4 Big Legal Changes That Will Hit Your Wallet in 2018

social security 401k tax changes 2018
iStock

With all eyes on the GOP’s sweeping plans for tax reform, it’s easy to lose sight of other policy changes that could have an impact on your wallet.

In 2018, there are at least three key policy changes to keep tabs on — adjustments to Social Security benefits, 401(k) contribution limit changes, and the preservation of one of the year’s most controversial financial rules.

Here’s what you need to know:

More Social Security benefits

For Social Security beneficiaries, there is a lot to be excited about in 2018.

The cost-of living-adjustment, which determines the amount of money people receive from the system, is rising by 2 percent, the largest increase in five years. This means a growth in benefits for the more than 61 million recipients currently who currently utilize Social Security in America.

Additionally, the maximum payout—which is the amount you can receive once you’re eligible for 100 percent of your benefits—is also increasing, with the figure growing from $2,687 per month to $2,788 per month.

Greater 401(k) contributions

Saving for retirement will also be a little easier in the coming years, as the Internal Revenue Service announced that the annual limit for 401(k) contributors will increase by $500 in 2018.

Previously, anyone participating in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, the majority of 457 plans, or the  Thrift Savings Plan could set aside $18,000 per year, but the number will grow to $18,500. To see how much this change might affect your retirement funds, you can use this calculator to track how your 401(k) funds will grow over time.

Mandatory arbitration contracts

Earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a regulation banning mandatory arbitration clauses, the often-controversial sections of consumer contracts that effectively prevent customers from filing class-action suits against a company they are doing business with, such as a bank.

However, this law, which was set to come into effect in 2018, has been overturned by Congress, meaning the rule will remain in effect.

Martin Lynch, the compliance manager and director of education for Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. in Agawam, Mass., says the repeal of the CFPB’s rule is a major defeat for consumers because forced arbitration is often used to scare customers out of taking action against the corporate world.

“That’s not fair, almost by definition,” says Lynch, who is also a member of the board of directors for the Financial Counseling Association of America. “It’s why the concept of consumer protection exists in the first place.”

Still to be determined: The GOP tax bill

It seemed as though 2017 might be yet another slow year for tax legislation. Then earlier this month Republican lawmakers moved to pass what is could be the biggest American tax overhaul since the 1980s.

While the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate still have to agree on a singular version of the new bill, which likely include close to $1.5 trillion in total tax cuts — $900 billion of which will be for businesses alone — they’re rushing to meet President Donald Trump’s Christmas deadline.

“If any or all of the proposed changes get enacted, we will have a lot to be concerned with,” says Cindy Hockenberry, director of tax research and government relations for the National Association of Tax Professionals.

So how will the Republican tax bill—in its current form—most affect consumers? Next year, not very much. The plan’s changes, which technically go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, will be mostly marginal until 2019 because Americans will mostly be able to file their taxes in April under the current rules.

Being aware of these changes can help you plan in advance because filing taxes in the coming years might be extremely different, depending on your income bracket and your usual deductions. While the bill—officially named the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—is not yet finalized, here are the parts of the bill’s current form that consumers are likely to feel the most:

  • Your income tax bracket could change: The House version of new law would reduce the number of standard tax brackets from seven to four, meaning many Americans would pay a new percentage of their income in 2019. You can check out this chart of the proposed percentages to see how your taxes might change.
  • Your state and local tax deductions will probably go away: The Senate plan would eliminate the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction. This means that if you typically itemize your taxes—instead of just taking the standard deduction— you will be unable to write off taxes paid to state and local governments on your federal filing.
  • You will no longer be able to deduct a personal exemption: Currently, you can take a $4,050 “personal exemption” from your return that doesn’t count toward your taxable income. Under both the House and Senate bills, this option would disappear, however the standard deduction you can take each year would almost double—increasing from $6,350 to $12,200 under the House bill.

Hockenberry, who is based in Appleton, Wis., says the most important part of the plan is its proposed elimination of the personal exemption and a number of itemized deductions. Some Americans might have to pay more each year, she added, because the increase in the standard deduction might not be enough to make up for these changes, causing some consumers’ taxable income to grow.

The post 4 Big Legal Changes That Will Hit Your Wallet in 2018 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

How to Maximize Your FSA and Transit Benefit Before You Lose It

By Brittney Laryea & Shen Lu

 

iStock

The end of the calendar year is generally an important time to pay attention to your workplace benefits accounts. You may already have gotten an email from the head of your workplace’s HR department about making your elections for the coming year and maybe even made them already. While you’re at it, take a look at the balances in your flexible spending accounts and transportation benefits accounts — they may need your attention.

Workplace benefit accounts like your health flexible spending account (FSA) and transportation benefits accounts help you save money on the important line items in your budget like your healthcare bills and getting yourself to and from work. Since the accounts are funded with pre-tax dollars, you could help your dollars go up to 40% further on common expenses — like getting a checkup or a bus pass — that help you keep and maintain your job. However, if you don’t quite know how to best use these accounts, you could actually end up losing the money you have socked away in your benefits accounts.

Read on or click ahead to learn the ins and outs of using these benefits accounts and what you can do, if anything, to save your money when you’re in danger of losing it.

Flexible spending accounts

What is a flexible spending account?

iStock

A flexible spending account (FSA) is an employer sponsored reimbursement plan. It allows you to set aside pre-tax money and spend it on eligible medical expenses.

For 2018, you can contribute up to $2,650 to your health FSAs, up from the 2017’s limit of $2,600.

In an ideal world, you’ll avoid losing income by using up all your funds for eligible medical expenses by deadline. But the reality is that it’s tricky to budget for medical expenses for the next year (generally you can only adjust your contribution from each paycheck during open enrollment or during a qualifying life event, such as marriage or birth of a child). Many find themselves with excessive balance in their medical FSA at the end of the year.

It’s actually not that flexible given its “use it or lose it” rule — you have to use all the funds by the deadline, otherwise you lose the money. Several plan advisers confirmed to MagnifyMoney that many people underutilize their medical benefits. FSAStore.com, a one-stop-shop website stocked with FSA-eligible products, reported that each year, hundreds of millions of dollars was forfeited back to employers simply because consumers do not deplete the funds in their accounts.

So how can you make the best use of your medical FSA and avoid wasting money? We have done research and asked experts for you.

How can I use my health FSA funds?

First off, the medical FSA reimburses you for you or your dependent’s expenses that are not paid by your health insurance.

The eligible expenses include copayments, coinsurance and deductibles, prescription costs, vision and dental expenses and many over-the-counter (OTC) items — prescribed or unprescribed. But note that you cannot pay your monthly insurance premiums with the FSA.

If you have money left over in your FSA, you may want to consider getting new prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses and contact lenses. Those are some of the most common big-ticket items you can purchase with your FSA.

You can also stock up on things like first aid kits, contact solution, bandages and sunscreen that you may use year-round.

Your FSA plan provider will have a list of eligible over-the-counter items you can purchase at the pharmacy with your FSA, such as this one. Many of the pharmacy sites have sections of their sites that list all the FSA eligible items.

Another possible way to use the money would be scheduling check-ups with all your physicians. Your annual physicals and other preventative care are covered by your health plan, but if you need special medical treatment, you can use the remaining funds for copays, coinsurance or prescriptions.

Many FSA providers recommend you visit FSAStore.com.

How much should I contribute to my health FSA?

Becky Seefeldt, director of marketing at Benefit Resource, a benefits programs provider, said the average 2017 contribution was $1,250, based on the company’s 300,000 participants. That’s roughly half of the maximum amount one could contribute for the year. For those who over-contribute to their FSAs, by the end of the year, Seefeldt said, they usually have less than $100 left in their account.

Experts suggest you contribute conservatively because there is a chance that the unspent money might be forfeited. But everyone has a different situation; it’s hard to give a single guideline that fits all.

You really need to do the math when budgeting your contribution for the next plan year during open enrollment.

Nicole Wruck, a national health practice leader at Alight Solutions, told MagnifyMoney that most of the company’s clients over-contribute every year. She suggests consumers keep track of their health care expenses they had over the last year and plan accordingly for the coming year.

You will need to do the math based on the factors below:

  • What did you spend on prescription drugs?
  • What did you spend at the doctor, or the dentist, or the eye doctor?
  • Do you have any upcoming things planned in the next year that might make you experience some additional costs? For example, are you or your dependent expecting a baby? Will you need new glasses?

To help yourself run the numbers, you will want to study your health care plans. Know your deductibles — the amount you pay for health care services before your health insurance begins to kick in — as well as your copays and coinsurance. Learn what your out-of-pocket maximum is — the most you have to pay for health care services in a plan year. After you hit your out-of-pocket max, your insurance company covers your healthcare costs for the rest of the year.

Visiting your doctors can also help. Sometimes your year-end doctor visits can help you estimate your next year’s out-of-pocket medical expense. For instance, if your dentist tells you that you will need orthodontic treatment in the near future, then consider maxing out your FSA for the next plan year to cover the big dentist bills your insurance company won’t pay.

What happens to leftover funds at the end of the plan year?

Traditionally, you would have to use up all your remaining funds by Dec. 31. But there are two options employers can adopt to make the rules more lenient now.

The roll-over option. It allows up to $500 in your FSA per year to roll over into the next plan year, so participants don’t have to rush to use the remaining funds. Seefeldt said about 40 percent of employers now adopt the roll-over option.

An extended grace period. This gives participants an additional two and half months — through March 15 — to use up the money from the previous year. At the end of the grace period, all unspent funds will be forfeited to the employer.

Depending on how your company decides to do with the FSAs, you may have a little bit more leeway to use your funds by the year end. Check with your human resource department and your FSA plan provider to find out which option is available to you.

What happens if I leave the company before I use all my FSA funds?

If your eligible expenses incurred before you left the company, you may be able to request reimbursement through your company’s claim submission deadline.

If you leave the company in the middle of the year but you have used more funds in your flexible spending account than contributed. You may not be required to pay back your company.

You have access to the total amount you have allocated for the year after your first medical FSA deposit, regardless of the balance in your flexible spending account. You are reimbursed based on your company’s pay schedule as you submit claims.

For example, if you elected to put $2,000 into your FSA throughout the year, and you have a $2,000 dental expense in May, your FSA would reimburse you for the whole $2,000, even though you’ve only contributed about $833 by then.

If you jump ship in August, you may not have to pay back the rest of your contribution. Your company will cover it: It agrees to take the potential financial risk when it signs up for the FSA program. Don’t feel too guilty just yet — your company may be able to offset the financial loss with the unspent funds forfeited from other employees.

Now, if you have money left unused in your FSA, first, try to use it as much as you can before you part ways. But If you can’t use it up by your last day, you may have a chance to extend your FSA benefits if you choose to enroll in COBRA.

COBRA allows former employees, retirees, spouses and dependents to get temporary continuation of health benefits at group rates. FSA is one of the COBRA-eligible benefits.

