How to Set Up Your First 401K

There's a lot to consider when saving for retirement. Here's what you need to know to get started with a 401K.

So you’ve decided to save for your retirement using your company’s 401K plan. Congratulations! It’s a great way to save. But now what? Which funds do you choose? How much should you contribute? Are there limits? How do your employer’s matching funds actually work? Can you access the money if you need it before retirement?

Obviously, there are a lot of questions that can arise when it comes time to set up your retirement savings, but we’re here to help. Here’s what you need to know to set up your 401K.

What Is a 401K?

The section of the U.S. tax code that describes these retirement savings plans is Section 401(k), thus the name. These plans let you invest pre-tax dollars directly from your salary, along with any additional investment made by your employer. Unlike an Investment Retirement Account (IRA), 401Ks are sponsored by employers, and, if offered at all, they must be made available to all employees of the company sponsoring the 401K.

Your employer does have the right to impose a couple of restrictions, however. 1. They can require that you work full-time for a period of time before eligibility, and 2., can also stipulate that you be at least 21 years old before enrolling. That’s why it’s always good to ask about eligibility when interviewing for a new job.

You Choose Your Investments

Most 401Ks are self-directed. That means you choose where to put your money from a list of funds made available through your 401K plan provider (Vanguard and Fidelity are two of the larger firms providing 401K funds). This can get tricky. Do you choose the safest investments that offer little risk but less reward? Do you opt for high growth? Targeted funds? Emerging market funds? What about bonds?

Obviously, you’re going to want to do some research, perhaps even talk to someone with some expertise. Most plan providers share details about the individual funds they offer on their websites, or at least have links to more details. Some even offer tools to help you choose which funds fit your needs, while others make real live people available for limited consultations. Seek out the assistance you need to fully understand what you’re doing with your savings.

You Also Choose How Much to Save …

There’s really no correct answer when it comes to how much to save, but certainly, saving as much as you can for retirement is a good idea. And if your employer offers matching funds (free money!) for your investments, you’ll at least want to invest the full amount they match. So, for example, if your employer matches up to 3% of your salary, you’ll want to invest at least 3%, though certainly you can invest more. Here are some tips on how to maximize your 401K.

… But There Are Limits

Federal law allows investors to put up to $18,000 into a 401K each year unless you’re over age 50, when you’re allowed to make an additional $6,000 in “catch-up” contributions.

If you’re in the lucky position of being able to save more than these limits, there are investing alternatives to your 401K that you may want to consider. These include IRAs, certificates of deposit (CDs) and even individual stocks if you’re familiar enough with the markets.

You Can’t Use Your Money …

Keep in mind that a 401K isn’t like a savings account. But for a few exceptions, you can’t withdraw your money before age 59½ without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. You can take a loan against your 401K if your employer’s plan allows for that, but only for specific purposes like education, medical reasons or first-time home purchases. Your repayments will come right out of your paycheck, making the process simple, but there are some dangers you’ll want to consider before borrowing against your 401K.

If you’re just starting out in the investing/saving world, you may want to consider putting a portion of your income toward an emergency fund that is easily accessed, carries no penalties and can get you out of a jam, like a giant car repair bill, when you need it.

… But You Can Take It With You

To another job, that is. When you leave, you won’t lose your investments, though you could lose contributions made by your employer. That’s because some employers require a “vesting period” for their contributions to your 401K. Essentially, it means you have to work for the company for a predetermined period of time before you can claim what they’ve given you.

When you leave, you simply set up a rollover IRA with your plan provider. Those funds can then either stay put in the IRA or be rolled over to your 401K with your new employer. You’ll want to compare the income history for the funds before deciding where the money will best serve you.

Retirement may feel eons away, but it pays (quite literally) to start early. Fortunately, we’ve got a full list of 50 things millennials can do now to retire at 65.  

Image: AJ_Watt

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Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program?

Here's what you get when you enroll in the Trump Hotels Privileges Program.

If you didn’t already know, yes, it’s true. Like most major hotel brands, Trump Hotels has a loyalty program that rewards frequent guests. The Trump Privileges Program is a little different, however.

To start with, membership is free and signing up on the Trump Hotels website takes only a moment. Right away, the program offers members the ability to customize their stays beyond just requesting a high floor or a room near the elevator. Preferences such as specific turn-down times, room temperatures, choice of pillow sizes and fillings (there are 11 different options), and even preferred snacks in the mini bar also are available. There are also members-only offers, welcome amenities upon arrival, plus prioritized early check-in and late check out.

“The Trump Card Privileges Program is our way of saying thank you,” the firm says on its website. “Knowing that no stay should feel like the first, we aim to ensure your experience is as personalized as you want it to be.”

Once members reach Exclusive Gold status (earned through 10 stays or 25 nights), they also bump up to guaranteed late checkout at 2 p.m., complimentary category upgrades (based on availability) and a $10 mini-bar credit. Exclusive Platinum members (earned through 25 stays or 50 nights) receive a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, complimentary suite upgrades (based on availability) and a $15 mini-bar credit on top of the standard membership perks.

When it comes to earning free stays, the Trump Privileges Program is pretty comparable to other luxury hotels. As is standard, frequent guests pile up points that can used on costlier benefits, such as free rooms. With these, the devil is always in the details, and in the math.

Here’s one example: Standard members get 10 points per stay. (Those who have reached status levels get bonus points.) Free nights cost between 150 to 300 points, based on location (rooms start at around $350 per night in some locations based upon our research). That means you’ll have stay 15 to 30 nights in a Trump hotel before earning a free room.

By comparison, the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while using different numbers, boils down to something similar. There, standard members earn two points for each dollar spent. Free rooms we checked out in New York City cost from 12,000 to 30,000 points. So roughly, 20 stays at $300 a night gets a free Starwood room in Manhattan.

