6 Tips for Managing Money in a Same-Sex Marriage

Here's what same-sex couples need to know about financial planning.

Like Cinderella before midnight, in June 2015, when same-sex marriage was finally legalized in the U.S., many in our queer community tied the knot without knowing if our wedding shoes fit.

It wasn’t until these couples said, “I do,” that many asked, “And what about money, retirement, children, career and life goals?” Unlike in fairytales, happily ever after isn’t the end of the story.

If there’s anything we learned from The Knot’s 2016 LGBTQ Weddings Study, it’s that between June 2015 and June 2016, Prince Charming and Prince Charming’s marriage looked similar to Snow White’s.

By avoiding the money talk like a poisonous apple, are same-sex couples casting their marriage in a spell destined to “mirror mirror” their straight peers? Will money be a main cause of divorce?

By following these six steps, same-sex couples can make their marriage a fairytale.

1. Hope for Fairy God Mothers, Plan for Big Bad Wolves

It’s an unfortunate fact that in 28 states, queer people can be fired for being queer. While it’s legal for us to get married in all 50 states, those who live in these 28 states without LGBT workplace protections risk losing their jobs if they put a picture of their spouse on display.

This risk reaffirms the age-old advice of having an emergency savings account of enough cash to cover between three to six months’ worth of living expenses. When we were living paycheck to paycheck, this seemed impossible. What’s more impossible is surviving without a paycheck when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

Even by putting just $10 of each paycheck into an emergency savings account, you’re replacing a house of straw with a house of bricks.

2. Be Transparent Like a Glass Slipper

Before two become one, make sure the math works. With escalating student loan and consumer debt, it’s important that each person knows the financial benefits and burdens they’ll adopt when they get hitched.

Not until we talked honestly about each of our financial situations did we have clarity on where we stood. When we learned that we had $51,000 in credit card debt between the two of us, it made sense why we were living in a friend’s basement apartment.

Both people should disclose the good, bad and ugly about their pre-marriage financial condition. This includes student loan debt, credit card debt, bankruptcies, liens and other financial infractions. This also includes credit scores and credit history, annual income and tax brackets. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) Don’t forget health and life insurance coverage, retirement and other savings.

With a clear picture of what each party brings to the marriage, both ensure they’re making wise decisions. The likelihood that either would terminate an engagement because of the other’s financial situation is low, but at least neither will feel they were deceptively given a poisonous apple.

The best scenario is that with clarity they can come up with a plan to fix their financial problems.

3. Whistle While You Work … Together

Successful marriages are a team effort. It’s helpful to divide and conquer in some parts of marriage. Money is not one of them. The best reason of all to talk about money is because couples that talk about it are often happier.

We’ve tried dividing and conquering our money management, but we’re never as successful as when we collaborate on it. Even just a 15-minute monthly meeting to assess income and expenses keeps both parties aware of their financial progress. As they make progress, they’ll see the value and the fun.

As Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”

4. Learn From Your Past

Unlike the future of cars, it’s never good to put one’s finances completely on auto-pilot. All too often, most people avoid ensuring they’re staying within budget or their retirement contributions and investments are keeping up with their goals.

With our own finances, we usually feel these emotions of avoidance when we think we’re off track. When we know we’re off track, we feel compelled to make corrections.

As with many in the queer community, we were afraid that adjusting our financial plan meant we couldn’t maintain the appearance of having a fabulous life. Many of us grew up in a time and a place when it wasn’t OK to be queer. Therefore, we spend our adult lives making up for lost time and seeking validation through outward appearances.

The most memorable movies have great endings. Make sure you have one with frequent checks and balances on your financial progress.

5. Be Like Ohana

Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” — Lilo and Stich

Family members, even same-sex partners, don’t need to have the same financial goals, but they do need to support each other.

If one partner tries to save money while the other spends, it won’t be long before a disagreement happens. Likewise, it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of one partner to achieve a mutually beneficial goal.

The fact that we can support each other’s financial goals has made all the difference in our ability to pay off our credit card debt and achieve our mutual and individual financial and life goals. Neither of us antagonizes the other.

6. Plan for a Visit From the Stork

Unlike our straight peers, having children in same-sex relationships is never a surprise. Building a family in a same-sex relationship can be exorbitant. Because the cost of having a child can range from free (foster adoption) to the hundreds of thousands (gestational surrogacy), it’s important to determine why you and your spouse want children. With this information and your budget, you can then determine how you want to have children. When planning a visit from the stork, it’s never wise to bury your head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

With same-sex marriage being relatively new, many of us are only just now learning of the unique financial nuances of our same-sex marriages, such as employment protections and family planning. Our advice is to understand the nuances before walking down the aisle, otherwise you’ll just be happy for the moment.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: svetikd

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4 Things to Tell Your Boss If You Want to Work From Home

These days, more and more employees are working from home on a regular basis. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics says that about 2.8% of the total workforce work from home at least half time. Nearly all U.S. workers say they’d like to work from home at least part-time, and about half the workforce say they could  work remotely at least some of the time.

But what if you’re not one the lucky ones who stumbles into a job that already allows working from home, whether sometimes or on a regular basis? In this case, you might need to convince your boss that working from home is a good idea.

