From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car

The post From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

rebounding from bankruptcy

I was recently a guest on the Masters of Money podcast.  One of the statements Phil made was “Wait a minute.  How does one go from declaring bankruptcy to paying $22,000 cash for a car?”

I had never really looked at my journey in that way.  But, when I thought about it, I realized –  “Dang!  That really is pretty awesome.”  And, what is even more interesting is how my bankruptcy was the catalyst for bringing me to the place I am today.


WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

When I was in my 20s, I was in a relationship. To be totally honest, it was destined to fail.  We were just really too different and so it was never going to work out.  However, being young, naive and in love, I was doing all I could to make it work.

For me, that meant buying things to make him happy.  But, truth be told, I was really spending money to make myself happy.  I loved money because it made me feel good.  I adored all it offered to me.

Sadly (and like so many others), it lead me down the path of financial ruin.  Well, not the money itself.  My attitude did.

I had such an adoration of money, and what I thought it was doing for me, that I misused it. I allowed it to take control of my life to try to fill some of the emptiness I was experiencing.

In December 2001, that relationship came to an end.  When it happened, I was devastated. It was a mix of sadness because it was over but honestly, more fear of me being able to support myself alone financially.

I had built up a lot of debt with him. While it was joint debt, we were not married. We both knew that we could not make ends meet alone and that we also needed to find a way to put this all behind us.  So, bankruptcy it was.

That following August, we met in Wichita, Kansas before the bankruptcy judge and it became official. I was bankrupt.

 

REBOUNDING FROM BANKRUPTCY

Fortunately for me, a few months after that relationship ended, I had moved to a new city and met the man I would eventually marry.  In fact, he proposed to me just a week after I declared bankruptcy.  Talk about a keeper!  😉

When I met my husband, I learned a lot about myself and what real love was like. I began to understand that it wasn’t in the things I gave him or he to me, but in the moments we shared. For the first time in my life, I experienced true love and joy.

He was the change I needed.

We married in June 2003 and knew that we wanted to start our family as soon as possible.  One thing we both agreed upon was that we wanted for me to quit my job and stay home with our children.  It was important for both of us that one of us was there to raise them.  We knew it would be a financial challenge, but one we felt we could overcome together.

In September 2004, our first daughter was born.  That was the same day I officially quit my job.

 

HERE COMES THE DEBT (AGAIN)

Once I was staying home with our little girl, our finances changed.  They had to. We could not spend as much money dining out and in other ways as we once did.  We both knew that.   However, we also had purchased a new home and there were things we needed wanted.

A few months before she was born, my husband purchased a pickup.  One month after Emma arrived, we went out and bought a brand new minivan.

Between the vehicles and a home equity loan to buy things for our house, we had accumulated quite a bit of debt.  We just kept juggling the bills and trying to balance it all – and not very successfully.

I started working part-time from home a few hours a week. That meant I was able to be here to take care of my baby, and was also able to bring in a little bit of cash.  It was difficult to do, but I knew we needed the money, so I kept at it.

Our son followed in March 2007.  There was no way I could still try to work the hours they needed for me to, and raise two kids. My kids mattered more.

So, I quit.

We continued getting by.  There were times when we robbed Peter to pay Paul.  We were making it, but not in the way we wanted to.

Then, one evening, my husband told me to go out to dinner with my friends.  Little did I know what would happen next.

 

THE DINNER THAT CHANGED IT ALL

After an evening of dinner and drinks with my girl friends, it was time to pay.  Most of us pulled out a credit or debit card to pay.  However, my son’s Godmother, Kathy, reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope.

I asked her what that was about, as I’d never seen such a thing before.  She explained how they were using cash for everything instead of plastic because they were trying to get out of debt.

That intrigued me, so I asked her more questions.  She told me how she and her husband had recently started to follow Dave Ramsey.  They were able to create a budget and a plan that was helping dig them out of debt.  She filled us in on some of the program and what they were doing.  That left me wanting to learn more.

