How to Become a Paid Caregiver for a Family Member

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The American Council on Aging strongly recommends finding a Medicaid planner to help with applying for caregiver roles and other benefits.
Genworth, a Virginia-based provider of long-term care insurance, conducts an annual survey on the cost of care for retirees. The median price for one month in a private room in a nursing home in 2020 was ,821. A semi-private room cost ,756 a month.
Medicaid eligibility in general, not just for these programs and waivers, is not consistent across the country. A general rule of thumb as of 2021 is senior applicants can’t have more than ,382 in income and ,000 in assets.
State-specific eligibility can be found here. If a senior is already enrolled in Medicaid, the next step is contacting their state’s Medicaid office.

How to Become a Paid Caregiver for a Family Member

“The vast majority of older adults want to stay in their homes as they age, and allowing them to pay a friend or family member to help with their daily needs can make that possible,” said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president of AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “The pandemic provided a push for states to expand this option, and we hope many of them will make their policy changes permanent.
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  • Home and Community Based Services Waivers are offered by the majority of states. But many have a limited number of these waivers, so there may be a waiting list. This waiver allows the Medicaid participant to hire a friend or relative as a personal care assistant. This is also referred to as the 1915 C waiver.
  • The Self-Directed Personal Assistance Services State Plan Option allows a Medicaid participant to hire, train and pay the personal care assistant they choose. Based on the budget Medicaid offers, the participant decides what the assistant is paid. One unique part of this option is the participant pays employment taxes on the assistant. An intermediary helps with this financial aspect of the process.
  • Community First Choice, also called the 1915 state plan option, actually applies to Medicaid recipients who are in nursing homes but need personal care services. Instead of paying extra for a staff member at the facility to provide that care, this option allows friends or family to help with bathing, grooming, light housekeeping and transportation. According to the American Council on Aging, the following nine states offer this option: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Montana, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
  • With the Caretaker Child Exception, Medicaid doesn’t pay the adult child a wage to care for their parent but allows the parent’s house to be transferred to the adult child as a form of payment. This comes into play when an elderly Medicaid participant is moving into a nursing home but wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid because they own their home.

Learn More About Medicaid 

Clients must show they need a certain level of care, and caregivers must show they are capable of providing that care. If the client needs medical care and the loved one isn’t trained for that, they cannot be designated as the caregiver.
Katherine Snow Smith is a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder.
“Paying family caregivers is a solution that saves states money and meets the growing need for long-term care.” <!–


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Why Your Mortgage May Get More Expensive

Last Friday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced plans to increase guarantee fees (g-fees) on loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Banks and lenders pay Fannie and Freddie so-called “g-fees” in exchange for purchasing their loans and bundling them into mortgage-backed securities, which are then sold to investors on the secondary market.

The pair also assume the risk if the loans in the underlying securities default, which has certainly been an issue since the mortgage crisis reared its ugly head.

Since then, g-fees have inched higher and higher to account for risks not seen in years past when home price appreciation masked the impending danger.

Currently, it is estimated that Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about 60 percent of residential mortgages, meaning there’s a good chance they own yours.

And their share has certainly increased even more as a result of the credit crunch, which pushed many private players out of the secondary market.

G-Fees Going Up 10 Basis Points

The FHFA has now directed Fannie and Freddie to raise g-fees on single-family mortgages by an average of 10 basis points (0.10%).

This comes on the heels of an increase back in April, which was implemented to fund the payroll tax cut extension.

The increases will be effective with commitments starting November 1, 2012 for loans sold for cash, and December 1, 2012 for loans exchanged for mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

The average g-fee charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased to 28 basis points in 2011 from 26 basis points in 2010, according to a new annual report required by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Why the Latest Increase?

FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco said the move is intended to lure more private capital into the mortgage market, which is largely government-supported at the moment.

He believes the increase will move the pair’s pricing closer to a level one would expect if mortgage credit risk were privately capitalized.

The hope is to get the government out of housing, or at least minimize its enormous role.

The big question is whether the higher fees will actually be felt by consumers. At the moment, mortgage rates are pretty much at their lowest levels ever.

And because the Fed keeps buying mortgage securities, rates have inched lower and lower.