And, in fact, working from home is a good idea, much of the time. It can actually save you money, and it can reduce your overall stress level. And if you’re like many people, you might actually get more done in less time when you’re working from home.

But those arguments, especially the ones that are mostly beneficial to your personal life, may not be enough to convince your boss to let you work from home. Here are four more convincing arguments to try:

1. Better Productivity

Working from home isn’t a good fit for all jobs, but for some types, studies show that working from home actually increases productivity.

2. Reduced Overhead Costs

Outfitting an employee with an office or even cubicle comes with overhead costs. Not to mention all that water you flush down the toilet on bathroom breaks! In fact, many large employers started moving employees to work from home positions specifically to reduce overhead costs. (Of course, you’ll be taking on some of those costs by working from home — increased electricity and water usage can eat into your savings on commuting. You can try some of these easy penny pinching tips to help offset those costs.

3. Fewer Sick Days

Having the ability to work from home often curbs the number of sick days you take. You might not drag yourself into the office when you’re feeling under the weather, but you may opt to work as normal from your comfortable couch. Your fellow employees will appreciate fewer germs, anyway.

4. At-Home Workers Are Happier (and Stay Longer)

If working from home is really important to you, and if you’re in a field where it’s common, you may be more likely to stay in your job for the long term if you are allowed some flexibility to work from home. You don’t necessarily need to tell your boss this, but you can show that employees who work from home are happier in their jobs.

Making Your Proposal & Pulling It Off

Now that you’ve got some arguments in your back pocket, how do you go about actually asking your boss to let you work from home? Here are a few steps to take:

1. Create a Formal Proposal

Don’t just approach working from home by the seat of your pants, especially if it’s not already a common practice in your workplace. Instead, create a formal proposal for what working from home would look like for you.

What tasks would you accomplish at home? How would you handle meetings and phone calls? Would you be available during certain hours online? How would you keep track of the tasks that you’re working on at home? What sort of accountability system could you build in?

Put all this into writing. When in doubt, talk to someone else with a job similar to yours who works from home. See what kind of arrangements they have with their employers, and go from there. If others in your organization work from home, talk to them about their written work plans, too.

2. Pre-empt Your Boss’s Concerns

When you’re creating your proposal, try to think about it from your boss’s perspective. What concerns will he or she likely  have? You know this person best as a supervisor, so you can likely anticipate how the conversation will go.

Again, talk to others in your organization who work from home sometimes or regularly, and use that as a jumping off point. You’ll want to work those points into your written proposal, preferably, or at least address them in your conversation with your boss.

3. Propose a Trial Run

Don’t just jump in and ask to switch your in-office job to a full-time, work-from-home position. Instead, propose a trial. You may want to propose a part-time work from home schedule of one to three days per week at first. And you should also suggest trying to work from home for a period of thirty to ninety days before you and your boss formally evaluate the situation.

Starting with a trial period can help make working from home more palatable. Plus, if you’ve never worked from home before, you may find that a blended schedule of in-office and at-home actually suits you better than working from home full-time.

4. Be Flexible

Go into the conversation with your boss with goals and a proposal, but be willing to take his or her feedback into account, too. Be flexible in what you’re asking for, and be prepared to give up ground if that’s what you need to get your foot in the door. Maybe your three days a week goes to two, or your ninety day trial goes to thirty. It’s still a start!

5. What Else Can You Give Up?

Oftentimes, people who really want to work from home are willing to take a pay cut to do so, or at least forgo a big raise. This means that evaluation time can be a good time to ask for work-from-home privileges. If you get a great review and are offered a raise, consider counter-offering a smaller raise with the ability to work remotely part-time.

Maybe you’re not willing to give up a raise, but you have other privileges you could lay on the table in order to work from home. Or maybe you feel you’ll be so much more productive at home that you can tackle additional responsibilities. Either way, you could give a little to get a little in this conversation.

6. Prove You Can Do It

Finally, when you do get to work from home, don’t take advantage of the situation. Put 100% into your work each day, and set up your lifestyle so that you’re more productive than ever. Keep track of your goals, metrics, and to-do lists, so that if there’s ever a question of whether or not you can work from home well, you’ve got data to back up your answer.

[Editor’s note: It’s also a good idea to keep track of your financial goals. One way to do that is to check your credit scores. Credit.com’s credit report summary offers two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, plus tools that help you establish a plan for how to improve your scores.]

Image: AlexBrylov

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Millennials: Will Work for Travel

millennials_work_to_travel

It’s better to work to live, rather than live to work. Millennials are taking that sage advice one step farther, according to a new poll: They work to travel.

The ability to travel is nearly as essential a work motivator as food and shelter, millennials told surveyors recently. It’s a result that employers should consider carefully.

In the same online poll, conducted by job search site FlexJobs.com, young workers said they would take steep pay cuts — as high as 20% — in exchange for more flexibility at work. And nearly two-thirds said they’d be more productive working at home than at the office.

Meanwhile, 34% said they’d left a job because it didn’t provide enough flexibility. And another 24% said they are currently looking for a new job with more flexibility.