Of course, value hotel loyalty programs are a bit more generous, but the luxurious amenities are nowhere to be found. At La Quinta, for example, guests earn 10 points per dollar spent, so roughly 1,000 points per stay. Free rooms can often be had for 8,000 to 12,000 points, or eight to 12 stays. (Please note: Points program math has many permutations — bonus points! blackout dates! — so these are merely examples.)

Earning points through the Privileges Program is likely to become easier in the near future as the brand expands and opens new properties. Trump Hotels has announced plans to open less-pricey properties under the brand name Scion, which will cost $200 to $300 per night. No word yet on how many points will be earned for stays.

If you’re looking to boost your hotel rewards earning power, you may want to consider a rewards credit card affiliated with your favorite hotel brand. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best hotel rewards credit cards available today. If you’re loyal to a brand like Trump that doesn’t have an affiliated credit card, you can always look at improving your rewards with a cash back rewards card. You can compare some of the best cash back rewards cards here.

Remember, you’re going to need good credit to qualify for most rewards credit cards. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you can get your two free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Bob Sullivan contributed to this article.

Image: wingedwolf

The post Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program? appeared first on Credit.com.

Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program?

Here's what you get when you enroll in the Trump Hotels Privileges Program.

If you didn’t already know, yes, it’s true. Like most major hotel brands, Trump Hotels has a loyalty program that rewards frequent guests. The Trump Privileges Program is a little different, however.

To start with, membership is free and signing up on the Trump Hotels website takes only a moment. Right away, the program offers members the ability to customize their stays beyond just requesting a high floor or a room near the elevator. Preferences such as specific turn-down times, room temperatures, choice of pillow sizes and fillings (there are 11 different options), and even preferred snacks in the mini bar also are available. There are also members-only offers, welcome amenities upon arrival, plus prioritized early check-in and late check out.

“The Trump Card Privileges Program is our way of saying thank you,” the firm says on its website. “Knowing that no stay should feel like the first, we aim to ensure your experience is as personalized as you want it to be.”

Once members reach Exclusive Gold status (earned through 10 stays or 25 nights), they also bump up to guaranteed late checkout at 2 p.m., complimentary category upgrades (based on availability) and a $10 mini-bar credit. Exclusive Platinum members (earned through 25 stays or 50 nights) receive a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, complimentary suite upgrades (based on availability) and a $15 mini-bar credit on top of the standard membership perks.

When it comes to earning free stays, the Trump Privileges Program is pretty comparable to other luxury hotels. As is standard, frequent guests pile up points that can used on costlier benefits, such as free rooms. With these, the devil is always in the details, and in the math.

Here’s one example: Standard members get 10 points per stay. (Those who have reached status levels get bonus points.) Free nights cost between 150 to 300 points, based on location (rooms start at around $350 per night in some locations based upon our research). That means you’ll have stay 15 to 30 nights in a Trump hotel before earning a free room.

By comparison, the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while using different numbers, boils down to something similar. There, standard members earn two points for each dollar spent. Free rooms we checked out in New York City cost from 12,000 to 30,000 points. So roughly, 20 stays at $300 a night gets a free Starwood room in Manhattan.

Of course, value hotel loyalty programs are a bit more generous, but the luxurious amenities are nowhere to be found. At La Quinta, for example, guests earn 10 points per dollar spent, so roughly 1,000 points per stay. Free rooms can often be had for 8,000 to 12,000 points, or eight to 12 stays. (Please note: Points program math has many permutations — bonus points! blackout dates! — so these are merely examples.)

Earning points through the Privileges Program is likely to become easier in the near future as the brand expands and opens new properties. Trump Hotels has announced plans to open less-pricey properties under the brand name Scion, which will cost $200 to $300 per night. No word yet on how many points will be earned for stays.

If you’re looking to boost your hotel rewards earning power, you may want to consider a rewards credit card affiliated with your favorite hotel brand. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best hotel rewards credit cards available today. If you’re loyal to a brand like Trump that doesn’t have an affiliated credit card, you can always look at improving your rewards with a cash back rewards card. You can compare some of the best cash back rewards cards here.

Remember, you’re going to need good credit to qualify for most rewards credit cards. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you can get your two free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Bob Sullivan contributed to this article.

Image: wingedwolf

The post Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program? appeared first on Credit.com.

Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program?

Here's what you get when you enroll in the Trump Hotels Privileges Program.

If you didn’t already know, yes, it’s true. Like most major hotel brands, Trump Hotels has a loyalty program that rewards frequent guests. The Trump Privileges Program is a little different, however.

To start with, membership is free and signing up on the Trump Hotels website takes only a moment. Right away, the program offers members the ability to customize their stays beyond just requesting a high floor or a room near the elevator. Preferences such as specific turn-down times, room temperatures, choice of pillow sizes and fillings (there are 11 different options), and even preferred snacks in the mini bar also are available. There are also members-only offers, welcome amenities upon arrival, plus prioritized early check-in and late check out.

“The Trump Card Privileges Program is our way of saying thank you,” the firm says on its website. “Knowing that no stay should feel like the first, we aim to ensure your experience is as personalized as you want it to be.”

Once members reach Exclusive Gold status (earned through 10 stays or 25 nights), they also bump up to guaranteed late checkout at 2 p.m., complimentary category upgrades (based on availability) and a $10 mini-bar credit. Exclusive Platinum members (earned through 25 stays or 50 nights) receive a guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, complimentary suite upgrades (based on availability) and a $15 mini-bar credit on top of the standard membership perks.

When it comes to earning free stays, the Trump Privileges Program is pretty comparable to other luxury hotels. As is standard, frequent guests pile up points that can used on costlier benefits, such as free rooms. With these, the devil is always in the details, and in the math.

Here’s one example: Standard members get 10 points per stay. (Those who have reached status levels get bonus points.) Free nights cost between 150 to 300 points, based on location (rooms start at around $350 per night in some locations based upon our research). That means you’ll have stay 15 to 30 nights in a Trump hotel before earning a free room.

