What is A.M. Best Ratings and Why Should You Care?

When you are selecting an insurance company, it is important that you are aware of the insurer’s financial strength. Luckily, there are financial rating companies that do the hard work for you. One of these companies is A.M. 

Depending on the rating, you’ll be able to determine which insurance company is best for you.

It should be noted, A.M. Best is not the only rating company. There are several others, like the Fitch rating and Standard and Poors. 

A.M. Best Ratings AT A GLANCE

Year Founded

1899

Size

Largest credit rating agency in the world specializing in the insurance industry

HQ Address

Ambest Road

Oldwick, NJ 08858

United States

Phone Number

800-544-2378 

A.M. Best Company Information

So, what makes this one rating company special? They aren’t the only rating company out there, but they are the most notable and most widely used.

To quote A.M. Best, their rating system “. . . is an independent opinion of an insurer’s financial strength and ability to meet its ongoing insurance policy and contractual obligations. It is based on a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a company’s balance sheet, strength, operating performance and business profile.”

Aside from giving the companies a letter grade on their scale, the rating company also includes an outlook projection. They give them an outlook of either positive, negative, or stable. While these are just guesses, with A.M. Best they have research and previous information to base their outlooks on.

A.M. Best provides a way for each company to see just where they rank with consumers and helps them know just what they have to do to correct their mistakes.
Finding out what is A.M. Best ratings for insurance companies is the first step towards getting a secure policy for you and your family.

How Does A.M. Best Insurance Ratings Scale Work?

For a professional company, using a basic method of grading insurance companies has proven to be an effective and helpful tactic. Here’s how the A.M. Best Insurance rating scale works:

  • A++, A+, A, and A- all identify the top insurance companies. Receiving an A for the company shows how financially strong they are, how capable a company is of guaranteeing your policy and keeping it secure.
  • B++, B+, B, and B- ratings rank companies as good for those who can’t afford what higher ranked companies offer their services for. With a B ranking, you can depend on the company to provide a secure policy for affordable rates and rely on them to help your family get the help they need once you’re gone. For client’s knowing that your family has something to fall back on during difficult times is a welcome relief.
  • C++ and C+ are the only two scores for the C category, indicating an average insurance company. No bells or whistles attached, just a straightforward policy with straightforward premiums, a great choice for the first time you buy life insurance.
  • A ‘D’ rank is only reserved for companies that fall below A.M. Best’s minimum standards, an E rank means the company is under state supervision, and an F rank is only for companies going into liquidation. Any rating below a C shows how unreliable the company within the industry.

It’s obviously important to understand the rating scale of the insurance company before buying your life insurance.

A.M. Best Ratings For Insurance Companies

Now you have an understanding of what is A.M. Best ratings and how they work. A visit to the A.M. Best website is the perfect choice when looking for an insurance company. A company’s ranking shows just how dependable they are and if you’re getting all the benefits you should be for what you’ll pay in premiums. “What is A.M. Best ratings” is a question best asked when beginning to search for a policy, a question that can make your search easier and simpler than you originally thought.

Why A.M. Best Matters

Sure, it’s nice to find a company with an A+ rating, but does it matter? How does it impact you or your life insurance policy?

These ratings are a good indicator of how much you can trust your insurance company. If a company doesn’t have good financial strength, there is always a chance that the company could go bankrupt and your policy wouldn’t be paid out, which is a terrible turn of events.

There is no way to predict the future or what could happen to a company, but rating systems give us more direction that completely guessing. The A.M. Best ratings give you an idea of the past and stability of a company without you having to do the research yourself.

Unless you’re really connected with the insurance industry, you probably don’t know which insurance companies have been around the longest or which ones have experienced financial problems in the past.

Because life insurance is such an important purchase, it’s vital that the company that you choose is going to be around for hundreds of years to come. Life insurance gives you and your loved ones the peace of mind and financial coverage that they need in case something tragic were to happen.

How do A.M. Best Ratings Compare?

How does A.M. Best compare to other popular rating companies? A.M. Best is not the only company on the market that rates insurance. A few other popular options are Fitch and Standard and Poors.

Below we compared A.M. Best, Fitch and Standard and Poors. In this table, it is important to note that though the ratings may appear in the same row, it does not mean they are equal to each other. For example, Fitch’s AA rating may differ from Standard and Poors. 

Ratings of Insurers’ Financial Strength

A.M. Best Fitch Standard and Poors
A++, A+ AAA AAA
Superior ability to meet ongoing obligations Exceptionally strong capacity to pay financial commitments Extremely strong financial security characteristics. Highest S&P rating
Not Applicable AA AA
Companies rated A+ are one “notch” lower than those rated A++ Very strong capacity to pay financial commitments Very strong financial security characteristics
A, A- A A
Very strong capacity to meet financial commitments Strong capacity to pay financial commitment Strong financial security characteristics
B++, B+ BBB BBB
Good ability to meet financial obligations Adequate capacity to pay financial commitments Good financial security characteristics
B, B- BB BB
Fair ability to meet financial commitments Elevated vulnerability to default risk but has flexibility to service financial commitments Marginal financial security characteristics
C++, C+ B B
Marginal ability to meet their ongoing insurance obligations. Significant risk of default with limited margin of safety Weak financial security characteristics

History of A.M. Best

Alfred Best founded A.M. Best Company in 1899. A.M. Best is one of the oldest and most established rating companies in the world. They were established with the goal of reporting the financial stability of insurance companies. They currently have ratings for companies that are in more than 80 different countries across the world.

Bottom Line

When you start looking for a life insurance policy (or any other kind of insurance policy), it’s important that you look at the company’s A.M. Best rating. While their rating shouldn’t be the determining factor in your decision, it’s important to know that you’re buying a policy from a reputable company.

A faulty insurance company shouldn’t keep you from getting the coverage that you and your loved ones deserve. Don’t be one of the countless stories of a family that suffers the loss of a family member, and then learns that they have thousands of dollars of debt and no way to pay for it.

