3 Easy Ways to Get Free Meals for Kids While School’s Out

A little boy recieves food in a bag from a bus driver.

A Jefferson County School District student receives several bags with meals, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Fayette, Miss. As one of the most food insecure counties in the United States, many families and their children come to depend on the free meals as the only means of daily sustenance. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Millions of families struggle with food insecurity every summer when school is out. Income loss due to the pandemic has only exasperated the situation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) up to 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not have enough to eat.

If you’re worried about how to put food on your family’s table, help is out there.

How to Get Free Meals for Kids This Summer: 3 Federal Programs

The American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 — provided funding to expand several USDA programs aimed to reduce child hunger.

1. Pandemic EBT

Families with children eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who qualify for SNAP benefits can receive extra money for food via the Pandemic EBT program, which is being extended through the summer to make up for missed school meals.

The USDA standard benefit amount is $375 per eligible child over the course of the summer. Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands have a higher standard benefit.

You’ll need to enroll in the Pandemic EBT program through your individual state, as funds are disbursed at the state level. Currently, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved to operate Pandemic EBT programs.

Money is generally distributed in two or three disbursements throughout the summer.

2. USDA Summer Meals

All families with children 18 and under can participate in the USDA’s summer meal programs, which partners with local agencies including libraries, community centers, parks, churches and schools to distribute meals.

Program rules have been loosened so that meals can be distributed in bulk packages to cover multiple days and so parents can pick up the food without having their children present.

This interactive map helps you find local meal distribution sites. You can also locate a nearby site by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or calling 1-866-348-6479.

3. USDA National Hunger Hotline

The USDA National Hunger Hotline can help families seeking food assistance. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. E.T. to reach the hotline. If you need assistance in Spanish, call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).

Free Meals Next School Year

Even after summer comes to an end, families will still be able to get a financial break when it comes to feeding their kids.The USDA is extending its National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option so that students can receive universal free lunch throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Waivers will also be given to provide free meals for kids in daycare and preschool programs.

If students are still learning virtually, you’ll be able to pick up meals for children to eat at home. Check with your child’s school or child care provider to see if they are participating in this program.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Make a Retirement Budget So You Don’t Outlive Your Savings

You’ve spent decades in the workforce earning a living, your schedule dictated by the demands of the job. All the while, you’ve been steadily adding to your savings so that one day you could get to this point. Retirement.

Now, there’s no alarm to wake you up in the mornings and no boss to answer to. You can finally get around to crossing items off your bucket list — or simply have the opportunity to catch a midweek matinee movie.

The world is your oyster.

Life may feel more relaxed and carefree, but that doesn’t mean you no longer have financial responsibilities. In fact, now’s the time you might need to be even more diligent about budgeting your money.

Living on What You Have Saved

When you say goodbye to your 9-to-5, you also say goodbye to your regular paycheck. You’ll rely on Social Security benefits, the money in your retirement accounts and any additional income, like a pension, to cover your expenses.

Sticking to a budget is vital so your retirement savings last. That money you’ve squirreled away in your working years has to stretch for decades. Remember, life on a fixed income means there are no bonuses, overtime or promotions to increase your cash flow.

How Much Should You Have Saved?

If you’re already retired or nearing retirement age, hopefully you’ve done the math to determine whether you’ll have enough money to keep you afloat.

One popular rule of thumb is to have 25 times your average annual expenses saved up. But how much money you need in retirement depends on many factors, like your age, where you live and the type of retirement you want to enjoy.

If you want to retire at 60, rent a highrise in New York City and travel every couple of months, you’ll need considerably more money than a retiree who leaves the workforce at 70, lives in a paid-off home in rural North Dakota and just stays home and knits.

There are also a lot of unknowns in retirement — like what medical conditions you could develop and exactly how many years you’ll need your money to stretch.

That’s why it’s important to have robust retirement savings and be cognizant of your spending in your golden years.

How to Make the Most of Your Nest Egg

To make your savings last, you’ve got to be prudent about how much you withdraw each year.

“The gold standard has always been 4%, but new research has revealed a different number,” said Chuck Czajka, a certified estate planner and owner of Macro Money Concepts in Stuart, Florida.

He said withdrawing 3% a year instead gives you a 90% success rate to last through a 25-year retirement.

Keep in mind, once you’ve determined how much you can withdraw per year, you’ll want to divide that amount by 12 to come up with how much to withdraw each month. Czajka recommends withdrawing money from your retirement accounts on a monthly basis rather than taking out all you’d need for a whole year.

