Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough

Anna’s email requesting help with her finances began with a unique confession.

“Farnoosh, my money problem garners little sympathy,” the 32-year-old wrote. “My issue is that I make too much of it.”

Now, THIS is interesting, I thought. I immediately followed up with many questions.

Here’s what I learned through our conversation:

The Denver-based Mint user earns $220,000 per year as an engineer. Anna’s also benefited from years of big bonuses and her net worth, not including her home equity, is close to a million dollars.

After paying taxes and health benefits and maxing out her 401(k), Anna takes home between $8,000 and $10,000 each month. Her expenses mainly consist of a $1,200 mortgage payment, car insurance, gas, food and utilities, amounting to maybe a few thousand dollars per month.

The rest either goes into savings where she stashes about $5,000 to $10,000 for unexpected expenses or into a brokerage account where she has roughly $800,000 invested. A wealth management firm manages that portfolio and charges, she says, an annual 1% fee.

Anna has no consumer debt, besides her mortgage, which amounts to about $338,000. It’s a 30-year fixed rate loan with a 2.85% interest rate. The home has appreciated in recent years with about $100,000 in equity (including Anna’s initial 20% down payment).

So, what is the problem, exactly?

“My big worry is that I don’t have the habits to manage money well,” Anna told me. Her sizeable bank balance has her feeling financially free, although she worries about getting carried away with spending sometimes.

“When I see money in my bank account I rationalize that ‘yea, that vacation is doable. I don’t hold back on the things that may seem frivolous,’” she says. But It seems she wants more financial grounding and to be able to evaluate expenditures and price tags more critically.

Anna’s situation may be unique, but I think relatable in the sense that we all would like to feel more thoughtful with how we spend, save and invest. And while some may do well with earning money, it should not be assumed that they can also manage that money well.

I applaud Anna for wanting to be sure that, even with an impressive net worth, she is actually making wise financial decisions.

Here’s my advice.

Take a Deep Breath

No need to panic when spending on things and experiences that you enjoy. From what I can tell Anna’s prioritizing the serious financial stuff first like contributing the max to her 401(k) and saving all of her annual bonuses in a brokerage account. She has no credit card debt and pays all her bills on time. That’s terrific.

Sometimes we just want to hear that we’re on the right track with our money and I have a very simple way to measure this:

If you manage each paycheck by saving, investing and paying all your bills first, then by all means, you’re entitled to have fun with whatever is left without any fear or regret. Am I right?

If you’ve done the good work of taking care of your future with your money, then don’t hesitate treating yourself and others with the remaining funds today. Splurge away and enjoy your hard-earned money. And remember to enjoy the moment.

Ditch Your Money Managers

I do think Anna could find a better home for her investments.

Paying one percent of her managed assets to this firm may not seem that high of an annual fee. But when you think about Anna’s balance of $800,000, that’s $8,000 this year. What about next year and the decades after that as she contributes more to the account? That fee, compounded over the next 30 years, will amount to – conservatively – over one million dollars. Ouch.

That doesn’t even factor in the expense ratios for each mutual fund that’s in her portfolio.

If all Anna seeks is investment assistance, she may be better suited stationing her money with an automated wealth platform or robo-advisor where her money is largely invested in low-fee index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETF) and the portfolio management fee is typically 0.50% or less.

Of course, breaking up with your financial advisor is not always so simple. It’s especially hard for Anna, as she equated her money managers to “father figures.”

If I were Anna, I would just explain to my advisors over email something like, “I want be more conservative with my money and that includes being extra mindful of the various fees that I’m paying. To that end, I’ve decided to manage my money more independently. I’m sure you can understand. I appreciate your help over the years. Please let me know next steps.”

Planners know the drill and are used to having clients end relationships.  Stay strong. Nobody can really argue with the fact that saving money is a good thing!

Establish Short and Long Term Goals

Anna wants to spend and save with more conviction. I think having some concrete, tangible goals can help.

For example, she shared that she’d like to get married, have a family and own two homes – one near her office downtown and another in the mountains as a getaway.

So, the next step is to understand what these goals cost. What are, say, the going prices on a vacation home in her state? How much might she want to stash in a separate account for the future down payment on this property? Knowing the underlying costs of her goals can better direct how much to spend elsewhere.

Next time she’s planning a vacation, she may be more inclined to price compare or hunt down better deals, as opposed to just judge whether the trip is financially “doable” by the amount of money in her bank account. Now she’ll have the image of that second home and its costs and will make a more informed choice.

Contribute to a Cause

Last but not least, when you feel you make more than enough, like Anna does, this is a great opportunity to be extra charitable. If she’s seeking a way to give her money more meaning and feel purposeful in her financial life, this is a truly wonderful way to go about it. Discover a cause that you’re passionate about and make an impact as a volunteer and donor.

Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.

The post Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents

Everyone knows that raising kids can put a serious squeeze on your budget. Beyond covering day-to-day living expenses, there are all of those extras to consider—sports, after-school activities, braces, a first car. Oh, and don’t forget about college.

Add caring for elderly parents to the mix, and balancing your financial and family obligations could become even more difficult.

“It can be an emotional and financial roller coaster, being pushed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time,” says financial life planner and author Michael F. Kay.

The “sandwich generation”—which describes people that are raising children and taking care of aging parents—is growing as Baby Boomers continue to age.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives. Aside from a time commitment, you may also be committing part of your budget to caregiving expenses like food, medications and doctor’s appointments.

Budgeting tips for the sandwich generation include communicating with parents.

When you’re caught in the caregiving crunch, you might be wondering: How do I take care of my parents and kids without going broke?

The answer lies in how you approach budgeting and saving. These money strategies for the sandwich generation and budgeting tips for the sandwich generation can help you balance your financial and family priorities:

Communicate with parents

Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner and founder of investment advisory service POWWOW, LLC, served as caregiver for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while also managing a career and starting a family. That experience taught her two very important budgeting tips for the sandwich generation.

First, communication is key, and a money strategy for the sandwich generation is to talk with your parents about what they need in terms of care. “It should all start with a frank discussion and plan, preferably prior to any significant health crisis,” Costa says.

Second, run the numbers so you have a realistic understanding of caregiving costs, including how much parents will cover financially and what you can afford to contribute.

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17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives.

– The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Involve kids in financial discussions

While you’re talking over expectations with your parents, take time to do the same with your kids. Caregiving for your parents may be part of the discussion, but these talks can also be an opportunity for you and your children to talk about your family’s bigger financial picture.

With younger kids, for example, that might involve talking about how an allowance can be earned and used. You could teach kids about money using a savings account and discuss the difference between needs and wants. These lessons can help lay a solid money foundation as they as move into their tween and teen years when discussions might become more complex.

When figuring out how to budget for the sandwich generation, try including your kids in financial decisions.

If your teen is on the verge of getting their driver’s license, for example, their expectation might be that you’ll help them buy a car or help with insurance and registration costs. Communicating about who will be contributing to these types of large expenses is a good money strategy for the sandwich generation.

The same goes for college, which can easily be one of the biggest expenses for parents and important when learning how to budget for the sandwich generation. If your budget as a caregiver can’t also accommodate full college tuition, your kids need to know that early on to help with their educational choices.

Talking over expectations—yours and theirs—can help you determine which schools are within reach financially, what scholarship or grant options may be available and whether your student is able to contribute to their education costs through work-study or a part-time job.

