12 Ideal Jobs for Night Owls

Let’s face it: Some people are just night owls.

As much as those morning people with their 4 A.M. alarm followed by a 60 minute Crossfit routine and a homemade breakfast want to think otherwise, some of us were just designed to function better in the evening.

When it comes to a career, though, functioning to your peak night owl capabilities can be difficult. But if you truly want to find jobs for night owls, you absolutely can. In fact, we have a few ideas to get you started and most don’t require a college degree.

12 of the Best Night Shift Jobs for Night Owls

 1. Freelance Writer

While freelance writing can be either a business or a job, it’s an obvious one to include on this list, because you can write whenever your mind functions best. The famous authors Franz Kafka, Vladimir Nabokov, and George Orwell were known to write at night.

How much you’ll make as a freelance writer depends on your ability to find good clients and how efficient you are.

 2. Air Traffic Controller

This is one of the most highly paid night shift jobs. The median annual wage for air traffic controllers is $124,540, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You don’t need a college degree to become an air traffic controller, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website, although you will have to go to the FAA Academy, which can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 based on where you live.

 3. Bartender

Bartending is another job you can do well without a bachelor’s degree, as long as you work in the right place and are assigned to the right shifts. Fortunately for night owls, the night shift produces the best tips. Weekends are usually better than weekdays, so bartending can be a great part-time second job if you already work during the week.

How much do bartenders actually make? That’s a great question, and your answer will depend on who you talk to. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says bartenders, on average, make less than $20,000 a year.

But that’s not even close to being accurate, says The Real Barman, because it doesn’t factor in what bartenders take home (read: cash tips). In his survey, he found that bartenders made somewhere closer to $46,000 per year, and even that seemed conservative.

All that to say, bartending is an excellent job for night owls to make a decent living.

4. Security Guard

Night shift security positions are often relaxing, and some allow free time for various activities that don’t interfere with the work. The downside is the pay.

The BLS reports that the median annual wage for security guards is just $28,490. However, they do note that 10% of security guards make over $49,000, so watch for those better-paying night jobs, or work your way up to them. They are definitely out there.

A nanny reads a bedtime story to a child.
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5. Nanny

In recent years, becoming a nanny has become more lucrative for adults. Since you’re an independent contractor, you can decide which hours you want to work. In other words, you can take only jobs that start in the evening, or even offer overnight babysitting for other night owls who work night shift jobs of their own.

Care.com says the average national rate for a nanny comes out to just over $15/hour. Night shift nannies will likely make more.

6. Firefighter

The mean annual wage for firefighters is $49,620, and a full 25% top $67,100 per year.

Perhaps the best positions are in towns where you work long overnight shifts, staying at the station until there is an emergency call. You’re generally allowed to read, exercise or watch television during those long, slow nights.

And, while firefighters don’t take the job to be heroes, they certainly are just that. We love our first responders, no doubt.

7. Mail Sorter

The USPS hires for both full-time and part-time positions, some of which are during the night shift, including a mail sorter.

Every fall, the Post Office hires thousands of seasonal workers for its peak season of packages and deliveries. Mail sorting isn’t difficult, doesn’t require any previous experience, and pays a competitive wage. Overnight shifts start at 11 p.m. and end when the mail is sorted, usually between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.

These positions usually provide no benefits. This isn’t a career, but a nice way to make some extra cash working night shifts.

8. Pizza Delivery Driver

Indeed says the average pizza delivery driver makes $16.40 per hour. It’s all about the tips, because most places pay minimum wage, and some may pay only the tipped-employee minimum wage, which is just $2.13 per hour.

Still, being a pizza delivery driver can provide a nice side income, especially if you work night shifts on the weekends, when tips are best. It also helps if your employer provides a vehicle or pays extra for your car expenses.

Two nurses dance.
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9. Registered Nurse

If you love to help people facing difficult health issues, then nursing might be for you. Of course hospitals never close, so a night shift position is always an option.

This isn’t a vocation you want to ease into, as it takes years of commitment and schooling to earn your degree. But if nursing is your passion, it also pays well. The 2019 average annual salary for a registered nurse (RN) was $77,640, according to Nursing License Map.

Pro Tip

Not ready for all that school? Nursing assistants can work at night and need only a high school diploma and to complete a job training course.