Generally, you have until the end of plan year to use up money left in your FSA through your prior employer, but it’s most common for someone to take their FSA COBRA for one or two months and use the funds quickly, Seefeldt said. Under COBRA, you can continue to make your health plan contributions (but pay an additional 2 percent administrative fee) before the new plan kicks in, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Say you leave your company in August but there is $400 left in your FSA, and you plan to continue your health insurance coverage through your previous employer for two months before your new insurance plan kicks in, you can keep submitting expenses up to $400 in that period of time but pay an administrative fee that’s 2 percent of your monthly premium. But you are not required to purchase the health coverage in order to use your FSA balance.

Again, money in your FSA cannot be used to pay your premiums. But you can use it to cover eligible medical costs.

If you’re not eligible to continue your FSA through COBRA, try to use up the money before your job ends so that you won’t leave it on the table.

Transportation benefit accounts

What are commuter benefits?

iStock

Transportation benefit accounts, also known as commuter benefits accounts, let employees use pre-tax dollars to pay for the costs of commuting. The accounts are meant to act as an incentive for employees to use eco-friendly transportation options like carpools, mass transit or bikes on their commute to the workplace.

Commuter benefits help many workers save on their transportation costs. But, it’s possible just as many workers aren’t completely sure how their transit benefit account works, or how to make the most of it.

How can I use my commuter benefits?

If you drive to a park-and-ride, catch mass transit or ride a bike to get to work, you may be able to use pre-tax dollars contributed to a commuter benefits account to cover some or all of the cost of your commute. However, if you ride solo to work or don’t use a bike or mass transit options available to you, you won’t be able to use commuter benefits to, let’s say, pay for the gas your personal vehicle burns during your bumper-to-bumper commute each morning.

However, you may be able to take advantage of parking benefits, which we’ll explain below.

You can use the money in a transportation benefits account to pay for any of the following eligible expenses:

  • A ride in a “commuter highway vehicle” to or from home and work.
    • This is another way of saying carpooling. Riding to work in a commuter highway vehicle counts if the vehicle can seat at least 6 passengers, according to the IRS. You might not have to go through the hassle of organizing a carpool with your coworkers or neighbors to use your transportation funds this way. Some commuter benefits programs allow you to carpool using rideshare apps like Lyft or Uber, too. All you’d need to do is use your commuter benefits card to pay for UberPOOL or Lyft Line rides and join the carpool when it arrives to pick you up.
  • A transit pass.
    • A transit pass is any pass, token or other tool that permits you to ride mass transit — like a train, ferry or bus — to work.
  • Qualified parking.
    • If you need to pay to park on or near your workplace, or you have to pay for parking in order to catch a ride on public transit for work or you pay for parking for any other work-related reason, you can use your transportation benefits to cover the charge.
  • Qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.
    • You can use up to $20 per month in transportation benefits to purchase a bicycle, make improvements or repairs to the bike, and pay for bike storage as long as you use the bicycle for regular travel between home and your workplace. Be warned: If you use your transportation benefit to be reimbursed for commuting via bicycle at some point during the month, per IRS rule, you won’t be able to use the transportation funds for any of the three aforementioned eligible expenses in that particular month.

How much should I contribute to my transit benefit?

How much you contribute to your commuter benefits account will depend on how much you spend on transportation to and from work each month. Look at your monthly commuting expenses. Do the math to figure out what you would need to contribute from each paycheck to cover the cost of your commute to work. To avoid over-contributing to your transportation benefits account, be sure to to pull out a calculator.

Step 1: Estimate how much you spend on transportation expenses — monthly parking pass, bus pass, etc. — each pay period.

Estimating your commuter benefits should be easier than, say, trying to guess how many doctor’s visits or prescriptions you’ll need to cover in the coming year. “With a commuter benefit you are making an estimate,” says Joseph Priselac, Jr., CEO P&A Group, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based employee benefits administration company. “As long as you have a job and you know you’re going to keep going to it, you know how much you will spend.”

Step 2: Elect to contribute that amount for the year. The amount you elect will be divided by the total number of remaining pay periods for the year. The benefit will be deducted from each paycheck and placed in your transportation account for your use when you need it. If you change your annual contribution, the remaining number of deductions will be adjusted accordingly to reflect the change. If, for example, you elect $1,200 for the year and are paid monthly, $100 pre-tax will be deducted from your paycheck to your transportation account.

Beware of contribution limits

Commuter benefits: In 2017, the maximum monthly pre-tax contribution limit for commuter benefits is $255, or $3,060 in a year. Moving forward, the IRS may decide to change that limit. The federal agency reviews and sets the limit annually. If you bike to work, you max out at $20 per month.

Parking benefits: An additional $255 per month. If you’ve got to ride mass transit to get to work and pay for parking, Priselac says that limit is technically doubled, since you can max out $255 for parking and another $255 for mass transit passes each month.

Unless you are certain sure you will use up the maximum in transportation spending for the year, don’t simply contribute the maximum amount you can to your transportation benefits account.

What if I want to reduce my contribution?

If, for whatever reason, you decide you don’t need to contribute as much or you want to contribute more to your transit benefit fund during the year, that’s not a problem.

Unlike an FSA, for which your contribution election can’t be changed during the year, “you can change your election anytime you want,” says Priselac.

To clarify, you can change your commuter benefits election as often as your company allows. For some, that may be once per pay period, for others, it may be once per quarter. It’s one of the few benefits you can change mid-year. Consult with your employer’s human resources department to find out how often you are able to change your election.

“If you’re not sure how much you will be spending, start by contributing a small amount,” says Caspar Yen, Senior Director of Product Management at Zenefits, a human resources software company. “There’s no need to over contribute to play it safe.”

That said, if you feel you’ve contributed too much to your commuter benefits account to use up within the period, you can stop the deductions and use up the balance you’ve accumulated until it runs out, then restart your contributions. Just be sure to keep an eye on your transportation benefits balance so you know when to restart your contributions.

What happens to leftover funds at the end of the year?

Transit benefits rollover each year so long as you are still with the company and the company still offers the benefit. That means you don’t have to rush to use leftover funds at the end of the year.

This is in contrast to a flexible spending account, which has a ‘use it or lose it’ rule, which we covered above.

In a sense, there is no ‘plan year’ for transportation benefits, although your company may ask that you confirm you’d like to stay enrolled in the program each year when you elect your annual benefit contributions. Transportation benefits accounts roll over each pay period and should roll over into the coming period at the end of the year. That means there’s no danger of losing any of the money you’ve contributed so far, as long as you remain employed with that particular employer.

What if I quit my job or get laid off?

“As long as you are still working there and you have work related transit expenses the money stays,” says Priselac.

But if you quit your job or are laid off you could lose some or all of the money remaining in your transportation benefits account. If you’ve been over-contributing, any money you don’t use up will be lost to you, and returned to your employer.

The good news is that some benefit programs will give employees a grace period to submit reimbursements requests for any transportation expenses incurred during their employment — even if they quit.

If you know you may no longer be with the company or the company is planning to terminate its program, there’s one thing you can do to save your money.

“Before leaving a company, employees can make a large eligible purchase,” says Yen.

In the Bay Area, for example, an employee can purchase a clipper card with up to $300 in credits. If the transit method you take offers individual tickets, you could purchase a large number. Or, if you are able to load your transit pass with cash, you could place a large amount on your pass.

For example, those in the New York City metro area might load a large amount of money onto their MetroCard and use it up until it’s depleted.

Whenever you’re making a decision about benefits, it helps to talk to your HR department or the benefit provider, just to be sure you understand the rules. Mistakes you make when choosing benefits can end up costing you a lot of money, so ask questions and avoid leaving your decisions to the last minute of open enrollment.

The post How to Maximize Your FSA and Transit Benefit Before You Lose It appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

How Apple Pay Cash Stacks Up Against Venmo

iStock

As part of an early release of its updated iOS 11.2 mobile operating system, Apple is rolling out a P2P payments platform, Apple Pay Cash, available to anyone with an iPhone or Apple tablet, Apple Watch.

Apple Pay Cash already has a lot of competition. The person-to-person (P2P) payments market is fairly saturated with other platforms like Venmo, Paypal, Square Cash, Google Wallet and the like. At the moment, Apple’s largest competition in the P2P space is social payment app Venmo, which is owned by yet another competing payments processor, Paypal. Like competitors Venmo and Paypal, Apple Pay Cash is easy to use with one way we communicate most: via text. But unlike its major competitors, Apple is leveraging its user base to provide a P2P service that comes along with ownership, rather than requiring you to download another application.

Venmo uses emojis and a social feed in an attempt to take the “awkward” out of paying or charging your friends money. The tactic seems to work. Venmo’s user base completed $9 billion in transaction last quarter, about 93% more than the same quarter a year earlier. Since September 2016, the app allowed its users to pay via iMessage and Siri, expanded its online payments business, and tested out a physical debit card with some users. The company is also reportedly, like many other P2P processors, exploring instant deposits, too, to the tune of about $0.25 per transfer.

Apple Pay Cash seems to imitate several of Venmo’s features, so the 68% of millennial mobile payment users who say they use Venmo most seemingly won’t have too much incentive to make a switch to Apple Pay Cash. However, a relatively easy setup with Apple Wallet, may appeal to those outside of the millennial demographic who aren’t already attached to Venmo, but need to send mobile payments, too.

What is Apple Pay Cash?

Apple Pay Cash is Apple’s person-to-person money transfer service. Apple users can use Apple Pay Cash to quickly send and receive money to and from friends, acquaintances and family members using Apple’s built-in messaging app iMessage. The service is available in the U.S. on iPhone SE, iPhone 6 and later, Apple Watch, iPad Pro, iPad 5th Generation, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 or later. You can also ask Apple’s intelligent personal assistant, Siri, to pay someone via Apple Pay Cash.

Source: Apple

How does Apple Pay Cash Work?

You can say, “Hey Siri, send $[an amount of money] to [one of your contacts]” to prompt a message asking them which app you want to use to send the funds, including Venmo. You can also send money via iMessage by tapping the app store icon and selecting Apple Pay at the bottom.

The money you send will come from one of two sources in the Apple Wallet application: The digital Apple Pay Cash Card or any linked debit or credit cards in your Apple Wallet. The transaction is free if you pay someone using a debit card. If you use a credit card to pay another person, you’ll be charged a 3% fee. Payments are approved using a finger with Touch ID or a smile with Face ID if you have an iPhone X.

When you get paid, the money you receive is automatically credited to a digital Apple Pay Cash Card that lives in Apple Wallet, for use right away. Unlike Square Cash, you don’t get a physical card to use, but the digital Apple Pay Cash Card, like a gift card, can be used like any other debit or credit card in the Apple Wallet. You also have the option of transferring the funds on your Apple Pay Cash Card to a bank account, but that may take up to three business days.

When not using Apple Pay Cash to pay a roommate your share of the light bill or charge a friend for his share of the a group vacation, you can use the digital Apple Pay Cash Card — or another card in your Apple Pay account — at any of these retailers to pay online or in stores.

How do I get Apple Pay Cash?

To do to gain access to Apple Pay Cash, update your compatible device to iOS 11.2 or watchOS 4.2 and set up the Apple Pay Cash Card in Apple Wallet. Apple Pay Cash is not available on non-Apple devices or for use outside of the United States.

