Dealing with medical debt

A father holding his son on his shoulders.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

According to a 2018 Consumer Reports survey, almost 30% of insured Americans had medical debt sent to collections in a two-year time span. That number might sound high, but there are many reasons why medical bills go unpaid long enough to end up in collections.

For one thing, healthcare expenses are often costly and unplanned, leaving people struggling to pay their bills in a timely manner. And close to a quarter of people surveyed told Consumer Reports they didn’t realize there was even an amount due to be paid.

If you are dealing with medical bills in collections or
are worried about a medical bill making it to collections, find out more below.

According to a 2018 report, almost 30% of insured Americans had medical debt sent to collections in a two-year time span.

When Does Medical Debt Go to Collections?

First-party medical creditors—this is the organization that provided the healthcare service or the agency contracted to handle billing on its behalf—can typically send you to collections at any time. The key is that they must follow their own policies consistently.

In most cases, first-party medical creditors will send you
at least one bill. Some may send multiple bills over the course of several
months. At some point, if you don’t pay those bills, the account will go to
collections. When that happens, it can be reported to the credit bureaus as a
medical account in collections.

How Do Medical Bills in Collections Affect Your Credit?

There’s some good news: the 2017 changes to the credit reporting rules offer some provisions to help protect your credit from unplanned medical bills. Specifically, there’s a waiting period before medical debt can show up on your credit report and reporting on medical debt is removed from your credit report if it has been paid or is being paid by insurance.

The credit bureaus must wait at least 180 days after a medical debt is reported to them before they add it to your report. That provides up to 6 months for you to dispute medical bills, work with insurance companies or settle the debt with the creditor, if you choose, before it impacts your credit score.

In addition, if a medical debt does appear on your reports
after the 180-day period but has been or is being paid by insurance, then it
must be removed from the reports.

If medical bill collections do end up on your credit
report and they are not paid by insurance, they may remain for up to seven years—even
if they’re paid. However, they may not impact your score as much as other types
of collections. Both the FICO Score 9 model and VantageScore 4.0 weigh medical
debt less heavily than some other kinds of debt.

What Can You Do About Medical Debt in Collections?

Just because medical bills don’t necessarily have the impact on your credit score that other debts do, it doesn’t mean there’s no impact at all. Consumer Reports notes that almost one-fifth of Americans say their credit has been negatively impacted by medical bills in collections. Try some of the steps below to help resolve the matter and positively impact your credit history for the future.

Almost one-fifth of Americans say their credit has been negatively impacted by medical bills in collections.

Know What Your Insurance Covers

Start by ensuring that you really do owe this money.
Review the explanation of benefits, also called an EOB, provided by your
insurance company. You should receive an EOB statement from your insurance
company anytime a provider bills medical expenses to your insurance. (Keep in
mind that an EOB is not a bill.)

In most cases, insurance companies don’t allow the full
amount a provider bills it for. Your EOB will show:

  • How much
    of the bill was allowed and how much was disallowed.
    Your provider must
    write off disallowed amounts and typically can’t bill them to you if they
    agreed to accept insurance payments.
  • How much
    of the bill was paid by the insurance company.
    This is the amount you do
    not owe and do not need to worry about.
  • How much
    of the bill is the patient’s responsibility.
    This is the amount you do owe,
    according to your insurance. If you’re being billed by the medical creditor for
    more than this, it could be a mistake.

If you don’t think you owe the amount being sought, you may choose to dispute it. Ask for documentation proving that you owe the amount. If the account is being reported on your credit report, consider sending a dispute letter to the credit bureau in question if you believe there is an error in the reporting.

Negotiate with the Service Provider

Once you understand how much you owe, you may choose to
reach out to the provider to negotiate. You may be able to get a discount,
particularly if you didn’t use insurance and you can pay a large sum toward the
amount billed.

Negotiation with providers may work better earlier in the game, so it may be helpful to not put off this step. Make sure you know what you might owe and how you can pay it even before services are rendered, if possible.

Suggest a Suitable Payment Plan

If you receive a medical bill and you can’t pay it all
at once, you may ask for a payment plan or suggest an arrangement. If you can
pay the bill off in a short period of time, such as a few months, many medical
providers will not send you to collections.

Use a Credit Card Only If You Must

Paying for medical debt with a credit card converts a bill with little to no interest to one that might come with a large amount of interest. Only use a credit card to pay medical bills if you have no other options.