10. Merchandise Stocker

All grocery stores and big box stores employ these unsung heroes of the retail industry, which means there are plenty of these night shift jobs available. Zip Recruiter currently lists nearly 50,000 merchandise stocker-related jobs, with average pay of about $28,000 per year.

No, you won’t get rich with this night shift job, but it could provide you with some nice side cash while helping you get your night owl fix.

11. Limo Driver

If you like driving nice cars and don’t mind dressing a little fancy, then limo driving might be the gig for you. You’ll need a good driving record and a flexible schedule – including the night shift in most cases.

And according to Zip Recruiter, you can expect to pull in about $39,000, on average, per year as a limo driver.

12. Baker

Peace, quiet, and the constant smell of freshly baked bread. Does it get any better than that?

Depending on the employer, you may or may not need additional schooling to get a baking job. A nicer restaurant, working as a pastry chef, might require a culinary degree. But you probably won’t need that at a smaller, local place or larger grocery store.

Again, you’re not going to get rich as a baker – but, if it’s a passion, who cares about that anyway, right?

Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

3 Ways to Save on Medicare as Premiums Rise

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Older Americans are facing an economic catch-22 next year. Social Security checks are getting bigger, but Medicare costs are also rising.

Monthly Medicare Part B premiums will rise a whopping $21.60 in 2022 — the biggest year-over-year dollar increase in the federal program’s history.

We have suggestions for how to soften the blow.

Medicare Costs Are Rising in 2022

The new Part B premium will cost beneficiaries $170.10 a month in 2022, up from $148.50 in 2021. The increase is double what experts were anticipating just last month.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans could be impacted by the Medicare increase. In 2020, the nation’s largest federal health care program covered 61.2 million people ages 65 and older along with some younger people with long-term disabilities — 18.5% of the U.S. population.

Medicare Part B is a foundational part of the federal insurance program, covering doctor visits, outpatient surgeries, medical equipment and more. It charges beneficiaries a monthly premium for coverage, which have been steadily rising since 2000. (Back then, it was just $46 a month.)

But this year’s hike is the biggest one-year increase in Medicare’s 56-year history. For comparison, Part B premiums increased by just $3.90 last year.

Medicare recipients are getting squeezed in other ways.

The Part B deductible — the cost enrollees pay out-of-pocket each year before Medicare starts paying its share — is also increasing by $30 next year.

The Part A deductible will be higher, too. Medicare Part A primarily covers hospital stays and skilled nursing facilities.

2022 Medicare Costs at a Glance

Program Cost Up from Increase
Medicare Part B premium $170.10 per month $148.50 in 2021 $21.60 per month
Medicare Part B deductible $233 per year $203 in 2021 $30 per year
Medicare Part A deductible $1,556 per year $1,484 in 2021 $72 per year

Why Are Medicare Costs Going Up in 2022?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offered a few reasons for the historically high Part B increase in a Nov. 12 press release.

  1. Rising health care prices and an increased use of the Medicare system, some of which is attributed to COVID-19 care.
  2. Medicare Part B premiums only increased $3 from 2020 to 2021 after Congress decided to soften the blow of price hikes on beneficiaries during the pandemic. Congress then directed CMS to pay back the reduced premium over time — and that payback catch-up starts in 2022.
  3. There’s a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug on the market called Aduhelm and CMS is still deciding if Medicare will cover it. The complex infusion treatment is extremely expensive, with an estimated price tag of $56,000 a year. It’s unclear if Aduhelm will get a green light from Medicare, but CMS says it still “must plan for the possibility of coverage for this high cost Alzheimer’s drug” because it could lead to significantly higher expenditures for the Medicare program.

About half of the 2022 Part B premium increase is due to contingency planning for Aduhelm coverage, according to CBS News.

“The increase in the Part B premium for 2022 is continued evidence that rising drug costs threaten the affordability and sustainability of the Medicare program,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a press release.

High-Income Earners Will Pay Even More for Medicare Next Year

High-income earners will shoulder additional Medicare costs in 2022 thanks to the income-related monthly adjustment amount.

Simply put, Part B and Part D premiums are tied to a beneficiary’s income. People with higher incomes pay more than the standard Medicare premiums.

According to CMS, only about 7% of Medicare enrollees pay higher Part B premiums due to income and 8% pay higher Part D premiums.

The graduated surcharges for high-income earners kick in for single filers who earn more than $91,000 and couples who earn more than $182,000.