Step 1: Update your Apple device

To update the device, go to Settings, then General, then Software update. An on-screen message will let you know what version of iOS your device is running and prompt you to update if you’re using old software.

Step 2: Set up your Apple Pay Cash card

Once the device is updated, it’s time to set up the Apple Pay Cash card. In Settings, go to Wallet & Apple pay. There you will see the “Add Credit or Debit Card” option or your Apple Pay Cash card. Click on the card to set it up. Hit continue, and agree to the terms and conditions after reading them thoroughly.

Verification

The device may or may not prompt you to verify your identity when setting up the Apple Pay Cash card, but you should if you want to send or receive more than $500 per transaction.

To verify on iPhone, click the small ‘i’ with a circle around it next to the Apple Pay Cash card in the Apple Wallet app and tap Verify Identity. You will be prompted to enter personal information like your name, Social Security number and date of birth. You may also need to answer questions about your personal history or submit an image of a photo ID like a driver’s license for verification.

You can then load the card with funds using other linked debit or credit cards in Apple Wallet. The Apple Pay Cash card requires a minimum $10 deposit. However, users don’t have to load and Apple Pay Cash card with funds before you can use Apple Pay Cash to send and receive funds. They can use Apple Pay Cash with any of their other linked debit or credit cards in Apple Wallet.

When the two steps are complete, you can then begin using Apple Pay Cash.

Source: Apple

How does Apple Pay Cash stack up to Venmo?

Apple’s main competition in the P2P space is Venmo. Here’s a breakdown of how Apple Pay Cash stacks up to the leading P2P payments platform.

Where Apple Pay Cash beats Venmo

No need to download an app

Apple Pay Cash is built into Apple’s iOS operating system, so you don’t have to download another app that could take up precious phone memory drain your battery life. To use Venmo on the go, you need to download and set up the Venmo app, which can be a tedious hurdle for some.

Easily change between payment options

You can’t easily switch between payment options in iMessage using Venmo like you can with Apple Pay Cash. The only way to switch payment option is using the Venmo app and changing payment options requires going to Settings, then Banks and Cards, then setting one card or bank account for use in payments to peers. After going through multiple screens to complete that process, you can then pay with the selected payment source.

With Apple Pay Cash, you can switch payment options in your Apple Wallet right in the iMessage app, in the middle of making a transaction.

Apple Pay Cash automatically gives you an in-app card

The Apple Pay Cash card is an interesting addition to the P2P space, as it allows you to automatically access to the funds you receive via Apple Pay Cash. The digital card lives in Apple Wallet and can be used like a gift card to make purchases in physical stores or online at retailers who use Apple Pay.

Source: Apple

Transfer limits

Apple Pay Cash lets you send more money per transaction and on a weekly basis than Venmo does. Apple lets you send up to $3,000 in a single transaction and $10,000 in a seven-day period. Venmo has a $2,000 transaction limit and a seven-day limit of $2,999.99. Venmo users can send or receive up to $4,999.99 in a seven-day period and may not complete more than 30 transactions in a 24-hour period.

Where Venmo has the edge over Apple Pay Cash

Venmo has a wider reach

Venmo offers its same P2P service online at Venmo.com, where you can log in and do everything you do on the Venmo app on your desktop or laptop. Apple Pay Cash is exclusively offered on Apple’s mobile devices. Exclusivity may or may not be a downfall for Apple Pay Cash, as exclusive offerings like iMessage and FaceTime have long set Apple apart from its competitors. Those who own Apple Macbooks or desktop devices can pay for items online using their Apple Wallet but aren’t be able to set up Apple Pay Cash without access to an iPhone or iPod touch. Android users and those who don’t have a mobile iOS device, can’t use Apple Pay Cash.

Venmo might give you a physical debit card

Venmo reportedly sent some users invitations to test out a physical Venmo card over the summer months in 2017. Users who opt ed in didn’t pay a fee to use the card, which pulls funds from the user’s Venmo balance. There is no confirmation of a future rollout of physical-card invites to all users.

Send money from a bank account

You cannot use Apple Pay Cash to send money directly from a bank account, like you can using Venmo and practically any other existing P2P platform. Apple Pay Cash does allow you to send money using linked debit cards, however. Arguably, sending money using a debit card is the same thing as sending money from a bank account, as the funds generally come from the same place.

Where Apple Pay Cash and Venmo are the same

Ask Siri to send

When you ask Siri to send money to a contact, the AI doesn’t automatically send the funds using Apple Pay Cash, but, instead, asks you to select from the options you have that can perform the task. Apple Pay is an option, but so is Venmo, if you have that downloaded.

Pay in Messages app

Way ahead of Apple, Venmo released its in-app iMessage integration back in September 2016 (also when Venmo released its Siri integration). Now, you can do the same thing with Apple Pay Cash.

B-to-C payments

In addition to paying friends and family, Apple Pay lets you pay businesses using Apple Pay Cash. You could technically already use Apple Pay where available in stores and online, but now you can use the balance accrued from received payments or loaded onto an Apple Pay Cash card in Apple Wallet. Venmo users can also complete online transactions to businesses using Venmo, a feature Venmo debuted October 2017.

Cost

There is no cost difference between Venmo and Apple Pay Cash. Both systems charge no fee to send money using a debit card and charge a 3% fee to send money using a credit card. Venmo also doesn’t charge for sending money from a linked bank account. Apple pay Cash doesn’t offer the option to link a bank account.

The bottom line

If you are a loyal Apple user and a late adopter to person-to-person payment systems, Apple Pay Cash could act as a kind nudge into the P2P payments space. In addition, Apple Pay Cash’s iMessage integration and quick setup process make it easy for the less-tech-savvy among us to start sending and receiving funds electronically. On top of that, having an Apple Pay Cash card already in our Apple Wallet makes it easy to spend any money you receive at vendors that accept Apple Pay, without having to wait a day or two for the money to show up in your bank account.

If you’re already a Venmo user, other than Apple Pay Cash’s automatic addition into your Apple devices with the iOS 11.2 update, there’s far less incentive to switch over to Apple Pay Cash. If you like to make your P2P payments and requests on a desktop or want to send funds directly from your bank account, stick with Venmo.

Aside from those features, Venmo and Apple Pay Cash cost the same and are about as simple to use. 

The post How Apple Pay Cash Stacks Up Against Venmo appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The Best Places to Work Your Way Through College And Avoid Student Loan Debt

financial aid refund

The average cost of a four-year college education was almost five times higher in 2015 than a mere twenty years earlier, making the cost of an education seem out of reach for many. But, the data is clear: someone with a four-year college degree can expect to make $32,000 more a year than a high school graduate, or a whopping $1.4 million over the course of a working life. This forces American students (and their parents) into difficult and confusing decisions about how to approach a college education and what kind of student loans to take on.

It turns out that if you attend a public four-year university in one of these places, the days of working your way through college may not be over, despite common perceptions to the contrary. This is especially true when we consider that many, if not most, students are awarded various grants and scholarships to take the edge off an already (relatively) low in-state tuition.

A summer job doesn’t do it anymore, but a student who works – for minimum wage – about 20 hours a week while school is in session, 40 hours a week when it’s not, and takes a couple of well-deserved weeks off, can avoid student debt by paying off tuition in more places than you think, and may even have something left over for living expenses. Even if you earn enough to pay income taxes, spending your earnings on education can means substantial tax credits and deductions.

If You’re On Your Own…

There’s no question that working to pay your tuition bill is hard enough, but covering the basic costs of living on top of that can seem downright impossible.  If you’re doing it yourself, these areas might offer a workable path to economic security. It takes a lot of work, but students can still pay off that tuition bill and the leftover income will go a lot farther towards necessities.

100 communities were scored on four factors: 1) Average rent compared to the rest of the country, 2) average cost of goods compared to the rest of the country, 3) the amount of average in-state tuition someone could pay off working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage, and 6) the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. A score of 51 represents the average score of the 100 largest Combined Statistical Areas we reviewed. The highest score is 76, and the lowest is 10.

1 – Springfield, Missouri

At just 7.2 percent, the Springfield-Branson area of Missouri boasts the lowest unemployment rate for young people among all of the communities we examined, and it’s the fifth cheapest place to live (McAllen, Texas is the cheapest, but that only gets it a score of 46, as youth unemployment is significantly higher than other places, state tuition is a touch higher than average, and the minimum wage is the lowest allowable by federal law). You can expect to pay 34 percent less in rent than your friends in the rest of America, and about $1,000 less in tuition. A minimum wage of $7.70 means you won’t have tons of money left over after paying your tuition (a student can earn about 111 percent of his or her full course tuition and fees), but you can buy more with what you do have.

Local public universities include Missouri State University. US News & World Report gives it a Regional Universities Midwest ranking of 106, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is lower than the state average at $7,060 (not including room and board), and notes admission is selective with an acceptance rate of 86 percent.

2 – St. Louis, Missouri

Both the first and third ranked areas have lower average rents and youth unemployment rates than St. Louis, but a cost of goods that’s seven percent lower than the national average just edges this community to a higher score than Little Rock, Ark. Even so, the rent is an impressive 18 percent lower than the national average, and at 11 percent the youth unemployment rate is still about 13 percent less than the average of the communities we examined. Students can plan to earn about 111 percent of their full course load tuition. It’s also the most metropolitan area to place in the top 10, with a population of almost three million.

The big caveat is that this really only applies to people who live on the western side of the Mississippi River, because the average tuition in Illinois is the fifth highest in the nation at $13,620. Unfortunately, a student would only cover 72 percent of that by working for minimum wage.

Local public colleges and universities for Missouri residents include University of Missouri St. Louis. US News & World Report gives it national ranking of 231-300, reports that tuition and fees for the 2017-18 academic year were $10,275 (not including room and board), and notes that admission is “more selective” with an acceptance rate of 71 percent. At just over half the price, Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis gets a US News & World Report Regional Colleges Midwest ranking of 62-80, has a reported 2017-18 academic year tuition and fees cost of $5,220 (not including room and board), and admission is designated “least selective” despite an acceptance rate of 55 percent.

3 – Little Rock, Arkansas

A comfortably low average state tuition, combined with a better-than-typical minimum wage of $8.50 (34th highest among the 100 communities we examined), means that students here can hope to have a bit of money left over, since they can earn about 127 percent of their full course load tuition. The cost of goods are four percent lower than the national average and rents that are 29 percent lower, which means that money you work so hard for can go further. The youth unemployment rate of 9.8 percent is also significantly less than our median rate of 12.5 percent. Finally, students also have more options than in some of our other highly scored areas, with three public four-year universities in the area.

Local public universities include the flagship campus of The University of Arkansas-Little Rock. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 231-300, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is $8,401 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 77 percent. The University of Central Arkansas in Conway gets a Regional Universities South ranking of 72 from US News & World Report, and has a reported tuition for the 2017-18 academic year of $8,524 (not including room and board), and is considered selective with an acceptance rate of 90 percent. US News & World Report gives University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff a Regional Colleges South ranking of 50, reports that tuition for 2017-18 is $7,336, and note admission is less selective with an acceptance rate of 42 percent.