When I walked through the door that evening, I sat down and started sharing all of this with my husband.  We knew that our friends did not make much more than we did, so we thought “if they can do it – so can we.”

I grabbed my computer and we started researching this Dave Ramsey.  We had no clue who he was or what he taught. The more we read, the more we were inspired to follow his plan.  We pulled out the debit card and made our purchase.  Nope.  We didn’t even sleep on it.

 

HOW WE CREATED OUR DEBT FREE PLAN

Once the Dave Ramsey books and materials arrived in the mail, we were like two kids on Christmas morning. We tore open the box and could not wait until our kids were in bed that night…..so we could read!!!

Within the week, we had started our plan.  Luckily, we had around $2,000 in the bank, so our emergency fund was already taken care of. We created a budget and a debt snowball plan and were ready to attack.

I was looking at the numbers and our plan and it hit me. I was in debt again.  However, this time, I felt as if I had brought my husband along with me.  I felt horrible that I was back in this situation.

Yes, this time around the spending was not for the same reasons as before, but it had happened. Were we going to get out of debt and just do this all over again in a few years? Why would it be different this time? Did I really learn from my past mistakes?

I started giving this a lot of thought and realized that even though the bankruptcy was behind me, my money attitude was still the same.

 

MY (MUCH NEEDED) ATTITUDE CHANGE

When I looked at the money we had spent, I realized that it was because I enjoyed spending it.  It wasn’t because I was trying to replace an emptiness in my life. Heck! I was happier than I had been my entire life.  But yet, here I was, still building debt, buying things I did not really need.

I had to do a lot of self-analysis. It began with me asking myself one simple question:

“What do you feel when you think about money?”

For me, it was simple. I loved it. I loved how I could use it to get things I wanted.  And, not having had much money growing up, I thought I worked hard for this, so I will spend it as see fit.

When I said that out loud to myself, I knew it was not healthy. Money is not here just to get the things I want.  Sure, it is fun to buy items, but those things were never making me happy.  My husband and children were doing that for me.

I took another look at the debt and knew that the money had purchased things.  Those things were replaceable and if I lost them all tomorrow, I’d be OK.  However, my family wasn’t.  There was nothing in this world that could or would ever replace them.  Ever.

In that moment I made the decision that I was no longer going to love money.  I was going to love my family – and myself – more.

For me, it meant changing my entire attitude.  Once that happened, it all started to fall into place.

 

THE PLAN WE USED – THAT WORKED!

As I mentioned above, we read the Dave Ramsey plan.  While we followed most of what he said, we also had to do some of our own research and come up with our own ways to do things.

For my husband, it meant selling some of the guns he owns (he is an avid hunter).  I sold furniture and other items that were taking up space in the basement.  We had garage sales.  Any money we made from these ventures went to our debt.

I started researching and finding ways to save more money at the grocery store.  And, as a result of my findings, some of my on-line friends encouraged me to start a blog.  (And, we all know where that lead now, don’t we.  😉 ).

Through it all, we did it.

On February 10, 2010, we made the final payment on our mini van.  We had done it.  We had become debt free.

 

THE CASH CAR

Once we were out of debt, we were able to start saving money.  It felt amazing to be able to keep more of what we earned and not have to hand it over to everyone else.

My husband and I knew that we would eventually need to replace our mini van. We started paying ourselves monthly payments – instead of a car company.  We built up that savings for many, many years.

When we had enough built up to pay cash for a car, we did not do it.  Even though we had the money to pay for it, we did not really need a new car.  That was a want.

So, we saved even more and researched and waited until the right car came along.  And, it did.  More than 2 years after we had enough money to pay for the car we wanted, we made the purchase.

There is nothing like sitting down at the dealership and writing a check for a vehicle.  There is no worry about how to fit the payment into our budget. The car is ours.  We were able to drive it home and just enjoy it.

The hard work had paid off.

 

YOU CAN TO IT TOO – I PROMISE

During our journey, I found my calling.  It was to help others, just like you, do the same thing we did.  This blog is how I do that.

