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Hi all,

I posted this over on the "foolish questions" board and was referred over here. ;) I searched through all the tax articles, but couldn't find anything that fit my questions exactly...
I have a few financial/tax/investment questions, and was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for the information I need. Any advice or info would be most appreciated!

I am a PhD student who was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship for about $15,000 last year. The university also paid my fees & tuition, which is about $1500/quarter, for 3 quarters. (I had no other income, except about $200 for various writing jobs I performed.)

The university didn't deduct any taxes, however, and I am going to owe big bucks (well, big for me) come April. I am under the impression that I will owe not only on the money I received, but also on the fee & tuition waivers I got. ACK!

My partner and I live very cheaply, and largely thanks to eating lots of macaroni and cheese, we managed to save $2,000 for me to put into an IRA acct, although it is sitting in savings right now while I figure out if our plan will work. (I'm 32 with no job-related
retirement monies yet, so this $2,000 is *it*, btw.)

Question #1: As a student who received a fellowship, can I use a regular, tax-deferred IRA for that $2,000 to lower my tax bill? I recently read (on that money invested in an IRA must be earned. Now, any PhD student will tell you that hours
of slaving over drafts of chapters for what comes out to be less than minimum wage is actually work, but how does the government feel about this? Is fellowship money "earnings"? Do IRAs have to be funded from wages and salaries?

Also, I am thinking of itemizing my taxes this year, as I incurred a lot of school-related expenses (computer, etc.). I study film criticism, and I know my profs deduct everything related to the field--from movie tickets to VCRs. I've saved about 70% of the book and
other receipts that were school/dissertation related, so I am in decent shape there.

Question #2: Do the same rules apply for me, as a student, as for my professors? Can I deduct things like the TV I ended up getting? (I had no TV but periodically teach a course on TV culture, and I also tape shows to use for my writing, and so it was becoming a necessity.) What about my computer? Or tickets to a film festival? (My dissertation is on film).

Lastly, I would like to talk to someone about longer-term financial well-being. I've read a bunch of books, and have looked through much of what the web offers, but I would like someone to look at my situation & advise me, or, better yet, teach me, how to make informed decisions. I'm a student who will have about $40,000 in student loans next June when I graduate. Aside from my student loans ($40,000 @ 8.5%), I am debt-free.

Question #3. I've heard horror stories about investment counselors" and financial planners. Any clue on what type of professional I will need and how much one usually pays for this kind of advice? (I will need to save for it, and want to know how much to sock away!)
I've never made more than $17,000/year--and that was atypically high for me. Any ideas if there are pro bono or low-cost classes or services that either offer advice or teach women who want to learn about finances/taxes/investing?

Thanks for your help!


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