The Part B income-related monthly adjusted premium is $238.10 in 2022, an increase of $30.20 from 2021.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest older Americans — singles with $500,000 of income or more and couples with $750,000 of income or more — will face total Part B premiums of $578.30 a month per person, a $73.40 increase over 2021.

To see a full breakdown of income-related monthly adjustment amounts for 2022, click here.

Medicare Costs Will Likely Eat Up Your Social Security Increase

In October, Social Security recipients got some good news.

The annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is increasing 5.9% in 2022 — the biggest COLA in nearly 40 years.

Here’s what that looks like for the average recipient:

  • Retired workers will get an extra $92 a month on average, bringing the average monthly benefit to $1,657.
  • Disabled workers will get an extra $76 a month on average, bringing the average monthly benefit to $1,358.
  • The maximum Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit will increase by $47 a month, bringing the maximum monthly benefit to $841.

Social Security cost-of-living increases are tied to inflation, and if you haven’t heard, inflation is soaring.

The bumped-up benefit is meant to offset the rising cost for everyday essentials like food, housing and utilities.

Yet Social Security COLAs have historically lagged behind inflation. This year is no different.

The Consumer Price Index, a government measure for the change in prices over time, hit 6.2% in October — so the 5.9% COLA still falls short.

Factor in $21.60 a month for higher Part B premiums and that extra money in your Social Security check means even less, said Mary Johnson, a Medicare policy analyst with The Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan senior group.

“The Medicare Part B premium is automatically deducted from Social Security benefits. So once increased premiums are deducted, the net Social Security benefit won’t be 5.9% higher,” Johnson said.

Those with modest Social Security benefits will see most, if not all, of their pay raise eaten up by rising Medicare and living costs, Johnson said.

“The jump in the Medicare Part B premium for 2022 spells trouble ahead for many beneficiaries wondering where the money will come from to pay all the bills,” Johnson told The Penny Hoarder. “Those with the lowest benefits won’t see much left over.”

Pro Tip

The Social Security Administration usually sends out mailed notices of new benefit amounts in early December — but you can see it now by going online and checking your My Social Security account.

An elderly man and wife look at medicare options on their laptop.
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3 Ways to Lower Your Medicare Costs in 2022

None of this news about Medicare costs bodes well for seniors on fixed incomes.

But you can take steps to potentially lower your Medicare costs next year.

Switch to a Cheaper Plan During Open Enrollment

Medicare open enrollment is going on now through Dec. 7. It’s your annual opportunity to review your current coverage and explore other plans that may work better — and cost less.

As a quick reminder, you can get your Medicare coverage in one of two ways:

  1. Original Medicare: Includes Part A and Part B. Administered by the federal government. Most enrollees also purchase a standalone Part D drug plan administered by a private insurer. Some people also purchase private supplement insurance called Medigap.
  2. Medicare Advantage: An all-in-one health care plan administered by a private insurer. It bundles Part A, Part B and (usually) Part D benefits.

Medicare offers an online plan comparison tool where you can shop for different Part D drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans and Medigap supplement plans.

You’ll enter your zip code and any financial help you might be receiving — such as Medicaid — and the tool will show you all the available plans in your area.

If you’re in the market for a new Part D plan, you can also enter your prescription drug information and select up to five preferred pharmacies for customized estimates on your out-of-pocket drug costs.

Pro Tip

Make sure to accurately enter all the medications you take into the Medicare.gov tool, including the dosages, quantity and frequency. Leaving out these details can result in incorrect cost estimates.

You can review up to three different Part D or Medicare Advantage plans side-by-side and filter results by star ratings and available benefits.

The private insurance companies that run these plans change coverage and costs every year. They might drop coverage for certain prescription drugs or change their pricing structure for different services.

As a result, you might be paying significantly more for health care just by sticking with your current coverage.

Make sure to carefully review details on any plan before signing up.

If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you still have to pay your Part B premiums. Some Advantage plans advertise to pay a portion of the Part B premium in the form of a “giveback.”

That might sound enticing — especially with Part B premiums on the rise.

Tread carefully, though. Giveback benefits aren’t available in all areas. Even when they are, you’ll be restricted to a local network of doctors, and you’ll need to consider other out-of-pocket costs, like deductibles. Some Medicare Advantage plans offering a Part B reduction may not include prescription drug coverage.