I have shared many stories, tips and ideas to help you and your family save money over the years. I know some of you have been able to follow my articles and get started on your own debt free journey.

However, reading a few articles here and there can be difficult to follow. My husband and I did that ourselves.  Yes, it worked for us, but we both kept wishing we could follow a plan that would not just give us a few tools on how to do things, but really be there.

Someone who would hold our hand when we were scared. That we would have others to lean for advice.  We wished that we could celebrate our victories with others who really understood and can relate.

That led me to where I am today.  This blog.  This chance to really help others.  And, in those continuing efforts, The Financial Reboot Course was born.

 

CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE – CHANGE YOUR LIFE

For me, the one change I needed to make was my money attitude.  I did not do that the first time around and I ended up making some of the same mistakes. History was repeating itself.

Once you can do the same thing, and really understand the root of how you feel about money, then – and only then – can you start to overhaul your finances.  If you don’t change the way you handle money, you will be destined to make the same mistakes over and over again.

I want to guide you on your own financial journey. I want you to be successful. I want you to be able to shout it from the rooftops — I’M DEBT FREE!!!!

Let me help you make the change you need at this moment in your life.  Kick start your own Financial Reboot, and leave the past in the past.

 

The post From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How to Financially Prepare for Post-Pandemic Life

As the dust slowly begins to settle and we observe businesses putting their action plans in place to recover, we all sit and wonder what this may look like for us. How will I recover from this? How am I going to cover these unexpected expenses? How will I increase my earning potential? Whether you’re navigating the muddy waters of being unemployed, furloughed, return to office plans or continue working remotely – we have many things to consider as time continues to quickly progress. How should we handle debt? Are there any more relief programs or funding? How can we pick up the pieces and properly recuperate what may have been lost? Use the tips below to jumpstart your journey of reclaiming your finances.

Identify your financial focuses

Over the course of this year, many financial goals that were initially set needed to be tweaked or came to a screeching halt altogether. While it would be nice if we could rectify the many financial aspirations we have for ourselves and our families all at once, it’s simply not realistic. To alleviate the impounding pressure many have had to experience for a good chunk of time this year, it’s best to identify two to three key areas of focus. Not only does narrowing your focus help direct where your efforts should lie, it removes unnecessary stress so that a plan of attack can be created and executed upon. For example, if you would like to begin rebuilding your emergency fund, savings or simply get caught up on bills and other overhead expenses – make sure the actionable steps you take align with the overarching goal. This helps create tunnel vision to execute on the goal while quieting the noise of things that can be tackled at a later time. You owe it to yourself and your finances to see these goals through to the finish line.

Revisit your budget and make adjustments as necessary

Many think of budgeting like that pesky chore you put off every single week. It’s that ‘thing’ you know needs to be done, but you always find something else to do instead. However, once it’s done – you’re always glad that you did it. Even if you have to have an adult temper tantrum, pull out the pen and paper (once again) to compare your income with expenses. Has your income increased or decreased? Are there expenses that are no longer on the list? Are there certain wants or luxuries that can be temporarily put on hold until things settle down? Take all of these factors into consideration when recalibrating your budget. Since there’s an increased amount of time indoors, are there any spending habits you’ve noticed that have been on the rise? If these questions are not easily answered, commit to reviewing the last few months of your bank statements. Do you notice more to-go food orders? An increased amount of emotional or impulsive purchases? Be honest with yourself and your habits so that you can address and make changes to healthily rebuild your finances.

