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Unemployment Benefits Explained: Terms, Definitions and More

Since the start of the pandemic, mass unemployment has rocked the nation. To help mitigate the damage, two economic stimulus packages allotted unprecedented sums of money to create new benefits programs that assist people who are out of work.

Millions of newly eligible folks now have access to benefits. But the new programs put state unemployment agencies in a tricky position. They are receiving record-breaking surges in applications at the same time that they are tasked with creating and paying out brand new benefits. The result: overburdened websites, unclear instructions and lots of jargon.

Take, for example, this update to applicants on Arkansas’ unemployment website after the second stimulus package passed:

“Some extensions and changes to federal UI programs will include the reinstatement of the FPUC program, extension of PUA program and PEUC program for those who qualify,” the notice states.

After reading that sentence, you may have a couple choice acronyms yourself. Maybe, “OMG — WTH does that mean?”

“Understanding the difference with all these programs and acronyms is going to be confusing,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment benefits policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Our plain English guide will help you make sense of it all. Consider bookmarking this page and referencing it as you trudge through the process of getting your benefits.

The 2 Unemployment Programs You Definitely Need to Know

The overwhelming majority of people relying on unemployment benefits are receiving aid from two key programs. According to figures from the Department of Labor, more than 13 million people are collecting Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

These two foundational programs provide the bulk of unemployment aid through weekly payments. Once you understand the difference between them, a lot of the other programs will start to make sense.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Also referred to as Unemployment Compensation, UI is the longstanding benefits program run by each individual state. It’s for people who are out of work at no fault of their own. To qualify for UI, you have to have made a certain amount of money in the recent past  — typically from a W-2 job with an employer that paid into the unemployment system through payroll taxes. Specifics like previous employment duration or earnings vary.

Depending on your state, average UI payments are between $180 and $490 per week, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor. The duration of UI programs also depends on your state. They last between 12 and 30 weeks (without any extensions). The most common duration is 26 weeks.

Additionally, to collect UI, you have to be able to work, available to work and actively seeking work. Some states have waived the “actively seeking work” requirement during the pandemic.

Pro Tip

Use this tool from the Department of Labor to find your state’s unemployment website and start a UI claim.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal unemployment program. It’s up and running in all 50 states. The first stimulus package created PUA in March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, PUA has been a lifeline for tens of millions of jobless people who don’t qualify for regular UI benefits.

For the first time nationally, gig workers and freelancers, who are considered 1099 independent contractors, have been able to receive unemployment benefits through PUA.

Beyond helping those who were laid off, PUA offers benefits to people who can’t go to work or lost income due to a variety of coronavirus-related reasons. Some examples include contracting COVID-19, caregiving for someone who has COVID-19 or staying home to take care of your kids whose school closed due to COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Because PUA is a federal program, all states must offer it for a maximum of 50 weeks. The minimum weekly payments vary by state, however, because they’re calculated as half your state’s average UI payment. With average state UI payments between $180 and $490, you can expect minimum weekly PUA payments between $90 and $245 depending on your state.

Our guide to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance includes an interactive map to help you find your state’s application rules.
A woman holds hands with her infant while looking for something on her laptop.

7 Quick Definitions to Important Unemployment Terms and Programs

Now that you have a better understanding of the two major unemployment benefits programs, let’s look at extensions, payment enhancements and other important programs that you may be eligible for.

Here’s a primer on seven key terms that you’re sure to come across as you apply for benefits.

CARES Act: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was the first coronavirus relief package passed in March 2020. It expanded unemployment assistance, authorized $1,200 stimulus checks and provided relief for small businesses, among several other things. Under this law, those who are partially or fully unemployed as a direct result of the coronavirus may receive up to 39 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.

CAA: The Continued Assistance Act, aka Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers, is part of the $900 billion stimulus package that became law on Dec. 27, 2020. It extends many of the unemployment programs created by the CARES Act.

DOL: The federal Department of Labor oversees all states’ unemployment systems. Your state may have its own agency named the Department of Labor that administers its unemployment benefits. Generally speaking, DOL refers to the federal agency.

DUA: Disaster Unemployment Assistance is not Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may come across this long-standing natural disaster assistance program on your state’s unemployment website. Do not apply. Despite their similar names, they are very different.

