When You Donate Blood, You Save Lives and Earn Gift Cards

One pint of blood can save three lives. That alone is what drives people to roll up their sleeves and get that needle prick. But there’s another good reason to sign up to be a regular blood donor: Gift cards.

You get a lot more than a T-shirt and some peanut butter crackers these days when you donate blood. Blood collection organizations routinely give out $20 worth of gift cards to Amazon, restaurants and major retailers at blood drives. You can give blood every 56 days, or six times a year.

So, a couple can average $240 in perks and save 36 lives in one year. For a family of four with kids above 16 and old enough to donate, that’s about $500 in gift cards per year and 72 lives saved.

“One time we went to Kohl’s and there was a blood drive in the parking lot,” said Beverly Mattis of Wake Forest, N.C. “They gave us each a $20 Kohl’s gift card so my daughter and I went in and did some shopping afterward.”

A man wearing a face mask shows off his gift certificates after donating blood.
Exavier Jones shows off his $10 gift certificate after donating blood at a OneBlood Big Red Bus in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Exavier Jones gave blood recently at a OneBlood mobile collection bus outside casual dining restaurant Carrabba’s Italian Grill in St. Petersburg.

“I’m type O. That’s always needed, so I try to give as often as I can,” he said, explaining that any blood type can accept type O blood. He received a $10 Carrabba’s gift card and a $10 e-gift card to use at one of a variety of retailers.

How to Get the Perks of Being a Regular Blood Donor

If you register to be a blood donor with the blood collection organization in your area, you will receive texts or emails with dates of upcoming blood drives and the perks. There are many blood collection organizations around the country. Here are three of the biggest, and how to register:

There’s no requirement that you give a certain number of times a year, but there is encouragement.

OneBlood, which collects blood in the Southeast, partnered with Carrabba’s to give $10 gift cards each time someone donated between January and April. Those who gave twice received an additional $25 gift card along with the two $10 cards.

“I got $10. I’m going to go inside and have a lasagna dinner tonight,” said Bill Howard after donating at the Carrabba’s in St. Petersburg.

The gift cards are nice for sure, he said, but the main reason he gives regularly is because he was stabbed during the Vietnam War and needed a lot of blood to survive. He wants to save others like a stranger’s blood once saved him.

A man wearing a camouflage hat poses for a portrait outside of a blood donation bus.
Bill Howard donates blood regularly because his life was saved by a person who donated blood after he was stabbed in the Vietnam War. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“I would say most of the time at almost all of our drives our intention is to have a donor gift,” said Pat Michaels, OneBlood director of media relations. “It could be Carrabba’s, Publix, Red Lobster. We have built up some wonderful partners,” he said.

OneBlood also gives out tickets donated by the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Daytona 500 and Carowinds amusement park near Charlotte, N.C.

Along with gift cards and tickets, many blood collection groups also give out swag such as beach towels, fleece blankets, car sun shades and insulated water bottles.

Vitalant, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the largest nonprofit blood service provider in the country serving 40 states. It hosts more than 30,000 blood drives a year and offers a variety of perks and incentives for blood donors.

Vitalant is partnering with the Arizona Diamondbacks to encourage high school students there to organize blood drives at school. The team will host more than 1,000 students from blood drive committees. Organizers from the two schools who achieve the most donations will share a party suite at a Diamondbacks game.

Vitalant is also encouraging women to organize a blood drive with friends the same as they might host a party at their homes selling jewelry or clothes. An organizer can invite eight friends to a private party at a collection center that’s catered with fun food where donors receive gift cards and other swag.

For donors with a sweet tooth, Vitalant recently promoted a pint-for-a-pint offer. Donors who gave a pint of blood received a voucher for a free pint of frozen custard at Culver’s.

The American Red Cross recently offered $5 Amazon gift cards to some donors, and their names were entered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2022 Indianapolis 500. Winners will receive pit credentials, airfare, hotel accommodations and a $500 gift card. Other Red Cross blood drives enter donors’ names in a drawing for a chance to win a $1,000 e-Gift card to one of several stores.

More Perks for Donating Platelets

Platelets are small cells that stop bleeding by forming clots. Donated platelets are used for cancer patients, transplants, burn patients and traumatic injuries.

When someone donates platelets, a machine extracts them from whole blood then returns the rest of the blood back to the donor. The process takes about three hours.

Because it takes longer than donating whole blood, more perks are offered for people who give platelets, which can be donated every seven days. OneBlood recently challenged platelet donors to a two-month program offering gift cards valued at $25 for their second donation, $50 for their third and $75 for their fourth.