“Since millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor workforce, it’s critical that companies pay attention to how, where and when they work best,” said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs.

Fully 70% of millennials identified the desire to travel as a primary reason to work, second only to paying for basic necessities (88%), FlexJobs said.

Only 47% of Baby Boomers said travel was a primary reason for work.

Other less-cited reasons that millennials work:

  • Passionate about success in my field (60%);
  • To have a professional impact on the world (49%);
  • To pay for continuing education (36%);
  • To pay for child-related costs (29%) or support their parents (21%).

The FlexJobs online poll was self-selected, and included about 3,000 responses: Millennials (678 respondents), Gen Xers (1,358 respondents), and Boomers (845 respondents).

The Boston Consulting Group says that millennials have particular travel habits, too. They want to see the world, clearly. In a survey, far more millennials than non-millennials told BCG they want to visit every continent (70% versus 48%) and to travel abroad as much as possible (75% vs. 52%).

Traveling More, Longer & Smarter

Because millennials are marrying older, they tend to take trips in groups with friends. They also book further in advance, book fewer (but longer) trips, and work hard to find good deals, BCG said.

“(They) tend to see booking as more of a game and respond opportunistically to low prices and interesting packages,” BCG wrote in a recent report.

It makes sense that younger workers with less income would be more deal sensitive … and more inclined to hop on a deeply-discounted, last-minute, four-day Europe trip. It then follows that young workers want the ability to make sudden requests for four-day weekends.

That’s partly why, in the FlexJobs survey, work flexibility was cited by 82% of millennials as important when evaluating a job prospect, well above factors like as health insurance (48%), company reputation (45%), and retirement benefits (36%).

It should also be no surprise that millennials are twice as likely as boomers (11% to 6%) to show strong preference for working at a coffee shop or other place outside the office.

Flexibility = Loyalty

“Millennials said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options and nearly a quarter would be willing to work more hours,” Sutton Fell said. “So offering millennials work flexibility isn’t just a strategy to avoid negative consequences like losing talent — employers have a lot to gain by modifying their strict, traditional, office-based model of working.”

Remember, if you love to travel, the right credit card can make all the difference. If you’re shopping for a new airline credit card or travel rewards card, it’s a good idea to consider how often you travel and whether you tend to patronize a particular carrier. If you do fly a single carrier, or its partners, that company’s mileage card can be the right choice for you. But if you don’t have a hub in your area or your flights are varied, you might to look into general travel rewards credit cards.

You can also consider maximizing rewards by accumulating airline miles via loyalty programs, and complementing that balance by earning credit card rewards that can be transferred to those airlines.

If you’re in the market for a new credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit before you apply, as a good credit score can help you qualify for better terms and rates. You can see where you currently stand by viewing two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund

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4 Companies That Help You Get Your Paycheck Early

Financial emergencies have a habit at cropping up at the worst possible time — when you’re stuck in-between paychecks. Perhaps you need $250 for an emergency car repair, but you just paid rent and won’t have the funds until your next payday in two weeks. Normally, you might want to turn to a credit card or a payday loan, racking up onerous fees in the process.

What if you could get a portion of your next paycheck early without paying hefty fees or interest?

That’s the premise behind the following four services. They try to help workers make ends meet without taking on debt by giving them access to the money they earn when they earn it.

Activehours

  • Available if you have direct deposit.
  • Withdraw up to $100 each day and $500 per pay period.
  • No fees or interest.

ActivehoursWhat it is: Activehours is an app-based service available on Android and iPhone smartphones. Once you download the app and create an account, you connect your bank account and verify your paycheck schedule. You must have direct deposit set up and linked to a checking account.

How it works: In order to use Activehours, you need to upload your timesheet, either manually or by connecting a time-tracking account to the app (your employer must use one of the eligible timesheet partners in order for this to work). Using this information, Activehours estimates your average take-home hourly rate after taxes and deductions.

As you work, the hours will be automatically shared with Activehours, or you may have to upload your timesheet. You can then cash out a portion of your earned pay before payday.

You can withdraw up to $100 each day. Based on your account balances and Activehours use, the pay-period maximum could increase up to $500. The payment will arrive in your checking account within a few seconds, or within one business day, depending on where you bank.

Activehours doesn’t connect to your employer’s payroll. It connects to whatever bank account you use to collect your pay. The next time your paycheck hits your bank account, Activehours will automatically withdraw what you owe. There aren’t any fees or interest charges for using the service, however Activehours does ask for support in the form of tips.

DailyPay

  • Works with popular ride-share and delivery services.
  • Get paid daily for your fares or deliveries.
  • There’s no interest. You pay a flat fee that is subtracted from the day’s earnings.

dailypayWhat it is: DailyPay caters to workers who are employed by ride-share or delivery services, such as Uber, Postmates, Instacart, Fasten, and DoorDash. It can also be used by workers at restaurants that use delivery apps, such as GrubHub, Seamless, or Caviar.