The post What is A.M. Best Ratings and Why Should You Care? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

5 Things to Know About the Home Office Tax Deduction and Coronavirus

Since the coronavirus quarantine began, many people have been forced to work from home. If you didn’t have a home office before the pandemic, you might have had a few expenses to set one up. I’ve received several questions about what benefits are allowed for home offices during the COVID-19 crisis.

One question came in on the QDT coronavirus question page. Money Girl reader Ian said:

"I have a question about next year's taxes and working from home. For the past 13 weeks, I have been forced to work from a home office. (I am a regular W-2 employee, not self-employed.) I have had some expenses come up that were brought about by working from home: a computer upgrade so I can better connect to Wi-Fi, a new router, and even a desk chair so I am comfortable while I work. Should I be keeping track of those expenses? Will they be deductible? My employer is not going to reimburse them. Thank you for your help!"

Another question came from Miki, who used my contact page at Lauradadams.com to reach me. She said:

"Hi, Laura, and thank you for a wonderful podcast! I've been listening for years and have always thought that you'd have a show for any question I could ever think of. But this new situation with COVID-19 has made me think of something that I'm sure many of us are dealing with right now.

"To start working from home, I had to spend quite a bit of money to get my home office on par with my actual office. I know you've done episodes on claiming home office expenses on taxes before, but could you do an episode on whether we can claim home office expenses on our taxes next year? And if we can, things we should start thinking about now (aside from saving the receipts)?"

Thanks for your kind words and thoughtful questions! I'll explain who qualifies for a home office tax deduction and serve up some tips for claiming it.

5 things to know about the home office tax deduction during coronavirus

Here's the detail on five things you should know about qualifying for the home office tax deduction in 2020.

1. COVID-19 has not changed the home office tax law

The CARES Act changed many personal finance rules—including specific tax deadlines, retirement distributions, and federal student loan payments—but the home office tax deduction is not one of them. In a previous post and podcast, Your Guide to Claiming a Legit Home Office Tax Deduction, I covered the fact that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 drastically changed who can claim this valuable deduction.

Before the TCJA, you could claim a home office deduction whether you worked for yourself or for an employer either full- or part-time. Unfortunately, W-2 employees can no longer take advantage of this tax benefit. Now, you must have self-employment income to qualify. My guess is that the IRS was concerned that it was too easy to abuse this benefit and reined it in.

Before the TCJA, you could claim a home office deduction whether you worked for yourself or for an employer either full- or part-time. Unfortunately, W-2 employees can no longer take advantage of this tax benefit.

The best option for an employee is to request expense reimbursement from your current or future employer even though they're not obligated to pay you. If you get pushback, make a list of all your home office expenses so it's clear how much you spent on their behalf. They might consider it for your next cost of living raise or bonus.

Unless Miki or Ian have a side business that they started or will start, before the end of 2020, they won't get deductions to help offset their home office setup costs.

 

2. The self-employed can claim a home office tax deduction

Let’s say you use a space in a home that you rent or own for business purposes in 2020. There are two pretty straightforward qualifications to qualify for the home office deduction:

  • Your home office space must be used regularly and exclusively for business
  • Your home office must be the principal place used for business

You could use a spare bedroom or a hallway nook to run your business. You don’t need walls to separate your office, but the space should be distinct—unless you qualify for an exemption, such as running a daycare. It’s permissible to use a separate structure, such as a garage or studio, as your home office if you use it regularly for business.

You must use your home as the primary place you conduct business—even if it’s just for administrative work, such as scheduling and bookkeeping. However, your home doesn’t have to be the only place you work in. For instance, you might work at a coffee shop or meet clients there from time to time and still be eligible for a home office tax deduction.

3. Your business can be full- or part-time to qualify for a home office tax deduction

If you work for yourself in any trade or business, either full- or part-time, and your primary office location is your home, you have a home business. No matter what you call yourself or your business, if you have self-employment income and do any portion of the work at home, you probably have an eligible home office. You might sell goods and services as a small business, freelancer, consultant, independent contractor, or gig worker.

If you work for yourself in any trade or business, either full- or part-time, and your primary office location is your home, you have a home business.

As I previously mentioned, the work you do at home could just be administrative tasks for your business, such as communication, scheduling, invoicing, and recordkeeping. Many types of solopreneurs and trades do most of their work away from home and still qualify for a legitimate home office deduction. These may include gig economy workers, sales reps, and those in the construction industry.

4. You can deduct direct home office expenses for your business

If you run a business from home, your direct home office expenses qualify for a tax deduction. These are costs to set up and maintain your office, such as furnishings, installing a phone line, or painting the walls. These costs are 100% deductible, no matter the size of the office.  

5. You can deduct indirect home office expenses for your business

Additionally, you’ll have costs that are related to your office that affect your entire home. For instance, if you’re a renter, the cost of rent, renters insurance, and utilities are examples of indirect expenses. You’d have these expenses even if you didn’t have a home office.

If you own your home, potential indirect expenses typically include mortgage interest, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, and maintenance. You can't deduct the principal portion of your mortgage payment, which is the amount borrowed for the home. Instead, you’re allowed to recover a part of the cost each year through depreciation deductions, using formulas created by the IRS.

Allowable indirect expenses actually turn some of your personal costs into home office business deductions, which is fantastic! They’re partially deductible based on the size of your office as a percentage of your home—unless you use a simplified calculation, which I’ll cover next.

How to calculate your home office tax deduction

If you qualify for the home office deduction, there are two ways you can calculate it: the standard method or the simplified method.

The standard method requires you to keep good records and calculate the percentage of your home used for business. For example, if your home office is 12 feet by 10 feet, that’s 120 square feet. If your entire home is 1,200 square feet, then diving 120 by 1,200 gives you a home office space that’s 10% of your home.

In this example, 10% of your qualifying expenses could be attributed to business use, and the remaining 90% would be for personal use. If your monthly power bill is $100 and 10% of your home qualifies for business use, you can consider $10 of the bill a business expense.