It is also promoting a three month challenge, offering gift cards valued at $25 for the second donation, $50 for the third, $75 for the fourth, $100 for the fifth and $125 for the sixth. That’s a total of $375 in gift cards in three months.

People line up at a blood donation bus to donate blood.
According to Givingblood.org, only 37% of the U.S. population can donate blood. Less than 10 percent of those people donate blood at least once a year. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Constant Need Increased During the Pandemic

Even in typical times, blood collection organizations are constantly trying to recruit more donors. Only 37% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, and less than 10 percent of those people do so at least once a year, according to Givingblood.org.

Numerous impacts of COVID-19 made it even harder to reach and encourage donors, according to Michaels at OneBlood.

“There has been every reason for there to be a shortage of blood drives,” he said. Blood drives at colleges, high schools and office buildings were cancelled for months on end because they were closed.

“We had to recover by creating new partnerships,” Michaels said. OneBlood worked with county elections offices across the country as well as hundreds of homeowners associations to connect with groups of people who would sign up for blood drives, he said.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

7 Things to Do After College Besides Work

Numerous college students have a trajectory in mind for navigating life after college. For some, getting a job is their top goal. But, are there other things to do after college besides work?

Beyond looking for a traditional entry-level job, there are alternative choices for new grads—including internships, volunteering, grad school, spending time abroad, or serving in Americorps.

Naturally, the options available will differ depending on each person’s situation, as not all alternatives to work come with a paycheck attached.

Here’s a look at these seven things to do after college besides work.

1. Pursuing Internships

One popular alternative to working right after college is finding an internship. Generally, internships are temporary work opportunities, which are sometimes, but not always, paid.

Internships may give recent grads a chance to build up hands-on experience in a field or industry they believe they’re interested in working in full time. For some people, it could help determine whether the reality of working in a given sector meets their expectations.

Whatever grads learn during an internship, having on-the-job experience (even for those who opt to pursue a different career path) could make a job seeker stand out afterwards. Internships can help beef up a resume, especially for recent grads who don’t have much formal job experience.

A potential perk of internships is the chance to further grow your professional network—building relationships with more experienced workers in a particular department or job. Some interns may even be able to turn their short-term internship roles into a full-time position at the same company.

Starting out in an internship can be a great way for graduates to enter the workforce, “road testing” a specific job role or company.

2. Serving with AmeriCorps

Some graduates want to spend their time after college contributing to the greater good of American society. One possible option here is the Americorps program—supported by the US Federal Government.

So, what exactly is Americorps? Americorps is a national service program dedicated to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. There are three main programs that graduates can join in AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps State and National, and AmeriCorps Vista.

There’s a wide variety of options in AmeriCorps, when it comes to how you can serve. Graduates can work in emergency management, help fight poverty, or work in a classroom.

However graduates decide to serve through AmeriCorps, it may provide them with a rewarding professional experience and insights into a potential career.

Practically, Americorps members may also qualify for benefits such as student loan deferment, a living allowance, education awards (upon finishing their service), and skills training.

It may sound a bit dramatic, but AmeriCorps’ slogan is “Be the greater good.” Giving back to society could be a powerful way to spend some time after graduating—supporting organizations in need, while also establishing new professional connections.

3. Attending Grad School

When entering the workforce, graduates may encounter job postings with detailed employment requirements.

Some jobs require just a Bachelor’s degree, while others require a Master’s–think, for instance, of being a lawyer or medical doctor. Depending on their field of study and career goals, some students may opt to go right to graduate school after receiving their undergraduate degrees.

The number of jobs that expect graduate degrees is increasing in the US. Graduates might want to research their desired career fields and see if it’s common for people in these roles to need a master’s or terminal degree.

Some students may wish to take a break in between undergrad and grad school, while others find it easier to go straight through. This choice will vary from student to student, depending on the energy they have to continue school as well as their financial ability to attend graduate school.

Graduate school will be a commitment of time, energy and money. So, it’s advisable that students feel confident that a graduate degree is necessary for the line of work they’d like to end up in before they apply or enroll.

4. Volunteering for a Cause

Volunteering could be a great way for graduates to gain some extra skills before applying for a full-time job. Doing volunteer work may help graduates polish some essential soft skills, like interpersonal communication, interacting with clients or service recipients, and time management.

Another potential benefit to volunteering is the ability to network and forge new connections outside of college. The people-to-people connections made while volunteering could lead to mentorship and job offers.

Volunteering is something graduates can do after college besides work, while still fleshing out their resume or skills.

New grads may want to volunteer at an institution or organization that syncs with their values or, perhaps, pursue opportunities in sectors of the economy where they’d like to work later on (i.e., at a hospital).