Adjust debt payoff plan

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to contact your creditors – consider this as a reminder! It’s imperative you maintain an open line of communication with all lenders. These conversations can potentially lead to various options being available to assist you in your debt payoff process. Remember to keep in mind that you are not the only person experiencing financial hardship, so let pride become a thing of the past and be candid. Are there relief options during the pandemic? Are interest rates being lowered because of the current climate? If I were to miss a payment, what are the consequences? Are negative remarks being reported to the credit bureaus? Be very clear in your delivery. There are thousands and thousands of people attempting to pick up the pieces on their money journey. Take some time to check all creditor accounts for the most recent balances. From there, create (or readjust) your plan based on your personal circumstances. If it’s easier to tackle the smallest debt, shift your attention to those accounts. If catching up and restoring good standing with utilities and other overhead expenses need to be addressed first, do that. There is no right or wrong way to approach your plan; just don’t adopt the spirit of avoidance.

Monitor your credit score regularly

There’s been a huge surge in personal data being compromised due to the pandemic. To protect yourself and your credit score, be sure to obtain a copy of your credit report from at least one of the bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) and review regularly. Normally, you are allotted one free credit report every year – however, because of the pandemic you can now request your report weekly at no cost to you until April 2021. We all know there’s a lot on all of our plates, but this can be incorporated in your weekly routine to make sure information stays accurate. During your review if there’s anything that’s false, submit a dispute and be sure to have any supporting documentation that can serve as evidence to support your claim.

Even though we don’t like to admit it, life can present a lot of challenges that we may not be fully prepared for in our ever-changing adulthood journey. This pandemic has shined a light on the areas in our lives that can use some more time, intention and attention. Instead of beating ourselves up about the lack of preparedness, let’s be sure to make adjustments now so no matter what happens with the economy or the state of this country it does not have such a huge, negative impact to our financial goals. Let’s face it – even in the midst of tragedy, this year equipped us with a different level of endurance and resilience. It reminded us what really matters and where our energy should really be dedicated to. Start where you are and do what you can. Refrain from comparing your personal money story to someone else’s. We all have unique situations and obligations that influence our saving and spending plans. Dust yourself off, grant yourself grace and begin a new chapter in your financial journey.

 

The post How to Financially Prepare for Post-Pandemic Life appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

The ABCs of Financial Empowerment

A quick Google search of ‘financial literacy’ will yield thousands of results, listing an infinite amount of do’s and don’ts that should (and shouldn’t) be followed to guide you along on your financial journey.

However, when you think of financial empowerment – what comes to mind? As defined by Merriam-Webster, empowerment is “the act or action of empowering someone or something: the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties.” No matter what your current sentiments are related to your finances, we will explore three key areas to not only embrace; but to help you prepare for a strong financial future.

Awareness

Now more than ever, we all have a laser-sharp focus on our money and where it’s being spent. The pandemic has generated a hypersensitivity to how we treat our finances while also determining what essential expenses look like and where they fit into our budget.

Before life as we knew it to be shifted, many of us don’t have to look too far back to remember a time where we didn’t check our accounts as often, our savings plan would fluctuate month-over-month or our emergency fund was used to bail us out of some impulsive spending.

To make sure those days are forever of the past, make it a habit to take inventory and audit all of your accounts. Take at least 15 – 30 minutes to review over any transactions and deposits across all active accounts. Not only does this help improve your self-accountability, but you are also able to make any disputes if anything appears incorrect and resolve quickly.

Another small but impactful tip is to acknowledge your financial health. What top three areas will be your main point of focus? If this is something you don’t know offhand, review your transactions from the last three months and categorize them. How much of your money went to impulsive buys or things that could have been purchased at a later date? Are you seeing an influx in overhead expenses or credit card payments? Are there any spending patterns you can explicitly see? Allow this exercise to serve as an eye-opening experience.

In order to determine where you want to be, you must first truthfully acknowledge where you are. This sets the blueprint and overall expectations with your personal finance journey. Knowing where you are may not feel pleasant but avoidance will lead to bigger consequences.

Betterment

Even though we don’t like to admit it, there’s always room for improvement and our finances are no exception. The first thing that guarantees mastery is actually following the budget that’s created. This serves as a guardrail – it’s used to keep us on track so we can greet our financial destination with open and inviting arms.