To claim the standard deduction, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure out the expenses you can deduct and then file it with Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

The simplified method doesn’t require you to keep any records, which makes it incredibly easy to claim. You can claim $5 per square foot of your office area, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. So, that caps your deduction at $1,500 (300 square feet x $5) per year.

The simplified method requires you to measure your office space and include it on Schedule C. It works best for small home offices, while the standard approach is better when your office is bigger than 300 square feet. You can choose the method that gives you the largest tax break for any year.

No matter which method you choose to calculate a home office tax deduction, you can't deduct more than your business's net profit. However, you can carry them forward into future tax years.

Also note that business expenses that are unrelated to your home office—such as marketing, equipment, software, office supplies, and business insurance—are fully deductible no matter where you run your business.

If you have any questions about qualifying business expenses, home office expenses, or taxes, consult with a qualified tax accountant to maximize every possible deduction and save money. The cost of working with a trusted financial advisor or tax pro is worth every penny.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

The 5 Things Single Parents Need to Consider about Life Insurance

There are plenty of ways to save at buybuy Baby without cutting your registry and wishlist short.

As a parent, one of the scariest things to think about is what your children will do if something happens to you someday. This can be even scarier if you’re a single parent without a partner to fall back on.

But here’s the thing: you are the sole provider for your children. It’s even more important that you take time to consider all the future possibilities. Here’s what you need to know about life insurance, including how much coverage to get and how much it’s likely to cost.

How Much Coverage Do You Need?

The biggest life insurance question is usually about how much coverage you need. There are all sorts of rules of thumb for this issue. Some say you need seven times your current annual income, while others say more or less.

But how much coverage you need really depends on how the benefit would need to be used if you were to pass away. Ultimately, this depends on a few factors, including the following:

  • How old your children are right now
  • Who would care for them if you were to pass away
  • What that caregiver would need to be able to care for your children
  • How much debt you currently have
  • Whether or not you want to pay for your children’s college costs

Let’s break this down, then, into the five things you’ll need to consider to get the most out of your life insurance policy.

1. Talk to Potential Caregivers

If you don’t already have plans for alternative caregivers for your children, now is the time to make them. Your life insurance decisions will largely hinge on the circumstances of those who would care for your children in the event of your death.

For instance, let’s say you have four kids who would live with your parents if you passed away. If your parents have already downsized into a retirement home, they’d probably need to move to care for your children. In this case, you need to account for their additional moving and housing expenses in your life insurance policy. If they’ve already retired, you may need to consider the other ways that caring for your children would impact their ability to cover their own living expenses.

But what if you have only one child who would move in with family friends if you passed away? If your friends already have a few kids of their own, they may not need to move or add on to their home to accommodate your child. In this case, you may not need quite as much life insurance coverage.

It’s a good idea to have an up-front conversation with potential caregivers. What would they need in order to care for your children appropriately? These are difficult conversations to have, but they’re an essential part of this equation.

2. Think about Your Kids’ Needs

How much insurance you require also depends on your kids’ ages and needs. If you have younger children, you’ll need more coverage—and you’ll need it to last longer. If your kids are older, though, you can probably purchase a shorter policy with less coverage.

Beyond just their ages, you’ll want to consider your kids’ particular needs as well. Are they currently attending a private school that you’d want them to continue attending? Or maybe you have a child with special medical needs. Make sure your policy is large enough to cover those costs.

If you want to fund your children’s college attendance with your death benefit, you’ll need quite a bit more coverage. If you can’t afford to cover college tuition right now, you could also look at college funds as the icing on the cake. In a couple of years, if you’re in a better place, consider upping your policy or adding a second one to cover these costs.

3. Consider Your Current Financial Situation

Even those without children should have enough life insurance coverage to tackle leftover debts and other end-of-life expenses, but it can be even more important for single parents. You’ll want to be sure your children aren’t dealing with a burden of debt while also grieving your loss. If possible, you’ll want to cover the full amount of your debt so they don’t need to.

Keep in mind the costs of end-of-life services, like a funeral service and burial, as well. These can run as much as $10,000 and be a real financial burden if you forget to plan for them yourself.

4. Add It All Up, and See What You Need

Now it’s time to determine how much total life insurance coverage you need. Here’s an example, based on the recommendation that you cover seven times your annual salary.

Sherry is a single mom of a four-year-old and a ten-year-old. She makes about $40,000 per year. If she passed away, her parents would care for the kids, and they’d need to move into a larger home to do so. She has about $25,000 in debt, outside of her mortgage, and she would want to fund both kids’ college funds with her life insurance. Here’s where she stands:

  • Income Replacement: $280,000
  • Additional Housing Costs: $50,000
  • Debt: $25,000
  • End of Life Expenses: $10,000
  • College Funds: $200,000
  • Total Life Insurance Needs: $565,000

That sounds like a lot, right? Before you decide you can’t afford insurance, though, take the next step.

5. Check Out Term Life Insurance Coverage

Over half a million dollars in life insurance coverage seems like a lot, but many people actually overestimate the actual costs of such insurance, especially for healthy, relatively young individuals.

The key is to get term insurance (unless you have a good reason to have more expensive whole life insurance coverage) for only as long as you need it. The longer your term, the more expensive your coverage. Sherry should probably have a 15-year policy, which would cover her until her children are both adults. And if Sherry is in good health, a policy like this could cost well under $50 per month. That’s much better, right?

Once you know how much coverage you need, it’s time to shop around. Plenty of online quoting systems can get you an estimate on your costs in just a few minutes.

These steps aren’t fun to think about. But having an affordable life insurance policy you know will protect your loved ones is worth a bit of discomfort. Check out our Personal Finance Learning Center to ensure you’re on the right track to keep your children safe and secure when you’re no longer here.