Meeting with a financial adviser can help you come up with a personalized plan to fit your individual situation.

“As people approach retirement, they should work with a retirement professional to determine their expected retirement income,” said Lisa Bamburg, a registered investment adviser and owner of Insurance Advantage in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

Two grandmothers dress in funky classes and brightly colored shirts.
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Factoring in Income Beyond Your Savings

In addition to the money you’ve saved in your 401(k), individual retirement account (IRA) or other investment accounts, a portion of your retirement income will come from Social Security benefits.

You can start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but you’ll receive less money per month than if you waited until full retirement age — 66 or 67, depending on when you were born.

If you delay claiming Social Security benefits past your full retirement age, you’ll receive even more each month. However, there’s no additional increase once you’ve reached age 70.

Pro Tip

This calculator from the Social Security Administration gives you a rough idea of your retirement benefits. This retirement estimator is more accurate but requires plugging in your personal info.

In addition to Social Security, you might have other sources of retirement income, like money from a pension plan or an annuity.

A report from the National Institute on Retirement Security found that many retirees don’t have a great diversity in their retirement income, though more income sources provide for a more secure retirement.

The report found less than 7% of older Americans have retirement income that’s made up of a combination of Social Security, a pension plan and a retirement contribution plan like a 401(k). About 40% rely on Social Security alone.

“Social Security benefits typically are not the equivalent of what it takes for most people to maintain their standard of living,” Bamburg said.

The Social Security Administration states its retirement benefits only replace about 40% of earnings for people with average wages — more for low-income workers and less for those in higher income brackets.

How to Create a Retirement Budget

Once you determine what your retirement income will be, it’s time to make your retirement budget.

If you’ve already been budgeting, you’re off to a great start, though your new budget will likely differ from that of your working days.

Take Stock of Your Essential Expenses

First you’ve got to get an overall look at your current spending. If you don’t already have a budget or track your spending, pull out the past several months of bank or credit card statements. Dig up old receipts if you tend to pay in cash.

Reviewing the past three months will help you find what you spend on average, but an even deeper dive — looking at the last six to 12 months — will give you a more accurate picture and will reveal things like your annual car insurance bill and holiday spending.

Group your spending into categories to get a good picture of where your money’s going. You’ll have fixed expenses, like your mortgage, where the cost stays the same each month. Other expenses, like groceries or utilities, will vary. For those, you should calculate your average monthly spend.

Account for Changes

After leaving the workforce, you’ll probably notice some differences in your spending. You’ll no longer have to pay for downtown parking near the office, dry cleaning your suits or pricey lunches with coworkers. Your monthly retirement contributions will be a thing of the past.

However, not everything will be budget cuts. You’ll have to account for new retirement expenses, like health care premiums your employer previously covered. If you’re 65, you can get health insurance through Medicare, but it’s likely you’ll have increased out-of-pocket medical costs as you age.

And of course, now that you have an influx in free time, you can pursue the things you’ve always wanted to do — which means more new expenses.

A group of retired women have fun.
Getty Images

Make Room for Fun in Your Retirement Budget

A big part of retirement planning is determining what type of lifestyle you want to have when you’re no longer at work 40 hours a week.

Do you want to travel? Spend more time with your grandkids? Explore a new hobby? After you’ve covered your essential expenses, how you spend what’s left in your budget is totally up to you.

Don’t forget to include run-of-the-mill discretionary expenses, like cable, magazine subscriptions and dining out. It won’t all be cruise ships and Broadway plays.

If you’re married, be sure to share your vision for retirement with your partner, so you’re both on the same page about how you’ll spend your time and money.

Adjusting Expectations to Reality

As you create your monthly budget, you may discover you don’t have nearly as much money as you thought you’d have in retirement. That doesn’t mean you have to live out the rest of your life kicking yourself for not saving more. You have a few options to get by.

Take another look at your living expenses. Are there any ways you can cut costs? Slash your food spending with these tips to save money on groceries. Consider downsizing to a smaller home.

When it comes to your discretionary spending, look for ways to enjoy a more frugal retirement. Take advantage of senior discounts. Check out free activities at your local community center. Find ways to save money on traveling.

Although retirement means leaving your working days behind, you may find it necessary to pick up a side gig or part-time job to supplement your income. Seek out opportunities that match your interests so it doesn’t feel like work.