By comparison, the Starwood Preferred Guest program, while using different numbers, boils down to something similar. There, standard members earn two points for each dollar spent. Free rooms we checked out in New York City cost from 12,000 to 30,000 points. So roughly, 20 stays at $300 a night gets a free Starwood room in Manhattan.

Of course, value hotel loyalty programs are a bit more generous, but the luxurious amenities are nowhere to be found. At La Quinta, for example, guests earn 10 points per dollar spent, so roughly 1,000 points per stay. Free rooms can often be had for 8,000 to 12,000 points, or eight to 12 stays. (Please note: Points program math has many permutations — bonus points! blackout dates! — so these are merely examples.)

Earning points through the Privileges Program is likely to become easier in the near future as the brand expands and opens new properties. Trump Hotels has announced plans to open less-pricey properties under the brand name Scion, which will cost $200 to $300 per night. No word yet on how many points will be earned for stays.

If you’re looking to boost your hotel rewards earning power, you may want to consider a rewards credit card affiliated with your favorite hotel brand. We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best hotel rewards credit cards available today. If you’re loyal to a brand like Trump that doesn’t have an affiliated credit card, you can always look at improving your rewards with a cash back rewards card. You can compare some of the best cash back rewards cards here.

Remember, you’re going to need good credit to qualify for most rewards credit cards. If you don’t know where your credit stands, you can get your two free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Bob Sullivan contributed to this article.

Image: wingedwolf

The post Wait a Minute … Trump Hotels Has a Rewards Program? appeared first on Credit.com.

How New Parents Can Budget For Child Care

Plan ahead as much as possible.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Having a new baby on the way is an incredibly joyous time for most families, but it can also be stressful. After all, babies require a lot of care — they need to be fed and changed, and then there’s the diapers, clothes, bedding, car seats, toys, healthcare … it can be overwhelming, both emotionally and financially.

Add to that the tremendous childcare expense — the average annual cost for child care in the United States is higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition — and it can feel downright impossible, especially if your finances are already tight.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you budget for child care. We talked to Katie Bugbee, senior managing editor of Care.com, a website dedicated to helping families and caregivers connect in a reliable and easy way. She shared some ideas on how to start saving at every stage.

“Obviously, the earlier people can start saving the better,” Bugbee said. “When you have babies on the brain is a good time to start cutting back. As much as you want to celebrate the last few years without kids and enjoy them, you should also really make sure that you have enough money moving forward to live as comfortably as possible with the additional expenses.”

Before Baby Comes

There are a multitude of things you can do to save money before you have a baby on the way. From cutting back on your daily $3 coffee to skipping that new outfit for work and even buying used items instead of new.

You can also save money by using a cash-back credit card for your everyday purchases. Some of the best cash-back cards can help you earn rewards on pretty much everything you buy. Of course, most of these cards require you have good credit. But, if you don’t, it’s good to keep in mind there are credit cards for bad credit and some — like the Discover it Secured card or the Capital One Secured MasterCard — even offer cash back rewards. Even better, they’ll help you build and improve your credit if managed properly. You can see what your credit situation is by reviewing your free credit report snapshot from Credit.com, which updates monthly.

Of course, you can also save in larger ways. Instead of moving into a bigger, nicer apartment or house, stay where you are for now. That way, you keep your housing budget reigned in while you put more money into savings for your new baby.

If you have the cash flow, set up a savings account especially for baby, and consider skipping that fabulous week long vacation to St. Lucia and opt instead for a long weekend visiting friends. Here are 7 other money moves to make before baby arrives.

When Baby Is On the Way

When you know your baby is on the way, it’s time to really get busy with the saving, especially if you didn’t so earlier. One option is to see if your employer offers flexible spending accounts that cover child care. If so, it could be worth setting up and reaping the tax benefits it will provide. You can also ask if there’s a child care subsidy available, or if there is in-office child care.

Now is also a good time to talk to your accountant or financial adviser about how best to plan for your new family addition. Are there additional tax breaks to consider?

You might also want to begin researching child care options in your neighborhood. There’s a lot to consider, and your financial situation will likely dictate what choices you make. Will you want at-home care? If so, a nanny share can be a great way to cut your costs. Will you opt for a family day care center instead? Are there any in your neighborhood that offer a sliding pay scale that fits your financial situation?

“Going and getting the best care for the most affordable option is what you need to charge yourself with,” Bugbee said. “I strongly recommend using message boards for that, because you probably don’t even know half the daycare or nanny options in your area.”

She suggested trying out sites like Bigtent.com to find child care options near your home. These are closed groups that will want to verify you live in the area, but once that hurdle is out of the way, they can be incredibly helpful, Bugbee said.

You may also want to consider Facebook groups for parents, which can also be very helpful in finding affordable child care services through people who have already used them, she said.

When Baby Arrives & Every Day After

Now is the time to start looking for ways to save money on baby gear itself.

“The only new things you really need are cribs and car seats,” Bugbee said, adding that pretty much everything else can be bought used. Be sure to check for recalls on used products, however, as well as expiration dates where applicable. The money you save can be used toward child care.

Bugbee also suggested using Amazon Mom to help save money on things like diapers, sippy cups, bottles and more.And remember that cash-back rewards credit card we mentioned earlier? Putting it to use on essential purchases can help you save even more. (As far as shopping on Amazon goes, you may find a lot of value in their credit card, which we reviewed here.)

At the end of the day, you want what is best for your child. Saving money wherever you can help you provide a better life for them now and in the future. And teaching them to do the same can help them be financially secure even when you aren’t around to watch after them.

At publishing time, the Discover it Secured and the Capital One Secured MasterCard are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: DragonImages

 

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I Got an Airline Voucher for Being Bumped. Do I Owe Taxes?