Consider Seeking Debt Settlement

If the account has already gone to collections, you may
try negotiating a settlement. In some cases, the older a debt is, the less
likely the organization is to collect it. This could make it more likely to
accept a smaller amount to consider the account paid in full.

Make sure you have the ability to make an immediate payment if you do negotiate a settlement. You may ask for the collections account to be deleted from your credit report in return for making the settlement payment, but not all collection agencies can or will do this. However, they do have to mark the account as paid, which looks better on your credit history than an unpaid account.

Whatever you do when settling a debt, get it in writing. You might need to demonstrate there was an
agreement later.

Work with a Medical Billing Advocate

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by medical bills and all
the information that comes with them, you might consider working with a medical
billing advocate. These individuals help you understand your bills, appeal
costs to hospitals and ensure your insurance company covers everything it
should. That can help reduce the total cost of your medical expenses.

Regularly Check Your Credit Report

Staying on top of your credit report by checking it
regularly is important, especially because you might never see a notice in the
mail about your debt going to medical collections. When you review your credit
regularly, you can respond to and handle negative items quickly and
proactively, giving you a better chance at protecting or positively impacting
your credit in the future.

Reach out to the credit consultants at Lexington Law if you want to learn more about your credit report and how you can work to improve your credit.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

Working Capital Loans – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, average revenues from 2018 to 2019 for businesses were up 10 percent, but many companies still struggled to convert those higher revenues to cash. When a business doesn’t have the cash flow to support daily or growth expenses for any reason, working capital loans might be an option. Find out more about working capital below to help you decide if this funding source is right for your company

What Is a Working Capital Loan?

Working capital loans are a type of funding that helps ensure businesses have the capital they need to continue operating during periods when it might be difficult to cover daily expenses while meeting new demands or growth. For example, if a business has tied up its cash flow in inventory for the holiday rush season, working capital funds can pay the bills—such as employee wages and rent—until holiday revenues are in.

It’s important to note that working capital isn’t meant to make investments or buy long-term assets such as equipment. If you need equipment, you may need to take out a secured loan for it. Working capital loans are meant to cover the standard operating expenses of the business such as regular debt payments, wages, rent and utilities.

Working capital loans help ensure businesses have the capital they need to continue operating during periods when it might be difficult to cover daily expenses while meeting new demands or growth.

Working Capital Financing Options

You can get working capital loans from a variety of sources. Some of the most common options are summarized below.

Short-Term Loan

What is it? You might be able to borrow money for a few months to help fund expenses until seasonal income comes in or a large invoice is paid.

Pros: It might be a good way to balance cash flow during seasonal upticks in expenses or downturns in income.

Cons: Because the terms of the loan are short, the lender may charge a relatively large fee to make money from the deal in lieu of interest paid out over a longer period of time.

Merchant Cash Advance

What is it? A cash advance offered by the bank or agency that handles your payment processes. For example, businesses that accept money through PayPal may be eligible for a Payment Working Capital loan.

Pros: These loans are typically easy to get if you have a solid history processing payments through that bank or agency. That’s because the loan isn’t based on your personal credit or the credit of your business. It’s typically based on how much average revenue you process through that payment method.

Cons: Typically, merchant cash advances are paid back as a percentage of your sales over time. That lowers your cash flow for the immediate future and can make it more difficult to budget for business expenses if you overcommit on the loan.

Bank Line of Credit

What is it? A revolving line of credit that you can draw from and pay back and then draw from again—similar to a credit card.

Pros: A line of credit is flexible and ongoing, which means it’s there when you need it, but you don’t have to draw on it if you don’t need to. It can also be a good way to balance cash flow if your revenue tends to fluctuate.

Cons: You may need decent personal or business credit to get approved for a line of credit. It can also be tempting to rely too heavily on it, temporarily masking serious financial problems until they might be too late to resolve.

SBA Loan

What is it? You can get certain types of loans through programs approved by the Small Business Administration. Some of these loans can be used for working capital.

Pros: While the terms and rates associated with SBA loans vary, they may be more favorable than those of traditional loans.

Cons: SBA loans can be easier to qualify for from a credit perspective, but they do have specific requirements, such as documentation. You may also be limited on what you can use the funds for.

Trade Credit

What is it? Trade credit occurs when you purchase goods on an account and pay for them later. Typically, if you pay within the agreed-upon period, you don’t pay interest on this debt.

