cabernet," says Krasnow, a journalism professor at American University. "The ocean's mine, the cottage is mine. As a writer who needs solitude but never gets it, I need those getaways - and I always come back refreshed."

Of course, such thinking goes against the conventional grain, that harried husbands and wives need more time for togetherness, not less. For many couples, that may indeed be the case. But for others, the opposite can also make perfect sense: That spending time on your own, rather than only existing as one-half of a twosome, can foster long-term benefits. It's not as uncommon as you might think. In fact, according to a new poll by the travel website TripAdvisor, 59 percent of site visitors report having taken a vacation separate from their significant other. Indeed Krasnow sees a direct link between that mindset of increasing openness, and declining divorce rates. "It's now down to 43 percent, from the 50 percent that it's been for decades, and I think it's because people are marrying later and smarter," says Krasnow, who's been married to her husband for 24 years. "People are learning that it's OK to rewrite the rules of marriage for their own needs, and not just do what their grandparents did. It's a gift my husband gives me, to be able to fly solo once in a while."

Of course for many, separate vacations are still somewhat of a bizarre notion, and a subject that needs to be broached with care. Some spouses might react to the idea with horror, not with understanding. A few this site is a necessity. Presumably if you've gone to the trouble of choosing a lifelong partner, there's a certain level of trust there. If that's lacking, then spending time apart could easily lead to suspicions about what your spouse is really up to. In those cases, rather than recharging the marital battery, a solo voyage could drain it - which would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise. Keep a lid on costs. One advantage of traveling together is that there are some natural cost savings, like piling the whole family into the same hotel room. If you're taking two separate vacations, with two different hotel stays, the bill can add up very quickly. Try to take advantage of special discounts, or get bulk deals by traveling with buddies, so that the financial burdens of separate vacations don't lead to undue stress when it's time to pay off the credit-card bill. Get ready for the jury. Even if you think separate vacations are a brilliant idea, others may not. "The biggest hassle is probably the jury of your family and friends, who might look at you and judge you," says Laurie Puhn, a couples mediator in Westchester County, New York and author of "Fight Less, Love More." "You have to be comfortable enough as a couple to withstand that criticism, and know that separate vacations are part of what makes your marriage balanced and joyful."As for my wife, she's about halfway through her Haitian vacation, and I'm missing her more than ever. As marriage indicators go, that's a pretty good one.(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Your money raid your kids college savings sometimes it is ok


(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)By Chris TaylorNEW YORK, July 23 Lauren Greutman felt sick. She and her husband Mark were about $40,000 in debt, and were having trouble paying their monthly bills. As recent homebuyers, the couple from Syracuse, New York, were already underwater on the mortgage and getting by on one income as Lauren focused on being a stay-at-home mom."We were in a really bad financial position, and just didn't have the money to make ends meet," remembers Greutman, now 33 and a mom of four. There was one pot of money just sitting there: Their son's college savings, about $6,500 at the time. That is when they had to make a decision that no parent ever wants to make."We had to pull money out of the account, in order to keep the electricity on and pay the water bill," she says. "We thought long and hard about it and felt almost dishonest. But it was either leave it in there, or pay the mortgage and be able to eat."It is a moral quandary faced by parents in dire financial straits: Treat your kids' college savings - often housed in so-called 529 plans - as a sacred lockbox, or as a ready source of funds that may be tapped when necessary.

Precise figures are not available, since those making 529-plan withdrawals do not have to notify administrators whether the funds are being used for qualified higher education expenses, according to the College Savings Plans Network. That is a matter between the account owner and the Internal Revenue Service. TIAA-CREF, which administrates many 529 plans for states, estimates that between 10 percent to 20 percent of plan withdrawals are non-qualified and not being used for their intended purpose of covering educational expenses. It is never a first option to draw college money down early, of course. Private four-year colleges cost an average $30,094 in tuition and fees for 2013/14, according to the College Board. Since that number will presumably rise much more once your toddler graduates from high school, parents need to be stocking those financial cupboards rather than emptying them out. Joe Hurley, the so-called "529 Guru" and founder of Savingforcollege.com, has a message for stressed-out parents: Don't beat yourselves up about it.

"The plans were designed to give account owners flexible access to their funds," Hurley says. "I imagine parents would feel some guilt. But I don't think they should. After all, it is their money."PENALTIES ON EARNINGS Keep in mind, though, that there are often significant financial penalties involved. Lauren Greutman managed to avoid them, since at that time she was using a simple savings account to stash her son's college funds.

With 529 plans, though, it is another story. With non-qualified distributions, in most cases you are looking at a 10 percent penalty on earnings. Withdrawn earnings will also be treated as income on your tax return, and if you took a state tax deduction on the original money, withdrawn contributions often count as income as well. Not ideal, of course. But if your other option for emergency funds is to raid your own retirement accounts, tapping college savings is a last-ditch avenue to consider. Not only because you do not want to blow up your own nest egg but because it could make relative tax sense. As the saying goes, you can borrow money for college, but not for retirement."If you think about it, a parent who has a choice between tapping the 529 and tapping a retirement account might be better off tapping the 529," says James Kinney, a planner with Financial Pathway Advisors in Bridgewater, New Jersey. If the account is comprised of 30 percent earnings, then only 30 percent would be subject to tax and penalty, Kinney explains. And that compares favorably to a premature distribution from a 401