The Debit Card Dangers You Never Knew Existed

The Debit Card Dangers You Never Knew Existed

Debit card dangers. It sounds like a great title for a bad romance novel. But it is not, it is a real-life risk we face. You purposely use debit cards to be financially responsible. The debit card automatically “debits” your savings or checking account. This guarantees you don’t buy $400 worth of electronics when you only have $300 in your account.

You thought you were doing the right thing by using your debit card instead of creating credit card debt.

And you are.

But there are specific debit card dangers.

Stay Alert to These Debit Card Dangers

Undetected Withdrawals

Since debit cards are connected to your bank account, any fraudulent charges will automatically result in a withdrawal. And if you do not check your bank statements online or otherwise, the withdrawal can go unnoticed for quite a while. If you use automatic withdrawal for other bills, you may miss important payments such as rent or insurance premiums.

Purchase Protection

In many circumstances, credit cards extend greater consumer protections than debit cards. For example, let’s say you purchase framed artwork online. Once the purchase arrives, you notice you have been overcharged, so you dispute the charge. While you are attempting to resolve the issue with the seller, and while the credit card company  investigates, you are not required to pay the disputed part of the bill.

On the other hand, if you used a debit card for the purchase, you would not receive this protection. The reason is when using debit the money is transferred out of your account almost immediately. The money is gone before you even receive the goods. How could you possibly freeze payment?

Unlimited Losses

Once you discover your debit card has been used fraudulently, you should contact your bank immediately. But there is no guarantee you will recoup your money. This is especially true if you did not notice the fraudulent charges right away.

If you discover the fraud and inform your bank within two business days of learning of it, you will still be on the hook for $50. If you wait longer than two days, but fewer than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you, you may be liable for up to $500. Beyond 60 calendar days, there is no liability limit. 

Lengthy Waiting Periods

Your bank has 10 days to investigate your claim. If the bank determines fraud occurred, it must replace the money within the next two days. That’s 11 days AFTER you brought the issue to the bank.

Avoid Debit Card Dangers

To minimize your debit card risks, follow these recommendations:

  • Memorize your PIN number (and don’t use your birthday or SSN).
  • Check bank statements regularly, or better yet, daily.
  • Only use ATMs at known institutions.
  • Keep a record of all your cards, PINS, and banks so you can call them immediately.
  • Know your daily purchase and withdrawal limits.
  • Never store your PIN with your card.



Receiving Unemployment Benefits is a State Lottery

Receiving Unemployment Benefits is a State Lottery

More than two million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits, according to government figures. These temporary benefits go towards replacing regular earnings while a person looks for another job. Payments are based on financial need, with the idea that people will try to find a new job as soon as possible. (Unemployment is another reason that emergency savings are needed for financial preparedness.)

Unemployment Benefits Vary From State to State

What a claimant may receive in unemployment benefits can greatly vary by state. Each state has its own regulations and funds, with the power to decide the amount paid to individuals who qualify.

Five Highest Weekly Unemployment Benefit Amounts Paid in 2017

  1. Massachusetts: $742 (up to 30 weeks, plus $25 per child)
  2. Minnesota: $783 (up to 26 weeks)
  3. Washington: $681 (up to 26 weeks)
  4. New Jersey: $677 (up to 26 weeks)
  5. North Dakota: $633 (up to 26 weeks)

The Three Most Claimant-Friendly States

Aside from how much of a weekly benefit they offer, this varies depending on how ‘claimant-friendly’ each state is. Some states offer a number of benefit programs to support families who may struggle during periods of unemployment. 

California

It is not featured in the top five highest weekly benefit-paying states, but California is certainly one of the best states in the U.S. to live in if you are a benefit claimant.

California has a good track-record of processing applications quickly and is willing to process late claims if required. The state is also very supportive of the claimant during an appeals process and will even look for reasons to find in the claimant’s favor. The state also offers paid family leave and very generous short-term disability benefits for up to 12 months.  In fact, California State Disability Insurance pays more than the unemployment benefit program, and for a longer period.