How it works: After signing up for DailyPay, you’ll need to connect a bank account where DailyPay can send you payments. Next, you’ll need to connect your DailyPay account with the system your employer uses to track your hours. DailyPay tracks the activity within the accounts and sends you a single payment with the day’s earnings, minus a fee. Restaurant workers get paid for the previous day’s delivery earnings, minus a fee, from all the connected delivery programs.

About those fees…

Fees are based on how much you ear per day. As a driver or on-demand worker, when you make less than $150 during a day you’ll pay a $0.99 fee. For workers who earn more than $150 in a day, the fee is $1.49. Restaurant workers’ fees vary based on order volume, but are often around $2.49 for each payday. In either case, you’ll need to update your account with each service and redirect the payments to go to DailyPay.

PayActiv

  • Employer must sign up and offer PayActiv as a benefit.
  • You can withdraw up to $500 in earned income before payday.
  • $5 fee for each pay period when you use the service.

PayActivLogo-200PayActiv is an employer-sponsored program that allows employees to withdraw a portion of their earned wages before payday. While you can’t sign up on your own, you can ask PayActiv to contact your employer about offering the service. There’s no setup or operating costs for employers.

Once your employer offers PayActiv, you sign up and withdraw money as soon as you earn it. You can withdraw up to $500 early during each pay period via an electronic transfer or withdrawal from a PayActiv ATM (available at some employers’ offices).

The early payment comes from PayActiv, but it isn’t a loan and you won’t need to pay interest. Instead, your employer will automatically send PayActiv an equivalent amount from your next paycheck.

There is $5 fee per pay period when you use the service, although some employers cover a portion of the fee, according to Safwan Shah, PayActive’s founder. As a member, you’ll also get free access to bill payment services and savings and budgeting tools.

FlexWage

  • Employer must sign up and offer FlexWage as a benefit.
  • You’ll receive a reloadable debit card tied to an FDIC-insured account where your employer deposits your pay. You can add earned pay to your account before payday.
  • No fees for employees.

Flex WageFlexWage is an employer-sponsored program that relies on the use of a payroll debit card and integrates with employers’ payroll systems. If your employer offers FlexWage, you can get your paycheck deposited into an FDIC-insured account with the linked Visa or MasterCard debit card. You can also add earned, but unpaid, wages to your account before payday without paying any fees.

With FlexWage, the employer determines how often you can make early withdrawals and the maximum amount you can withdraw. Unlike PayActiv, FlexWage doesn’t act as a middle-man. Your paycheck advances will come directly from your employer’s account.

Bottom Line

These four companies work slightly differently, but they share the same basic premise: giving you early access to the money you earned, without saddling you with a painful assortment of fees. If you’ve had to rely on borrowing money in the past when funds are tight, these could be a better alternative to credit cards or payday loans.

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5 Signs You’re About to Get Fired

worried at desk jobWouldn’t it be great if there were some way to know ahead of time when bad news was coming our way? When it comes to our job security, there definitely are some telltale signs of trouble.

If you catch the signs early enough, it may not be too late to save yourself. Other times, such as a company-wide layoff, the decision will be entirely out of your control.

Here are a few of the ways you might be able to tell your job is in jeopardy.

You haven’t been given new projects in a while

If your boss has overlooked you for recent assignments, you might tell yourself it’s just a slow time for the business. But pay attention. If everyone else around you is still busy with deadlines and meetings, it might be time to start questioning why you aren’t. Here’s an even bigger red flag: Your boss has been delegating tasks that you typically handled to other employees.

What you should do: If your boss has decreased your duties, look for ways to regain her trust. Brainstorm a few ideas to improve efficiency in your department or drive revenue and send your boss a project proposal that includes the names of people you would like on your team to help accomplish these goals, suggests Roleta Fowler Vasquez, a professional resume writer and resume expert for CareerBuilder.com. Showing initiative like that could help your boss see you in a new light and make co-workers eager to work with you again, says Vasquez.

You’ve noticed a change in your co-workers

It’s not likely that your colleagues would know about you being fired before you would (at least they shouldn’t). But if you sense a colder-than-normal vibe from your workmates, it could signal that they’ve lost confidence in your work or have stopped considering you as a part of the team. Some companies rely heavily on peer reviews, whether formal or informal. When your coworkers aren’t on your side, it could spell trouble for your future.

What you should do: Be as much a team player as possible. Let your colleagues know that you notice what a good job they are doing, and that you are always there to help. If the vibe doesn’t change, take one of your colleagues aside and ask them candidly if there’s anything you should know about your performance. He or she might be willing to open up about issues other workers have mentioned about your work.

Your boss is avoiding you

If you’ve been trying to schedule a meeting with your boss for weeks to no avail, they could be avoiding you purposefully. Apart from ignoring meeting requests, your boss might stop assigning you the same types of tasks that she always has in the past, simply to avoid the uncomfortable feeling that comes with conflict, which she might know is coming.

What you should do: Make every effort to continue to greet your boss with a smile and pleasantries. If you do finally get your meeting, Vasquez suggests using it as an opportunity to reestablish how committed you are to your job. Talk about the different career paths you would like to pursue within the company, even if it means making a transfer to another department or office.  “More directly, you could say that you have heard your job worthiness is being questioned, and that you are seeking advice on how to either improve your stance — always making sure to add ideas of your own, like an independent study or classes — or on how to exit with their good graces and a solid recommendation,” Vasquez says.