So any increase related to the g-fees may actually be absorbed by the Fed. If rates do increase, one would expect something minimal, such as a rate of 3.625% instead of 3.5% on a 30-year fixed mortgage.

It’s not to say it’s an incidental increase, as that can equate to thousands over the life of the loan term, but all things considered, mortgage rates are already highly subsidized by the government.

Speaking of, the new fees are also intended to reduce cross-subsidies between higher-risk and lower-risk mortgages by increasing the fee more on loans with terms longer than 15 years.

Put simply, 15-year fixed mortgages are less likely to default, and thus should come with lower guarantee fees.

The move is also intended to make g-fees more uniform for both lenders who deliver large loan volumes and those that originate smaller volumes.

At the moment, the bulk of loans sold to Fannie and Freddie come from a small number of large lenders.

Mortgage Rates Based on State?

The FHFA also left a cliffhanger at the end of their press release, noting that it was developing risk-based pricing at the state level.

In other words, mortgages may be priced differently based on where they are originated.

So a New York mortgage may cost more than a California loan, or vice versa, depending on the costs.

For example, in states where foreclosure processes are more expensive, such as in judicial states, the g-fees may be higher.

But again, consumers may not even notice the difference in price because there are so many other factors that affect mortgage rates. Still, it’s a rather interesting development.

It looks as if the future of mortgage lending may mirror insurance pricing, which is very heavily data-driven, meaning more and more factors may eventually determine the interest rate you ultimately receive.

Update: Five states have been singled out by the FHFA, including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, thanks to their higher-than-average default-related costs.

So mortgages originated in these states could be imposed a 15 to 30 basis point upfront fee, charged to lenders, and likely passed on to the consumer.


What is Disposable Income?

Disposable income is the amount of money that an individual or household has to spend or save after income taxes have been deducted.

Sometimes referred to as disposable personal income (or DPI) or disposable earnings, disposable income is closely monitored by government economists because it is a key indicator of the overall health of the economy.

Disposable income is also the foundation of your personal budget, as it is the starting point for how you decide to spend your money.

Understanding what disposable income is (and how it differs from discretionary income) is key to creating and living comfortably within your budget.

Read on to learn how to quickly calculate your disposable income, and then use this number to work towards your financial goals.

Why Disposable Income Is Important

Disposable income is usually defined as the amount of money you keep after federal, state, and local taxes and other mandatory deductions are subtracted from gross earnings.

401(k) contributions, deductions for other employer-sponsored benefits, as well as any assignments of support (such as child support) are excluded from the calculation. These costs are considered part of your disposable earnings.

Disposable income is an important number not just for consumers, but also the nation as a whole.

The average disposable income of the country is used by analysts to measure consumer spending, payment ability, probable future savings, and the overall health of a nation’s economy.

International economists use national measures of disposable income to compare economies of different countries.

On an individual level, your disposable income is also a key economic indicator because this is the actual amount of money you have to spend or save.

For example, if your salary is $60,000, you don’t actually have $60,000 to spend over the course of the year.

If you live in Connecticut, for example, you would pay $6,187.50 in federal income tax, $2,100 in state tax, $3,720 in social security tax, and $870 for medicare. Your disposable income could land at $47,317. This is what you would have to spend on everything else in your life, such as housing, transportation, food, health insurance and other necessities.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should spend all of your disposable income. Another thing to consider is disposable vs. discretionary income. This will tell you actually how much money you have to play with.

Disposable Income vs. Discretionary Income

Although they’re often confused with one another, disposable income is completely different from discretionary income.

While disposable income is your income minus only taxes, discretionary income takes into account the costs of both taxes and other essential expenses. Essential expenses include rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, insurance, clothing, and more.

Discretionary income is what you can have leftover after the essentials are subtracted. This is what you can spend on nonessential or discretionary items.

Some costs that fall under the discretionary category are dining out, vacations, recreation, and luxury items, like jewelry. Although internet service and your cell phone may seem like necessities, these expenses are considered discretionary expenses.

As you might expect, discretionary income is always less than disposable income. When you subtract discretionary income from disposable income, the amount you come up is how much you can put towards savings.

