What Are the Best Loans If You Have Bad Credit?

If you need to borrow money but your credit is less than stellar, it’s possible you’ll wind up with a bad credit loan. These loans are geared toward individuals with imperfect credit histories who can prove their income and ability to repay the loan. As a result of their bad credit, however, consumers who use bad credit loans typically pay much higher interest rates and loan fees. Bad credit loan customers may also be limited in how much they can borrow as well as the terms of their loan’s repayment.

From our perspective, LendingClub is the overall best option when it comes to getting a loan when you have bad credit.

Borrow Money with LendingClub

What To Do If You Think You Have Bad Credit

Step 1 — Get Your Actual FICO Score

The only way to find out if you have bad credit is to take a look at your FICO score, which isn’t difficult since many companies offer online access for free. While your FICO credit score isn’t the only credit score you have, it’s the one used by most lenders that offer personal loans.

According to myFICO.com, the credit score ranges are as follows:

  • Exceptional: 800 and up
  • Very Good: 740 to 799
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Poor: 579 or below

If your credit score falls below 579, there’s a good chance you could only get approved for a bad credit loan. If your credit is just “fair,” on the other hand, there’s still a chance you’ll wind up with a loan for bad credit.

Get My FICO Scores

Step 2 — Compare Multiple Offers

Once you have determined your credit score, you’ll want to start comparing offers from different lenders to see what fits your needs. You can use this tool to start that process.

Continue reading to find out how Good Financial Cents breaks down the best loans for bad credit and what you should watch out for.

Best Bad Credit Loans of 2021

If you feel you’re a candidate for a bad credit loan, it still makes sense to compare loan options to find the best deal. Loans for bad credit may come with higher interest rates and more fees, but some are still better than others.

For the purpose of this guide, we compared all the bad credit lenders to see how their loan products stack up. The following loans are the best of the best when it comes to loans for poor credit:

  • LendingClub
  • Avant
  • LendingPoint
  • OneMain Financial
  • Upstart

Bad Credit Loan Reviews

Before you apply for a loan with one of the bad credit lenders above, it helps to have a basic understanding of their loan offerings, interest rates, and any other important details they offer. The following individual loan reviews can help you determine which lender offers loans that might work for your situation.

#1: LendingClub

lendingclub bad credit loans

LendingClub is a peer-to-peer lender that operates outside of traditional banks. This means loans funded through the platform are initiated by private investors instead of banks, and it also means you may be able to get funding through LendingClub if you can’t get approved for a loan elsewhere.

Investors in search of higher returns on their money can agree to offer loans to consumers with bad credit who present a higher risk. As a result, LendingClub personal loans come with APRs that range from 6.95% to 35.89%. Obviously, loans with rates on the higher end of the scale will go to those with low credit scores.

Before you apply, it’s important to be aware that LendingClub charges an origination fee that can equal up to 6% of your loan amount. You can repay your loan anywhere from 36 to 60 months, and there’s no prepayment penalty if you pay your loan off early.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement: check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Cons: Potential for a high origination fee and interest rate

Get a Loan from LendingClub Today

#2: Avant

avant bad credit loan

Avant is another lender that often extends personal loans to consumers with low credit scores. With Avant, your interest rate will fall somewhere between 9.95% and 35.99% and you can repay your loan from 24 to 60 months. A loan funding fee of up to 4.75% of your loan amount is required as well, which will push up the cost of borrowing.

Avant claims that they have loaned $4 billion dollars to more than 600,000 consumers so far and that they have a 95% customer satisfaction rate. You can apply for a personal loan through Avant online, and you can even check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Cons: High APRs and loan fees for bad credit

Borrow Better and Faster with Avant

#3: LendingPoint

lendingpoint bad credit loan

LendingPoint is another bad credit lender that offers personal loans to consumers who are willing to pay whatever APR it takes. Loans from LendingPoint come with APRs between 15.49% and 35.99%, and your loan origination fee can be as high as 6% of your loan amount.

You can repay your loan for anywhere from 24 to 48 months, and loans are offered in amounts up to $25,000. LendingPoint also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You do need a minimum credit score of 585 to qualify for one of their loans.

  • Pros: Check your rate without a hard inquiry; low minimum credit score requirement
  • Cons: Pricey APRs and loan origination fee; loans not available in every state

Sign Up Today with LendingPoint

#4: OneMain Financial

one main financial bad credit loans

OneMain Financial offers personal loans in amounts between $1,500 and $20,000, and you can repay your loan for anywhere from 24 to 60 months. Interest rates range from 18.00% to 35.99%, and an origination fee may apply as well.

You can apply for a bad credit loan with OneMain Financial online, and you can get your loan approved and funded within a matter of days. You can even check your rate and gauge your ability to qualify without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Finally, note that OneMain Financial has 1,600 physical locations in 44 states. To have your loan funded, you’ll need to visit a OneMain Financial location and meet with a loan specialist.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; borrow up to $20,000
  • Cons: Potential for pricey APR and loan origination fee; you are required to visit a physical branch to have your loan funded

Get Started with OneMain Financial

#5: Upstart

upstart bad credit loan

Upstart is a unique online lender that makes it easier for borrowers with poor credit to qualify for a loan. This company considers more than your credit score when approving you for a personal loan, meaning they may give more weight to additional factors like your income and how much education you have.

Borrowers who qualify can access between $1,000 and $50,000 in loan funds with a repayment period of 3 or 5 years. Interest rates range from 5.69% to 35.99%, however, depending on creditworthiness and other factors.

Fortunately, loans from Upstart don’t come with any prepayment penalties. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

  • Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; borrow up to $50,000
  • Cons: Potential for pricey APR and loan origination fee

Get the Loan You Deserve with Upstart

How We Chose the Best Loans for Bad Credit

The lenders above offer loans that can be exorbitantly expensive when you factor in interest rates and fees. Since expensive loans are the norm for consumers with bad credit, however, these still represent the best loan options for people with risky credit profiles.

With that in mind, here are the factors we considered to come up with the loans for this list:

Easy Rate Check

Having the ability to check your loan rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report is beneficial for potential borrowers who aren’t quite ready to fill out a full loan application. We ranked lenders who offer this option higher as a result. With an easy rate check, you can get an idea of your interest rate and loan fees before you apply.

Check Your Credit Score for FREE

No Prepayment Fees

While loans for bad credit typically come with high interest rates and more loan fees, we think prepayment penalties cross the line. We looked for bad credit loans that don’t charge prepayment penalties since borrowers should have the option to pay their loans off early.

Ability to Apply Online

Lenders that let you apply for a personal loan online are considerably more convenient, so we gave a better loan score to loan companies that offer this option. Bonus points were applied if you can complete the full loan application online and have your loan funded electronically.