Your job description seems to have changed

It’s not unusual for the needs of employees to change frequently with an ever-changing professional landscape. But if it seems that all your important responsibilities have been whittled down to nothing and you’re left with menial tasks or responsibilities, it may be a sign your job is being phased out.

What you should do: Go into survival mode. If your specific job duties are quite narrow, show your team that you have skills in other areas they may need. Your manager should be transparent if your job responsibilities have changed, so you’re within your rights to go to your supervisor or Human Resources and ask for an official copy of your new description. “Normally, you are asked to discuss this with a supervisor or HR, sign it and you’re given a signed copy,” Vasquez says. “This legally protects both of you. If the wording indicates a new lateral assignment or worse — a demotion — you need to ask why it happened, and what you can do to avoid it.”

You’ve been asked to justify your job

The truth is, sometimes positions that once were valuable simply fall out of use (especially when a company is looking for ways to scale back and there are quite a few people on staff who have the same role as you do). If you’ve been asked by a superior to put together a note detailing your value to the company or what you do on a daily basis, it may mean that they’re trying to decide where they can afford to cut what they deem to be superfluous roles in the business.

What you should do: When large corporations are planning a significant round of layoffs, they often have consultants come in to audit the office and suss out any personnel “redundancies.” They’re on the look out for workers whose jobs overlap. “It’s not always because of something you did or did not do, but your job will be in jeopardy if you fail to justify your position,” she says. If possible, ask your boss why this is happening. If layoffs are unavoidable, be sure to show your team why your services are essential to the company’s mission and organization — explain your job tasks and how you perform them, and show the auditor how you go beyond the call of duty to get your job done.

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9 Questions to Ask Before Accepting Employer-Tuition Assistance

Tuition reimbursement_lg

An employer that provides tuition assistance is a pretty sweet deal. Your work will literally pay for you to further your education, saving you tons of money while you’re bringing home a paycheck. Before you dismiss this option, 83% of organizations surveyed by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in a 2015, offered some sort of educational assistance or tuition reimbursement. Some companies offering a form of tuition assistance (or reimbursement) include household names like: UPS, Home Depot, Bank of America and AT&T. Even Starbucks is onboard, but only if you’re studying at Arizona State University’s online program.

However, there are some questions you need to ask before signing on the dotted line. Tuition assistance is a great benefit, but, there are some program stipulations that can leave you as a modern-day indentured servant. This may be a perfectly reasonable situation so long as you understand the terms and feel comfortable staying tethered to your current company until you work off the cost of your education. Just don’t wait to find out after the fact that your agreement was riddled with obligations you failed to ask about.

Here’s what you should ask before taking tuition assistance or reimbursement:

1.How many hours do I have to work in order to qualify?

Some employers only provide tuition assistance or reimbursement to full-time employees, which generally means you’re working 25-40 hours per week. Others extend their program to part-time workers, but if you’re picking up a part-time job solely for this perk, it would be best to look into the time commitment first. If you don’t think you can handle a full-time job on top of being a full-time student, the programs that require 25-40 hours per week may not be for you.

2. Do I have to earn certain grades?

This is a big fine print clause to know before signing. Some companies may demand you earn certain grades, such as a B or higher, in order to remain eligible for tuition assistance moving forward. You may even have to cover the class out of pocket if you get an average grade (or lower).

3. How long do I have to be employed before qualifying?

As with many other job perks, some employers will have a probationary period before you qualify for tuition assistance or reimbursement. It may be as short as 30 days, and could be as long as years. If you’re applying for a job hoping that they’ll cover the Fall semester that starts in two weeks, you may be out of luck. Budget accordingly.

4. Is this tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement?

Generally, tuition assistance means that your employer will pay the school directly while tuition reimbursement means that you’ll have to pay, subsequently submitting your receipt from the Bursar for reimbursement. The terms are often used interchangeably, though, so be sure to clarify exact procedures with your employer before signing up for classes you can’t afford to pay for up front.

Sometimes the Bursar will let you off with a partial payment as long as your employer sends in a letter asserting their intention to pay upon receipt, but this policy will vary from school to school. Do your homework beforehand so you know what to expect.

5. Do my classes have to be related to my job?

Work at a bank but want to major in Medieval Literature? Your employer may not be so keen on paying for your education. While some employers will fund whichever degree you decide to pursue, others will only pay for courses related to a major that will strengthen a skill set relevant to your current job description. Yet others will only pay for courses related to your work, even if extraneous electives are required for you to earn your degree.

6. What is the max that will be reimbursed per semester?

Just because your employer provides tuition assistance doesn’t mean you’re getting a free ride. You will not have to pay any taxes on any amount that your employer pays up to $5,250 per calendar year. Any amount beyond that is subject to payroll taxes. Figuring that out is an added headache for the company’s accounting department, so many programs cap their contributions to your education at $5,250 per year.