 

 

If You Live at Home…

Most college bound kids dream of leaving home as soon as they can, but delaying gratification can have a big, long-term payoff if you’re from one of these areas.  Who knows, maybe you even like your parents, or at least all the things they do and buy for you.

Low in-state tuition, youth unemployment rates, and high minimum wages give you the best chance of completely paying off your tuition by working part time while school is in session and full time when it’s not. Statewide, Florida comes out on top, and even expensive places, like the Bay Area, get high scores thanks to higher wages.

These communities are scored on two factors: 1) the amount of average in-state tuition someone could pay off working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage, and 2) the local unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. A score of 51 represents the average score of the 100 largest Combined Statistical Areas we reviewed. The highest score of the communities we examined is 94, and the lowest is nine.

1 – Cape Coral, Florida

2 – Lakeland, Florida

3 – Palm Bay, Florida

The bronze, silver, and gold all go to communities in the Sunshine State. That’s because Florida has a state-wide minimum wage right at the median for all the cities we reviewed and the absolute lowest average in-state tuition. Combine that with the low youth unemployment rates these three cities boast, and we see some A grades. If you were lucky enough to grow up in paradise, sticking around a little longer in the sun and surf isn’t just enticing – it’s the responsible financial choice. In all three places, you can expect to earn about 163 percent of your full course load tuition by working 1,280 hours at minimum wage.

The three communities span the state from east to west, with Cape Coral on the Gulf Coast, Lakeland just west of Tampa, and Palm Bay nestled between extensive nature preserves and the Atlantic Ocean.

Just because you’re in paradise doesn’t mean the cost of living is as high as one might expect, either: the cost of goods is four percent lower than the national average. Cape Coral ticks just over the national average for rent.

In fact, the cost of living is so low in Lakeland, with rents a full 17 percent lower than the national average, it ties for the number five spot on our list of best places to work your way through college if you don’t live at home. In other words, even if your parents ask you to kick in some money for expenses, you should be okay.

Palm Bay comes in at eight percent lower rent than the national average, earning it the number 10 spot on our other list. The hitch is that the nearest public, four-year institution is about 40 miles away in Fort Pierce, but it may be worth it for a 2017-18 academic year tuition of – ready? – $2,640. Heck, you could pay the room and board of $5,700 and still come out better than most American students are paying for in-state tuition alone.

Local public colleges and universities in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples area include Florida SouthWestern State College (formerly Edison State College) in Fort Myers. US News & World Reports doesn’t give it a ranking, but notes that last year’s tuition was an astoundingly low $3,401. It is “least selective”, with an acceptance rate of 81 percent. For someone looking for a more rigorous academic experience, Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers was awarded a Regional Universities South ranking of 73 by US News & World Report, which reports this year’s tuition and fees (not including room and board) is $6,118, and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 56 percent.

Local public colleges and universities in the Lakeland-Winter Haven area include the University of South Florida in nearby Tampa.  US News & World Reports gives it a national ranking of 140, and notes that it is “more selective” with an acceptance rate of 47 percent. For those who don’t have the grades, another option is Polk State College in Winter Haven. US News & World Reports doesn’t give it a ranking, but notes that last year’s tuition was an astoundingly low $3,366. It is “least selective”, and the acceptance rate isn’t available.

Unfortunately, you have to drive a fair distance to reach a public, four-year university near Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, but if that’s doable, the closest schools include Indian River State College in Fort Pierce. US News & World Reports gives it a Regional Colleges South ranking of 60-79, reports that tuition and fees for this year is – just when you thought tuitions couldn’t get any lower — $2,640 (not including room and board). The school is “less selective” and has a 100 percent admission rate. If you’re willing and able to drive fifty miles, the University of Central Florida in Orlando gets a national ranking from US News & World Reports of 171, has a 2017-18 academic year tuition and fees (not including room and board) of $6,368, and is designated “more selective” with a 50 percent admission rate.

4 – San Francisco, California

Everyone knows the Bay Area in general, and San Francisco in particular, is one of the most expensive places in the world, so how can it come in third on a list of places where you can work your way through school? This community demonstrates the power of living in an expensive place – as long as someone else can cover your expenses – because higher costs can mean higher wages. San Francisco boasts a minimum wage of $14 and California has an average tuition rate of $9,680 for the current academic year, meaning a student can handily afford that tuition by working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. Combine that with a plethora of public schools – including world famous Berkeley – and prospective students might just learn to appreciate living with their parents a little longer. A student can expect to earn 159 percent of a full course load tuition.

Local public universities include one of the nation’s premier public universities, The University of California at Berkeley. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 21, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is higher than the state average at $14,098 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “most selective” with an acceptance rate of only 16 percent. For students who aren’t super-achievers, San Francisco State University gets a US News & World Report national ranking of 231-300, is actually cheaper than the state average, with a tuition for the 2017-18 academic year of $7,254 (not including room and board), and admission is “less selective”, with an acceptance rate of 68 percent. Other local public colleges and universities include California State University – East Bay in Hayward, and San Jose State University in San Jose.

Special Mention – Seattle, Washington

Seattle-Tacoma placed 13 on our list because its youth unemployment rate was at the median (and just slightly below average) of all the communities we examined. But if your teammate’s cousin’s girlfriend can hook you up with a job in Seattle proper, this community offers the best potential to cover tuition while working minimum wage of any community we rated.

You may remember when Seattle made headlines as the first place in America to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, allowing locals to earn dramatically more than their peers around the country. With an average state school tuition of $9,480 (just under the nation’s median average in-state tuition of $9,580), working students can earn an amazing 203 percent of their full course load tuition costs… As long as they don’t have to pay their own living expenses. Despite the high minimum wage, Seattle didn’t fare well on our other list (ranking 81 out of 100), thanks to a high cost of living. Residents can expect to pay 26 percent more in rent than the average American, and even seven percent more for they stuff they buy.

Local public universities include the flagship campus of The University of Washington. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 56, reports tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is $10,974 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 45 percent.

 

What’s the National Picture?

Compare where you live (or plan to live) to the averages and medians of the 100 Combined Statistical Areas we examined.

Working your way through school scores (Living on your own)

Metro

Score

Rent vs National Avg.

Cost of Goods vs National Avg.

Avg. In-State Tuition

Minimum Wage

Unemployment Rate
(Age 16-24)

% of Tuition Covered by Work

Albany, N.Y.

42

2%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

13.5%

156%

Albuquerque, N.M.

65

-8%

-5%

$6,920

$8.50

13.0%

157%

Atlanta, Ga.

45

-10%

-4%

$8,570

$7.25

11.5%

108%

Augusta, Ga.

56

-32%

-5%

$8,570

$7.25

17.2%

108%

Austin, Texas

40

13%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

10.8%

94%

Bakersfield, Calif.

53

-8%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

19.0%

139%

Baton Rouge, La.

50

-16%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

15.1%

100%

Birmingham, Ala.

47

-32%

-5%

$10,530

$7.25

15.3%

88%

Boise City, Idaho

65

-20%

-5%

$7,250

$7.25

13.4%

128%

Boston, Mass.

37

25%

-1%

$12,730

$11.00

11.0%

111%

Buffalo, N.Y.

66

-23%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

10.3%

156%

Cape Coral, Fla.

65

1%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

9.3%

163%

Charleston, W.Va.

66

-42%

-4%

$7,890

$8.75

14.7%

142%

Charleston, S.C.

31

-5%

-4%

$12,610

$7.25

13.8%

74%

Charlotte, N.C.

56

-16%

-5%

$7,380

$7.25

13.9%

126%

Chattanooga, Tenn.

62

-31%

-6%

$9,790

$7.25

13.9%

95%

Chicago, Ill.

23

13%

0%

$13,620

$11.00

14.2%

103%

Cincinnati, OH

69

-22%

-9%

$10,510

$8.15

11.3%

99%

Cleveland, Ohio

67

-24%

-6%

$10,510

$8.15

12.3%

99%

Colorado Springs, Colo.

43

3%

-5%

$10,800

$9.30

15.4%

110%

Columbia, S.C.

41

-22%

-5%

$12,610

$7.25

15.4%

74%

Columbus, Ohio

52

-18%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

12.0%

99%

Corpus Christi, Texas

42

-16%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Dallas, Texas

39

0%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

10.6%

94%

Dayton, Ohio

48

-30%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Denver, Colo.

41

21%

0%

$10,800

$9.30

9.3%

110%

Des Moines, Iowa

71

-10%

-6%

$8,760

$7.25

8.1%

106%

Detroit, Mich.

23

-13%

-3%

$12,930

$8.90

14.9%

88%

El Paso, Texas

48

-28%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

14.6%

94%

Fayetteville, N.C.

53

-23%

-5%

$7,380

$7.25

19.5%

126%

Fort Wayne, Ind.

62

-31%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

9.0%

99%

Fresno, Calif.

55

-11%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

17.7%

139%

Grand Rapids, Mich.

51

-17%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

11.1%

88%

Greensboro, N.C.

63

-30%

-4%

$7,380

$7.25

12.7%

126%

Greenville, S.C.

58

-31%

-4%

$12,610

$7.25

11.0%

74%

Harrisburg, Pa.

35

-14%

-4%

$14,440

$7.25

11.9%

64%

Hartford, Conn.

30

7%

-3%

$12,390

$10.10

13.2%

104%

Houston, Texas

39

0%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Huntsville, Ala.

54

-35%

-4%

$10,530

$7.25

12.4%

88%

Indianapolis, Ind.

51

-20%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

11.1%

99%

Jackson, Miss.

55

-28%

-5%

$7,990

$7.25

17.6%

116%

Jacksonville, Fla.

57

-6%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Kalamazoo, Mich.

52

-24%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

10.0%

88%

Kansas City, Mo.

72

-19%

-5%

$8,870

$7.70

9.5%

111%

Knoxville, Tenn.

72

-32%

-6%

$9,790

$7.25

11.0%

95%

Lafayette, La.

57

-31%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

16.2%

100%

Lakeland, Fla.

72

-17%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

10.2%

163%

Lansing, Mich.

31

-17%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

15.0%

88%

Las Vegas, Nev.

64

-5%

-5%

$7,270

$8.25

12.5%

145%

Lexington,Ky.

51

-23%

-4%

$10,300

$7.25

11.5%

90%

Little Rock, Ark.

73

-29%

-4%

$8,550

$8.50

9.8%

127%

Los Angeles, Calif.

30

51%

2%

$9,680

$12.00

14.5%

159%

Louisville, Ky.

60

-25%

-5%

$10,300

$7.25

11.6%

90%

Madison, Wis.

56

2%

-4%

$8,960

$7.25

8.1%

104%

McAllen, Texas

46

-42%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

16.3%

94%

Memphis, Tenn.

47

-24%

-4%

$9,790

$7.25

14.5%

95%

Miami, Fla.

42

24%

-2%

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Milwaukee, Wis.

65

-7%

-6%

$8,960

$7.25

10.1%

104%

Minneapolis, Minn.

42

6%

2%

$11,300

$9.50

7.6%

108%

Mobile, Ala.

