The Social Security COLA the Year You Were Born

Social Security checks, Social Security card, cash
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Each year, Social Security benefits increase by an amount based on the rate of inflation over the previous year. That’s known as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, and 2022 saw the biggest one in decades.

The COLA for 2023 is likely to be even bigger — but how does it compare with past increases? We took a look at Social Security data to find out.

Following are the cost-of-living adjustments for every year dating back to 1975, when automatic annual benefit increases began, as well as details for the years prior. Note that each COLA is listed under the year in which Social Security beneficiaries started receiving it.

2022

Retiree holding cash
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2021 (which beneficiaries received in January 2022)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) — which is a measure of inflation — over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2021

2021

President Joe Biden
archna nautiyal / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2020 (which beneficiaries received in January 2021)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2020

2020

man quarantined at home
Anna Lurye / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2019 (which beneficiaries received in January 2020)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2019

2019

Social Security and money
J.J. Gouin / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2018 (which beneficiaries received in January 2019)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2018

2018

Ventura, California home after fire in 2018
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2017 (which beneficiaries received in January 2018)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2017

2017

President Donald Trump
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2016 (which beneficiaries received in January 2017)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2016

2016

Man with empty wallet
AJR_photo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2015 (which beneficiaries received in January 2016)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2015

2015

Supreme Court after gay marriage was legalized in 2015
Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2014 (which beneficiaries received in January 2015)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2014

2014

Senior checking her mailbox
Victorpr / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2013 (which beneficiaries received in January 2014)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2013

2013

Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2012 (which beneficiaries received in January 2013)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2012

2012

Home destroyed by hurricane
Mishella / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2011 (which beneficiaries received in January 2012)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2011

2011

Uncle Sam cutting Social Security benefits
Jim Barber / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2010 (which beneficiaries received in January 2011)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2010

2010

Worried seniors reviewing bills
WHYFRAME / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2009 (which beneficiaries received in January 2010)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2009

2009

Barack Obama
Ron Foster Shari / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2008 (which beneficiaries received in January 2009)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2008

2008

Newspaper headline about the 2008 financial crisis
Norman Chan / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2007 (which beneficiaries received in January 2008)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2007

[relared]

2007

First generation iPhone in 2007
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2006 (which beneficiaries received in January 2007)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2006

2006

Social Security payment
Alexey Rotanov / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2005 (which beneficiaries received in January 2006)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2005

2005

George W. Bush
Joseph August / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2004 (which beneficiaries received in January 2005)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2004

2004

Facebook on a laptop introduced in 2004
Thaspol Sangsee / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2003 (which beneficiaries received in January 2004)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2003

2003

Sad senior man
Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2002 (which beneficiaries received in January 2003)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2002

2002

2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah
Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2001 (which beneficiaries received in January 2002)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2001

2001

The Twin Towers in New York City, 2001
Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2000 (which beneficiaries received in January 2001)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2000

2000

George W. Bush
Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1999 (which beneficiaries received in January 2000)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1999

1999

Sad senior looking out a window
didesign021 / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1998 (which beneficiaries received in January 1999)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1998

1998

Woman getting mail
Spectruminfo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1997 (which beneficiaries received in January 1998)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1997

1997

Bill Clinton
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1996 (which beneficiaries received in January 1997)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1996

1996

Social Security
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1995 (which beneficiaries received in January 1996)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1995

1995

Michael Jordan
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1994 (which beneficiaries received in January 1995)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1994

1994

Central Perk cafe, a set for the series Friends in 1994
Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1993 (which beneficiaries received in January 1994)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1993

1993

Bill Clinton
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1992 (which beneficiaries received in January 1993)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1992

1992

1992 Los Angeles riots
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1991 (which beneficiaries received in January 1992)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1991

1991

senior men having fun
Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1990 (which beneficiaries received in January 1991)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1990

1990

Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990
Olivier LAURENT Photos / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1989 (which beneficiaries received in January 1990)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1989

1989

George H.W. Bush
mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1988 (which beneficiaries received in January 1989)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1988

1988

Compact discs or CDs which passed vinyl in popularity in 1988
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.2%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1987 (which beneficiaries received in January 1988)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1987

1987

Worried man in retirement
Erickson Stock / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1986 (which beneficiaries received in January 1987)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1986

1986

Social Security Administration branch in Indianapolis
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1985 (which beneficiaries received in January 1986)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1985

1985

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1984 (which beneficiaries received in January 1985)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1984

1984

senior couple working on budget
Lena Evans / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1983 (which beneficiaries received in January 1984)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1983

1983

Social Security cards
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Beneficiaries saw no bump in their benefits in 1983. The COLA that was scheduled to go into effect in July 1983 was delayed by Social Security amendments, which pushed its effective date back to December 1983 and meant beneficiaries started receiving it in January 1984. The amendments also made all subsequent COLAs payable in January instead of July.

The CPI-W on which COLAs were based also changed in 1983. From 1975 through 1982, COLAs had been based on increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending in the first quarter of the year they became effective instead of the third quarter.