Bigger payouts from the airlines could get a review from the IRS. Here's what a tax expert has to say.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last month, chances are you heard about the passenger-crew-police altercation on a United Airlines flight that led to a passenger being dragged off the plane to make room for a United employee.

You probably also heard about United’s ensuing policy changes that will hopefully keep such an altercation from happening again, particularly the airline’s decision to increase the amount it will offer passengers who volunteer to be “bumped” from their flight.

That new amount is $10,000, and while it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be offered that big a payout, you might be wondering what, if any, tax consequences would arise from that kind of cha-ching moment.

First off, it’s important to note that you’re probably never going to get cash for voluntarily agreeing to take another flight, so there’s no big shopping spree in your future. Any compensation is probably going to be a voucher for future flights and services. Quick note: If you are involuntarily bumped, the Department of Transportation requires the airline give you a check instead of a voucher if you request it. Such a payment likely would not have tax consequences. (Your airline credit card may help keep you from getting bumped. And if you’re ditching United altogether, here are four airline credit card alternatives.)

We talked to Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst with Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, about some of the possible tax consequences you should keep in mind in the unlikely case you get a $2,000, $5,000 or even $10,000 payout from an airline.

To Tax, Or Not to Tax. Is That Even a Question?

“You start off with the problem that, in general, anything that’s received in the way of compensation or payments are taxable unless you can find an exclusion in the tax code for them,” Luscombe said. “There’s no specific exclusion for this, and the IRS has not really directly addressed the issue, so you have to sort of analyze by analogy.”

In doing so, most people agree that things like airline vouchers probably aren’t taxable, Luscombe said. That’s based in large part on an advice memorandum to an airline about a decade ago outlining how the airline should handle these voucher payments for their own, internal accounting processes.

“In that memorandum, the IRS basically took the position that the airline could not defer part of their income for selling the ticket contingent on whether a possible voucher is ultimately used,” he said. “[The IRS] viewed it as what the passenger is really paying for. Their initial ticket is a whole package of services.”

Luscombe suggested that, because the IRS views the vouchers as part of the original transaction and doesn’t allow the airline to defer income (basically, claiming it as a liability on their books) for those vouchers, they likewise would not see them as income for a passenger, but rather the airline holding up its end of the contractual agreement between the passenger and airline.

So, in a nutshell, it’s unlikely the IRS would seek taxes for your voucher. However, the increased payout amounts airlines are now offering that total thousands of dollars do have the potential to make the IRS take a second look, Luscombe said.

The vouchers can be considered somewhat similar to an insurance payout. Say, for example, your house catches fire and your insurance pays you to take care of the damages. Those payments are, generally speaking, not taxable under the tax code. “But they can be taxable if the recovery is viewed as excess in some way,” Luscombe said.

So, could the same be true for a $10,000 airline voucher?

“You do get into the issue here when you’re talking about $10,000 as to whether the IRS might take another look at this and say, ‘well, this has moved into a new realm,’” he said, and could potentially reconsider whether these payouts for being bumped are considered “excess.”

While a $10,000 voucher for getting bumped from your first-class trip from New York to London probably wouldn’t be considered excessive, that same voucher for your coach-class trip from Los Angeles to Albuquerque possibly could. So, if you receive a voucher in an amount that is worth significantly more than you paid for your original ticket, it’s wise to play it safe and talk to a tax pro about whether you need to declare it on your tax return.

“If more dollars are getting involved here, then it’s possible the IRS will decide to address it, so it’s probably always a good idea to check with your tax professional about what the current state of the law is,” Luscombe said.

Remember, being truthful and accurate on your tax return can save you a lot of headaches, including the possibility of being audited by the IRS. If you’re unclear about something, it’s always best to reach out to a professional for guidance. Most importantly, whatever you do, don’t avoid paying your taxes. It can result in serious fines, potential jail time and can wreck your credit.

Image: GlobalStock

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The Best & Worst Cities for Women’s Wage Equality

Here's where to live if you want equal pay for equal work.

Women continue to earn less than men across the board in the United States. In fact, except for women working in a few specific fields within specific communities, women still earn less than 80 cents for every dollar men make (and the wage gap only widens as women age). At the rate we’re going, women aren’t expected to achieve wage equality with men in this country until 2152 — another 135 years.

But some women’s earnings in some roles are equal or even surpassing those of their male coworkers (more on that in a minute), according to a recent analysis of U.S. Census data by Abodo, an apartment-locator website. Unfortunately, that’s not the case across the board. How much a woman makes compared to men doing the same job depends a lot on where she lives.

“For young millennials looking to launch their careers, or even for college students still planning their next move, being aware of the different factors influencing your future earnings is key, because even small discrepancies can have a huge impact on lifetime earnings,” said Sam Radbil, senior communications manager for Abodo. “For a woman pursuing a career in computers and math, for example, and assuming stable earnings, choosing to live in Milwaukee can mean earning $176,000 less than your male counterparts, while choosing Phoenix would mean $560,040 less over a 40-year career.”

Let’s start out looking at Abodo’s findings on the overall wage gap and the cities where it’s best and worst across industries. (You can check out the full report here.)

Nationally, the median income for women is $39,315, which is 78.9% of the national median income of $49,828 for men. Abodo looked at the Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey five-year estimates for the median salaries of male and female full-time, year-round workers who were at least 16 years old and had earnings to find the greatest departure from that median. Abodo identified the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest and smallest wage gaps, as well as the five occupations with the largest and smallest wage gaps nationally.

First, the Cities With the Least Wage Disparity

1. Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Topping the chart for women wage earners across all occupational categories was Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where women earn an average of 92.6% of what their male counterparts do. It’s the only metro area where women’s overall median salaries across industries exceed 90% of men’s salaries, the study found.

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California
Women earn 89.5% what men earn.

3. Fresno, California
Women earn 88.8% of what men earn.

4. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Osmond Beach, Florida
Women earn 87.1% of what men earn.

5. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Nevada
Women earn 86.9% of what men earn.

6. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach
Women earn 86.7% of what men earn.

7. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
Women earn 86.0% of what men earn.

8. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
Women earn 86.0% of what men earn.

9. New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
Women earn 85.5% of what men earn.

10. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California
Women earn 85.3% of what men earn.

On the flip side, the cities where women earn the smallest percentage median wage compared to men are led by Utah, where three of the top 10 cities are located. In fact, only one city located outside of Utah has a median wage for women that is less than 70% of what men earn.

The Cities With the Greatest Wage Disparity

1. Provo, Utah
Women earn 63.1% of what men earn.

2. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Women earn 68.1% of what men earn.

3. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
Women earn 68.9% of what men earn.

4. Wichita, Kansas
Women earn 72.1% of what men earn.

5. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania
Women earn 73.1% of what men earn.

6. Salt Lake City
Women earn 73.4% of what men earn.

7. Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia
Women earn 73.4% of what men earn.

8. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Women earn 73.6% of what men earn.

9. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
Women earn 73.6% of what men earn.

10. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut
Women earn 74.4% of what men earn.

Wage Disparity by Field

Abodo found only two major fields where women earned more — community and social services (see the green chart below), and construction and extraction jobs (see the blue chart below. Even then, women earned more only in certain cities.

wage disparity

Click image to view larger.

As Radbil explains: “Construction and extraction is one of the rare fields in our study in which women occasionally out-earned their male counterparts — at least in a specific set of cities and positions,” Radbil said. “As laborers, managers and first-line supervisors, women’s wages still lag. But in certain roles, such as helpers for construction and extraction, or service unit operators, women are seemingly leaps and bounds ahead. However, this field has the lowest percentage of female workers — just 2.4%. With numbers so low, it’s much easier for a few high-earning outliers to bolster the numbers when it comes down to specific jobs and cities.

wage disparity

Click image to view larger.

“And the reverse is also true: Construction and extraction jobs have a wide spectrum for earnings, and also contains some of the lowest lows for female workers. For example, the city with the best construction earnings ratio is Memphis, Tennessee, with $1.21 on a man’s dollar, while the worst is Milwaukee, with just 63 cents, which is the second-lowest earning ratio for any occupation our study found. All in all, however, female construction and extraction workers still earn 88 cents to a man’s dollar, for the third-highest earning ratio.”

The Largest Wage Gap Goes To…

One employment category was found to have an especially large wage gap: the legal field, where women make only 51.8% as much as men. Part of the discrepancy stems from the widely variable salaries in the legal field. Judges earn much more than paralegals, for example. But it doesn’t explain why more men work in the higher earning jobs. It also can’t explain why female lawyers earn just 78.2% on the dollar.

If you aren’t being paid the same as your peers, regardless of their gender, or just aren’t being paid what you’re worth, you might want to consider asking for a raise. It can be tough, but these tips on how to ask for a raise can make it easier.

If that’s not an option for you but you need to find some way to improve your financial circumstances — whether it’s to qualify for a mortgage, get a better rate on your credit card or just make saving for the future easier — here are 50 ways to give your finances a fresh start.

Keep in mind, one of the most prudent financial moves you can make is to keep your credit in good standing. If you don’t know where your credit stands, or if you know you could improve your credit scores, checking your credit regularly is a good idea. You can get your two absolutely free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

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The 20 Most Profitable Housing Markets This Year

If you own a home in one of these markets, there's a good chance you've had a nice return on your investment.

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home this year, you probably know the housing market is booming in virtually every corner of the country. In fact, homeowners who sold in the first quarter of the year realized an average price gain of $44,000 since purchasing their home, a new ATTOM Data Solutions report shows. That equals an average 24% return on purchase price across the country — the highest average price gain for home sellers in nearly 10 years.

“The first quarter of 2017 was the most profitable time to be a home seller in nearly a decade, and yet homeowners are continuing to stay put in their homes longer before selling,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions. The report showed homeowners are staying in their homes just shy of eight years on average. “This counter-intuitive combination is in part the result of the low inventory of move-up homes available for current homeowners, while also perpetuating the scarcity of starter homes available for first-time homebuyers,” Blomquist added.

Of course, there are still some laggards. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for example, saw average home prices decline by $15,000 from their previous purchase price. The same is true for Huntsville, Alabama, where average home prices declined by $8,100.

Of the 20 metro areas with the highest percent return on the previous purchase price, 10 were located in California and three were in Colorado. Competition among homebuyers, especially in these areas, is fierce, so it’s particularly important to have your finances locked and loaded before you start your search. Regardless of where you’re looking, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is key. You’ll also want to be sure your credit is in good shape so you’ll get the best mortgage terms available. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

These are the top 20 metro areas where home sellers are making the most money when selling their homes.

20. Port St. Lucie, Florida

Average return on investment: 39%
Average price gain: $53,000

19. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Average return on investment: 39%
Average price gain: $81,795

18. San Diego-Carlsbad, California

Average return on investment: 41%
Average price gain: $144,000

17. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California

Average return on investment: 41%
Average price gain: $90,000

16. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire

Average return on investment: 41%
Average price gain: $111,100

15. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

Average return on investment: 43%
Average price gain: $160,000

14. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California

Average return on investment: 43%
Average price gain: $99,000

13. Fort Collins, Colorado

Average return on investment: 43%
Average price gain: $97,500

12. Greeley, Colorado

Average return on investment: 44%
Average price gain: $85,050

11. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii

Average return on investment: 46%
Average price gain: $161,110

10. Salem, Oregon

Average return on investment: 46%
Average price gain: $70,800

9. Vallejo-Fairfield, California

Average return on investment: 47%
Average price gain: $115,000

8. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado

Average return on investment: 50%
Average price gain: $110,000

7. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California

Average return on investment: 50%
Average price gain: $187,000

6. Stockton-Lodi, California

Average return on investment: 51%
Average price gain: $101,000

5. Modesto, California

Average return on investment: 51%
Average price gain: $87,500

4. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington

Average return on investment: 52%
Average price gain: $110,799

3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

Average return on investment: 56%
Average price gain: $139,325

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

Average return on investment: 65%
Average price gain: $276,750

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

Average return on investment: 71%
Average price gain: $356,000

Image: Peopleimages

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What Airbnb’s Hotel Tax Means for Guests & Hosts

Here's what to expect, how to avoid problems and how to keep the tax man happy.

