4 Things to Tell Your Boss If You Want to Work From Home

These days, more and more employees are working from home on a regular basis. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics says that about 2.8% of the total workforce work from home at least half time. Nearly all U.S. workers say they’d like to work from home at least part-time, and about half the workforce say they could  work remotely at least some of the time.

But what if you’re not one the lucky ones who stumbles into a job that already allows working from home, whether sometimes or on a regular basis? In this case, you might need to convince your boss that working from home is a good idea.

And, in fact, working from home is a good idea, much of the time. It can actually save you money, and it can reduce your overall stress level. And if you’re like many people, you might actually get more done in less time when you’re working from home.

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But those arguments, especially the ones that are mostly beneficial to your personal life, may not be enough to convince your boss to let you work from home. Here are four more convincing arguments to try:

1. Better Productivity

Working from home isn’t a good fit for all jobs, but for some types, studies show that working from home actually increases productivity.

2. Reduced Overhead Costs

Outfitting an employee with an office or even cubicle comes with overhead costs. Not to mention all that water you flush down the toilet on bathroom breaks! In fact, many large employers started moving employees to work from home positions specifically to reduce overhead costs. (Of course, you’ll be taking on some of those costs by working from home — increased electricity and water usage can eat into your savings on commuting. You can try some of these easy penny pinching tips to help offset those costs.

3. Fewer Sick Days

Having the ability to work from home often curbs the number of sick days you take. You might not drag yourself into the office when you’re feeling under the weather, but you may opt to work as normal from your comfortable couch. Your fellow employees will appreciate fewer germs, anyway.

4. At-Home Workers Are Happier (& Stay Longer)

If working from home is really important to you, and if you’re in a field where it’s common, you may be more likely to stay in your job for the long term if you are allowed some flexibility to work from home. You don’t necessarily need to tell your boss this, but you can show that employees who work from home are happier in their jobs.

Making Your Proposal & Pulling It Off

Now that you’ve got some arguments in your back pocket, how do you go about actually asking your boss to let you work from home? Here are a few steps to take:

1. Create a Formal Proposal

Don’t just approach working from home by the seat of your pants, especially if it’s not already a common practice in your workplace. Instead, create a formal proposal for what working from home would look like for you.

What tasks would you accomplish at home? How would you handle meetings and phone calls? Would you be available during certain hours online? How would you keep track of the tasks that you’re working on at home? What sort of accountability system could you build in?

Put all this into writing. When in doubt, talk to someone else with a job similar to yours who works from home. See what kind of arrangements they have with their employers, and go from there. If others in your organization work from home, talk to them about their written work plans, too.

2. Pre-empt Your Boss’s Concerns

When you’re creating your proposal, try to think about it from your boss’s perspective. What concerns will he or she likely  have? You know this person best as a supervisor, so you can likely anticipate how the conversation will go.

Again, talk to others in your organization who work from home sometimes or regularly, and use that as a jumping off point. You’ll want to work those points into your written proposal, preferably, or at least address them in your conversation with your boss.

3. Propose a Trial Run

Don’t just jump in and ask to switch your in-office job to a full-time, work-from-home position. Instead, propose a trial. You may want to propose a part-time work from home schedule of one to three days per week at first. And you should also suggest trying to work from home for a period of thirty to ninety days before you and your boss formally evaluate the situation.

Starting with a trial period can help make working from home more palatable. Plus, if you’ve never worked from home before, you may find that a blended schedule of in-office and at-home actually suits you better than working from home full-time.

4. Be Flexible

Go into the conversation with your boss with goals and a proposal, but be willing to take his or her feedback into account, too. Be flexible in what you’re asking for, and be prepared to give up ground if that’s what you need to get your foot in the door. Maybe your three days a week goes to two, or your 90-day trial goes to 30. It’s still a start!

5. What Else Can You Give Up?

Oftentimes, people who really want to work from home are willing to take a pay cut to do so, or at least forgo a big raise. This means that evaluation time can be a good time to ask for work-from-home privileges. If you get a great review and are offered a raise, consider counter-offering a smaller raise with the ability to work remotely part-time.

Maybe you’re not willing to give up a raise, but you have other privileges you could lay on the table in order to work from home. Or maybe you feel you’ll be so much more productive at home that you can tackle additional responsibilities. Either way, you could give a little to get a little in this conversation.

6. Prove You Can Do It

Finally, when you do get to work from home, don’t take advantage of the situation. Put 100% into your work each day, and set up your lifestyle so that you’re more productive than ever. Keep track of your goals, metrics, and to-do lists, so that if there’s ever a question of whether or not you can work from home well, you’ve got data to back up your answer.

[Editor’s note: It’s also a good idea to keep track of your financial goals. One way to do that is to check your credit scores. Credit.com’s credit report summary offers a free credit score, updated every 14 days, plus tools that help you establish a plan for how to improve your scores.]

Image: AlexBrylov

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Source: credit.com

Paying taxes as a freelancer

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

Paying taxes as a freelancer can be a bit more involved—and expensive—than paying taxes as a W-2 employee. When you’re a freelancer, you’re the boss. That’s great if you want some flexibility, but it also means you’re self-employed, so you are responsible for both the employer and employee parts of employment taxes.

When you work for someone else, your paycheck amount is your pay minus all appropriate deductions. That includes deductions for federal and state income taxes as well as Medicare and Social Security contributions.

But what you might not realize is that your employer covers part of the Medicare and Social Security amounts. As a self-employed individual, you have to pay the total amount yourself. That’s 12.4 percent for Social Security and 2.9 percent for Medicare—a total of 15.3 percent of your taxable earnings, not including federal and other income taxes.

When Do I Have to Start Paying Taxes as a Freelancer?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, if you earn $400 or more in a year via self-employment or contract work, you must claim the income and pay taxes on it. The threshold is even lower if you earn the money for church work. If you earn more than $108.28 as a church employee and the church employer doesn’t withhold and pay employment taxes, you must do so.

What Tax Forms Should I Know About?

Freelancers report their income to the IRS using a Form 1040, but they may need to include a variety of Schedule attachments, including:

  • Schedule A, which lists itemized deductions
  • Schedule C, which reports profits or losses from their freelancer business
  • Schedule SE, which calculates self-employment tax

These are only some of the forms that might be relevant to a freelancer filing federal taxes. Freelancers must also file a tax form for the state in which they live as well as with any local governments that require income tax payments.

If you’re planning to do your taxes on your own as a freelancer, it might be helpful to invest in DIY tax software. Look for options that cater specifically to home and business or self-employment situations. These software programs typically walk you through a series of questions designed to determine which forms you need to file and help you complete those forms correctly.

Six Tips for Doing Your Taxes as a Freelancer

As a freelancer, chances are you spend a lot of your time attending to clients and getting production work done. You may not have a lot of time for business organization tasks such as accounting. But a proactive approach to paying taxes as a freelancer can help you prepare to do your taxes and pay what can be a surprisingly big bill each year.

Here are six tips for handling taxes as a freelancer.

1. Keep Track of Your Income

Track your income so you know how much you may need to pay in taxes every year. Keeping track of your numbers also helps you understand whether your business is profitable and how you’re doing with income compared to past years.

You can track your income in a number of ways. Apps and software programs such as QuickBooks and Wave let you manage your freelance invoices and track income and expenses. Some also help you generate financial reports that might be helpful come tax time.

Alternatively, you can track your income in an Excel spreadsheet or even a notebook, as long as you’re consistent with writing everything down.

2. Set Money Aside in Advance

It’s tempting to count every dollar that comes in as money you can use. But it’s wiser to set money aside for taxes in advance. Depending on how much you earn as a freelancer, you could owe thousands in federal and state taxes by the end of the year, and if you didn’t plan ahead, you might not have the money to cover the tax bill.

That can lead to tax debt that comes with pretty stiff penalties and interest—and the potential for a tax lien if you can’t pay the bill.

3. Determine Your Business Structure

Make sure you know what your business structure is. Many freelancers operate as sole proprietorships. But you might be able to get a tax break if you operate as an LLC or a corporation. Talk to legal and tax professionals as you set up your business to find out about the pros and cons of each type of organization.

4. Know About Relevant Deductions

As a freelancer, you may be able to take certain federal tax deductions to save yourself some money. Tax deductions reduce how much of your income is considered taxable, which, in turn, reduces how much you owe in taxes. Here are a few common deductions that might be relevant to you as a freelancer.