Don’t forget to enjoy this new stage of life. You worked hard — you deserve it.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Show Your Teachers Some Appreciation: 21 Teacher Gifts for Under $10

Teacher Appreciation Week, which is the first week of May, is kind of like National Ice Cream Month in July. We should show our gratitude for teachers — and love of ice cream — all year round, not just at a designated time on the calendar.

In the year of virtual classrooms and so many other challenges it’s definitely time for teacher appreciation gifts this week or on the last day of school.

Teacher gifts are usually just small tokens to represent big thanks. Giving a thoughtful gift, however, enhances their value. The Penny Hoarder asked several educators to help create a list of teacher-approved gift ideas.

“The best are the notes from the kids. Honestly, those are the things that you save in your desk drawer,” said Kate Brown who teaches middle school English in Charlotte, N.C.

If you really want to thrill a teacher, suggest your child and several other students write a thank you speech or toast. This was one of the favorite gifts ever for Kathleen Tobin, who teaches high school journalism and multimedia in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“All the seniors got together and wrote a speech thanking me and saying what they had learned for me,” she said. “The seniors each took a part and came up to the microphone and they gave me flowers.”

A thoughtful note or words were the most common response when teachers were asked to name their favorite teacher gift. What they universally don’t love getting: a coffee mug.

Consider these gift ideas for a favorite teacher to go along with a nice note.

20 Teacher Gifts To Buy or Make for Under $10

1. Gift Card for Coffee or Cheap Eats.

A $10 gift card goes a long way at Starbucks, Chic-fil-A or McDonald’s. (A gift card for $10 to a pricey shop or restaurant isn’t a great gift if teachers have to spend more of their own money to use it.)

2. Gift Card for Rare Indulgences.

A $10 gift card won’t buy a week’s worth of groceries at Whole Foods or a local gourmet market (not even close). But it will buy a decadent dessert, pricey body wash or other splurge your teacher might not otherwise treat herself to. A gift certificate to a local bakery is a great option, as well.

3. Chocolate.

“That’s all I ever want and the kids know it,” Tobin said. At the end of that speech in fact, her students threw four bags of Hershey Kisses and miniature Dove bars to her.

 4. Baking Kit.

Buy a new set of measuring spoons and a measuring cup from a dollar store. Add a bottle of vanilla extract and pack them together in a pretty gift bag. Include a copy of your favorite cookie recipe if you like. (Get bags and tissue paper for any teacher gift from a dollar store.)

5. Nailed it.

A fun teacher gift is a cute bag with two bottles of nail polish and an emery board. What a nice treat for summer feet.

6. Christmas Ornaments.

“I have so many ornaments on my tree that students have given me over the years. I really do think of each one when I decorate my tree,” said Penny Manning, who teaches fourth grade in Kinston, N.C. “Some are homemade and some maybe they got on a trip or something.” No worries that it’s May. Christmas is always just around the corner.

7. Custom Tote Bag.

The youngest students can make handprints with fabric paint, then Mom or Dad can write “Best Teacher Hands Down,” with a Sharpie. If the handprints are horizontal, they can be turned into fish by adding eyes, bubbles and waves of water. Older children can decorate the bag with a pattern or picture painted or drawn with Sharpies.

8. Custom Note Cards.

A custom set of stationery designed by a student makes for a unique gift. Fold eight pieces of plain, white printer paper in half and the young artist can draw a picture on the front of each. Add eight standard envelopes (the cards can be folded again to fit) and eight stamps.

9. Dog Treats.

These make great teacher gifts. Buy a box of treats or make your own, then put them in a plastic bag and tie a ribbon around it.

A jar contains cookies against a blue polka dot background.
Getty Images

10. Human Treats.

Homemade cookies, cakes and pies are always yummy. You can think beyond sweets and make a quiche, soup, spaghetti sauce, pineapple salsa or whatever is your specialty.

11. Emergency Kit.

“One time a student made me the cutest emergency kit,” said Robin Clemmons, who was a preschool teacher in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It was a gift bag with Advil, a Tide to Go stick, chocolate, soda and chips. That was one of the most unique teacher gifts.”

12. A plant.

A little bit of green brightens any at-school or virtual classroom. You can buy a succulent, spider plant, one-pint Santiago Palm or flowering bulbs for $5 to $10.

13. Reusable Cutlery.

“One student gave me reusable travel silverware in this little container. It was a thoughtful gift,” said Clemmons. “Teachers bring their lunch too.” Keep scrolling past the pricey sets on Amazon.com and there are several kits for under $10.

