College Planning Starts Now: 5 Common FAFSA Mistakes to Avoid

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 2.15.08 PMJanuary is the month that millions of families disclose their financial data to the Department of Education through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Given that the FAFSA has been called the gateway to financial aid, and considering the ever-increasing costs of college, it is imperative to minimize mistakes in completing it. Here are five common FAFSA errors to avoid.

1. Failing to Submit Because of High Income

Many times families will not complete or submit the FAFSA, believing they make too much money to qualify. Income is only one of seven factors used to determine aid eligibility; always complete the FAFSA regardless of income.

2. Waiting Too Long to Submit

A mistake many make is to wait until they have all of their financial documents in place, and taxes done, before submitting their FAFSA. Since some money is on a first-come, first-served basis, it is imperative to submit as early in January as possible with estimates of your finances (which the Department of Education fully expects).

3. Submitting Incorrect Info for Divorced Parents

In a divorce situation, whose financial information is used? It is the income and assets of the household (including step-parent info) in which the students spends the majority of their time and receives the majority of financial support.

4. Understating Income

If you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), or any other pre-tax retirement account, you must add back any contributions in the previous year to your income for FAFSA purposes. This in effect produces a higher FAFSA income than what might be shown on your tax return.

5. Overstating Assets

Many families mistakenly include retirement assets and home equity as part of their investments or net worth, when in fact neither should be included here.

And last but not least, please be sure to complete the correct FAFSA application. Remember to complete the FAFSA for the year your student will be in college for the upcoming fall school year, NOT the school year they are currently in. This is a huge, but common mistake. Make this one and your student will receive no aid in the following Fall. Let’s start off 2014 the right way for our local businesses!

To signup for a workshop, meet one-on-one or just ask questions contact us today at: 703-928-9036 or

Luanne Lee is a licensed College Planning Relief® specialist with over 20 years in business and personal financial services. She is a proud mother of two young adults, two grandchildren, 3 dogs and 2 cats in the country near Loudoun.

Smashing Walnuts “Cracking the Cure” Gala – This Saturday


I’m sure you’ve heard about the 10-year-old girl, Gabriella Miller, that passed away from cancer in October. Two days before she passed away, Gabriella told her parents that if she didn’t make it to her 11th birthday, she still wanted her parents to have a party to raise money for her foundation, Smashing Walnuts, to help find a cure.

Of course, she wanted it to be black, white and pink. This weekend on January 25th, her wish will become a reality at the Inaugural ‘Cracking the Cure’ Gala to Celebrate Gabriella Miller. Proceeds raised at the event will go to directly to Smashing Walnut’s very first research grant that will be issued within a month of the gala.

The event is sure to be an inspirational evening to remember, with enchanting desserts, music, dancing, a life changing appeal, and some very special surprises! There will even by an adjoining Gala for youth ages will 9-17.

The gala is open to the public.

Smashing Walnuts Inaugural ‘Cracking The Cure’ Gala
Black, White & Pink Affair
Saturday, January 25, 7 p.m.
National Conference Center • 18980 Upper Belmont Place • Leesburg, Virginia 20176
$75 for adults • $40 for youth

Cracking the Cure Gala Invitation

A New Year’s Resolution

I Heart Buying LocalEach January, we make resolutions for the New Year, with every intention of keeping them. For most of us, those resolutions fade away to memory before the daffodils poke their heads out of the ground. This year, I would like to challenge you to make a commitment to an important resolution for the entire year – one that will not only help you enjoy the community around you more, but will also help your community thrive: buy local.

Buying local obviously supports the storeowners who live in your neighborhood, and maybe even across the street. But your purchases also allow them to hire employees and work with other local vendors, creating a strong and vibrant community. In contrast, large national chains rarely make community-level choices if those decisions don’t benefit them financially. So it really comes down this: Wouldn’t you rather support your neighbor’s business instead of a disinterested Fortune 50 company located far away from your community?

If you answered yes to this question, then the next question is – how should you get started? The easiest way is to buy groceries from local grocery stores and fresh produce and meats from food co-ops. You can even have the food delivered to you, taking away the argument that it takes too much time to go to different stores to buy different items. Moreover, your purchases support your community as well as the environment because local goods don’t require additional fuel and energy costs to get to you.