Home Office

You can take the home office deduction if you’ve set aside a certain area of your home for use by the business. The IRS does have a couple of stipulations.

First, you have to regularly use the space for your business, and it can’t be something you use regularly for other purposes. For example, you can’t claim your dining room as a home office just because you sometimes work from that location.

Second, the home has to be your principal place of business, which means it’s where you do most business activity. You can’t claim the deduction if you normally work outside the home but sometimes answer work emails while you’re in the living room.

Equipment and Supplies

You can also deduct the cost of equipment and supplies that you buy for your business. That includes software purchases and relevant subscriptions, such as if you pay monthly for Microsoft 365 or annually for a domain name.

Make sure you have backup documentation for any business expenses you deduct. That means keeping receipts that show what you purchased so you can prove that the expenses were for business. You also have to be careful to keep business and personal expenses separate—art supplies for your child’s school project, for example, wouldn’t typically be considered valid business expenses.

Travel and Meals

Meals and travel expenses that are related to your business may be tax deductible. If you stay in a hotel, book a flight or incur other travel expenses that are necessary for the running of your business, you can claim them as a deduction. The same is true for 50 percent of the value of meals and beverages that you pay for as a necessity when doing business.

The IRS does set an “ordinary and necessary” rule here. For example, if you’re traveling to meet with a client and you need to eat lunch, that is likely to be considered necessary. But if you opt for a very lavish meal for no other purpose than to do so, it might not be allowed under the “ordinary” part of the rule.

Business Insurance

If you carry liability or similar insurance for your business, you can deduct it as a cost of doing business. You may also be able to deduct the cost of other insurance policies if they are necessary for your trade.

5. Estimate Your Taxes Quarterly

The IRS offers provisions for estimating your employment taxes on a quarterly basis. Self-employed individuals, including freelancers, can make these estimated tax payments, too. Paying as you go means you won’t owe a large sum every April, and if you overestimate, you may get a tax refund.

Quarterly payments are due in April, June, September and January. They can be mailed or made online. Depending on how much you earn, you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid a penalty at the end of the year.

6. Consult a Tax Professional

As you can see just from the basic information and tips above, paying taxes as a freelancer can get complicated quickly. Consider talking to a tax professional to understand what all your obligations are and how best to reduce your tax burden using legal deductions. You might be missing a major deduction every year that could save you a lot of money.

And remember that as a freelancer, you’re running your own small business. That means paying attention to all your finances, including your credit report. If you ever want to take out a business loan or seek other funding to grow your business, you might need to rely on your good credit score.

Check your credit score, and if you find inaccurate negative information making an impact on your score, contact Lexington Law to find out how to get help disputing it.


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

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

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

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

5 Tips for Approaching the Open House

In this article:

For decades, sellers and their agents have been using open houses to help generate interest in their listings. Open houses give the general public the chance to view a home without scheduling a private showing. While open houses do get a lot of curious neighbors and casual browsers, they can be a good opportunity for serious buyers to decide if a home is worth pursuing further, or a way to get a better grasp on neighborhood home values. 

In fact, 59% of home buyers attended an open house during their shopping process last year and 43% of buyers said attending the open house was very or extremely important to determining if the home was right for them.* On average, home buyers attended 2.6 open houses before buying.

Whether you’re a sincere buyer or simply curious about the inside of a home, you should know how open houses work and understand how you can be a good open house attendee. 

Note: If open houses are restricted or unavailable due to public health concerns, work with your agent to arrange a private tour or video tour. All Zillow-owned homes include a self-tour option — just use our app to unlock the door and tour at your convenience.

What is an open house?

An open house is an event during which potential buyers can tour a home that’s on the market. It’s usually hosted by the seller’s listing agent, or by the seller themselves, in case of a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) listing. Open houses usually take place on weekends, during a set range of hours typically midday.

Open house benefits for buyers

No scheduling required: Unlike a private showing, you don’t need to set up a specific appointment to see a home. Simply show up during the open house hours and view the home at your own pace. 

Scope out the competition: If you’re interested in a home, attending the open house can help you gauge interest from other buyers. This can be helpful when determining how quickly you need to submit an offer and how much you should offer. 

Understand current home values: Seeing what homes are selling for in your area and what you can buy at a particular price point can be helpful if you’re just starting your search. 

Redefine your nonnegotiable home features: Checking out homes in person can help you redefine your list of must-haves: Do you really need that extra bedroom? What does a backyard of this size really look like?

How do open houses work?

Not every seller or listing agent will hold one, but here’s the typical process for sellers setting up an open house:

  1. The seller and their agent determine a day and time for the open house.
  2. The agent lists the open house on the local MLS.
  3. The agent advertises the open house on social media, online and with print ads or flyers. 
  4. The agent prepares for the open house — purchasing refreshments, printing flyers, setting up signs and adding little touches to make the home feel welcoming to buyers. (Yes, as a shopper, you can eat the cookies.)
  5. The agent hosts the event, greeting buyers and answering questions about the property and community.
  6. Buyers remove their shoes, tour the home, take pictures and video (if allowed) and jot down important notes. 
  7. Any buyer who liked the house will contact their own agent. They’ll then set up a private showing to see the home again or they’ll submit an offer right away — the latter is common in fast-moving real estate markets.

Who hosts an open house?

The person hosting an open house could be any one of the following: 

  • Listing agent: As the person hired to sell the home, the listing agent should be an expert on the property. 
  • Listing agent’s team member or associate: A busy listing agent may also send another agent in their place — either someone on their team or another agent in their office. They should be experts in the local market, but may not be as familiar with the individual home. 
  • Homeowner: If a home is for sale by owner (FSBO), the homeowner will be hosting their own open house. They’re undoubtedly the expert on the home, but their local market expertise may be limited. 

How to prepare for an open house

There are times when you might just stumble upon an open house while you’re on a walk or running errands. But if you’re intentionally looking for open houses as part of your home-buying strategy, try these tips.

Seek out relevant open houses

If you plan to visit multiple open houses in one day, make sure you’re focusing on listings that fit your criteria for budget and location. It’s not worth wasting time looking at homes outside your budget or those that are too far from your work or school. 

Tip: With Zillow’s home search tool, buyers can filter by homes with upcoming open houses (this filter can be applied in addition to other search filters like price, bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage and location). When you use the open houses filter in conjunction with filters for your other criteria, you can easily find the right open houses for your search.

A map of home listings on Zillow.

You can also tour most Zillow-owned homes any time between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., any day of the week — just select the tour option on the listing. Although the listing agent will not be present, you can avoid a busy open house and rest assured the property is in move-in ready condition.

Do research on the market beforehand

With help from your agent or on your own, find out how each home you’re planning to visit stacks up against others nearby. Is the price in line with similar listings in the area? Are there any defects? Has it gone under contract recently and then returned to the market? Are there a lot of other interested buyers? Has it been sitting on the market for a long time? (“Days on market” is an indicator of a stale listing, but the standard number of days on market can vary based on where you live.)

Stay open-minded

If you’re searching on a tight budget in a hot neighborhood, there’s a good chance that the home that fits the bill will need some TLC. Fortunately, attending an open house can give you a better idea of the home’s condition and potential, while also giving you the opportunity to ask renovation-related questions — e.g., the location of load bearing walls and the details of local regulations. 

How to attend an open house

Now that you’ve done your research and are prepared to add some open houses to your home search, here’s what you should do once the day arrives. 

Ask questions

An open house is your best opportunity to ask the listing agent (or their associate) your questions — don’t be shy. Ask questions that you wouldn’t be able to answer just by reading a home’s listing description, such as:

  • What are the HOA restrictions?
  • Has the seller done a property tax appeal?
  • Have there been any recent renovations or repairs?

Tip: If you’re not currently working with an agent and you ultimately decide you aren’t interested in a particular home you tour, the open house could help you see if the listing agent might be the right person to represent you — many agents represent both buyers and sellers. 

Be honest

If anyone other than the listing agent or the homeowner is hosting the open house, they’re likely an agent hoping to find potential buyer clients. If you’re already working with an agent (or if you have no real interest in buying), be honest.

Check for damage and disrepair

Professional or edited photos can make a home look a lot better online than it is in person. At an open house, take the opportunity to closely evaluate a home’s condition and take note of any potential defects that would factor into your offer price. 