EB: Extended Benefits are available in every state except South Dakota. EB is a state-level benefit that extends Unemployment Insurance by six to 20 weeks — depending on your state and your local unemployment rate. To qualify during the pandemic, you may have to exhaust a federal unemployment extension first. (See PEUC below.)

FPUC: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation boosts unemployment benefits by $300 a week for up to 11 weeks between Dec. 27, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Anyone who is approved for at least $1 of unemployment benefits will automatically receive this bonus. No separate application or action is needed. This program previously paid out $600 per week under the CARES Act, but that version expired in July 2020.

PEUC: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extends the length of Unemployment Insurance aid for a maximum of 24 weeks. The first stimulus deal extended UI benefits for 13 weeks, and the second stimulus package added an additional 11 weeks. New applicants (after Dec. 27, 2020) are only eligible for the 11-week extension. This program does not extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

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

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist.

If you’ve been to the pharmacy lately, you may have found yourself wondering how much pharmacists make. Being a pharmacist, at least at the retail level, involves a lot of standing, long shifts and dealing with customers. In other words, it might not be for everyone. On the plus side, salaries in the field are on the high side, with an average annual salary of $123,670. 

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist: The Basics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the mean annual salary of a pharmacist in May 2018 was $123,670 per year. The highest-paid 10% of pharmacists earn a mean annual wage of $161,250. The lowest-paid 10% of pharmacists make an average of $87,790. So, no matter where you end up on the pharmacist income scale your annual wage is likely to be much higher than the annual income of the average American.

The BLS also provides a job outlook for the professions it studies. The job outlook shows the percent by which a field will grow (or shrink) between 2016 and 2026. The job outlook for pharmacists is 6%, which is just shy of the 7% average across all fields. Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS projects the field will add 17,400 jobs.

Where Pharmacists Make the Most

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist

The BLS also looks at state and metro-area data on the jobs the Bureau studies. So where does it pay the most to be a pharmacist? The top-paying state for pharmacists is Alaska, with a mean annual wage for pharmacists of $139,880. Other high-paying states are California ($139,690), Vermont ($135,420), Maine ($133,050) and Wisconsin ($132,400).

The top-paying metro area for pharmacists is Tyler, TX, with an annual mean wage of $174,870. Other high-paying metro areas are Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA ($155,330); Vallejo-Fairfield, CA ($153,820); Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA ($151,590) and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($149,790).

Becoming a Pharmacist

In order to get a job as a pharmacist, you first have to get a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, also known as a Pharm.D. A Pharm.D. is a postgraduate degree, but most programs only require applicants to have two years of undergraduate education under their belts. Many future pharmacists will spend two years taking prerequisite courses like chemistry, biology and physics. Then, they’ll matriculate and spend the next four years in pharmacy school.

Once you have your degree, you’ll need to pass two exams to receive your license. The first is The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which assesses your knowledge and skills. The second is either a state specific test or the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). This tests your knowledge of pharmacy law specific to the state you’ll be practicing in.

The Cost of Becoming a Pharmacist

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist

Becoming a pharmacist requires years of study and, for most people, taking on student debt. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
Graduating Student Survey, 84.8% of pharmacists-in-training borrowed money to complete their Pharm.D. degree program. Of the survey respondents who borrowed money, the median amount borrowed (across public and private institutions) was $160,000.

Bottom Line

While pharmacists have an advanced degree and a high salary, they are often working in a retail setting. And retail, with its heavy emphasis on customer service, isn’t for everyone. Still, the high pay and job security, along with the intellectual and public-service aspects of working as a pharmacist, might make it worth it. If you’re thinking of becoming a pharmacist, it’s a good idea to talk to some professionals in the field before you commit to an expensive course of study.

Tips for Forging a Career Path

  • Your salary dictates a lot of your financial life, such as how much you can afford to pay in rent and the slice of your paycheck that goes to taxes. However, there are some principles that apply no matter your income bracket, like having an emergency fund and saving for retirement.
  • Need help managing your money and growing your nest egg? You should probably be working with a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/gradyreese, ©iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd   

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Do College Rankings Matter?

student at college campus mobile

All articles about college rankings should perhaps be read with a grain of salt and primarily through a lens of what matters most to individuals about the college experience and what they’re hoping it will be an investment toward.