Image: Juanmonino

The post The 5 Things Single Parents Need to Consider about Life Insurance appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

100 Birthday Freebies ~~ Celebrate WIth Free Stuff in 2021!

Hooray! It’s your birthday!

The last thing you should do is pay for stuff. So we’ve put together a list of 100 places where you can get birthday freebies, updated for 2021.

Most of these places require you to sign up for their email list or join their rewards club at least seven days before your birthday.

So get busy now and enjoy the free birthday stuff as it rolls in on your big day.

100 Places to Get Birthday Freebies

These restaurants and retailers will provide you with free treats for your birthday. Be sure to sign up in advance.

A&W All American Food

Get a free root beer float on your birthday by joining the Mug Club.

ABC Liquor

Sign up for ABC Liquor Access to get a “birthday gift.”

AMC Theatres

Become an AMC Stubs Insider to get a free large popcorn during your birthday month. If you’re a Premiere or A-List member, you’ll also get a free large fountain drink.

Anthropologie

As a member of the Anthro Loyalty program, you will get a “special treat to celebrate your birthday.”

Applebee’s

Sign up for the email club, and get $5 off when you spend at least $25. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Arby’s

Sign up for Arby’s emails and get a free milkshake and curly fries on your birthday when you buy any sandwich. You’ll also get a free small fries and small soft drink when you sign up.

Au Bon Pain

Join the Eclub, and get a free coffee and pastry on your birthday. You’ll also get a travel mug and daily discounts on coffee just for signing up.

Auntie Anne’s

Download the Pretzel Perks app, and get a free pretzel on your birthday.

Aveda

You need to spend $10 to join Aveda’s loyalty rewards program, but you’ll receive a birthday gift valued at $23, as well as double points for your next Aveda purchase.

Baja Fresh

Sign up for Club Baja to get a “special offer” on your birthday.

bareMinerals

Sign up for the Friends and Benefits loyalty program to get “birthday gifts.”

Baskin Robbins

Create an account, join the Birthday Club, and get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

Banana Republic

When you sign up to receive Banana Republic’s emails, you can opt to also get a “birthday gift.”

bd’s Mongolian Grill

Get a free meal on your birthday when you join the bd’s Rewards eClub, plus get a $5 coupon just for signing up.

Benihana’s

Register for the Chef’s Table, and you’ll get a $30 birthday certificate.

Best Buy

My Best Buy members get a “birthday gift.”

Big Boy

Joining the I Love Big Boy email club gets you a free meal on your birthday.

BJ’s Brewhouse

Join Premier Rewards Plus and get a free Pizookie for your birthday. What’s that? It’s a big, warm cookie smothered in ice cream… yum. What’s even better is you don’t have to wait for your birthday – you’ll also get a free Pizookie just for signing up.

Black Angus Steakhouse

Join the Prime Club to get a free steak dinner on your first birthday as a member.

Bojangles’

Get a free Bo-Berry Biscuit with a purchase on your birthday as a member of the Bojangles’ eClub.

Bruegger’s Bagels

Members of the Bruegger’s Bagels eClub will enjoy a “free treat” on their birthday, as well as a free bagel and cream cheese just for signing up.

Buca di Beppo

You’ll receive a free pasta after signing up, as well as a $20 birthday gift for joining the eClub.

The sign of Buffalo Wild Wings is photographed.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards to get free birthday wings during your birth month.

Carvel

Join Fudgie Fanatics to receive a free treat for your birthday. You can get a small soft serve birthday cone, take $2 off any cake (except for a small square) or take $3 off any sheet cake.

Chevys Fresh Mex

Members of the eClub get a free entree on their birthday, as well as a free appetizer for signing up.

Chick-fil-A

Join Chick-fil-A One to get a “birthday reward.”

Chili’s

Get a free dessert for your birthday when you join My Chili’s Rewards Club, plus get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage with every visit!

Chipotle

Join the Chipotle rewards program to get free chips and guacamole on your birthday when you make a purchase of $5 or more. When you sign up and make your first purchase, you’ll also get free chips and a choice of guacamole, queso blanco or salsa.

Cinnabon

Subscribe to Club Cinnabon to get a free iced coffee on your birthday and a free order of BonBites for signing up.

Cold Stone Creamery

Get a BOGO coupon for your birthday by signing up for the My Cold Stone Club. You’ll also get a BOGO coupon just for signing up!

Columbia

Members of the Greater Rewards program get a “birthday gift” in addition to a welcome gift from the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer.

Container Store

Join the POP! (Perfectly Organized Perks) program to get a birthday gift.

Culver’s

Enjoy a free sundae on your birthday when you sign up for MyCulver’s. You’ll also get a BOGO value basket when you sign up.

The exterior of a CVS is photographed in Florida.

CVS Pharmacy

As a member of the ExtraCare Beauty Club, you’ll get “birthday gifts with beauty surprises,” as well as 10% off for joining.

Del Taco

If you’re a Raving Fan eClub member, you can enjoy a regular-size premium shake for your birthday, plus you’ll get two free grilled chicken tacos when you sign up.

Denny’s

Sign up for Denny’s Rewards program online or via the mobile app. You’ll get 20% off your next visit, plus a free stack of buttermilk pancakes on your birthday when you order online at Dennys.com.

Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW)

Join the free DSW VIP Club to get a $5 birthday reward. You’ll also get $5 on your birthday if you spend $200 annually as a VIP Gold member, and you’ll get $10 if you spend $500 annually as a VIP Elite member.

Dippin’ Dots

Get free Dippin’ Dots for your birthday when you join the Dot Crazy! Email Club.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

Edible Arrangements

Join Edible Rewards and receive a free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box (valued at $29.99) during your birthday month. You’ll also get a $5 coupon for signing up (valid for 30 days).

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Get a free egg sandwich with a purchase on your birthday when you join the Shmear Society — not totally free, but hey, you’ll need something to help wash that sandwich down. You’ll have 14 days to claim your reward.

Famous Dave’s

Join the Famous Nation and get a free dessert with a value of up to $9.00 for your birthday.