14. School Supplies.

Many teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies such as art materials and teaching aids. Several educators we interviewed said a gift certificate to a school supply store is a perfect gift.

15. Combine Forces.

If two or three families plan something together they can go in on a group gift, such as a gift certificate for a nice dinner out.

16. Tea time.

A box of tea bags, from the grocery store or a local shop is nice. Add a little pot of honey and a pack of colorful cocktail napkins from a discount store.

17. Soap.

Many cities have a local soap store selling homemade soaps in a wide range of colors, scents and ingredients. Your kid’s teacher will love a colorful bar with the image of a sunshine, heart, fish or you-name-it embedded in the middle.

18. Memory plate.

Have your student (or you if their handwriting is still emerging) use colorful Sharpies to write experiences the class shared on a plastic dinner plate. Draw a little heart, flower, or circle between each word or phrase. Memories can include titles of books the teacher read aloud, the class pet’s name, a field trip destination, a play conducted, a rainy day game played indoors, a math exercise, or a song the class often sang.

19. Fortune Cookies.

Ask for a few extra fortune cookies when you pick up Chinese food as well as one of the iconic takeout boxes. Place the cookies in the box with a note about how “fortunate” you are to have such a great teacher. Students can decorate the box with a drawing, glitter or a magazine photo collage.

20. Trader Joe’s Candle.

“One year a student gave me a candle from Trader Joe’s. It was in this cute tin and smelled fabulous,” said Robin Tuverson, who teaches sixth grade in Los Angeles. “I had no idea they sell candles and now that’s the only place I buy them. They are just $4. I always think of that student when I get one.” The soy wax candles burn for 20 hours and come in flavors like watermelon mint, strawberry basil, and pineapple cilantro.

21. Class Memory Book

If your child’s school has a Facebook page or you have taken pictures at events throughout the year of the class (not just your little darling), you can get actual photos printed and compile them into an album with funny comments from young students. Ask other parents to solicit answers from their child to questions such as: What you think Mrs. Teacher dreams about at night? What is Mr. Teacher’s favorite food?  What’s the most interesting thing you learned this year? Why do you think it’s important to go to school? And for a big laugh: How old is your teacher?

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Here Are 8 Home Repairs You Can’t Afford to Ignore

During preparations for her nightly baths, Laura Starrett noticed the water pressure wasn’t as strong as it once was. She had also received an alert from her utility company that she had used more water that month than she had before.

“Then I realized I’d left my sprinklers on and they were running every day, so I thought that’s why I got an alert that I was using a lot of water,” said the recently retired homeowner in Jacksonville, Florida.

So she turned the sprinklers off.

Then Starrett got another alert saying her water bill was going to be $1,000. A plumber came out, listened to the pipes and heard water running. Turns out, a backyard pipe was leaking.

“You just hope it will go away,” Starrett said. “But I knew there had to be something because your water just doesn’t just disappear.”

According to a survey by Travelers insurance company, 42% of homeowners put off a needed repair during 2020. Much of it was the concern about having someone in their house during the pandemic. Of those, 19% said they tried to fix the problem themselves and failed, and 22% just left it broken.

That can lead to a bigger and often more expensive problem, says Angela Orbann, vice president of property and personal insurance at Travelers.

“I typically think of this as what’s cosmetic versus really critical, and sometimes that can be a fine line for a homeowner,” she said. “You shouldn’t delay things that can lead to bigger issues.”

8 Home Repairs You Can’t Afford to Put Off

1. Anything Involving Water

A water spot on the wall or ceiling can mean a leaky roof or a leaky pipe. If not fixed, the leak will just get bigger and can destroy floors, walls, furniture and more.

“Any time you notice a stain, those should be addressed immediately because that indicates you potentially have moisture entering your home. Moisture in small amounts will not turn into mold, but if left, mold and continued damage will occur so it is important to address these situations when they occur,” said home inspector John Wanninger. He and his INSPECTIX team in Nebraska have inspected more than 30,000 homes..

The same goes for a leaky faucet, running toilet or dripping water heater.

“The cost of allowing a running toilet to run will cost more over the course of a month or two than it would have cost to fix it up front,” he said.

Don’t ignore higher-than-normal water bills. As Starrett realized, they were a sign something was wrong somewhere.

2. Anything Involving Electricity

Do you have lights that flicker? Switches or outlets that stopped working? Breakers tripping? GFI outlets that won’t reset?