Loan Reviews

We also looked at individual loan reviews on company loan pages and websites like Trustpilot. While all lenders have their share of poor loan reviews, the lenders that made our list boast considerably more positive user reviews than bad ones. Most of the lenders that made the cut for our ranking have customer approval rates over 90%.

Loans for Bad Credit: What to Watch Out For

Bad credit loans are not ideal since they come with high rates and fees that push up the total cost of borrowing. However, some bad credit loans are also considerably “better” than others based on how they charge fees and the rates they offer. Here’s everything you should watch out for before you apply.

Consider the Impact of High Rates

First, it can be immensely helpful to check your rate with multiple lenders in this space before you apply. There’s a huge difference between paying 25.00% APR and 35.99% APR even though both rates aren’t great, so you’ll want to pay the lowest interest rate that you can.
How much difference can it make? Imagine for a moment you need to borrow $10,000 and repay it over 60 months. Here’s what your monthly payment would look like — and how much interest you would pay overall — if you repaid your loan over 60 months with three different rates:

Loan APR Monthly Payment Total Interest Paid
10.99% $217.37 $3,042.46
25.99% $299.35 $7,960.73
34.99% $354.84 $11,290.34

Avoid Origination Fees If You Can

Also try to avoid loan origination fees if you can, although this may be difficult if your credit score is on the low end of the scale. Loan origination fees are charged as a percentage of your loan upfront, so you can’t avoid them — even if you pay your loan off early. They also add unnecessary expense to your bad credit loan without any benefit for you, the borrower.

Check for Prepayment Penalties

Also, make sure to check for any prepayment penalties that may apply to your loan, and if you can, opt for a lender that doesn’t charge these fees. It would be nice to have the option to pay your loan off early without a penalty if you wind up having the money you need to do so. If you’re able to pay your loan off ahead of schedule, you could pay a lot less in interest over your loan’s term.

Bad Credit Loans: Should You Improve Your Credit First?

If you’re worried about the impact of a bad credit loan on your finances, it can make sense to spend some time improving your score before you apply. If you’re able to pay all your bills early or on time for several months, for example, you could have a positive impact on your score. That’s because your payment history is the most important factor that makes up your FICO score. According to myFICO.com, this factor alone makes up 35% of your score.

The same is true if you’re able to pay down debt to decrease your credit utilization. This advice is based on the fact that how much you owe in relation to your credit limits is the second most important factor making up your FICO score at 30%.

In the meantime, try to avoid opening and closing too many accounts since either of these moves can also ding your score.

If you were able to move the needle and boost your credit score in the “fair” or “good” range, there’s a very good chance you could qualify for a less expensive personal loan with better rates and terms. Of course, this isn’t always possible if you need to borrow money sooner rather than later.

The Bottom Line

Bad credit loans may come with pricey APRs, but they are often the only option of last resort for borrowers whose credit has taken a hit. If you’re in the market for a loan and know you’ll need to get a loan for bad credit, the best thing you can do is compare loan options to find the best deal.

Keep an eye out for bad credit loans with the lowest interest rate and origination fee you can qualify for.

Also, look for lenders that let you check your rate and get prequalified online and before you fill out a full loan application.

With enough research, you should end up with a bad credit loan that helps your finances instead of making them worse.

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

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to Pay Off Debt – Fast!

The post How to Pay Off Debt – Fast! appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Americans are in debt.  It’s one of the main reasons couples fight and a leading cause of stress.  Fortunately, there is a way you can get out of debt.

tricks to getting out of debt fast

Anything worth having in life takes hard work and dedication.  And, the sense of accomplishment and joy when you can tackle what seems to be the impossible, is a great feeling.

The same is with your debt.  Paying it off is NOT easy.  It is going to take a lot of time, but it is so well worth it!

Of course, before you can start to pay off debts, you need to follow the right steps.  It is imperative that you’ve already done the following before you start working on paying off those debts you have.  These include:

  1. Preparing your Net Worth and Debt Paydown Forms
  2. Understanding your Money Attitude
  3. Creating Your Budget
  4. Learning How to Use a Cash Budget (Envelope System)
  5. Setting up Your Emergency Fund

Once you’ve tackled these steps, then you get to start the fun part, which is paying off your debts! If you haven’t, you will want to take the time to read each post and follow the steps.  You really should not try to get out of debt until these steps are done.

 

HOW TO GET OUT OF DEBT FAST

It is fun to watch your debts slowly disappear!   However, it is important that you are ready.  If you are ready, then read on!

KNOW HOW MUCH DEBT YOU HAVE

You need to make sure you know exactly how much you owe and to whom.  I recommend completing a debt pay down form.

This form should list all of the debts you owe, listed from the lowest balances to the highest, as well as your minimum monthly payment.

 

Debt Payoff Forms Bundle

To begin, review your budget.  Hopefully, you were able to find some “extra” money.  By extra money, it means money you have left over after meeting your needs.   When you can free this up in your budget, it is what you will pay towards your debt.

For example, if you were able to lower your grocery bill from $800 to $650 a month, that means you now have $150 to apply to your debt.  My husband and I did this, and it made a HUGE difference.  We did everything we could to reduce our grocery budget from using coupons to menu planning and changing the foods we ate.

Because getting our debt paid off was so important, we eliminated dining out from our budget. For us, it was important to sacrifice in the short term to get ourselves out from underneath our debt.

When you find this extra money, you apply that to your debt. Start by paying any additional money towards the debt on which you owe the least.  Here is an example:

Citibank – $500 owed — minimum payment $10
Visa – $875 owed — minimum payment $15
Ford — $10,475 owed — required monthly payment $375

If you find that you have $25 left over in your budget, apply that towards the lowest debt.  Your form will look something like this now:

Citibank – $500 owed — minimum payment $10 monthly payment $35
Visa – $875 owed — minimum payment $15
Ford — $10,475 owed — required monthly payment $375

Continue to make the payments to these debts as listed.  Then, when Citibank it paid off, you will roll the $35 payment into the Visa payment, like this:

Visa – $875 owed — minimum payment $15 monthly payment $50
Ford — $10,475 owed — required monthly payment $375

Continue this same process.  And, as there is more money freed up in your budget, apply it towards this debt.  Once you start seeing the balances decrease, you will be more motivated to cut your spending and slash your debt.

That is what happened to us.  We were so excited to see those balances decrease that we kept finding more ways to not only reduce our monthly spending but to find more money!

