New PUA Rules: Don’t Miss These Unemployment Deadlines

The second stimulus package is tightening the rules for millions of gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers receiving unemployment aid.

On Dec. 27, the $900 billion stimulus package extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a critical benefits program for folks who don’t typically qualify for regular unemployment aid. The deal lengthened PUA benefits for at least 11 weeks, but it also created new filing rules that affect current recipients and new applicants alike.

Chief among the new rules: You will need to submit income documentation to your state’s unemployment agency if you are a gig worker or self-employed worker — or risk losing future benefits and having to return any benefits collected after Dec. 27.

“I think they are a real pain,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, regarding the new PUA filing rules. “Not just for recipients, but for state agencies to collect. Every burden we add to state agencies slows benefit processing for everyone.”

The new requirements are intended to combat fraud. According to the Department of Labor, more than 7.4 million people are relying on PUA and are subject to the changes.

New Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Rules and Deadlines

The new deadlines established by the second stimulus package are different for current PUA recipients and new applicants.

As a current PUA recipient, you have until March 27 to submit income-related documents to prove your PUA eligibility. If you apply for PUA before Jan. 31, you also have until March 27.

If you apply for PUA Jan. 31 or later, you will have 21 days from the date of your application to submit income-related documents.

Need to apply? Our 50-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance filing guide includes an interactive map and the latest information from the second stimulus deal.

The Department of Labor requires each state to notify you of your state-specific rules. Your state may have different deadlines. In that case, refer to your state’s instructions. The DOL is also leaving it to each state to determine exactly what documents are required to prove your eligibility.

Here are some examples of documents your state may ask you to file:

  • Tax forms such as 1099s and W-2s.
  • Ledgers, recent pay stubs and earnings statements from gig apps.
  • Recent bank statements showing direct deposits.

If you’re self-employed, you may be required to submit:

  • Federal or state income tax documents.
  • A business license.
  • A 1040 tax form along with a Schedule C, F, SE or K.
  • Additional records that prove you’re self employed, such as utility bills, rental agreements or checks.

If you’re qualifying for PUA because you were about to start a job but the offer was rescinded due to COVID-19 related reasons, you may be asked to submit an offer letter, details about the employer and other information related to the job to verify your claim.

Another new rule is that you will have to self-certify that you meet one or more of the following PUA eligibility requirements on a weekly basis:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms and are seeking diagnosis.
  • A member of your household has COVID-19.
  • You are taking care of someone with COVID-19.
  • You are caring for a child or other household member who can’t attend school or work because it is closed due to the pandemic.
  • You are quarantined by order of a doctor or health official.
  • You were scheduled to start employment and don’t have a job or can’t reach your workplace as a result of the pandemic.
  • You have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household died due to COVID-19.
  • You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your workplace is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

Self-certification means that you swear the reason(s) you are on PUA is or are true at the risk of perjury. Previously, PUA applicants had to self-certify only once at the time of their initial application.

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Evermore says that since current PUA recipients weren’t asked to submit all this information when they were first approved, they might no longer have access to the requested documents.

“People who were told they don’t need documentation may have lost it, and this will create panic resulting in more stress on people who have already had an unimaginably bad year,” she said.

The good news, Evermore says, is that states have leniency to waive some of these requirements if you can demonstrate “good cause” for not being able to submit the requested documents. What’s considered “good cause” is also determined on a state-by-state basis.

“People who got approved for benefits in the past won’t necessarily get cut off from benefits simply because they are unable to produce the requested documentation,” Evermore said. “Just follow all of the agency’s instructions carefully.”

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

A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

 You are getting ready to send your child off to college. Before you start helping them pack their belongings, there is one thing you need to do.

You need to help them create a budget. You need to teach them how to manage their money so they can learn the tools they’ll use long after they graduate.

WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED A BUDGET?

The truth is everyone needs a budget. It does not matter your age. If you are dealing with money, a budget is necessary.

  1. Allows you to control your money. Rather than your money telling you what it wants to do, you get to tell your money where it needs to go. You are always in control when you have a budget.
  2. It teaches financial skills. A budget helps ensure that expenses such as rent, tuition, food, insurance, transportation, and housing are paid – before spending money on the fun stuff. (It also helps to make sure you don’t spend more than you make.)
  3. Makes you aware of where your money goes. When you use a budget, you see how you spend. It is very simple to see if too much is going toward dining out when you should be building your savings.
  4. Helps you track your goals. You need to cover expenses but you should also work on building savings at the same time. Your budget allows you to not only see those goals but track them in real time.