Prominent publications and people have conveyed a variety of views about whether college rankings matter:

The editor-in-chief of the Science Family of Journals said no in May 2020. “To any logical scientific observer, the fine distinctions of where schools show up on this (U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges) list are statistically meaningless—but try telling that to a roomful of alumni or parents,” H. Holden Thorp wrote.

Ian Bogost, distinguished chair at Georgia Tech, wrote in The Atlantic in June 2020: “The absurdity of a numerical ranking mechanism for colleges becomes apparent the moment you look at how U.S. News calculates it. The methodology reads like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet: 8% for class size; 10% for high-school-class standing; 4.4% for first-to-second-year student retention, and so on.”

But just because the consensus leans toward “no” doesn’t mean it should be the last word on anyone’s ultimate decision about where to go to school.

Even U.S. News & World Report says on its best-colleges website: “The rankings provide a good starting point for students trying to compare schools. … The best school for each student, experts say, is one that will most completely meet his or her needs, which go beyond academics.”

What Are the College Rankings?

There is no single, ultimate, etched-in-stone set of college rankings. All over the world, there are entities using a wide array of criteria to appraise universities.

Rather than expecting a “yes” or “no” to the question of whether college rankings matter, it would be more beneficial to understand why “It depends” could be more appropriate.

If you’re aiming for an education from a prestigious school, and money is no object—well, first of all, congratulations and good luck.

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UI Extension: How to Get 11 More Weeks of Jobless Benefits

“Taken together, the expanded benefits have had a massive effect on the economy,” Evermore said. “Initial unemployment claims are still coming in at unprecedented levels — but this could have been a lot worse without all these federal benefits.”
Data from the Department of Labor proves that. More than 4 million Americans have exhausted their state UI benefits and are relying on the federal extension.
“Understanding the difference with all these programs and acronyms is going to be confusing,” Evermore said. “Just follow the instructions from your state agency. The agency is required to give you information on how to apply [for extensions].”
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.
The catch: You can only apply for this extension once you have run out of your state’s unemployment benefits. You can’t pre-register. The Department of Labor directed states to alert you by email or letter if you are potentially eligible for the extension, but made it clear to states to not automatically enroll people.
Most states offer Unemployment Insurance for 26 weeks. If your benefits are about to expire, and you’re still out of work, a low-grade panic may be setting in.

How Unemployment Insurance Extensions Work

In March, the .2 trillion CARES Act authorized federal aid to supplement state-level Unemployment Insurance programs, a provision dubbed Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC. The second stimulus package passed in December revived PEUC, extending UI benefits for 11 more weeks.
Another source of uncertainty is the number of weeks PEUC will extend your unemployment benefits in total. The first stimulus package authorized 13 additional weeks of benefits. The second package authorized 11 more. But it’s more complicated than adding those two figures together and getting 24 extra weeks.
For example, Florida has the shortest duration of unemployment benefits, at 12 weeks. The state’s Extended Benefits program is also one of the shortest, at six weeks. The order of operations for all possible extensions in Florida would look like this: 12 weeks of UI, 24 (max) weeks of PEUC, six weeks of EB. The total so far is 42 weeks, meaning Florida residents can potentially use Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for 8 weeks to reach the maximum of 50 weeks of aid.
In times of high unemployment rates, 49 states (all except South Dakota) have an Extended Benefits or EB system that adds up to 20 weeks of benefits, according to data compiled by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Provided that local unemployment rates are still high when you exhaust PEUC, you may qualify for more benefits.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
By design, this may cause an interruption in weekly payments.

Pro Tip
Michele Evermore, senior researcher and policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, told The Penny Hoarder that the PEUC extension will become “incredibly crucial” as state benefits expire.

Here are two important things you need to know: One, unemployment extensions are available. But, two, they’re not automatic.

But Wait. There’s More.

Based on guidance from the Labor department, the order of unemployment programs for typical jobless workers goes like this:
The PEUC application is based on your state-level unemployment claims. While you must opt in to receive the additional weeks of benefits, you won’t have to completely reapply.
New York residents who exhaust their state’s program, in contrast, would not be eligible for PUA because the total length of their state benefits plus all available extensions exceeds 50 weeks. By quite a bit, too. Including all sources of assistance, New Yorkers are eligible for up to 70 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Here’s our 50-state guide to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. (We include an interactive map with specific state-by-state instructions.)