Once that’s in motion, explore ways to enhance your financial experience. Begin by automating recurring expenses, such as cellphone service or utility bills. That’s why it’s so important to be as honest and accurate as possible when setting a budget. Nothing should come to you as a surprise outside of any emergencies. When you trust yourself and the financial work you’ve put in, your finances have no choice but to follow suit.

If you haven’t already (or need to get back on track), work to beef up your emergency fund and savings account. Emergency expenses have a tendency to appear out of nowhere, so you want to dedicate a set dollar amount or a percentage every pay period. Setting up an automatic transfer to these accounts establish a routine while putting your mind at ease in the process.

Is there a hobby or skill you’d like to put to use and monetize? No matter how grandiose or small, this can definitely expedite achieving your financial goals. The money earned from a passion project can go toward savings, paying off debt or simply getting back to a place of comfort financially. Vacation funds or prepping for large purchases such as a car or home can also fall within this category. If you want to seek the assistance of a professional, search for financial advisors or coaches that could help you with reaching your goals. Preparation is key and your future depends on it!

Confidence

The foundation has been laid and you’ve been committed to crushing your financial goals. The budget and savings goals are in motion; so what’s next? It’s time to celebrate! Walk into your financial future with your best foot forward. When times seem bleak, remind yourself of your goals early and often.

Reinforcement such as daily reminders on your phone, having goals posted somewhere in your home you can see daily or reciting positive financial affirmations will serve as a second wind when you want to throw in the towel. Be sure to celebrate wins along the way such as debt payoff, reduction or hitting a new savings goal. Never been able to invest before and now you have the additional income to get in the game? Celebrate that!

The best way to generate excitement is to rally your family and get them involved. Create family challenges to get your children excited about saving funds and reallocating money. Come up with creative ways you all can commemorate knocking out a goal by ordering from your favorite restaurant or saving for a family staycation.

In order to walk in confidence, you have to build up the courage to begin no matter where you are or how many times you’ve had to start over. Each step counts – each successful budget, savings goal and consistent reduction of overall expenses. Be sure to keep in mind, financial freedom looks different for everyone and has the ability to pivot over time. While some may want to vacation throughout the year, save for their children’s college fund or wipe debt out completely, all are significant and take sacrifice. What is the key to achieving such a pinnacle level of confidence? Time.

 

Be kind to yourself and understand mistakes should never be equated to failures. Your commitment to this financial journey will always be rewarded.

The post The ABCs of Financial Empowerment appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Affording a Second Child: How to Make Your Budget Work

Having kids is anything but cheap. According to the USDA, families can expect to spend an average of $233,610 raising a child born in 2015 through age 17—and that’s not including the cost of college. The cost of raising a child has also increased since your parents were budgeting for kids. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the cost of having children increased by 40 percent.

If you’ve had your first child, you understand—from diapers to day care to future extracurricular activities, you know how it all adds up. You’ve already learned how to adjust your budget for baby number one. How hard can it be repeating the process a second time?

While you may feel like a parenting pro, overlooking tips to prepare financially for a second child could be bad news for your bank account. Fortunately, affording a second child is more than doable with the right planning.

If your family is about to expand, consider these budgeting tips for a second child:

1. Think twice about upsizing

When asking yourself, “Can I afford to have a second child?”, consider whether your current home and car can accommodate your growing family.

Think twice about upsizing your car or house if you're concerned about affording a second child.

Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, says sharing bedrooms can be a major money-saver if you’re considering tips to prepare financially for a second child. Sharing might not be an option, however, if a second child would make an already small space feel even more cramped. Running the numbers through a mortgage affordability calculator can give you an idea of how much a bigger home might cost.

Swapping your current car out for something larger may also be on your mind if traveling with kids means doubling up on car seats and stowing a stroller and diaper bag onboard. But upgrading could mean adding an expensive car payment into your budget.

“Parents should first decide how much they can afford to spend on a car,” Palmer says.

Buying used can help stretch your budget when you’re trying to afford a second child—but don’t cut corners on cost if it means sacrificing the safety features you want.