 

HOW TO PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS MORE QUICKLY

Of course, the first step to paying off debts is to find money in your budget to apply towards them.  It can also be beneficial to use larger amounts of cash towards your debts, or even find ways to free up even more money.  Here are some things you might try:

  • Sell items on Craiglist, eBay or other methods.  If you have extra things lying around the house, you may wish to sell them and raise some money and then turn around and make a nice big payment on that smallest debt.
  • Get another job.  If you can swing it, pick up a part-time job and apply all of your earnings towards your debt.  You can try your hand as an Uber driver or even a freelance proofreader.  You can find more ideas on how you can make money from home.
  • Reduce savings and pay down debts.  If you happen to have MORE than $1,000 in the bank currently, but still have debts, you should take any amounts above $1,000 and pay down your debts BEFORE you are saving.  The reason is why are you saving money for yourself and paying more in interest to someone else than you are making yourself?

Get creative!  There are many ways you can find extra money in your budget.  One of these 50 ways to make money to pay off your debt might be the perfect solution for you!

 

HOW TO USE YOUR TAX REFUND

So, what about that nice big tax return that might be coming your way?  Experts say that you should use the rule of thirds:

1/3 towards the past — use to pay off debts
1/3 towards the present — have some fun
1/3 towards the future — savings

If you genuinely want to get out of debt, I would recommend you do the following:  Make sure that you have at least $1,000 in the bank, so your Emergency Fund is funded.  Then, apply any leftover tax refund towards your debt.

We would all love to blow our return on something fun, such as a new TV or vacation.  But, you have to decide if you want that instant gratification (which may turn to guilt) or if you want to get yourself out of debt.  While I can only recommend that you work on the debt first, this is a question only you can answer.

 

WHY NOT CONSIDER INTEREST RATES?

I hear this over and over again “You should pay off the highest interest rate debt first!”  I do not agree with this, and the reason is this – behavior.

Most people need to see that they are reaching goals.  We need to see the fruits of our labor.  By paying off the smallest balance first, it gives you a sense of accomplishment.

You see what you are doing is actually working and you keep working to pay down other debts.  That gives the motivation to keep on as you can see that you are paying off debts and can do this!  GO YOU!!!!

If you work on only the balance with the highest interest rate first, it may take longer actually to pay it down.  Because the rate is higher, it may take longer to tackle the principal balance, since most of your payment always goes towards interest.  This can result in more frustration and you wanting to quit as you feel you are getting nowhere.

Look at it this way; if you were not trying to get out of debt, you would still increase debt due to interest rates, right?  So, if you can do something that gets you on track to start to pay them down one at a time, you are already making a difference in how you look at your debts.

Of course, if you feel better about listing via interest rate, that is what you need to do.  There is not a right or wrong way to pay off your debts.  Just keep in mind that if you find yourself frustrated with progress, you might try to change it around and tackle that lowest balance first.  It just might make the difference for you.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Getting out of debt is not easy. I’ve been there and know how difficult and challenging it can be.  However, having the tools you need to make it happen is key to your success.

Read our Financial Reboot Book or take the Financial Reboot course to learn even more about not only getting out of debt but how to better manage your money.

 

get out of debt

The post How to Pay Off Debt – Fast! appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

A complete guide to airline companion passes

Flying can be a hefty expense – especially when you’re buying more than one airline ticket at a time. If you frequently fly with a companion, whether it be your child, spouse or friend, a companion pass can drastically reduce your travel costs.

While the terms vary depending on the airline and credit card, generally, companion passes allow a second passenger to fly with you for free or at a significantly discounted rate. Some credit cards automatically offer a companion pass when you are approved for the card or each year on your account anniversary. Others require you to charge a certain amount within a given time frame to earn the pass.

For more details on some of the most common companion passes, including what they offer and how to earn them, read on.

Which airlines offer companion passes?

  • Southwest Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Air
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Lufthansa Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
  • CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®
  • British Airways Visa Signature® Card within a 12-month period, starting on Jan. 1 and ending on Dec. 31. For example, if you opened your card account in June 2020, you have until Dec. 31, 2020 to reach the spend requirement for that year.

    How long is the Travel Together Ticket valid?

    The Travel Together ticket is valid for 24 months from the date of issue.

    Which cards help you qualify?
    British Airways Visa Signature® Card

    Delta SkyMiles Reserve® American Express Card

    Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® (50 percent and $100 discounts)
  • Hawaiian Airlines® Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard® (50 percent and $100 discount)
  • Hawaiian Airlines® Business Mastercard® (50 percent discount)
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® or Alaska Airlines Visa® Business cardholder. As part of the introductory offer, you much spend $2,000 in the first 90 days to receive a companion fare. You will automatically receive the companion fare each year on your account anniversary.

    Travel must be booked on alaskaair.com.

    How long is the fare valid?

    The Famous Companion Fare is valid from the date of issue until your next account anniversary.

    Which cards help you qualify?
    • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
    • Alaska Airlines Visa® Business

    How to get the Southwest Companion Pass, Earn sign-up bonus miles with the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards

    The Bank of America content of this post was last updated on March 20, 2020.

    Source: creditcards.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

    The Most Common Renter Complaints That Landlords Hear

    The landlord-tenant relationship can be a difficult one to navigate, especially if it involves a lot of renter complaints.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to build a strong foundation with your landlord. Both parties have a lot at stake.

    For you, it’s your home and your security deposit, and for your landlord, it’s their income and the property in which they have invested time and money. It’s not uncommon for tension to arise at some point, but how you handle difficult situations can make or break the relationship with your landlord moving forward.

    The best initial step you can take to avoid a less-than-stellar landlord is to include an assessment of your potential landlord as part of the decision process when searching for a new place to live. Have they been easy to contact so far? Have they answered your questions and addressed your concerns? Do some background research and see if you can find any reviews from past tenants.

    If you do find yourself experiencing one of these common renter complaints, there are steps you can take to try and resolve the situation.

    poor communication

    Common renter complaint #1: Poor communication

    Many renters deal with a lack of communication from their landlords and feel that they’re unaware of certain rules or expectations as they relate to the property. Maybe you sign your lease agreement, move into your new home and never really hear from your landlord again. Or, maybe you’re having trouble with your landlord’s responsiveness to issues like maintenance requests, noisy neighbors or other important questions.

    Early on in the relationship with your landlord, ask if they can walk through the lease agreement with you and point out any rules or expectations that are especially important to them (something a good landlord should do on their own.) As a tenant, it’s your responsibility to read through the lease agreement in its entirety and bring up any questions you may have.

    Do your best to keep lines of communication open with your landlord — make timely contact about any issues or questions that arise and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your landlord lives in the same building or is frequently on the property, be sure to be friendly and say hello when you cross paths. Establishing this relationship from the get-go will build trust.

    maintenance issues

    Common renter complaint #2: Maintenance issues

    Maintenance issues and repairs are one of the main reasons you’ll have to get in touch with your landlord throughout your rental experience. Whether it’s something minor like a lighting fixture fix or something major like a water leak, your landlord should be responding and repairing your requests in a timely manner.