Need a gift? Try looking in one of the numerous and unique stores that line the streets of our towns. You’ll support the storeowner and the recipient of your gift will appreciate a unique gift that can’t be found in a box store. Everyone likes to feel special, and a unique local gift is a great way to let someone know how much you care. If you remodel or renovate your home this year, consider using locally sourced materials instead of materials shipped half way around the world. Be kind to the environment, too, and have

reusable and environmentally friendly plastic boxes delivered to you instead of using cardboard to store your stuff during the remodel. The convenience of having them picked up after you finish your remodel is an added bonus!

Do you have some clothing or furniture to donate? Any food items to share? Instead of sending them to the national charities, consider some of the small local charities, which can immediately use donations to help people in our community.

There are so many ways we can help make our community better. Let’s start off 2014 the right way for our local businesses!

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 8.28.41 AMABOUT US

Janice Gambaccini and Stephanie Zimmermann are sisters and co-owners of a local business called Lend A Box, LLC, which delivers environmentally friendly moving boxes to customers before they move and picks them up after the move is complete. Janice and Stephanie have lots of great ideas for local places to shop and eat – just ask them!

Budget, Market, Spend!

2014 Guide for Marketing Your Small Business

As we close out year 2013 and approach a 2014, small and local businesses in our area are busy pondering how they will best allocate their marketing spend for the following year.

Common business-owner questions that come to mind as they plan ahead for a new marketing year include:

“How much should I allocate for digital and social media marketing?”
“What about offline, traditional marketing-what should I budget for these?”
“What marketing budget trends should I consider as I budget for 2014?”

As a small business marketing strategist, I work closely with business owners year after year to help them identify how to best plan for marketing investments throughout the year. And one of the marketing trends which continues to increase year after year, no matter the industry or business size, is the increasing proportion of marketing budget allocated towards digital and social media.

For years, I’ve been monitoring marketing budget trends and news with great scrutiny and, as far back as 2008, the size of traditional marketing budgets have continued to erode and lose dollars to digital and social media. Why? There are many reasons to list but the three primary reasons are, and continue to be:

Digital and social media marketing and advertising tend to be far more cost-effective than traditional print marketing
 Digital and social media marketing and advertising are usually “measurable” and generate important metrics data (usage, visits, etc.) that can be tracked via analytics tools, such as Google Analytics
More and more consumers, prospects and customers are using search, online reviews and social media to assist them during their buying decision process(es)

Keeping these factors in mind, small local businesses planning their marketing spend for 2014 should follow these simple tips to help them budget their marketing cents wisely:

• Take marketing inventory!
Small business owners should carefully assess how they have spent their marketing dollars to date. What has worked or what hasn’t worked as well? Take stock of every penny allocated to marketing, break it down into helpful categories (e.g. “Paid Search Marketing,” “Email Marketing Campaigns,” etc.) to better visualize how much marketing budget is being spent and where.

• Traditional vs. Digital?
The formula for traditional vs. digital and social media spend will vary greatly business to business. Your marketing inventory will help you determine where you are presently investing your marketing spend. If your SMB is already highly digital and lean in traditional, more than likely this marketing budget trend will continue on into 2014. If your business has a good blend of offline and online marketing activity, identify opportunities where perhaps some of your offline investments can be better streamlined with digital and social media if you are trying to lower your marketing expenses.

Planning for your SMBs 2014 marketing budget year is a very important task. Be sure to breakdown marketing and advertising categories as clearly and definitively as you can rather than lumping them into broad categories where you can’t or won’t be able to see important details and budget trends. And always remember to cushion for those unexpected marketing opportunities — such as tradeshows, events, seminars or special events — that will inevitably land on your lap throughout the year.

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson (@mayraruiz) is a marketing strategist, social media marketing speaker and founder of Ruiz McPherson Communications (@ruizmcpherson). She is also the host of the newly launched bizwork.TV, an internet marketing web show tailored to small business owners. To learn more about marketing budgets, tips and trends — and to keep up with Mayra and her many marketing adventures — sign up to her eMarketing Insider email newsletter or read her blog by visiting

Tummy Tuck or Mini Tummy Tuck?