Famous Footwear

Famously You Rewards members get a $5 birthday cash reward.

Firehouse Subs

Sign up for Firehouse Rewards for a free medium sub on your birthday or in the six days that follow it.

First Watch

Get a BOGO breakfast, brunch or lunch for your birthday as a member of the Sun EClub.

Friendly’s

When you become a BFF Club member, you’ll receive a free birthday sundae.

Godiva

As a member of the Godiva Rewards Club, you’ll get a free birthday chocolate offer every year.

Habit Burger Grill

Be sure to join Habit Burger Grill’s CharClub to enjoy a free Charburger on your birthday.

Harkins Theatres

Sign up for My Harkins Rewards and receive a $5 birthday coupon to use at the concessions.

Hard Rock

Sign up for Hard Rock Rewards to get an “annual birthday offer” from the cafe and shops.

Hooters

Get 10 free boneless birthday wings when you sign up for Hootclub. You’ll also get $5 off your first purchase of $25 or more when you sign up.

Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar

Email club members get a free birthday entree, plus $10 off just for joining.

IHOP

Sign up for MyHop and get free pancakes on your birthday. You’ll also get free pancakes on the anniversary of your sign-up.

Challenge yourself to score as many birthday freebies as possible and make the celebration — and savings — last all month!

J. Crew Factory

When you sign up for Factory First, you’ll get an extra 20% off and free shipping on your birthday. You’ll also get an extra 15% off your first purchase after signing up.

JCPenney

Receive a birthday gift when you sign up for JCPenney Rewards. If you are not a JCPenney credit card member, you must have earned points within the last 21 months.

A woman smiles as she holds up a drink and a sub she got for free from Jersey Mike's Subs.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Get a free birthday sub when you sign up for the email club.

Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott offers a 50% birthday discount on one fashion jewelry or color bar item. It also offers a 25% discount on fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry or gold vermeil jewelry. You can also get 25% off a home goods item. Find out more information here.

Kohl’s

Members of the Kohl’s Rewards program get a “special birthday gift.”

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive a free Original Glazed Dozen. You’ll also get a free doughnut when you sign up.

Longhorn Steakhouse

As a member of the Longhorn Steakhouse’s eClub, you’ll get “special offers and coupons” on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Marie Callender’s

Join the eClub, and get $5 off the purchase of two entrees, plus two free slices of pie, the choice of a free “Marie’s Magnificent Six” or a free slice of pie with the purchase of an entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a special dine-in offer for signing up. The company also sends special offers for your wedding anniversary and allows you to add family members so they can get birthday rewards.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sign up for Rockin’ Rewards and get a coupon for a free birthday burrito, plus a free cup of queso just for signing up.

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Join the Nothing Bundt Cakes eClub and get a free Bundtlet on your birthday.

Old Navy

Opt into the Birthday Club when you subscribe to Old Navy’s emails to get a “free birthday gift.”

Olive Garden

Get a complimentary dessert on your birthday by signing up for the eClub. You’ll get a free dessert or appetizer when you sign up.

On the Border

Join Club Cantina and get free queso on your birthday, and just for signing up.

Pandora

Members of the Pandora Club get a 15% discount during their birthday month. This offer can only be used one time and is valid on regular-priced jewelry only.

Pei Wei

Sign up for My Wei Rewards and choose from these birthday freebies: crab wontons, traditional edamame, vegetable spring rolls or pork egg roll. The reward will automatically appear in your app seven days prior to your birthday.

Perkins

Members of the MyPerkins Club receive a free Magnificent Seven meal on their birthdays. The meal includes two eggs, any way you like, plus two smoked bacon strips and three buttermilk pancakes. Plus you’ll get a 20% off coupon for signing up. You will also be able to add your children ages 12 and under so they can get birthday rewards, too.

Pinkberry

Sign up for a Pinkcard or download the app, and receive a free yogurt on your birthday.

Pita Pit

Sign up for the Pita Pit Rewards Club and receive a free pita on your birthday.

Pizza Hut

Join the Hut Rewards program to get a “birthday reward.”

Planet Smoothie

Join the Planet Smoothie Club and receive a free smoothie for your birthday.

A person selects a movie from a red box.

Redbox

Sign up for Redbox Perks and receive a free birthday rental (it must be used within 60 days). You’ll also get a free one-night rental for signing up (that offer is valid for two weeks).

Red Lobster

Enjoy a “birthday surprise” when you sign up for the My Red Lobster Rewards program.

Red Robin

Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.

Rita’s

Get a free Italian ice on your birthday when you download Rita’s Ice App.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Sign up for the email club, and get a free dessert on your birthday.

Ruby Tuesday

As a member of So Connected, you’ll get a choice of a free burger or a free garden bar entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer for signing up.

Sephora

Beauty Insiders are eligible to choose a free makeup or skin care gift for their birthday.

Sbarro

Become a member of the Slice Society to get a birthday surprise. You’ll also get a free New York slice when you buy a beverage after signing up.

Sonny’s BBQ

Get a free Big Deal Combo meal on your big day by joining the ‘Q Crew, plus a $5 coupon just for joining.

Sprinkles

Receive a free cupcake (make that a baker’s dozen if you’re a Red Velvet tier member) for your birthday when you join Sprinkles Perks.

Iced coffees from Starbucks sit on a table outside.

Starbucks

Get a birthday beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards.

Subway

Sign up for the Subway MyWay Rewards program and the sandwich-making company will give you “something special” on your birthday.

Swagbucks

As a birthday reward, “you’ll receive a Swag Up for a 55 SB credit when you redeem your next gift card.”

Pro Tip

Be sure to check out our Swagbucks review for how to get the most out of Swagbucks.

TCBY

Sign up for TCBY emails, and receive your first 3 ounces free on your birthday.

Texas Roadhouse

Sign up for the email club and you’ll get a free appetizer or a sidekick of ribs on your birthday.