Calculating Disposable Income

Disposable earnings refers to the amount of earnings left over after mandatory federal, state and local deductions. But disposable income is not necessarily the same as your take-home pay.

Deductions from your paycheck may include additional items such as health insurance, retirement plan contributions, and health savings accounts. These deductions are voluntary, not mandatory.

To calculate your disposable earnings, you can simply subtract federal, state and local taxes, Medicare, and Social Security from your gross earnings. The resulting amount is your disposable income.

You may want to keep in mind, however, that taxes deducted from your paycheck are an estimate.

If you have a history of getting a large refund or having a large amount of taxes due, it may be worth reviewing your withholdings through your employer.

This could help you adjust the withholdings so it is closer to the actual expected tax that will be calculated when you file. You can then plan accordingly.

Even if you’re a contractor or freelancer, or if you made additional income from side gigs along with your salary, you can still calculate your disposable income.

This requires subtracting your quarterly tax payments and any additional taxes you will owe from your overall income. You can then determine your monthly after-tax income.

Setting aside money to pay taxes can also help you budget with your disposable income.

Disposable Income Budgeting

Calculating your disposable income is a key first step in preparing a budget. You need to know how much you have to spend in order to plan your monthly spending and saving.

A personal budget puts you in control of your disposable income and helps you make financial decisions. It forces you to take a closer look at how you’re spending your money.

Here are a few ideas that could be helpful when developing a budget based on disposable income.

Tracking Spending

Disposable income is what’s coming into your account every month. It’s a good idea to also determine what is going out each month.

To do this, you can gather up bank and credit card statements, as well as receipts, from the past three months or so, and then list all of your monthly spending (both essential and discretionary/nonessential).

track your spending for a month. You can do this with a phone app, by carrying a small notebook and jotting down everything you buy, or by saving all of your receipts and logging it later.

This can be an eye-opening exercise. Many of us have no idea how much we’re spending on the little things, like morning coffees, and how much they can add up to at the end of the month.

Once you see your spending laid out in black and white, you may find some easy ways to cut back, such as getting rid of subscriptions and streaming services that you rarely use, brewing coffee at home, cooking more and getting less take-out, or getting rid of a pricy gym membership and working out at home.

Setting Goals And Spending Targets

Tracking income and spending can provide a great starting point for setting financial goals and spending targets.

Goals are things that a person aims for in the short- or long-term—like paying off student loans or buying a new car.
Spending targets are how much you want to spend each month in general categories in order to have money left over to put towards your savings goals.

Since essential spending often can’t be adjusted, spending targets are typically for discretionary income.

One option for budgeting disposable income is the 50/30/20 plan. This suggests spending about 50% on necessities, 30% on discretionary items, and then putting aside 20% for savings and other long-term goals.

These percentages are general guidelines, however, and can be adjusted as needed based on individual circumstances.
For example, if you live in a competitive housing area, rent may take up a larger portion of your expenses, and you may have to bump up necessity spending to 55% or 60% and decrease fun money to 25% or 20% instead.

Or, if you are saving for something in the near term, like a car or a wedding, you may want to temporarily bump up the savings category, and pull back unnecessary spending for a few months.

The Takeaway

Disposable income is a key concept in budgeting, as it refers to the income that’s leftover after you pay taxes.
Disposable income is distinctly different from discretionary income, which is what remains after you subtract other necessary costs from your disposable income. You might think of discretionary income as your “fun money.”

Knowing how much disposable income you have is the foundation for putting together a simple budget that allows for necessary expenses, having fun, while also saving for the future.

Want to get started budgeting, but not sure where to begin? Consider signing up for a SoFi Money® cash management account.

With SoFi Money, you can easily track your weekly spending right in your dashboard in the app.

SoFi Money also offers savings features like “vaults” that make it easy to put money aside for your short- and long-term financial goals.

Save, spend, and earn all in one place with SoFi Money.

SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


Evening Routine Ideas That Can Lead to a More Productive Workday

What do you typically do after work? If you’re like many people, you probably eat dinner and then watch some television. According to Nielsen’s 2020 Total Audience report, Americans spent over 12 hours per day interacting with media during the first part of that year.