  1. State UI programs (which vary from 12 to 30 weeks)
  2. Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (as many as 24 weeks)
  3. State Extended Benefits or EB (six to 20 weeks)
  4. The final failsafe if all other programs are exhausted: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

“The password reset process, in many states, is really difficult,” Evermore said. “You have to call and talk to a password reset person, and then that person will mail you — in the mail — a new password.”

If you are unable to find work after exhausting your state’s program and all additional weeks of PEUC, you may be eligible for a separate extension from your state.
As an Unemployment Insurance recipient, you are likely eligible for PEUC, the new extension program from the federal government.
“There’s an order of operations here,” Evermore said.

FROM THE MAKE MONEY FORUM

Under PEUC, your weekly benefits will be the same as your state benefits, the check will just be coming from the federal government.
Whatever you do, don’t lose your password to your online unemployment profile.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.
But even if you didn’t get that first extension, you could still get the 11 additional weeks approved in the second stimulus bill.
Note: This article has been updated with new information from the Continued Assistance Act (the second stimulus package).
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a federal program that’s available for a maximum of 50 weeks, including the weeks of all previous programs you may have been on.
The unemployment provisions laid out in the first stimulus package expired in December 2020. So the 13 extra weeks provided by the CARES Act are no longer available to new applicants.
For jobless applicants, though, taking all this in can be overwhelming. But benefits are there if you can trudge through the paperwork and arcane websites.

10 Ways to Master a Virtual Career Fair (+ Questions to Ask)

Preparing for a career fair used to mean packing a bag, suiting up, and budgeting more time for travel. Now, preparational tasks include updating video backgrounds and Wi-Fi connections. Swapping in-person events for virtual events may sound like an outlandish idea, but it’s become the star of the show in 2020, as virtual networking events have become the safest meeting alternative amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether you’re seeking a new career or an internship, you’ll likely come across virtual career fairs as a way to talk to potential employers. This is a new experience for many, so we’ve compiled 10 tips to make the most out of a virtual career fair. From preparing your stage to showcasing your skills, here’s how to build your resume and salary potential. Landing a new job is the perfect time to enhance your budgeting skills as you allocate your new income.

What Is a Virtual Career Fair?

A virtual career fair is an event over video that pairs job seekers with employers. For people who want to advance their skills and income, finding a paid internship or new career path may be on this year’s agenda. These events bring together established companies looking to hire people just like you.

Virtual events may feel out of the ordinary compared to traditional in-person career fairs, but there are a few perks — like saving you travel time and expenses. Before signing up for a virtual networking experience, you probably have a few questions. Should you dress like you would for an in-person event? How will you stand out? Below, we share 10 tips to prepare for a virtual career fair and be seen by employers.

How to Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair

First things first, register! If you’re unaware of when or where these events may take place, contact your school’s career center or hosting company. Email, or call, to ask about future career events and opportunities. Keep reading to get the ball rolling with your new career by networking and interviewing from home.

1. Check Your Wi-Fi Connection

Wi-Fi has become more of a lifeline and it’s especially valuable for a virtual career fair. The last thing you want is to freeze or get kicked out due to an unstable connection. If your home has spotty Wi-Fi zones, make sure you set up in a reliable zone. Test your connection by calling a family member or friend with the video software you’ll be using. If your Wi-Fi passes the test, set up your meeting station. If not, reboot your Wi-Fi router and try again in a different area.

2. Set Up Your Meeting Environment

Set your computer up in a professional and distraction-free zone. Setting your computer on your kitchen table with your back up against a white wall may do the trick. Ensure you silence your phone, sit in a well-lit area, and rid your area of sounds or visuals that may steal your attention. Test your video background by turning on your computer camera before starting the event.

3. Research Companies You Would Like to Speak With

Before starting the meeting, make a strategic plan. Ask your career center for a list of employers that may be attending this event. Research each employer on Google, LinkedIn, or job sites like Glassdoor. Scope out which positions you’d be interested in and may excel at. Once you’ve created a list of top employers and positions, ensure you secure a meeting spot to chat with them. During the virtual career fair, emphasize your skills and how they may fit each company’s needs.

4. Dress Up as You Would for an In-Person Career Fair

To get in a professional mindset, dress as you would for an in-person career fair or interview. Thirty-seven percent of employers ranked appearance as one of their key differentiators when seeing if someone is fit for the job. While employers may only see you from the waist up, dress up from head to toe. Dressing the part may help you act the part as a professional goal-getter. A classic button-up shirt, slacks, polished hair, and simple accessories will make the perfect outfit.