    Establish your landlord’s preferred method of communication from the get-go. Can you text them a picture of the issue to make sure it’s catching their attention and not getting lost in an email inbox? Are they not as tech-savvy and prefer you give them a call directly? If you don’t already have a tenant portal, ask your landlord if they would consider setting one up so you can easily submit maintenance requests and your landlord can easily track everything in one place.

    Be clear on what your responsibility is as a renter and what your landlord’s responsibility is. Make sure to check in on your local laws to figure out what the expectations are on important maintenance issues like water, heating or other habitability issues.

    privacy

    Common renter complaint #3: Lack of privacy

    Sometimes, a landlord might be on the property without actually entering your home. He might comment on whether or not your front porch had been cleared of leaves or whether or not the recycling bin was too full, and it always felt like an invasion of privacy to have him pop up unannounced.

    As a tenant, you absolutely have a legal right to the quiet enjoyment of your home and your landlord is required to provide you with at least 24 hours notice before entering your property (unless there’s an emergency situation). If your landlord is showing up for maintenance or inspections without notifying you first, bring it to their attention right away.

    If your landlord performs regular inspections, ask if they would be willing to come on the same day every month or give you a schedule for the entirety of your lease agreement. If language around routine inspections isn’t included in your lease agreement, be sure to ask about it before you sign.

    money

    Common renter complaint #4: Security deposit refunds

    It’s always upsetting to move out of a property and learn that your security deposit refund is much smaller than you were expecting — especially if you followed all move-out instructions and didn’t cause any major damage.

    It’s important to understand that typically, landlords are not profiting off of your security deposit — they’re using the finances to repair an issue that occurred when you were the renter. Of course, there are situations where this isn’t the case and legal action is the only feasible option.

    Before you move out, ask your landlord to provide you with a move-out checklist or clearly state their expectations. Refer to any checklists or inspection documents that you may have completed upon move in to make sure you’re leaving the property in the same condition you found it.

    Ask your landlord if they would be willing to do a property walkthrough with you before you hand over the keys to address any issues that can be fixed or cleaned before you leave. Take pictures upon move out so you have evidence to show your landlord if need be.

    If you are charged or your landlord withholds your security deposit, ask for an itemized list of the deductions so you can clearly see where your money is going.

    Keep it friendly

    Establishing a positive relationship with your landlord from the beginning and keeping lines of communication open will make it easier for both parties to deal with any issues that arise down the road.

    The post The Most Common Renter Complaints That Landlords Hear appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

    Source: apartmentguide.com

    Medicare for All: Definition and Pros and Cons

    Here are the pros and cons of Medicare for All.

    Medicare for All is a proposed new healthcare system for the United States where instead of people getting health insurance from an insurance company, often provided through their workplace, everyone in America would be on a program provided through the federal government. It has become a favorite of progressives, and was heavily championed by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) during his runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020. If you are looking for help with medical planning under our current system, consider working with a financial advisor.

    Medicare For All: How It Works

    Sanders’ bill would replace all other insurance, with limited exceptions, such as cosmetic surgery. Private insurance, employer-provided insurance, Medicaid, and our current version of Medicare, would all be replaced by Medicare for All. The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, would also be replaced by Medicare for All.

    Medicare for All is actually more generous than your current Medicare program. Right now, Medicare is for Americans 65 and older. They receive care, but they’re also responsible for some of the cost. However, Sanders’ plan would cover medical bills completed, with no financial burden on the patient.

    Sanders’ Medicare for All would be a single, national health insurance program that would cover everyone living in the United States. It would pay for every medically necessary service, including dental and vision care, mental health care and prescription drugs. There would be no copays or deductibles, with the exception of prescription drugs, though the cost would be limited to $200 a year. There may also be additional out-of-pocket costs for long-term care.

    The government would set payment rates for drugs, services, and medical equipment. Each year, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would come up with a national budget for all covered services and spending would be capped by that national budget. Just 1% of the total health spending budget would be used to provide job dislocation assistance for people working in the insurance industry.

    Sanders’ bill includes a four-year phase-in during which increasingly younger people could buy into Medicare. It would work like this: 55-year-olds would be able to buy into Medicare in the first year, 45-year-olds in the second year and 35-year-olds in the third year. Out-of-pocket costs would be reduced for everyone buying into Medicare. There would also be a public option insurance plan offered to people of all ages through the Obamacare marketplaces.

    Medicare for All is effectively single-payer healthcare. Single-payer health care is where the government pays for people’s health care. The new name just makes the concept more popular. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 48% of people approved of single-payer healthcare, while 62% of people approved of Medicare for All.

    Medicare for All Cost?

    Here are the pros and cons of Medicare for All.

    If everything stays the same as it is right now, the combined healthcare spending by private and public sectors is projected to reach $45 trillion by 2026.

    The libertarian-oriented Mercatus Center at George Mason University estimated that the cost of Medicare for All would be more than $32 trillion over a 10-year period.

    Kenneth Thorpe, a health finance expert at Emory University looked at a version of Sanders’ Medicare for All during the 2016 campaign and estimated that the cost would be about $25 trillion over 10 years.

    In order to pay for the program, Sanders has suggested redirecting current government spending of about $2 trillion per year into Medicare for All. To do that, he would raise taxes on incomes over $250,000, reaching a 52 percent marginal rate on incomes over $10 million. He also suggested a wealth tax on the top 0.1 % of households.

    Medicare for All Pros and Cons

    Pros and cons for this program partially depend on your income bracket. If you make less than $250,000, Sanders’ additional tax will not affect you. If you make more than $250,000 a year, or are in the top 0.1 % of household, Sanders’ tax to pay for Medicare for All would be a con for you.

    In addition, universal health care requires healthy people to pay for medical care for the sick. However, that is how all health insurance programs work. Everyone buys in and pays the costs of health insurance, but the insurance company only pays when someone needs medical care or coverage. In every insurance plan, healthier people absorb the costs incurred by sicker people.

    Pros

    • Universal healthcare lowers health care costs for the economy overall, since the government controls the price of medication and medical services through regulation and negotiation.
    • It would also eliminate the administrative cost of working with multiple private health insurers. Doctors would only have to deal with one government agency, rather than multiple private insurance companies along with Medicare and Medicaid.
    • Companies would not have to hire staff to deal with many different health insurance companies’ rules. Instead, billing procedures and coverage rules would be standardized.
    • Hospitals and doctors would be forced to provide the same standard of service at a low cost, instead of targeting wealthy clients and offering expensive services so they can get a higher profit.
    • Universal healthcare leads to a healthier population. Studies show that preventive care lowers expensive emergency room usage. Before Obamacare, 46% of emergency room patients were there because they had nowhere else to go. The emergency room became their primary care physician. This type of health care inequality is a major factor in the rising cost of medical care.