There’s nothing wrong with chilling on the couch watching Netflix, playing video games, and browsing social media. But 2019 research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that if you want to have a better day tomorrow, you need to do something different tonight.

Changing up your evening routine can improve your reputation at work, help you think more creatively or be more productive, or give you the initiative to ask for a raise or apply for a promotion. And taking a few small, actionable steps can help you achieve peak performance at work the following day.

How Your Evening Routine Can Influence Your Productivity

The Journal of Applied Psychology study looked at the evening routines of 183 employees over 10 workdays. The purpose of the study was simple: Researchers wanted to explore how various activities influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors people experienced the next day.

These workers filled out a questionnaire three times per day. In the morning, they described how they were feeling. Midday, they described what types of proactive behaviors they were doing, such as taking the initiative on a project, doing something to create positive change in the workplace, or taking control of a situation.

In the evening, employees described what they did after work. For their evening activities, the employees were asked whether each activity gave them a sense of proficiency, such as learning a new language or playing a sport, as well as how that activity made them feel. They were also asked how well the activity helped them relieve stress and detach from work.

Researchers discovered that the employees who engaged in activities that gave them a sense of proficiency were more motivated to create positive change at work the next day. They also reported feeling more relaxed, inspired, and joyful than the other employees.

The employees who engaged in activities that helped distance them from work, such as meditation or listening to music, felt relaxed but didn’t experience the same take-charge feelings, such as excitement and inspiration, at work the next day.

Researchers also discovered that having the freedom to choose what you do in the evening can lead to more proactive behaviors and positive feelings the next day. For example, people who have many obligations to meet after work, such as caring for an aging parent or young children, are less likely to feel proactive the next day simply because they have less freedom to choose what they do in the evening.

How to Create a More Productive Workday This Evening

The study illustrates a critical point: Vegging out in front of the TV isn’t likely to make you feel positive and inspired at work the next day, but doing something productive or physically engaging probably will.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do tonight to have a better workday tomorrow.

1. Start a Hobby

Engaging in a hobby at the end of the day is one of the best ways to create a more productive day at work tomorrow. Some hobbies can even help you earn more money. But too many of us don’t have a hobby at all.

We go to work, come home, do chores, and perhaps take care of our kids or work a side hustle like DoorDash driver or online teaching. And then we hit the sack, where we wake up and start the whole soul-sucking cycle all over again in the morning. It’s an exhausting daily routine.

But hobbies are something we do simply because we love doing them. There’s no sense of obligation. Hobbies are relaxing, fun, and stimulating.

They also provide several significant health benefits. A 2009 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine analyzed the leisure activities of 1,399 study participants. It found that those who participated in more activities had lower cortisol and blood pressure, a lower body mass index and waist circumference, lower levels of depression, and higher levels of positive psychological states.

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled more people to pursue hobbies they previously didn’t have time for. James C. Kaufman is a professor of educational psychology at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. He tells the American Heart Association that a pandemic hobby can help take your mind off negative news and fears.

When you’re creative, you can slip into a state of “flow” in which you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing. This positive disconnect can be valuable whether you’re experiencing stress at work or in your personal life.

Hobbies can influence your career too. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg tells CNBC that hobbies show prospective employers you have passion and drive. If you’re ready for a career change, you might even be able to turn your hobby into a business.

Think about what you’ve always wanted to do but never made time to learn. Some popular hobbies include:

Outdoor Activities Craftsmanship Sports
  • Restoring old furniture
  • Metalsmithing
  • Leatherworking
  • Pyrography (wood burning)
  • Woodworking
  • Bookbinding
  • Building dollhouses or room boxes
  • Fixing classic cars
  • Running
  • Golfing
  • Dancing
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Yoga
  • Tennis
  • Martial arts
  • Archery
  • Rock climbing
  • Cycling
Arts & Crafts Mental Challenges Life Skills
  • Gourmet cooking
  • Scrapbooking
  • Embroidery, crochet, or knitting
  • Journaling
  • Photography
  • Drawing and painting
  • Pottery
  • Calligraphy
  • Writing
  • Origami
  • Sewing
  • Canning
  • Baking
  • Home renovation
  • Candle or soap making
  • Basket weaving
  • Homebrewing or winemaking
  • Auto repair
  • Volunteering

This list is by no means exhaustive. Any activity that excites and interests you can make a worthwhile hobby. But set a budget for hobby expenses so you don’t end up spending more than you can afford.