5. Test Your Equipment and Log In Early

After doing your research and picking your outfit, test your equipment. Double-check your computer’s battery, microphone, camera, and Wi-Fi connection. Then, log into any accounts or video conferencing software you’ll be using for this event. If possible, ask a friend or family member to video chat beforehand to work through any technical difficulties. Have your notes, research, and a pen close by for the meeting ahead.

The Anatomy of a Successful Virtual Meeting

6. Practice Strong Communication and Body Language

When you’re on the call, present yourself with confidence and attention to detail. Look into the camera, sit up straight, and nod throughout conversations to show you’re engaged. When speaking up, avoid fidgeting or touching your face. When using hand gestures, consider sitting far away from the screen for attendees to see. Practice these skills by role-playing video conversations 30 minutes before the video call.

7. Be Patient and Listen

Technical difficulties and long conversations may happen. And that’s okay! Practice your patience and professionalism by patiently waiting for an employer to sift through candidates or technical issues. If you’re cut short on time, ask the employer for their contact information. After the event, if you want to learn more, ask to set up an additional meeting to continue the conversation.

8. Ask for Email Addresses to Stay in Touch

You may consider asking each employer you speak with for their contact information. In most cases, you’ll get an email address. After the event ends, compile your thoughts. Write a list of your top three employers and reach out directly. Send each an email thanking them for their time and kindly ask about next steps.

9. Practice Your Interview Skills

Sending in applications and speaking with employers may lead to an interview. And if so, congrats! To prepare for any short notice interviews, brush up on your skills early. Print out a list of commonly asked interview questions and topics specific to the industry. Consider curating responses to five interview questions each morning. Before you know it, you’ll be ready for any impromptu interviews that come your way.

10. Maintain Your Network

You may choose to work for one employer over the other, and employers may go with another candidate. To keep a pulse on future career opportunities, stay in touch. Down the line, these employers may want to hire you. Send each person in your network an email check-in every six months. To ensure you keep tabs on your network, create a spreadsheet with contact information and check-in notes.

Questions to Ask at a Virtual Career Fair

The key to standing out is to ask engaging questions. While 56 percent of recruiters may hire candidates that don’t ask questions during an interview, 44 percent wouldn’t. If you want to be seen by employers in video meetings, ask questions! Here are 10 questions to ask employers you’re interested in working with:

  • What surprised you the most about [company/role]?
  • On a typical day, what does someone in [role] do?
  • Can you tell me about the different stages of the hiring process?
  • What are the highlights and lowlights of this position/your role/company?
  • I read an article about [event, role, candidate, campaign]. What was it like being a part of the team during that time?
  • What opportunities for growth are there at [company name]?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you and your team face?
  • I see you don’t have any openings in [position]. Do you have a forecast on upcoming roles in this industry opening up?
  • Who will this potential candidate report to in this role?
  • How does your team measure performance?

Keep reading for quick tips to mastering the art of a virtual career fair.
your budget. You may have the opportunity to grow your career while getting paid. To track these financial changes, regularly check in on your budget. You may be able to put more towards your savings, credit card debt, or investments. While building your career portfolio, you could build your financial portfolio along the way.

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Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You.

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You

It wasn’t until a few months after my husband and I got married that I decided to check both our credit scores. While my husband’s credit score wasn’t horrible, it certainly didn’t qualify as “excellent.” This got me thinking about how newlyweds’ financial histories can affect both spouses’ finances moving forward, and how critical it is to acknowledge this reality—ideally before getting hitched.

Why It’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score

Manisha Thakor cuts right to the chase in her book On My Own Two Feet: “Your credit score is essentially your financial reputation in numeric form.”

Aiming for an excellent credit score—generally defined as 750 or more—is a worthy goal, owing to the range of ways in which it can save you money. Credit scores are critical when applying for loans—for instance, car loans and mortgages. In addition, many employers consider prospective employees’ credit scores during the hiring process.

A high credit score means you can access lower interest rates when borrowing, because creditors will view you as reliable. The perceived risk that you’ll default on your loan is lower compared to those with poor credit scores. Lower interest rates, especially on large amounts borrowed over significant timeframes, can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!