On top of all these potential plus sides, volunteering just feels good. It makes people feel happier. And, after all of the stress that accompanies finishing up college, volunteering afterward could be the perfect way to recharge.

5. Serving Abroad

Similar to the last option, volunteering abroad can be attractive to some graduates. It may help grads gain similar skills they’d learn volunteering here at home, while also giving them the opportunity to learn how to interact with people from different cultures, try to learn a new language, and see new perspectives on solving problems.

Though it can be beneficial to the volunteers, volunteering abroad isn’t always as ethical as it seems. And, not all volunteering opportunities always benefit the local community.

It could take research to find organizations that are doing ethically responsible work abroad. One key thing to look for is organizations that put the locals first and have them directly involved in the work.

6. Taking a Gap Year

According to the Gap Year Association , a gap year is “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

While a gap year is generally taken after high school or after college, one common purpose of the gap year is to take the time to learn more about oneself and the world at large—which can be beneficial after graduating from college and trying to figure out what to do next.

Not only might a gap year help grads build insights into what they’d like to do with their later careers, it may also help them home in on a greater purpose in life or build connections that could lead to future job opportunities.

Graduates might want to spend a gap year doing a variety of activities—including:

•   trying out seasonal jobs
•   volunteering
•   interning
•   teaching or tutoring
•   traveling

A gap year can be whatever the graduate thinks will be most beneficial for them.

7. Traveling Before Working

Going on a trip after graduation is a popular choice for graduates that can afford to travel after college. Traveling can be expensive, so graduates may want to budget in advance (if they want to have this experience post-graduation.

On top of just being really fun, travel can have beneficial impacts for an individual’s stress levels and mental health. Research from Cornell University published in 2014 suggests that the anticipation of planning a trip might have the potential to increase happiness.

Traveling after graduation is a convenient time to start ticking locations off that bucket list, because graduates won’t be held back by a limited vacation time. Going abroad before working can give students more time and flexibility to travel as much as they’d like (and can afford to!).

With proper research, graduates can find more affordable ways to travel—such as a multi-country rail pass, etc. It doesn’t have to be all luxury all the time. Budget travel is possible especially when making conscious decisions, like staying in hostels and using public transportation.

If graduates are determined to travel before working, they can accomplish this by saving money and budgeting well.

Navigating Post Graduation Decisions

Whether a recent grad opt to start their careers off right away or to pursue one of the above-mentioned things to do after college besides work, student loans are something that millions of university students have taken out.

After graduating (or if you’ve dropped below half-time enrollment or left school), the reality of paying back student loans sets in. The exact moment that grads will have to begin paying off their student loans will vary by the type of loan.

For federal loans, there are a couple of different times that repayment begins. Students who took out a Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, or Federal Family Education Loan, will all have a six month grace period before they’re required to make payments. Students who took out a Perkins loan will have a nine month grace period.

When it comes to the PLUS loan, it depends on the type of student that’s taken one out. Undergraduates will be required to start repayment as soon as the loan is paid out. Graduate and professional students with PLUS loans will be on automatic deferment while they’re in school and up to six months after graduating.

Some graduates opt to refinance their student loans. What does that mean? Well, refinancing student loans is when a lender pays off the existing loan with another loan that has a new interest rate. Refinancing can potentially lower monthly loan repayments or reduce the amount spent on interest over the life of the loan.

Both US federal and private student loans can be refinanced, but when federal student loans are refinanced by a private lender, the borrower forfeits guaranteed federal benefits—including loan forgiveness, deferment and forbearance, and income-driven repayment options.

Refinancing student loans may reduce money paid to interest. For graduates who have secured well-paying jobs and have improved their credit score since taking out their student loan, refinancing could come with a competitive interest rate and different repayment terms.

Graduating from college means officially entering the realm of adulthood, but that transition can take many forms. There are various financial tips that recent graduates may opt to look into.

Thinking about refinancing your student loans? With SoFi, you could get prequalified in just two minutes.



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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SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

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Source: sofi.com

IRS offers new COVID-19 flexibility for employee healthcare benefits – Lexington Law

A family plays with their dog.

Disclosure regarding Lexington Law’s editorial content.

As COVID-19 swept the globe and the country, it put stress on all types of supply chains and industries. It has also put stress on the financial and health situations of many Americans.

If you’re looking back to whenever your last healthcare benefits enrollment period was and grimacing at the choices you made, you’re in luck—you might have the chance to change them. In addition to extending the tax deadline for 2020, the IRS has issued a rule modification in light of the pandemic that might allow you to change your elections mid-year instead of waiting for the next open enrollment period.

Find out more about these changes and what they might mean
for you here.