Tummy Tuck surgery reshapes the abdomen through the removal of excess fat and skin and the tightening of the underlying muscles. Otherwise known as Abdominoplasty, Tummy Tuck surgery is designed to help contour the abdominal wall.

Tummy Tuck or Mini Tummy Tuck

After pregnancy eighty percent of women will have weakness or separation of the central abdominal wall muscles. This gives the abdomen a more prominent appearance. By raising the abdominal wall skin with Tummy Tuck surgery, the underlying muscles can be repaired and then the excess fat and skin removed. The tummy tuck surgery procedure is also valuable for both men and women who have excess fat and/or skin to the extent that liposuction would not achieve the desired results or body shape.

Usually a full tummy tuck starts with a horizontal incision well below the navel in the area commonly known as the ‘bikini line’. The precise location and size of the incision is governed by the degree of correction necessary. Tummy Tuck surgery is actually accomplished by repairing separated or weakened abdominal muscles and removing the build-up of excess fat, tissue and skin. A second incision around the navel is needed to remove excess abdominal skin in that area. All tummy tuck surgery incisions are closed with dissolvable sutures.

There are certain people who may benefit from a Mini Tummy Tuck procedure. This procedure is most commonly requested by patients after having children, losing their weight but noticing a

persistent lower abdominal “pooch”, usually present secondary to the stretching of the muscles during pregnancy.

This procedure is less invasive than a traditional tummy tuck and can be done on an outpatient basis. While a full tummy tuck involves an incision around the navel and across the lower abdomen, a mini tummy tuck leaves the navel intact and requires a smaller incision. Liposuction is done to the entire abdomen prior to tightening muscles from the navel to the pubis. Very often if a patient has had a C-section that scar can be used either alone or with minimal lengthening.

The end result of Tummy Tuck or Mini Tummy Tuck is a more flattering profile and contour that will be in tune with your body type and weight.

To find out more visit: or call 703-421-6000

and schedule your free consultation.


Peter KlainerAbout Peter Klainer, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Peter Klainer, founded Chrysalis Plastic Surgery, in Sterling, VA in 2000. He speaks both nationally and internationally about SmartLipo and was the first surgeon in the Virginia and Great Washington region to perform this procedure. Dr. Klainer is married (Tracy) and they are the proud parents of 2 college aged daughters.

Letter to a Pet-Owning Nation

A veterinarian IS a medical doctor. Trained in surgery, internal medicine, diagnosis of diseases and acute injuries, administering anesthesia; an animal doctor is your best friend’s most educated and skilled expert.

A veterinarian can open a living being, retrieve a swallowed sock, pair of underwear, or pieces of a shoe, sew the animal back up and send it home shortly afterwards. A veterinarian can set broken bones, diagnose and treat cancer, and look at a heart and diagnose palpitations, murmurs enlargements and failure. A veterinarian frequently treats kidney and bladder stones, Cushings disease, cancer, diabetes and Lyme disease.

A veterinarian is often the last person a pet sees before passing away. A veterinarian has the heart-aching responsibility of ending a pet’s suffering when little hope remains of recovery. A veterinarian helps pet owning families say goodbye, often with many of the family in attendance up until the last moment, without regard to “business hours” or “appointment schedules.” A veterinarian struggles internally with many cases, between performing best medicine and performing affordable medicine. A veterinarian has a greater risk of divorce, suicide, and financial ruin than most if not all other medical doctors.

A veterinarian is one of the most popular professions that children say they want to be when they grow up. Yet, in the United States there are only 28 vet schools, less than 1 per state. States like Virginia and Maryland “share” their medical school at Virginia Tech. According to the New York Times, there is just 1 veterinarian for every 10 human-medical doctors in the United States.

Many veterinarians are on the front lines of the US’s defense against contagious diseases, protecting the nation’s food supply, and are officers in the US military. There are veterinarians in Congress and some have been in the Senate. Increasingly, veterinarians are the only medical doctor in many rural towns.

A veterinarian is a small-business owner, employer, medical expert, confidant, and community icon. A veterinarian is the child who got straight-A’s throughout school, succeeded in even the most difficult subjects, could easily have gotten into human-medical schools, yet always knew from a young age that to be a veterinarian was the only road for them. However, statistically, a child is more likely to grow up and be in professional sports than be a veterinarian, both being just a sliver of the US workforce (less than 1/10 of 1%).