Consider the impact of caregiving on your income

When thinking about how to budget for the sandwich generation, consider that caring for aging parents can directly affect your earning potential if you have to cut back on the number of hours you work. The impact to your income will be more significant if you are the primary caregiver and not leveraging other care options, such as an in-home nurse, senior care facility or help from another adult child.

Costa says taking time away from work can be difficult if you’re the primary breadwinner or if your family is dual-income dependent. Losing some or all of your income, even temporarily, could make it challenging to meet your everyday expenses.

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“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement.”

– Quentara Costa, certified financial planner

When you’re facing a reduced income, how to budget for the sandwich generation is really about getting clear on needs versus wants. Start with a thorough spending review.

Are there expenses you might be able to reduce or eliminate while you’re providing care? How much do you need to earn each month to maintain your family’s standard of living? Keeping your family’s needs in focus and shaping your budget around them is a money strategy for the sandwich generation that can keep you from overextending yourself financially.

“Protect your capital from poor decisions made from emotions,” financial life planner Kay says. “It’s too easy when you’re stretched beyond reason to make in-the-heat-of-the-moment decisions that ultimately are not in anyone’s best interest.”

Keep saving in sight

One of the most important money strategies for the sandwich generation is continuing to save for short- and long-term financial goals.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement,” financial planner Costa says. “While the intention to put others before ourselves is noble, you may actually be pulling the next generation backwards due to your lack of self-planning.”

Sunny skies are the right time to save for a rainy day.

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Making regular contributions to your 401(k), an individual retirement account or an IRA CD should still be a priority. Adding to your emergency savings each month—even if you have to reduce the amount you normally save to fit new caregiving expenses into your budget—can help prepare you for unexpected expenses or the occasional cash flow shortfall. Contributing to a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell ESA is a budgeting tip for the sandwich generation that can help you build a cushion for your children once they’re ready for college life.

When you are learning how to budget for the sandwich generation, don’t forget about your children’s savings goals. If there’s something specific they want to save for, help them figure out how much they need to save and a timeline for reaching their goal.

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Ask for help if you need it

A big part of learning how to budget for the sandwich generation is finding resources you can leverage to help balance your family commitments. In the case of aging parents, there may be state or federal programs that can help with the cost of care.

Remember to also loop in your siblings or other family members when researching budgeting tips for the sandwich generation. If you have siblings or relatives, engage them in an open discussion about what they can contribute, financially or in terms of caregiving assistance, to your parents. Getting them involved and asking them to share some of the load can help you balance caregiving for parents while still making sure that you and your family’s financial outlook remains bright.

The post Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

How I Earned Up to $4,000 Per Month Baking Dog Treats (With Zero Baking Experience!)

Hello! Are you interested in starting a dog treat bakery business? Well, good news, this article will tell you what you need to know. Plus, you can sign up for this free training workshop that will teach you how to start your own side hustle baking and selling dog treats.

Hi! My name is Kristin Larsen, and I run Believe in a Budget, a blog about personal finance and my experience with various side hustles. (It feels like I’ve tried them all over the years!)dog treat bakery business

As I’ve written about before here on Making Sense of Cents, my favorite online side hustle is working as a Pinterest virtual assistant. Managing Pinterest accounts is a great way to earn an income entirely online.

But today, I’m here to talk about a completely different side hustle, one that can be run entirely offline if you want (or entirely online, or a combination!).

While I love being able to work from home (or anywhere) on my computer, there is something to be said about stepping away from the computer and doing work that doesn’t involve the ‘virtual world’ – work that requires you to move around a little instead of being planted in front of a screen all day long!

In the case of this side hustle, it involves moving around the kitchen baking up beautiful and delicious dog treats.

Yes, dog treats!

The side hustle I’m speaking of is starting a dog treat bakery and I’m so excited to share it with you today. As a successful dog treat baker myself, I know first-hand how in-demand and lucrative this business can be.

How do you start a dog bakery?

 

How I Took My Dog Treat Bakery from Passion to Side Hustle to Full-Time Job

My dog treat bakery story started over ten years ago when I was an interior architect and designer at my 9-5 job.

At the time, I was the proud dog mom of Bella, a sweet-but-very-high-maintenance pup. Her birthday was coming up and I wanted to give her a birthday treat that fit her ‘diva dog’ personality.

I went to the local pet store and perused the aisles, but all I could find were treats filled with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce that looked like they had been sitting on the shelves for years. After a disappointing visit, I walked out the door and decided that I was going to bake Bella a treat.

This was kind of laughable since baking was not something I had done much of in my life, but I was going to figure out a way to make it work.

I decided to do some research by going to a local bakery and spending a lot of time staring at the baked goods (awkward!), trying to figure out which one I could recreate for Bella. I finally decided on a pretty cupcake adorned with white icing.

I went home, researched dog-safe ingredients and got to work planning Bella’s birthday treat. After a quick trip to Target to buy a mini cupcake tin, I started baking.

About an hour later, her birthday cupcake was baked, iced and ready to serve. Despite its small size, it was a huge success she loved it!

As soon as I saw how much she loved her treat, you could say I became a little obsessed with making wholesome, healthy treats for her. Soon, I started gifting them to friends and family.

I went from developing a single cupcake recipe to developing over 20 different dog treat recipes everything from treat bones to cookies to brownies to cakes!

Pretty soon, the friends and family who were on the receiving end of my gifts were saying: ‘Kristin, our dog(s) LOVED your treats. Can we buy some to gift? Can my friends/family/co-workers/neighbors buy some?’

With those questions, Diva Dog Bakery™ was born!

My little ‘obsession’ quickly became a side hustle, first bringing in $100 to $200 a month, then over $500 a month, just selling through word-of-mouth. It was the easiest money I had ever made!

In a serendipitous turn of events, I ended up losing my 9-5 job a few months after I started Diva Dog Bakery™. It was during the Great Recession, so I couldn’t find a job in my industry anywhere. My unemployment checks weren’t enough and I was quickly going through my savings.

I was initially stuck in a ‘dog treat bakery = side hustle’ mindset,  so it didn’t immediately occur to me to try to turn my side hustle into a full-time business. But when my money was drying up, it finally clicked: I can turn this into a full-time business!

I went all-in on my bakery and hustled hard. I sold at multiple farmers markets every Saturday (shout-out to my parents who helped me ‘be’ in multiple locations at once!), started a successful Etsy shop and also sold products wholesale.

Pretty soon, I went from going broke to making a solid $3,000 to $4,000 per month… despite the economy being in the biggest downturn since the Great Depression. 

Needless to say, I was ecstatic!

The especially exciting thing about my earnings is this was nearly ten years ago when the dog treat industry wasn’t nearly as hot. These days, my efforts could easily bring in double that!

 

The Opportunities in the Dog Treat Industry (Why You Should Start a Dog Treat Bakery)

When I first started my dog treat bakery, the idea of buying homemade cupcakes or brownies or cookies for your dog was still considered a little ‘out there.’

These days, dog owners are much more tuned in to the idea of pampering their pooches and they’re willing to spend money to make it happen.

Here are a few interesting stats for you:

  • The dog treat market is incredibly hot right now and getting even hotter… to the tune of almost 7 BILLION dollars in sales in just 2020 alone! (source)
  • Over six out of ten dog owners are concerned about the safety of the dog treats they purchase. (source)
  • Dog owners are especially interested in purchasing dog treats with wholesome, easy-to-pronounce ingredients. (source)

It’s never been a better time to get started with a homemade dog treat bakery!