Assess the windows: Look for flaking paint, misaligned sashes and condensation due to air leaks. These could be signs of windows that need replacement. 

Check for water damage: Look for warped baseboards, ceiling stains and musty smells. 

Make note of cracks: Noticeable cracks in the ceiling or drywall could indicate foundation issues. 

Test functions: Open cabinets, doors and drawers. Run the faucets. Check the water pressure. An open house is a good opportunity to make sure every part of the home is in good working order. 

Gauge potential renovation needs: Home improvements can really add up. As you walk through a home, keep an eye out for urgent renovation needs like floors, fixtures or large repainting projects.

Open house tips for buyers

Whenever you attend an open house, put yourself in the seller’s shoes — you’re letting a bunch of strangers walk through your home while you’re not there. While every seller wants their open house to net a buyer, they also want to keep their home safe and their furnishings free of damage.

Do

  • Take off your shoes or wear booties if requested.
  • Greet the host and provide your name.
  • Sign in if necessary or requested (this is a safety issue for the seller and their agent).
  • Take notes on your phone about your likes, dislikes and follow-up questions.
  • Ask if you can capture a video (if the listing doesn’t already include a video).
  • Respect other buyers and guests. 
  • Wait for others to exit a room before you enter.
  • Provide feedback if requested.
  • Thank the person hosting the event.

Don’t

  • Refuse to comply with an agent or homeowner’s house rules.
  • Criticize the home or the owner’s style.
  • Listen in on other visitors’ conversations.
  • Touch the owner’s belongings.
  • Let kids run around without supervision.
  • Bring food or beverages in (except water).
  • Reveal information that would compromise your negotiating power, like your budget or level of interest in the home.
  • Bring pets.

*Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019 survey data

Source: zillow.com

How is credit card interest calculated?

How is Credit Card Interest Calculated

If you’re like most people repairing their credit card debt, your credit card’s annual interest rate is a mystery to you. You might even avoid thinking about it or looking at it, because it’s such a large number. Interest rates can make it difficult to get out of debt quickly, because you’re working against a large percentage—as much as 16% or even 20% annual interest.

Credit card interest is calculated using a complicated formula that can be confusing to many people. So it often remains a puzzle to borrowers. But it’s important to understand the basics of credit card interest, because it will help you to repair your credit card debt quicker—and to be a smarter credit card user. Here’s how credit card interest works.

How Is Credit Card Interest Calculated?

credit card interest calculation

If you’ve watched your interest rate closely, you may have noticed that it has changed since you first opened your credit card. Many credit cards offer a low introductory interest rate that increases after the period is over. But even after that, your annual interest rate will often go up and down. That can be confusing, and even a bit unsettling.

Your interest rate changes

The first thing you should understand is that your credit card uses a variable interest rate. That means that the interest rate can change over time. A variable rate is tied to a base index—usually the U.S. prime rate. As the U.S. prime rate goes up or down, so will your credit card’s interest rate.

Right now, the U.S. prime rate is 4.25%. But your credit card’s interest rate is probably closer to 18.25%, or even more. That’s because credit card companies charge an additional amount above the U.S. prime rate—perhaps 14%, but it varies from card to card. So your total interest rate will be closer to 18.25%, annually. If the U.S. prime rate raises or lowers, your annual interest rate will also go up or down by the same amount.

The factors that influence the U.S. prime rate are reviewed every six weeks. The prime rate could stay the same for years, or it could change every six weeks. It all depends on current federal economic conditions and forecasts.

Your interest rate is annual

It’s also important to understand that your credit card’s interest rate is an annual rate. So if your annual rate is 18.25%, that amount is applied per year—not per month. But since you’re billed monthly, your interest is calculated each month, using an average daily balance method.

Calculating your interest rate

Here’s how the average daily balance works:

  1. Determine the daily periodic rate (DPR)—the interest rate you pay each day. DPR is your current interest rate (it varies, remember) divided by 365. So, 18.25 / 365 = 0.05%.
  2. Determine the average daily balance for the month. This is done by adding up the balance for each day of the billing period, then dividing that sum by the number of days (either 30 or 31 days—or 28 in February!). If you had a balance of $0.00 for 10 days, then $500.00 for 10 days, then $1000.00 for the last 10 days of the month, your average daily balance would be $500.00.
  3. Multiply the DPR by the number of days in the billing cycle, then multiply that total by the average daily balance. This is your interest for the month. So, a DPR of 0.05% * 30 days = 1.5%. 1.5% * $500.00 = $7.50.

That might not sound like much, but if you’re an average cardholder in the United States, you’re carrying a credit card debt of $16,000.00. That means you’re paying $2,880.00 per year in interest alone, in this scenario.

How Can I Avoid Paying So Much Interest?

When you’re working hard to repair your credit card debt, it can be frustrating to be fighting against a high interest rate. But there are ways you can reduce—or even eliminate—the amount of credit card interest you’re paying each month.

Pay more than the minimum balance due

Your credit card statement lists a minimum amount that you must pay each month. Your interest for the month is rolled into that minimum payment. But if you pay more than the minimum, every dollar above that minimum goes towards your principal balance. There’s no interest charged on it.

In other words, if your minimum payment is $500.00 and you pay $600.00, that extra $100.00 is applied to the amount you borrowed—it’s interest-free. And that benefits you in two ways:

  • You’re paying off debt without paying interest
  • You’re lowering the dollar amount of interest you’ll have to pay next month, because your average daily balance will be smaller.

Open a balance-transfer credit card

credit card interest

A balance-transfer card can be a very helpful way to repair your credit card debt. A transfer credit card has a very low introductory interest rate—often as low as 0%. The card lets you transfer your balance from other debt onto the new card. You can then make monthly payments on the transfer card to pay down your existing debt.

But the low interest rate is only valid for a limited time—usually six to 18 months—so you’ll need to pay off the debt before the introductory rate expires. You should also do your homework: some transfer cards charge a transfer fee. And some charge a penalty APR, which allows the credit company to charge you a high interest rate if you miss a payment.

Pay off Your Credit Card Debt Faster

Your credit card’s annual interest rate doesn’t have to be a confusing mystery, and you don’t need to know everything there is to know about interest rates. But when you understand the basics of variable interest rates and how they’re calculated, you can use that information to repair your credit card debt faster and easier. Paying more than the minimum balance due and using a balance-transfer card can be very helpful ways to use interest rates to your advantage.


A reputable credit repair specialist can help you find other ways to successfully get out of credit debt. If you’re tired of struggling on your own, find out how our advisors can help you repair your credit debt. Contact us today.

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Source: lexingtonlaw.com

8 Best Disability Insurance Companies of 2021 (Short-Term & Long-Term)

Data from LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer finds that roughly 3 in 5 American households have some form of life insurance.

In other words, there’s a good chance you have — at minimum — a term life insurance policy and therefore have some experience choosing a life insurance policy that fits your financial needs and life goals.

It’s far less likely you have experience searching for another type of insurance you probably need. That would be disability insurance, a vital income replacement solution for workers unable to work productively due to serious injury or illness.

If you or your family rely on your employment income to make ends meet or support a lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to, disability insurance is nearly as important as life insurance. After all, not all life-altering accidents and illnesses result in death.

And not all life-altering events that qualify for disability coverage are tragic. According to internal data from the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, new mothers make more than one-quarter of the company’s short-term disability insurance claims.


Best Disability Insurance Companies

Obtaining a disability insurance policy isn’t all that different from obtaining a life insurance policy. And many of the best life insurance companies also write disability insurance policies, so you’ll see plenty of familiar names along the way.

Always shop for insurance using an aggregator like Policygenius. But the following disability insurance providers, in particular, are among the best for U.S.-based workers.

There are two main types of disability insurance coverage: short-term disability and long-term disability. All of the companies on this list offer long-term disability coverage, some offer short-term disability insurance, and many of them (or their close affiliates) offer other insurance products, such as term life and annuities.