These can be signs of electrical problems.

“A flickering light can be something as easy as a loose light bulb or it could be something as severe as a loose wire,” Wanninger said. “Any of those things when it comes to electricity should be considered important and time sensitive.”

In houses built between 1965 and 1974, connections in some older aluminum wiring may be failing. Older houses built in the 1950s and before had knob and tube wiring. The connections could be going bad.

Circuits can be overloaded. Sometimes when people update their homes, they don’t update the wiring.

Electrical problems can lead to fires, and fires can lead to injury or property damage.

3. Pests

Bugs and rodents might be small, but they can cause big issues.

“Termites can do an extensive amount of damage over a period of time. If they go undetected for three or four years, minor damage becomes pretty heavy damage,” Wanninger said.

There’s no telling how long pests like termites and carpenter ants have been chewing before you noticed them, so taking immediate action is important.

Be on the lookout for signs of termites and carpenter ants and what they leave behind:

  • Sawdust or wood damage.
  • Mud tubes.
  • Discarded wings near closed windows, doors or other access points.
  • Large black ants.
  • Faint rustling noises in walls.
  • Holes in cardboard boxes, especially on the bottom.

As for furry pests, they can spread diseases with their droppings and can chew through insulation.

“When you hear noises in your attic, it’s often either mice, rats, squirrels, or raccoons. In any case, it’s something that should be addressed immediately because left unattended they can all cause an extensive amount of damage,” Wanninger said.

4. Peeling Caulk and Paint

See #1: Water.

If caulk comes loose and peels away, water gets in and you know what happens then and it isn’t good.

“We don’t think about cracked joints in your tile bathroom. It doesn’t look severe and it doesn’t look like a big issue, but as time goes on, moisture gets in there and deteriorates the shower board and the material behind the wall. Before you know it, you get yourself a $2,000 or $3,000 repair,” Wanninger said.

The same for paint. Paint is like skin for the house. It protects it from water and pests. Removing that protection can cause problems.

5. Broken or Malfunctioning HVAC

Having a lack of climate control isn’t just an uncomfortable inconvenience, it can lead to bigger issues.

“If the humidity is too high in the home, it will pass through the drywall and enter the attic area,” Wanninger said. “If you get moisture on your windows in the wintertime on the inside of the glass in your house, it is an indication your humidity level is too high.”

In the winter, that moisture can freeze and eventually melt, causing a leak. In the summer, excess moisture can lead to mold and mildew.

If you notice your HVAC isn’t working as it should, taking care of it before it breaks can reduce stress on the system and possibly prevent a bigger issue.

6. Cracks

Some cracks in walls and foundations are harmless, but they aren’t something to ignore.

“One thing concrete does is crack, it’s pretty standard,” Wanninger said. “If you get cracks in foundation walls or floors that are considered expansive or starting to displace at a greater level, that may be the indication that you are having structural issues or movements that need to be reviewed before they become a bigger issue.”

Keep an eye on the size of the cracks. Measure the length and width periodically and note any changes.

7. Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It sounds simple, but replacing batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should happen immediately after they begin chirping, even if it happens in the middle of the night.

“At two o’clock in the morning when the thing does start chirping, your mind says you’ll fix it tomorrow and tomorrow never comes,” Wanninger said.

Better yet, replace your batteries annually when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time.

8. Darkening Ceilings Near Fireplaces

If you notice darkening on your ceiling or a sooty smell in your house, it could mean your fireplace isn’t drafting properly. That could bring deadly gasses into the house.

“There’s no second-guessing that. It would cause carbon monoxide poisoning,” Wanninger warned.

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

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Cheap Online Tutoring Helps Students Succeed

Tutoring has become big business since the start of the pandemic disrupted schools and sent many students to school in their living rooms.

Initially, tutors were needed to help with learning pods and with kids at virtual school in one room while parents were working from home in another. Today? Parents are reaching out to tutors in an effort to help their kids make up for a year’s worth of uneven growth. And that study help may be needed even more now schools begin to open up and there have been many promises to be back to normal in the fall.

According to Tutors.com, the average price of a tutor service ranges from $25 to $80 per hour  and this number can go up significantly for SAT tutoring, where it can go as high as $250 per hour in places like New York and California. High schools students eyeing college are looking for tutoring services to help them meet their test score goals.