Key Points

  • You may be able to switch to a different healthcare
    plan if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to drop employer-sponsored
    coverage if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to change contributions to a
    flexible spending account (FSA) if your employer allows it.
  • Employers may voluntarily extend the grace
    period for using 2019 FSA funds.

A Potential Mid-Year Open-Enrollment Period

The IRS rule change allows mid-year enrollment in a
different plan that your employer offers. This means employees may be able to
make new elections to better use their income and protect themselves against healthcare
expenses.

However, employers are being given the choice of whether
they want to offer these options. The answers to the questions below all depend
on whether your employer elects to allow changes.

Can I drop my healthcare insurance altogether?

Yes, you can elect to end healthcare insurance coverage through your employer. The caveat is that you must replace that coverage with a qualifying plan through the health insurance marketplace, a spouse’s benefits or another option.

Can I switch healthcare plans?

If the employer allows it, yes, you can switch healthcare
plans outside of the normal open enrollment. This is true even for people who
have not had a qualifying event such as a job loss or a change in marital
status.

Can I get health insurance if I didn’t have it before?

Yes, if your employer allows an open enrollment period mid-year, you can elect benefits even if you previously declined them. This allows more people to get insurance that they may now want or need in light of the pandemic.

If I change plans, will I lose what I’ve paid toward my out-of-pocket deductible?

It’s probable that changing plans will reset all
benefits-related counters. That includes deductibles and out-of-pocket
expenses. If you’re considering making a change, weigh how much you’ve already
contributed toward your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. In some cases, it
might be more financially beneficial to stick with the plan you have if you’re
close to or have already met your maximum.

Changes to FSAs

The IRS also provides a rule change that addresses flexible spending accounts. Again, these changes are dependent upon the employer choosing to participate.

If the employer does choose to participate, employees can make mid-year changes to their FSA elections. For example, you might have elected not to fund an FSA or to fund it very minimally. But in light of the health crisis, you may now want to put more money into your account to cover medical expenses. You may be able to do so.

Alternatively, perhaps your spouse lost his or her job due to COVID-19, and you’d previously elected to fund your FSA with a large amount. You might now need that money to pay for non-FSA-approved expenses. You may be able to elect to reduce your contributions.

Changes to Dependent Care Assistance Programs

The same rule change applies to section 125 cafeteria
plans used to help cover the cost of childcare programs. If your employer
allows it, you can elect to increase or decrease the contributions you’re
making to these programs.

For example, you might have previously elected to contribute enough money to pay for your children’s daycare expenses. This allows you to pay those costs with pretax dollars.

However, during the pandemic, your daycare might have closed, leaving your kids at home with you. Those contributed dollars are going nowhere and you risk losing them. If your employer allows it, you can change your contribution to stop adding money into your cafeteria plan. You can then use those funds to cover expenses related to your children being home.

Healthcare Coverage for COVID-19

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act instituted some exemptions to help ensure high-deductible plans and other insurance plans covered more services related to COVID-19. For example, the plan includes a specific exemption for telehealth services to help allow insurance providers to cover necessary telehealth treatments and appointments.

The IRS rule change allows those exemptions to be applied
retroactively up to January 1, 2020. That means if you sought telehealth or
other COVID-19-related care in the past months, you may be able to have those
claims adjudicated by your insurance plan at this time.

Reach Out to Your Employer’s Benefits Office

Understanding benefits and how they can impact your entire financial life can be difficult. Start by reaching out to your employer’s HR or benefits office to understand whether they’re going to offer the option for mid-year elections and whether they can provide information about how the options work.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

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

IRS offers new COVID-19 flexibility for employee healthcare benefits

A family plays with their dog.

Disclosure regarding Lexington Law’s editorial content.

As COVID-19 swept the globe and the country, it put stress on all types of supply chains and industries. It has also put stress on the financial and health situations of many Americans.

If you’re looking back to whenever your last healthcare benefits enrollment period was and grimacing at the choices you made, you’re in luck—you might have the chance to change them. In addition to extending the tax deadline for 2020, the IRS has issued a rule modification in light of the pandemic that might allow you to change your elections mid-year instead of waiting for the next open enrollment period.

Find out more about these changes and what they might mean
for you here.

Key Points

  • You may be able to switch to a different healthcare
    plan if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to drop employer-sponsored
    coverage if your employer allows it.
  • You may be able to change contributions to a
    flexible spending account (FSA) if your employer allows it.
  • Employers may voluntarily extend the grace
    period for using 2019 FSA funds.

A Potential Mid-Year Open-Enrollment Period

The IRS rule change allows mid-year enrollment in a
different plan that your employer offers. This means employees may be able to
make new elections to better use their income and protect themselves against healthcare
expenses.