Pros: Trade credit is low-cost and is generally a common business practice, which means it might be available to you from various vendors.

Cons: This isn’t a form of credit you can use to cover expenses other than goods purchased, but that might free up some cash for other uses.

Who Offers Working Capital Loans?

Working capital loans are offered by a variety of organizations. Banks, credit card companies and payment networks might all offer working capital loans. Some organizations specialize in this type of lending and work with businesses that can demonstrate a strong historic revenue to provide working capital loans or lines of credit.

Working Capital Loan Interest Rates and Fees

As with any type of lending, working capital loans do cost your business in the form of interest rates and fees. With a few exceptions, such as certain trade credit arrangements, working capital comes with varied rates and costs. If the lender makes money via interest, your own credit or the creditworthiness of the business may be used to determine how much interest is charged.

Some working capital loans don’t include interest. The lender instead charges a flat fee that is incorporated into the total amount paid back during the loan process.

Is a Working Capital Loan Right for Your Business?

As with any form of debt, working capital loans have benefits and disadvantages. Understanding the common pros and cons can help you determine whether working capital loans are a good decision for your business.

Benefits

Working capital can provide the cash influx you need at just the right time. It’s a financial tool for helping businesses cover costs during various seasons or scale up for growth. If you’re careful about how you use the credit associated with working capital loans, they may not be as expensive as some other forms of financing.

Drawbacks

Working capital loans come with some of the same drawbacks of any debt, including interest or other costs. But a bigger potential disadvantage is the temptation to lean heavily on working capital even when you know that your business is in trouble financially. Working capital is meant to be a temporary bridge, not a crutch your business can lean on permanently.

Pros and cons of working capital loans

Other Options for Increasing Your Work Capital

Working capital is a measurement of how well a company can use its current assets to pay its current liabilities. It’s an important statistic for you to be aware of as a business owner, because it indicates how financially healthy your company is. If you need to improve your working capital but don’t want to receive financing from a third party, consider these other ways to increase your working capital:

  • Cutting business expenses, including unnecessary travel or acquisitions.
  • Increasing income by hosting a sale or increasing prices if the market will support it.
  • Collecting past-due invoices.
  • Selling valuable business assets that may not be required at this time.

As you weigh your different options for working capital financing, don’t forget to stay on top of your business credit score and your personal credit score, too. To learn more about the latter, check out Lexington Law’s guide to credit.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

What is a Good Entry Level Salary?

Recent grads — or even just those starting a new career midstream — may wonder what sort of offer to expect when negotiating a starting salary. While it’s unlikely an early-stage hire will outearn senior management from the get-go, it can be key not to accept a pittance below the going market rates.

Since pay can vary greatly based on location or line of work, there’s no one answer to the question, “What is a good entry level salary?” The size of the paycheck will differ based on where someone lives, the industry they work in, the hiring institution or company, and other hard-to-tabulate variables.

So, how might a job seeker figure out a good entry level salary before sitting down with the new boss or an HR representative to talk pay? Here are some helpful resources to get a handle on entry level rates across the US, including tips for negotiating compensation:

Understanding Entry Level Salaries?

Entry level salary information changes on a regular basis, but many job-focused websites offer insights into the going rates. For instance, ZipRecruiter, a well-known American employment marketplace, lists the average U.S. entry level salary by state , which ranges, at the time of this writing, from $12.61 per hour or $26,219 per year in North Carolina to $17.09 per hour or $35,750 per year in New York.

Still, even state-by-state averages don’t show the whole picture. Although more than half of US states have minimum wage requirements higher than the federal minimum wage, which remains set at $7.25 per hour, the amount an early-career hire might expect can also vary by county and city within the same state.

According to Glassdoor, the average entry level salary in the Jacksonville, FL area is $14 per hour, whereas the average in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is significantly higher at $16 per hour.

Along with location, the industry one works in can play a big role in what kind of starting salary a new hire might expect. For instance, a data scientist at a tech company might be able to earn as much as $95,000 right out of the gate, while a newly minted journalist might expect something closer to $30,000.

(Psst: early-stage college students might want to align their eventual courses of studies with one of these high-paying entry level jobs.)

One way to grasp what sort of salary that might be expected is targeted research on the specific industry, location, and even position and company.