2. Learn a New Skill

The Journal of Applied Psychology study found that any activity that helps give you a sense of proficiency increases the likelihood you’ll take charge at work the next day.

Hobbies fit the bill here. But so does learning any new skill or technique that can better your life and career and give you a greater sense of control over your destiny — whether or not it becomes something you enjoy and do regularly.

So think about the knowledge and skills you regularly use in your career. Which of these skills do you need to work on to do your job better? Which would help further your career down the road?

For example, effective communication skills are a must in every profession, and that includes business writing skills. If your communication skills are lacking, strengthening them could pay off significantly. You could take a writing class or read a book like “4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication” by Bento C. Leal III.

If it’s your foreign language skills that need work, you can learn a new language with Babbel. You can also master a new language quickly through courses offered at Udemy.

If you’re unsure which skills would help in your current role, talk to your boss or a trusted colleague. Ask which of your skills — or weaknesses — they think could use some work.

It can also help to think about the important tasks or responsibilities you struggle with at work. These challenges often point to a knowledge or skill gap. For example, if giving the weekly presentation makes you break out in a cold sweat, work on your public speaking skills. If you have trouble working with others, learn how to be a better listener or collaborate more effectively. Conflict-resolution skills are also vital for working effectively as a team.

Learning skills that benefit your professional life pays off in two key ways: It provides a sense of proficiency that results in positive feelings and a take-charge attitude the next day, and it gives you the tools you need for long-term success. That’s true whether you work with a team at a large corporation, you’re working from home, or you own a small business.

3. Go to Bed Early

This one’s a no-brainer. Getting enough sleep is essential to having a productive, energized work life. Yet the United Kingdom’s National Health Service reports that 1 in 3 people don’t get enough sleep, which the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) defines as seven or more hours per night.

Persistently poor sleep and sleep deprivation also negatively affect your health. According to the CDC, poor sleep has been linked to obesity, heart disease, lowered immune function, decreased fertility, decreased brain functioning, and diabetes. Frequent sleep deprivation might also shorten your life expectancy.

So if you’re having trouble getting a full night’s sleep, how can you get better sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning? Start by changing your bedtime routine.

Turn Off Your Devices & Dim the Lights

To get the best sleep, doctors recommend avoiding screens and dimming the overhead lights in your home two hours before bedtime.

The blue light emitted from phones, tablets, and TVs tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daylight. That reduces the amount of melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps you get deep sleep, your brain releases.

Your home’s overhead lights have the same effect. A 2010 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that exposure to room light suppressed melatonin production in 99% of study participants and shortened melatonin duration by 90 minutes compared with dim light.

You’ll likely get better sleep if you dim the lights in the evening. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding screens one hour before bed.

Cut the Caffeine

According to a 2018 study published in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 90% of American adults consume caffeine daily. To sleep better, limit your caffeine intake to no more than three 6-ounce cups per day.

It’s also important to time your caffeine consumption to avoid disrupting sleep. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that consuming caffeine six hours and three hours before bedtime both significantly contribute to sleep disruption. So if you want to be in bed by 9pm, don’t consume any caffeine past 3pm for a better night’s sleep.

And remember: Coffee isn’t the only source of caffeine. Foods and drinks like chocolate, black tea, and energy drinks also contain caffeine.

Get Outside

Exposure to bright outdoor light helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. It can also help reduce feelings of depression and seasonal affective disorder.

If you work all day indoors, make time to get outdoors during or after work. Eat lunch outside or go for a walk as soon as your workday is over.

The type of lighting in your workplace can also affect how well you sleep at night. A 2008 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health found that blue-enriched white light improved alertness, mood, performance, and sleep quality compared with regular white light. Including this type of light in your workspace, whether it’s the overhead light in your office or a lamp on your desk, could lead to higher productivity and better sleep at night. If you can’t influence the overhead lights in your office, invest in the Miroco light therapy lamp from Amazon.