5 Cheap Online Tutoring Services

Thankfully, it’s not necessary to pay those prices for excellent tutoring services. There are many online tutoring programs that charge significantly less and can help boost both ability and grades for your student. Here is a sampling:

1. Varsity Tutors

They offer everything from test prep to photography to standard academic class tutoring in a bunch of formats. All the classes and tutoring are live. If your student needs immediate help, you can request an instant tutor, and one will be online ASAP according to availability.

Cost: There are many options. Unlimited tutoring sessions for $19 per month are available if you’re willing to have your student be in a group of 25 to 30 virtual students. Varsity also has small group classes of 6 to 9 students starting at $12 per hour. Some large group classes are offered free, such as The Death of Julius Caesar (grades 5-12); and Discovering Raptors (grades 2-5). Private tutors are relatively expensive, from $70-$95 per hour.

2. Outschool

This tutoring site became popular in 2020 because it offers so many virtual classes. Outschool’s focus is group classes and group tutoring. My third grader took everything from a Broadway musical class to a reptile course, and she loved them all. If you like a teacher, you can follow them on Outschool to see what else they’re teaching (we did this once my daughter found a teacher she loved). Outschool does more than academic tutoring: They have classes in dance, gaming and essentially any topic you can imagine. Private tutoring is also available. Their tutors range from college students to college professors to experts in their fields.

Cost: This varies due to the frequency of the class (some are monthlong and some are single sessions). A private 30-minute math tutor usually charges about $35; while a group improv class may cost $12 per hour for up to 12 students.

3. Chegg

Don’t need a tutoring session but still need help with random math problems or essay writing? This site offers creative, inexpensive ways to help. They have tutors available 24/7 for help with homework problems and editing. You simply upload the problem or the essay, and tutors will get back to you ASAP (typically within 30 minutes) with help. This is especially great for kids who refuse to get a tutor but could still use daily help.

Cost: $10 per month for the Chegg Math Solver (plug in any math program, and the site will explain how to solve it); $15 per month for homework answers and 24/7 access to experts for questions; free flashcards; $10 per month to email for online writing help or to edit papers.

4. Skooli

This is best for students who need a little homework help from an occasional tutor. The company charges 82 cents per minute with a 15-minute minimum, and you pay as you go. There are no contracts and no commitments. They have tutors in nearly every subject, from math to science to business. Once you ask your question or explain where you’re stuck, the company reaches out to their tutors. A tutor should connect with you within a few minutes to start the video session.

Cost: 82 cents per minute with a 15-minute minimum ($12.30).

5. TutorMe

Get a top tutor in less than 30 seconds, 24 hours per day. Most of the tutors are from Ivy League or the equivalent schools, and only 4% of the tutors who apply to this company are accepted. Help in 300 subjects from elementary school through college-level.

Cost: There are various options, depending on your needs. If you need a tutor twice a week, you can choose the 8-hour monthly option, which is $209 per month ($26 per hour). Or, for less time, choose 2 hours per month for $69 monthly. You can always add on additional minutes, from 44 cents to 58 cents each depending on your plan.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

When Should You Open a Roth IRA for Kids?

A lot of people regret not investing in their 20s. But what if you could go back in time even further and invest some of the money you earned from babysitting or mowing lawns in your teens?

If you invested $100 a month at age 25 and earned 8% annual returns, you’d have over $320,000 by your 65th birthday. But if you started investing at 15? You’d have over $710,000 by age 65.

Obviously, there’s no way to turn back the hands of time. But it could be possible for you to give your kids the gift of compounding and tax-free growth by opening a Roth IRA on their behalf.

The Rules on Starting a Roth IRA for Kids

Opening a Roth IRA for kids is perfectly legal as long as your child has earned income. Age doesn’t determine eligibility. If your kid is the Gerber Baby, they would qualify as long as their paychecks don’t put them above the Roth IRA income limits.

Your kid is eligible if they make money at a part-time job or they earn income through babysitting, tutoring or odd jobs. However, if they’re earning income from work that doesn’t come with a W-2, check with a tax pro because they could be responsible for Social Security and Medicare taxes.

What’s not allowed: You make up a job for them and say they’re on the family payroll. If you own a business, you’re allowed to employ your minor children, but you have to pay them what the IRS considers a reasonable wage. Paying your teen $10 an hour to do clerical work would probably count as reasonable. But making your 4-year-old a business associate with a $6,000 salary? Not so much.