Researching a Good Entry Level Salary

Recent grads wanting to understand if they’re being offered current market rates for a particular job (or location) can turn to the internet to research details. Some sites that might offer resources for those job seekers include:

Payscale , for example, allows employees to create custom “pay reports” based on their job title, years of experience, and city.

Salary.com offers a similar feature, allowing job seekers to search for positions by keyword and compare them accordingly.

Glassdoor is another well-known web resource that publishes employee-generated information on salary by specific company and position. It also hosts reviews by current and former employees, which may help a job applicant learn more about what it’s, actually, like to work there. (In some cases, Glassdoor lists interview specifics that could help future interviewees better understand what’s expected from them).

After researching average pay by role, location, and company, job seekers might also next want to mull over how to negotiate an acceptable offer.

Negotiating a Higher Offer

So, what can a job seeker do if their dream job doesn’t (initially) come with a dreamy paycheck? What are some tips for negotiating?

While it’s not always possible to eke precious water from a parched stone, coming to the negotiating table prepared to negotiate can help job applicants angle for a more generous compensation package.

Negotiating a salary can be scary, especially for a recent grad who’s not used to the salary tango. Nevertheless, negotiating an offer up front can have a significant effect on one’s paycheck (and, by extension, one’s long-term earnings).

One Glassdoor press release estimated that the average US employee could be earning 13.3% more—if they negotiated.

Preparing to Negotiate

How might a new hire negotiate a higher-paid entry level salary? Well, having a well-researched entry level salary forecast in mind is one place to start.

Of course, it’s not likely that early-career hire can simply negotiate up to a data scientist’s $95,000 salary if that’s not the norm for the role or location they’ve applied for.

But, it’s still possible to make the case to hiring managers for why a higher rate is merited. When making this case, it could be helpful to give concrete examples of how a worker’s current skills might benefit the company. In these conversations, it may be possible to push an offer up a few percentage points (especially when the skills required are in high demand).

Glassdoor suggests that job seeker’s practice their negotiating pitch. Doing so ahead of time can help some to hone a confident delivery style. What’s more, knowing why a higher salary is being requested could also allow some new hires not to sell themselves short. Adopting negotiation tactics might help some new grads or career changers to meet their salary goal (or inch closer to it).

On top of baseline salary, it’s also possible in some roles and industries to negotiate for other valuable forms of compensation—such as, fitness stipends, work-from-home time, funding for continued education, and more.

Of course, negotiating a good entry level salary is not necessarily an easy undertaking. The Harvard Business Review warns soon-to-be negotiators to prepare for tough questions, especially where salary is concerned. Interviewers may put candidates on the spot, asking if they’re considering other offers or if the position is their top choice.

In an already uncomfortable situation, some candidates may stumble or misspeak if they don’t know how to justify what they’re asking for.

One simple place to start is asking whether it’s possible to negotiate the offer in the first place. Candidates may also inquire about future career growth and promotion potential, which could lead to a bigger salary later down the road.

Navigating Post-College Life, Financially and Beyond

Navigating life after college can be exciting and challenging. Trying to make ends meet on an entry level salary might be particularly tough, especially when on the hook to pay back student loans—as 54% of young adults who went to college took on some debt , including student loans, for their education.

A flexible and adaptable approach to finances and where one lives could make the transition to post-college life more manageable.

For instance, recent graduates who are in a position to choose a new place to live, might opt to move to one of the top cities for college grads. Cities like Houston or Nashville (to name just two) have boasted strong economies, affordable rent prices, and low unemployment rates.

Learning how to make a budget can also go a long way toward covering common expenses—even when one’s starting salary leaves a few zeroes to be desired. That said, there’s only so much instant ramen to eat or cups of coffee to skip out on.

For those feeling weighed down by student loans while earning an entry level salary, additional options exist. Those with outstanding federal student loans, for example, may qualify for income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness for public service, or deferment.

Refinancing educational debt with a private lender is one extra option that could save money each month—or help the borrower pay off student loans faster.

Student loan refinancing may allow recent grads to make lower monthly payments toward their existing debt, freeing up some extra cash. Or, it could help a borrower to save money on interest paid on the loan as a whole, allowing them to pay off the debt total faster.

It’s important to note that refinancing with a private lender causes borrowers to forfeit certain guaranteed federal benefits, like income-driven repayment (IDR).