New Jersey

The state of New Jersey offers its unemployed citizens a higher than average benefit for up to 26 weeks, and doesn’t immediately block applicants for minor misconduct. Instead, it will impose an eight-week disqualification from benefits. Furthermore, the state also offers a substantial interim disability benefit program, which covers pregnancy, but people generally must wait up to six weeks for their claim to be approved. However, New Jersey does schedule appeals quite quickly, and these are often decided on a fair basis.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts boasts a very high weekly benefit amount of $742, plus an additional $25 dependent allowance for an impressive 30 weeks. The state will also use earnings to date of termination if necessary to allow a claimant to qualify, or if it results in a 10% better benefit. One downside, Massachusetts can take up to ten weeks to process a claim.

The Three Worst States for Unemployment Benefits

In general, states with lower taxes pay out much lower unemployment benefits, and for a much shorter time. Many states fail to offer any programs which support families enduring hardship, such as a disability. These states also tend to take a long time to process and pay claims.

North Carolina

North Carolina has reduced the amount and duration of its unemployment benefits over the past three years. The state is not very supportive to those who find themselves unemployed, and is known to be slow when processing claims. It will pay a higher benefit of $350 per week for up to 20 weeks, but recently, the average has been just 13 weeks and is determined by the state’s current rate of unemployment.

Florida

Unfortunately for unemployed Florida residents, the state only pays a weekly benefit of $275 for up to 12 weeks. Furthermore, Florida is generally slow at processing claims and can be hard to contact to discuss claim details.  Unsurprisingly, the state is not claimant friendly when it comes to appeals.

Arizona

The state of Arizona pays a very low weekly benefit of $240 for up to 26 weeks.  It is considered to be one of the least claimant-friendly states in the country. If you lodge an appeal here, you should not expect it to be successful. In fact, some claimants reported being tied up in litigation for one year before the state finally acknowledged the merits of their claim.

Eligibility for Receiving Unemployment Benefits

People are only eligible for unemployment benefits if the reason for their unemployment was not their fault. In each state, employees who quit their job without what the state considers to be a valid reason will not be receiving unemployment benefits. However, the definition of a valid reason does vary from state to state. In some states, being fired for misconduct will permanently stop the individual from receiving unemployment benefits, but in other states the person will only be disqualified for a certain period.

Each state administers its own unemployment insurance program, which is delivered within Federal Law guidelines.

A version of this post was originally published in AboutUnemployment.org.




Five Common Long-term Disability Insurance Myths, Debunked

Five Common Long-term Disability Insurance Myths, Debunked

When you think of long-term disability insurance, what comes to mind?

According to a 2016 LIMRA survey, only one-third of Americans have disability insurance coverage. Considering this, the answer may very well be that you don’t think about long-term disability insurance at all. But for those who do, you may have a lot of negative thoughts swirling around your head.

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding long-term disability insurance. We’re here to set the record straight on five of the most common myths. And check out how we took down three other long-term disability misconceptions here.

“I don’t need long-term disability insurance coverage.”

One of the most common myths about long-term disability insurance is it’s not needed at all. You might be thinking you get enough protection elsewhere, but most need a stand-alone long-term disability insurance policy to ensure adequate coverage.

  • It’s different than workers compensation. Some people think they can rely on workers comp to cover expenses if they become disabled. It’s a nice safety net to have, but it’s not enough. Around five percent of accidents or illnesses are workplace-related, which means workers comp won’t even cover them. It’s best to build your own safety net with a comprehensive long-term disability insurance policy which doesn’t rely on a benefit your employer might not offer.
  • It’s different than Social Security Disability Insurance. Another common replacement for long-term disability insurance is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is a government program which provides a monthly stipend based on past earnings to people under age 65, who are disabled. While this sounds exactly like something you want your disability insurance to do, it can be hard to qualify for SSDI as you typically need to be completely disabled to qualify. You can collect from both your private long-term disability policy and SSDI, and with a Social Benefits Offset Rider, you can reduce your private policy by the amount you receive from SSDI, lowering the amount you pay.
  • Your employer’s disability coverage isn’t good enough. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, your employer-sponsored insurance coverage isn’t enough. You could end up taking home only 40 percent of your income through a group plan.
  • You shouldn’t bank on not becoming disabled. It’s easy to think you don’t need long-term disability insurance simply because you won’t be disabled during the course of your career. One in four people in their 20s will become disabled before they retire.

“I’m a government employee; I can’t get long-term disability insurance.”

Many government employees are enrolled in retirement plans like the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). FERS enrollees can apply for disability retirement as long as they meet certain qualifications.