You’ll need to open a custodial Roth IRA for a minor child. That means they’ll own the account, but as the child’s parent, you’ll make the investment decisions until they reach the age of majority, which is between 18 and 21, depending on the state. Once they reach the age of majority, they’re in control of the money.

Pro Tip

Not all brokerages have custodial Roth IRAs. Three brokerages that offer Roth IRAs for kids: Charles Schwab, Fidelity and T.D. Ameritrade.

Technically, it doesn’t matter who contributes to the account. You’re allowed to fund it, or your child can contribute money they’ve earned. But their contribution is capped at their earned income for the year. So if they earn $4,000 in 2021, that’s their maximum contribution even though someone under 50 can contribute up to $6,000.

The great thing about a Roth IRA for kids is that unlike with a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA is funded with post-tax dollars. Your kid probably doesn’t need a tax break now. Minors typically fall into a low tax bracket or their earnings are low enough that they don’t pay taxes at all. By paying any taxes due now, their money will compound for decades. When they reach retirement age, it’s theirs completely tax-free.

Plus, the Roth IRA rules allow you to access the contributions (but not the earnings) any time without taxes or a penalty.

Will a Roth IRA Affect Financial Aid Eligibility?

Retirement account balances don’t affect financial aid eligibility, regardless of whether they belong to the parent or the child.

But withdrawing money from a Roth IRA for tuition will count against financial aid, whether the account belongs to the parent or child. Even if you limit the withdrawal to the contributions — meaning you or your child won’t owe taxes or a penalty on the withdrawal — it will count as income for financial aid purposes.

This can get confusing because the ability to take penalty-free withdrawals for tuition is one of the much-touted Roth IRA benefits. It’s true that using a Roth IRA for tuition won’t result in a 10% IRS penalty if the account is at least 5 years old (though the owner of the account will pay income tax if they touch the earnings). But for many families, the reduction to financial aid simply isn’t worth it. A 529 plan is typically a better bet when college savings is the goal.

Let’s recap all that: Having a Roth IRA in your child’s name won’t affect their college financial aid award. But if they withdraw that money for any reason, they can significantly reduce their financial aid.

Should You Open a Roth IRA for Your Kid?

Obviously, the answer depends a lot on your kid. Here’s when a child’s Roth IRA makes sense and when you should avoid it.

Consider a Roth IRA for Your Kid if:

  • They’re willing to contribute at least part of their earnings. Sure, you could just throw money into a Roth IRA for your kid, but that won’t teach them the value of investing. A better solution is to match their contributions. You can show them the importance of taking advantage of a 401(k) plan match later on. Plus as their money grows, they’ll see that it pays not to spend every cent.
  • You’re OK with them getting control of a nice chunk of change at age 18 or 21. Once your child reaches age 18 or 21, depending on your state, the money is theirs to control. Obviously you can’t predict what your kid will do in the future, especially if they’re young. But if your child is older and they’ve been responsible with money thus far, that’s a good sign they can handle a Roth IRA.
  • They don’t need the money for college. Roth IRAs are designed for retirement, not education savings. If the goal is to use the money for college, a 529 plan is a better option.
  • You’re willing to manage the account. Because minors need a custodial account, you or another trusted adult will be responsible for the account until they reach majority age.

Don’t Even Think About a Roth IRA for Your Kid if:

  • You’re making up a fake job for them on the family payroll so that they’ll be eligible. This is illegal. If your child’s earned income comes from your business, they need to have a legitimate job and a reasonable wage in the eyes of the IRS.
  • They’re not willing to chip in. If your kid isn’t interested in contributing their money, they probably aren’t mature enough to have a Roth IRA.
  • You think they might withdraw money early. The big reasons to open a Roth IRA for your kid are to give their money extra time to compound and lock in their ultra-low tax rates. But if your child is likely to withdraw the money, they’ll miss out on compound growth. They’ll also pay taxes and a 10% penalty in most cases if they take out the earnings before age 59 ½.
  • Your own finances aren’t in shape. If you’re way behind on your own retirement savings or you don’t have a good handle on your finances, catching up is your No. 1 focus. Your child has plenty of time to save for retirement. Getting your own finances in shape so you don’t have to depend on your kids when you’re older is a far better gift for your kids than a Roth IRA.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

‘Broke Millennial Talks Money’ Review: My 4 Major Takeaways

Many of us have been raised to believe that money and finances are not topics to bring up in polite company.

But frankly, I think it’s time we abandon that line of thinking.