59

-31%

-4%

$10,530

$7.25

10.1%

88%

Modesto, Calif.

53

-10%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

21.6%

139%

Nashville, Tenn.

60

-14%

-5%

$9,790

$7.25

8.1%

95%

New Orleans, La.

47

-9%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

14.4%

100%

New York, N.Y.

34

48%

7%

$7,940

$11.00

14.1%

177%

North Port, Fla.

54

5%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

12.4%

163%

Oklahoma City, Okla.

60

-22%

-4%

$8,460

$7.25

11.7%

110%

Omaha, Neb.

65

-16%

-4%

$8,270

$9.00

9.1%

139%

Orlando, Fla.

67

-1%

-5%

$6,360

$8.10

11.9%

163%

Palm Bay, Fla.

67

-8%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

10.3%

163%

Philadelphia, Pa.

10

7%

0%

$14,440

$7.25

15.2%

64%

Phoenix, Ariz.

43

-5%

-4%

$11,220

$10.00

11.7%

114%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

38

-24%

-4%

$14,440

$7.25

12.3%

64%

Portland, Maine

50

3%

-3%

$9,970

$10.68

8.5%

137%

Portland, Ore.

42

6%

-3%

$10,360

$10.25

11.2%

127%

Raleigh, N.C.

55

-7%

-4%

$7,380

$7.25

11.3%

126%

Reno, Nev.

55

-3%

-5%

$7,270

$8.25

13.7%

145%

Richmond, Va.

27

-4%

-4%

$12,820

$7.25

15.1%

72%

Rochester, N.Y.

57

-7%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

10.6%

156%

Sacramento, Calif.

55

14%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

13.3%

139%

Salt Lake City, Utah

71

-6%

-5%

$6,790

$7.25

7.6%

137%

San Antonio, Texas

54

-11%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

10.9%

94%

San Diego, Calif.

34

63%

0%

$9,680

$11.50

12.8%

152%

San Francisco, Calif.

44

74%

6%

$9,680

$12.00

10.3%

159%

Savannah, Ga.

50

-14%

-5%

$8,570

$7.25

19.4%

108%

Seattle, Wash.

40

26%

5%

$9,480

$15.00

12.5%

203%

South Bend, Ind.

54

-30%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

12.6%

99%

Spokane, Wash.

66

-17%

-5%

$9,480

$11.00

12.2%

149%

Springfield, Mo.

76

-34%

-4%

$8,870

$7.70

7.2%

111%

Springfield, Mass.

35

-8%

-4%

$12,730

$11.00

14.7%

111%

St. Louis, Mo.

74

-18%

-7%

$8,870

$7.70

11.0%

111%

Syracuse, N.Y.

56

-14%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

11.9%

156%

Tampa, Fla.

45

1%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

13.8%

163%

Toledo, Ohio

46

-34%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

14.7%

99%

Tucson, Ariz.

52

-12%

-5%

$11,220

$10.00

17.6%

114%

Tulsa, Okla.

54

-26%

-4%

$8,460

$7.25

14.5%

110%

Virginia Beach, Va.

29

4%

-4%

$12,820

$7.25

13.3%

72%

Visalia, Calif.

56

-18%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

17.1%

139%

Washington, D.C.

38

46%

2%

$9,580

$12.50

12.7%

167%

Wichita, Kan.

60

-28%

-4%

$9,230

$7.25

10.5%

101%

Youngstown, Ohio

51

-40%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Average of 100 Examined CSAs

51

-10%

-4%

$9,644

$8.46

12.7%

117%

Working your way through school scores (Living at home)

Metro

Score

Avg. In-State Tuition

Minimum Wage

Unemployment Rate (Age 16-24)

% of Tuition Covered by Work

Albany, N.Y.

62

$7,940

$9.70

13.5%

156%

Albuquerque, N.M.

66

$6,920

$8.50

13.0%

157%

Atlanta, Ga.

58

$8,570

$7.25

11.5%

108%

Augusta, Ga.

29

$8,570

$7.25

17.2%

108%

Austin, Texas

51

$9,840

$7.25

10.8%

94%

Bakersfield, Calif.

40

$9,680

$10.50

19.0%

139%

Baton Rouge, La.

29

$9,300

$7.25

15.1%

100%

Birmingham, Ala.

15

$10,530

$7.25

15.3%

88%

Boise City, Idaho

54

$7,250

$7.25

13.4%

128%

Boston, Mass.

65

$12,730

$11.00

11.0%

111%

Buffalo, N.Y.

84

$7,940

$9.70

10.3%

156%

Cape Coral, Fla.

94

$6,360

$8.10

9.3%

163%

Charleston, W.Va.

50

$7,890

$8.75

14.7%

142%

Charleston, S.C.

22

$12,610

$7.25

13.8%

74%

Charlotte, N.C.

50

$7,380

$7.25

13.9%

126%

Chattanooga, Tenn.

31

$9,790

$7.25

13.9%

95%

Chicago, Ill.

36

$13,620

$11.00

14.2%

103%

Cincinnati, Ohio

52

$10,510

$8.15

11.3%

99%

Cleveland, Ohio

47

$10,510

$8.15

12.3%

99%

Colorado Springs, Colo.

33

$10,800

$9.30

15.4%

110%

Columbia, S.C.

11

$12,610

$7.25

15.4%

74%

Columbus, Ohio

48

$10,510

$8.15

12.0%

99%

Corpus Christi, Texas

27

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Dallas, Texas

51

$9,840

$7.25

10.6%

94%

Dayton, Ohio

38

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Denver, Colo.

72

$10,800

$9.30

9.3%

110%

Des Moines, Iowa

71

$8,760

$7.25

8.1%

106%

Detroit, Mich.

16

$12,930

$8.90

14.9%

88%

El Paso, Texas

24

$9,840

$7.25

14.6%

94%

Fayetteville, N.C.

34

$7,380

$7.25

19.5%

126%

Fort Wayne, Ind.

62

$9,360

$7.25

9.0%

99%

Fresno, Calif.

41

$9,680

$10.50

17.7%

139%

Grand Rapids, Mich.

41

$12,930

$8.90

11.1%

88%

Greensboro,N.C.

57

$7,380

$7.25

12.7%

126%

Greenville, S.C.

40

$12,610

$7.25

11.0%

74%

Harrisburg, Pa.

31

$14,440

$7.25

11.9%

64%

Hartford, Conn.

44

$12,390

$10.10

13.2%

104%

Houston, Texas

26

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Huntsville, Ala.

34

$10,530

$7.25

12.4%

88%

Indianapolis, Ind.

51

$9,360

$7.25

11.1%

99%

Jackson, Miss.

34

$7,990

$7.25

17.6%

116%

Jacksonville, Fla.

73

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Kalamazoo, Mich.

50

$12,930

$8.90

10.0%

88%

Kansas City, Mo.

74

$8,870

$7.70

9.5%

111%

Knoxville, Tenn.

52

$9,790

$7.25

11.0%

95%

Lafayette, La.

26

$9,300

$7.25

16.2%

100%

Lakeland, Fla.

91

$6,360

$8.10

10.2%

163%

Lansing, Mich.

15

$12,930

$8.90

15.0%

88%

Las Vegas, Nev.

66

$7,270

$8.25

12.5%

145%

Lexington, Ky.

41

$10,300

$7.25

11.5%

90%

Little Rock, Ark.

78

$8,550

$8.50

9.8%

127%

Los Angeles, Calif.

57

$9,680

$12.00

14.5%

159%

Louisville, Ky.

41

$10,300

$7.25

11.6%

90%

Madison, Wis.

71

$8,960

$7.25

8.1%

104%

McAllen, Texas

17

$9,840

$7.25

16.3%

94%

Memphis, Tenn.

27

$9,790

$7.25

14.5%

95%

Miami, Fla.

73

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Milwaukee, Wis.

65

$8,960

$7.25

10.1%

104%

Minneapolis, Minn.

73

$11,300

$9.50

7.6%

108%

Mobile, Ala.

51

$10,530

$7.25

10.1%

88%

Modesto, Calif.

39

$9,680

$10.50

21.6%

139%

Nashville, Tenn.

62

$9,790

$7.25

8.1%

95%

New Orleans, La.

34

$9,300

$7.25

14.4%

100%

New York, N.Y.

65

$7,940

$11.00

14.1%

177%

North Port, Fla.

76

$6,360

$8.10

12.4%

163%

Oklahoma City, Okla.

57

$8,460

$7.25

11.7%

110%

Omaha, Neb.

85

$8,270

$9.00

9.1%

139%

Orlando, Fla.

79

$6,360

$8.10

11.9%

163%

Palm Bay, Fla.

90

$6,360

$8.10

10.3%

163%

Philadelphia, Pa.

9

$14,440

$7.25

15.2%

64%

Phoenix, Ariz.

62

$11,220

$10.00

11.7%

114%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

29

$14,440

$7.25

12.3%

64%

Portland, Maine

83

$9,970

$10.68

8.5%

137%

Portland, Ore.

68

$10,360

$10.25

11.2%

127%

Raleigh, N.C.

67

$7,380

$7.25

11.3%

126%

Reno, Nev.

58

$7,270

$8.25

13.7%

145%

Richmond, Va.

11

$12,820

$7.25

15.1%

72%

Rochester, N.Y.

83

$7,940

$9.70

10.6%

156%

Sacramento, Calif.

59

$9,680

$10.50

13.3%

139%

Salt Lake City, Utah

84

$6,790

$7.25

7.6%

137%

San Antonio, Texas

50

$9,840

$7.25

10.9%

94%

San Diego, Calif.

64

$9,680

$11.50

12.8%

152%

San Francisco, Calif.

86

$9,680

$12.00

10.3%

159%

Savannah, Ga.

27

$8,570

$7.25

19.4%

108%

Seattle, Wash.

76

$9,480

$15.00

12.5%

203%

South Bend, Ind.

41

$9,360

$7.25

12.6%

99%

Spokane, Wash.

69

$9,480

$11.00

12.2%

149%

Springfield, Mo.

80

$8,870

$7.70

7.2%

111%

Springfield, Mass.

38

$12,730

$11.00

14.7%

111%

St. Louis, Mo.

66

$8,870

$7.70

11.0%

111%

Syracuse, N.Y.

73

$7,940

$9.70

11.9%

156%

Tampa, Fla.

66

$6,360

$8.10

13.8%

163%

Toledo, Ohio

29

$10,510

$8.15

14.7%

99%

Tucson, Ariz.

34

$11,220

$10.00

17.6%

114%

Tulsa, Okla.

39

$8,460

$7.25

14.5%

110%

Virginia Beach, Va.

23

$12,820

$7.25

13.3%

72%

Visalia, Calif.

43

$9,680

$10.50

17.1%

139%

Washington, D.C.

72

$9,580

$12.50

12.7%

167%

Wichita, Kan.