However, employers are being given the choice of whether
they want to offer these options. The answers to the questions below all depend
on whether your employer elects to allow changes.

Can I drop my healthcare insurance altogether?

Yes, you can elect to end healthcare insurance coverage through your employer. The caveat is that you must replace that coverage with a qualifying plan through the health insurance marketplace, a spouse’s benefits or another option.

Can I switch healthcare plans?

If the employer allows it, yes, you can switch healthcare
plans outside of the normal open enrollment. This is true even for people who
have not had a qualifying event such as a job loss or a change in marital
status.

Can I get health insurance if I didn’t have it before?

Yes, if your employer allows an open enrollment period mid-year, you can elect benefits even if you previously declined them. This allows more people to get insurance that they may now want or need in light of the pandemic.

If I change plans, will I lose what I’ve paid toward my out-of-pocket deductible?

It’s probable that changing plans will reset all
benefits-related counters. That includes deductibles and out-of-pocket
expenses. If you’re considering making a change, weigh how much you’ve already
contributed toward your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. In some cases, it
might be more financially beneficial to stick with the plan you have if you’re
close to or have already met your maximum.

Changes to FSAs

The IRS also provides a rule change that addresses flexible spending accounts. Again, these changes are dependent upon the employer choosing to participate.

If the employer does choose to participate, employees can make mid-year changes to their FSA elections. For example, you might have elected not to fund an FSA or to fund it very minimally. But in light of the health crisis, you may now want to put more money into your account to cover medical expenses. You may be able to do so.

Alternatively, perhaps your spouse lost his or her job due to COVID-19, and you’d previously elected to fund your FSA with a large amount. You might now need that money to pay for non-FSA-approved expenses. You may be able to elect to reduce your contributions.

Changes to Dependent Care Assistance Programs

The same rule change applies to section 125 cafeteria
plans used to help cover the cost of childcare programs. If your employer
allows it, you can elect to increase or decrease the contributions you’re
making to these programs.

For example, you might have previously elected to contribute enough money to pay for your children’s daycare expenses. This allows you to pay those costs with pretax dollars.

However, during the pandemic, your daycare might have closed, leaving your kids at home with you. Those contributed dollars are going nowhere and you risk losing them. If your employer allows it, you can change your contribution to stop adding money into your cafeteria plan. You can then use those funds to cover expenses related to your children being home.

Healthcare Coverage for COVID-19

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act instituted some exemptions to help ensure high-deductible plans and other insurance plans covered more services related to COVID-19. For example, the plan includes a specific exemption for telehealth services to help allow insurance providers to cover necessary telehealth treatments and appointments.

The IRS rule change allows those exemptions to be applied
retroactively up to January 1, 2020. That means if you sought telehealth or
other COVID-19-related care in the past months, you may be able to have those
claims adjudicated by your insurance plan at this time.

Reach Out to Your Employer’s Benefits Office

Understanding benefits and how they can impact your entire financial life can be difficult. Start by reaching out to your employer’s HR or benefits office to understand whether they’re going to offer the option for mid-year elections and whether they can provide information about how the options work.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

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

The Ultimate College Senior Checklist

Earning a college degree is no easy feat. Think countless late-night cram sessions, tedious loan applications, heavy textbooks to haul around. For some college seniors, June cannot come fast enough, and it’s understandable why senioritis kicks in. That said, there’s still a lot of important work to do before crossing that graduation stage.

From jumping through the logistical hoops of making it to graduation day to launching a job search and addressing student loan payments, there are a lot of important pre-graduation to-do’s that may require prompt attention.

Here’s a comprehensive checklist that will help college seniors be prepared to graduate and enter the working world.

Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s

Ideally, before senior year begins (or sooner for those planning to graduate early), students should meet with their guidance counselor to make sure they have all of their ducks in a row in order to graduate. Switching majors, studying abroad, or misunderstanding degree requirements can lead to confusion about which classes must be taken to graduate.

Before setting a class schedule for the year, it can’t hurt to double-check with a college counselor that all requirements are being met. Some schools even have a certain amount of community service or chapel hours required in order to graduate, so again, it’s smart to confirm that everything is moving along as it should be.

Preparing for the graduation ceremony needs to be done in advance. Colleges and universities often require students to apply to graduate and register their planned attendance at the ceremony well ahead of the actual day.

To streamline the process, many schools have grad fairs where students can pick up their commencement tickets; buy a cap and gown, class rings and commencement announcements; and ask questions about the logistics of graduation day.