     

    Cons

    • Some analysts are concerned that the government may not be able to use its bargaining power to drive down costs as steeply and as quickly as Sanders predicts. Thorpe argues that Sanders is overly optimistic on this aspect of the bill.
    • Other analysts are concerned that insulating people from costs of care will drive up usage of medical care. Drew Altman, who heads the Kaiser Family Foundation, pointed out that “no other developed nation has zero out of pocket costs.”
    • People may not be as careful with their health if they do not have a financial incentive to do so.
    • Governments have to limit health care spending to keep costs down. Doctors might have less incentive to provide quality care if they aren’t well paid. They may spend less time per patient in order to keep costs down. They also have less funding for new life-saving technologies.
    • Since the government focuses on providing basic and emergency health care, most universal healthcare systems report long wait times for elective procedures. The government may also limit services with a low probability of success, and may not cover drugs for rare conditions. 

    Other Medicare and Medicaid Expansion Bills

    Lawmakers have introduced other Medicare expansion options, which would be much more limited than Medicare for All.

    Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) introduced the Medicare at 50 Act in February of 2019. Under the Medicare at 50 Act, people between 50 and 64 could buy into Medicare. Other than expanding the age, the main difference to our current Medicare program would be that coverage would automatically include Medicare Part A (hospital), Part B (physician), and Part D (prescription drug) coverage. In addition, you could choose Medicare offered through private insurers, known as Medicare Advantage. If you qualified for a premium subsidy under the Affordable Care Act, you would still be able to apply that to extended Medicare. This bill would effectively create a new insurance option for those 50 and older.

    Senator Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-New York) introduced a bill called Medicare-X Choice. This bill would offer Medicare to people of any age through the Obamacare marketplaces. This bill would not be initially enacted nationwide. Instead, the bill would focus on adding the Medicare option in places with few hospitals and doctors, or areas that only had one insurer offering coverage.

    Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico) proposed a bill called the State Public Option Act that would let people buy into Medicaid, rather than Medicare. The details of covered services could vary from state to state, since this would be offered through Medicaid rather than Medicare. However, no plan would be able to offer less than essential health benefits covered under the Affordable Care Act.

    Where the Presidential Candidates Stand

    Here are the pros and cons of Medicare for All.

    Sanders, of course, did not win the Democratic Primary. Joe Biden, widely considered significantly more moderate, won. Biden has an extensive healthcare proposal which expands many parts of the Affordable Care Act, but does not include a single payer Medicare For All program. Instead, it is based around a public option — a government plan only for those who want it, while private insurance companies remain the main driver of healthcare in the US.

    President Donald Trump has not offered a comprehensive healthcare plan this time around. Early in his term, he and the Republicans in Congress tried to “repeal and replace” The ACA, but were unsuccessful.

     

    The Bottom Line

    Healthcare is certainly a hot topic for the 2020 election process. Though Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vermont) version of Medicare for All would eventually eliminate all other forms of insurance, other Democratic candidates have varying degrees of support and versions of Medicare for All  as a universal healthcare system. Though Medicare for All would likely lower the healthcare costs in the economy overall and increase quality care while also facilitating more preventative care to avoid expensive emergency room visits, you could end up paying more if you make more than $250,000 a year or are in the top 0.1 % of households. What’s more, some experts suggest that if costs are less onerous, patients will overuse the system and make setting up appointments for elective procedures more difficult.

    Tips for Keeping Your Finances Healthy

    • A health savings account (HSA) may be a good option for younger people who are worried about potential healthcare costs. HSAs can greatly reduce monthly premiums.
    • Whatever the outcome on Medicare for All, it is important to keep yourself physically and financially healthy. If you are concerned about budgeting with health care costs, you may want to look into a financial advisor. SmartAsset can help you find your financial advisor match here.

    Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Asawin_Klabma, ©iStock.com/wutwhanfoto, ©iStock.com/marchmeena29

    The post Medicare for All: Definition and Pros and Cons appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

    Source: smartasset.com

    What’s the Difference Between 401(k) and 403(b) Retirement Plans?

    Investing in your retirement early is the best way to ensure financial stability as you age, especially when it comes to understanding various retirement options. Getting started may feel overwhelming — luckily we’re here to help. We help break down the difference between 401(k) and 403(b) accounts, and how they can impact your financial life.

    You may already know the value in adjusting your budget to make saving for a rainy day a priority. But are you also prioritizing your retirement savings? If you’re just getting started in the workforce and looking for ways to invest in yourself, 401(k) and 403(b) plans are great options to know about. And, the main difference between a 401(k) and a 403(b) is the company who’s offering them.

    401(k) accounts are offered by for-profit companies and 403(b) accounts are offered by nonprofit, scientific, religious, research, or university companies. To understand the similarities and differences between plans in depth, skip to the sections below or keep reading for an in-depth explanation.

    How a 401(k) Works
    How a 403(b) Works
    The Difference Between 401(k) and 403(b)
    The Similarities Between 401(k) and 403(b)
    5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings
    What is a 401(k) and 403(b)
    $19,500 with your employer matches. Plus, most retirement funds have required minimum distributions (RMDs) by the time you turn 70. This essentially means you have to take a minimum amount of money out each month whether you want to or not.

    In most cases, employers will offer 401(k) matching to encourage consistent contributions. For example, your employer match may be 50 cents of every dollar you contribute up to six percent of your salary. For example, with this employer match on a $40,000 salary, you would contribute $200 and your employer would contribute an additional $100 each month. This pattern would continue until your annual contributions hit $2,400 and your employer contributes $1,200.

    Employee matching is essentially free money. You’re monetarily rewarded for your retirement payments. Be sure to pay attention to vesting periods when setting up your employer match. Vesting periods are an agreed amount of time you need to work at a company before you receive your 401(k) benefits. For example, some companies may require you to work for their team for a year before earning retirement benefits. Other employers may offer retirement benefits starting the day you start working with them.
    403(b) accounts include school boards, public schools, churches, hospitals, and more. This type of account is also known as a tax-sheltered annuity plan — they allow pre-tax income to be invested until taken out.

    Employers that offer 403(b) retirement plans may offer a pool of provider options that undergo nondiscrimination testing. This allows employers that qualify for this account to shop around for plans that offer the best benefits and don’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees (HCEs). For instance, some 403(b) accounts may charge more administrative fees than others.

    Employers are able to offer employee matching on 403(b) accounts if they decide to. To cut costs for nonprofit companies, 403(b) retirement plans generally cost less than 401(k) accounts. Costs associated with starting up these accounts may not affect you, but it may affect your employer.