 

How Much You Can Earn Baking Dog Treats at Home

If you just want to run a fun-but-profitable hobby, you can easily earn $500 to $1,000 a month with a dog treat bakery as a side hustle.

At this level, you can do all of the work yourself in just a few hours a week. If you have kids, you can also have them pitch in. A dog treat bakery is a great family business!

If you want to turn your dog treat bakery into a full-time business, you can scale it into four figures a month, or even five figures a month.

If you want to scale your dog treat bakery into a full-time business, expect to work 30 to 35 hours a week yourself. If you want to have a heavy farmers market presence, you will probably need to bring on some help for a few hours each week so you can have a presence at multiple farmers markets at the same time. (The best ones are usually on Saturday mornings.)

If things get really busy, you can bring on baking help, marketing help, shipping help and more! You can make this business as big (or as small) as you’d like.

 

Where to Sell Your Dog Treats

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you can run your dog treat baking business in a way that suits your lifestyle. You can run it offline, online, or both!

There are so many ways and places to sell your treats, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Offline:

  • Word-of-mouth sales (e.g., friends, family, co-workers, church)
  • Farmers markets
  • Wholesale to local businesses (e.g., pet stores, veterinarian offices, gift shops) 

Online:

  • Etsy shop
  • Social media for local sales
  • Social media for nationwide sales

 

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Dog Treat Bakery?

Like nearly all businesses, starting a dog treat bakery comes with a few start-up costs, but you will easily earn these back when sales start coming in, or you can even take pre-sale orders! (Have I mentioned that the profit margin on dog treats is amazing?!)

Typical start-up costs for homemade dog treat bakeries in the U.S.* include:

  • $20 to $50 for the initial ingredients, plus a few inexpensive baking tools if you don’t already have them in your kitchen
  • $0 to $75 for treat packaging costs
  • $25 to $50 for a business license
  • Between a $25 one-off fee to up to a $50 per-treat fee to register your treats with your state – this will depend on your state’s regulations

*Costs and laws outside of the U.S. will vary from what is listed here.

 

Are Dog Treat Bakeries Regulated?

Yes, but not nearly as much as ‘people food’ bakeries. (Good for would-be dog treat bakers, but a little sad for our furry friends!)

In the U.S., the exact regulations you will need to follow are decided by your state and sometimes your local area (e.g., county, city). This is easy information to find out by contacting the following agencies:

  • State department of agriculture or feed control office
  • State and local health departments

You can also contact your state’s business agency and tell them you want to start a pet treat bakery. Many states have information on file about pet treat bakeries that tell you everything you need to do.

Don’t be intimidated by this process – in most cases, all you have to do is fill out a few forms and pay a few small registration fees!

 

How to Get Started as a Dog Treat Baker

When I first started Diva Dog Bakery™, I honestly had no idea what I was doing.

Although I saw success pretty quickly, there was a lot of trial-and-error because I had no one to guide me. I didn’t know anyone who owned a bakery, let alone a dog treat bakery.

The one thing I definitely did right at the beginning – and what I recommend to you if you want to become a homemade dog treat baker – was to spend some time in the kitchen learning how to make treats.

Because I wasn’t much of a baker (and maybe you aren’t either), getting a little baking experience under my belt was very helpful.

I also tested out my treats on my dogs and the dogs of some of my friends and family. Dogs may not be able to talk, but you can tell pretty easily which treats they love eating and which treats they’ll turn their nose up at!

With this data, you can start to package up and sell the most-liked treats. You can scale it from there and start to build up your business.

If the idea of going it alone on a dog treat bakery business sounds a little intimidating, I’d like to welcome you to join the Diva Dog Bakery™ course where I’ll teach you exactly how to build a thriving dog treat bakery business!

Here’s what the course covers:

  • How to best make and store dog treats (this is where you’ll practice your baking techniques)
  • How to turn your hobby into a legal dog treat business 
  • How to package your treats beautifully without hours of effort (beautifully packaged treats command premium prices!)
  • How to price your dog treats so you maximize your revenue
  • Where to sell your dog treats: offline, online or both
  • The best methods for accepting payment
  • How to most efficiently and inexpensively ship and deliver your treats
  • The best ways to promote your business so you build up a following of raving fans and repeat customers!

You’ll also receive valuable bonuses, including:

  • My full dog treat recipe book, which includes the most popular and profitable recipes I used in my bakery
  • Guaranteed analysis/nutrition labels to use on your treats (required by certain states)
  • 30 days of free access to the Diva Dog Bakery™ Community so you can get all of your questions answered while you grow your business, including live training

It has been so exciting to help new dog treat bakers launch their businesses! Cheering on every baking success and every business success is truly the best part of my day.

 

Lessons Learned from a Cupcake… and a Phone Call

I like to say that Diva Dog Bakery™ started with a cupcake.

But it really, truly started when, after gifting treats to friends, one of those friends called me and said: ‘Kristin, can I buy a bag of your dog treats?’

Until that moment, I had no idea that anyone would actually want to pay for the treats I had been making as a labor of love.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: there is a market out there for so many different products and services. Whether it’s a product or service that we dream up on our own or that we learn from a course, there is probably someone who wants to buy it from us.

We just have to figure out a way to make that sale happen… and then make it happen again and again!

 

Dog Treat Bakeries are a Great Business to Start

If you’re interested in starting a business that’s ‘outside the box’ of the typical online businesses, then I highly recommend starting a dog treat bakery. 

The industry is booming, the work is enjoyable, the profit margin is fantastic and (maybe the best reason of all) you have the cutest customers!

To get started on your dog treat bakery journey, I’m offering a free dog treat bakery workshop! Check out the sales page here and sign up for the free workshop.

If you have any other questions about starting a dog treat bakery after watching the workshop, just email me and I’d be happy to answer them.

Are you interested in starting a dog treat bakery?

The post How I Earned Up to $4,000 Per Month Baking Dog Treats (With Zero Baking Experience!) appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Who Can and Cannot Witness a Will?

A will is notarized

A will is an important part of your financial plan. When you create a will and testament, you’re creating a legal document that determines how your assets will be distributed once you pass away. You can also use a will to name legal guardians for minor children. When making a will and testament, it’s important to follow the rules in your state to ensure the will is valid. One of those rules centers on the requirements for witnesses. For more guidance on the intricacies of wills and estate planning, consider enlisting the services of an expert financial advisor.

Why Wills Need to Be Witnessed

A will is a legal document but in order for it to be binding, there are certain requirements that need to be met. For instance, although state laws regarding wills vary, states generally require you to be of legal adult age to make a will. You must also have testamentary capacity, meaning you:

  • Must understand the extent and value of the property you’re including in the will
  • Are aware that you’re making a will to decide who will inherit your assets
  • Aren’t acting under duress in making the will

Having someone witness your will matters in case questions are raised over its validity later or there is a will contest. For example, if one of your heirs challenges the terms of your will a witness may be called upon in court to attest that they watched you sign the will and that you appeared to be of sound mind when you did so.

In other words, witnesses add another layer of validity to a will. If all the people who witnessed the signing of a will are in agreement about your intent and mental state when you made it, then it becomes harder for someone else to dispute its legality.

Who Can Witness a Will?