SoFi refinances both federal and private student loans, offering no application fees and no prepayment penalties. Those who refinance their student loans through SoFi get access to a wide range of exclusive member benefits, including career coaching, financial advice, and more—at no additional cost.

Checking your refinance rate won’t have an affect on your credit score and could be the first step toward saving thousands of dollars—or making more affordable monthly student loan payments.

Interested in student loan refinancing? Applying with SoFi might be a smart money move for you.



SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.

SOSL20020

Source: sofi.com

Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT): Marital Deduction

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Trusts can be a useful tool for estate planning if you’d like to preserve assets for loved ones while minimizing estate taxes. A qualified domestic trust (QDOT) is a specific type of trust that can offer tax benefits for married couples. With a QDOT, a surviving spouse can qualify for the marital deduction on estate taxes for assets included in the trust. This type of arrangement can be particularly helpful when a surviving spouse is not a U.S. citizen. Here’s more on how these trusts work, the benefits and limitations of having one and how to establish a QDOT as part of your estate plan. Estate planning is always done best in consultation with a financial advisor.

Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT), Explained

A trust is a legal arrangement in which you transfer assets to the control of a trustee. This can be yourself or someone else you name and it’s the trustee’s duty to manage assets in the trust on behalf of the trust’s beneficiaries.

A QDOT is a specific type of trust arrangement that’s designed to benefit married couples, specifically when one spouse is not a U.S. citizen. This type of trust extends the marital tax deduction to non-citizen spouses, who would otherwise not be eligible to claim the deduction on estate taxes.

If you’re married to someone who is not a U.S. citizen, then setting up this type of trust could make sense if you’d like to minimize any tax burden your spouse may assume if you pass away first. A QDOT can essentially create a tax shelter for non-citizen spouses as part of an estate plan.

How a QDOT Works

To understand how a QDOT can benefit a non-citizen spouse, it’s helpful to understand the marital deduction and how that applies to estate taxes. Ordinarily, the Internal Revenue Code allows surviving spouses to claim a 100% marital deduction for estate taxes that may be due on assets they inherit when their spouse passes away. This is a significant tax break, as it enables surviving spouses to assume control of marital assets without getting hit with a sizable tax bill.

When a married couple consists of one spouse who’s a U.S. citizen and one who is not, the marital deduction does not apply. That means a surviving spouse could face substantial estate taxes on any assets they assume control of after their spouse passes away. Creating a QDOT and transferring assets to it with the non-citizen spouse named as beneficiary solves this problem.

Assets held in the trust would go to the surviving non-citizen spouse, allowing them the benefit of using those assets as well as any income they generate. They would pay no estate tax on assets in the trust. The surviving spouse could then pass those assets on to their children or another named beneficiary when they pass away. If applicable, the estate tax would be due on those assets at that time.

Benefits of a QDOT

The main advantage of including a QDOT in your estate plan is to extend tax benefits to your spouse if they’re not a U.S. citizen and don’t plan to apply for citizenship. A surviving spouse would be able to enjoy the marital tax deduction on estate taxes. They’d also be able to receive income distributions from the trust. Those would be subject to income tax but not estate tax. If you have a sizable estate then setting up a QDOT could be worth it to ensure that you’re passing on as much of your wealth as possible to your spouse.

While setting up this type of trust is generally more complicated and expensive than setting up a basic living trust, it may be an easier way to afford tax protections to a non-citizen spouse versus having them pursue citizenship.

Limitations of a QDOT

While there are some advantages to QDOT, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind.

First, it’s important to note that the IRS is specific about how these types of trusts are set up. The trustee must be a U.S. citizen and depending on the amount of assets that are held in the trust, a secondary trustee may be necessary. This trustee must be a U.S. bank.

Once the spouse who created the trust passes away, their executor must make a QDOT election when filing a federal estate tax return. This is necessary to qualify for the marital deduction. The IRS specifies that the estate tax return with the QDOT election must be filed no later than nine months after the individual who created the trust passes away.

Estate tax may be due if a surviving spouse receives principal from the trust, rather than income. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if a surviving spouse is experiencing financial hardship and has no other assets to tap into it may be possible to receive principal from the trust without being required to pay estate tax.

Perhaps most importantly, spouses should be aware that a QDOT only extends to assets held in the trust. If you have other assets you wish to pass on to a surviving spouse who’s not a U.S. citizen, those wouldn’t be eligible for the marital deduction protection offered by a QDOT if they’re not included in the trust.