This evaluation incorporates:

  • Financial strength ratings from A.M. Best, which measures insurers’ financial stability and overall capacity to make promised benefit payouts
  • Customer satisfaction ratings from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a leading evaluator of general business quality
  • Overall suitability based on each company’s product mix, strengths, weaknesses, and markets served

When evaluating disability insurance companies and policies, pay close attention to policy specifics like:

  • The length of the elimination period (the waiting period before benefits kick in)
  • The length of the benefit period itself (which is usually longer for long-term policies)
  • The monthly benefit amount
  • Actual disability insurance costs (monthly premiums)
  • Whether the policy offers “any occupation” or “own occupation” coverage (or both)

1. Breeze Financial & Insurance Services Group

  • Breeze LogoA.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: Not available
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: A+
  • Great For: Very affordable policies; 100% online process with no salespeople

Breeze offers short- and long-term disability solutions that are all about convenience and affordability. Its 100% online application process cuts traditional salespeople out of the equation, allowing would-be policyholders to focus on what matters most: finding and securing the right amount of disability coverage at the right price.

Young, healthy workers with low coverage needs qualify for long-term coverage for as little as $9 per month — significantly less than many mainline insurers charge.

Despite its technology-driven approach, Breeze prides itself on an unusually transparent process that walks applicants through the entire scope of coverage and can accommodate a range of nontraditional situations, including solopreneurs and small-business owners with complex insurance needs.

And Breeze offers low-risk applicants an instant approval option that waives the usual medical underwriting requirement — no invasive medical exams or time-consuming labs required.

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2. Northwestern Mutual

  • Northwestern Mutual LogoA.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior)
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: A+
  • Great For: Supplementing employer-sponsored disability plans; specialized plans for part-time workers and stay-at-home parents

Northwestern Mutual specializes in long-term disability plans with variable-length elimination periods that bridge the coverage gap between what employer-sponsored disability plans pay and policyholders’ pre-disability income.

But traditional employees with existing disability coverage aren’t the only folks Northwestern Mutual’s worthwhile for. The company also offers nontraditional products and add-ons for part-time workers and stay-at-home parents whose emotional labor is so often undervalued.

Plus, it’s regarded as one of the strongest insurance companies on the market, which is no small thing for those seeking peace of mind.

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3. MassMutual

  • Mass Mutual LogoA.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior)
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: B-
  • Great For: Retirement savings protection; tying benefit growth to salary

MassMutual’s customizable disability insurance products protect between 45% and 65% of policyholders’ pre-disability income, but that’s far from the whole story.

Powerful riders, some of which aren’t widely available elsewhere, help policyholders keep their financial plans on track, even as they pay into their policies or (if it comes to that) collect benefits.

For example, the retirement savings protection rider earmarks some income for policyholders’ retirement plans, keeping their long-term investment strategy on track when they’re temporarily unable to work.

Another rider pegs benefit growth to salary growth, adding protection as policyholders’ careers advance.

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4. Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

  • Guardian Life Insurance LogoA.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior)
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: A+
  • Great For: Coverage for self-employed workers; group plans for small employers

Guardian Life Insurance Company of America offers short- and long-term disability insurance for self-employed individuals, group plans for employers, and supplemental policies for workers looking to add to their employer-sponsored coverage.

Because its policies are only available through licensed insurance brokers or employers themselves, Guardian requires all would-be policyholders to go through a middleman and definitely caters to small-business owners and executives looking to retain employees with attractive disability coverage.

But it’s a solid choice for self-employed workers with variable income, a group that tends to be perceived as high-risk (and is therefore underserved) by most disability insurance providers.

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5. Principal Financial Group

  • Principal Financial LogoA.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: Not rated
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: A+
  • Great For: Existing Principal Financial clients and those willing to work with a Principal advisor

Like Guardian’s, Principal Financial Group’s disability insurance offering is gated, available only to clients of Principal Financial Group advisors and those willing to establish an advisory relationship (even if temporary) to obtain disability coverage.

The advantage: All Principal policies are written for individuals, not employers, and are therefore portable, meaning they remain in force when the policyholder changes jobs.

Because Principal clients’ relationships extend well beyond disability insurance, they can sometimes qualify for lower premiums than those available through one-off individual policy transactions. However, the most critical factor in any pricing decision is the perceived risk of disability.

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6. RiverSource Life Insurance Company

  • Riversource LogoA.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior)
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: A+
  • Great For: Option to tie benefits to salary; potential for high coverage limits

RiverSource Life Insurance Company offers two disability insurance solutions: Income Protection and Income Protection Plus.

The main difference between the two is a higher level of coverage with the latter, though both are customizable based on policyholders’ incomes and long-term goals.

And both come with optional riders that tie benefits to salary increases, ensuring peace of mind with every raise. Like Guardian and Principal, RiverSource offers disability policies through a network of advisors — in this case, those working with Ameriprise Financial.

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7. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company

  • Mutual Of Omaha LogoA.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior)
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: A+
  • Great For: High coverage limits, optional coverage until age 67

Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company’s long-term disability insurance offering has two distinct advantages: high coverage limits (up to $12,000 per month) and the option to extend coverage until age 67, two years past the usual cutoff date for long-term disability benefits.

If you continue to work full-time and pay your premiums, your policy could remain in force until age 75, but Mutual of Omaha reserves the right to cancel your policy at any time after age 67.

The main drawback here: As with some competitors, individual Mutual of Omaha disability insurance policies are only available through licensed agents.

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8. Assurity

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A- (Excellent)
  • BBB Customer Satisfaction Rating: A+
  • Great For: Longer coverage periods, flexible benefit amounts (including total disability coverage)

Assurity is a flexible option for workers with longer-term disability income insurance needs. Its coverage periods start at one year and continue up until retirement age.

Customizable benefit amounts range from partial disability (for those transitioning back to the workforce) to total disability coverage for policyholders unable to work at all.

Assurity also stands out for its commitment to any occupation coverage. Even if you’re able to perform some duties in a role or profession other than the one you held before your disability, you can remain out of the workforce (and earning benefits) until you’re once more able to do the job you were trained for.

Learn More


Final Word

Health insurance is a prevalent employment benefit. And it’s a valuable one — so much so that many workers accelerate or delay job changes based on the availability or absence of quality, affordable employer-sponsored health insurance.

Employer-sponsored disability insurance isn’t offered as widely and isn’t as high on workers’ must-have lists as health insurance. But it’s still a fairly common employment benefit. If you’re not sure whether your employer offers it, dig up your new-hire packet or log into your HR portal to see for yourself.

If it’s an option, investigate further. It could be a better deal than what’s available on the individual market to someone in your risk class.

Then again, it might not be, which is why it always pays to shop around.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – Lexington Law

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

Bankruptcy is a legal process that lets you restructure your debts or have them discharged. The details of how your bankruptcy plays out depend on your overall financial situation and what type of bankruptcy you file, but the goal of bankruptcy is to help debtors who can’t pay all their debts create a path toward a better financial future while paying as much as they can. To determine how much you pay, consider Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

It’s important to note that bankruptcy should be a last resort. It has serious consequences for your credit and immediate financial future, which means you may want to consider all other options first. Find out more about Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 bankruptcy below and then talk to a lawyer about what might be best for you—many bankruptcy attorneys offer free consultations for this purpose.

What Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is sometimes referred to as liquidation bankruptcy or the fresh start bankruptcy.  While every situation is handled according to the details of the case, the basic concept of Chapter 7 is that your non-exempt assets are liquidated to repay creditors and any remaining debt not covered is discharged in the bankruptcy.  It should be noted that many families have no non-exempt assets, or very few non-exempt assets.

How It Works

First, you go through a pre-filing credit counseling course and obtain a certificate that you file when you file a petition with the court for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Before filing chapter 7 you must perform the “means test” to determine whether you qualify for chapter 7 at all. 

The means test considers your income for the preceding six months, your family size, and some other factors.  If you qualify for chapter 7 you can prepare and file your chapter 7 papers yourself, but most experts recommend working with a bankruptcy lawyer, as the process is complex.

You must also submit records including lists of all your assets and debts, your current income and expenses, tax returns and other documents related to your financial status, including contracts like leases that might be in play.

You’ll also be required to go through credit counseling after your bankruptcy is filed, and submit a certificate that you did so—if you work with a bankruptcy attorney, they usually help facilitate this.

Most creditor activities against you, such as lawsuits, foreclosures and wage garnishments, must be halted as soon as you file the petition and the creditor finds out about it. This is known as the automatic stay.

Within a few weeks, the bankruptcy trustee holds what is called a meeting of creditors. This is a hearing you must attend. You are placed under oath and the trustee, along with any present creditors, asks you questions. The trustee uses this information to determine whether you have any non-exempt assets or transactions that can be reversed. 