If you participate in these programs, insurance carriers are limited in how much coverage they can offer. Generally, insurance companies such as Guardian consider government employees as having 40-60 percent of group plans. So while you can buy private supplemental long-term disability insurance in addition to having FERS benefits, you may not get as much coverage as you expected.

The insurer won’t pay my claim!”

A major concern with insurance in general is you’ll put all this money into building your safety net, and when the time comes to actually use it the insurer won’t pay out. There are a few things in particular about long-term disability insurance which make people wary.

First, it can be hard to get disability coverage for illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder. Some people use this as evidence that insurers won’t pay out, but it’s a specific case which can be combated by medical records and proper documentation of treatment.

Most of the time, claims are cut and dried: You lose your eyesight or get cancer, you can’t work, and you receive disability payments. The horror stories of denied claims are complicated fringe cases, mostly revolving around mental illness.

Complications can also arise depending on the type of coverage you have. If you have an Own- Occupation Policy, you can receive disability benefits in the event you’re unable to work in your own occupation. With an Any-Occupation Policy, you’ll only receive benefits if you can’t work any other job. This is obviously a lot broader, and it’s the definition many group plans use. People who have these types of policies, but don’t really understand them may accuse the insurer of not paying in certain instances, even though that’s not what is outlined in the policy itself. They can work other jobs, so they don’t qualify for a claim.

Finally, people often fall prey to negative reviews they read online. Take those reviews with a grain of salt, as they represent a small subset of long-term disability policy owners. You might see a handful of negative reviews for example, The Standard, but the company insures around 10 million people. Negative reviews aren’t necessarily representative of a company’s overall service standard. Sadly, people aren’t super enthusiastic when it comes to insurance, and they rarely leave glowing reviews such as, “Bought a policy, it worked like it should, thanks.”

That’s not to say you won’t ever run into a particularly thorny situation, but you shouldn’t avoid long-term disability insurance just because you think you won’t get what’s due. In nearly every situation, you will.

“I need long-term disability coverage until I retire.”

When you purchase a long-term disability policy, you’ll need to choose how long your benefit period is – that is, how long you’ll be receiving those benefits. Typical long-term disability benefit periods are two, five, or ten years, or until retirement.

Receiving benefits until you reach retirement age sounds great, right? You might think this is the best option, but in many cases it adds unnecessary expense.

In general, the longer the benefit period, the more expensive the long-term disability policy. This, combined with the fact that most disabilities only last three years, means a policy with a benefit period which pays until retirement can be unnecessarily expensive. A five-year policy will cover most cases, and can save you a lot of money in the long run.

“I must buy a non-cancelable policy so my rates don’t increase.”

You don’t want your long-term disability insurance policy to ever be canceled. Confusingly, “non-cancelable” doesn’t really have anything to do with this.

Instead, a non-cancelable policy means your rate is guaranteed and won’t increase over the life of the policy.

This is a nice feature to have, and many carriers offer it standard on their policies. If your policy doesn’t have this feature, don’t panic. It may not be worth paying extra to get.

That’s because the risk of a rate change on your policy is very low. Rate changes must be filed through the state in which it’s occurring, and there are strict regulatory processes to protect consumers against arbitrary rate hikes. Going back to The Standard again, they’ve never raised policyholder rates, and they’ve been around since 1906. That’s how slim the chances are of having your rates changed mid-policy.

You may not have long-term disability insurance yet, and if you don’t, don’t let any of these misconceptions scare you away. Get a free quote and talk to our experts to find out exactly how long-term disability insurance can work for you.

This article originally ran on Policy Genius.




Selling Your Home? Here Are Home Improvements That Add Value

Selling Your Home? Here Are Home Improvements That Add Value

If you are considering fixing up your home before you sell, look at potential home improvements strictly as a numbers game. In other words, how much will you spend on home improvements and what added dollar value are you hoping for?

Should you remodel the kitchen? Or just slap on some new paint? Most home improvements cost money, but only some home improvements consistently increase the resale value of your home.

Five Home Improvements Which Can Increase Value

Replace Your Front Door

You take your front door for granted (unless you forget your keys). It lets family and loved ones in and out of the house, while protecting you from weather and intruders.

Part of taking your front door for granted is the fact that you never notice when it is a bit worn and chipped. Replacing an old front door with a new one (especially a steel one) improves curb appeal, saves on energy costs, and yields a return on investment. 