A poor credit score can indirectly hurt your financial efforts as well; consider the fact that when you’re paying over the odds in debt repayments, you’re committing fewer dollars to saving and retirement planning.

photo credit: LendingMemo via photopin cc

Till Debt Do Us Part

Marriage makes you one combined financial unit.

However, that doesn’t mean your credit scores are merged; your credit history continues to be maintained on an individual basis. One spouse’s poor credit cannot directly damage the individual score of the other spouse.

That being said, if you apply for a loan as a married couple, creditors look at both your credit scores to determine your eligibility and terms. So, if one of you has the credit of an angel whereas the other’s credit history is limited or even littered with missed payments and liens, you may find your application is denied.

But, this is not just about loan applications—poor credit can belie more than just a few bad credit card habits. Other financial follies, like paying taxes late, not focusing on saving, and day-to-day overspending, could be lurking in the closet.

What Do You Do After You’ve Said I Do?

While bad credit isn’t good news, it’s not necessarily a reason not to get married. And, it’s not necessarily the precursor to divorce! It is, however, an alarm signaling that it is time to get clear on your joint financial situation and start communicating. Make sure you do this respectfully and compassionately to minimize blame and financial stress. (If you’re the type of person who’d like to know this information from prospective partners before things get serious, there are now dating sites catering just to you.)

Once you’ve identified that one of you has less-than-optimal credit, it’s time to take action. Here are four top tips for taking immediate action:

1. Check your credit report for mistakes: Errors are, unfortunately, pretty common and can be really detrimental. Check your report at least once per year.

2. Make payments on time: Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said! Mary Beth Storjohann of Workable Wealth says, “35% of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills (making this the biggest determining factor for your score)! Are you often late of missing payments? The impact of just one 90-day late payment goes way beyond the three months you took to pay, so set up automatic bill payments.”

3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio: This is how much debt you have as a proportion of your overall credit limits. 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of money you owe versus the amount of credit available to you. The higher the amount of credit you’re utilizing, the more negative the impact on your score. Keep the debt level as low as possible (30% of your limits, or less).

4. Pay down your debt faster: Make more than the minimum payments wherever possible by utilizing the snowball method or targeting the balance with the highest interest rate to pay down first.

photo credit: natloans via photopin cc

Alongside these tips, it’s super important to remember that improving your credit score won’t happen overnight. The length of time it takes for your score to improve is directly related to reasons for the drop. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for your credit report to reflect the positive changes you’re making. As Mary Beth notes, “The most important thing is to be proactive in clearing up any issues.” In addition, two of the criteria factored into your score are the length of your overall credit history and the average age of your accounts.

So, don’t be discouraged—be patient and give it time.

And, Finally, Some Tips on What Not to Do!

There are always two sides to every coin so, while you’re following the tips above, make sure that you’re not unwittingly hurting your score and negating your good work.

Be mindful of the following ways that you could be hurting your credit score:

1. Opening too many new accounts: This comes back to the point that the average age of your accounts is a key factor. Opening lots of new accounts reduces that average.

2. Closing too many old accounts: Older accounts indicate that you have managed payments for a long time and increase the average age of your accounts. When you close credit card accounts, this also decreases the amount of credit available to you, which can reflect negatively if you have other accounts that are still carrying high balances (it essentially increases your debt to credit ratio).

3. Signing up for lots of retail incentive programs: Every time you apply for credit, the company issuing the credit will request information about you from the credit bureaus. Too many of these requests can reduce your score.

4. Over-utilizing your credit. Mary Beth advises, “If you’re depending on your credit cards to fund your daily expenses and lifestyle needs, but aren’t able to pay them off in full at the end of each month, something needs to change. Start tracking your spending and get a handle on your expenses.”

In summary, start taking positive steps, be aware of actions that can hurt your credit, and focus on building solid financial foundations for the future.

This post was written by Erika Torres of GoGirl Finance. GoGirl Finance is a fast-growing community of women seeking and providing financial wisdom across money management, lifestyle, family and career. For more finance tips, follow GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance

The post Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You. appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How Do You Use a Degree That Isn’t Very Specific?

Hello! Enjoy this post from my friend Martin. I know this situation applies to many out there (the possibility of what you or others may believe to be useless degrees), so hopefully this post can help someone out! 

“Why did you waste your time on that degree?”

The most ignorant question in the world. You deserve a smack across the face if you’ve ever asked anyone this. There’s no such thing as a waste of time if you learned a few things and opened your eyes a little. Also, it’s none of your business what someone else studied, unless you of course paid for their full education.