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Families can expect to spend an average of $233,610 raising a child born in 2015 through age 17—and that’s not including the cost of college.

– USDA

2. Be frugal about baby gear

It’s tempting to go out and buy all-new items for a second baby, but you may want to resist the urge. Palmer’s tips to prepare financially for a second child include reusing as much as you can from your first child. That might include clothes, furniture, blankets and toys.

Being frugal with family expenses can even extend past your own closet.

“If you live in a neighborhood with many children, you’ll often find other families giving away gently used items for free,” Palmer says. You may also want to scope out consignment shops and thrift stores for baby items, as well as online marketplaces and community forums. But similar to buying a used car, keep safety first when you’re using this budgeting tip for a second child.

“It’s important to check for recalls on items like strollers and cribs,” Palmer says. “You also want to make sure you have an up-to-date car seat that hasn’t been in any vehicle crashes.”

3. Weigh your childcare options

You may already realize how expensive day care can be for just one child, but that doesn’t mean affording a second child will be impossible.

A tip to prepare financially for a second child is to weigh your childcare options.

Michael Gerstman, chartered financial consultant and CEO of Gerstman Financial Group, LLC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says parents should think about the trade-off between both parents working if it means paying more for daycare. If one parent’s income is going solely toward childcare, for example, it could make more sense for that parent to stay at home.

Even if this budgeting tip for a second child is appealing, you’ll also want to think about whether taking time away from work to care for kids could make it difficult to get ahead later in your career, Palmer adds.

“If you stay home with your child, then you’re also potentially sacrificing future earnings,” she says.

4. Watch out for sneaky expenses

There are two major budgeting tips for a second child that can sometimes be overlooked: review grocery and utility costs.

If you’re buying formula or other grocery items for a newborn, that can quickly add to your grocery budget. That grocery budget may continue to grow as your second child does and transitions to solid food. Having a new baby could also mean bigger utility bills if you’re doing laundry more often or running more air conditioning or heat to accommodate your family spending more time indoors with the little one.

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Gerstman recommends using a budgeting app as a tip to prepare financially for a second child because it can help you plan and track your spending. If possible, start tracking expenses before the baby arrives. You can anticipate how these may change once you welcome home baby number two, especially since you’ve already seen how your expenses increased with your first child. Then, compare that estimate to what you’re actually spending after the baby is born to see what may be costing you more (or less) than you thought each month. You can then start reworking your budget to reflect your new reality and help you afford a second child.

5. Prioritize financial goals in your new budget

Most tips to prepare financially for a second child focus on spending, but don’t neglect creating line items for saving in your budget.

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“An emergency fund is essential for a family,” Palmer says. “You want to make sure you can cover your bills even in the event of a job loss or unexpected expense.”

Paying off debt and saving for retirement should also be on your radar. You might even be thinking about starting to save for your children’s college.

Try your best to keep your own future in mind alongside your children’s. While it feels natural to put your children’s needs first, remember that your needs are also your family’s—and taking care of your future means taking care of theirs, too.

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“Putting money aside when you’re expecting can help offset the sticker shock that comes with a new member of the family.”

– Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet

The key to affording a second child

Remember, the earlier you begin planning, the easier affording a second child can be.

“Putting money aside when you’re expecting can help offset the sticker shock that comes with a new member of the family,” Palmer says. Plus, the more you plan ahead, the more time you’ll have to create priceless memories with your growing family.

The post Affording a Second Child: How to Make Your Budget Work appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits

Before the coronavirus reached the U.S., unemployment was low and few could have anticipated a global pandemic. However, as the pandemic and ensuing recession took hold, a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits to stay financially afloat.

“COVID-19 led to an incredible number of American workers being without work,” says Julia Simon-Mishel, an unemployment compensation attorney. “And it’s caused a huge need for individuals to file for unemployment insurance.”

Unemployment insurance, or unemployment benefits, can offer an essential lifeline. But if you’ve never accessed these benefits before, you may have questions about how they work. You might also be asking: What do I do when my unemployment benefits run out and I’m still unemployed?