That Fresh Paint Smell

Everyone loves a fresh coat of paint, and that is one reason it is one of the easiest and most cost-effective improvements of all. Fresh paint can instantly transform a tired looking room into a vibrant, clean, and modern room. At an average cost of $25 dollars per gallon, this simple home improvement easily gets you a return on investment.

Energy-Efficient Fixtures

A new, quiet, decorative ceiling fan cools a room during those warm days when you don’t want to spend extra by using an air conditioner. The gentle breeze of the fan and its ability to double as a light creates a nice touch to any room.

Think of how much nicer this fan is than the squeaky, outdated fan you’re replacing. And it isn’t just ceiling fans which can be replaced and provide a return, any of your old fixtures can be inexpensively replaced with greener, newer models.

Clear the Clutter

When a potential buyer walks through your home, they are trying to visualize themselves and their belongings, in your space. The greater a seller’s clutter, the more difficult it is to visualize.  If your home is full of clutter, buyers will be too distracted to imagine where they’ll put their belongings.

Plus, the less clutter the more spacious a room or home appears. The nice thing about de-cluttering is it is free and can even earn you money (eBay)!

Rid Yourself of Dreadful Popcorn Ceilings

When potential buyers see popcorn ceilings they may feel as if they walked into a hotel room, or they may wonder how many ceiling cracks the popcorn is covering. Popcorn ceilings are incredibly easy to remove (except for the huge mess). But before you start removal, make certain a professional checks these ceilings for asbestos.

Add a Closet

It makes sense that the difference in price between a two-bedroom and three-bedroom house is more substantial. You’re buying more room.  To increase value, add a closet to a room currently used as an office or library and it becomes a bedroom.

Three Home Improvements That May Not Increase Value

Significant Bathroom Remodel

Add up the cost of all elements in a bathroom (including labor), and a major bathroom remodel costs an average of $18,546. The bathroom may look spectacular, but recouping all that money plus profit is not likely when you sell your home.

Homeowners make back an average sixty-five percent of the total bathroom remodel investment.

Major Kitchen Upgrade

A major kitchen remodel often includes new appliances, flooring, lighting, and countertops. The price point for the average major kitchen remodel is $62,158. Homeowners usually recoup an average of sixty-five percent of this cost.

Overdone Landscaping

A moderate amount of landscaping can increase curb appeal and home value. What is a moderate amount? Adding elements such as a few trees or shrubs, and investing in a weed-free lawn.

The problem is when folks over-landscape for the sake of home improvement dollars. Many potential homebuyers may see this maintenance upkeep as a pain in the neck (and pocketbook).

Research Home Improvement Efforts

You want to make certain your home appraises for as much as possible. Remember this, it’s a numbers game and any home improvements you make should be based on dollars, not conjecture.




Important Tips for First-time Home Buyers

Important Tips for First-time Home Buyers

For the last five years, the median age for first-time home buyers has remained consistent at 31 years of age. A home mortgage is a large investment, both figuratively and literally. It is imperative to do your homework prior to the big purchase.

So, what do you need to know? What are some helpful things to consider and mistakes to avoid? We’re glad you asked.

Six Things to Know for Those Ready to Become Home Buyers  

Study the Neighborhood

If you buy a house in a neighborhood of renters, you take the chance that a few bad renters or a bad landlord can make the neighborhood unappealing. What if the neighborhood is full of graduate students and single people? Will your children find playmates? Walk around the neighborhood at night, do you feel safe?

Loving your home is important, but all homes belong to a neighborhood, which you should appreciate as well.

Three Strikes, You’re Out

Three strikes and you’re out. Everyone knows this. It can also be a useful rule-of-thumb for home buyers. If a house property has three flaws, which are not easy to correct, move on. For example, if the house is on a busy street, has a tiny garage and only one bathroom, you may want to avoid it.

Practice Your Love Letter Writing

You have found a home you want…badly. Get your creative juices going and write to the sellers. Tell them how their house is the perfect fit for you. They’ll likely feel bittersweet about selling the home, and your appreciation for the house will likely make an impression on them. If multiple offers for the house come in, they may pick you just on the emotional appeal of the letter you wrote.