Why would you ask someone this?

The person with the degree doesn’t possess the power to time travel and change things. It’s already too late. They have the degree proudly hanging on the wall. There’s no need to be a ruthless jerk who puts down their friends. The person on the other end will get highly defensive and the argument won’t be pretty.

Why would you ask such an ignorant question?

Sadly, European relatives ask this all of the time. So do friends on Facebook. Most people will ask about why you studied what you did. It’s fairly standard small talk.

 

Do you need to earn a highly targeted degree?

All stats out the window, the answer is no.

You don’t need to do anything. You can’t force yourself to study a topic that you despise for four years of your life. This never ends well. If you do complete your studies and find work in the field, you won’t be happy because you never wanted to do this in the first place.

Can you imagine working in a field that you despise until you’re 65? That’s at least 40 years. That would be one miserable existence.

While I highly suggest that you study a subject that can open up opportunities for you after college, I also realize that not everyone has life figured out in their teens.

When I had to decide what I wanted to study I was 17. Due to my late birthday, I had to figure everything out at this young. I remember choosing a community college because I had no clue of what else to choose. I started at a community college at 17 and somehow managed to survive. I was completely clueless about why I was even there.

You can’t be expected to have your life figured out in your teens. It’s okay if you don’t study the most specific topic.

 

How do you use a degree that’s not in demand?

Well, you don’t have to find a work in your specific field. There’s no rule that states you need to work as a Historian just because you studied history.

You don’t have to find work in the exact field that you studied. You have other options, such as:

  • Totally changing gears. You can pick up a trade or find work in a totally new field. Some of my friends have become bloggers and front line management.
  • Starting your own business. Do you have a business idea in mind?
  • Graduate school. My friend went to graduate school since they had high grades and found work in management.
  • Using your alumni relations connections. Your alumni department could open your eyes.
  • Travel. Have you thought about teaching English abroad?

If your degree isn’t in demand, that’s okay because you can still be in demand. You don’t have to live and die based on your degree. You’re not your degree. You have more to offer this world than the piece of paper that you picked up on stage.

 

Should you feel guilty about having useless degrees?

Nope.

There’s no rule that states you must work in the field that you studied. Most of my friends are in completely unrelated fields. I don’t really know anyone that went to directly find work in their specific field. The only friends that are using their degrees 100% are my friends who became teachers and nurses. Those fields are very specific and you can’t get in without the correct credentials.

Everything else can’t be taught.

Do you think there’s a four year program for bloggers like Michelle? Hell no.

Do you think there’s a program that teaches you how to solve problems? Not really.

Is there a college degree that encourages you to take risks? Nope.

College is a wonderful experience. This is your first taste of the following:

  • Freedom.
  • Responsibilities.
  • Deadlines.
  • Love.
  • Failure.
  • Massive hangovers.
  • Depression.
  • Confusion.

Very little of what you study in college will be used in your real life. I hate to admit this, but I don’t remember anything from the classroom lectures when I look back.

Why did I attend college?

I earned my degree in business so that I could tell people that I got my degree in business. Plus, I was the oldest boy in my family and the first to attend college. Making my parents proud was priceless. Oh, and I didn’t want to get kicked out of the house.

The world’s not going to end because your degree isn’t in the most profitable field. You’re not a failure because you studied something that interested you. It’s your life. You did what you wanted to. If you didn’t study anything specific then that’s okay because you’e not restricted to one field of work. You just need to decide on what you’re going to do next.

Are you using your college degree? Why or why not? Do you have useless college degrees?

 

The above is a post from Martin of Studenomics, where you can read about financial freedom and not have to worry about missing a party. Martin has just launched, Next Round’s On Me, where he helps you with your financial journey in your 20s.

The post How Do You Use a Degree That Isn’t Very Specific? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How to Explain a Gap in Your Résumé

My first job out of college was with a recruiting firm run by three women who had nearly a hundred combined years of experience in the workforce. They taught me everything I needed to know about how to read resumes, including the warning signs to look for. A gap in employment was, according to them, the kiss of death.

Today, a hot minute and three U.S. presidents later, I truly believe that wisdom is as outdated as my prom dress. It was fine in the moment, but the moment has passed.  

Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that.