61

$9,230

$7.25

10.5%

101%

Youngstown, Ohio

40

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Average of 100 Examined CSAs

51

$9,644

$8.46

12.7%

117%

Methodology:

For “On Your Own”, the top 100 Combined Statistical Areas by population were ranked against all examined CSAs according to the following characteristics:

  • Percentage of average in-state tuition a student could expect to pay working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage. ((1,280 x [local minimum wage]) / [average in-state tuition])
  • Unemployment rate for the population aged 16 – 24
  • Average rent price parity
  • Average goods price parity

The score is sum of all ranked parts (equally weighted) divided by four, for a total possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of four, and then rounded to the nearest integer. Final rankings are determined by the sum of all ranked parts, prior to division by four.

For “Living at Home”, the top 100 Combined Statistical Areas by population were ranked against all examined CSAs according to the following characteristics:

  • Percentage of average in-state tuition a student could expect to pay working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage. ((1,280 x [local minimum wage]) / [average in-state tuition])
  • Unemployment rate for the population aged 16 – 24

The score is sum of all ranked parts (equally weighted) divided by two, for a total possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of two, and then rounded to the nearest integer. Final rankings are determined by the sum of all ranked parts, prior to division by two.

Notes: Average rent and average cost of goods are the weighted (by youth population, ages 16-24) averages of those averages within component MSAs. Where there were multiple tuitions or/and minimum wages within a CSA, the lead city or state was used, except for the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA, where the minimum wage for San Francisco was used. The youth unemployment rate was calculated on the CSA level as the total unemployed population aged 16-24 divided by the total civilian population aged 16-24 in the labor force.

We assume that our hypothetical students would have at least 100 percent of their federal taxes refunded, but recognize that personal and family circumstances differ, and there may be substantial changes to tax policy.

References:

  1. “Figure 6: 2017-18 Tuition and Fees at Public Four-Year Institutions by State and Five-Year Percentage Change in In-State Tuition and Fees,” CollegeBoard, October 2017. Available at: https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2017-18-state-tuition-and-fees-public-four-year-institutions-state-and-five-year-percentage (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  2. American FactFinder Community Survey, US Department of Census, 2016.
  3. “State Minimum Wages / 2017 Minimum Wage by State,” National Conference of State Legislatures, January 5, 2017. Available at: http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  4. “Inventory of US City and County Minimum Wage Ordinances”, UC Berkeley Labor Center, November 16, 2017. Available at: http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/minimum-wage-living-wage-resources/inventory-of-us-city-and-county-minimum-wage-ordinances/ (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  5. Table 6. Regional Price Parities by Metropolitan Area, 2015, “Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2015”, Bureau of Economic Analysis, June 22, 2017. Available at: https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/rpp/2017/pdf/rpp0617.pdf (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  6. “Tuition costs of colleges and universities”, National Center for Education Statistics Fast Facts. Available at: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76 (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  7. Philip Trostel, “Beyond the College Earnings Premium. Way Beyond.”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 2017. Available at: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Beyond-the-College-Earnings/239013 (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  8. “Upcoming Minimum Wage Increases”, New York State Department of Labor. Available at: https://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/workprot/minwage.shtm (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  9. “Best Colleges” rankings, US News & World Report. Available at https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges (retrieved December 5, 2017).

The post The Best Places to Work Your Way Through College And Avoid Student Loan Debt appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Why That Stroller Strains So Many Parents’ Budgets

Miami mom Stephanie Viney, 28, says she chose a pricey UPPAbaby stroller for its many features and sturdiness. Baby strollers come in a variety of styles and price points, from $20 to more than $1,000. (Photo courtesy of Viney.)

No one needs to tell a new parent that raising a child in America is a pricey endeavor.

New parents can expect to spend about $233,610 on a child’s basic needs through age 17, excluding savings for higher education, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One of the first purchases you’re likely to make as a new parent is a stroller. When it came time for Brooklyn resident JiaYao Liu, 23, and her baby’s father to buy a stroller for their baby boy, now 3, they walked into Babies R Us expecting to spend about $80-$100. They were sorely mistaken.

“I didn’t expect it to be that expensive until I went and I looked,” Liu says.“You just want to carry your child from Point A to Point B, and there are some strollers with a whole bunch of toys on them, and I don’t think it’s necessary.”

The couple ultimately purchased the most-affordable stroller they could find. Liu says it was a store brand and the practical choice, based on her needs. Still, at around $130, it was a little outside their price range.

New Orleans resident Demetra Pinckney, 29, had a similar experience when she and her husband picked out a stroller for their baby registry.

“They have some strollers that are $500, $600,” Pinckney says. “I’m thinking: ‘Oh my goodness. No, I have to live. They have good strollers that don’t have to cost you a whole paycheck.’”

The stroller she picked out and ultimately received as a gift cost about $400.

Over the past few decades the baby stroller has gone from a practical parenting necessity to a luxury item for some, says Paul Hope, senior home editor at Consumer Reports. While you can still find a budget-friendly stroller, an increasing number of new premium models are priced north of $1,000.

“What I think has happened is that we have really seen the emergence of a lot of premium brands and they have become sort of a status symbol,” says Hope.

Why are baby strollers so expensive?

Marketers and manufacturers have capitalized on a ripe market, says David Katzner, president of The National Parenting Center, a parent advocacy organization, explaining why more high-priced strollers have entered the market. The organization has reviewed parenting products since 1990 and this year reviewed its first $1,300 stroller.

“For parents, our testers, the sticker shock is remarkable,” Katzner tells MagnifyMoney. He says the high prices prompt some parents to jokingly ask if the stroller is magical — for the money, can it educate the children, or even change a diaper?

Some parents are willing to spend top dollar even for products that will only be used until their little ones are able to walk on their own.

Miami mom Stephanie Viney, 28, says an expensive stroller is worth it if you have the money to spend.

When she and her husband were getting ready to have their first child, Finn, now 23 months old, they picked out an upscale traditional stroller: the UPPAbaby Cruz stroller, car seat and accessories totalling $1,100 for their baby registry.

“It is definitely expensive once you get everything you need; what sold me on it was the big, easy-access basket underneath,” says Viney. The stay-at-home mother and hairdresser says the stroller has held up well and is practical for her on-the-go lifestyle. “The UPPAs are sturdy strong strollers. You get what you pay for.”

A year after they received their first stroller, the couple shelled out $1,200 to upgrade to an UPPAbaby Vista stroller, large enough to hold both Finn and his four-month-old baby brother.

What you’re getting for the money

The most expensive strollers may be made with premium materials like leather upholstery, have some extra padding in the seat area, larger wheels that absorb shock, cupholders or extra basket space underneath. Viney’s UPPAbaby Vista even incorporates a “piggyback” attachment, which will allow one child to stand and ride along when they’re big enough. She and her husband are both tall, so she says it helps they can adjust the handlebar up and down, too.

“With very premium priced strollers, you might get premium materials and construction [or] the brand name, but there are very few categories of anything we test where paying more gets you more in the way of reliability or performance or even longevity,” says Hope.

How to make an informed stroller purchase

Even for Katzner, who has been reviewing parenting products for over a decade, navigating the stroller industry is at times “very, very confusing.”

“Worst of all is walking a trade show floor when they are all just filled with all the same product,” says Katzner, whose position requires he often attend trade shows where manufacturers display new strollers, car seats, feeding and nursing systems and other baby products.

“In many cases the person in the booth is struggling to show how their stroller is different from the guy next to them,” he says. “You might find as a parent you are in the exact same place. You might say, ‘what’s the difference?’”

Compare and test drive

A stroller is not an insignificant purchase. You’ll need to purchase one just like you would need to purchase a car seat or any other baby items and you will likely use it for a number of years. With many options to consider, your decision may depend on myriad factors.

Whatever you do, don’t let peer pressure be one of them, says Katzner. He advises parents not to simply choose what’s popular or has the best ratings online.

He recommends parents to some online research, take notes, then go test out strollers in person before they settle on a pick.

If you feel pressured to keep up with your peers, keep in mind, Consumer Reports has not found any reason to buy a stroller that costs more than $1,000, says Hope.

While you’re at the store, try any of these shopping tips to help make your decision.

Consider your lifestyle

Stroller options can be categorized into three main families: traditional, jogger, and umbrella. (Though you can find strollers with mixed features.)

What you ultimately choose will depend on how you plan you use the stroller.

If you are very active and plan to exercise with the stroller or take it along with you on tough terrains, you may want to consider a jogger. On the other hand, if you will need to lift the stroller often, you may choose, instead, an umbrella stroller.

“Umbrella strollers are really fabulous for collapsing on the subway or in transit going to the airport,” Hope says.

After her son turned 2, Liu supplemented her first stroller purchase with a $20 umbrella stroller from Target.

“It was difficult because of the subway stations,” she says of her first stroller. “Every time I had to fold the stroller and carry my bags, my son and his bags up the stairs.”

However, many jogging and umbrella strollers can’t be used with children less than 6 months old, because they don’t always accept car seats. That’s why Liu bought the big, chunky stroller, first. Hope says most people opt for the traditional stroller, as it suits most needs.

“Traditional strollers that accept an infant car seat or are compatible are typically the best value,” says Hope. “You’re guaranteed that the stroller will be safe to use with a baby that is under six months.”

Test for ease of use

Put the stroller through a comprehensive test when you’re shopping to test how easy it is for you to use. After all, you’re the one who will be spending the most time with the stroller. Katzner recommends you choose something that makes your life easier.

Everyone will have different determining factors. In general, Hope suggests shoppers check for how it feels to do things like lift the stroller, strap in the child, adjust the backrest or lock the wheel brakes.

In addition, he advises shoppers to take the stroller for a ride to test how easy it is to navigate. Hope suggests going with a small child if you already have one — or ask a friend or family member if you can take their youngster for a test drive — to simulate real-life situations like making tight turns and encountering curbs.

Liu says her first stroller weighed about 10 to 15 pounds, and she could fold and carry it with one hand when traveling in the city. She says a basket underneath also came in handy when she went out grocery shopping or had her son with her and had to bring along a bunch of his things.

On the other hand, the Pinckneys have a pickup truck, which makes it easy to load and unload a bulkier stroller. They also live in a suburban area, where they are less likely to need to lift or fold the stroller.

Look for the JPMA logo

“There is not a whole lot you can look for as a consumer in the way of safety,” says Hope. But, organizations like the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA) regulate strollers and they test for a whole host of safety factors, so you don’t have to. Look for the JPMA logo on the stroller box to feel confident the stroller you put your baby in meets today’s safety standards.

Some strollers and online retailers like Amazon.com may display the National Parenting Center’s seal of approval, too. The organization has real parents test and review children’s products on many features, so you can get a sense of what it’s like to actually use the stroller. Although the strollers the NPC reviews are generally already JCMA-approved, the organization notes that its seal of approval does not imply or guarantee product safety.

Question the salesperson

The salesperson’s job is to make sales, but your job is to be a responsible consumer. If you get to the store with one stroller in mind, but the salesperson pushes you toward a different pick, ask why, says Katzner.

“Of course the salesman is going to try to sell you the $600 stroller,” says Katzner. “Put them to the test and ask why. What does it do? What’s the difference?”

In the end, you’ll walk out more confident in your choice having asked all your questions, instead of feeling as if you were coerced into choosing a stroller with features you weren’t interested in, or may not ever use.