Don’t Hastily Count Your Gold

When buying a new home, how much of a mortgage can you afford? You want to buy a house you can afford. Base the amount on your current income. Do not project into the future, or leverage what you may earn in the near future. Mortgages must be based on current, stable income sources.

Do not anticipate your potential earnings, even if you are in the last year of nursing school or law school, or you know a work promotion is impending. You cannot predict the future. There are no guarantees down the road.

Make a List of Things You Will Not Negotiate

What are your values? What would enhance or deter your well-being? Make a list of these very things and let them guide your decision making. They will often define your desired location, choice of amenities, and more.

Continue to revisit this list and make amendments once you have started to shop around in earnest.

Scrub Your Credit Clean

Credit history and credit score are huge factors that go a long way towards determining your risk as a borrower. Before you apply for a mortgage, check your credit score and dispute any potential errors.

Pay down high balance credit cards—get your balances to less than thirty percent of every card’s credit limit.

And hold off on large credit purchases such as a car loan, since large purchases affect your debt-to-income ratio.

Accrue Knowledge

Current mortgage rates are low. Demand for homes is high. In other words, it is a seller’s market.

This means you need to enter the market with a great deal of knowledge. Follow the preceding tips to set you on your wisdom-gathering journey.

Best of luck with your hunt.




New Parents Often Make These Financial Mistakes

New Parents Often Make These Financial Mistakes

You have made the decision: You are going to have a baby. Or maybe you did not make the decision, but you are going to have a baby nonetheless. Baby showers, potential schools, preparing the nursery, prepping for three hours of sleep, and endless discussions about the philosophy of raising your child ensue.

Everything seems to be discussed and on the way towards resolution. Oops, forgot something. Finances. Well, you have plenty of time to discuss in the future, right? Nope. Without deep, anticipatory discussions and planning you may be walking headlong into any number of common financial mistakes new parents often make.

To guide your financial discussions, we have prepared an abridged listing of financial mistakes.

These discussions may not be as pleasurable as choosing nursery colors, but they will help you avoid putting your long-term financial security at risk.

Five Common Financial Mistakes New Parents Make  

Lack of Emergency Savings

Unexpected bills pop up. The pop up even more frequently when there is a baby involved. Therefore, it is important to have three-to-six months of salary socked away. Emergency funds aren’t just for new parents, they are foundational for all people looking to be financially responsible.

Lack of Life Insurance

Few want to talk about it, but permanent life insurance for children is a responsible investment. Here are four reasons to consider it.

  • It may Keep Your Family Out of Major Debt

The average funeral costs $8,000-$10,000, not to mention nearly half of American families say they don’t have even $400 on hand for an emergency.

  • It Provides a Financial Safety Net

Permanent life insurance such as whole life accumulates cash value at a guaranteed rate while the policy is in effect.

  • Coverage for Children Will Never Be More Affordable

The younger a child is when coverage starts, the lower the rate.

  • Life Insurance Protects Insurability

Whole life coverage protects children against an unexpected accident or illness, currently and in the future.

Lack of Disability Insurance

Who is the main bread winner in the house? What would happen if this income lifeline suddenly stopped due to a long-term disability? Are you financially prepared?

Without an income, you would quickly burn through your savings. The worry over your new baby would become overwhelming.

One of the worst parts is that disability can last a long time. Over half of all personal bankruptcies and mortgage foreclosures are a consequence of disability.

Long-term disability insurance is essentially income replacement. It can help you make ends meet when you’re unable to work without needing to completely drain your savings.

Ignoring Retirement Savings

It is easy to postpone or avoid retirement savings. This is one of the worst financial mistakes new parents can make. The reason? Other expenses created by raising a child can be resolved through a loan or a scholarship.

However, retirement does not offer “other” options such as a loan. Retirement needs to be a priority even in the leanest of times. It prepares your family for a sound financial future.

Ignoring College Savings

College funding does have options such as loans and scholarships. However, new parents should still consider a college savings fund. There are tax-free savings options, although some come with conditions. You may never save enough to pay for all tuition, you would help your child avoid a mountain of debt that requires years to decades to pay off.

Planning for the Sake of Your Family

Planning can be intimidating and stressful, but your future self will be happy you planned. Parenting is challenging, but it becomes even more challenging without a financial plan.

Think beyond today for the sake of your loved ones.




Should You Pay Off Student Loans Early?

Should You Pay Off Student Loans Early?