The trustee is looking to see if s/he can obtain any money for your creditors. The trustee is also looking to insure that debtors are truthful and fully disclosing of their situation. 

Once the case proceeds past this point, your debts are discharged as agreed upon after liquidation of non-exempt assets (if any) occurs and funds are disbursed to various creditors by the trustee. Some of your assets are protected by exclusions, including certain personal items and clothing.

You may also be able to keep a vehicle for the purpose of travel to and from work as well as your home, depending on how much equity you have in it.

Eligibility Rules

Eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends on income and the application of a means test.

You may be eligible for a Chapter 7 filing if you pass the rigorous requirements of the means test, a test which looks at your income for the last six months, your family size, and other items, and compares you to other persons of the same family size in your area to determine whether you qualify.

Unsecured debt refers to debt that isn’t secured by property. Vehicle and home loans are secured by property, meaning the bank can take that property if you don’t pay to mitigate some of their losses. Credit cards are not usually secured, but may be in some instances. Priority unsecured debt refers to amounts you owe on taxes or child support.

Nonpriority unsecured debts are items such as credit card debt, personal loans and medical debt.

This is a lot of information, and it does sometimes get complex. But the bottom line is that if you have too much income, you may not be able to file Chapter 7. That’s because the court assumes you have enough income to pay at least some of your creditors.

Pros

If you qualify for Chapter 7, it can help you start fresh with debt. In some circumstances, you may leave the bankruptcy with no debt at all. It’s also faster than other forms of bankruptcy because there’s no repayment plan period.

Cons

Chapter 7 is looked at by future creditors as worse than Chapter 13 because it shows no effort to make any payment on debt owned. The Chapter 7 negative listing on your credit report will also show up for 10 years after you file the petition.

What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a restructuring plan. You work through the bankruptcy trustee to pay some, but usually not all, of your debts over three to five years. If you meet all the requirements of the plan, your remaining debt may be discharged at the end of the bankruptcy.

How It Works

Many of the processes associated with filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy are the same as when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You take the pre-filing credit counseling course, file the petition, an automatic stay goes into place, you attend the meeting of creditors and then you work with the trustee via your attorney to make the appropriate payments every month.

You pay the trustee as dictated by your bankruptcy plan.  Once the plan is approved by the court, the trustee then disburses that money to your creditors. If you miss your Chapter 13 bankruptcy payments, the trustee can file a motion to dismiss your case, and you would then owe all the debts and creditors could begin collections actions against you again.

Once you complete the Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan, you are typically entitled to a discharge of all remaining debts under the bankruptcy.

Eligibility Rules

Eligibility for Chapter 13 bankruptcy depends on the amount of your debts as well as your ability to make payments as planned in your repayment plan.

  • Unsecured debts must be less than $ 419,275. (As on October, 2020 –this number increases periodically with inflation.)
  • Secured debts, including any mortgages, must be less than $1,257.850. (As of October, 2020 –this number increases periodically with inflation.)
  • For your repayment plan to be confirmed, the trustee has to deem it possible for you to make the payments. If, for example, you agree to make a payment that totals your monthly income and leaves no room for living expenses, the trustee is likely to reject the plan.

Pros

Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit for less time than a Chapter 7—up to seven years from the filing date. Future creditors might also look more favorably upon it because it shows that you made some effort to repay debts. In a Chapter 13, you are typically able to keep all your belongings and don’t have to liquidate them.

Cons

You do have to make some payments toward debts, which can mean a hefty monthly payment to the trustee. You also agree to submit certain financial decisions, such as whether you take on new debt, to the court during the repayment plan.

Which Kind of Bankruptcy Is Best for Me?

Chapter 7 may be a good choice if your income is low or if you are struggling to make any payment on debts. Chapter 13 may be the right choice if you do have some ability to pay but you’re simply overwhelmed with your current debt load.

The decision can be complex, so it’s important to consult a bankruptcy attorney to find out what your options are and what might be right for you.

How Do I Apply for Bankruptcy?

You apply for a bankruptcy by filing a bankruptcy petition. You can file on your own or through an attorney.

How Does Bankruptcy Affect My Credit?

Depending on how you file, bankruptcy stays on your credit report for up to seven to 10 years. Bankruptcy appears on your credit report as a negative public record item, and it can bring your score down substantially. How much your score drops depends on what it was before you entered bankruptcy and other factors, but it’s typically enough to drop you down to a different range—such as moving you from good to fair or poor credit.

Typically, by the time someone makes the decision to file for bankruptcy, their credit score is already suffering because of late payments or delinquent accounts in collections. A bankruptcy is a big hit, but it’s not a death knell for your good credit. In fact, if you’re responsible with debt following your bankruptcy, you can work toward a better credit future.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your credit as you move through the bankruptcy process. Address inaccurate information as soon as possible to keep your score from dropping any lower. Find out more about Lexington Law credit repair services and how they might help you continue to positively impact your credit as you move past your bankruptcy.


Reviewed by Vince R. Mayr, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Vince has considerable expertise in the field of bankruptcy law. He has represented clients in more than 3,000 bankruptcy matters under chapters 7, 11, 12, and 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Vince earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Government from the University of Maryland. His Masters of Public Administration degree was earned from Golden Gate University School of Public Administration. His Juris Doctor was earned at Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, California. Vince is licensed to practice law in Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado. He is located in the Phoenix office.

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 Best Places to Live in Wyoming in 2021

Wyoming became an official state in the United States in 1890. Since then, this gem of America, with its roving bison herds, gorgeous mountains and sweeping plains and plenty of rodeos, keeps the spirit of the West alive.

The best places to live in Wyoming immerse you in all the benefits of the Cowboy State.

The state of Wyoming boasts a strong academic record, an economy with a mineral and tourism focus and one of the lowest costs of living in the country. The average price of rent in Wyoming is less than the national average. Plus, Wyoming has no state income tax — so money stretches further.

When you choose to live in one of the best cities in Wyoming, you decide to begin a brand-new adventure in one of America’s natural beauties. Take your pick from the following:

Casper, WY.

Casper first appeared on the map thanks to Fort Caspar, a stop on the Oregon Trail, the Wyoming Central Railway and an oil boom. Now “Oil City” is Wyoming’s second-largest city with a thriving rental market.

Casper provides ample education opportunities, with more than 25 schools and Casper College serving the area.

Natural beauty and outdoor activities abound in Casper. The city continually appears on lists as a top place for fishing in the country; its North Platte river provides plenty of angling opportunities and gorgeous scenery for canoeing excursions.

Plus, historic downtown hosts various shops, a historic walking tour and delicious restaurants and cafes to enjoy here.

Cheyenne, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Known as the “Magic City of the Plains,” Cheyenne serves as the capital of Wyoming. The Old West-inspired city is famous for producing the likes of country music legend Chris LeDoux and hosting the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days.

For a capital city, Cheyenne’s rental market is remarkably affordable, with the average three-bedroom apartment running under $1,100 a month.

The city itself has grown into a family-friendly place. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens and Paul Smith Children’s Village, along with movie theaters, museums and city parks, provide plenty of activities year-round for little ones.

Plus, living in Cheyenne puts residents a short drive to Vedauwoo Recreation Area and Granite Springs Reservoir Campgrounds, beautiful hiking and fishing areas for those who want to escape.

evanston wy

Source: Rent.com / Classic Lodge Apartments

Standing at 6,800 feet with 300 days of sunshine a year, Evanston is an ideal spot for sun worshippers. Plus, the Bear River flows right through this spirited small town set near the Uinta Mountains, creating a beautiful backdrop.

Locals enjoy wandering the vibrant downtown district or golfing at the Purple Sage Golf Course during the summer months. Hunting, fishing and hiking flourish in the area, with Bear River State Park just a stone’s throw from the town.

Winter provides plenty of opportunities for skiing and snow-shoeing, ice-fishing, dog-sled races, parades and holiday celebrations.

Evanston’s recreation center, parks and public schools make the town an excellent choice for families who like to stay busy year-round.

Gillette, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Gillette is the “Energy Capital of the Nation” due to its minerals and fuel production, but there is more to this city than mining. Adventurers and families thrive in Gillette, which serves as a base for travel to Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.

Campbell County Parks and Recreation provides the city with everything from team sports and an annual dodgeball tournament to swimming and rock-climbing lessons.