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The Melting Pot

Members of Club Fondue will get a “birthday voucher.”

The Spaghetti Warehouse

Join the Warehouse Club, and get a free meal on your birthday, plus a free appetizer with an entree purchase for becoming a member of the club.

Tijuana Flats

Become a Flathead and receive a free dessert for your birthday. You’ll also get a free Tijuana Trio when you sign up.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app to be eligible for a birthday reward. What you get depends on your loyalty tier, but it ranges from a $2 reward to a free menu item.

Ulta Beauty

As an Ultamate Rewards member, you’ll get an offer for extra bonus points on all purchases during your birthday month.

Uniqlo

Download the Uniqlo app to get a birthday coupon during your birthday month.

Uno Pizzeria & Grill

Join the Uno Insider’s Club, and receive a free dessert on your birthday, as well as a free appetizer with an entree purchase when you join.

Waffle House

Make sure you’re a member of the Waffle House Regulars Club to receive a free waffle on your birthday. You’ll also get free hashbrowns when you sign up.

Wienerschnitzel

Join the Wiener Lovers’ Club, and get a free coupon each year on your birthday, plus a free chili dog for joining.

World Market

Members of World Market Rewards get a “surprise offer” on their birthday, plus a 15% coupon for signing up.

Yogurt Mountain

Join the YOMO Club, and get free yogurt on your birthday.

Zaxby’s

Sign up for the Zax Club and get a free Big Zax Snak on your birthday, plus a free sandwich meal for signing up.

Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? Visit The Penny Hoarder Shop to see what freebies are available.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

5 Best Places to Find Insurance for Freelancers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 million workers are self-employed in the country. Being a self-employed worker can be liberating, but it also means you’re your own HR department, too. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding affordable insurance options.

With a traditional employer, you had a limited array of health insurance options, and you might’ve had access to a team that could help you understand the paperwork and process. Now that you’re on your own, you’ll also have to navigate this maze on your own.

It won’t be easy, but we can help lessen the burden a bit by helping you learn about your options.  

Pros Cons
Online Insurance Marketplaces Lots of options to choose fromCan get personalized help in finding the right plan Sellers might be biased and offer a plan that’s not right for you
Affordable Care Act Marketplaces Might qualify for subsidies to lower costCan find out if you’re eligible for Medicaid/ CHIP/ other low-cost insurance optionsGuaranteed coverage for essentials Can only enroll at certain times of year or after certain eventsCosts can be high if you don’t qualify for subsidies
Short-term Health Insurance Low cost Doesn’t cover essentialsDoesn’t cover pregnancy Doesn’t cover pre-existing conditionsMight not available in your state
Through a Spouse or Domestic Partner Low cost  Not available for single peopleMight have to pay more than your spouse/partner for coverage
Freelancers Union or Other Associations Might be able to get lower rates through a group plan Might not have as many options available

1. Online Insurance Marketplaces

Insurance marketplaces (also known as “brokers”) are for-profit companies that sell Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange plans and non-ACA plans. It provides you with more information and assistance than going through the ACA exchange on your own. There’s no cost to use an online marketplace; instead, it gets a kickback from the insurance companies when it sells you an insurance plan. 

That kickback can be up to an average of $20/month depending on where you live, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s not chump change so brokers might present you with biased estimates. When you’re working with a broker, it’s important to ask them whether they’re presenting you with all of the options available on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, and if not, why not. 

PolicyGenius

PolicyGenius is one of the largest and easiest-to-use online insurance marketplaces. In addition to health insurance, you can also get quotes for life insurance, homeowners insurance, auto insurance, renters insurance, disability insurance, and more. 

To learn about insurance plans that might be right for you, choose the type of insurance you’re looking for on the homepage. Then, enter your zip code, county, and email address to see the list of plans and carriers available to you.

eHealth

eHealth offers health insurance plans from over 180 companies. It’s also heavily focused toward Medicare and can help you figure out your options for this unique health insurance program. To see an immediate list of insurance plan options, select the type of insurance you’re shopping for and enter your zip code.

HealthMarkets.com

Speaking to a live agent can help you better understand which plan is right for you. But if you’re not ready to take that step, HealthMarkets offers a short survey instead. Once you’ve completed the survey, it compares your responses to multiple plan coverages and generates a “FitScore” for each plan that’s tailored to you. The FitScore can help you easily see which insurance plan fits your needs the best.  

2. Affordable Care Act Marketplace

The Affordable Care Act is the biggest government initiative in recent years that tries to address how people — including freelancers — get affordable health insurance. The ACA created a central health insurance marketplace that’s run by either your state government or the federal government, depending on where you live.

Your options on the ACA marketplace are graded according to a set of metal tiers:

Plan tier 2020 average premium1 Insurance company pays… You pay…
Bronze $331 60% 40%
Silver $442 70% 30%
Gold $462 80% 20%
Platinum $501 90% 10%
1This is a nationwide average for the cheapest plan at each tier level. 

It’s important to note two things here: first, the cost varies widely across the country. For example, the cheapest Bronze plan for one person costs an average of $219 in Rhode Island, but $552 in West Virginia. 

Second, these numbers might shock you. If you’re a four-person family in West Virginia, for example, paying $2,208 per month on health insurance might seem like the opposite of affordable, and it is. 

But one of the best features of the ACA is that depending on your income, you might qualify for subsidies that’ll help bring your actual cost down to an affordable level. You’re also notified if you qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, or other free or low-cost health insurance options.

To sign up for an ACA plan you’ll need to wait until the open enrollment period each November through December for plans that start in the new year. If you have a “qualifying life event” (see below), you can also sign up at any time:

  • If you lose your existing coverage (e.g. if you lost your job)
  • If you have a change in your household (e.g. getting married)
  • If you move to a new area
  • If you have a big income change, become a member of a tribe or become a U.S. citizen, leave AmeriCorps service, or leave jail or prison

3. Short-Term Health Insurance

Short-term health insurance plans are different from ACA plans because they’re not as tightly regulated. For example, they generally don’t cover preventative healthcare like annual doctor’s visits, pregnancy care, or prescription drugs. 