7. What is the max I can use overall?

Some programs will only pay a certain lifetime amount. That means if you have to take a number of remedial courses or end up having to retake a class, your financial plan could be thrown off kilter. Be sure to examine whether the max benefit is measured in terms of time or dollars, too. If you only have a certain amount of years to finish your degree, you’ll likely want to become a full-time student rather than only attending part-time.

Time limits are frequently applied to other types of aid, too. For example, if you receive the Pell Grant, you’ll only get it for twelve semesters, and it can only be applied to one major. See if your employer’s tuition assistance program has similar limitations.

8. How long do I have to stay with the company after I graduate?

Your employer doesn’t want to pay to educate you just to lose you to the next highest bidder. They’ve invested in your education, and are going to want to protect that investment. For this reason, most employers will have a Tuition Payback Clause. Read this carefully, as it may be something you can negotiate.

Typically, these clauses cover three distinct situations. The first is voluntary separation, where you quit or leave for another company. If you do this within a certain timeframe of accepting tuition assistance, your employer is likely to make you pay them back for the part of your education that they funded.

However, some employers will make you pay them back if you are terminated with cause. That is, if you are fired for an action that would prevent you from collecting unemployment, you’re probably going to have to pay them back for your schooling, too.

Still other employers will require you to pay them back if you are laid off. This is a big red flag and should be negotiated. When you get laid off, there’s no action you can take that would keep you from breaching the contract. It’s the employer’s decision, and it’s without cause. Before accepting any college money, make sure this is explicitly forbidden in the Tuition Payback Clause.

9. Can I set up tuition assistance if I’m self-employed?

Yes! In fact, if you are a sole proprietor attending college, it can be wise to set up a tuition assistance program for yourself. The amount of money you allot to your education will not count as taxable income up to that $5,250 mark, so by setting one up you’ll effectively be lowering your adjusted gross income (AGI) which in turn can lower how much tax you’ll have to pay.

Keep in mind that when you establish this as a benefit of your business, you may disqualify yourself for things like the American Opportunity Credit. Sometimes costs over $5,250 can still be claimed under such credits as long as they were used on tuition, fees or necessary materials like textbooks.

Before filing your taxes, you need to make your tuition assistance program official. Have a professional help you write a legal document that will satisfy the IRS should you ever get audited.

Know what you’re getting into

Tuition assistance programs can make college more affordable, and translate into a higher paycheck. Just be sure you know program limitations and stipulations before signing on the dotted line. It could save you time, headaches and potential budget fails later down the road. If tuition assistance isn’t available, check to see if your company helps pay off student loans.

The post 9 Questions to Ask Before Accepting Employer-Tuition Assistance appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

How to Make the Best Impression At Your First Job

Female Woman Sitting At Interview

Whether or not you worked all through high school and/or college, those early days (or months, even) at your first job out of school are bound to bring on the nerves. There’s a lot to learn about office politics, how to behave, how to best deal with co-workers and bosses, all before you even start trying to perfect the skills you’ll need to perform your new job to your optimal ability.

Here are some things to keep in mind that will hopefully help you navigate those first tricky days in the real world, when everything might seem scary and totally brand new.

1. Have an open mind and be flexible

Probably far and away the trait that will help get you through the first couple months at your new gig is the ability to be flexible. So you were told you’d be reporting to two people and now it’s three, and the desk they showed you at your interview is actually half a mile from where you’ll actually be sitting (near the noisy kitchen facing a brick wall). Repeat after us: It’s all good. While there are certain things that won’t be okay to have pulled out from under you after you start working (like your salary and benefits, for example, but that’s why you get everything in writing before signing on the dotted line), the quicker you can realize that everything else is open to change, the quicker you’ll be able to adapt to the curveballs that surely will be thrown your way.

2. Be a team player

The sooner you can prove to the staff that you’re on their side and eager to be a part of the team, the sooner you’ll start winning people over and making strong, valuable first impressions. Of course being a team player doesn’t mean you sit back and only do what you’re told, but be strategic in terms of when and how you decide to share your own thoughts and opinions (which you absolutely should!). Taking the first couple of days to get the lay of the land and understand how work flows through the office before suggesting your 20-point plan for increasing productivity might be a good idea, for example.

3. Never be without a notepad

Those first couple of months at your new job will be chock full of things you’ve never done before, phrase you’ve probably never heard and people you’ve definitely never met. Keep a notepad and pen with you at all times and take diligent notes to avoid having to follow up multiple times on the same point. Having said that, always ask questions if you have them, rather than doing something incorrectly the first time and needing to fix it.

4. Be busy all the time

While it will probably take you a while to get into the groove of your new gig, and it might be hard for your boss to break away throughout the day to explain projects to you or help point you in the right direction, be sure that you’re using any down or free time you have to your advantage by tidying up where you see messes, researching on upcoming or past projects your company has undertaken or anticipating things your boss might need before he or she even has to ask (low on printer paper or toner? Work on getting those things refilled before your boss even notices.) It also doesn’t hurt to show up a little early and stay until you’re basically told to leave those first couple of weeks. A good first impression is everything.