Well, you did it: You graduated and you have your first real job. You can’t believe how large your paychecks are (compared to what you earned as a dishwasher at your college dorm). So, what are you going to do now? You have a mountain of student loan debt, but you’ve also heard whispers that investing some of your income may be more financially lucrative than aggressively trying to pay off student loans.

Pay Off Student Loans Early or Invest

No one likes the psychological stress of knowing a huge amount of debt is linked directly back to them. But take a breath, and look at your long-term financial health. Ask yourself what is going to help you in the long run.

Reasons Not to Pay off Student Loans Early

Build an Emergency Fund  

Before tackling your loan head-on, Mayotte suggests setting up an emergency fund. That’s because without any savings, you might put unforeseen expenses on a credit card — which likely carries a higher interest rate than your student loans — and not pay it off right away.

Start small and set aside $25 or $50 a month until you’ve got at least $500. That pot of money will be there for you if your car breaks down, and it will keep you from going further into debt.

Take Advantage of a 401(k)

If you have a 401(k) at work and your company offers to match contributions, you should contribute at least as much as the matching amount. This is truly free money. It gets you on your way to saving for the future.

Maintain the Tax Deduction

Student loan interest is tax deductible. Normally, low student loan interest rates and a tax deduction combine to create a loan which can cost less than traditional loans.

Don’t keep your loan for the mere reason of the tax deduction, but if you need to allocate money elsewhere, remember your student loans don’t necessarily have to be a gigantic drain on your resources.

Financial Investment

The interest rate you pay on your student loan can be under two percent. If you invest money instead of paying ahead on student loans, you could see annualized returns of more than seven percent.

Reasons to Pay off Student Loans Early

Lower Your Debt to Income Ratio

If you pay off student loans early, it lowers your debt to income ratio. The result is more available money when you want to buy a house, or borrow money. Without a student loan, your money is “freed up.” The less your debt payment is each month, the more you can invest in retirement or any other interest you may have.

Save on Interest Rates

If you pay off debt early, you are no longer accountable to a lender. Even better is your savings on interest payments.

An example from Sallie Mae shows how you save money if you pay a bit more each month.

  • Current balance: $10,000.00
  • Interest rate: Eight percent
  • Repayment term: 10 years

If you pay only the amount due.

  • 119 monthly payments of $121.32, with a final payment of $119.89
  • It takes 10 years and a total payment of $14,556.97.

If you pay an extra $20 each month.

  • 96 monthly payments of $141.32 with a final payment of $7.10
  • It takes eight years and one month and you’ll save $983.15.

It’s Your Debt

How you pay off your student loan is your decision. Just make certain you evaluate your options and keep your long-term interests in mind.

Whether you decide to pay off debt as quickly as possible or take the longer road while you focus on other things, having a plan and sticking to it can help you reach your goals.




Some of the Top Budgeting Apps Available

Some of the Top Budgeting Apps Available

Saving. Investing. Budgeting. These financial responsibilities take up your time and you are not quite up to the task. Maybe you will be once you are less busy. Or once you have settled into your new home. Or once you get engaged. Enough! There are apps that help you with these financial responsibilities. It can’t get much easier, can it? Since many people find budgeting to be one of the greatest “burdens” of financial planning, we’ll take a look at some top budgeting apps.

Five Great Budgeting Apps

PocketGuard

Budgeting app PocketGuard connects to your bank accounts. You will never be without instant transaction and balance access again.

The app has an easy to understand home screen that monitors the amount of money in your pocket, your current income, and how much of it you have spent. This budgeting app dissects your spending habits, identifies recurring payments so you can plan for them, and provides a snapshot of your cash flow.

Charts inform you where you spend by category. This in itself helps you find areas that require belt tightening.

You Need a Budget

YNAB, or You Need a Budget, also connects directly to your bank account. YNAB highlights four financial rules: Plan for infrequent expenses, give every dollar a job, roll with the punches if you overspend, and age your money.

Beyond budgeting, you can watch online classes that help you get the most from this budgeting app.

Spendbook

Spendbook features great tracking and budgeting capabilities. Adding new income or expense transactions is a breeze. Photos of an item purchased, or a receipt, enhance the app’s utility. Expenses and income are easily categorized. Daily and monthly expense reports are available with companion infographics and charts.