DOESN’T A BUDGET MEAN YOU CAN’T HAVE FUN?

Not at all! If anything, your budget will allow you to have guilt-free fun.

For example, the budget may allow you to spend $50 a week dining out. That means you can go to dinner with friends once (possibly twice) a week and enjoy yourself. You won’t be left wondering how you are now going to make rent.

WHAT TYPE OF BUDGET SHOULD YOUR STUDENT USE?

There are various methods of budgeting such as the 50/30/20 and the zero-based budget. For most college students, the zero-based is the simplest and easiest to follow.

The reason is that you track everything. You give every penny a job. That means if you earn $1,500 for the month that you “spend” the entire $1,500.

You will first cover the needs (food, shelter, transportation) and then your wants. If there is money “leftover” after this is done, it can be added to your savings.

You can use other types but if you have never budgeted before, using this method is the simplest.

WHAT SHOULD A COLLEGE STUDENT INCLUDE IN A BUDGET?

The budget will vary for each person, as the income and expense will be different. However, these are the most common categories that need to be included in a budget:

  • Rent
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance (also saving for annual renewal fees)
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Utilities (phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Entertainment (movies, games, concerts)
  • Dining out
  • Emergency fund savings

Again, you may have items that are not included above or see some that you do not need.

However, the most important thing of all is that every penny is given a job. Account for everything you will spend each month so you never have too much month and not enough money.

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUDGET?

For most college students, apps or digital trackers are the best options.  But, before you rush and sign up, keep the following in mind.

  1. Cost. Many apps are free and they will work perfectly fine. Other apps have a monthly fee attached to them. If you plan to use one of them, make sure you include that as one of your regular expenses. However, do not let the cost alone be a single factor when it comes to clicking the sign-up button.
  2. Security. Your security trumps all else. You need to make sure the app uses encryption as well as two-factor authorization.

Some of the best apps include:

  • Mint
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB)
  • PocketGuard
  • Mvelopes

However, your student may also like the traditional paper and pencil method – and that is OK as well.

Find the right one that works best for your student. That is all that matters.

TEACHING THEM TO BUDGET

Knowing you need a budget and where to track it is just the beginning. You need to teach your child how to budget.

Start by looking at each category that they need on their budget. You may already know the cost for each category but if not, you may need to make phone calls or do research to know.

For example, you know the rent for the apartment is $850 a month but how much are the average utilities? Ask the manager for these costs so you can include them in the budget.

Next, decide how much they want to allow themselves to spend on food. Show them how much a meal costs for a single person at each restaurant you eat at so they can create an average.

You will then have them decide how much “fun money” they want to include as well. You can base this on them wanting to go to the movies two times a month, one concert a month, or attending three events.

Now you can see the expenses for your student. Add their income to the budget and deduct the expenses. They will see if they are operating in the black (money left over) or in the red (spending more than they make).

Show them how to adjust the numbers by increasing their savings or lowering the amount they can spend on clothes – until the budget equals zero. Zero meaning they are spending every penny they earn.

And making them keep track now will help ensure they stay on track well into the future.

 

 

 

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

These Free TV Apps Will Let You Cut Cable but Keep Content

Try these free TV apps out and see which works best for you.
Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV (formerly Freedive) features a host of full episodes of your favorite current and classic TV shows as well as an array of movies.
While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: Many of these sites and apps are full of malware.
The kids (or kids at heart) can check out Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Dora the Explorer.”
Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every 10 minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.

12 Free TV Apps That Will Help You Cut Cable

NBCUniversal launched this streaming service, which includes over 7,500 hours of free content, in July 2020.
Chris Brantner is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this article.

1. Crackle

And you aren’t confined to squinting at your phone’s screen or gathering the family around the old iPad to watch your favorite TV series and movies — you can download apps to your Smart TV or even your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
If you’re a fan of shows like “The Office,” “Law and Order: SVU,” or “Saturday Night Live,” you can watch them on this streaming service.

2. Tubi TV

The library is solid and has started offering popular Fox TV series like “The Masked Singer” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.”
Whether you want it now or later, Xumo offers live TV and on-demand options.
The catalogue includes some binge-worthy sci-fi hits like “Lost” and “Fringe.”
You’re there anyway — why not get paid to play video games? Here are four simple ways to start earning real cash for virtual play.