How to Set Up a QDOT

Setting up a QDOT starts with determining whether it’s something you can benefit from having in the first place. If you’re married to someone who is not a U.S. citizen, then it may be worth meeting with your financial advisor to discuss the pros and cons of including a QDOT in your estate plan. Your advisor can help to assess any potential estate tax consequences associated with passing on wealth to a non-citizen spouse.

If you’ve determined that a QDOT is something you need, the next step is finding an experienced estate planning attorney who can help with setting one up. Creating a QDOT  means understanding which IRS rules apply and that’s something an estate planning attorney or a tax professional can help with.

The Bottom Line

A QDOT could be useful to have if you’re married and you want to minimize tax impacts associated with leaving assets to a non-citizen spouse. The biggest considerations to keep in mind are what assets you’ll transfer to the trust and how those will be managed on behalf of your spouse once you pass away. Again, getting help from a tax professional, estate planning attorney and your financial advisor can make creating this type of trust as smooth a process as possible.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about the tax implications of passing on assets to a non-citizen spouse and whether it makes sense to have a QDOT. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect in just minutes with professional advisors in your local area.  If you’re ready then get started now.
  • Wondering if you have enough to retire? Our free, easy-to-use retirement calculator can give you a good estimate of your annual, post-tax income upon retirement.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Robin Skjoldborg, ©iStock.com/courtneyk, ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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Source: smartasset.com

How to Save Money on Printer Ink

They charge a significant mark-up, and you’ll save money buying third party, Freiberger says. There are companies that specialize in selling generic ink cartridges, and Ebay is the best place to find them, says Lou Gimbutis, chief homebuyer with Property Solutions in Charlotte, North Carolina. He says that the five-pack of the cartridges he needs costs more than at a major retailer, but he finds the five-pack on Ebay for to . By buying ink in larger quantities, he pays just over per cartridge.
These ink cartridges are available at a fraction of the cost, Cirignano says. A new set of three color and one black brand-name cartridges costs around 0 for Cirignano’s printer. On Amazon, he purchases a complete set or remanufactured cartridges containing three colors and two of the larger black cartridges for less than with free delivery.
These allow you to buy ink separately and pour the ink inside yourself. This is a messy, DIY project and it’s easy to do it wrong. But if you’re good at DIY and don’t mind making a little mess, this could save you more than 50 percent in printer ink, Freiberger says.
“I believe some printer brands can actually monitor your Internet-connected printer so they can see if you are not adhering to this ink policy,” he says.
Now that so many of us are working from home and buying our own printer ink, we thought it would be a good time to take a deep dive into the world of printer ink costs so you never run dry or at least don’t spend a fortune on ink.

The Essentials about Buying Printer Ink

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Don’t Buy Ink Directly from Big Brands

Most of the major printer companies now offer subscription-based ink services that are cost-effective depending on your plan. For example, HP offers a plan with a monthly fee to print a specific number of pages per month. The fee includes the ink, shipping and recycling and it rolls over front month to month. If you need to print more pages, you will be billed the same price per page as the base plan. The most popular plan is per month, and it includes ink for 100 pages of printing.
Within the last few years, a few major printer brands (Epson, Canon) have released ink in bottles that may be poured into reusable tanks. These are paired with EcoTank printers, and the ink is considerably less expensive than comparable ink (it’s about 3 cents per black page). The downside is that the actual printer is relatively high so this should only be considered as a way to save money for those who truly print often.
The biggest consideration when it comes to saving money on printer ink is buying the right printer in the first place, says Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, a technology and lifestyle publication.

Try Remanufactured Cartridges

In recent years, when many cartridges have added smart-chips embedded within them, there are companies that will offer money for empty cartridges. It’s a win-win, Cirignano says.
“The key to purchasing quality refilled cartridges is to read reviews and to check the ink company’s warranty policy,” he says.
Some printers that have less expensive ink costs include the Brother MFC-J995DW (0 at Best Buy), the Epson EcoTank (0 at Amazon) and the CanonPixma G7020 (0 at Best Buy).

Consider Refill Ink Cartridges

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Check out her other work here.
Beware though, because many manufacturers require that you use their brand new ink cartridges or else you may void the warranty, says Thomas Cirignano, an author who prints numerous copies of his manuscripts for editing purposes.
Here are our tips on how to save money when loading up your printer with ink.
Printer ink is the most frustrating purchase ever. That’s because printer ink varies in quality and price, and you never seem to know what you should and shouldn’t do (Is refurbished ink okay? Should you stick with the brand name ink? What about subscription services?).