This article1 offers tips about what you need to know about filing an unemployment claim. It also addresses the following questions:

  • How do you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits?
  • Can your unemployment benefits be extended?
  • What can you do when unemployment runs out?
  • Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?

A record number of people have filed for unemployment, and many are wondering what to do when unemployment runs out.

If you’re just getting ready to file or need a refresher on the basics of unemployment benefits, read on to have your questions answered.

If you’re already collecting benefits and want to know what happens once you reach the end of the benefit period, skip ahead to “Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out.”

Common questions about unemployment benefits

Experiencing a job loss is challenging no matter what. Keep in mind that you’re not alone, and remember that unemployment benefits were created to help you.

As you consider how to prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, remember that you're not alone.

While they’re designed to provide financial relief, unemployment benefits are not always easy to navigate. Here’s what you need to know to understand how unemployment benefits work:

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance provides people who have lost their job with temporary income while they search for and land another job. The amount provided and time period the benefits last may vary by state. Generally, most states offer up to half of a person’s previous wages in unemployment benefits for 26 weeks or until you land another full-time job, whichever comes first. Requirements and eligibility may vary, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment agency for guidance.

How do you apply for unemployment benefits?

Depending on where you live, claims may be filed in person, by phone or online. Check your state government’s website for details.

Who can file an unemployment claim?

This also may vary from state to state, but eligibility typically requires that you lost your job or were furloughed through no fault of your own, in addition to meeting work and wage requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government loosened restrictions, extending unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.

When should you apply for unemployment benefits?

Short answer: As soon as possible after you lose your job. “If you are someone who has had steady W2 work, it’s important that you file for unemployment the moment you lose work,” Simon-Mishel says. The longer you wait to file, the longer you’re likely to wait to get paid.

When do you receive unemployment benefits?

Generally, if you are eligible, you can expect to receive your first benefit check two to three weeks after you file your claim. Of course, this may differ based on your state or if there’s a surge of people filing claims.

Can unemployment benefits be extended? Check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

2020 enhancements to unemployment benefits for freelance and contract workers

In early 2020, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. In addition to other benefits, the CARES Act created a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other workers who were typically ineligible. That means that if you don’t have steady W2 income—for instance, freelance and contract workers, those who file 1099s, farmers and the self-employed—you still may qualify for unemployment benefits.

“That program is a retroactive payout,” Simon-Mishel says. “If you’re just finding out about that program several months after losing your job, you should be able to file and get benefits going back to when you lost work.”

Because legislation affecting unemployment benefits continues to evolve, it’s important that you keep an eye out for any additional stimulus programs that can extend unemployment benefits. Be sure to regularly check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

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“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you.”

– Julia Simon-Mishel, unemployment compensation attorney

Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out

In a perfect world, your job leads would become offers long before you reached the end of your unemployment benefits. But in reality, that’s not always the case.

If you’re still unemployed but haven’t yet exhausted your benefits and extensions, you may want to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits as early as possible so you don’t become financially overwhelmed. Here are four tips to help you get through this time:

Talk to service providers

Reaching out to your utility service providers like your gas, electric or water company is one of the first steps John Schmoll, creator of personal finance blog Frugal Rules, suggests taking if you’re preparing for the end of unemployment benefits.

“A lot of times, either out of shame or just not knowing, people don’t contact service providers and let them know what their situation is,” Schmoll says. “[Contact them to] see what programs they have in place to help you reduce your spending, and basically save as much of that as possible to help stretch your budget even further.”

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Save what you can

To help prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, a few months before your benefits end, Schmoll suggests cutting back spending as much as possible, focusing only on necessities.

“If you can try and save something out of the benefits that you’re receiving while you’re receiving them—it doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $20—that’s going to help provide some cushion,” Schmoll says. Keep those funds in a separate account if you can, so you’re not tempted to spend them. That way you’re more prepared in case of an emergency.