Transcripts can come in handy when applying for jobs and graduate school programs, so picking up a few copies while still on campus can save time down the road. And don’t forget to turn in those library books! No one will want to trek back to campus after graduation to pay late fees.

Getting a Jumpstart on a Job Search

It’s no secret that college graduates flood the job market each June, so getting ahead of the pack can make job searching a little easier. Applying for jobs earlier in the spring can lessen the competition and give seniors confidence that they have a job lined up when they graduate.

If launching a full-blown job search during school isn’t possible, college seniors can at least take steps toward preparing for the job search.

Stop by the career center and see what resources it can provide. Schools have a career center for a reason! Most are ready to help students prepare their resumes and perfect their cover letters, and they typically have job postings from companies looking to hire recent graduates.

Some career centers may offer mock interviews so students can hone those skills, or they may provide support when issues arise during a job search. Popping by between classes to see what services are offered will only take a few minutes.

At the very least, college seniors can poke around online job boards and research local companies to see what opportunities are out there.

Making Connections

As a student, it may feel like having a professional network is unattainable, but many build one while in school without realizing it. One easy way to get a head start on a job search, without doing too much work during a hectic final year of school, is to focus on building relationships and requesting references.

Professors, employers, and intern supervisors can all provide references that can strengthen a job search. Finding that first job out of college can be tricky, when resumes are on the shorter side, so a handful of strong references can make all the difference.

While requesting references, college seniors should tell their connections what career path they’re hoping to pursue. One never knows where the next opportunity might come from.

Paying Back Student Loans

Preparing to navigate life after college can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to finances. No one wants to think about student loan payments, but it can be helpful to start making repayment plans before graduation day.

Try beginning the planning process by simply looking up the current balance for each student loan held, including both federal and private loans. Then note when the grace period ends for each loan and when the lender expects payment. It’s important to plan to make loan payments on time each month, as that can boost a credit score.

Lenders usually provide repayment information during the grace period, including repayment options. Many federal student loans qualify for a minimum of one income-driven or income-based repayment plan.

Federal student loans may qualify for a variety of repayment plans, such as the Standard Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plans, Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, Income-Based Repayment Plan, Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, and Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan. It is important to carefully research each payment plan before choosing one.

For private student loan repayment, it is best to speak directly with the loan originator about repayment options. Many private student loans require payments while the borrower is still in school, but some offer deferred repayment. After the grace period, the borrower will have to make principal and interest payments. Some lenders offer repayment programs with budget flexibility.

Whether students or their parents chose to take out federal or private student loans (or both), reviewing all possible repayment plan options can provide choices. And who doesn’t like choices?

One Loan, One Monthly Payment

Some graduates may want to consider refinancing or consolidating their student debt.

Borrowers who have federal student loans may qualify for a Direct Consolidation Loan after they graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.

Consolidating multiple federal loans into one allows borrowers to make just one loan payment each month. In some cases, the repayment schedule may be extended, resulting in lower payments, after consolidating (but increasing the period of time to repay loans usually means making more payments and paying more total interest).

Refinancing allows the borrower to convert multiple loans—federal and/or private—into one new private loan with a new interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. The goal is a lower interest rate. (It’s worth noting that refinancing a federal loan into a private loan can lead to losing benefits only available through federal lenders, such as public service forgiveness and economic hardship programs.)

Refinancing can be a good solution for working graduates who have high-interest, unsubsidized Direct Loans, Graduate PLUS loans, and/or private loans.

If that sounds like a good fit, SoFi offers student loan refinancing with zero origination fees or prepayment penalties. Getting prequalified online is quick and easy.

Learn more about SoFi Student Loan Refinancing options and benefits.



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.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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.

SOSL20019

Source: sofi.com

10 States with the Highest Gas Taxes

Road trips are fun until you have to stop and get gas. Fortunately for drivers, the federal government’s gas tax hasn’t budged from 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. However, states and the District of Columbia levy their own gas taxes. 

And thanks to the pandemic, folks have been using their cars a lot more since public transportation and flying are viewed as hot-spots for COVID-19. But if you’re traveling cross-country, filling up in certain states can cost you more than others. Here are the 10 states with the highest gas taxes, including a look at how the states do on other big tax metrics, such as sales tax. (A reminder, though: U.S. gas taxes are still among the world’s lowest.)

Gas and diesel prices are from the American Petroleum Institute. Sales taxes are from the Tax Foundation and, when listed as “average,” represent a population-weighted value meant to capture local option taxes. Tobacco and vapor taxes are from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as well as individual state tax websites.