When drafting a will, it’s important to understand several requirements, including who can serve as a witness. Generally, anyone can witness a will as long as they meet two requirements:

  • They’re of legal adult age (i.e. 18 or 19 in certain states)
  • They don’t have a direct interest in the will

The kinds of people who could witness a will for you include:

  • Friends who are not set to receive anything from your estate
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers
  • Relatives who are not included in your will, such as cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.
  • Your doctor

If you’ve hired an attorney to help you draft your will, they could also act as a witness as long as they’re not named as a beneficiary. An attorney who’s also acting as the executor of the will, meaning the person who oversees the process of distributing your assets and paying off any outstanding debts owed by your estate, can witness a will.

Who Cannot Witness a Will?

Two minors looking out a windowStates generally prohibit you from choosing people who stand to benefit from your will as witnesses. So for example, if you’re drafting a will that leaves assets to your spouse, children, siblings or parents, none of them would be able to witness the will’s signing since they all have an interest in the will’s terms. Will-making rules can also exclude relatives or spouses of any of your beneficiaries. For instance, say you plan to leave money in your will to your sister and her husband with the sister being the executor. Your sister can’t be a witness to the will since she’s a direct beneficiary. And since her husband has an indirect interest in the terms of the will through her, he wouldn’t qualify as a witness either.

But married couples can witness a will together, as long as they don’t have an interest in it. So, you could ask the couple that lives next door to you or a couple you know at work to act as witnesses to your will.

You may also run into challenges if you’re asking someone who has a mental impairment or a visual impairment to witness your will. State will laws generally require that the persons witnessing a will be able to see the document clearly and have the mental capacity to understand what their responsibilities are as a witness.

Note that the witnesses don’t need to read the entire will document to sign it. But they do need to be able to verify that the document exists, that you’ve signed it in their presence and that they’ve signed it in front of you.

How to Choose Witnesses for a Will

If you’re in the process of drafting a will, it’s important to give some thought to who you’ll ask to witness it. It may help to make two lists: one of the potential candidates who can witness a will and another of the people who cannot act as witnesses because they have an interest in the will.

You should have at least two people who are willing to witness your will signing. This is the minimum number of witnesses required by state will-making laws. Generally, the people you choose should be:

  • Responsible and trustworthy
  • Age 18 or older
  • Younger than you (to avoid challenges presented if a witness passes away)
  • Free of any interest in the will, either directly or indirectly
  • Willing to testify to the will’s validity if it’s ever challenged

When it’s time to sign the will, you’ll need to bring both of your witnesses together at the same time. You’ll need to sign, initial and date the will in ink, then have your witnesses do the same. You may also choose to attach a self-proving affidavit or have the will notarized in front of the witnesses.

A self-proving affidavit is a statement that attests to the validity of the will. If you include this statement, then you and your witnesses must sign and date it as well. Once the will is signed and deemed valid, store it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box. You may also want to make a copy for your attorney to keep in case the original will is damaged or destroyed.

The Bottom Line

A last will and testamentMaking a will can be a fairly simple task if you don’t have a complicated estate; it can even be done online in some situations. If you have significant assets to distribute to your beneficiaries or you need to make arrangements for the care of minor children, talking with an estate planning attorney can help you shape your will accordingly. Choosing witnesses to your will is the final piece of the puzzle in ensuring that it’s signed and legally valid.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about will-making, trusts and how to create a financial legacy for your loved ones. If you don’t have a financial advisor, finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors in your local area in just a few minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • A will is just one document you can include in your estate plan. You may also opt to establish a living trust to manage assets on behalf of your beneficiaries, set up a durable power of attorney and create an advance healthcare directive. A trust can help you avoid probate while potentially minimizing estate taxes.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/djedzura, ©iStock.com/SanyaSM, ©iStock.com/Spanic

The post Who Can and Cannot Witness a Will? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

16 Natural Remedies to Relieve Itchy Mosquito Bites

Papaya

Can’t stop scratching a bug bite? Just place a piece of papaya (the fleshy part, not the skin) on it. Papaya contains an enzyme called “papain,” whose protein-digestive properties helps to decompose insect venom, which will stop both itching and swelling.

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Vapo-Rub

That jar of vapor rub at the back of your medicine cabinet isn’t just good for breaking up chest congestion, you can also use it to stop mosquito and other bug bites from itching and swelling. Just dab a little on the spot, and you’ll stop scratching in seconds, thanks to the combination of menthol and eucalyptus.

Whipped Cream

Covered in mosquito bites? Get some relief with a surprising ingredient: whipped topping. The same nondairy topping that you’d use for ice cream or pies also helps stop insect bites from being so darn itchy.

Mouthwash

To help reduce the itchiness associated with insect bites, try applying an antiseptic mouthwash (such as Listerine) to the area with a cotton ball.

See also: How to Get Rid of Bad Breath Naturally

Bar Soap

Ease mosquito and other bug bites by rubbing them with some dry bar soap like Ivory. It will provide quick relief from itching!

If you don’t have any bar soap on hand, you could also use hand soap (it’s just harder to keep on the bite!).

Tea

Tame that painful bug bite with a little tea. Soak a bag of black tea in warm water and then apply it to the bite. The tannic acid will help reduce swelling and pain.

Alka Seltzer

If it’s bug season and your family has got the itch, apply this solution to the affected areas for relief: Add two tablets of Alka Seltzer to a half a glass of water. Use a cotton ball to rub this into your bites, and let it sit for 30 minutes

Milk of Magnesia

Want to eliminate the itch from a bug bite? Look no further than the milk of magnesia in your medicine cabinet. Dab a little bit on the spot, and the antacid will stop the itchiness in its tracks.

Hemorrhoid Cream

You may have heard that hemorrhoid cream can relieve undereye puffiness, but did you know it could also help your mosquito and other bug bites? Applied topically, it will reduce the pain and the swelling of an insect bite.

Deodorant

We love this quick fix for an insect bite! Just rub antiperspirant or deodorant over the spot and the itch will go away. It contains some of the same ingredients as anti-itch creams.

Related: 6 All Natural Ways to Get Rid of Body Odor

Antacid

Here’s a clever use for that roll of antacids you’ve got at the bottom of your purse: an itch reliever! Crush one tablet with enough water to make a paste and spread it over any itchy spots for relief, especially mosquito bites.

Thousand Island Dressing

We know this one sounds a little goofy, but it actually works. The next time you get a bug bite, try applying a little thousand island dressing to stop the itch.

Toothpaste

Have a bug bite that won’t stop itching? Get relief with a dab of toothpaste (the white, non-gel variety works best) and it will take the itch away as well as a dab of calamine lotion does.

Rubbing Alcohol

A great way to stop mosquito (and other) bites from itching is with a dab of diluted rubbing alcohol. In fact, ammonia is the main ingredient in many of the itch-relief products currently on the market. Just mix four parts water for every one part alcohol. You can also use ammonia in place of the rubbing alcohol.

Caution: Don’t apply rubbing alcohol or ammonia if the skin is broken near the bite! It will sting.

Meat Tenderizer

If you’ve just come back from a long weekend camping, you’ll love this tip. Use meat tenderizer to treat insect bites! Moisten a teaspoon of tenderizer with a little water and rub it immediately into the skin. Commercial meat tenderizers contain papain, the same enzyme as papaya. It actually decomposes insect venom, easing itchiness and swelling.