You can find Medicare Advantage plans with a giveback benefit by using the Medicare plan finder tool, and checking the details page for each plan. However, finding the exact amount of the reduction may be difficult. You’ll likely need to read through plan documents or call the plan provider.

See If You Qualify for a Medicare Savings Program

Older Americans with low incomes can qualify for financial assistance from Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs).

These programs help millions of people pay Medicare premiums and may also cover your deductibles, coinsurance and copayments if you meet eligibility requirements in your state.

Only about half of Medicare beneficiaries eligible for MSP are currently enrolled in one, according to CMS. That makes sense — signing up for these programs can be confusing and difficult.

Pro Tip

Learn more about MSPs, including income limits and eligibility requirements, by visiting this page on Medicare.gov.

Medicare also offers a prescription assistance program called Extra Help for beneficiaries with limited incomes and resources.

If you qualify and enroll in Extra Help, you’re guaranteed not to pay more than $3.95 for each generic drug or $9.85 for each brand-name covered drug.

To see if you qualify for Extra Help and start an application, click here.

Talk to a Trained Nonprofit Volunteer

It’s time-consuming to compare different Medicare plans and pick one that works for you. But with open enrollment closing Dec. 7, time is of the essence.

Thankfully, there’s a nonprofit organization that can help.

It’s called the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), though some states give it a different name (such as SHINE in Florida or SHIBA in Idaho).

Each SHIP is made up of a network of trained volunteers who provide 1-on-1 counseling about Medicare benefits.

The program isn’t connected to insurance companies or health plans, so the advice you receive is free and unbiased. No one will try to sell you something or bombard you with annoying calls.

Plus, any Medicare beneficiary can utilize the program because there aren’t any income limits or restrictions.

To get started, call your state’s SHIP information line (click “SHIP locator” on the organization’s home page for a list of each state’s phone number).

You’ll get connected to a SHIP volunteer who can help you compare plans, answer your questions and even help you enroll in a Medicare Savings Program if you qualify.

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Debt Advisor Helps People with More Than $15K in Debt Get Back on Track

You might find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. But if you have more than ,000 in debt, you could get your debt under control and regain control of your life with this free debt-relief service.

There’s more than one way to approach your debt. But not every path is right for everyone. But a company called Debt Advisor works with experts who will help you determine what’s best for your financial situation. In some cases, debt settlement might be right for you. Down this path, you’d look for a company willing to take your case and enroll you in their settlement program.

Let a Professional Renegotiate Your Debt

If you’re in serious debt, you know how hard it can be. There’s the harassing phone calls, the threatening notices and insufficient funds to cover anything more than the necessities. And it feels like you can hardly keep up. You’re nowhere near paying it off, and thanks to high interest rates, the debt isn’t getting any smaller.
You might have to pay toward the settlement in a separate escrow account, so your monthly payments might not count towards your troubled accounts.
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Find the Best Solution for You

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If a deal is reached and you stick to making your payments, you might once again find your mailbox packed with credit card offers — annoying, but that’s actually a good thing.

Why I decided to apply for the new Capital One Venture X card – The Points Guy


Why I decided to apply for the new Capital One Venture X card – The Points Guy


Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

Some Chase Freedom Cards Being Converted To Chase Freedom Flex/Freedom Unlimited

Some existing vanilla Chase Freedom cardholders have received an e-mail with the subject line ‘<name>, your Freedom® card is being upgraded to Freedom Unlimited®’ stating that their card will be converted to the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Others are being told their card will be converted to the Chase Freedom Flex.

It seems that so far inactive cardholders (e.g cardholders that haven’t used their existing cards in the last few months) are being converted but there are rumblings that all cardholders will be converted. The Chase Freedom Flex earns 5% on rotating categories (same as the Vanilla freedom) but the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

I assume cardholders with a Freedom Flex already are being converted to the Freedom Unlimited, and those without the Freedom Flex are being converted to that but that doesn’t always seem to be the case based on the datapoints I’ve seen.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

How Do I Get the Best Interest Rate on a Loan?

Whether trying to consolidate debt with a personal loan or thinking about a loan to pay for a major life event, taking on debt is a financial move that warrants some consideration. It’s important to understand the financial commitment that taking on a personal loan — or any other debt — entails. This includes understanding interest rates you might qualify for, how a loan term affects the total interest charged, fees that might be charged by different lenders, and, finally, comparing offers you might receive.

Shopping around and comparing loans can increase your confidence that you’re getting the best interest rate on a loan.