The community works hard to provide a rich social life for everyone. Local organizations put on year-round events like the Festival of Lights and the 4th of July celebrations.

Families arriving in Gillette will find excellent schools, a local community college and plenty of kid-friendly activities.

Adventurers and explorers will discover myriad getaway opportunities, fly fishing expeditions and unique sites to visit in this diverse and growing city.

Gillette, WY.

Jackson has become the Hollywood of Wyoming. The city is home to many celebrities, from Kanye West to Harrison Ford, and it’s no wonder why. Jackson, also known as Jackson Hole, boasts one of America’s best ski-resorts — Jackson Hole Mountain Resort — and some of the best scenery Wyoming has to offer.

Nestled in the Tetons, within the Bridger-Teton National Forest and National Elk Refuge, Jackson offers a sea of trees and mountainous views unlike any other.

The economy grows every year in Jackson, thanks to its diverse tourism market and thriving town culture.

The Snow King Mountain Resort provides adventure galore with an alpine coaster, adventure park and an ice-climbing park to satiate any fun-seeking resident. At the same time, the town itself boasts plenty of spas, cafes and delicious restaurants for a relaxing evening.

Lander, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Lander brings the best of rural and city living together within the Absaroka Mountains. This little town comes with a whole lot of fun for the residents of gorgeous Wind River Country.

Renowned for the rock climbing and national parks nearby, Lander is the outdoor enthusiast’s best friend.

The Wind River Casino, Lander Brewfest and International Climbers’ Festival bring plenty of entertainment for the young adult crowd.

History and culture lovers enjoy traveling along the California and Oregon Trail, visiting ghost towns, panning for gold and attending Native American powwows while thoroughly enjoying the Lander cultural experience.

Lander, WY.

Home to the University of Wyoming, Laramie may just be the smallest state university town in America. Football, family and fun are a major part of Laramie’s community, with the whole town often closing down to watch the Border War game against Colorado State University — the University of Wyoming’s biggest rival.

But this college town isn’t just for co-eds. Albany County School District serves the younger students of Laramie, while its recreation center, Snowy Range ski area and nearby Medicine Bow National Forest provide plenty of indoor and outdoor fun for everyone.

Rock Springs, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Rock Springs came about much the same way as many Wyoming towns. The railroad and coal mining made this little town, and thanks to these industries — Rock Springs grew into a melting pot of diversity.

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes live nearby on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and descendants of railroaders still reside in the city today.

Living in Rock Springs won’t break the bank. A two-bedroom apartment costs less than $800 — well below the national average. Plus, living here puts you a hop, skip and jump away from some of America’s most interesting landmarks, including Killpecker Sand Dunes and the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Kayakers and hikers can travel along the Wind River Canyon for outdoor fun, while the Rock Springs Historical Museum offers plenty for indoor exploring.

Saratoga, WY.

Saratoga’s name comes from the Native American word “Sarachtoue,” which translates to “place of miraculous water in the rock.” It speaks to the rich array of hot springs in the area, including Hobo Hot Springs and the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort.

Meandering down Main Street in Saratoga brings the spirit of the Old West alive. The quintessential small town has gorgeous hiking and camping grounds and miles of running river a stone’s throw from town, comfortable and historic lodgings like Hotel Wolf and plenty of good hometown cooking and shopping.

Saratoga provides its residents with a small but devoted school district, a community pool and a community center for entertainment. The city also boasts prime fishing locations, with a large population of blue-ribbon trout swimming in Saratoga Lake and the North Platte River.

Sheridan, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Lovingly called “Wyoming’s Jewel” by locals, Sheridan lies nestled in the forested northern reaches of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. The city was once home to Buffalo Bill Cody, whose wild west show sparked imagination and adventure across America. His Sheridan Inn still stands today for travelers to enjoy.

Sheridan’s school district provides excellent education, while Sheridan Recreation District offers sports and activities for all ages.

The city itself houses several dude ranches where horse-loving, trail-riding travelers can explore and stay. Sheridan also cultivates a unique and busy cultural atmosphere, with festivals and events filling the calendar. Locals love the legendary Don King Days rodeo and the Antelope Butte Summer Festival.

Find your own best place to live in Wyoming

The state of Wyoming offers cities and towns ideal for adventurers, nature lovers and families, alike. Affordability, natural beauty and a statewide community come together to create amazing options for renters looking to move to Wyoming. Find the perfect place for you to live in Wyoming today.

Source: rent.com

Cheap Wedding Gifts Don’t Need to Look Cheap

Wine glasses are a popular registry item, but you can take this gift a step further by making DIY painted glasses as a memorable wedding present. And it can be personalized.
Get ready to start the hunt for cheap wedding gifts and that’s because you will probably be going to more ceremonies this year.
Did you know Sharpies are magic? So magic, in fact, you can create personalized plates like these ones from Orthodox Mom.
While seeing friends and celebrating love is a wonderful thing to look forward to, your wallet won’t be too happy about paying for all those wedding gifts. If you’re looking to save by giving DIY or repurposed gifts this year, consider these wedding gift ideas.

15 Ideas for Cheap Wedding Gifts

These photo coasters from The Frugal Girls are simpler than they sound, and are also quite affordable. Give yourself some time, though, to allow the sealer to dry over pictures adhered to the tiles.
Catherine Hiles is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

1. Personalized Puzzles

To make it even better as a wedding gift, you could paint the couple’s names and wedding date onto one of the boards.
If you know the couple’s wedding song (and have legible handwriting), this song-lyric canvas from Swiish would make a stunning gift.

2. Painted Plant Pots

Choose from a variety of patterns at The Spruce Crafts, or create a unique pattern to celebrate your friends and their love.
A survey by The Knot shows that almost 32% of couples who got married postponed their receptions, while 15% put off their entire weddings to 2021. Add those receptions to the ones already planned for 2021, and you could end up attending a whole bunch of weddings this year.

3. Scrabble Tile Frame

The COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in all sorts of plans in 2020, from festivals and races to graduation ceremonies and weddings. While limiting gatherings has been key to controlling the virus over the past year, it has caused many Americans plenty of grief, loss and sadness.
Eat, Drink and Save Money has a couple of easy tutorials; one using chalkboard paint and the other using either gloss enamel paint or glass markers.

This illustration shows a recipe book laid out on a table with fresh ingredients all around it.
Getty Images

4. Personalized Recipe Book

With people eating at home more than ever, your gift will help your friends try new recipes together as they start their life as newlyweds. If you have some extra cash, consider buying a piece of cooking equipment or utensils to go with such as baking sheets and potholders. Maybe even cooking aprons, one for each.
You could make them into “giving plates” intended to be used as a reusable platter for food to be given as gifts, such as Christmas cookies, like this clever blogger did, or decorate a few with your favorite recipes.
String art is fun and easy to learn. A DIY string heart is a thoughtful and unique gift idea that will match the decor in just about any home.

5. Wooden Photo Hanger

Check out our 15 from-the-heart wedding gift ideas that won’t break the bank.
Though Heels in the Mud doesn’t go through each step, it looks pretty easy to figure out — especially if you bring a photo of the project into your local hardware store. This project involves staining and finishing a length of 2-by-4 wood, running a wire line from end to end and then adding small decorative pincher pins to hold photos.
If the happy couple has a puzzle obsession, you can have a personalized puzzle made for them. Use a photo from their engagement session (or their pandemic wedding ceremony, if they had one) or one from a favorite vacation they took together. Shutterfly has several layout options, from single images to collages, that they will love working on together.

6. Plates with a Message

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Couples who were planning to get married in 2020 had a few choices. They could keep their plans in place and reduce their guest lists, get hitched in 2020 and push the reception to 2021 or postpone the whole shebang a year.

7. Photo Coasters

This is an easy DIY following the step-by-step instructions from Curbly.
If you want to give something that will help the happy couple celebrate their major milestones together, put together a curated wine collection with personalized tags.

8. Hand-Painted Song Lyrics

Another popular pandemic pastime involves having a green thumb. If your friends now have a large collection of succulents and other indoor (or even outdoor) plants, you can gift them a hand-painted pot to display their green offspring.
Use high-quality photos of the couple or maps of meaningful spots, and you’ll have a beautiful (and useful!) gift.