They also come with high deductibles and carriers impose dollar limits for payouts. This type of plan is best as a temporary stop-gap measure for protection, if you get really sick or have a major accident while you’re in-between better insurance plans. 

In fact, these plans are so consumer-unfriendly that they’re banned or heavily regulated in many states. Short-term health insurance plans are usually around 20% of the cost of a low-level Bronze plan, according to one Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But remember: if you need to see a doctor, it might cost you a lot more than if you purchased a full health care plan from the ACA marketplace or another source. 

4. Through a Spouse or Domestic Partner

Not everyone has this option, but if you do, it’s generally the best way to get insured as a freelancer. Employers can provide health insurance at affordable rates for their employees, and often, their employee’s family members, too. 

You might have to pay an additional fee to be included on your spouse or partner’s plan. But it’ll usually be much cheaper than finding your own plan through a broker or the ACA exchange without a subsidy. If you’re not married but you’re in a partnership you can check with your partner’s employer to see what’s required to qualify as a “domestic partner” for insurance purposes. 

5. Freelancers Union or Associations

Professional associations can often get similar discounts that employers receive. The Freelancers Union (an unofficial union), for example, offers options for health insurance, vision insurance, and dental insurance for freelancers. 

Like so many other insurance-related rates, the actual cost of these plans depends on where you live. The Freelancers Union doesn’t charge a membership fee, but other organizations do. If so, you’ll need to weigh the cost of a membership fee against any potential savings you might get from buying health insurance through an association.

Finding the Best Health Insurance for You 

The biggest factor to consider when shopping for health insurance plans as a freelancer is what your needs are. 

For example, if you’re trying to start a family, you’ll want to avoid short-term health insurance plans that don’t cover pregnancy expenses. If you have a chronic illness and need health care more frequently, choosing a “cheap” Bronze health insurance plan can actually cost you more over the long run because these plans offer minimal coverage. 

It’s not always easy to know what kind of health services you’ll need in the upcoming year. Some events, like a major car accident, can’t be planned. But if you focus on the kind of health services you need today, and compare multiple health insurance plans from different carriers, you’ll find there are many health insurance options for freelancers. 

The post 5 Best Places to Find Insurance for Freelancers appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: Which Is Best for You?

A smiling mother lays on her bed with two smiling young children. They are looking at a tablet together.

Taking out a life insurance policy is a great
way to protect your family’s financial future. A policy can also be a useful
financial planning tool. But life insurance is a notoriously tricky subject to
tackle.

One of the hardest challenges is deciding
whether term life or whole life insurance is a better fit for you.

Not sure what separates term life from whole
life in the first place? You’re not alone. Insurance industry jargon can be
thick, but we’re here to clear up the picture and make sure you have all the
information you need to make the best decision for you and your family.

Life Insurance = Financial
Protection for Your Family

Families have all sorts of expenses: mortgage payments, utility bills, school tuition, credit card payments and car loan payments, to name a few. If something were to happen and your household unexpectedly lost your income or your spouse’s income, your surviving family might have a difficult time meeting those costs. Funeral expenses and other final arrangements could further stress your family’s financial stability.

That’s where life insurance comes in. Essentially, a policy acts as a financial safety net for your family by providing a death benefit. Most forms of natural death are covered by life insurance, but many exceptions exist, so be sure to do your research. Death attributable to suicide, motor accidents while intoxicated and high-risk activity are often explicitly not covered by term or whole life policies.

If you die while covered by your life
insurance policy, your family receives a payout, either a lump sum or in
installments. This is money that’s often tax-free and can be used to meet
things like funeral costs, financial obligations and other personal expenses.
You get coverage in exchange for paying a monthly premium, which is often
decided by your age, health status and the amount of coverage you purchase.

Don’t
know how much to buy? A good rule of thumb is to multiply your yearly income by
10-15, and that’s the number you should target. Companies may have different
minimum and maximum amounts of coverage, but you can generally find a
customized policy that meets your coverage needs.

In addition to the base death benefit, you can enhance your coverage through optional riders. These are additions or modifications that can be made to your policy—whether term or whole life—often for a fee. Riders can do things like:

  • Add coverage for disability or deaths not commonly
    covered in base policies, like those due to public transportation accidents.
  • Waive future premiums if you cannot earn an income.
  • Accelerate your death benefit to pay for medical bills
    your family incurs while you’re still alive.

Other
riders may offer access to membership perks. For a fee, you might be able to
get discounts on goods and services, such as financial planning or health and
wellness clubs.

One
final note before we get into the differences between term and life: We’re just
covering individual insurance here. Group insurance is another avenue for
getting life insurance, wherein one policy covers a group of people. But that’s
a complex story for a different day.

Term Life Policies Are Flexible

The “term” in “term life” refers to
the period of time during which your life insurance policy is active. Often,
term life policies are available for 10, 20, 25 or 30 years. If you die during
the term covered, your family will be paid a death benefit and not be charged any future
premiums, as your policy is no longer active. So, if you were to die in year 10
of a 30-year policy, your family would not be on the hook for paying for the
other 20 years.

Typically, your insurance cannot be canceled
as long as you pay your premium. Of course, if you don’t make payments, your coverage will lapse, which typically
will end your policy. If you want to exit a policy you can cancel during an
introductory period. Generally speaking, nonpayment of premiums will not affect your credit score, as
your insurance provider is not a creditor. Given that, making payments on your
life policy won’t raise your credit score either.

The major downside of term life is that your
coverage ceases once the term expires. Ultimately, once your term expires, you need to reassess
your options for renewing, buying new coverage or upgrading. If you were to die
a month after your term expires, and you haven’t taken out a new policy, your
family won’t be covered. That’s why some people opt for another term policy to
cover changing needs. Others may choose to convert their term life into a
permanent life policy or go without coverage because the same financial
obligations—e.g., mortgage payments and college costs—no longer exist. This
might be the case in your retirement.