Think ahead

Hope says most traditional strollers that carry an infant car seat can be used from when the baby is born until they are about four or five years old; traditional strollers commonly adjust to accept a child that weighs up to about 50 to 60 pounds.

If you plan to have more children, you’ll need to do some forward thinking when choosing your first baby stroller. A durable stroller can go a long way. And, as long as safety standards don’t drastically change, it could serve you for more than one child.

When they had their second child, Viney ran into an issue. She now needed a double stroller, but her UPPAbaby Cruz couldn’t be converted into one.

“Once I realized I got the wrong UPPAbaby I was very upset,” Viney says. Because they already had $500 worth of seats and accessories, they decided to stay with the same brand and get a UPPAbaby Vista — the new stroller and a second seat cost about $1,200.

“The sales guy should have definitely asked if we were going to plan for more kids because when spending this kind of money you want to have it for long,” says Viney.

The bottom line: Don’t follow the crowd

Asked if she would have chosen a more expensive stroller, were money no object, Liu says no.

“If at the time I had more money or wasn’t strapped for cash I would have gone with the same thing. It was practical. It was fine. I have no complaints about it,” says Liu.

Pinckney, on the other hand, says she would choose a more expensive stroller if it had features her current stroller is missing like a tray up top, for parents, or cupholders.

It all comes down to personal preference. Choose the stroller that best fits your lifestyle at the best price point for your budget. Most importantly, pick a stroller that will make your life as a parent that much easier.

“Do not go beyond your means,” says Katzner. “Do not get something that is going to be unwieldy and make your life more difficult.”

The post Why That Stroller Strains So Many Parents’ Budgets appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Tiny Home Retirement: How Downsizing Helped Me Retire Early

tiny home living
When Rhonda Jourdonnais, 64, decided to retire early, she knew she needed to downsize her monthly housing costs. So she bought a tiny home on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

When Rhonda Jourdonnais turned 62, she began feeling she was ready for retirement. She had worked as a veterinary technician and assistant for 25 years, and wanted to try living off Social Security. But on a fixed income, there was no way she could afford her monthly mortgage and homeowners association fees at the townhouse she owned in Grass Valley, California.

She thought of different ways she could make her vision a reality, and then a drastic idea sprung to mind: She’d live in a tiny home.

Jourdonnais, 64, had followed the tiny-home movement since it began gaining popularity in the early 2000s. “Tiny House, Big Living” premiered on HGTV several years ago, and the TV show rekindled her interest in the movement. She was living in California at the time — where she’d been for five years — but says she wasn’t happy. She envisioned moving back here she used to live, on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

“In California, the housing is too expensive,” Jourdonnais tells MagnifyMoney. “I wouldn’t have been able to retire and still keep up my townhouse without working.”

The monthly HOA fee for her townhouse was close to $400, which would not have been sustainable.

She decided to take the leap in  2015. She sold her townhouse at a profit and put that money into her IRA. In October 2015, she flew to Colorado Springs, Colo., to order her tiny home. She found a company there that had been in business since 1999, and she considered them the most reputable. In December of that year, she retired from her job and in February 2016, she moved into her 8-by-24-foot home on a friend’s six-acre property on Whidbey Island. She pays her friend $200 per month to stay on her property.

“The tiny homemade retirement possible,” she says.

Toward early retirement

Jourdonnais says that since moving into her tiny home, she lives on roughly half of the money she did before retirement. Before, she would have had to work until she was 70 to save enough for retirement, and she didn’t feel physically or emotionally prepared for that.

Jourdonnais and many others are turning to tiny-home living as a way to make early retirement possible.

According to Senior Planet, 40 percent of tiny-home owners are over age 50. And there are other advantages that seem tailor-made for older Americans. According to figures cited in a CBS Moneywatch report from 2016, 89 percent of tiny house owners have less credit card debt than the average American, and 65 percent have none at all. Additionally, tiny home owners have about 55 percent more savings in the bank.

Long thought to be a lifestyle primarily for those interested in achieving more peace of mind through fewer objects, it has also become a way for many people to retire earlier with fewer utility costs, lower property taxes and little or no mortgage. (The average home in the U.S. costs $272,000, compared with $23,000 for a tiny home, according to The Tiny Life.)

Though pop culture has made the concept of tiny-home living popular, it’s still quite rare. Only 1 percent of homes purchased in the U.S. are below 1,000 square feet, and the average tiny home clocks in at somewhere between 100 and 400 square feet, according to data compiled by the blog Restoring Simple.

Weathering the challenges

Tiny-home living is rife with challenges, including complicated permit and zoning codes. But Jourdonnais says the biggest ongoing hurdle for her is simply adjusting to the space, especially on cold, rainy days.

“If I get up to go into my kitchen it’s like two steps,” she says. “If I go into my bathroom, it’s two steps. If somebody was claustrophobic, they probably wouldn’t like the lifestyle.”

Her advice to people interested in retiring early by moving into a tiny home is to try it out before buying a property. The U.S. has numerous tiny-home rental communities, which Jourdonnais recommends. “The thing I miss the most is the space,” she says. “It is a really big adjustment. It’s definitely worth it for people to try it out in some of the rental communities.”

But overall, Jourdonnais has loved her new lifestyle. She regularly takes a small pop-up travel trailer to campsites with her dog. (Some people actually travel with their tiny houses, but she does not — she says she doesn’t have a truck big enough to pull it.) And she has already traveled much more in retirement than she ever anticipated.

Jourdonnais has planned her finances so that she can sustain tiny-home living for many years to come, assuming her Social Security remains the same. “I imagine it could be the way I live the rest of my life,” she says, “as long as I stay healthy.”

The post Tiny Home Retirement: How Downsizing Helped Me Retire Early appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Who’s the Boss? Behind the Power Struggle at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

iStock

Updated Nov. 28, 2017

The drama over who will lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continued this week as two people battle over who will be the official acting director: one tapped by the agency’s former head, and the other appointed by President Donald Trump.   

Richard Cordray, the former director of the CFPB, named Leandra English as his successor hours before he resigned on Nov. 24. On the same day, President Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney, currently the head of the Office of Management and Budget, as the agency’s interim director.  

Two days after her appointment by Cordray, English filed a lawsuit against President Trump and Mulvaney seeking to block Mulvaney’s appointment. 

Despite the controversy, Mulvaney reportedly showed up for work at the CFPB on Monday, carrying a bag of doughnuts. A former South Carolina representative, Mulvaney had said in a 2014 interview with the Credit Union Times that the CFPB was “a joke…in a sick, sad kind of way.” In 2015, he co-sponsored a legislation to eliminate the agency. 

“He wants me to get it back to the point where it can protect people without trampling on capitalism,” Mulvaney said at a press briefing on Monday. 

Freshly appointed by Trump, Mulvaney announced a 30-day hiring freeze at the CFPB and an immediate halt on any new regulations, rules and guidances. 

English wasn’t at the bureau on Monday, but had identified herself as the acting director in an email to CFPB staff. “It is an honor to work with all of you,” she wrote in the email.  

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Mulvaney had instructed CFPB employees to disregard instructions from English “in her presumed capacity as Acting Director.” 

The lawsuit 

Bloomberg reports that Washington U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump nominee who has been on the bench since September, was assigned to rule on the case. A hearing was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday.  Update: Kelly ruled against English on Tuesday evening. While the ruling cannot be challenged, Politico reported that English’s lawyer, Deepak Gupta, said they would be discussing next steps, saying, “This judge does not have the final word on what happens in this controversy, and I think he understands that.”

In their complaint, English’s attorneys claim that under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the 2010 financial reform legislation that created the CFPB, the CFPB’s existing deputy director will take over the acting director role in the absence of the director. 

The lawyers argued that Dodd-Frank’s provision on succession supersedes the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1988, which allows the president to name an acting official if the existing official resigns. 

“The President’s attempt to appoint a still-serving White House staffer to displace the acting head of an independent agency is contrary to the overall statutory design and independence of the Bureau,” the complaint reads. “The President’s purported or intended appointment is also unlawful as a violation of the foundational principles of agency independence that Congress codified by the Dodd-Frank Act.” 

What’s at stake 

The CFPB is a U.S. government agency responsible for consumer protection in the financial sector, established in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. 

The agency has aggressively targeted bad actors in the financial industry since its creation, reclaiming $11.9 billion for more than 29 million consumers. Its latest high profile actions included the Wells Fargo unauthorized accounts scandal and creating new rules around payday lending.  

The Trump administration and Republicans have long sought to curtail the CFPB’s power as part of a broader effort to weaken federal regulation over financial institutions.   

In late October, Senate Republicans killed an arbitration rule that the consumer watchdog wrote and would have made it easier for Americans to file class action lawsuits against big financial institutions.  

Cordray was the agency’s first director, holding the office from 2013 until he announced he was cutting his tenure eight months short on Friday. He had been criticized by Washington conservatives and well-received by consumer advocates. 

Before taking on the role of the bureau’s acting director, English served as the agency’s chief of staff. She has held positions at the CFPB, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management, according to the CFPB statement. 

“In considering how to ensure an orderly succession for this independent agency, I have also come to recognize that appointing the current chief of staff to the deputy director position would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition given her operational expertise,” Cordray said in a statement. 

What now? 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at a Monday press briefing that the administration has nothing against English, that she is still CFPB’s deputy director and has a legal standing in that capacity, “but not as the director.” 

“We believe that Director Mulvaney is the right person at this time to lead [the CFPB] and that’s why he’s over there,” Sanders said.  

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Monday deemed the CFPB “a rogue, unconstitutional agency,” and that English “doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on” in her lawsuit. 

“Leandra English’s lawsuit to install herself as acting director against the president’s explicit direction is just the latest lawless action by the CFPB,” Cotton said in a statement. “The president should fire her immediately and anyone who disobeys Director Mulvaney’s orders should also be fired summarily. The Constitution and the law must prevail against the supposed resistance.” 

The National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income and other disadvantaged people, said on Monday that Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney is “illegal.” 

“In an attempt to install a wrecking ball at the helm of the consumer watchdog, President Trump has ignored the law that dictates that the consumer bureau’s deputy director takes over until Congress can confirm a new director,” the National Consumer Law Center statement reads. 

“We should not forget that just 10 years ago, a focus on bank profits over consumer protection rules resulted in the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, and many families have not yet recovered,” it continues. “It’s illegal and reckless to put someone who thinks that consumer protection is a joke in charge of our key financial watchdog.” 

The post Who’s the Boss? Behind the Power Struggle at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

5 Signs You’re Probably Going to Default on Your Student Loans

A newly released New York Federal Reserve analysis sheds some insight on factors that may determine if student loan borrowers are more or less likely to default on their loans.

According to Fed data, 28% of students who left college between 2010 and 2011 defaulted on their student loans within five years. That’s significantly higher than the students who left school five years earlier, between 2005 and 2006, of which only 19% defaulted within five years.

Defaulting on a student loan is big deal. Not only will someone who defaults on a student loan need to deal with collections calls, but a default can seriously harm a borrower’s credit rating, making it difficult to qualify for a personal loan or other large credit purchases like a new home.