One of the best ways to ensure you sleep long and well is to get enough exercise. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy found that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise improved sleep in older adults.

But don’t exercise right before bed. For some people, exercise is so stimulating it can actually make it harder for them to fall asleep. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Sports Medicine, engaging in vigorous exercise one hour before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and reduce your total sleep time for the night.

Pro Tip: If you’re struggling to find a workout that gets you motivated, try Aaptiv. They have thousands of workouts and add more than 30 new classes each week.

Fight Insomnia Naturally

If you still have trouble sleeping, try using some natural sleep aids to fight insomnia. For example, taking melatonin right before bed might be all you need to sleep better at night. You might also sleep better by sprinkling some lavender essential oil on your pillow or mixing it with water in an aromatherapy diffuser in your bedroom. Lavender is well-known as a natural sleep aid.

You can also try drinking some herbal tea at the end of the day to aid relaxation and promote sleep. Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night tea contains passionflower, catnip, chamomile, and linden flower — all herbs that help your body relax and allow you to drift to sleep.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

How many times have you lain awake at night thinking about everything you need to do the next day? This type of worry is unproductive, and according to The American Institute of Stress, it can cause stress and anxiety.

Instead of keeping your to-do list in your head, take some time to plan your day right before bed. Identify the top three priorities for tomorrow and make a list of your commitments, such as meetings or school pickups. Jot them down in your planner so you don’t forget. It gives you a sense of control over your responsibilities and relieves the worry you’ll forget something important.

5. Journal

In a column for Inc., organizational psychologist Benjamin Hardy calls writing in a journal nightly a keystone habit — that is, a habit so powerful it leads to numerous positive, transformative behaviors.

Throughout history, many extraordinary people have used journaling to transform their lives.

  • Founding father Benjamin Franklin journaled throughout his life and used his journals to reflect on his strengths and weaknesses and improve.
  • Leonardo da Vinci used his journals to sketch the first underwater breathing apparatus and figure out how to use concave mirrors to generate heat.
  • Celebrated literary blog Brain Pickings lists Anias Nin, Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oscar Wilde as just some of the famous writers who regularly wrote in a journal throughout their lives and careers.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, nightly journaling can help you detach from work and deal with the stresses and frustrations of the day. That can help you sleep better because you’re not stewing about all these feelings during the night.

It can also help you identify thoughts and feelings you weren’t consciously aware you had. Use it to identify meaningful goals and create a plan to make them a reality. It might also influence you to look at your life from another perspective and identify things that need to change.

You can boost the positive effects of journaling by taking a few minutes to write about what you’re grateful for. According to Harvard Health, gratitude can increase your happiness and help you realize how abundant your life really is. At the end of your nightly entry, write down three things you’re grateful for. You might be surprised how life-changing this simple practice can be.

6. Streamline Your Routine

If you have a long commute or multiple kids to get out the door, streamlining your morning routine is essential. Anything you can do in the evening to prepare for the next day will be well worth the time you spend.

For example, try taking your shower in the evening instead of first thing in the morning. Prepare your brown-bag lunch, work with your kids to get everything they need for school into their backpacks, and put your work bag in your car. Transitioning to a capsule wardrobe also makes getting dressed a cinch.

Popular business writer and coach Brian Tracy also suggests writing a to-do list the night before. He theorizes that for every minute you spend planning your day, you save 10 minutes in execution.

A streamlined morning routine could make it easier to wake up early and sneak in a workout, meditate, or make a healthy breakfast, which are three activities that can also have a powerfully positive impact on your workday.

Finding Time for a Productive Evening Routine

Taking time to engage in a hobby or learn something new is fantastic when you have some time to set aside.

But as the Journal of Applied Psychology study found, people who have a high degree of external obligations, such as caregivers or those working a second job, often don’t have the freedom to choose what they do in the evening. For example, when you’re a single parent with a mountain of household chores, it’s tough to step away and devote some time to your own needs.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology backs that up, finding that people with lots of responsibilities outside work experienced less vigor and engagement at work the next day than those with fewer obligations.

So if you’ve already got a full plate, what can you do?