Aspirin

The next time you get a bug bite, crush an aspirin tablet and rub it into damp skin. The active ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid, is an anti-inflammatory, and it will reduce the pain of the swelling and itching. 

Just for fun: How to Solve Your Biggest Summer Problems

For more ways to deal with insects and bites from all around the internet, check out our Bug and Pest Natural Remedies board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit?

If you have bad credit and need a car loan, there are some challenges when compared to obtaining a standard car loan. However, pick your head up because there are a handful of great lenders that specifically tailor their programs to people with bad credit. We researched the landscape of lenders that can help you get a car loan even if you have a below-average credit score.

Based on our study, OneMain Financial and LightStream are two of the top lenders offering bad credit card loans. This is due to factors including loan options, requirements to qualify, and interest rates offered. Of course, we offer in-depth reviews of all the top lenders who offer bad credit car loans further down in this piece.

Apply now with our top pick: OneMain Financial

In this guide we also help you understand the factors that go into selecting the right auto lender, and how to get the best rate you can.

Most Important Factors for Bad Credit Car Loans

If you’re in the market for a bad credit car loan, there are a plethora of factors to consider and compare. Here are the main loan details we looked at in our study, and the ones you should prioritize as you select the best car loan for your needs.

  • Check your credit score. And understand what is in your credit report.
  • FICO scores under 579 is considered ‘poor’. But you may need a bad credit loan with a score as high as 669.
  • Interest rates and fees matter. These can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month.
  • Compare loan terms. Consider your repayment timeline and compare lenders with this in mind.
  • Getting prequalified online can help. Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
  • Watch out for loan restrictions. Some lenders impose restrictions on what car you can purchase. Keep this in mind to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

The Best Bad Credit Car Loans of 2021

The best bad credit car loans make it easy for consumers to qualify for the financing they need. The following lenders made our list due to their superior loan offerings, excellent customer service, and reputation in this industry.

Car Loan Company Best For… Get Started
onemain financial bad credit car loan Best for Flexibility Apply Now
bad credit car loan upgrade Best Personal Loan Option Apply Now
autocreditexpress logo Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit Apply Now
myautoloan bad credit car loan logo Best Loan Comparison Site Apply Now
capitalone logo Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit Apply Now
lightstream logo Best for Fast Funding Apply Now

Why Some Lenders Didn’t Make the Cut

While the lenders we are profiling are the best of the best, there are plenty of bad credit car loans that didn’t quite make the cut. We didn’t include any lenders that only offer auto loan refinancing, for example, since we know many people need a car loan in order to purchase a new or used car or truck. We also stayed away from bad credit car loans that charge outrageous fees for consumers with the lowest credit scores.

Bad Credit Auto Loan Reviews

We listed the top companies we selected in our study above, but we also aim to provide readers with more insights and details on each. The reviews below highlight the highlights of each lender that made our list, plus our take on who they might be best for.

OneMain Financial: Best for Flexibility

OneMain Financial offers personal loans and auto loans with interest rates that range from 18.00% to 35.99%. You can repay your auto loan in 24, 36, 48, or 60 months, and you can use this lender to borrow up to $20,000 for a new or used car. You can apply for your auto loan online and from the comfort of your own home, and it’s possible to get approved within a matter of minutes.

While OneMain Financial doesn’t list a minimum credit score requirement, it’s believed they will approve consumers with scores as low as 600. You should also note that auto loans from OneMain Financial come with an origination fee of up to 5% of your loan amount.

Sign Up With OneMain Financial Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: OneMain Financial offers a lot of flexibility in terms of your loan terms, including the option to repay your auto loan over five years. OneMain Financial also has pretty decent reviews from users for a bad credit lender, and they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: OneMain Financial charges some pretty high rates for its bad credit loans, and don’t forget that you may need to pay an origination fee that is up to 5% of your loan amount. Their loans are also capped at $20,000, which means this lender won’t work for everyone.

Who It’s Best For: This lender is best for consumers with really poor credit who need auto financing but can’t get approved for a better loan.

Upgrade: Best Personal Loan Option

Upgrade is an online lender that offers personal loans with fixed interest rates, fixed monthly payments, and a fixed repayment timeline. You can borrow up to $50,000 in an unsecured loan, which means you won’t actually use the car you purchase as collateral for the loan.

You can repay the money you borrow over 36 to 60 months, which makes it possible for you to tweak your loan offer to secure a monthly payment you can afford. Upgrade has a minimum credit score requirement of 620 to qualify, although they’ll consider additional factors such as your income and employment history.

Sign Up With Upgrade Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Upgrade lets you “check your rate” online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it easy to shop around and compare this loan offer to others without having to fill out a full loan application. Also note that Upgrade has an A+ rating with the BBB.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Upgrade charges APRs as high as 35.89% for consumers with the worst credit, and an origination fee of up to 6% of your loan amount might also apply.

Who It’s Best For: Upgrade is best for consumers with decent credit who need to borrow a larger loan amount. This loan is also best for anyone who wants an auto loan that isn’t secured by their vehicle.

AutoCreditExpress.com: Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit

AutoCreditExpress.com is an online platform that lets consumers with bad credit and even no credit get the financing they need. Once you fill out some basic loan information, you’ll be connected with a lender who can offer you financing as well as a dealership in your area. From there, you’ll head to the local dealership and pull the pieces of your auto loan together, including the purchase price of the car you want.

Sign Up With Autocreditexpress.com Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: AutoCreditExpress.com has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. This platform also makes it possible for consumers with no credit at all to finance a car, which is a welcome relief for people who are building credit for the first time.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: This website is a loan platform but they don’t offer loans directly to consumers. This means you won’t have any idea on rates and terms until you fill out an application and get connected with a lender.

Who It’s Best For: This loan is best for consumers with no credit or minimal credit history who cannot get approved for a loan elsewhere.

MyAutoLoan.com: Best Loan Comparison Site

MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site that makes it easy to compare up to four auto loan offers in a matter of minutes. You can use this website to apply for a new auto loan, but you can also utilize it to consider refinancing offers for an auto loan you already have. You can also use funds from this platform to purchase a car from a dealer or from a private seller.

Sign Up With MyAutoLoan.com Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Comparing auto loans in terms of their terms, rates, and fees is the best way to save money and wind up with the best deal. Since MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site, they make it easy to shop around and compare competing offers.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Loan comparison sites connect you with other lenders who have their own loan terms and minimum requirements for approval. Make sure you know and understand all the details of loans you’re considering before you sign on the dotted line.

Who It’s Best For: MyAutoLoan.com is best for consumers who want to do all their auto loan shopping with a single website.

Capital One: Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit

Capital One offers online auto loan financing in conjunction with a program called Auto Navigator®. This program lets you get prequalified for an auto loan online, then work with a participating dealer to coordinate a loan for the car you want. Capital One also lets you search available vehicles at participating dealerships before you apply for financing, making it easy to figure out how much you might need to borrow ahead of time.

Sign Up With Capital One Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Capital One offers the huge benefit of letting you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry to your credit report. Capital One is also a reputable bank with a long history, which should give borrowers some comfort. They have an A+ rating with the BBB and plenty of decent reviews from consumers.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: You should be aware that Capital One auto loans only work at participating dealers, so you may be limited in terms of available cars to choose from.

Who It’s Best For: Capital One auto loans are best for consumers who find a car they want to buy at one of the participating lenders that works with this program.