What’s a Good Interest Rate on a Loan?

You may see advertisements for loan interest rates, but when you get around to checking your personal loan interest rate, what you’re offered may be different than rates you’ve seen. Why is that? A loan company may have interest rate ranges, but the lowest, most competitive rates may only be available to people who have excellent credit, as well as other factors.

When shopping around for a loan, it’s typical that when checking your rate, even with online personal loan companies, you can check your rate without affecting your credit score. This pre-qualification rate is just an estimate of the interest rate you would likely be offered if you were to apply for a loan, but it can give you a good estimate of what sort of rate you might be offered. You can compare rates to begin to filter potential companies to use to apply for a loan.

Recommended: Personal Loan Calculator

Getting a Favorable Interest Rate on a Loan

The potential interest rate on a loan depends on a few factors. These may include:

•   The amount of money borrowed.

•   The length of the loan.

•   The type of interest on your loan. Some loans may have variable interest (interest rates can fluctuate throughout the life of the loan) or a fixed interest rate. Typically, starting interest rates may be lower on a variable-rate loan.

•   Your credit score, which consists of several components.

•   Being a current customer of the company.

For example, your credit history, reflected in your credit score, can give a lender an idea of how much a risk you may be. Late payments, a high balance, or recently opened lines of credit or existing loans may make it seem like you could be a risky potential borrower.

If your credit score is not where you’d like it to be, it may make sense to take some time to focus on increasing your credit score. Some ways to do this are:

•   Analyzing your credit report and correcting any errors. If you haven’t checked your credit report, doing so before you apply for a loan is a good first step to making sure your credit information is correct. Then you’ll have a chance to correct any errors that may be bringing down your credit score.

•   Work on improving your credit score, if necessary. Making sure you pay bills on time and keeping your credit utilization ratio at a healthy level can help improve your credit score.

•   Minimize opening new accounts. Opening new accounts may temporarily decrease your credit score. If you’re planning to apply for a loan, it may be good to hold off on opening any new accounts for a few months leading up to your application.

•   Consider a cosigner or co-applicant for a loan. If you have someone close to you — a parent or a partner — with excellent credit, having a cosigner may make a loan application stronger. Keep in mind, though, that a cosigner will be responsible for the loan if the main borrower does not make payments.

Recommended: What is a Good APR?

Comparing Interest Rates on Personal Loans

When you compare loan options, it can be easy to focus exclusively on interest rates, choosing the company that may potentially offer you the lowest rate. But it can also be important to look at some other factors, including:

•   What are the fees? Some companies may charge fees such as origination fees or prepayment penalties. Before you commit to a loan, know what fees may be applicable so you won’t be surprised.

•   What sort of hardship terms do they have? Life happens, and it’s helpful to know if there are any alternative payment options if you were not able to make a payment during a month. It can be helpful to know in advance the steps one would take if they were experiencing financial hardship.

•   What is customer service like? If you have questions, how do you access the company?

•   Does your current bank offer “bundled” options? Current customers with active accounts may be offered lower personal loan interest rates than brand-new customers.

Recommended: Avoiding Loan Origination Fees

Choosing a Personal Loan For Your Financial Situation

Interest rates and terms aside, before you apply for a loan, it’s a good idea to understand how the loan will fit into your life and how you’ll budget for loan payments in the future. The best personal loan is one that feels like it can comfortably fit in your budget.

But it also may be a good idea to assess whether you need a personal loan, or whether there may be another financial option that fits your goals. For example:

•   Using a buy now, pay later service to cover the cost of a purchase. These services may offer 0% interest for a set amount of time.

•   Transferring high-interest credit card debt to a 0% or low-interest credit card, and making a plan to pay the balance before the end of the promotional rate.

•   Taking on a side hustle or decreasing monthly expenses to be able to cover the cost of a major purchase or renovation.

•   Researching other loan options, such as a home equity loan, depending on your needs.

Recommended: 39 Ways to Earn Passive Income Streams

The Takeaway

A loan is likely to play a big part in your financial life for months or years, so it’s important to take your time figuring out which loan option is right for you. And it’s also important to remember that interest rate is just one aspect of the loan. Paying attention to details like potential fees, hardship clauses, and other factors you may find in the small print may save you money and stress over time.

SoFi offers competitive unsecured personal loan options with fixed rates and no fees. Completing an easy online application will show what rate you qualify for — no commitment required and it won’t affect your credit score*.