If you hunkered down during your period of unemployment and were able to save, try to resist the urge to splurge on things that aren’t necessary.

“There might be temptation to overspend, but curtail that and focus on true necessities,” Schmoll says. “That way when [or if] you receive an extension on your benefits, you now have that extra money saved.”

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Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Seek additional financial aid

If you find that your savings and benefits aren’t covering your expenses, and you’re reaching a point where you no longer qualify for benefits, look into other new benefit programs or features designed to help during times of crisis.

For example, there are programs across the country to assist people with rent or mortgages, Simon-Mishel says. Those programs are generally designed to keep those facing financial hardship from losing their home or apartment. You may need to show that you are within the programs’ income limits to qualify, or demonstrate that your rent is more than 30 percent of your income. These programs vary widely at the state and even city level, so check your local government website to see what might be available to you.

As you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, explore which government benefits or government agency may be best suited for your needs.

Keep up with the news

During economic downturns, government programs and funds often change to keep up with evolving demand.

“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you,” says Simon-Mishel. “You should closely pay attention to the social media of your state unemployment agency and local news about other extension programs that might be added and that you might be eligible for.”

Pay attention to social media and local news as you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Options for extending your unemployment benefits

If you’re currently receiving benefits, but they’ll be ending soon, you’re likely wondering what to do when your unemployment runs out and asking if your unemployment benefits can be extended. Start by confirming when you first filed your claim because that will determine your benefit end date.

If you’re wondering, “Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?” the answer is yes, but you’ll have to wait until your current “benefit year” expires. Note that a benefit year is 12 months from when you file a claim. If you filed at the beginning of June, for example, you generally can’t file again until the beginning of the following June.

You may get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, depending on your state’s rules at the time. Most states extended the payout period to 39 weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Check your state’s website for the particulars on what to do when your unemployment runs out.

If your claim is still active but you’ll be in need of additional financial relief after your unemployment benefits run out, here are your options:

File for an unemployment extension

During extraordinary economic times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government may use legislation like the CARES Act to offer people more benefits for a longer period of time, helping many people concerned about whether unemployment benefits can be extended.

Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out? It can vary by state, so reach out to your unemployment office.

For example, in 2020, for most workers who exhaust, or receive all of, their unemployment benefits, a 13-week extension should automatically kick in, Simon-Mishel says. This would bring you up to 39 weeks total. However, if more than a year has passed since you originally filed and you need the extension, you will likely need to file a short application provided by the government. Details vary by state.

As you’re determining what to do when your unemployment runs out, reach out to your unemployment office. It’s important to do this before your benefits expire so you can avoid a missed payment. You can also confirm you’re eligible and that you can refile for unemployment after it runs out.

Ask about the Extended Benefits program in your state

Can unemployment benefits be extended beyond that? In periods of high unemployment, you may qualify for a second extension, depending on your state.

“After those [first] 13 weeks, many states have added a new program called Extended Benefits that can provide another 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment when a state is experiencing high unemployment,” Simon-Mishel adds. This means you may be able to receive a total of up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits, including extensions. The total number of weeks of unemployment you may receive varies based on your state and the economic climate.

It’s hard enough keeping up with everything as you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, so don’t worry if you don’t have your state’s benefits program memorized. Visit your state’s unemployment insurance program page to learn more about what benefits are available to you.

For anyone considering what to do when unemployment runs out, it's important to take things one day at a time.

Beyond unemployment benefits

While life and your finances may seem rocky now, know that you’re not alone. Remember that there are resources available to help support you, and try to take things one day at a time, Schmoll says.

“Realize that at some point your current situation will improve.”

If you find that your benefits aren’t covering all of your expenses, now may be the time to dip into your cash reserve. Explore these tips to determine when it’s time to use your emergency fund.

1 This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Eligibility for unemployment benefits may be impacted by variations in state programs, changes in programs, and your circumstances. If you have questions, you should consider consulting with your legal counsel, at your expense, or seek free assistance from your local legal aid organization.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com