Check Out Subscription Services

“Many of the cheaper printers waste ink and have no option for ink conservation,” Freiberger says. “It’s worth it to invest in a more expensive printer to keep the cost-per-page down.”

There are Also New Print Bottles

Toner cartridges for laser printers are larger and require refilling less often, but the process is time consuming and not always successful. To refill toner cartridges, you must drill a hole in the cartridge, fill it with powder and then re-seal. In both cases, you will typically need a new chip  that your printer recognizes every time you do this, otherwise it will refuse to print.
Still, Gimbutis says that in his experience, ink and toner refills are more trouble than they’re worth. He’s owned a home-based business that relies heavily on direct mail since 2004, so he’s tried just about every way possible to get his printing costs down. Liquid ink cartridges tend to be relatively small, so the frequency of refilling is high per 1,000 pages printed, Gimbutis says.
“It’s also a messy process: The best of intentions often leave stained fingertips, surfaces and sometimes even printers.”

First Time Drivers Guide to Car Insurance

  • Car Insurance

Now that you’ve passed your test and are ready to hit the road, there are a few things you need to know. Car insurance can be confusing, especially if you’re approaching it for the first time and can’t simply be added to a parent’s policy. 

Find your best rate on Car Insurance!

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Tip: Act now to see if you qualify for lower rates!

Compare free personalized quotes from the nation’s top providers.

In this guide, we’ll help to traverse the potential pitfalls of auto insurance coverage, ensuring you get the cover you need at a price you can afford and in a way that won’t confuse or frustrate you.

How are Car Insurance Rates Set?

Car insurance, like all forms of insurance, is based on risk. The insurance company offers you a payout possibility and sets your monthly premiums based on the likelihood of a certain event occurring. 

This is best understood by looking at life insurance: The probability you will die during the term is used to set your premiums and death benefit, and the more likely you are, the higher the former will be and the lower the latter will be.

With car insurance, underwriters use a host of detailed statistics to set your premiums. If someone in your demographic and driving your type of car is more likely to be involved in a costly accident, you will be expected to pay higher premiums.

Insurance quotes will consider all the following to determine your risk:

1. Age and Gender

Males are more likely to speed and be involved in an accident than women, which is why male drivers may be quoted higher rates. 

The difference between the genders is slight, but the same can’t be said for age. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be involved in an accident and the biggest differences are in those under the age of 20.

Not only is there a huge difference between a 16-year-old driver and a 21-year-old, with the former being nearly 4 times as likely to claim, but there is even a big difference between those aged 16 and those aged 18, with the former around twice as likely.

There isn’t really anything you can do to avoid this, except to ride the storm and keep your record clean, before getting a new quote next year.

2. Location

Car insurance quotes change from state to state. The minimum requirements change depending on state law, but the risk factors also change, and this can have a big impact on the cost of your car insurance policy.

Don’t assume your quotes will remain the same as you move to a different state or that you’ll get the same quote as someone of a similar age in a different state.

New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Idaho, Virginia, and North Carolina have some of the cheapest average car insurance rates in the country, while Michigan, Rhode Island, Florida, and Louisiana have some of the most expensive.

3. Type of Car

Whether you have a new car or an old car; a sports car or an SUV, can massively impact your car insurance premiums. 

Newer cars are more likely to be fitted with high-tech safety features and anti-theft features, which means they are less likely to be involved in a costly accident or to be stolen.

Older cars may not have these features, but it depends on age. Sometimes, the age of a car can work against you, as it may contain specialist parts that are expensive to replace.

When shopping for a car that will keep you safe and keep those premiums down, look for a new car with a high safety rating and stay away from sports cars and old classic cars.

4. Credit Score

We have discussed the importance of your credit score many times, noting how it is considered every time you apply for a new loan or line or credit, and how it is also factored into the equation when applying for certain jobs and security clearances. 

What you might not know, however, is that your credit score is also considered when applying for car insurance and other types of insurance. An excellent credit score can result in lower premiums, as statistics suggest that policyholders with good credit scores are less likely to make a claim than those with bad credit.

It seems like a strange statistic, but there is some logic behind it. Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t necessarily mean that policyholders with good credit scores are less likely to be involved in an accident. There may be some truth to that, but only slightly.