9. DIY Welcome Mat

Look for old Scrabble sets at your local thrift stores (or raid Mom’s basement or game closet) . Use a shadow-box frame and glue the couple’s names onto a piece of cardboard that fits the frame. If you have calligraphy skills, add their wedding date, or embellish with heart or flower stickers around their names.
Whether you have one wedding or 15 weddings to go to this year, you can save money and surprise your friends with unique gifts by going the DIY route. Which one will you try first?

Wine sits in a crate on a wooden table.
Getty Images

10. Milestone Wine Collection

That’s one thing I’d hang on my wall for sure!
Use old Scrabble tiles to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art for the couple’s wedding gift. You can check Etsy if you don’t have the patience to DIY this one, but it’s a pretty easy (and cheap!) project with a big impact.

11. Wedding Cross-Stitch

This craft uses minimal supplies which you probably already have lying around the house, but it’ll create a fun, affordable wedding gift that your friends will cherish.
As Savvy Eats says, a personalized cookbook really is “one of the best gifts you’ll ever give.”

12. Map Art

Instead of just including your favorite recipes, request them from the couple’s friends and family members as well. Ask them to type up their favorites, plus a note to the couple, then you can compile them into a sweet and meaningful book.
This example from Delightfully Noted uses three locations: where the couple met, where they married and where they live. Look for a cheap map and frame online and follow the instructions to create a one-of-a-kind gift that the couple will treasure. This is a thoughtful and inexpensive wedding gift idea.

personalized wine glasses for a bride and groom sit on a table.
Getty Images

13. Painted Wine Glasses

Travel is still limited for many people in 2021, so the newlyweds may not be able to explore the globe during their first year of marriage. Bring the magic of travel to their home with a DIY map art gift.
Puzzles saw a resurgence in popularity during the pandemic as a non-screen activity to do alone or with your family to help pass the time. They make perfect gift ideas for the happy couple.

14. DIY String Heart

Make your friends some fun pillow coverings for their couch pillows. Starting with plain pillowcases, you can either embroider a message (kudos if you have that skill in your arsenal) or paint it using an easy online tutorial like this one from Brit + Co.
Take inspiration from Just Measuring Up with themed labels like the couple’s first snowfall, first Valentine’s Day and first anniversary. You can use the free printable at the website or create your own. Once you’ve printed the tags, hang them on the bottle necks and arrange the wine bottles in a basket.

15. Artsy Pillowcases

Another craft that gained popularity during the pandemic is cross-stitch, a form of embroidery that has been practiced around the world for centuries. If you’ve caught the bug, use your skills to work up a unique wedding gift for the bride and groom (or groom and groom, or bride and bride).
Follow the tips at Fine Gardening to make sure your pots look professional and unique.
Who doesn’t want a shabby chic photo display in their home? Bonus: it’s an inexpensive wedding gift!
Follow the instructions over at Green Wedding Shoes to learn how to make your own string heart. Since string art allows you to create a unique pattern every time, your gift will truly be the only one in existence!
Whether the couple has been living together for years or only just started cohabitating, a DIY welcome mat is a fun and practical wedding gift.

Instacart vs. Shopping in Person: Which is Best for You?

You work eight hours a day, get stuck in traffic, hit the gym and somehow, you still need to scrunch up the energy to make a trip to the grocery store before getting home to cook. We’re tired just thinking about it.

Grocery delivery app Instacart aims to save you time by providing you with an on-demand personal shopper that picks up your groceries on the same day you place the order. Your first order is free and all subsequent orders include a small delivery fee when you spend $35 or more.

The catch, however, is the prices you pay for grocery items through Instacart may be slightly higher, often with a markup of up to 20 percent. Those higher prices can be worth it if you lead a busy life. But you also have to take into account the delivery fee (starting at $3.99), the driver tip (20 percent) and the service fee for the order. Each order requires a minimum of $10 on the cart.

To bring perspective into your decision, we’ve put together a list of items available at Publix, one of Instacart’s grocery store offerings, that shows the difference between picking it up at the store or ordering from Instacart.

1. Kashi cereal

Publix’s famous BOGO deal is available both in-store and through the app for Kashi Cereal. However, the buy one, get one free of equal or lesser price is cheaper in store. Most cereals in-store are priced at $4.49, but on the app, it’s 50 cents higher at $4.99.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

2. 4-grain eggs

The 12-count, 4-grain, large brown vegetarian eggs are on sale for $2.25 (regularly $3.35) on Instacart, but the Publix in-store flyer lists an offer of two cartons for $4.00.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

3. Califia Farms almond milk

For those that opt for Instacart, you’ll miss out on Publix’s 3 for $10 Coconut Almondmilk 48 oz. bottle deal. Each bottle on the app is $3.69, only $0.76 off.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

4. Cottonelle 12-roll package

Shoppers at Publix will save nearly 70 cents on top of the current sale of Cottonelle 12-roll package of double rolls if they stop by their local store instead of going the Instacart route.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

5. Romaine hearts

If you’ve got a Caesar salad in the works, romaine hearts are first on your shopping list. A 3-ct bag is 2 for $4, versus $3.29 each on Instacart.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

6. Annie’s mac ‘n cheese

Annie’s Homegrown shells and white cheddar mac ‘n cheese sells for $2.19 in-store, versus Instacart’s $3.09.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

7. Italian parsley

On the other hand, certain produce like Italian parsley are the same price in-store or via the app ($1.69) signaling true time savings since the cost is the same.

Verdict: Same price on both

8. Dove body wash

In the Instacart app, Dove moisturizing body wash (22 oz.) is $6.34 each with the help of an in-app coupon, same as in-store.

Verdict: Same price on both

9. Smithfield bacon

Smithfield’s natural hickory smoked bacon is up for grabs at Publix in-store for $5.58 (or through a BOGO offer). The BOGO offer is also available through the Instacart app, but it’s $6.19 each.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

10. Blueberries

Each pack of blueberries on Instacart is $3.69. That same pack of blueberries is going for 3 for $10 at your local Publix – an offer not available in the on-demand app.

Verdict: Cheaper in person

Adding it all up

There’s no right choice as the on-demand service is meant to be a complement to your busy life. If less stress and more time is worth spending a little extra money, then click away and wait for your order to arrive. If you’d rather save your money, then grab a shopping cart and hit the aisles.

These figures were accurate at the time this article was composed in February 2019. Prices on Instacart and Publix may have fluctuated since that time.
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Eviction Process: What to Do If You Receive an Eviction Notice

Follow these steps if you receive an eviction notice.

The eviction process is stressful. But losing your home isn’t inevitable. It’s possible to delay or prevent eviction. Help is available — you just have to know where to look. And you need to act fast.

What to do after receiving an eviction notice depends on your lease, your state and even your ZIP code. Knowing and defending your rights, working proactively with your landlord or property manager and accessing local, state and federal resources can keep you in your home.

What is an eviction?

“Eviction is a legal process that may be undertaken to remove a tenant from a rental property,” explains a definition on LegalDictionary.net. “The majority of evictions are the result of a tenant’s failure to pay rent, or the tenant’s frequent violation of the terms of the lease or rental agreement. Regardless of the purpose of the eviction, the landlord must follow a process specified by the law.”

Legal grounds for eviction

Landlords and property managers must follow particular steps and a certain order during the eviction process. They’re required to document every step so the eviction will hold up in a court of law.

Landlords must have a legal reason to evict a tenant. Legal grounds for eviction include:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Incomplete rent payments
  • Criminal activity
  • Committing an act of domestic violence
  • Not abiding by community health and safety standards
  • Not vacating a property when the lease is up
  • Violating the term of the lease by subletting (or subleasing)
  • Housing an unauthorized tenant who doesn’t appear on the lease
  • Keeping an unauthorized pet not specified on the lease
  • Causing significant damage to the property

eviction notice

How long does the eviction process take?

The eviction process varies from state to state. Check the eviction process in your state.

The Eviction Lab provides an overview of eviction rates across the country. The site’s Eviction Tracking System also details the weekly eviction rates in 27 U.S. cities and five states and lists if a state eviction moratorium is in place.

How does the eviction process work?

The eviction process is specific to your state. But the key steps are similar across the country.

The eviction notice

The eviction process begins when a landlord or property manager gives the renter an eviction notice. This is often called a Pay or Quit notice or a Pay or Vacate notice. It serves as a formal, documented warning that a renter violated the lease.