5. Don’t be a stranger

Even though you’ll be pretty busy getting caught up those first couple of weeks, if you notice a group of co-workers hanging out in the kitchen during lunch, take a couple extra minutes to stop by and say hello, even if you can’t stay the entire time. The sooner your co-workers get to know your real personality, the sooner you’ll start to feel more like one of them, and less like ‘the new person’ in the office, which no one likes to be.

6. Be organized

Even if organization isn’t your strongest suit, make it your strongest, as least for the first couple of weeks. Keep your area tidy and familiarize yourself with where everything is kept that you might need at a moment’s notice (like that extra printer paper and toner we mentioned before). Do some practice runs on the copy machine and scanner, tidy up after yourself in the kitchen and refill the coffee pot if you finish it. Every little bit adds up, especially when you’re new.

7. Let your confidence shine through

The more you come across as confident, the more your boss and co-workers will see you that way. Being confident can be tough, since it often includes straddling the line for things that appear opposites of each other (take initiative but know when to ask questions or just follow orders; stand up for your own thoughts and opinions but know when to apologize for mistakes), but if you find yourself struggling, remember the golden rule that most people at work are following as well: fake it ‘til you make it. No one expects you to know or understand everything about your new job the first day or first few weeks you’re there, but put in a solid effort and always be present and make smart decisions, and soon enough you’ll catch on.

While we’re on the topic of jobs, check out this piece for suggestions on how to network like a pro, this one for three questions you should ask yourself before taking on a low-paying gig, and this one for six things you should do right away if you lose your job.

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5 Things to Consider Before Starting That Side Gig

Finances

These days, it’s not uncommon for people to try to make a little extra cash outside of their regular 9 to 5. While it’s not necessarily a bad idea, there are definitely some things you should consider before hopping into a side gig if your goal is to make sure it really is profitable. Here are a couple things to keep in mind that will help you ensure you’re getting the most you can out of your part-time job.

Consideration 1: Will this side gig improve or enhance your current work skills?

Why you should consider it: It’s not completely necessary that your side job further your current career goals (after all, passion projects don’t have to have anything to do with our day-to-day jobs … sometimes that’s what makes them more fun!). However, if there is some way to parlay the skills or talents that you’ll be using in your time away from work into attributes that will help you get ahead in your job, as well, then that’s all the more reason to start up that gig ASAP and add it to your resume.

Consideration 2: Will your hours be flexible?

Why you should consider it: It goes without saying that, even if you hope to some day turn your side gig into a full-time career, it’s important to protect the job that you currently have for as long as you have it. That means that any projects you take up on the side shouldn’t cause you to miss work or to be distracted from work while you’re in the office (sorry, no booking gigs on company time!). A perfect side gig will provide you with flexible days and hours so that you can fit everything in in your own free time.

Consideration 3: Do you need to invest a lot of money to get started?

Why you should consider it: You’ll need to really think about your motives behind your side gig before you can determine how important this consideration is to you. For example, if all you really care about is earning a little extra cash after work or on the weekends so you can afford the occasional getaway with friends, then you probably don’t want to start something up that requires a lot of investment capital up front. On the other hand, if your main goal with your side gig is to some day parlay it into your full-time job, then investing a couple hundred for fancy new camera equipment now so that you can become the next big wedding photographer in your town by next year might just be worth it. (This is assuming you can afford it, of course. If you’ll need to go into debt to fund your side gig, it might be worth waiting a little while longer before you start so that you can save up and start when you’re on better financial ground.)

Before you do jump ship at your current job to take up your side gig full-time, though, you might also want to check out this piece about five important things companies do for you that freelancers have to do for themselves.

Consideration 4: Have you thought about taxes?

Why you should consider it: You might be surprised how quickly a small side gig can snowball, and if you don’t consider saving for taxes on your new income as soon as possible, you could be stuck with a shocking IRS bill come tax season. Chat with your accountant ahead of time to discuss how much you estimate you’ll be bringing in, how much you should save up for taxes based on that number and whether or not you should consider making quarterly payments on your earnings.

Consideration 5: How much is your free time worth?

Why you should consider it: While it can be tempting to make some extra cash, or it might seem fun to finally do something about that hobby you’re passionate about, you might want to also consider how much free time taking on a side gig will leave you with. If you’re interested in a side job that allows you to pick and chose what projects you take on, that’s one thing, but keep in mind that if you’re building your own side business, that takes time and a whole heck of a lot of effort, which might not leave you with a lot of hours (or energy) for anything else. Before taking on an additional job, determine how much of your free time you’re willing to devote to it, and see if you can figure out a job that’s right for you based on that.

The post 5 Things to Consider Before Starting That Side Gig appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine If Taking a Low-Paying Job is Worth It

Depressed man slumped on the desk with his hands holding credit card and currency

If you’ve recently been laid off, you might be juggling a few different tough decisions all at once. The struggle to find a job after losing one is real, and if it’s taking you a while to find something new, know that you’re not alone.

Once you’ve determined how you’ll take care of yourself and your family in the immediate aftermath of losing a job (check out this piece about six things to do right away if you lose your job if you need a little help), the next big question that might come up is when to bite on a new job offer. You may be able to find a lower-paying gig immediately after losing your job more easily than something that would replace what you were making at your previous one.