The Pros and Cons of Term Life

Even though term life insurance lasts for a
predetermined length of time, there are still advantages to taking out such a
policy:

  • Comparably lower cost: Term life is usually the more affordable type of life insurance, making it the easiest way to get budget-friendly protection for your family. A woman who’s 34 years old can buy $1 million in coverage through a 10-year term life policy for less than $50 a month, according to U.S. News and World Report. A man who’s 42 can purchase $1 million in coverage through a 30-year term for just over $126 a month.
  • Good choice for mid-term financial planning: Lots of families take out a term life policy to coincide with major financial responsibilities or until their children are financially independent. For example, if you have 20 years left on your mortgage, a term policy of the same length could provide extra financial protection for your family.
  • Upgrade if you want to: If you take out a term life policy, you’ll likely also get the option to convert to a permanent form of life insurance once the term ends if your needs change. Just remember to weigh your options, as your rates will increase the older you get. Buying another term life policy at 50 years old may not represent the same value as a whole life policy at 30.

There are some drawbacks to term life:

  • Coverage is temporary: The biggest downside to
    term life insurance is that policies are active for only so long. That means
    your family won’t be covered if something unexpected happens after your insurance
    expires.
  • Rising premiums: Premiums for term life
    policies are often fixed, meaning they stay constant over the duration of the
    policy. However, some
    policies may be structured in a way that seems less costly upfront but feature
    steadily increasing premiums as your term progresses.

Young Families Often Opt for Term Life

The rate you pay for term life insurance is
largely determined by your age and health. Factors outside your control may influence the rates you
see, like demand for life insurance. During a pandemic, you might be paying
more if you take a policy out amid an outbreak.

Most consumers seeking term life fall into
younger and healthier demographics, making term life rates among the most
affordable. This is because
such populations present less risk than a 70-year-old with multiple chronic
conditions. In the end, your rate depends on individual factors. So if
you’re looking for affordable protection for your family, term life might be
the best choice for you.

Term life is also a great option if you want a
policy that:

  • Grants you some flexibility for
    future planning, as you’re
    not locked into a lifetime policy.
  • Can replace your or your spouse’s
    income on a temporary basis.
  • Will cover your children until
    they are financially stable on their own.
  • Is active for the same length as
    certain financial responsibilities—e.g., a car loan or remaining years on a
    mortgage.

Whole Life Insurance Offers
Lifetime Coverage

Like with term life policies, whole life
policies award a death benefit when you pass. This benefit is decided by the
amount of coverage you purchase, but you can also add riders that accelerate
your benefit or expand coverage for covered types of death.

The biggest difference between term life and
whole life insurance is that the latter is a type of permanent life insurance.
Your policy has no expiration date. That means you and your family benefit from
a lifetime of protection without having to worry about an unexpected event
occurring after your term has ended.

The Pros and Cons of Whole Life

As if a lifetime of coverage wasn’t enough of
advantage, whole life insurance can also be a highly useful financial planning
tool:

  • Cash value: When you make a premium payment on
    your whole life policy, a portion of that goes toward an account that builds
    cash up over time. Your
    family gets this amount in addition to the death benefit when their claim is
    approved, or you can access it while living. You pay taxes only when the money
    is withdrawn, allowing for tax-deferred growth of cash value. You can
    often access it at any time, invest it, or take a loan out against it. However, be aware that anything
    you take out and don’t repay will eventually be subtracted from what your
    family receives in the end.
  • Dividend payments: Many life insurance
    companies offer whole life policyholders the opportunity to accrue dividends
    through a whole life policy. This works much like how stocks make dividend
    payments to shareholders from corporate profits. The amount you see through a dividend payment is
    determined by company earnings and your provider’s target payout ratio—which is
    the percentage of earnings paid to policyholders. Some life insurance
    companies will make an annual dividend payment to whole life policyholders that
    adds to their cash value.

Some potential downsides to consider include:

  • Higher cost: Whole life is more expensive than
    term life, largely because of the lifetime of coverage. This means monthly
    premiums that might not fit every household budget.
  • Interest rates on cash value loans: If you need emergency extra
    money, a cash value loan may be more appealing than a standard bank loan, as
    you don’t have to go through the typical application process. You can also get
    lower interest rates on cash value loans than you would with private loans or
    credit cards. Plus, you don’t have to pay the balance back, as you’re basically
    borrowing from your own stash. But if you don’t pay the loan back, it will be
    money lost to your family.

Whole Life Is Great for Estate Planning

Who stands to benefit most from a whole life
policy?

  • Young adults and families who can
    net big savings by buying a whole life policy earlier.
  • Older families looking to lock in
    coverage for life.
  • Those who want to use their policy
    as a tool for savings or estate planning.

To that last point, whole life policies are particularly advantageous in overall financial and estate planning compared to term life. Cash value is the biggest and clearest benefit, as it can allow you to build savings to access at any time and with little red tape.

Also,
you can gift a whole life policy to a grandchild, niece or nephew to help
provide for them. This works by you opening the policy and paying premiums for
a set number of years—like until the child turns 18. Upon that time, ownership
of the policy is transferred to them and they can access the cash value that’s
been built up over time.

If you’re looking for another low-touch way to leave a legacy, consider opening a high-yield savings account that doesn’t come with monthly premium payments, or a normal investment account.

What to Do Before You Buy a
Policy

Make sure you take the right steps to finding
the best policy for you. That means:

  • Researching different life insurance companies and their policies, cost and riders. (You can start by reading our review of Bestow.)
  • Balancing your current and long-term needs to best protect your family.
  • Buying the right amount of coverage.

If you’re interested in taking next steps, talk to your financial advisor about your specific financial situation and personal needs.

Infographic explaining the difference between term and whole life insurance policies.

The post Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: Which Is Best for You? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com