3. Pluto TV

Almost all of the networks and cable TV channels have their own free apps for you to download — although many charge you to actually watch current content.

Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or entertainment. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.
The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.

Pro Tip
You can even tap the “Live TV” button to watch what’s currently airing on your local PBS station.

Customers can stream Peacock on a variety of platforms, including LG Smart TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Roku, Google and Apple devices and Playstation and Xbox consoles.
Both live TV and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 275 local news affiliates in 160 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air, so even if you don’t catch the news as it happens, you can catch up later.
Xumo is available on most smart TVs and Roku and for download on iOS and Android devices.

4. NewsON

Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared toward teens (and sometimes even adults).
Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.
Got a library card? You have access to even more entertainment options (besides the obvious, books). Check out these library apps for free access to movies, TV shows and more.

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5. Funny Or Die

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Pro Tip
Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded.

Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on more than 25 devices, including Android and iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.

6. PBS Kids

Yes, YouTube. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device that has a screen, and the service features videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.
Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. The NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.

Pro Tip
There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragon Ball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.”

For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.

7. Xumo

In 2018, the Funny Or Die began publishing on Vox Media’s Chorus and now uses the YouTube Player.
While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV.
Or if you just want to veg out, switch over to their Binge menu for a seemingly endless stream of TV series, like “The Hills” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
But it also includes more than 160 free channels, including themed ones in case you’re in the mood for action movies or comedies — you can watch the Funny Or Die channel here, too.

Pro Tip
Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.

8. Crunchyroll

Like Pluto, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.
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.
A division of FOX Entertainment, Tubi TV has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate. It also features lots of foreign and independent productions.
Most of those videos are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.

9. Twitch

One of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general is Crackle. The cost-free service has a variety of content, ranging from classic TV shows like “Bewitched” and “Barney Miller,” as well as the newer “Snatch” series. It also has hundreds of films from major studios.
Many of the free TV apps offer “premium” channels — if you see that word, expect to pay for those services.

Pro Tip
While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.

The free version of IMDbTV is ad-supported, so you’ll have to sit through a few commercial breaks.
Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “Wild Kratts” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported for Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets.

10. IMDb TV

Pluto TV offers TV channels of linear content much like a cable package
Like Tubi TV, Pluto TV has advertisements similar to the ad load of normal TV.
As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular.
With so many free streaming options out there, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you’re looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime.

11. YouTube

For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.
The go-to streaming app for comedy programming is Funny or Die. Founded in 2007 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from big names in show business.
Although Peacock offers paid premium options, the free version includes current and classic TV shows, movies, news, sports, kids’ shows, Spanish-language programs and even select episodes of Peacock originals.

12. Peacock

Kids need free streaming content, too. PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content for the youngest members of the family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.
Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TVand Chromecast devices and Android TV.
It is available in the United States on the IMDb app, the IMDb website, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.
Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content. But we’ve rounded up free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable-cutting solutions.

Get camera-ready: From masterclasses to gear, The Penny Hoarder Shop has all things photography.

There are dozens of classic TV, movie and sports channels — and even some highly curated streams of niche content.
If you’re looking for breaking news, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.
Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. It specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.

Parking Options When Your Community Doesn’t Have a Parking Lot

Parking is an amenity that some people don’t even think about when looking to rent an apartment. But if you want the convenience of a covered garage or a guaranteed spot for your vehicle, it has to be part of your must-haves.

When a space is not included, then it becomes a much bigger deal. Do you live in an apartment complex that doesn’t have a parking lot? No worries, we’ve got a few options for you to consider.

1. Street parking

street parking

Depending on where you live, street parking may be an available option at no cost to you. While it may be free, it’s often on a first-come, first-serve basis. This means you’ll have to try your luck and find an open parking spot.

Know ahead of time that some street parking will cost you. Think metered spaces or a permit for a block or specific neighborhood. More often than not, time restrictions on parking will be part of the deal.

Keep an eye out for signs posted with instructions. Pay attention to avoid getting a ticket, having your car booted or towed.

2. Garage or lot parking

garage parking

If your complex or apartment building doesn’t have its own garage, then paid parking in a nearby garage is an option. Or, a parking lot within walking distance of your home. Parking lots are most common near shops, bars and restaurants, according to the Parking Network.