The summer travel season is nearly upon us and if you’re a fan of staying with Airbnb hosts instead of hotels, you probably already know some locations charge some or all of the same taxes that hotels charge.

If you don’t already know that, surprise! The number of locations charging taxes for that spare room or whole house is only growing. Beginning May 1, Texas will join 30 other states where taxes are charged at either the local or state level or a combination of both.

Clearly, there’s a financial benefit for the communities levying these taxes. The Dallas Morning News estimates Airbnb would’ve remitted an estimated $8 million in Texas state taxes in 2016. However, it’s not the states and cities that initiated the effort. For that, you can thank the hotel industry, which has been lobbying hard for the taxes.

Why?

“Airbnb has brought hotel pricing down in many places during holidays, conventions and other big events when room rates should be at their highest and the industry generates a significant portion of its profits,” Vijay Dandapani, chief executive of the Hotel Association of New York City, told The New York Times in a recent article.

While Airbnb has said on its website it is happy to collect its fair share of taxes, there’s clearly some negative feelings about how it’s all gone down.

“The hotel hypocrisy is almost unbelievable,” Nick Papas, a spokesman for Airbnb, said in an email. “The hotel cartel wanted Airbnb to collect taxes and when we implemented a way to do so, they changed their position and lobbied cities to leave millions of dollars on the table.”

The continuing fight has led to a variety of tax schemes across states and municipalities, creating a confusing landscape for hosts and guests.

What It Means for Airbnb Hosts & Guests

For Hosts

If you’re considering becoming a host, be aware that the taxes present some confusion for some people renting out their spaces.

The reasons are numerous and varied. To start, no one really likes paying taxes. But additional layers of frustration can come with the Airbnb taxes. They can be levied and remitted in different ways depending on the tax laws in particular states or municipalities and Airbnb’s agreement with those entities. Then there are the host’s options of how to charge guests once taxes are implemented. Many hosts get confused when it comes to collecting the tax, where to note it on the listing and the bookkeeping process.

Jeff Cook, who owns several properties in Pennsylvania, said sales and use taxes were already in place when he started hosting with Airbnb several years ago. “The biggest issue here is that many people weren’t paying it simply because they didn’t think they had to,” he said. “I paid it from the get-go, because I wanted my business to be legitimate.”

But it wasn’t easy. Cook’s price for guests bakes in the 6% state and 3% local tax, so he doesn’t note it on his site and doesn’t have to worry about asking for local taxes when guests arrive. His revenue is submitted to Airbnb, but then it gets a little complicated.

Airbnb removes their 9% fee and sends him the remainder, he said. “And then I have to figure out what the tax amounts are independently. If something could be done better … perhaps if they distinguished between the tax and the regular revenue that would be helpful. The lump sum is sent to me, I figure out what the correct tax amounts are, and then I submit a return and payment to the appropriate authorities.”

Laura Jesse, a host in San Antonio, said she’s ambivalent about the tax that begins in Texas next week. “I live near projects that were funded in part with the [state’s occupancy] tax,” she said. “I get a fair amount of convention business as I live near downtown, etc.”

As for raising her rates to offset the taxes, Jesse said she has no plans to do so at this time.

Of course, taxes aren’t the only costs Airbnb hosts face. Check out a few others. But the spare money can still help you do things like pay off debt (you can see how your debt affects your credit with a credit report snapshot on Credit.com). It’s also good to keep in mind that many of the expenses involved with renting out your space are tax-deductible. See which ones you can write off here.

For Guests

Taxes mean your stays are probably costing more – anywhere from 3% to 15% depending on locale and host. On top of that, the process can become confusing depending on how the host applies those taxes to your bill.

Airbnb addresses how that can be done on its Airbnb Citizen site, but there are no clear-cut guidelines available, so many hosts are left scratching their heads and conferring with other hosts on how they alert guests and even charge them.

Airbnb offers guidance thusly:

“If you determine that you need to collect tax, you can usually either add it within a Special Offer or ask your guests to pay it in person. In each case, it’s important that guests are informed of the exact tax amount prior to booking. If you choose to collect tax outside of your listing’s rates, please note that it should be collected only upon arrival and that we are unable to assist with collection.”

So, if your host suddenly asks you to hand over a little cash to cover the taxes, it’s probably not a scam. As Airbnb explains on its site, “this needs to be clearly stated on the listing prior to booking.” So, if the host can’t show you where that’s stated, you should be wary.

Hopefully, however, most hosts will bake in the taxes like Cook does, and you will see only a price increase at your favorite Airbnb homes. (Travel often? These travel rewards credit cards could be right for you.)

“I think separating taxes as a line item [on guest bills] would help clarify the issue for people,” Cook said. “I’m a big supporter of Airbnb. I think they are an awesome company, and as they evolve and grow, distinguishing tax through line items would be beneficial to everyone.”

Image: PeopleImages

The post What Airbnb’s Hotel Tax Means for Guests & Hosts appeared first on Credit.com.

50 Free Things You Can Get This Year

You want some free stuff? Come and get it!

What’s that you say? You like free things? Well, you’re in luck. We’ve rounded up 50 of our favorite things that you can get absolutely free. A few are tied to specific dates and age groups, but for the most part, everything here is free (at least as of press time) for the taking whenever you want it.