Landlords may post this on the door of a unit. But they usually send it by certified mail so there’s a legal record of the sent and received dates.

This notice tells the renter what they need to do to comply with the lease and avoid eviction. It also lists the number of days permitted before the official eviction notice is filed. The time in between these steps is often just a few days, so it’s important to act immediately.

If you get one of these notices, don’t panic. If you take steps to resolve the issue, your landlord may not file the eviction.

Eviction filing

You must comply with the terms of the lease by the deadline specified in the Pay or Quit Notice. If you don’t, the landlord will file an eviction complaint form to begin the eviction case.

Once a court date is on the books, you’ll receive a summons to court. Both documents will come via delivery by local law enforcement.

Court hearing and judgment

A judge will review documentation in the eviction case. This can include the lease, the payment record and all relevant communication between you and the property owner or landlord.

After reviewing the facts, the judge will issue their ruling. If they find it in your favor, you’ll be allowed to stay in your home.

Even if you win your case, the court case remains part of the public records for up to seven years — just like an eviction. If your next landlord doesn’t read the details of the case, this can negatively influence your background check. That’s why it’s so important to stop the eviction process before it gets to this point, if possible.

If the judge sides with the landlord, you’ll be forced to leave your home. Depending on the rules in your state, unclaimed belongings will be removed through the court process, put in storage or set out on the curb.

Man upset holding an eviction notice.

What to do if you get an eviction notice

It’s normal to feel shocked or overwhelmed by an eviction notice. But since the time between an eviction notice and an eviction filing is short, it’s important to act quickly to stop the process early.

The effort is worth it. An eviction stays on your record for seven years and makes it difficult to rent an apartment in the future. Unpaid rent can damage your credit for years to come. And the stress of eviction has negative physical, mental and emotional effects on the entire household, especially children.

Review the steps below and reach out for help the moment you get an eviction notice or know you’ll be short on the rent. Every step takes time, so pursue multiple resources simultaneously. Don’t wait to hear back from someone before moving down the list.

1. Review your lease

If you’re served with an eviction notice for violating the terms of your lease, review your copy. Make sure any violations you’re accused of are actually listed in the lease.

Paperwork errors can happen. And vague or general language can lead to confusion. If you find an error or wording that’s open to interpretation, contact your landlord for clarification immediately. Document all correspondence.

2. Correct any lease violations

If you’re violating the terms of your lease, change your behavior right away. Unauthorized roommates and pets must find a new place to live immediately. Repair any property damage.

Document your compliance in writing. Supply photos and receipts for repairs. Communicate all positive changes to your property manager or landlord.

3. Make a payment plan

If you’re behind on the rent, create a payment plan and present it to your landlord. This document should tell them why you’re experiencing financial difficulties. It should also give a reasonable repayment schedule.

You can request to delay payments, make smaller payments or ask for rent forgiveness, depending on your financial situation. Stay realistic about what you can afford.

Property managers aren’t obligated to accept your plan. But many would rather have some income and a realistic plan for repayment instead of dealing with the eviction process.

Woman calculating numbers on her laptop.

4. Take advantage of temporary eviction moratoria

If you lost your job during the pandemic (or experienced a loss of income) fill out the CDC Declaration Form and provide a copy to your landlord immediately. The eviction moratorium suspends the eviction process during the COVID-19 public health crisis. This temporary stop to evictions for non-payment of rent extends to June 30, 2021.

This is not a rent forgiveness program. Your rent is still due. But it could buy you some very valuable time to access rent assistance programs and find employment.

Many states are also halting evictions during the pandemic. Regional Housing Legal Services displays temporary state eviction moratoria on an interactive map.

5. Access federal, state and local funding resources

Federal, state and local governments offer emergency rent assistance programs and other resources to help renters secure more affordable housing. You may qualify for more than one program, so reach out to as many as you can, as soon as you can.

The Apartment Guide Eviction Resource Guide lists federal eviction resources. It also helps renters search for service organizations and government programs in their home states. Charitable organizations also offer grants and emergency rent payment assistance.

HUD

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides affordable housing options across the country. Contact a Public Housing Agency (PHA) for rental advice at (800) 569-4287. Or search by state for an agency near you.

Renters who already receive assistance from HUD may qualify for lower rent through income recertification or hardship exemptions. A PHA representative can help you file the correct paperwork.

The NLIHC

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (or NLIHC) maintains a list of emergency rental relief programs by state. It also offers rental assistance.

The CFPB

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) features comprehensive advice for renters facing eviction in eight different languages, including Spanish and Tagalog. It includes resources for active duty service members and a list of emergency rental assistance programs across the country.

211

Get help with housing expenses by calling 211 or searching 211.org. Renters can connect with local health and human service agencies, food and clothing banks, shelters and utility assistance programs.

talking to lawyer about eviction notice

6. Know your rights

If you receive an eviction notice, review your tenant’s rights. These vary by state, but there are commonalities. Your eviction is not valid if a landlord has discriminated against you, violated your rights, harassed you or provided a home that is not safe.

Property managers and landlords can’t discriminate against a renter because of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability. A landlord can’t evict you because of your marital status, whether or not you have children or the language you speak.

Landlords cannot harass you until you move out or cite personality conflicts as a reason for eviction. They can’t change the locks, throw you out without proper notice or prevent you from entering your home.

Housing law states that tenants have the right to live in clean homes that protect from the elements. They must have working heat, plumbing and electrical systems. Homes should meet all health and housing code standards and be safe and accessible for residents.

7. Contact a fair housing organization

If these rights are violated, call in the experts at your local fair housing agency. These organizations can also help renters facing eviction examine their options. Services and programs vary by state.

“Almost every state has a fair housing organization. And there’s a National Fair Housing Alliance that can help as well,” said Michelle Rydz, executive director of High Plains Fair Housing Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. “We can help them fill out the paperwork and find money to pay for rent. And we have lawyers that work with us that can help clients when they have a court date.”

8. Get a lawyer

Finding a lawyer might sound like an unnecessary cost. But the eviction process moves quickly and the financial consequences of a judgment are dire. Seek council at the first sign of trouble.

“I think that tenants should seek the advice of counsel at the notice stage,” said Emily Benfer, law professor at Wake Forest School of Law and the chair of The American Bar Association’s COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction.

Retaining an attorney can stop an eviction from becoming part of a renter’s permanent record. Attorneys also help more renters win their cases and stay in their homes.

“Nationwide, only 10 percent of tenants are able to secure representation in eviction cases, compared to 90 percent of landlords,” Benfer said, “Where tenants are not represented, the vast majority lose their case.”

A study conducted by The Kansas City Eviction Project found that 72 percent of tenants without legal representation had monetary damages and/or an eviction judgment entered against them. For renters with attorneys, the percentage fell to 56 percent. Benfer’s article cites a study that shows that 84 percent of New York City renters represented by an attorney remained in their homes.

Free and affordable legal resources

Paying for a lawyer is a major concern for people facing eviction. There are resources available for renters on a budget.

The American Bar Association’s FreeLegalHelp.Org connects low-income renters with federally funded legal aid services. It also includes pro bono attorneys who volunteer their services for free.

Search LawHelp.org for legal assistance and free legal aid programs by state and a list of legal resources. Or visit JustShelter.org to find resources listed by state. The site also links to several legal aid organizations across the country.

woman looking at tablet

How to get an apartment after an eviction

It isn’t easy to get an apartment after an eviction. But it can be done. Some basic tips can help you build up your credit and get back on your feet.

  • Rebuild your credit: Work with a credit counselor, consolidate your debt, reduce your expenses and pay all your bills on time.
  • Get a co-signer: Ask someone you trust with good credit to co-sign your lease to help lessen your landlord’s financial risk and share the financial burden.
  • Find a roommate: Move in with friends or family to minimize expenses, pay off debt and save money for a larger deposit
  • Demonstrate your credibility: Dress to impress and be polite. Tell landlords (ideally in writing) about your eviction and provide evidence that it won’t happen again.
  • Show financial responsibility: offer a larger deposit upfront to minimize the landlord’s financial risk. Produce paycheck stubs and reference letters from your employer and demonstrate how you’re rebuilding your credit.

Keep calm and take action

Eviction isn’t inevitable. By understanding the eviction process, acting quickly and using all your resources, you can hopefully delay or prevent eviction and stay in your home.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com