There are parking lots that are open throughout the year, but some are also improvised. Think of when you’ve gone to an event. Where do people park for a music festival that only happens once a year? There might be an open nearby meadow for parking, for example.

Paid parking lots and garages sometimes include a parking attendant. Gated entries require a ticket to enter and leave, or a machine to pay the parking fee. For this type of parking, you’re usually charged for the amount of time that you park. If your car is there for more than a few hours, you may incur a flat fee for daily parking.

When parking in an area that requires you to take a ticket, be sure to hold onto the ticket to leave. If you lose the ticket, you may pay a flat fee, which could be more than the cost of the time you actually parked in the space.

It’s a good idea to shop around for the best rate since costs vary from garage to lot. While comparing rates, look at whether it is cheaper to pay for daily vs. hourly parking.

3. Parking apps

parking app

Source: Parknay

Parking apps are one answer, especially in a lot of urban locales. Searching for and paying for parking has become easier because of parking apps. Some apps even let you make a reservation and will provide instructions on how to redeem parking at the garage.

Parknav is an app that offers real-time predictive street parking in more than 200 cities. Search the app for an address. Parknav displays a map with nearby streets. These streets are color-coded according to the likelihood of finding parking there.

That’s only one app out of many that help you find parking. Some apps are city-specific and there are even a few that help you save money. A quick search on your phone’s app store will give you a list of useful parking apps.

4. Ditch the car for public transportation

public transportation

Although it may not be ideal for everyone, public transportation is an option. Do you live in a transit-rich city? If you live in an area that’s easily accessible by mass transit or has everything you need within a short distance, you can always sell your car and use the bus, subway, train, bike or walk.

This option may save you money and will remove the stress of having to find parking. There’s a huge variation among different cities in the price of parking.

Park wisely

Parking is a problem when you live in an apartment without dedicated spaces. It’s also an issue when you’re a two-car family and you’ve only got one reserved space. Street parking could be lacking where you live. Especially in urban areas.

Some cities want to require the unbundling of parking space rentals from housing lease agreements, reports the Seattle Transit blog, which could lead to lower rents! Whatever the case, try to avoid parking in areas that are not well lit at night, block driveways or are in prohibited areas.

If you find that parking is important to you, keep this in mind for future apartment searches. But even if your apartment complex doesn’t have a parking lot, don’t stress. Just look around and know that you have options.

The post Parking Options When Your Community Doesn’t Have a Parking Lot appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

The No-Cash Envelope System That Works

The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

I am a strong believer in the cash envelope system. It works great for our family. But I also know that is not the case for everyone.  You may not want to use cash but love the envelope system concept.  Fortunately, there is a program you can use that marries your desire to use plastic with the discipline of a cash envelope budget.

When it comes to managing your money, spending and trying to get out of debt, there are many programs and apps out there. But, not all of them can do everything.  That means one app for your budget, another for trying to get out of debt and then yet another for managing your spending.

ProActive does it all.  You can manage your money, spending, budgeting, and debt payoff – all from one simple to manage app! But, before you jump in and download it, make sure you read this honest review.  That way, you’ll know what to expect!

What is ProActive?

ProActive combines the beauty of shopping with plastic and the discipline of cash envelopes.  The system ensures that you never overspend – ever!  Just like with cash, when the envelope is empty, you are done shopping!

 

What is the cash envelope budget?

A cash envelope budget is what it sounds like. Rather than using plastic to shop you get cash and place the budgeted amounts into envelopes.  For example, if your budget for food is $200 a paycheck, then you get cash and place $200 in an envelope earmarked for groceries.

When you grocery shop, you use only the cash in the envelope. That is all you have available to spend. It is impossible to overspend.  If there is only $20 left then that means you can’t spend $22.  There is not enough money there.

It is a system that works very well for people who want to better manage and control spending.

 

How does it work?

Once you sign up and create your account, you will get a ProActive branded debit card.  When you are ready to spend, you use the ProActive card.  But, before you can swipe, you have to let the app know which envelope the money needs to come from.  That way, you always stay on budget and don’t spend more than you should.

 

Add funds to your account

When you get paid, review your budget.  Pay the bills that are due.  What you have left over is what you have left to spend on everything else on your budget.  It will include items such as clothing, household items, personal care and beauty, groceries, entertainment, dues, etc.