So, without further ado, here are 50 things that are totally free and totally awesome that you can get right now or anytime this year.

1. Free Chocolate

We wanted to start this list off right, so, yes, free chocolate. Join the Godiva Rewards Club and you will be eligible for a free piece of chocolate. Every. Single. Month.

2. Free Food at Grocery Stores

Take advantage of the free samples at your local grocer to not only get a free meal while you shop, but to also become familiar with new products. Most stores bring in sample tables during their busiest times – usually on weekends. So skip lunch and head to the grocery store. And check out other things grocery stores will do for you for free right here.

3. Free Food at Restaurants

Lots of restaurants and other food retailers have an annual freebie day. Think free pancakes from IHOP on National Pancake Day, a free doughnut from Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme and others on National Doughnut Day and even a free Slurpee from 7-Eleven on July 11 (that’s 7/11 if you missed it.)

4. Free Kid Meals

A lot of restaurants, especially chains, offer free or close-to-free kids meals. For a list of restaurants in your area, type “kids eat free” into your search engine.

5. Free Admission to National Parks

Throughout the year certain national parks do not charge entry fees. But each year there are free admission days to all of the national parks. You can check out the free-admission schedule here.

6. Free Admission to Museums & Cultural Events

Washington, D.C., is filled with free art and cultural events thanks to government funding. Head to the Smithsonian American Art Museum or the Phillips Collection and admission will be free. The monuments? Free. National Portrait Gallery? National Air and Space Museum? Free, free, free.

7. Free Credit Scores

Knowing where your credit stands and the impact your financial actions have on your them is important. You can get two absolutely free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

8. Free Credit Reports

Like your credit score, it’s important to keep track of your credit reports as well. They can affect your interest and insurance rates, as well as your ability to land a job or apartment, so it pays to make sure they’re accurate. You can get your free credit reports from all three credit bureaus every year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

9. Free Books

You can download digital copies of thousands of books at Gutenberg.org or the University of Pennsylvania online books page, and you won’t pay a penny to do so. That’s because the copyrights on these books have expired, so they’ve entered the public domain. Some of these books also are available for free through online retailers like Amazon.com and iTunes.com.

10. Free Audiobooks

Likewise, LibriVox.org offers public domain audiobooks for free for anyone to listen to, on their computers, iPods or other mobile devices or to burn onto a CD. And if you’d like to record a reading of one of the books for others to listen to, LibriVox is always looking for volunteers.

11. Free Music, for Listening …

You probably already know you can listen to as much free music as you like (with advertisements, of course) with apps like Pandora and Spotify, but it’s worth mentioning because they’re FREE.

12. … & for Creative Use

The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of audio downloads provided by WFMU. Inspired by Creative Commons and the open source software movement, the FMA provides a legal and technological framework for curators, artists and listeners to harness the potential of music sharing. Each MP3 has varying copyright laws, so you’ll need to check out each rights holders terms of use, but there’s a lot of amazing music to be had.

13. Free Coding Classes

Whether you’re looking at a career change or just self-edification, if you’ve ever wanted to learn to code, FreeCodeCamp.com is offering you the chance to do so.

14. Free Design Content

Are you a photographer, designer or other creative looking for free fonts, software add-ons and graphic elements for your projects? Creative Market offers a rotating basket of freebies each week available for your creative endeavors.

15. Free Font Help

Ever wonder what font is being used for that logo or sign? If so, What the Font can help. You can upload the logo and in a few simple steps, this app will show you a list of possible fonts.

16. Free Online Fundraising

If you’re looking to finance your product or startup and are considering crowdsourcing the funds but want to keep 100% of the money you raise, you might want to check out Redbasket, the crowdsourcing site that charges no fees and doesn’t take a cut of your donations.

17. Free Credit Calculators

These interactive calculators can help you prepare for everything from getting an auto or home loan to planning for retirement and setting savings goals. Our calculators provide instant results with no need to fill out complicated forms.

18. Free Credit Consultation

If you need help getting your credit back on track, or getting rid of some errors on your credit reports, a credit consultation might be just the thing. You can get a free credit consultation at Lexington Law. (Full Disclosure: Lexington Law is a Credit.com partner.) You can learn more about disputing errors on your credit report here.

19. Free Credit Card Perks

If you have a credit card, you may want to take a look at your cardholder agreement to ensure you’re getting the most value out of your card that you can. Many cards offer perks like rental car insurance coverage, extended warranties on purchases made with the card and other valuable offers. If your card doesn’t offer these things, you might want to comparison shop some other credit cards.

20. Free Hotel Stays

Want free hotel stays? One of the fastest ways to get them is by using a hotel rewards credit card. Here’s a roundup of some of the our favorite hotel rewards credit cards. If that’s not your thing, you could always join a hotel loyalty program and earn points that will ultimately earn you free stays. (It’s faster with the credit card, though.)

21. Free Flights

Same goes for airlines. An airline miles credit card is your fastest route to earning free airline travel, but you can also join your preferred carrier’s rewards program to earn points. Doing both, however, is the fastest way to rack up points.

22. Free Carry-On Luggage

Tired of paying to take your bag on the plane with you? Consider flying with Southwest Airlines, which allows two free carry-on bags per customer, or with JetBlue, which allows one free carry-on.

23. Free Tour Guides

Want to see your next travel destination through the eyes of a local? And not pay for it? Well, you’re in luck. Global Greeter Network’s vetted volunteers can show you the area for free with a strict no-tips-allowed policy. They can show you the sites they love or plan an excursion centered around things you want to see and do.

24. Free Travel Planning

Have a road trip in your near future? You’ll want to check out Roadtrippers before you put on your driving gloves. Just tell them your starting point and destination, and the site will provide information on must-see attractions and budget-friendly accommodations along the way.