A veterinarian uses ultrasound, x-rays (or radiographs in medical terminology), endoscopes (the snakelike tube that lets one see inside a body without surgery), microscopes and lasers. Perhaps because veterinary medicine is predominantly pay-as-you-go, with fewer than 5% of pet-owners having pet insurance, veterinarians are forced to be on the leading edge of medical treatment methods, tracking human medical research studies, monitoring health treatment options overseas, and likely willing to treat using alternative medicine when they see convincing data of effectiveness (without the need to wait for medical insurance companies to sign-off). Veterinarians are increasingly learning acupuncture in medical school, since research has shown that in some cases it can be up to 80% effective in treating spinal paralysis compared iwth just 40% with surgery. Veterinarians are increasingly becoming specialized as allergists, internists, rehabilitation therapists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, pathologists and more.

Despite the increasing power and success of veterinarians and their tools to identify illness or injury in a non-talking patient, veterinarians are asked almost daily to skip diagnostic tests and/or guarantee a positive outcome from a medical treatment. Veterinarians are often challenged with questions like “Why can’t you do surgery for just $60?”, and most carefully explain why doctors don’t always require pain-blocking medicine, or pre-surgical tests to make sure a patient won’t die during surgery. As a veterinarian, Dr. Chau carefully explains why the pet the family purchased for $50, now requires hundreds of dollars of treatment, and the circumstances of how a family “received” the pet (often a gift) has no bearing on the cost of its care.

A veterinarian is a spokesperson for animals. A veterinarian, by many federal, state and local laws, is a “safe haven” for pets. They identify when a pet is suffering or ill, and can make recommendations that can greatly impact the quality and length of life. Veterinarians take their responsibilities seriously, are accountable to the state’s board of health professionals, and are sworn to uphold a high code of ethics.

Veterinarians are humanitarian to their core. They demonstrate the best of human virtues by treating patients with dignity, doing no harm, and relieving suffering. As an advocate for what is right and just for an animal that a family chooses, a pet could do no better for a “best friend”.

Dr. Chau demonstrates the best of human virtues, she is and does what is right. She is your family household pet’s best friend and looks forward to serving you and your 4-legged, furry friend in one of her two locations in Loudoun County – Middleburg and Chantilly, VA.

Dr. Chau

Dr. Hanh Chau, DVM, CVA, CCRT

Family Veterinary Hospital of Stone Ridge
24650 Stouth Point Drive, Suite 140
Chantilly, VA 20152

It’s No Longer A Man’s World


“Not all of the women buried at Arlington National Cemetery are spouses.” – Jas Boothe

Female veterans are now the fastest growing homeless population in the United States. They are three times more likely to be homeless than their male counterparts. Why is that?

Women did not officially start serving in the military until World War I, although many women served disguised as men far before that. Nonetheless, even today’s military women are serving in a male dominated military with the supportive services designed by men to help men

How long are we as a nation going to use that as an excuse to ignore 2,000,000 women Veterans and the 203,000 women who currently serve on active duty, including 69 generals and admirals? Some say that military women do not have the same responsibilities as men, after all, women have just been allowed to serve in combat. In short, women haven’t earned the same supportive services as men because their service and sacrifice are not equal to that of their male counterparts.

I have personal friends who are combat-related double leg amputees and they are women. These women were not wearing aprons and preparing meals for the men when they lost their limbs, they were right beside them. Despite the ban on women serving in combat, 2.7% of the military’s front-line units are made up of women. Women serve as gun crews, air crews and within seamanship specialties. Female officers represent 5.4% of those in tactical operations.

Women found themselves in firefights in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the men. Women made up 900 of the wounded in the two wars. Of the 3,500 Americans who died in Iraq, 67 were women. 33 servicewomen were killed in Afghanistan.

We want to believe those women were not serving in combat zones, that they didn’t die for their country or leave behind husbands and children. Not all the women buried at Arlington National Cemetery are spouses. And not all veterans who face homelessness are men. With programs and support, the homeless male veterans population is declining, but female veterans are the fastest growing homeless population. Yet services that address the unique needs of our sisters are few and far between.

Rocket propelled grenades do not discriminate by gender, how long will our country?

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