    Account Type 401(k) 403(b)
    Yearly Contribution Limit $19,500 $19,500
    Employer-Issued Packages For-profit employers:
    Corporations, private establishments, etc. and sole proprietors
    Non-profit, scientific, religious, research, or university employers:
    School boards, public schools, hospitals, etc.
    Minimum Withdrawal Age 59.5 years old 59.5 years old
    Early Withdrawal Fees 10% penalty, tax, and additional fees may vary 10% penalty, tax, and additional fees may vary
    Source: IRS.org

     

    The Differences Between 401(k) and 403(b)

    Both a 401(k) and 403(b) are similar in the way they operate, but they do have a few differences. Here are the biggest contrasts to be aware of:

    • Eligibility: 401(k) retirement plans are issued by for-profit employers and the self employed, 403(b) retirement plans are for tax-exempt, non-profit, scientific, religious, research, or university employees. As well as Hospitals and Charities.
    • Investment options: 401(k)s offer more investment opportunities than 403(b)s. 401(k) accounts may include mutual funds, annuities, stocks, and bonds, while 403(b) accounts only offer annuities and mutual funds. Each employer varies in retirement benefits — reach out to a trusted financial advisor if you have questions about your account.
    • Employer expenses: 401(k) accounts are generally more expensive than 403(b) accounts. For-profit 401(k) accounts may pay sales charges, management fees, recordkeeping, and other additional expenses. 403(b) plans may have lower administrative costs to avoid adding a burden for non-profit establishments. These costs vary depending on the employer.
    • Nondiscrimination testing: This form of testing ensures that 403(b) retirement plans are not offered in favor of highly compensated employees (HCEs). However, 401(k) plans do not require this test.

     

    The Similarities Between 401(k) and 403(b)

    Aside from their differences, both accounts are set up to aid employees in retirement savings. Here’s how:

    • Contribution limits: Both accounts cap your annual contributions at $19,500. In the event you contribute over this limit, your earnings will be distributed back to you by April 15th. If you’re under your retirement contributions by the time you’re 50 years old, you’re allowed to make catch-up contributions. This means that, if you’re eligible, you can contribute $6,500 more than the yearly contribution limit.
    • Withdrawal eligibility: You must be at least 59.5 years old before withdrawing your retirement savings. In the case of an emergency, you may be eligible for early withdrawal. However, you may be charged penalties, taxes, and fees for doing so.
    • Employer matching: Both retirement account options allow employers to match your contributions, but are not required to. When starting your retirement fund, ask your HR representative about potential benefits and employer matching.
    • Early withdrawal penalties: If you choose to withdraw your retirement savings early, you may be penalized. In most cases, you need a valid reason to withdraw your funds early. Eligible reasons may include outstanding debt, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or medical bills. In addition, you may be charged a 10 percent penalty fee, taxes, and other fees. During a downturned economy, as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, fees may be waived.

    5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings
    retirement plan options and their benefits. When employers offer retirement matches, consider contributing as much as you can to meet their match.

    2. Set up Monthly Automatic Contributions

    Save time and energy by setting up automatic contributions. You may feel less interested in contributing to your retirement as your payday approaches. Taking time to set up a retirement fund and budgeting for this change may be holding you back. To meet your retirement goals, consider setting up automatic payments through your employer. After a while, you may not even notice the slight budget adjustment.

    3. Leverage Employer Matching

    Employer matching is essentially free money. Employers may put money towards your future for nothing but your own contribution. This encourages employees to consistently put money towards their retirement savings. Not only are you able to earn extra money each month, but this “free money” will grow with interest over time. If you can, match your employer’s contribution percentage, if not more.

    4. Avoid Early Withdrawal

    Credit card balances, student loans, and mortgages can be stressful. Instead of withdrawing early from your retirement fund to pay for these, consider other debt payoff methods. If you’re eligible to withdraw from your retirement early, you may face penalty fees, taxes, and administrative expenses. This may hinder your savings potential or push back your desired retirement date.

    5. Contribute Your Future Raises and Bonuses

    If you’re saving less than $19,500 to your retirement fund this year, consider contributing more. If you earn a bonus or a raise, stick to your current budget and consider increasing your contributions. Ask your employer to increase your retirement payments right before you receive a bonus or raise. The more you contribute, the more interest you’ll accrue over time.

    Whether your retirement funds are established through a 401(k) or a 403(b), these accounts offer you the chance to build your financial portfolio. Consistently funding your retirement account may better your financial plan and set you at ease. As your contributions age, so do your interest earnings. You’ll be able to make money on your pre-taxed income and set your future self up for success. Get started by checking in on your budget and carving out a specific amount to put towards your retirement each month.

    The post What’s the Difference Between 401(k) and 403(b) Retirement Plans? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

    Source: mint.intuit.com

    How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

    Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to become a freelancer.

    I recently had the chance to interview Ben Taylor. Ben has been freelancing since 2004, and he has worked for dozens of companies.

    Yes, this is a career path that you can learn!

    As Ben will tell you in the interview below, a freelancer can be anything. You can be a freelance designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, writer, and more.

    If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to become a freelancer may be something that you want to look into.

    In this interview, you will learn:

    • What a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.
    • How much a new freelancer should expect to earn
    • How a person can find their first freelancing job
    • The steps needed to take to make money as a freelancer

    And much more!

    He also has an informative course called Freelance Kickstarter. This course takes you through the step by step process of creating your own freelance business.

    Check out the interview below for more information.

    How to become a freelancer.

     

    1. Please give us a background on yourself and how you started as a freelancer.

    I’m Ben, and I live by the sea in England with my wife and two young sons.

    I started a career in tech back in 1998, and by 2004 was Head of IT for a government department. It didn’t take long for me to tire of company politics, and the endless meetings that were more about displays of ego than really getting anything done.

    I came from an entrepreneurial family and my parents both had businesses rather than jobs. The businesses weren’t always successful, and there were definitely periods of “feast and famine.” However, I was well used to that and I think that branching out on my own was something I was destined to do.

    My move into freelancing splits into a couple of clear phases:

    Initially, in 2004, I quit my IT job, walking away from business class travel and a gold-plated pension with nothing more than a vague plan to begin to work as a freelancer!

    I started to provide IT support and consultancy to both businesses and individuals. I do actually still do some of that work for a select group of long-term clients, but by 2009 I had managed to burn myself out with it. The business was going well, but I was working ridiculously long days and every holiday I tried to take was interrupted by constant phone calls and emails.

    So phase two began when I sold off most of my client-base and moved to Portugal! That’s when I really started to broaden my freelance horizons. I had to start from scratch, with an unclear intention to start writing for a living, and no real plan for how to do it.

    I did lots of things, including wasting a LOT of time down fruitless blind alleys. I wrote for content mills, started blogs, found clients on freelance job boards, and – slowly and steadily – started to build my income back up. The difference was that I was doing it all completely on my terms with work I really enjoyed. 

    I was also living in a dream destination whilst doing it.