25. Free Tax Preparation

If you need help preparing your income taxes, check out the IRS’s Free File program. You’ll qualify for free tax preparation software if your adjusted gross income is $64,000 or less. And if you made less than $54,000 last year, you could qualify for tax help through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Want to know more? Check out our ultimate guide to filing your taxes for free here.

26. Free Financial Tools

Want to track your net worth, plan for your retirement and even analyze your portfolio? All in one place? And all for free? Personal Capital has the tools to let you do that. As they say on their website, “Our free financial tools make it easy to manage your entire financial life in one place.”

27. Free Oil & Battery Recycling

If you change your oil yourself, you know it can be a hassle to dispose of the oil you’ve drained from your car. Advance Auto Parts makes it easy. And free. For your used battery as well.

28. Free Mulch & Compost

Many municipalities offer free mulch and compost for home gardeners. Contact your city’s parks and recreation department to see what options are available.

29. Free Pest Inspection

Got bugs? Terminix will do a free pest inspection of your home, as well as a termite inspection. Be sure to ask about any available discounts if you decide to go with their recommended treatment plan.

30. Free Package Pickup

Need to ship a package but don’t have time or transportation to get to the post office? A postal carrier will pick up your package for you, free of charge. You’ll still have to pay for the shipping, but at least you don’t have to stand in line at the post office.

31. Free College Tuition

It’s a growing movement in the United States, with New York being the latest state to offer free tuition to state universities. Check out what options are available to you through your state’s education department or by using a tool like Get Schooled’s free tuition finder.

32. Free Career Training

The Student Career Experience Program is a paid student program that lets participants get work experience directly related to their academic field of study. According to Benefits.gov, “it provides formal periods of work and study while you are attending school. It requires a commitment by you, your school, and the U.S. Department of Commerce. You may be eligible for permanent employment after successfully completing your education and meeting work requirements.”

33. Free Assistance for Starting a Small Business

The Small Business Administration offers numerous resources to help you learn about what it takes to start a business and keep it growing.

34. Free Pet Care

If you’re having trouble affording your pet, whether feeding or medical care, the Humane Society has a list of resources that can help. Some even offer services free of charge.

35. Free Pet Safety Stickers

If your home is ever on fire or there is some other life-threatening situation, these stickers from the ASPCA will let neighbors and rescue workers know that your furry loved ones are in the house so they can take appropriate action.

36. Free Digital Estate Planning

You’re going to die someday. We all will, so might as well prepare for the inevitable. Dead Man’s Switch lets you create a secure email that will be sent out to your designated family and/or friends so you can make sure they have all of your important information, like usernames, passwords, bank account and other details. How does it work? The company sends you periodic messages asking if you’re still alive. If you someday don’t respond, it activates your email.

37. Free Price Checking

Ever wonder if you’re really saving on that Amazon purchase, but don’t feel like driving all the way to the store just to see? Services like Honey or CamelCamelCamel can help you compare prices quickly to ensure you’re getting the very best deal.

38. Free Broadband Speed Test

If you’re experiencing some slowness on your computer you may want to check to see just how fast your connection is. You can do that for free using the broadband speed test at Speedtest.net.

39. Free Samples

Want to try some new products, or get teeny-tiny tubes you can travel with? You can get everything from toothpaste and shampoo to mouthwash and more by visiting blogs and sites that compile free offers. Some to consider are Hey, It’s Free!, Mr. Free Stuff and FreeStuffFinder.com.

There’s also a Freebies Subreddit that does much the same thing for all Redditors out there in search of free stuff.

40. Free Used Items

In need of some wooden pallets? Maybe a garden rake or a lamp that needs to be rewired? Craigslist has a “Free Stuff” category that lets people post their unwanted items that are free for the taking. Check out the listings in your area.

41. Free Beauty Kit

If you like makeup, you probably like Sephora. And if you become a “Beauty Insider” you’ll have your choice of a free beauty gift each year.

42. Free Hearing Test

AARP members (only people age 50 or older are eligible for membership) can get a free hearing test over the phone. Membership to AARP is $16 per year and comes with multiple other benefits and discounts that more than pay for the membership costs.

43. Free Phone for Hearing Impaired

This service, funded by the Federal Communications Commission, gives free phones to people who have medically recognized hearing loss. Users are able to read what the person on the other end of the line is saying. Learn more at CaptionCall.com.

44. Free Prescription Drugs

Some supermarket pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies offer generic drugs for free to low-income patients without prescription drug insurance. Contact your pharmacy or search the RxAssist database to find free medication through drug companies’ patient assistance programs.

45. Residential Repair Services

Seniors needing minor work done around their house can reach out to their local government offices for the aging to see what services might be available. Keep in mind that the labor through these programs is offered for free but all necessary supplies will need to be paid for by the resident.

46. Free Baby Supplies

Babies are expensive, but lots of companies offer assistance for families who need a little help. Need formula? Similac offers free infant formula samples. You also can sign up with diaper manufacturers like Pampers to get free samples.

47. Free Birthday Treats

There are literally hundreds of restaurants and retailers that give away free birthday goodies, especially for loyalty club members. Offerings include everything from free desserts and surprise gifts to full meals, all for free. Check out your favorite company’s website to see what’s available.

48. Free Shipping

If you’re still paying for shipping on purchases, well, why? There are dozens of retailers that offer free shipping on all items year ‘round.

49. Free Uber Rides

Next time you need a ride, first check for the latest promo codes to see if any of them will offer you a sweet deal on getting to your destination. Groupon and other online coupon sites also offer deeply discounted fares when you buy in advance.

50. Free Wedding Swag

Planning a wedding? Check out sites like WeddingVibe, which offers giveaways for all sorts of free stuff for your wedding. From photo sessions for you and your spouse-to-be to shopping sprees and more.

Taking advantage of free stuff is one way to stay on budget. We’ve got 50 more ways to stay out of debt right here

Note: It’s important to remember that terms and conditions on products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with providers directly.

 

Image: Eva-Katalin

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