You will go into the app and click the “+” icon.  That starts the transfer from your bank account to your ProActive debit card.

 

Allocate the money to your virtual envelopes

Once the funds are deposited, you have to assign an amount to each category (a.k.a. envelope).  Review the budget to see what you have available to spend.

 

Shop as usual (but pay with the ProActive card)

You can’t swipe your card until you have told the card which category (or envelope) the money should come from.  Simply open the app and click the spend category.  Then you can swipe.

If there is not enough money left in the category to cover your purchase, it will be declined.  That makes it impossible to overspend.

 

The smart way to use ProActive

As parents, we teach our kids.  They need to know how to take care of themselves, cook, clean and do other things around the house.  But, it seems that financial responsibility is one that gets overlooked.

One thing that ProActive allows is for you to add your kids and teach them how to manage their own money.  You can put funds on their account and they too can set up categories.  And, just like mom and dad, they have to select the category before they spend so they are not spending more than they should either.

ProActive not only teaches your kids how to use a debit card, but also the financial responsibilities that go along with it.  And, it is in an environment that both mom and dad can see (and control).

 

Who is ProActive a fit for?

Just like with every other app or budget system there is never a one-size-fits-all system. That means this may not work for you.  If you love your credit card for the rewards then this will not work for you.  You can’t attach a credit card and use this program.

But, if you struggle to try to manage your money and spending then you really need to get this app. It makes it impossible to overspend and helps you learn how to think about every purchase you make.  You may not need to use it forever as you will become disciplined.

 

What does it cost?

When you sign up, ProActive will give you a 15-day trial.  They want to make sure it is a fit for you before they make you pay.  Then, if you love it, you continue at $5.75 a month (paid annually, so $69).  You can add a second user for $29 a year and even add your kids for just $24 each.

 

What happens if I forget my phone?

It happens.  We leave our phones behind. In that case, it is important that you always have an alternative payment method handy, such as your bank debit card, credit card or cash.

If your goal is to get out of debt, you have to first start with your budget and spending. If you don’t do that, you will never achieve your goals.  ProActive is one tool that helps you every step of the way.

The post The No-Cash Envelope System That Works appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

8 Career Tips to Help You Crush Your Goals in 2021

Good riddance, 2020.

After one of the worst years of our lifetime, the ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions has taken on new meaning — especially when it comes to our financial lives. The pandemic erased the jobs of millions of Americans and docked the incomes of millions more.

But now is a time for forward thinking.

Instead of lamenting the past, we can apply a few lessons learned to make 2021 a much better year. (The bar is pretty low. We can only go up from here, right?)

1. Revisit Your Career Goals for 2020

Dig up your New Year’s resolutions from last year. If you didn’t commit them to paper (or a Google Doc) try to think back to the before times. You may have had some grandiose goal of landing your dream job or scoring a hefty raise.

Chances are you did not tick all those boxes. But as you sift through that list, look for any goals that can be salvaged. Then carry those goals over to 2021. Some tweaking may be required.

If nothing else, let this exercise provide a little comic relief. (How naive we were last New Year!)

2. Consider a Bridge Job

Bridge jobs can be a tool in helping you achieve a greater goal — even as you make a lateral but temporary career move.

Let’s say you had an epiphany and realized that your dream job is a creative director at a fancy advertising agency. You may not land the director position right off the bat. But you could gun for that junior graphic artist opening then work your way up.

Or, maybe you were in the hospitality industry and are still recovering from a layoff. You may not find the same job immediately. Instead, you could strategically use a seasonal job to fill the income void while you launch a concerted job hunt for a better match for your skills.

Here’s more on how bridge jobs can help you reach your career goals.

3. Optimize Your Resume

If you’re applying to a large company, chances are you’re doing it online and your resume is going to be reviewed by applicant tracking software (ATS) before any human sees it.

Basically, the software is a screener that scans your resume to see if you’re a good match for the position. It does that by matching skills and credentials mentioned in the job listing with your resume.

But if you didn’t optimize your resume properly, the ATS may not see you as a qualified candidate — even if you have the background the company is looking for.

Pro Tip

The trick is to make sure your resume uses similar phrases and wording from the job listing, aka resume keywords.

The format you choose for your resume is just as important. In certain cases, the standard chronological list of employment may not be the best choice. If you’re looking to change job fields or apply to a position for which you lack experience, career experts recommend using what’s called a functional resume: one that highlights your transferable skills and how those are a fit for the job you seek.