1 of 10

Indiana

picture of man at gas pumppicture of man at gas pump

State Fuel Tax: 42.16¢  per gallon of gasoline, 52¢ per gallon of diesel

State Sales Tax: 7% state levy. No local taxes.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes: $1 per pack
  • Snuff: $0.40 per ounce
  • Other tobacco products: 24% of wholesale price
  • Vapor products: Starting July 1, 2022, 15% of gross retail income

For details on other state taxes, see the  Indiana State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

2 of 10

Florida

picture of man at gas pumppicture of man at gas pump

State Fuel Tax: 42.46¢ per gallon of gasoline, 35.27¢ per gallon of diesel (both gasoline and diesel taxes will increase by 0.3¢ per gallon in 2021)

Average Sales Tax: 6% state levy. Localities can add as much as 2.5%, and the average combined rate is 7.08%, according to the Tax Foundation.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes: $1.34 a pack
  • Cigars: no tax
  • All other tobacco products: 85% of the wholesale price

For details on other state taxes, see the Florida State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

3 of 10

New York

picture of cars at gas pumppicture of cars at gas pump

State Fuel Tax: 42.7¢ per gallon of gasoline, 43.43¢ per gallon of diesel

Average Sales Tax: 4% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4.875%, and the average combined rate is 8.52%, according to the Tax Foundation. In the New York City metro area, there is an additional 0.375% sales tax to support transit.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes and little cigars: $4.35 per pack (in New York City, an extra $1.50 per pack)
  • Snuff: $2 per container one ounce or less, $2 per ounce for larger containers
  • Cigars and other tobacco products: 75% of the wholesale price
  • Vapor products: 20% of retail price

For details on other state taxes, see the  New York State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

4 of 10

Hawaii

picture of gas stationpicture of gas station

State Fuel Tax: 46.84¢ per gallon of gasoline, 49.55¢ per gallon of diesel

Average Sales Tax: 4% state levy. Localities can add as much as 0.5%, but the average combined rate is only 4.44%, according to the Tax Foundation.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes and little cigars: $3.20 per pack
  • Large cigars: 50% of the wholesale price
  • Other tobacco products: 70% of the wholesale price

For details on other state taxes, see the  Hawaii State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

5 of 10

Washington

picture of gas stationpicture of gas station

State Fuel Tax: 49.4¢ per gallon of gasoline, 49.4¢ per gallon of diesel

Average Sales Tax: 6.5% state levy. Municipalities can add up to 4% to that, with the average combined rate at 9.23%, according to the Tax Foundation.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes and little cigars: $3.03 per pack
  • Cigars: 95% of sale price, with a cap of $0.75 per cigar
  • Moist snuff: $2.53 per 1.2-ounce container
  • Other tobacco products: 95% of sale price
  • Vapor products: Closed products, $0.27 per ml. Open containers greater than 5 ml, $0.09 per ml

For details on other state taxes, see the  Washington State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

6 of 10

Nevada

Las Vegas sign at night with via of stripLas Vegas sign at night with via of strip

State Fuel Tax: 50.48¢ per gallon of gasoline, 28.56¢ per gallon of diesel

State Sales Tax: 6.85% state levy. Localities can add as much as 1.53%, and the average combined rate is 8.23%, according to the Tax Foundation.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes: $1.80 per pack
  • Other tobacco products: 30% of wholesale price
  • Vapor products: 30% of wholesale price

For details on other state taxes, see the Nevada State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

7 of 10

New Jersey

picture of gas stationpicture of gas station

State Fuel Tax: 50.7¢ per gallon of gasoline, 57.7¢ per gallon of diesel

State Sales Tax: 6.625% state levy. That rate is cut in half (3.3125%) for in-person sales in designated Urban Enterprise Zones located in disadvantaged areas. Salem County, which borders no-tax Delaware, also charges the reduced 3.3125% rate.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes: $2.70 per pack
  • Moist snuff: $0.75 per ounce
  • Other tobacco products: 30% of the wholesale price
  • Vapor products: $0.10 per ml for closed containers. Bulk nicotine liquid is taxed at 10% of retail price.

For details on other state taxes, see the  New Jersey State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

8 of 10

Illinois

picture of gas stationpicture of gas station

State Fuel Tax: 52.16¢ per gallon of gasoline, 59.98¢ per gallon of diesel

Average Sales Tax: 6.25% state levy. Localities can add as much as 4.75%, and the average combined rate is 8.82%, according to the Tax Foundation.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes and little cigars: $2.98 per pack, Cook County has an additional tax of $3. Three localities, all in Cook County, add to that. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, a pack purchased in Chicago has the highest total tax in the country: $7.16.
  • Snuff: $0.30 per ounce
  • Other tobacco products: 36% of the wholesale price
  • Vapor products: 15% of wholesale price; localities have additional taxes