Check your rate in just one minute.

Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio


*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.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Source: sofi.com

Where to Find Yield in 2022

It is daunting to expect a big profit, or even any profit, over the next several months from standard bonds or bond funds. Breaking even would be acceptable while interest rates and inflation churn. But as I consider 2022, I aver that the economy is marking time until an inevitable return to its pre-pandemic formula of 2% growth, 2% inflation and 2% long-term interest rates, which may land at 2.5% post-COVID. That’s a beneficial backdrop for plenty of income-paying investments, and now is a good time to accumulate income investments that zig when growth and inflation also zig.

I looked up 2021 returns (through November 5) for 15 of my most-trusted funds and trusts. The three most successful were Pimco Corporate & Income Strategy (symbol PCN), BNY Mellon Municipal Bond Infrastructure (DMB) and Nuveen Preferred and Income Term (JPI), with respective total returns of 15.3%, 10.3% and 9.8%. I continue to endorse all three. I am sold on the appeal of leveraged closed-end debt funds and also see no end to the popularity of junk bonds and floating-rate bank loan funds. All of them benefit from economic vigor; the tendency for debt-ratings upgrades; the unusually low incidence of bond defaults and loan delinquencies; and the phenomenal amount of cash out there seeking any reasonable yield. If you value the Treasury’s full faith and credit, in­flation-linked Series I savings bonds are paying 7.12% until May because of the spike in the consumer price index. The yield will then reset, but the bonds will remain attractive. In addition, explore the following asset classes for 2022, using ETFs or closed-ends if you prefer them to individual securities:

Floating-rate bank loan funds. Fidelity Floating Rate High Income (FFRHX) is the best-known; Invesco Senior Loan (BKLN) is a cromulent ETF and one of the Kiplinger ETF 20, the list of our favorite exchange-traded funds. Keep these well fed if you already own them.

High-yield bonds. Vanguard’s offerings have the low-expense-ratio edge, but spreading money among a few managers makes sense. I prefer active management to indexing. New junk-bond yields have contracted to 4%, but capital gains can pad this.

Preferred stocks. New offerings number about one a week and offer yields of about 5%. Or try closed-end funds such as Flaherty & Crumrine Preferred Income Fund (PFD) and pounce when the premiums to net asset value tighten. Six-month-old Fidelity Preferred Securities & Income ETF (FPFD) shows great promise.

Short-term, high-rate lenders. Ready Capital (RC, $16) finances small commercial loans and mortgages; the stock yields north of 10%. RiverNorth Specialty Finance (RSF, $20) invests in an array of debt, including small-business loans. It is an interval fund; you buy it as you would a regular mutual fund but can only sell quarterly. The design lets managers hold rare or unusual high-income investments. Distributions run about 8%, cushioning share-price gyrations.

Taxable muni­cipals. These are my pick for cautious savers. These high-coupon munis sagged early in 2021 but are reviving of late. Invesco Taxable Municipal Bond ETF (BAB) distributes close to 3%, and all its bonds are rated A or better.

Source: kiplinger.com

12 Steps to Filling out the FAFSA Form 2021-2022

For many people, one of the first steps to applying for college is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®. This form helps the government determine your eligibility for federal student aid, including subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, as well as grants and work-study opportunities.

Completing The 2021-2022 FAFSA Application

The FAFSA form 2021 may look a bit different if you’ve filled out the form in the past. That’s because of the FAFSA® Simplification Act, which was passed in December 2020 and designed to make the FAFSA more accessible for lower-income students and families. While most of these changes won’t go into effect for the upcoming FAFSA cycle, we’ll point in this article a few changes to FAFSA you will see this year.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

12 Steps to Fill Out the FAFSA

FAFSA opens Oct. 1, 2020, and closes June 30, 2022 for the 2021/2022 academic year. However, FAFSA deadlines may vary depending on the states and schools you’re applying to, so you may want to check with each school to confirm their FAFSA deadline. If you’re ready to fill out FAFSA, we’ve outlined steps required in the process.

Not ready to fill out the FAFSA? You can fill out an abridged Federal Student Aid Estimator to give you an idea of what filling out the actual FAFSA will be like and to estimate your expected student aid package.