LightStream: Best for Fast Funding

LightStream offers online loans for a variety of purposes, including auto financing. Their auto loans for consumers with excellent credit start at just 3.99% with autopay, and even their loans for consumers with lower credit scores only run as high as 16.79% with autopay.

You can apply for your LightStream loan online and get approved in a matter of minutes. This lender can also send your funds as soon as the same business day you apply.

A minimum credit score of 660 is required for loan approval, although other factors like your work history and income are considered.

Sign Up With LightStream Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: LightStream offers auto loans with exceptional terms, and that’s even true for consumers with less than perfect credit. You can also get your loan funded as soon as the same business day you apply, which is crucial if you need auto financing so you can get back on the road.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: With a minimum credit score requirement of 660, these loans won’t work for consumers with the lowest credit scores.

Who It’s Best For: LightStream is best for people with decent credit who need to get auto loan financing as quickly as possible.

What You Need To Know When Applying For A Car Loan With Bad Credit

Interest rates and fees matter.

If you think your interest rate and loan fees won’t make a big difference in your monthly payment, think again. The reality is that rates and fees can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month. Consider this: A $10,000 loan with an APR of 35.89% will require you to pay $361 per month for five years. The same loan amount at 21.99% APR will only set you back $276 per month. At 9.99%, you would pay only $212 per month for five years. The bottom line: Make sure to compare auto loans for bad credit so you wind up with the lowest possible APR you can qualify for.

Take steps to improve your credit score before you apply.

It’s not always possible to wait to apply for a car loan, but you may be able to secure a lower interest rate and better loan terms if you can improve your credit score before you borrow money. The most important steps you can take to improve your score include paying all your bills early or on time, as well as paying down debt in order to decrease your credit utilization. You should also refrain from opening or closing too many credit card accounts in order to avoid new inquiries on your credit report and maintain the longest average length of your credit history possible.

Compare loan terms.

Some lenders let you borrow money for up to 84 months, while others let you repay your loan over 36 or 60 months at most. If you need to repay your loan over a longer timeline in order to secure an affordable monthly payment, make sure to compare lenders based on this factor. If you’re having trouble figuring out how much can you can afford, gauging affordability based on the monthly payments you can handle can also help in that effort.

Getting prequalified online can help.

Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it considerably easier to compare rates and shop around without formally applying for an auto loan. Getting prequalified with more than one lender can also help you determine which one might offer the lowest rate without having to fill out a full loan application.

Watch out for loan restrictions.

As you compare the lenders on this list, keep in mind that not all lenders extend loans for any car you want. Some only let you finance cars with participating lenders in their network, which can drastically limit your options and make it impossible to purchase a car from a private seller. If you hope to purchase a car from someone you know or a website like craigslist.org, you may want to consider reaching out to your personal bank or a credit union you have a relationship with.

Bad credit car loans don’t have to be forever.

Finally, you should know that a car loan for bad credit doesn’t have to last forever. You may need to borrow money for a car right now regardless of the interest rate and terms you can qualify for, but it may be possible to refinance your loan into a better loan product later on. This is especially true if you focus on improving your credit score right away, and if you use your auto loan as an opportunity to prove your creditworthiness.

How to Get the Best Rate

1. Check your credit score.

Your credit score is one of the most important defining factors that dictate loan costs. Before you apply for an auto loan, it can help you check your credit score to see where you stand. Your score may not be as bad as you realize, but it could also be worse than you ever imagined. Either way, it helps to know this important information before you start shopping for an auto loan.

2. Improve your credit over time.

If your credit score needs work, you’ll want to take steps to start improving it right away. The most important steps you can take to boost your credit score include paying all your bills early or on time and paying down debt to decrease your credit utilization. Also, make sure you’re not opening or closing too many credit accounts within a short amount of time.

3. Check your credit reports.

Use the website AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Once you have this information, check over your credit reports for errors. If you find false information that might be hurting your score, take the steps to have the incorrect information removed.

4. Compare loan offers from at least three lenders.

A crucial step to get the best rate involves shopping around and comparing loan offers from at least three different lenders. This is important since lenders with different criteria might offer a lower APR or better terms than others.

5. Be flexible with repayment terms.

Also consider a few different loan terms provided you can afford the monthly payment with each. Some auto lenders offer better rates for shorter terms, which can help you save money if you can afford to repay your loan over 24 or 36 months instead of 60+.

How We Chose the Best Auto Loans

The lenders on our list weren’t plucked out of thin air. In fact, the team behind this guide spent hours comparing auto lenders based on a wide range of criteria. Here’s everything we considered when comparing the best bad credit car loans of 2021:

Interest Rates and Loan Terms: Our team looked for loans that offer reasonable rates and terms for consumers with poor credit. While higher APRs are typically charged to consumers with a low credit score, we only considered lenders that offer sensible rates that don’t seem out of line for the auto loan market.

Ratings and Reviews: We gave preference to lenders who have decent reviews online, either through Consumer Affairs, Trustpilot, or another third party website. We also gave higher marks to lenders who have a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Online Availability: Lenders who offer full loan details online were definitely given top priority in our ranking, and lenders who let you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report were given the most points in this category. But since not everyone wants to apply for a loan online, we also included some lenders that let you apply over the phone.

Approval Requirements: Finally, we looked for lenders that extend credit to consumers with low credit scores in the first place. Not all lenders offer specific information on approval requirements, but we did our best to sort out lenders that only accept borrowers with good or excellent credit.

Summary: Best Bad Credit Card Loans of 2021

  • Best for Flexibility: OneMain Financial
  • Best Personal Loan Option: Upgrade
  • Best Loan for Bad Credit and No credit: AutoCreditExpress.com
  • Best Loan Comparison Site: MyAutoLoan.com
  • Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit: CapitalOne
  • Best for Fast Funding: LightStream

The post What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

This is the Best App to Play Solitaire for Real Money

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Chances are, you’ve played your fair share of Solitaire. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a great time-killer, it’s fun and it’s a nice little mental challenge. The only thing that could make it better? Winning money for it.

The Solitaire Cube app lets you do just that. This free app lets you play the classic card game you already know and love, plus it matches you with players in your skill level, so you can go head-to-head in tournaments where you can win real money. Plus, the games are quick — just two to five minutes each, and you can play them anywhere.

How to Win Real Money Just for Playing Solitaire on Your Phone

You might be thinking this sounds too good to be true. But here’s the thing: It’s really not. One Solitaire Cube player, Amanda, even won about $6,000 and was able to use her winnings to recarpet her house.

“When I actually started winning money and earning prizes, I was blown away,” she says.

Interested? Here’s how it works: Download the free Solitaire Cube app and create an account. Then you can play some free practice matches to get the hang of things. If you don’t already know how to play, it’s easy to learn. Then, when you’re ready, Solitaire Cube will match you with players at your same skill level. Beginners play beginners; experts play other experts. Yep, you won’t get outplayed by some Solitaire grandmaster — you’ll both have the same deck, so winning is all about skill.

The app itself is free to download, but if you want to play for money, you’ll need to deposit some money first. You can deposit as little as $2 to start, using PayPal, credit card or Apple Pay. It’s super easy. Then you can play head-to-head, in large pools and live tournaments — some of these tournaments have paid out prizes as big as $350,000. When it’s time to cash out, there’s no waiting period, like with some other apps. You can get your money almost instantly.