If you’re struggling with the decision of whether or not to take a lower-paying job, consider some of the following questions:

1.Will this new job at least help cover some of your basic expenses?


Especially if you’re paying rent or a mortgage, making payments on student loans or have other pressing monthly bills, if a lesser paying gig will at least help you stay on track with making some of those important payments, then it’s probably worth taking.

2. Will a loan or balance transfer help you in the interim?

If you’re worried that your new job offer doesn’t cover everything you were paying off with your previous job, take some time to do a little math and see if you can at least cover your major expenses (as mentioned above), and then consider if a credit card balance transfer or even a personal loan might help you for a little while until you can find a job that pays what you’re hoping. Check out this piece for more information on the best balance transfer cards out there now and this for more about personal loans.

3. Can you do something else in addition to supplement your income?

While it might not seem optimal, if the job you’re being offered can help with the majority of your bills, perhaps a part-time or hourly gig on the side can help you make up the difference so that it doesn’t seem like such a drastic change, at least for a little while.

If you’re still struggling with the idea of taking a lower-paying job, check out this piece for more things to consider.

The post 3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine If Taking a Low-Paying Job is Worth It appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

What Should I Do With My 401(k) When I Change Jobs?

Finances

When you leave a job where you previously had an employer retirement plan, you have decide what to do with the money in your account.

Option 1: Leave Your Retirement Account with Your Employer

Reasons to leave your money in the current account

You don’t have to do anything: Leaving your money with your previous employer’s plan means that you take no action, so it’s easy and you can’t mess anything up.

Might have lower price point: Your 401(k) is institutionally priced, meaning it has access to institutional funds, which are usually cheaper (compared to an IRA).

Help from a financial expert: You have access to a money manager with your 401(k), which may help you if you’re inexperienced and want guidance with your investments.

Reasons why it may be best to rollover your 401(k)

Hassle of tracking multiple accounts: If you leave your money in your old plan and open a new plan with your new employer, it may become cumbersome to keep track of all your accounts. It would be easier to have all your accounts in one place.

Keep your goals in mind: If you are rebalancing your overall retirement portfolio for a certain asset allocation, it may become difficult to make sure all of the investments align and are allocated consistently with several accounts.

Risk forgetting an account: You may lose interest and forget about managing this account after you leave the company.

You might not have an option: You have to make sure this is an option because some plans won’t allow you to stay after you leave (it costs them money to administer your account). Typically, you have to have a minimum amount invested in order to remain in the plan.

Option 2: Rollover Your Account to an IRA

The perks of doing a rollover

You can directly transfer money in your old 401(k) to an IRA: This will give you control over your funds in your own personal, individual account. With a direct transfer, the funds move directly from the 401(k) to the IRA, without you touching the money. This is a great way to move your money from an old 401(k) and have control over the account and actively manage your retirement funds.

You may have access to a wider range of investment options: It’s possible your IRA may have more to offer as many 401(k)s have limited investment options compared to an IRA.

You continue to grow your retirement savings: on a tax-deferred basis (just like you were doing in your 401(k)).

IRAs have more flexible withdrawal options: You can access your funds more easily with an IRA compared to 401(k)s (not that you should). For example, you can withdraw up to $10,000 from your IRA for a first-time home purchase.

Reasons a rollover might not be right for you

You need to be proactive: You have to take action to get a rollover completed, which may be a turnoff. You have to know where you want to open an IRA, and you have to be willing to choose your investments. This may feel intimidating and may require more diligence than you’re interested in having.

Consequences of an indirect transfer: If you do an indirect transfer (as opposed to a direct transfer), you will receive a check for 80% of the funds in your account but be required to deposit 100% of the balance. This is because of a 20% withholding requirement for the employer. So, unless you have the additional 20% to make up in cash, you will be in big trouble if you take an indirect transfer.

If bankruptcy is a potential issue: Generally, there is greater protection against creditors for assets in an employer sponsored retirement account than in an IRA (this is not always the case, so read your state law). So, if bankruptcy is an issue, then an employer sponsored plan may be better.

Option 3: Rollover Your Account to a New Employer 401(k)

Reasons to rollover to a new 401(k)

Simplify your life: The benefit to moving your old 401(k) funds to a new employer 401(k) is that it keeps your investments organized and in one place. It will be easier for you to keep track of and manage with one retirement account.

Defer distributions: You may be able to defer taking required minimum distributions if you are still working at your job at age 70 ½. You don’t have the option to defer RMDs with an IRA or old 401(k) (you’re required to take them).

Reasons to keep your old 401(k) separate from your new 401(k)

You might not have a choice: This may not be an option because not all employers accept rollovers from an old plan.

New 401(k) may be limited: You may have more limited investment options with in your new 401(k) than in an IRA. If you want the most flexibility with investment options, then you may want to stick with an IRA.

Limited flexibility: There isn’t much flexibility with respect to withdrawal exceptions, which you have in an IRA.

Strategize before making your decision

Consider your long term investment strategy when making these decisions. If you have many years to save for retirement, you want to do what’s best for you in the long run.

 

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