1. Required Documents Ready

Before even loading the online FAFSA form, it may be useful to have all your required documents in order to make the application process even easier. The things you’ll need may include:

•   Social security or alien registration ID

•   Drivers license or state ID

•   Federal income tax returns, W-2s and other financial documents for both yourself and your parent(s) if you’re a dependent (more on that later)

•   Bank statements

•   Untaxed income

•   Title IV Institution Codes for schools you’re applying to (again, more on that later)

•   Download app, if you plan on applying on mobile (you can also apply on desktop)

Dependent students will also need to provide similar information for their parents.

2. FSA IDs

There’s one more thing you’ll need in order to apply for FAFSA, and that’s a federal student aid ID, or FSA ID . This is simply the username or password you’ll use to log into FAFSA. Note that if you need to enter parental financial information, whoever is providing that financial information will also need to create an FSA ID .

3. Basic Information

Now that you have a FSA ID, you’re ready to log in and get started. The first few steps of FAFSA will be filling out basic information. The site or app will first ask you if you are a student, parent, or preparer helping a student fill out the FAFSA. Select which one applies to you. You should then be prompted to provide the following:

•   Your full name

•   Date of birth

•   Social security number

4. Starting the Application

Once you fill in this information, you will be asked to accept or decline the disclaimer, which details how the site will use and monitor your data. You should then be prompted to either start a FAFSA for 2021-2022 or 2020-2021. If you’re filing FAFSA for the upcoming year and are not currently enrolled in college, you should choose “Start 2021-2022 FAFSA.”

You’ll also be asked to create a save key, which is simply a four-digit code you’ll use to save your application. If you don’t finish FAFSA in one sitting, then you’ll be asked to enter your save key to continue filling it out at a later date.

5. Section 1: Student Information

Next, you’ll need to enter some information about yourself, including (but not limited to):

•   Social security number

•   Full name

•   Date of birth

•   Email address

•   Phone number

•   Home address

•   State of residence

•   Citizenship status

•   High school completion status

•   College degree level

•   If you’d like to be considered for work-study

6. Section 2: College Search Section

To send your FAFSA information to schools you’re applying to, you’ll need to find the federal school code for each school you want your information sent to. Doing so allows colleges to receive your FAFSA information and use it to provide you a financial aid package. You can find this code either on the school’s website or by searching for it on the FAFSA form itself.

7. Section 3: Dependency Status

You can either apply to FAFSA as a dependent of your parents or as an independent. If you’re a first-time college student and will graduate from high school in 2022 and/or are under 24 years old, you’ll most likely need to file as a dependent, meaning you’ll need your parents’ financial information to apply.

Section 3 of the FAFSA will help you determine if you’re an independent or dependent student. You’ll need to provide some more information about yourself, such as your marital status, if you have children or other dependents, and if you’re at risk or are currently experiencing homelessness.

Once you’ve filled out this information, FAFSA should display a message that determines whether or not you’re considered a dependent and therefore need parental financial information to determine expected family contribution (which will soon be replaced with the student aid index).

(Note that the rest of these steps assume you’re filing as a dependent. While the process of filing as an independent will be similar, you won’t be asked to provide information about your parents.)

8. Section 4: Parental Information

If you need parental information for FAFSA, you’ll include that in this section. Information you’ll need includes (but is not limited to):

•   Parental marital status

•   Date of parent’s marriage

•   Parent social security number

•   Parent name

•   Parent date of birth

•   Parent email address

•   Parent’s spousal information for all of the above

•   Household size

9. Section 5: Parent Financials

Next, you’ll need to provide some financial information about your parents. You’ll be asked for information such as (but not limited to):

•   Last year taxes were filed

•   Tax return type

•   Filing status

•   IRS Data Retrieval Tool (otherwise, need to fill in tax information manually)

•   Combat pay

•   Grant and scholarship aid

•   Education credits

•   Untaxed IRA distributions

•   IRA deductions and payments

•   Tax exempt interest income

•   Child support payments

•   Need-based employment programs

•   Net worth

10. Section 6: Student financials

Now it’s time to provide some financial information about yourself. You’ll be asked for information such as (but not limited to):

•   Last year taxes were filed

•   Tax return type

•   Filing status

•   IRS Data Retrieval Tool (otherwise, need to fill in tax information manually)

•   Combat pay

•   Grant and scholarship aid

•   Education credits

•   Untaxed IRA distributions

•   IRA deductions and payments

•   Tax exempt interest income

•   Child support payments

•   Need-based employment programs

•   Net worth

11. Check for errors

Once you’ve reached the end of the application, you should receive a FAFSA summary. Before hitting submit, you may want to ensure that all the information you included is accurate. Reviewing this information closely may help avoid filing a FAFSA correction later.