Talking about money with others might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but it can be so beneficial. Financial expert Erin Lowry, the founder of the Broke Millennial series, focused her latest book — “Broke Millennial Talks Money” — on navigating tough financial talks.

I had the opportunity to read Lowry’s book and chat with her via Facebook Live. Here are my major takeaways.

4 Things I Learned from ‘Broke Millennial Talks Money’

If you’re looking for the solution to how to successfully talk to your coworkers, your manager, your significant other, your parents or your friends about money, “Broke Millennial Talks Money” is the book you’ll want to read.

Discussing money can be tricky. Even as someone who writes about finances for a living, I’ve struggled with this in my personal life.

While “Broke Millennial Talks Money” offers much advice you’ll want to bookmark, here are the top four things that resonated with me when reading this book.

1. Talking About Money Has Real Financial Impact

If you’ve gone most of your life avoiding tough money conversations, you may wonder what’s the big deal when it comes to talking about finances with others.

The thing is: Being able to successfully navigate money conversations can have a real impact on your bottom line.

The first chapter of the book leads with a great example. A negotiation expert poses this question: “How much are you willing to pay to avoid an awkward conversation?”

It’s a rhetorical question, but it really gets you thinking. By choosing not to have a conversation about money, you could end up losing out.

For example, if you don’t negotiate salary with your employer, you could wind up being underpaid. If you don’t discuss poor spending habits with your spouse, you might delay reaching big personal goals.

Lowry put it best during our live Q&A. “You can do everything right to build your financial house,” she said, “but if you cannot communicate effectively, if you can’t set healthy boundaries and if you do not know how to engage in these tough financial conversations, it’s going to start to slowly crumble the foundation that is your financial house.”

2. You Can Talk Money Without Giving Exact Dollar Amounts

Sharing how much money you make, how much debt you have or how much you have saved up for retirement puts you in a vulnerable position. The fear of being judged about those numbers is what makes many people reluctant to talk about finances altogether.

But there are ways to discuss money without mentioning any dollar figure. In the book, Lowry says chatting with friends about housing prices or child care costs can lead to bigger money talks in the future. Getting context clues about how a significant other spends money can be helpful to gauge whether you’re on the same page financially.

Another strategy Lowry discusses in the book is using the over/under method when asking someone about salary. Instead of requesting the exact figure, you can ask if they’re making over or under a certain amount.

Talking in percentages is an additional way to discuss money without going into specifics. For example, you can talk about retirement savings as a percentage of your salary.

3. Talking About Money Can Take Practice

Because talking about money can be awkward, you may think it’s better to rip off the Band-aid and put everything on the table in one conversation. However, Lowry says it’s fine to let money talks be something that evolves over time.

When talking to your parents about their retirement plans, for example, you might start off by asking what they’d like their retirement to look like. In later conversations, you can follow up by asking how much money they have saved up and whether they have the proper estate planning documents in place.

Keeping the conversation ongoing can help it feel less uncomfortable over time. If you’re not sure how to kick off a money discussion, Lowry includes dozens of sample scripts.

4. Having a Positive Money Mindset is Key

While it’s very useful to be able to talk about finances with the people in your life, it’s also important to have positive money talks with your inner self.

Negative self-talk can lead to issues like imposter syndrome and scarcity mindset, which can sabotage your pathway to financial success.

“Most people start to have their relationship with money coded between the ages of about 8 to 12… so it can be really hard to undo some of the mindset as you age,” Lowry shared during her virtual chat with The Penny Hoarder.

“It’s just really important for us to excavate all of our deep-rooted feelings about money so that we also can understand how and why we make the decisions that we often subconsciously are making about money.”

Having a healthy money mindset means we’ll make better decisions with our finances and may even feel more confident to discuss money with our loved ones.

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Why I Recommend Reading ‘Broke Millennial Talks Money’

As much as I wish talking about money wasn’t so taboo, the fact of the matter is that too many of us simply avoid talking about money with the people in our lives.

We often pay for that avoidance. We rack up debt trying to keep up with friends. We work at companies for years never knowing about wide pay disparities. We get married without being on the same page financially with our significant other. And we wait until our parents are on their deathbeds to find out if they have a will or life insurance.

“Broke Millennial Talks Money” breaks down how to have these crucial conversations about finances. Almost everyone can relate to one of the situations discussed in this book. Best of all, it’s written from the perspective of someone who wants to help make these money conversations less awkward — and judgment-free.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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