The New York Fed’s analysis highlights factors that could determine default rates years after students leave school. They range from things a student can’t necessarily control —  family background and how selective the college they attended was — to things students may have a little more control over, like the degree and major they pursue.

The data show students in these categories are more likely to default on their student loans between ages 20-33:

  1. Dropped out before earning a degree.
  2. Enrolled in an associate’s degree program.
  3. Majored in arts and humanities.
  4. Attended a for-profit institution, community college or nonselective college.
  5. Came from a low-income family.

A few of the factors relate to things a student has some control over, like the kind of school chosen and the degree pursued. Another big factor, family background, depends more heavily on chance.

Here’s what the Fed found about how the factors influence default rates.

The school

For-profit, public, or nonprofit?

If a student attended a private for-profit two-year institution, their chances of default were highest of all — just above 3% were in default at age 22, shooting up to 42% by age 33. Students at private four-year for-profits weren’t far behind, with a default rate of

38.8% by age 33.

On the other hand, students were much less likely to struggle to repay their student loans at nonprofit institutions, both public and private. Private nonprofit four-year student had the lowest default rate at 17.2%. They were followed by students who attended public nonprofit four-year institutions.

Source: FBNY

Selective vs. nonselective

The Fed’s analysis found students who attended colleges that were more selective or competitive defaulted at lower rates that those who attended less-selective colleges. The analysis used Barron’s Profile of American Colleges to classify colleges into selective and nonselective based on competitiveness.

The degree

Graduate versus dropout

Whether or not a borrower graduated was the second-strongest predictor of default among borrowers, according to the Fed analysis. Overall, students who dropped out had higher rates of default versus borrowers who graduated no matter what kind of degree they attempted. The analysis notes that may be attributed to the fact graduates are more likely to find more gainful employment that would give them the ability to pay off their loans after earning a degree.

Source: FBNY

Associate versus bachelor’s degree

No matter what kind of college a graduate attended, students in a two-year degree programs had higher default rates than their peers who enrolled in a four-year college, according to the New York Fed analysis.

But the gap between default rates of two-year and four-year students was widest among students who attended public schools — 21.4% to 36.5%, respectively— a difference of more than 15 percentage points

STEM versus arts and humanities

Students who majored in arts and humanities defaulted on their loans at the highest rates — 26.3% at nonselective schools, 14.6% at selective schools— while STEM majors at selective schools (12%) and business students at selective schools (11.5%) defaulted at the lowest rates.  Overall, default rates among students who majored in business or a vocational programs were closer to STEM students than to arts and humanities majors.

Arts and humanities majors defaulted at higher rates regardless of the college’s selectivity, but if students majored in STEM, business or a vocational program, selectivity may have factored in more. By age 33, the default gap between students who chose a best-performing major and a worst-performing major was three percentage points at selective colleges, while at nonselective schools the gap was eight percentage points.

Source: FBNY

The student

Advantaged vs nonadvantaged

The Fed’s analysis took a look into defaulters’ income and family background, too. The analysis looked at the average income for the ZIP code area at a borrower’s youngest available age based on available loan data. The analysis defined students who came from households earning below the mean income based on ZIP code as nonadvantaged, and students from households earning above the mean income.

The analysis found borrowers who came from less-advantaged backgrounds based on income had higher default rates no matter what type of college they attended.

Taking both a borrower’s background and college into consideration, the widest gap in default rates observed in the analysis were among advantaged students who attended private nonprofit colleges (13% of whom defaulted by age 33) and nonadvantaged students who attended private for profit colleges (42.1% of whom defaulted by age 33).

Source: FBNY

The post 5 Signs You’re Probably Going to Default on Your Student Loans appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Uber Data Breach Impacts 57 Million — Here’s What You Need to Know

uber data breach hack
iStock

Some 57 million Uber users’ personal information was exposed in October 2016 when the car-hailing company experienced a cyber attack, the company announced Tuesday — more than a year after the occurrence of the incident. 

Some 57 million Uber users’ personal information was exposed in October 2016 when the car-hailing company experienced a cyber attack, the company announced Tuesday — more than a year after the occurrence of the incident. 

Bloomberg reported the company paid $100,000 to the hackers responsible for the attack to keep the breach private.  

What happened? 

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s new CEO who was appointed by the board in August, said in a statement that two people outside the company “inappropriately accessed user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service that we use.” 

The attackers stole data of the 57 million people across the globe, including their names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers. About 600,000 U.S.-based drivers were among 7 million Uber drivers whose license numbers and names were exposed in the breach. 

The data breach was the latest in a string of high profile cyber attacks that weren’t revealed until months or years later.  Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that Uber users have to worry about any of their financial information being exposed. Khosrowshahi said no evidence indicated that trip location history, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or dates of birth were stolen.  

What was done? 

After the attack happened, Uber “took immediate steps” to safeguard the data and blocked further unauthorized access to the information, according to Khosrowshahi. The company identified the hackers and made sure the exposed dada had been destroyed. Security measures were also taken to enhance control on the company’s cloud storage. 

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Khosrowshahi said. “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes. We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.” 

The company let go two employees who led the response to the incident on Tuesday, according to the statement. Uber is also reporting the attack to regulatory authorities.  

What can you do? 

Uber said no evidence shows fraud or misuse connected to the data breach.  

If you are an Uber rider…

The company said you don’t need to take any action. Uber is monitoring the affected accounts and have marked them for additional fraud protection, Khosrowshahi said. But you are encouraged to regularly monitor your credit and Uber accounts for any unexpected or unusual activities.

If anything happens, notify Uber via the Help Center immediately. You can do this by tapping “Help” in your app, then “Account and Payment Options” > “I have an unknown charge” > “I think my account has been hacked.” 

If you are an Uber driver…

If you are affected, you will be notified by Uber via email or mail and the company is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.  

You can check whether your Uber account is at risk here 

Check out our guide on credit freezes and other steps you can take to protect your identity if personal information is compromised in a data breach.

The post Uber Data Breach Impacts 57 Million — Here’s What You Need to Know appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

5 Alternative Gift Ideas that Don’t Come from a Toy Store

 

holiday gift ideas
iStock

Parents spent an average of $422 per child on holiday presents in 2016, according to a survey by T. Rowe Price. An estimated 56 percent of parents with children ages 8 to 14 use credit to purchase gifts, which are bound to include gadgets that’ll be old news by New Year’s but not paid off until months after that. 

Indeed, the holiday season — the most wonderful time of the year, as it’s known to some — may be far from wonderful for budgets as some parents try to fulfill every child’s every wish. 

A 2016 Experian holiday shopping survey found:  

  • 56 percent of people said they spend too much money during the holidays. 
  • 55 percent admitted that they feel stressed about their finances during the holidays. 
  • 43 percent said the extra expense makes the holidays hard to enjoy.  

Some parents overload their children with “stuff” that will quite possibly be obsolete or bested in popularity by the next big thing just in time for the next holiday season. No great mystery that the U.S. has 3.1 percent of the world’s children, but consumes 40 percent of the world’s toys. 

“We are a materialistic society, and often our rituals and celebrations reflect this,” says Dr. Mary Gresham, an Atlanta-based psychologist who specializes in financial and clinical psychology. “Many parents get caught up in this and start to believe that the right toy will bring happiness to their child.”  

Here are five gifts to give your little ones besides presents this year. Your overflowing closets and pockets may thank you for considering other gift options.  

The gift of a financial head start

You could get them a $50 toy that they’ll lose or break in a matter of weeks … or you could open an online investment account in your child’s name and teach them the beauty of investing.

And don’t worry if you’re not an expert.  

Brendan Mullooly, an investment adviser for an asset management firm in Wall Township, N.J., suggests that novice investors interested in making a financial gift to a young person should use a service like Stockpile, an online company that simplifies the process of gifting stocks to minors.  Check out our review here

“You can purchase gift cards of individual stocks and some index ETFs to give as a gift,” says Mullooly.

And Stockpile allows you to buy fractional shares, so the gift cards can be for small amounts.  Mullooly recommends setting up view-only access to these custodial accounts so your young investor can check on how the investments are doing.  

“This offers a great way to give a gift that’s interesting, has monetary value, and also offers an educational aspect,” he says. 

The gift of giving

For children, the holiday season can be a “gimme” time of year. But it’s also the time when we often hear that it’s better to give than receive.  

Jayne Pearl, a family business and financial parenting expert and co-author of “Kids, Wealth and Consequences: Ensuring a Responsible Financial Future for the Next Generation, says it’s not hard to nurture a child’s giving spirit. She suggests combating the “gimmes” with the “givvies.”

Put part of your holiday budget toward giving to the less fortunate, perhaps through a charitable organization. For example, you could give a gift in your child’s name to an organization such as Unicef or the American Red Cross, or to an area animal shelter or humane society.  

“Giving kids the tools and the consciousness to try to help people is extremely empowering,” Pearl says.  

Her recommendation is to sit down with your children and find out what bothers them about the world, help them figure out how they can help, and make this part of your holiday celebration. Use the holidays as a time to teach your kids that “we have values and our values are not just ‘stuff,’ ” Pearl says.

The gift of membership

You can’t go wrong with season passes to a favorite destination like a local museum, an amusement park or the zoo. You can use them over and over throughout the year, which could ultimately help your family spend less on entertainment. 

Also, check out memberships to national organizations, like the Baseball Hall of Fame for the sports enthusiast. 

Or get a pass that’s fun for the whole family, like the $80 America the Beautiful Annual Pass, which pays for itself in as few as five visits to national parks. The pass covers entry to over 2,000 parks for a full year, and nearly 100 percent of sale proceeds goes toward improving and enhancing federal recreation sites.
 

The gift of travel

Pool the money you would spend on toys and trinkets and knock a destination off your family bucket list. You could time the trip to coincide with the holiday season or breaks during the school year.  

Erica Steed, 37, allowed her children to choose something they wanted to experience together in Christmas 2016. 

Ellison, who was 10, wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. Elian, 7, wanted to see snow, which doesn’t often happen in Georgia. They took a family trip to New York for the holidays, and although it didn’t snow, “we had such a great time that it made up for it,” says Steed, who lives in Roswell, Ga.

When you factor in the cost of airline tickets and lodging in New York City for a family of four during the holidays, this gift option didn’t save the Steeds the money they would’ve spent on presents.

But by planning, creating a budget and sticking to it, the family spent the holidays doing something they could all enjoy and remember for a lifetime. And this, Steed says, amounted to money well spent.  

The gift of learning

You know your children better than anyone. And every one of them is unique, with his/her own set of interests, so give a gift that helps a child develop existing or new skills. 

Sign them up for classes that help them take their passion or hobby to the next level.  

Consider coding camp for your computer whiz or cooking classes for your foodie. You can find classes offered by educational institutions, community organizations, companies or individuals. 

You could also take a look at online classes like these from MasterClass, which can help your child hone a craft with a celebrity idol without leaving home. 

The post 5 Alternative Gift Ideas that Don’t Come from a Toy Store appeared first on MagnifyMoney.