One strategy is to team up with someone else in the same situation. For example, if you’re a parent who desperately needs an hour in the evening, team up with another parent and swap kids: They watch your kids for you on Mondays, and you return the favor on Thursdays. This strategy won’t give you an hour each evening, but it’s a start. And the more parents involved, the more evenings each of you has free.

If you have trouble finding others in the same boat, check Meetup. There are parenting groups in most cities, including single-parent Meetup groups.

Another strategy is to look at where you do have an hour free of your daily obligations. For many people, that’s their lunch hour at work. Instead of wasting time going out to lunch, give yourself more time and save money by bringing a healthy lunch from home. Use the extra time to get some exercise or learn something new.

While it might not provide the same benefits you’d receive by doing the activity in the evening, taking the time to do something for yourself can still help you relax and feel fulfilled.

Final Word

The Journal of Applied Psychology research shows that what you do in the evening can significantly affect how well you perform at work the next day and how happy and excited you are in the process. Taking time to engage in a hobby, listen to an inspiring podcast, or learn a career-related skill can give you a sense of proficiency and the feeling you’re in control of your life.

The energy and positive feelings you get from a fulfilling evening can also give you the drive and initiative you need to do your best at work. Over time, that will help strengthen your reputation and possibly open doors to a raise, promotion, or new job.


Convicted Mortgage Fraudster Gets 21 Months for Auto Scam

A man who was previously convicted of mortgage fraud and was serving federal supervised release has received a 21-month prison sentence for his part in a separate auto loan scam, authorities said. So reports the Middletown (Conn.) Press.

Justin Williams of Connecticut was also ordered to five years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service, according to the acting U.S. attorney for the state.

Williams’ earlier fraud conviction stemmed from a local plot to swindle a mortgage company.

Read the full article from the Middletown (Conn.) Press.


Low Mileage and Usage-Based Discounts

  • Car Insurance

It has never been easier to track driver habits and mileage, determining everything from the severity of braking to the miles that they travel and the times they drive. This data is used by car insurance companies to create more personalized car insurance rates, and could, potentially, save you a small fortune.

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Known as usage-based discounts, these offers are available with most major insurance providers and are worth considering if you’re not clocking tens of thousands of miles every year and believe yourself to be a safe and responsible driver.

In this guide, we’ll look at how low mileage and usage-based discounts work, before highlighting the very best usage-based insurance programs on the market.

How Much Are Low-Mileage Discounts?

The less time you spend on the road, the less likely you are to have an accident and make a claim. It makes sense, therefore, for car insurance companies to offer you cheaper rates if you drive much less than the average. But rarely is that the case.

In our research, we found that the difference between someone who drives 5,000 miles and someone who drives 15,000 miles (the average is around 12,000) was just a few dollars. In other words, even if you drive twice as much as the national average, you won’t necessarily pay that much more.

There are exceptions, though. In some built-up cities, including Los Angeles, there are very noticeable differences between someone who drives 5,000 miles and someone who drives 15,000. Furthermore, many insurance companies offer specific programs tailored towards those with low annual mileages. Some companies cater exclusively to drivers in this category, essentially offering a pay-as-you-drive insurance policy.

Take a look at the programs and insurers below to see what you can save by doing fewer miles.

Allstate Drivewise Program

With the DriveWise program from Allstate, you can steadily reduce your rates based on your driving habits. If it turns out that you don’t have optimal habits, Allstate promises that it will not increase the base rate of your premiums, so there’s nothing to worry about in that regard.

Drivewise is offered in all states and considers several key rating factors to potentially reduce your premiums by as much as 40%. 

As with many similar programs, Drivewise is a plug-in device that connects to the Onboard Diagnostics port to gather real-time data.

  • Potential Savings: Up to 40%
  • What it Tracks: Hard braking, the time of day that you drive, and your speed.
  • Where it is Available: Offered in all 50 states.

Allstate Milewise Program

Launched in 2018, Milewise offers Allstate customers discounts when they drive less. It offers regular feedback concerning recent trips and mileage and tweaks insurance premiums based on data provided. In some states, including Arizona, Allstate changes insurance premiums on a weekly basis.