12. Agreement of Terms

The FAFSA requires you to accept or reject its agreement of terms. If your parent(s) also provided information because you filed as a dependent, they will also need to accept these terms in order for you to submit the application. Both you and your parent(s) will e-sign using your FSA ID. Once you’ve accepted the terms, your FAFSA will be complete.

Sample FAFSA Form for 2021/2022

Do you need some extra help? FAFSA’s Financial Aid Tool Kit is rich with resources and information. Some documents include step-by-step instructions on how to complete the FAFSA on the website and mobile app, lists of tips for filling out the FAFSA, question-and-answer documents, and more. You can also view a sample FAFSA form or a presentation on how to fill out FAFSA using the mobile app.

This student aid report may also be useful if you need to see another FAFSA sample form.

Recommended: How much FAFSA Money Can I Expect?

What’s Different About the 2021/2022 FAFSA

As previously discussed, the FAFSA Simplification Act passed last December resulted in a few changes to FAFSA. However, most of these changes won’t go into effect for the 2021-2022 school year. For FAFSA 2021-2022, major changes include the following:

•   Automatic-Zero EFC: FAFSA will give all applicants with an income of $27,000 or less an EFC of zero, meaning FAFSA does not expect families to help pay for the applicant’s college. This amount increased $1,000 from last year, which set the cut-off at $26,000, so more students should be able to receive a EFC of zero.

•   Schedule 1 Questions: When populating tax information from the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, the tool will automatically answer whether or not the applicant filed for a Schedule 1.

Additional changes are already scheduled for the 2022/2023 FAFSA form, such as drug convictions no longer negatively affecting one’s ability to get financial aid. Additionally, registration status for Selective Service for eligible males will also no longer be considered for financial aid. You can review the latest changes to the FAFSA on the official FAFSA website.

A Few Extra Tips

Completing the FAFSA can be an overwhelming process. For those filing for the first time, you may want to check out this 2021-2022 FAFSA guide and some FAFSA tips to make the process even easier. If you need some more help on how to fill out FAFSA 2021/2022, some tips from StudentAid.Gov include:

1.    Completing the form: It can be tempting to skip the FAFSA altogether, especially if you’re from a middle- or upper-class family and you believe you won’t be eligible for aid. However, falling for this assumption could mean leaving aid on the table.

2.    Paying attention to deadlines: As stated earlier, FAFSA 2021/2022 opens Oct. 1 and closes June 30, 2022. However, the schools you’re applying to may require you to fill out the FAFSA before June 30, so it’s best to ask each school’s financial aid office about what their FAFSA deadlines are to avoid losing out on aid.

3.    Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool: This tool auto-fills your latest tax information from the IRS database. When you fill out FAFSA, you’ll have the option to either fill out your tax data manually or use the tool. Using the tool could help you avoid making costly mistakes while also saving you time.

4.    Filling out every section: Not sure how to fill out a section? FAFSA offers helpful tips throughout each section of the FAFSA form to make filling out the FAFSA easier. Additionally, not filling out a section of FAFSA could result in your form not being submitted or you receiving less financial aid.

5.    Double-checking the form: Before you submit, you may want to go back and double-check your answers to make sure everything is filled out and is accurate.

Recommended: Navigating Your Financial Aid Package

The Takeaway

Filling out the FAFSA is a great first step to pay for your dream school. This is one of the best ways of getting scholarships and grants you won’t have to pay back or government-backed loans to help you pay for college-related costs. By learning how to properly fill out the FAFSA (and then actually doing so!), you can increase your odds of getting a bigger financial aid package.

However, if your financial aid package doesn’t cover all your college expenses, you may want to consider private student loans. It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same protections as federal student loans, like income-driven repayment plans or deferment options. For this reason, private student loans are generally considered only after other sources of funding have been considered.

SoFi’s Private Student Loans are available for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as parents. In just a few minutes, you can apply online for student loans and be well on your way to financing your education.

Find out more about SoFi’s Private Student Loan options.

Header photo credit: iStock/Vladimir Sukhachev

FAFSA photos credit: FAFSA’s Financial Aid Tool Kit


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