Solitaire Cube has an App Store rating of 4.6 out of 5 from more than 70,000 users’ rankings.

As for Skillz, the platform that hosts the game, it operates hundreds of games and has paid out more than $2 billion in prizes so far. The company has invested years into its player-matching technology, ensuring you only compete with players of the same skill level.

Win or lose, you always receive “ticketz” that you can redeem in Skillz’ Ticketz store for cash or prizes, like Amazon gift cards, a 65-inch TV — even a BMW or a Porsche. The higher stakes you play for, the more ticketz you receive.

For Solitaire players, here’s the most important part: The game is well designed, a classic Solitaire experience. To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He loves him some Solitaire.

Unfortunately, you can’t play for money in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota or Tennessee. However, in those states, you can still play for fun with the game’s virtual currency.

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 Steps to Take When Budgeting for a Career Break

Not everyone’s career path is a 40+ year marathon working full time until you can finally come up for air in your golden years.

Sometimes you need a little break along the way.

Taking time away from the workforce — whether it’s to travel, take care of loved ones, learn a new skill or whatever — can be a beneficial thing. But money — or the lack thereof — is what stops many people from even considering it.

With some significant planning and budgeting, however, it’s possible to make your career break dreams a reality. Here are five steps you should take when budgeting for a career break.

5 Steps for Career Break Budgeting

1. Think About What Your Career Break Will Look Like

People take career breaks for a number of reasons. Take some time to reflect on why you are planning time away from the workforce and what you intend to do.

When thinking about what your new day-to-day will look like, try to get as detailed as possible. Hone in on aspects that will affect you financially.

How long will your break last? When would you like it to start? Will you be staying at home or traveling the world? What adventures would you like to experience?

While it’s nice to dream about your best life ever, you’ve got to be practical too. Ranking what you want to do with your newfound free time will be helpful if you have to cut your list down to fit what you can afford.

2. Explore What Your Costs Will Be During Your Break

After you’ve fantasized what your work break will look like, it’s time to focus on the numbers. You’ve got to know what your expenses will be in order to determine whether your plans are realistic.

If you don’t already budget your income and track your expenses, now’s the time to start. Your budget will give you a good idea of how much you spend on essentials and where you can cut costs as you save up for leave.

Research all the additional costs you expect to incur during your break. If you’re taking extended parental leave after the birth of a child, you’ll be dealing with a ton of new baby-related expenses. If you’re taking time off to travel, you’ve got to pay for transportation and lodging.

The length of your break will also be a big factor here. Obviously, the longer you’re away from the workforce, the more money you’ll need saved up.

FROM THE BUDGETING FORUM
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3. Set Up a Sinking Fund to Cover Expenses on Your Break

If you haven’t heard the term “sinking fund,” that’s just personal-finance speak for a stash of savings that you regularly contribute to over time to break up a big expense.

Once you’ve estimated the overall expenses for your leave, divide that by how many months you have left to come up with your target monthly savings goal.

Pro Tip

Switch to a bare-bones budget or try these other ways to save money fast so you can free up cash to add to your sinking fund.

If you already have existing savings you want to use to fund your career break, that will cut down on how much you’ll need to put aside each month — just make sure you don’t touch your emergency fund!

Your emergency savings should only be used on an actual emergency — like if you get into a car accident or Fido needs to be rushed to the pet hospital. Being away from work won’t make you immune to emergencies, so do not plan to use your emergency fund to tide you through your break.

In fact, before you focus on building up your sinking fund, you ought to have adequate savings in an emergency fund first.

A woman helps her mother up from a chair outside in their garden.

4. Explore Opportunities to Make Money On Your Break

If you’re able to make money while you’re away from work, you’ll be less financially burdened. You won’t have to save up as much or worry about burning through your entire savings.

The first income stream you should explore is your current job. Taking a career break doesn’t necessarily mean calling it quits where you work now.

Depending on what type of leave you’re taking, your job may be protected and you might be able to continue collecting your salary — or a percentage of your current pay.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible workers with up to 12 weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child, to deal with a serious health condition or to care for an ill or injured family member. While this type of leave is unpaid, you’ll continue to be covered under their workplace health insurance plan and there may be the possibility of coupling this leave with short-term disability pay.

Pro Tip

President Joe Biden’s proposed coronavirus stimulus package includes extending the expired paid time off policies for sick workers and those needing to care for family members due to COVID-19.

Find out if your employer offers any other paid leave programs — whether that’s parental leave, unlimited PTO or sabbaticals. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2019 Employee Benefits Survey, 27% of employers offered paid parental leave, 6% offered unlimited paid leave and 5% offered a paid sabbatical program.

Another 11% of employers surveyed offered an unpaid sabbatical program. While unpaid leave isn’t as ideal as paid leave, it gives you peace of mind that you’ll have a job to come back to after your break.

Other options to make money during your leave include picking up a side gig, bringing in passive income, renting out rooms (or your entire place) on Airbnb or selling your belongings.

If you need to pick up a little work while you’re on a career break, just make sure it doesn’t conflict with the reason you needed to take leave in the first place.

5. Develop a Re-Entry Plan

You need to plan for all aspects of your career break — including your transition back to the workforce.

Your budget needs to not only cover your expenses while you’re backpacking through Europe or nursing your elderly mother back to health. You’ve got to add a cushion for that period at the end where you’re actively seeking your next gig.

While data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average length of unemployment is about 23 weeks, how long it’ll take you to find new work will vary depending on your industry and the position you’re seeking.

Plan to keep up with contacts in your field and engage in relevant volunteer work or continued education while you’re away to improve your chances of quickly finding a new job.

If your savings run low toward the end of your leave, don’t brush off finding a bridge job — a temporary role to help you pay the bills while you search for better opportunities.

Pro Tip

A resume gap isn’t the kiss of death it used to be. You can even craft a way to include side gigs on your resume.

A career break should provide you with freedom to pursue something outside of your typical work life. You don’t want that freedom to drag you deeper into debt or put you in a worse financial position if you can avoid it.

Do your best to budget for more time than you’ll need so you can enjoy your career break stress free.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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

Last Chance To Signup for American Express Gold Card with $100 Airline Credit & To Select Your Airline (Feb. 3)

The American Express Gold card offers a $100 airline incidental credit each year, a benefit which is ending this year of 2021. In order to be eligible for the 2021 $100 benefit, you need to have an account open by February 3rd and have your airline selected.

Per the FAQ on bottom of this page:

For American Express Gold Card Members who opened accounts before February 4, 2021, the $100 Airline Fee Credit will no longer be available after December 31, 2021. Card Members who opened accounts on or after February 4, 2021 are not eligible for the Airline Fee Credit.

All American Express Gold Card Members who opened accounts prior to February 4, 2021 and have selected an airline for the Airline Fee Credit benefit will still be eligible to receive statement credits for eligible airline purchases made through December 31, 2021.

Sounds like even existing Gold cardholders need to have their airline selections by that date. It does default to what you used last year, so that shouldn’t be an issue for existing cardholders.

AmEx launched a new $10 monthly Uber credit which begins this month, February, as a replacement for the $100 airline incidental credit. 2021 is the one year which you can get in on both credits, but again, only those who already have the card and select an airline by February 3rd will get both benefits.

There’s a good signup bonus offer currently on the Gold card of 60,000 + $250. Hopefully if you apply now and get approved right away it’ll be possible to have your airline selected by February 3rd (see these data points).