Home Budget

Home Budget with Sync has a useful family sharing feature. It allows users to set a budget and sync income and expenses among numerous devices. Home Budget allows users to track purchases and gain insight about spending habits with the aid of charts, infographics, or itemized lists. The aspect that sets this budgeting app apart from others is definitely the family sharing capability.

Budget Boss

Budget Boss is a very simple iPhone app. It helps you create a budget, and it evaluates the strength of your budget. This is a perfect budgeting app for those looking for simple, quick, and easy budgetary assistance.

Budgeting IS Difficult Even with Budgeting Apps

In the introduction, we teased the “non-budgeter” by implying that apps will make budgeting an incredibly easy task. However, apps cannot work miracles. There are many reasons, beyond technology, which create budget-averse people.

Here are a few of those reasons:

  • Limiting ourselves financially makes us discouraged about our current financial situation.
  • We simply have never been taught how to prioritize financial goals.
  • Budgeting does not come naturally.
  • Our financial choices are heavily influenced by how we were raised.

That said, budgets are a mandatory element of financial health. They help you save, stop you from spending what you don’t have, expose bad spending habits, and pave the way to retirement.

There are also a number of mental health apps for the apps enthusiast. Check out these anxiety and depression apps.




Is Supplemental Disability Insurance Worth It?

Is Supplemental Disability Insurance Worth It?

There’s an old saying that there are three types of people in the world: those with disability insurance, those without it, and those with supplemental disability insurance.

Okay, that’s not an actual saying, but it’s true. Disability insurance is a great way to protect your income if you are unable to work due to injury or illness. Many people receive some sort of group disability coverage through their employer. But is that enough?

Employer-sponsored life insurance usually isn’t enough protection for most people. The same goes for disability insurance. That’s why we’re going to throw a third group of people into that age-old adage. That third group is people who need a private supplemental disability insurance policy.

Here are three questions you should ask yourself if you’re debating purchasing supplemental disability insurance.

Do I Need More Coverage?

As mentioned above, this is a common question for most people. Most simply don’t have enough coverage through their employer’s group plan.

Many group plans only cover 60 percent (or less) of your income. And since your employer is paying for it, it’s taxable. This means your actual take home pay could be closer to 40 than 60 percent of your income. Plans may also have maximum benefit amounts. This means the income received won’t be nearly what you used to receive.

Are you able to cut your expenses by half to make that workable?

Adding a supplemental disability insurance plan, may bring your coverage close to 80 percent. That’s much more manageable – and less of an impact on your lifestyle.

What’s the Strength of My Group Plan?

Most group plans aren’t as robust as a private disability insurance policy. Most employer-provided disability insurance plans are own occupation policies, for the first two years of disability before switching over to any occupation policies for the remainder of the benefit period; some may never be own occupation. If you have a residual disability and can’t perform your job to the same capacity as you could before – you’re still earning money, but less of it – your employer’s group policy might not cover that at all.

Compare this to a private disability insurance policy, where you can get own occupation covered for as long of a benefit period as you want – two, five, or 10 years, or even all the way to retirement age. Considering one in eight workers will be disabled for five or more years over the course of their career, having that flexibility in terms of length of coverage is crucial.

Your employer coverage might also be insufficient if you qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). Group coverage could be offset by your SSDI coverage. This means you won’t receive as much as you were expecting through your employer. The good news? There is no affect to your private policy.

Buying a supplemental disability insurance policy ensures you have the most comprehensive coverage possible. If you’re relying solely on group coverage you receive through your employer, you don’t have control of the policy type. This means you could leave yourself vulnerable to loopholes.

What’s My Plan for the Future?

If you have health insurance through your employer, you know that if you ever lose (or leave) your job, you’ll lose your health insurance, too. Group disability insurance works the same way. This goes back to the last point of not having control of your policy: if you leave, or if your employer decides to cancel coverage, there’s not much you can do about it. You’re at the whim of your employer.

If you don’t have supplemental disability insurance and you leave your current employer, whether to take a new job or start your own company, you’re back at square one in terms of coverage. And if you’re further on in your career, you may hit a roadblock if you decide that now’s the time to get your own coverage.

As with life insurance, disability insurance requires applicants to go through an underwriting process. If you’re in poor health or have pre-existing medical conditions, it could prove difficult to find affordable disability insurance coverage. That’s why – as with life insurance – the earlier you buy, the better your chances of getting the protection you need at a price you can afford.