     

    2. Can you explain what exactly a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.?

    This seems like a basic question, but it’s very worthwhile. There’s a considerable difference between freelancing and remote working that not everybody appreciates.

    First off, a freelancer can be anything. For some reason many people immediately think of writing when they think about freelancing. But you can be a freelancer designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, and dozens of other things.

    It’s also worth noting you don’t only have to be one of those things. I AM a freelancer writer, but I also still dabble in IT consultancy, run my own blogs, provide coaching, and even build websites for people (if they ask nicely and the price is right!)

    Regardless of what you do as a freelancer, the important thing to realise is that you are running your own business. The big plus of this is that you are in total charge. But the big negative is that you don’t have any of the safety nets you have if you are employed by a single company. This means you’re responsible for everything from your own insurance and healthcare to your own technical support!

    Freelancers typically work for several different clients. There are myriad places to find those clients. It’s quite common for freelancers to find clients within their existing professional networks, and not at all unusual for ex-employers to be among them. Then there are freelance job boards like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which provide an endless stream of new opportunities.

     

    3. How much should a new/beginner freelancer expect to earn?

    This is an incredibly difficult question to answer! I can think of one freelancer I coached who’s in a very specific writing niche. He went onto Upwork with an initial rate of $100 per hour and found lots of work. I started out in IT consultancy charging a similar rate and was quickly earning more than I did in my full-time job.   

    However, at the other end of the scale there are people with limited experience or specialist skills who will need to pay their dues. This means building the foundations of a freelance career by proving yourself and taking low paying jobs to build up examples of work and positive feedback. My move into writing was much more like this!

    I think “job replacement income” is a useful target for new freelancers to keep in mind. That can vary vastly from individual to individual. Obviously replacing and exceeding a corporate-level income takes much more than freelancing as an alternative to a part-time, entry-level job. That said, people with senior-level experience command much higher freelance rates.

    Related content: 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

     

    4. What do you like about being a freelancer?

    Not having a boss!

    The difference in lifestyle is massive when you work for yourself. This is always brought home to me when I’m making plans with friends and family, and people say “I’ll see if I can get the time off.”

    This makes me shudder, because it’s SO alien to me now. The example I always use is that I never have to ask anybody before I can tell my children I’ll be at their sports day or nativity play.

    When you have what I call a “traditional job,” you DO have the security of healthcare, and perhaps things like holiday and sick pay. But you give up a tremendous amount of freedom in return. Freelancing is profoundly different, and it’s rare to find people who’ve given it a go that would ever choose to go back to full-time employment.

    So that’s a huge thing for me, but there are other huge benefits too. I love the fact I can pivot into different things, which always allows me to keep things fresh.

    About four times a year I reassess my priorities and lay out new goals for the short, medium and long term. They might involve starting a new blog, writing another book, learning a new marketable skill. For somebody like me who relishes variety, I love having total control of this.

     

    5. How can a person find their first freelancing job?

    There are SO many ways to find freelance jobs. I have an article listing 50 different options!

    However, they broadly split into two categories that I call “real world” and “online world.”

    It’s always worth starting out by thinking of your real life networks. As I’ve said, many freelancers do their first self-employed work for people who already know them. I’d advise people to think about any contacts who’ve already seen the kind of work they’re capable of. These are “warm leads” that are well worth perusing.

    It makes sense to think about personal contacts as well as business contacts, too. Plenty of freelancers find clients who are their “wife’s best friend’s brother” or something like that!

    Remaining in the “real world,” there are also options like local business groups and networking events – although they are obviously far less accessible at the present time.

    Moving to the online world, the freelance job boards are the place to be. They can be intimidating places initially, and it’s crucial to learn how to use them and how to avoid scammers and low paying clients. But there are plenty of great clients out there, including many household name companies who use those boards to hire freelancers.

    Often, a quick one-off $50 job can evolve into a long and lucrative client relationship. My wife and I both have clients who we first met on the freelance boards years ago. We still work with them now.

    There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to where to find the first client, but there are options for everybody.

     

    setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

    6. How does a freelancer decide what to set their rates at?

    This is a question I’m asked a LOT! The answer leads to lots more questions, and I think many of my readers are disappointed when I don’t just give them an answer of “$x per hour” or “$x per article!”

    It’s a subject I cover in my Freelance Kickstarter course, and I’m happy to share a slide from that particular lesson here. The factors to consider include tangible things like the “market rates” for specific types of work, and how each client’s geographical location could impact how much they expect to pay.

    But there’s much more to consider beyond that: How much does the gig align with your long-term goals? Will the job produce a great example of work that will help you win more clients in the future? Is this a job that could lead to on-going, long-term work?

    I guess a simpler answer is that your rate needs to be fair and competitive, and sufficient to make it worth your while to do the job. However, the rate for each job really needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

    The reality is that there are millions of freelancers out there charging vastly different rates, often for very similar services. There’s a bit of an art to working out where you sit on the pricing spectrum, but it’s an art you can learn, and it gets easier with experience.

     

    7. What steps does a person need to take to make money as a freelancer?

    The first and most important is working out what it is you actually want to do. That may seem obvious, but my inbox is full of emails from people asking what they should do, without telling me what they’re capable of and what kind of work would make them happy.

    I will attempt to lay it out in a fairly simple series of steps:

    1. Work out what skills you have and what market there is for them.
    2. Look at who else is providing those services, what they charge, and what you can provide that will make you stand out and appeal to clients.
    3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and experience, and work to fill them. This could mean doing some training, or doing some voluntary jobs to bulk out your portfolio.
    4. Establish a personal brand. This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds, but does mean having a solid resumé and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes some other ways to demonstrate your expertise.
    5. Learn how the freelance job boards work. Even if you have a rich personal network to draw on, it’s wise to understand the wider world of freelancing.
    6. Put yourself out there, and start pitching and applying for things.
    7. Make sure you provide perfect work and delight your clients, so that they want to work with you again and recommend you to others.

    Repeating and refining these steps is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer.

     

    8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?

    Freelancing is generally a low-cost venture, but that’s not to say it’s free. Depending on what you do, you may need specialist equipment and / or software. And if you’re switching from an employed position, you may have to buy things like this yourself for the first time.

    A good computer is a must, as it’s often the key tool of your trade. You may also need to budget for things like insurance, possibly including healthcare cover if you are somewhere like the US where this isn’t covered by tax payments.

    When it comes to monthly costs, the main things I pay for include software subscriptions and insurance policies. Thankfully these tend to build over time and no individual thing is particularly expensive. You can start out as an online freelancer without even having a personal website, and add things like that once you gain some momentum.

    I also recommend budgeting for ongoing training and learning. Thankfully there are all kinds of ways to learn online inexpensively. Companies have training budgets, but when you’re a freelancer, keeping your skills on point is on you.