Likely, this statistic results from the fact that individuals with good credit are less likely to make a claim following a small accident, as they are more aware of the damage it could do to their finances.

In any case, your credit score plays a big role, and by increasing this before you apply, you could save some cents on your monthly premiums.

5. Driving Record

If you’re new to auto insurance policies, you won’t have much of a driving record but can start building one. This record takes into account all of your activity on the road, and if you have a record of distracted driving, speeding tickets, drunk driving, and other such charges, your insurance premiums will increase.

Conversely, if you have a clean driving record and can maintain that record, you should see a reduction in your premiums as you will be labeled a good driver and a safe driver in the future.

6. Discounts

Car insurance discounts are not mandatory, but if you want the best car insurance rates, they should be considered. We discussed one of the biggest discounts above, noting that you will be offered lowered premiums if you have a good driving record, but you can also get discounted rates if you:

  • Are a student and have good grades.
  • Live on college campus.
  • Are a member of an automobile organization.
  • Are in the military or you’re a veteran.
  • Have completed safety driving and defensive driving courses.
  • Have a multi-car policy (more than one car on the same policy)
  • Own multiple insurance policies with the same company (known as “bundling”)

What are the Minimum Requirements?

Most states require you to have some degree of financial responsibility, which may or may not come in the form of a minimum amount of coverage. When car insurance is required, you will be asked to have a minimum of the following types of cover:

  1. Property Damage: Covers you against property damage during a car accident (per accident). The minimum typically begins at $5,000, but some states require $25,000 or more.
  2. Bodily Injury: Covers you for physical harm, including resulting medical payments (per person and per accident). Typically, this is around $25,000.
  3. Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Required in a handful of states and is often around $50,000.

Where insurance is not possible, it might be possible to prove financial responsibility if you have surety bonds or a large amount of money deposited in the state. However, getting that minimum amount of coverage is definitely the easier and cheaper option.

You can discuss the minimum requirements and other issues with an insurance agent.

Additional Coverage

Along with the mandatory stuff, there are additional types of coverage you can add to your policy, creating a comprehensive policy that covers you for most eventualities. These include:

Collision Coverage

The mandatory insurance options discussed above cover you for damage done to other peoples’ property, while collision coverage covers your property. 

There are generally two types of collision insurance. The first will cover your vehicle in the event of a crash. Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, will cover you for all costly eventualities leading to property damage, including theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and more.

The right coverage for you will depend on the extent of cover you need, which in turn will depend on your vehicle and budget. Generally, comprehensive coverage is only worth it if you can afford it and have an expensive or new car. If not, you’ll probably pay more in insurance premiums than you’ll ever get back in the event of an accident. 

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In some states, this is not optional, but in most, it is. Uninsured cover will protect you when you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have any insurance, while underinsured coverage will protect you if they don’t have enough insurance. This applies to both property damage liability insurance and personal liability insurance.

Personal Injury Protection

Also known simply as “PIP”, personal injury protection covers your medical bills in the event of an accident. PIP provides cover whether you were at fault for the accident or not. 

Deductibles

The deductible is the amount of money that you pay before the car insurance company takes over. If, for example, you have an accident that results in $2,000 worth of repairs and you have a $1,000 deductible, you will split the cost with your insurer.

If the deductible is $1,000 and the cost of the repairs is $800, the insurance company won’t cover any of the costs and you’ll need to pay for all of them out of your own pocket.

You can adjust the deductibles when applying for car insurance. The higher they are, the less your premiums are but the greater your liability will be if you have an accident.

Car Insurance Premiums

A premium is a monthly payment charged by car insurance companies in exchange for the policy. The rate you pay will depend on a number of factors, many of which we have discussed already:

  • Amount of insurance required
  • Type of car (including make, model, anti-theft devices, safety features, and more)
  • Driving record (including tickets, accidents, and violations)
  • Driving history (new drivers pay more than experienced ones)
  • Location
  • Credit history
  • Demographic
  • Discounts

Bottom Line: Applying for Insurance

To get lower rates, compare as many auto insurance companies as you can, get the minimum coverage required by your state (and your needs), pay attention to the type of car you buy, and look into insurance discounts where possible.

You should also make sure you have some essential information on hand, including your driver’s license, social security number, vehicle identification number, and your estimated mileage.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com