  • Potential Savings: Up to 39%.
  • What it Tracks: Mileage.
  • Where it is Available: Arizona, Delaware, D.C., Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia.

Esurance DriveSense Program

Online-only provider, Esurance, offers an instant discount of between 5% and 10% for all policyholders who sign up for the DriveSense program. This app, which tracks user data, can reduce insurance costs for motorists with safe driving habits and low mileage.

  • Potential Savings: Up to 30%.
  • What it Tracks: Speed, time of day, idle time, braking, acceleration, cornering.
  • Where it is Available: Everywhere except for the following states: California, Florida, Indiana, New York, and North Carolina.

GEICO DriveEasy Program

For many years, GEICO was one of the few major car insurance providers that didn’t offer a usage-based program. In fact, of the ten biggest insurance carriers, it was the only one, and that’s why you won’t find GEICO on many other website lists discussing low-mileage programs and telematics.

GEICO finally changed tact in 2019 when it adopted the DriveEasy program. As things stand, this mobile app is only offered in a couple of states, but there are plans to roll it out across the country. GEICO serves all states and is one of the nation’s biggest providers, so it could be a matter of time before you see it in your state.

  • Potential Savings: Up to 20%.
  • What it Tracks: Use of your phone, hard braking, other driving habits.
  • Where it is Available: Connecticut and Pennsylvania, with more states to be added soon.

SafeCo/Liberty Mutual RightTrack

Make weekly savings with the RightTrack program, which tracks driving habits to determine if you’re a good driver or not. It is not available everywhere and requirements/discounts differ, but there are only a few states where you can’t sign up for this program.

  • Potential Savings: Save an average of 30%.
  • What it Tracks: Mileage, the time of day that you drive, acceleration, and braking.
  • Where it is Available: Everywhere except for the following states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and DC.


Metromile is a pay-per-mile auto insurance company geared towards those with a short commute and very few miles on the clock. It launched in 2011 and was underwriting its own policies within 5 years after experiencing massive growth. 

Metromile is only available in a handful of states, but more are being added to the list all of the time.

  • Potential Savings: Over $500 a year.
  • What it Tracks: Mileage.
  • Where it is Available: Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Virginia.

Progressive Snapshot Program

Progressive changed the game when it launched the SnapShot program back in 2008, offering one of the first devices of its kind. Designed to discover low-mileage drivers and reward safe driving, this device checks a host of data points and offers substantial savings if it determines that you’re a safe driver that makes good decisions when behind the wheel.

  • Potential Savings: Get an average of $150 when you complete the program.
  • What it Tracks: Speed, time of day, times you check your smartphone, and other driving habits.
  • Where it is Available: All states.

State Farm Drive Safe Program

With Drive Safe, you can get 5% just for signing up to the program and up to an additional 45% once it gathers the necessary driving data (via the installation of a telematics device) and determines what type of driver you are.

State Farm is the nation’s biggest provider of car insurance and offers a wealth of car insurance discounts in addition to the Drive Safe program.

  • Potential Savings: Up to 50%.
  • What it Tracks: Hard braking, acceleration, time of day, number of miles, use of smartphone.
  • Where it is Available: Everywhere except for New York, Massachusetts, California, and Rhode Island.

The Hartford TrueLane Program

As a policyholder with The Hartford, you can request a free telematics device that you install in your car. You will get a 10% discount just for adding the device and can save up to 25% per vehicle from there.

  • Potential Savings: Up to 25%.
  • What it Tracks: Time of day that you drive, braking/acceleration data, and other driving behaviors.
  • Where it is Available: Everywhere except for the following states: Alaska, California, Florida, Montana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada, and Rhode Island.

Bottom Line

Telematics devices can be installed in all new cars and many older ones as well. Providing you don’t drive a car manufactured prior to the mid-90s, you shouldn’t have an issue in this regard. And due to the instant savings offered by usage-based programs and the information they can provide, we recommend them to all drivers.

In the worst-case scenario, you may discover that you’re not as safe and responsible as you thought you were, but if you choose your insurance company carefully, this shouldn’t result in higher premiums, and will give you the data you need to improve your driving habits. In most cases, you’ll also get an instant discount just for signing up.

It’s a win-win!