     

    9. What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

    I’d say the training splits into two: learning about freelancing itself, and building skills around the specific work you want to do.

    Courses like my own Freelance Kickstarter cover the first part. Freelancing is a skill in itself, and we’ve covered some of the important areas in this interview already. Stuff like setting rates isn’t immediately obvious, so learning from those who have been there and done it already is very valuable.

    When it comes to skills-specific training it depends what work you’re doing. Let’s say somebody wanted to work as a freelance social media manager. Not that long ago it would have been all about Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays Pinterest is a much bigger deal for many people, and TikTok is emerging as the latest trend.

    So as that freelancer, you need to decide what you’re going to focus on. Do you want to be the “go-to guru” for TikTok, or be more of a generalist with social media in general?

    It’s wonderful to have the choice.

     

    10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelancer?

    I have many!

    The one I repeat over and over is that you have to eventually go for it and make the jump. I see a lot of people who never get past the “thinking about it” phase. Meanwhile the go-getters have taken the leap of faith and started to build success.

    Moving to freelancing is one of those things where there may never be a perfect time to do it. Those who keep waiting for that time to arrive can easily find themselves looking back ten years later with the same commute and the same job.

    Another thing I’m like a broken record about is the importance of “paying your dues.” There are often plenty of less-than-ideal gigs to finish successfully before you arrive at the amazing ones.

    I wrote about some really dull topics in my early days of freelance writing, for example. But I had to wade through that stuff to build my reputation. It all felt thoroughly worth it a few years later when I was being well paid for travel articles and restaurant reviews!

    You learn something from every job along the way: How to handle clients, renegotiate rates, refine your skills, and get work done more efficiently so that you’re boosting the value of your time. Freelancing isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s almost always challenging, interesting and rewarding.

    And let’s face it, many people don’t feel that way about their jobs.

     

    11. What can a person learn from your course? Can you tell us about some of the people who have successfully taken your course?

    OK, so Freelance Kickstarter expands on all of the topics I’ve touched on here, and many others. It’s intended to remove confusion, and that feeling of overwhelm that often descends when researching this stuff online. It helps new freelancers make a clear plan for getting started. As the strapline goes, the idea is that people “stop wasting time, and start making money!”

    I never intended to create a course, but after running the HomeWorkingClub website for several years, it became clear there was a space for something like this. I make it very clear that it’s not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.

    To be brutally honest, I don’t want students who are looking for shortcuts. There is real hard work involved in being a successful freelancer, but it’s a more than viable option for those willing to do what’s required.

    The course starts with the basics of working out what you can do and want to do, and presents LOTS of different options. It then moves on to auditing your skills and experience, building your brand, and working out your own personal goals. I particularly like that section because it helps people learn the exact process I use myself every few months to keep things moving forward.

    The next lessons cover finding clients, and there’s a big module on learning how to use freelance job boards like Upwork. Once people have completed this, they will know how to uncover the good and genuine jobs, and how to side-step the time-drains and scams.

    Students also learn about setting rates, and all the other practicalities of running a freelance business, from getting the tech right to taking undisturbed holidays! We also cover side gigs, and long-term slow-burn projects like blogs and self-published books.

    I provide personal support on the course, and people can ask me all the questions they need as they go along. There are also regular exclusive podcasts with extra advice and news of industry developments and new opportunities.

    In terms of people who have already taken the course, I recently published a case study from a lady called Lyn. She now has “more work than she can handle” as a freelance writer working via Upwork. Two things that have particularly pleased me about her situation is that she’s cherry-picking projects that interest her, and that she’s been able to do exactly what I suggest in increasing her rates as she builds experience and reputation.

    I’ve also had great feedback from people at a much earlier stage. I’ve kept the course price low so that people can use it to help decide if freelancing is for them – just dipping their toes in for the first time.

    As one student said, the course is “ideal if you are considering going freelance and don’t know where or when to start, or even if freelancing is for you.”

    Several of the testimonials so far have aligned perfectly with the original objective, which was – essentially – to help people see the wood for the trees in an environment than can seem very daunting to begin with.

    I set out to create the course I wish I’d had! I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in over 16 years of freelancing. The people taking Freelance Kickstarter should hopefully be able to avoid the same ones!

    Click here to learn more about Freelance Kickstarter.

     Are you interested in learning how to become a freelancer?

    The post How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

    Source: makingsenseofcents.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

    Citi Sears Credit Card – What You Need To Know

    The Citi Sears card is our number #1 ranked store credit card. Readers often have a lot of questions regarding this card so I decided it was time for a dedicated post (you can read our basic review of the card here). The main reason this card is so popular is because of the frequent spending bonuses Citi sends out on this card, for example the current promotion is 10-20% back at gas, grocery & restaurants.

    Citi Sears Card Versions

    There are three versions or flavors of this card and the only real difference is the points currency they earn. The three are:

    • Shop Your Way Rewards (SYWR). This is the only version of the card you can sign up for directly currently. This is Sears points currency and can be used for items at Sears, although there is a new gift card option as well.
    • Citi ThankYou Points (TYP). This is Citi’s flexible point currency.
    • Statement Credit. This is cash back in the form of statement credit

    Can You Product Change Between Cards?

    It used to be possible to sign up for the SYWR version of this card and then product change to either the Citi TYP or statement credit version of this card. The rules then seemingly changed so that the original card needed to be open for a period of 12 months before the product change could be processed. In recent times people have reported being unable to product change, although there have been some reports of it still being possible.

    Getting Targeted Spend Offers

    When people first sign up for the card they often report not receiving any targeted spending offers. There are two theories:

    1. It takes a set amount of time before any offers will appear.
    2. You need spend on the card to be eligible for these offers.

    I think it’s probably a combination of the two in that no matter how much spend you put on the card in the first few months you still might miss out on the first few offers. Once you start receiving an offers you’ll usually have a lot of spend on the card anyway as the offers are so good.

    Final Thoughts

    This article is a work in progress, I’ll add any other relevant information and answer any questions people have.

    F.A.Q’s

    Do the spend offers stack?

    Yes, the offers do stack. For example if you have the following two offers:

    • Get 10% back at gas/grocery/restaurants from 1/1/21 until 3/3/21
    • Spend $2,000 or more with your Citi Sears Card from 2/1/21 until 4/1/21 and earn a $90 statement credit

    Then you could spend $2,000 at a gas station and earn $200 from the first promotion and an additional $90 from the second promotion. The dates and offers are just an example.

    What’s the best sign up bonus offer on this card?

    Most people get this card for the spending bonuses rather than the sign up bonus. I believe the highest bonus we’ve seen is $200 as a sign up bonus, but again the real deal is in the spending offers.

     

    Source: doctorofcredit.com