For details on other state taxes, see the  Illinois State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

9 of 10

Pennsylvania

picture of gas stationpicture of gas station

State Fuel Tax: 58.7¢ per gallon of gasoline, 75.2¢ per gallon of diesel

Average Sales Tax: 6% state levy. Philadelphia has a local sales tax of an additional 2%, and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh’s home county) adds a local sales tax of 1%, and the combined rate is 6.34%, according to the Tax Foundation.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes and little cigars: $2.60 per pack. The City of Philadelphia levies an additional $2 local tax per pack of cigarettes
  • Other tobacco products: 55 cents per ounce. Additional taxes due in Philadelphia.
  • Vapor products: 40% of wholesale price

For details on other state taxes, see the  Pennsylvania State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

10 of 10

California

picture of car at gas stationpicture of car at gas station

State Fuel Tax: 63.05¢ per gallon of gasoline (63.65¢ effective July 1, 2021), 83.06¢ per gallon of diesel (83.46¢ effective July 1, 2021)

Average Sales Tax: 7.25% state levy. Localities can add as much as 2.5%, and the average combined rate is 8.68%, according to the Tax Foundation.

Tobacco Taxes:

  • Cigarettes: $2.87 per pack
  • All other tobacco products: 56.93% of manufacturer’s price
  • Vapor products: $0.05 per ml of consumable product

For details on other state taxes, see the  California State Tax Guide for Middle-Class Families.

Source: kiplinger.com

Defaulting on Student Loans: What You Should Know

“Student loan default” might be about the scariest combination of words possible. More young people than ever are starting their careers with large amounts of student loan debt, and for some, figuring out how to make the required monthly payments can be a struggle.

Student loan default is basically just a term for when you completely stop paying your student loans. You get a bill, hide it under the mattress, and go back to binging true crime TV—and that pattern repeats for several months until your student loan provider turns your debt over to a collection agency.

To get more technical, defaulting on federal student loans is a process that takes place over a period of non-payment . When you first miss a payment, the loans are delinquent but not yet in default. At 90 days past due, your lender can report your missed payments to credit bureaus. And when you reach 270 days past due, your student loans are officially in default.

get your student loans out of default.

First, stop avoiding those collection calls. If your student loan provider or a collection agency is calling, your best bet is to meet your lender or the agency head-on and take charge of the situation. The lender or the collection agency will be able to talk through the repayment options available to you based on your personal financial situation. They want you to pay, which means that they might be able to help find a payment plan that works for you.

The lender may be able to offer a variety of options tailored to your individual circumstances. Some of these options might include satisfying the debt by paying a discounted lump sum, setting up a monthly payment plan based on your income, consolidating your debts, or even student loan rehabilitation for federal loans. Don’t let your fear stop you from reaching out to your lender or the collection agency.

How to Avoid Defaulting on Student Loans

Of course, even if you can get yourself out of student loan default, the default can still impact your credit score and loan forgiveness options. That’s why it’s generally best to take action before falling into default. If the student loan payments are difficult for you to make each month, there are things you can do to change your situation before your loans go into default.

First, consider talking to your lender directly. The lender will be able to explain any alternate payment plans available to you. For federal loans, borrowers may be able to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. These repayment plans aim to make student loan payments more manageable by tying them to the borrower’s income. This can make the loans more costly over the life of the loan, but the ability to make payments on time each month and avoid going into default are valuable.

Refinancing student loans could potentially help you avoid defaulting on your student loans by combining all your student loans into one, simplified new loan. When you refinance, qualifying borrowers may be able to secure a lower interest rate or loan terms that work better for their situation.

If a borrower is already in default, refinancing could be difficult. When a student loan is refinanced, a new loan is taken out with a private lender. As a part of the application and approval process, lenders will review factors including the borrower’s credit score and financial history among other factors.

Borrowers who are already in default may have already felt an impact on their credit score, which can influence their ability to get approved for a new loan. In some cases, adding a cosigner to the refinancing application could help improve a borrower’s chances of getting approved for a refinancing loan. Know that if federal student loans are refinanced they are no longer eligible for federal repayment plans or protections.

The Takeaway

Student loan default can have serious negative effects on your credit score and financial stability. If you’re worried about defaulting on your student loans, or you have already defaulted, consider taking immediate steps to remedy the situation before it gets worse. Contact your lender or servicer to learn about options available, and consider refinancing your loans to secure a lower interest rate or monthly payment.

If you’re ready to take control of your loans, learn more about how SoFi student loan refinancing may be able to help.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (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.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .

SEO18112

Source: sofi.com

The Drop App Will Pay You $50 to Help End COVID-19

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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