The rules of employment history have changed, and the story you craft about your timeline is yours. Whether your employment gap happened because of a layoff, becoming a caregiver, taking a sabbatical, exploring entrepreneurship, or even just a mental health break, let's talk about how you can own that gap in a way that will want a prospective employer wanting more of you!

1. Lead with transparency

As poet Walt Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that. There are no right or wrong plot points as long as each point is truthful.

When capturing your history (employment and otherwise) on your resume, be honest and transparent. There's no need to flag a gap in employment in bold print, but neither should you try to hide it.

Our journeys are complex and diverse. The trend toward inclusion will only grow in 2021. And beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce. Companies must look beyond the traditional one-directional career path, and search for talent whose life experience reflects that of their customers.

Beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce.

So don’t be ashamed of revealing your lived experiences, from caregiving to travel to taking time to pursue a passion. Transparency upfront will help you begin the conversation with a prospective employer on the right foot.

2. Reflect on your gains

Maybe you opted out of the workforce for a year to care for a child or parent or to travel the world. Or perhaps you were laid off in an economic downturn. Whatever your reason and whatever the cause, you were still a person living in the world during this time. Your experience may not have been “work experience,” but this is where life experience gets its time in the sun.

When I spent 2007 at home with my newborn daughter, there were days—many days—that left me feeling like my brain had turned to mush. Baby Beluga had become my theme song and I was spending days calculating ounces of milk digested and … processed. (Yes, I mean poops).

This is where life experience gets its time in the sun.

But as I started gearing up for a job search in 2008, I pushed myself to reflect on the gift of that year. Certainly, it was a privilege just to be with my infant daughter. But it had also given me some new skills and perspective. 

Time management and prioritization become finely tuned when your baby’s naps are suddenly your only windows of productivity. I had become part of a new demographic—parents—which broadened my perspective not only on the world but on any company’s potential customer base.

Oh, and my ability to experience failure but keep on keeping on? That expanded immensely. I screwed up daily with sleep training and sign language and all the mothering things. But I also persisted because I had a new responsibility to manage.

These were some of my reflections. I challenge you to define your own.

Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.

Maybe you were laid off during the pandemic. You’re not alone. And remember, you’re leading with transparency. You don’t have to pretend the layoff was some grand gift. You’re allowed to experience disappointment. But shift quickly into considering what you gained during the weeks or months of not being employed.

What have you spent time doing? Being with family? Caring for a loved one? Supporting a working partner? Have you taken any classes? Picked up a new certification? Learned to cook? Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.

3. Craft the narrative

So now, armed with insight and reflection, it’s time to craft the story you will proudly tell any prospective employer. This is your chance to package yourself as the most irresistible product on the job market.

I’ve always loved the commencement address Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford back in 2005, during which he said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.

Steve Jobs

So, as you look back at the totality of your experience—work and life—what is the story you want to tell that makes you the most compelling candidate? How will you choose to connect the dots and help your potential employer see the complete picture?

In 2008, I showed up in interviews not as a new mom hoping desperately for anyone to give me a chance, but as a person with a broad perspective to offer. I still had my pre-baby skills and experiences, but now I could apply a keen ability to prioritize, to think critically about what should command my focus, to learn from failure, and to be successful without having control over a situation.

My conversations with hiring leaders painted this picture of me. I made sure to bring in examples of both work and parenting experience. It made me real and whole. And it ultimately won me a great job.

So, what’s the story you’ll tell? Maybe being laid off taught you that things can change on a dime, which has challenged and enhanced your agility. Maybe you used your time to take classes, brush up on skills, and add a certification. 

Prepare examples of how these insights and added skills will deliver value for your next employer. How lucky they will be to have you!

4. Fake it till you make it

I stand by the logic of everything I’ve said thus far. But there is so much more than logic at play here. There's ego and emotion and anxiety and lots of other messy human things. I’ve lived through, and overcome, all of that. Some days I’m still overcoming it.

Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it.

Are you wondering how I managed to show up with so much confidence after spending a year away from the corporate world? Then let me tell you my secret: It wasn’t confidence at all! It was all my fear and anxiety hidden behind a smile and a firm handshake. (Remember those?)

Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it. For now, if you’re struggling to access confidence, then just play the part. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the real thing will follow.

And there you have it. Yes, whole, complex, messy you. So practice your most confident smile, prepare your firm handshake, brush up your résumé, and get ready to pound the pavement.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com