4. Jazz Up Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn can be a powerful, free tool for job seekers. If you signed up but let your profile languish without posting a headshot or work history, carve out a little time to jazz it up. Because that time can really pay off.

You can spruce up your LinkedIn profile in as little as 30 minutes. Here’s what you should do:

  • Customize your URL.
  • Choose a professional photo.
  • Craft a killer headline.
  • Write a recruiter-drawing summary.
  • Ask for recommendations from colleagues.

The professional social media site is especially useful when you’re researching a new employer. You can search for people who have worked for the company (past and present) to get a sense of its work culture. (Don’t be afraid to ask directly!) And if you’re invited to an interview, you can easily look up your interviewer(s).

During the pandemic, LinkedIn implemented a photo banner that you can add to your profile picture to let employers know you’re actively looking for work. For a more discreet approach, in the setting menu, you can toggle an “open to work” feature that only recruiters can see.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

5. Prepare for Virtual Job Recruitment

Virtual recruitment is the new normal. Even before the pandemic, online job fairs and interviews were steadily gaining popularity.

By attending fairs and interviewing virtually, you can connect with people you may never have otherwise had the opportunity to. It may sound a bit daunting at first, but we’ve all been collectively thrown into this remote environment at the same time. Hiring managers and recruiters may be working out the technical kinks themselves and are more likely to be forgiving.

Having strong remote-interviewing skills can be an easy way to set yourself apart. This quick interview advice can go a long way:

  • Adjust your lighting. If possible, include multiple light sources from different angles to eliminate any harsh shadows.
  • If you wear makeup, consider applying a little extra because it doesn’t show well on camera.
  • Position your web cam at eye level. (No one wants to see up your nose.) Stack a few books under your laptop if needed.
  • Have an interesting prop behind you. A bookshelf, plant or painting could work wonders.

6. Brush Up on Your Interviewing Skills

Even if you feel like a rockstar interviewer, you probably don’t know for sure unless you’ve watched a video of yourself during an interview (unlikely) or conducted a mock interview with a friend or family member (also doubtful). Having someone else critique your body language and provide honest feedback will help you address quirks you didn’t even know you had.

It’s good to make your mock interview experience as close to the real thing as possible. During the pandemic, that likely means a video call. Have the gracious soul you’ve convinced to assist you make note of technical aspects like lighting as well as the substantive things like how you answer questions and react under pressure.

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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have slipped into long-term unemployment during the pandemic, that adds another layer to your interview you should prepare for: questions about your employment gap. You will likely be asked about your time out of work directly and possibly even in an accusatory manner. Have an honest, straightforward response ready and highlight any professional developments or new skills you’ve honed in the meantime.

7. Get Comfortable Negotiating

Your 2021 career goals aren’t likely to happen without a bit of legwork. Many career-related goals (raises, new jobs, better hours) boil down to one major thing: negotiation.

For most folks, negotiating can stir up some uncomfortable feelings. Those feelings are the first (and probably biggest) roadblock to getting what you want.

Once you’ve committed yourself to having those difficult conversations, do your homework. If your negotiation is income-related, research salary ranges for your position. Peg yourself on that scale based on your location, skills and experience.

Mentally set three numbers: a reserve point (the lowest number you’ll accept), a target point (the salary you want) and an anchor point (the first number to come up during the conversation). Use these numbers to create a game plan.

No matter the type of negotiation, it’s important to practice (maybe that same friend from your mock interview is available?) and to keep your composure. Stay calm, respectful and flexible and you’ll be ticking off those goals in no time.

8. Use a Side Gig Intentionally

Gig work can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you put it to use.

Blessing: extra income to help you meet a personal goal, like paying off debt or honing new skills that further your career. Curse: a seemingly never-ending grind and critical means of income from which there is no escape.

Sounds a little dramatic, sure. But the pandemic has really underscored this dichotomy. As millions of jobs have vanished, gig work — especially app-based services — has become a safety net. The work is fairly straightforward, entry-level and can be started in days.

Left uncheck, though, the gig you planned to do on Saturday evenings can slowly creep into Sundays. Then Mondays. Before you know it, most of your income is coming from a smattering of gig apps that have no real job security or benefits.

To avoid this scenario, set attainable financial or career goals, meet those goals and then get out. In other words, your side gig needs an exit plan.

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