Hat tip to Chase-ing UR points

Source: doctorofcredit.com

I’ll Retire With a Military Pension and Want to Move to a Bicycle-Friendly, Beer-Loving Place—So Where Should I Go?

A beer garden at one of Knoxville, Tenn.'s craft brewers.Visit Knoxville

Dear MarketWatch,

I have five years until I retire. I have a nest egg of $1 million and will also have a monthly military pension of approximately $6,000, and Social Security on top of that.

I like cycling 60 miles a day and want to retire in a place that is known for good, safe cycling. I hate hot humid weather and don’t want a lot of snow. I love craft beer. And I would prefer a place with limited or no income tax on a military pension.

Where should I retire? Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, N.C., seem like good places, but the cost of living in Fort Collins seems above average, and I am told Asheville has a lack of housing.

What other places should I consider and how do they compare with the two locations already mentioned? My wife likes the sound of “the Hill County in Texas,” but she knows the heat is bad.

Charles

 

Dear Charles,

The Fort Collins and Asheville areas sound lovely. And popular places tend to be more expensive — that’s just the reality of supply and demand. If that’s where you want to be, the trade-off might be as simple as a smaller house/condo/rental.

You also could seek cheaper housing a bit further from these two cities — Greeley, Colo. (don’t believe everything about the smell), or Hendersonville, N.C. (recommended here), for example. Or what about Raleigh-Durham, with the American Tobacco Trail as the trail network’s spine? You’d have to accept more humidity with that one, however.

I started my search by looking at the League of American Bicyclists’ bicycle-friendly communities. Five, including Fort Collins, are platinum. Housing in only one is cheaper than Fort Collins, but I don’t think you’ll appreciate the snow in Madison, Wis. I ruled out Davis, Calif., because the state is one of seven that taxes military retirement pay in full. (It doesn’t tax Social Security checks, though.)

So I looked further down the list while taking weather and taxes into consideration. You can estimate your state taxes using this calculator, but you may want to verify that with a tax professional.

I’ve described three suggestions for you below. Boise (a silver-level BFC) and Corvallis, Ore. (a gold BFC), recommended here and here, may be other places to consider.

As always, taxes, housing costs, the number of craft brewers and even bike-friendliness can change over the next five years. And some of these places may not mesh with whatever your wife’s wish list includes.

Another piece of advice: Be sure to experience a place in all weather, or at least the worst season, to make sure it’s a fit. Data can only tell you so much. Consider renting, at least at first. Your pension and Social Security may cover your regular expenses, but don’t make yourself house-poor.

Equally, state income taxes aren’t always everything. Virginia, which does tax retirement pay, is rated the best state for military retirees according to this survey and scores second-highest for the “economic environment,” behind Alabama.

Why not check out your shortlist on a bike tour?

A kayaker and a paddleboarder in Mead’s Quarry, part of the Ijams Nature Center in the South Knoxville section of Knoxville, TN.
A kayaker and a paddleboarder in Mead’s Quarry, part of the Ijams Nature Center in the South Knoxville section of Knoxville, TN.

Justin Fe/Visit Knoxville

Instead of Asheville … Knoxville, TN

Asheville is one of America’s premier craft beer destinations, but Knoxville has an above-average number of breweries too. By moving here, you’d get a city twice the size (nearly 190,000 people) and the state’s flagship university (33,000 students and the potential for practically free classes starting at age 65). You’d be in a valley with the Smoky Mountains visible to the east; Asheville’s elevation is more than 1,000 feet higher. Average July highs would be a couple of degrees warmer than in Asheville, and January highs would be a couple of degrees cooler, but a little less snow.

Knoxville is a bronze-level bike-friendly community, as is Asheville. Check out bike rides that tour the breweries. You can also join BikeWalk Knoxville on one of its rides to explore the city.

Tennessee has been reducing its state income tax and will abolish it at the end of 2020. North Carolina will give you a more modest break on your pension and tax your Social Security check.

Housing is much cheaper in Knoxville than in Asheville, whether buying or renting. Here’s what’s for sale in Knoxville now, using listings from Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.

And here’s Asheville.

You can flip to the rental market for both.

———

A sunrise near Wenatchee, WA
A sunrise near Wenatchee, WA

Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce

Instead of Fort Collins … Wenatchee Valley, WA

The Wenatchee Valley is a bronze-level bicycle-friendly area of 67,000 people in central Washington, so far from Fort Collins’ platinum status and even smaller than Asheville. The city of Wenatchee has nearly 35,000 residents, and the narrow, 50-mile-long Lake Chelan is an hour away. This is an agricultural area — fruit is a big crop, and there’s wine, too — so you should have plenty of rural roads to pedal on. Yes, you’ll also find craft brewers

Washington state doesn’t have an income tax, so Wenatchee checks that box. Colorado offers some tax breaks on both military pensions and Social Security.

The Wenatchee area is more affordable and less busy than Fort Collins, which you should think of as a cheaper(!) version of Boulder. Fort Collins has 170,000 people, plus there are almost another 80,00 in neighboring Loveland and 110,000 in Greeley. The plus side is that it gives you a broad range of neighborhoods and prices.

Average summer highs in Wenatchee are in the mid-80s; average highs in the winter are just above freezing. Fort Collins is a touch cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. You’d get little rain, unlike cities on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, but expect 7 to 9 inches of snow on average in December and January. Despite its higher average temperatures, the snow starts earlier in Fort Collins, lasts longer and you get more of it.

You will find plenty of retirees around Wenatchee. Nearly 20% of Chelan County’s 77,000 residents are 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau. Fort Collins comes with Colorado State University.

If Wenatchee looks too pricey, check out Spokane, another bronze-level BFC. It’s far bigger, with about 225,000 people (and 525,000 in the county), and has more craft brewers. The drawback is more snow. If you want to go smaller, Ellensburg, about 90 minutes south of Wenatchee, is a silver-level BFC and a touch cheaper than Wenatchee.

Here’s what’s on the market in Chelan County.

This is what the housing market looks like in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley.

Indiana University's Little 500 bike race.
Indiana University’s Little 500 bike race.

Visit Bloomington

Wild card: Bloomington, IN

If you like older biking movies, you know this town of 85,000 people from “Breaking Away” and the Little 500 bike race. But did you know the home of Indiana University is a gold-level bike-friendly community?

And we’re not talking about just biking past miles and miles of corn fields on those 60-mile rides. (That would be retiring near rival Purdue University in West Lafayette, a bronze-level community.) Southern Indiana is hilly — test yourself on the brutal Hilly Hundred weekend ride outside of town during peak foliage. Others might prefer the all-terrain Gravel Grovel through the Hoosier National Forest. To chill, take the 9.2-mile trail that runs from the north end of town to the limestone quarry on the south side.

For beer, check out Upland Brewing, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2019. Six more gold-medal winners are in Indianapolis an hour to the north.

Indiana is changing how it taxes military retirement pay; your pension should be exempt as of 2021. The state also doesn’t tax Social Security income.

Temperatures in Bloomington reach an average of 86 in July, while January means an average high of 37 and about 5 inches of snow. If you want to hang out on campus, seniors get 50% off tuition, and the break starts at age 60.

Here are homes on the market now.

The post I’ll Retire With a Military Pension and Want to Move to a Bicycle-Friendly, Beer-Loving Place—So Where Should I Go? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com