How to Get Supplemental Disability Insurance

So you’re ready to get supplemental disability insurance coverage, right? Great! The best part is it’s not any more difficult than applying for a long-term disability insurance policy.

Buying a supplemental disability insurance policy is usually less expensive than buying a single standalone policy, because you’re usually buying a smaller amount to complement your group coverage. Including a future purchase rider will allow you to increase your coverage in the future, with no further underwriting, if you leave your company, lose your group disability coverage, and need more protection.

The only real difference in applying for supplemental disability insurance is disclosing that you already have group coverage in place. When disclosing your group policy, you’ll need to make known the coverage amount, the benefit period, and the elimination period (how long after your disability before you’re eligible for benefits). The amount you can apply for depends on how much coverage you have through your employer.

Having group disability insurance is a great perk from your employer. But it’s not enough to stop there. To ensure your family has protection, beef up your coverage with a private supplemental policy. After seeing all of the potential gaps in coverage – whether it’s the amount of income replacement you’ll get, the length of time you’ll be protected, or the flexibility you’ll have with your policy – you owe it to yourself to at least review your group policy and see how you can better fill your financial safety net.

This post originally appeared on Policygenius.




If I Could Turn Back Time: Millennial Money Mistakes Which Can Affect Your Future

If I Could Turn Back Time: Millennial Money Mistakes Which Can Affect Your Future

“I’m Young.” “Nothing but time.” “Family: I’ll think about that later.” “Retirement: Decades away.” “Insurance: I am strong as an ox.”

We all think similar thoughts when we are young. However, if you are a millennial and these thoughts guide your financial actions, it’s important to know the common financial pitfalls — let’s call them millennial money mistakes — that you’ll make when you’re young, only to regret them when you become your future self.

Millennial Money Mistakes with Far-reaching Consequences

Depending on the level of financial education you have received, some of these millennial money mistakes will prove obvious (yet still important), some not so much.

Avoiding Credit Cards Altogether

What? Isn’t cash king? Isn’t credit card debt a nasty spiral? Doesn’t the average American household face $16,061 credit card debt? Well yes, these are all true.

However, lack of a credit card can cause numerous problems.

If you go to a bank or a credit union to apply for a loan, they will look at your credit (FICO) score.

Even though this may sound counterintuitive to some, a lack of credit history is a millennial money mistake because institutions will be less inclined to loan you money without a solid credit history behind you.

Hosting a Wedding with Borrowed Money

How many times have you heard a person say that his/her wedding day is ‘their’ day? Holy emotion! Money and emotions are like oil and water. They just don’t mix well.

Certainly the parents of some may pay for an entire wedding. But the average cost of American weddings is creeping above $28,000.

As the trend of waiting longer to get married continues, more couples are deciding to pay for their own wedding. But expectations are just as high as if their parents were paying. So they borrow money.

Sometimes this borrowed money could be the price of a luxury car, or a huge down payment on a house. It is difficult to start a lifelong relationship with large debt hanging over the marriage.

A smaller wedding may disappoint some, but they‘re not paying for it.

Choosing Money Instead of Future Opportunity

What do young people, or people looking for their first career job, most likely focus on as far as benefits? Salary.

Another millennial money mistake is to look at salary over opportunity for growth.

You need to look at both. Growth is often much more valuable than money because it allows you to move upward and eventually score that position with the big paycheck.

Avoiding Budgeting

This is the most important mistake to avoid.

An income earner without a budget is likely going to fall far short of any financial goals. Knowing what you bring in, and what goes out (and for what), is of the utmost importance if you want to avoid money mistakes and take hold of your financial future and retirement.

Simple budgeting? Just follow these steps: Document monthly income, document monthly expenses, document likely future expenses, and lower or erase every expense you can.

Millennial Money Mistakes Honorable Mention

These were just a few mistakes. Here are some others:

  • Don’t buy too much house.
  • Don’t buy too much car.
  • Protect your income with disability insurance.
  • Don’t wait to save for retirement.
  • Attack student loan repayment.

All These Things Are So Adult 

Yes, you think you have time. But, you really don’t. Time moves quickly, especially when finances are involved. If you can’t do all of the above, do as many as you can. They get easier the more financially involved you become. Your future self will thank you. That is a guarantee.