1982

360b / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 7.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1982 (which beneficiaries received in July 1982)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1982

1981

Ronald Reagan
mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 11.2%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1981 (which beneficiaries received in July 1981)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1981

1980

Lake Placid, New York
nyker / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 14.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1980 (which beneficiaries received in July 1980)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1980

1979

Sony cassette Walkman
Ned Snowman / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 9.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1979 (which beneficiaries received in July 1979)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1979

1978

Social Security Administration brick sign
James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 6.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1978 (which beneficiaries received in July 1978)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1978

1977

Atari video game system, invented in 1972
Pit Stock / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1977 (which beneficiaries received in July 1977)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1977

1976

Jimmy Carter
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 6.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1976 (which beneficiaries received in July 1976)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1976

1975

Social Security payments
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1975 (which beneficiaries received in July 1975)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1975

1974 and earlier

U.S. Capitol
Orhan Cam / Shutterstock.com

Prior to 1975, cost-of-living adjustments were not automatic or annual — they happened only by legislation. According to the Congressional Research Service, they included:

  • July 1974: 11% increase
  • April 1974: 7%
  • October 1972: 20%
  • February 1971: 10%
  • February 1970: 15%
  • March 1968: 13%
  • February 1965: 7%
  • February 1959: 7%
  • October 1954: 13%
  • October 1952: 12%
  • October 1950: 77%

The Social Security Act became law in August 1935. Social Security numbers were first assigned after November 1936, and the taxes that fund Social Security to this day were first collected in January 1937.

The first monthly benefit was distributed in January 1940 — it was for $22.54. That’s about $456 in today’s dollars.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Become a Wedding Officiant and Preside Over ‘I Dos’

As weddings crank back up following an extended pause during the pandemic, demand is increasing for officiants to help all those couples tie the knot.

Officiating a wedding is a rewarding role that requires research, preparation — not to mention ordination. It’s also a fun and lucrative side gig.

Here’s the lowdown on how to become a wedding officiant so you can start presiding over all those joyous “I dos.”

How to Become a Wedding Officiant

Before you can start presiding over weddings and signing marriage licenses, you’ll need to take a couple important steps.

Get Ordained

Becoming ordained is usually simple, and many officiants get ordained online.

Some state laws are more strict when it comes to online ordinations, so you may have to pursue other options based on where you live. The cost of getting ordained ranges from free to around $50. You may also have to pay a small fee for a certified copy of your ordination document to prove it.

Organizations like American Fellowship Church, Rose Ministries, Universal Life Church and Universal Ministries offer online ordination. Though many of these organizations have religious connotations in their titles, anyone is welcome to get ordained. “Becoming a minister with the AMM does not require you to hold any particular spiritual belief,” American Marriage Ministries says on their website.

Check Local Rules and Register if Needed

Marriage is the domain of the state. So even if you’re ordained to officiate weddings, you must comply with local rules and regulations.

States — and even some counties — have different rules about who can perform a wedding ceremony. Check your state’s website or speak with your local county clerk’s office.

“Some (places) are easier to register in; some do not require you register; some only recognize ‘ordained’ religious persons and judges; some notaries too can do weddings,” says Chaplain Jerry Schwehm, moderator and president of the American Association of Wedding Officiants.

The majority of states don’t require you to register. However, 14 states do require registration through some government entity – whether it’s the health department in Hawaii or the county clerk in Virginia.

Here’s a complete breakdown of the states that require wedding officiant registration and those that don’t.

Pro Tip

Online weddings were illegal in most states prior to the pandemic but some states relaxed those rules in 2020. American Marriage Ministries has a list of states with their rules about online weddings.

If you’re not recognized by the state where the ceremony is taking place, “you’re risking the legal standing of the bridal couple’s marriage – which can affect their health insurance, home ownership, taxes and more,” said David F. Jackson, senior administrative counsel for First Nation Church & Ministry in New York.

For more state-by-state information, check out American Marriage Ministries’ interactive map of state licensing requirements.

Beware of Virginia

If you’re looking for an easy place to perform a wedding ceremony, you may want to steer clear of Virginia, says Yvonne Doerr, who officiates weddings in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Since 2010, most county clerk offices in Virginia have denied online-ordained ministers the right to perform marriages.

“Some places frown on just online ordinations without any specific education or training involved. Although states are hesitant to say who is or who is not a clergyman, most prefer a main line type ordination process, some training, some form of screening and authorization,” Doerr says.

Still keen? You’ll need to lay out every detail of the service — where the church is located, when it meets, the size of the congregation — before a judge, who will determine whether or not you can serve as the wedding officiant.

How to Prepare to Officiate a Ceremony

Long before the wedding day arrives, you should meet with the couple to get to know them and learn what kind of tone they want to set for their ceremony – everything from the vows to the dress code.

“I really try to make each service unique and reflect the couple,” Doerr says. “I collect stories and little details from each of the couples and weave them into the service.

She added: “I really believe in the sentiment behind the vows. I try to set a tone that helps the couple really hear and reflect on the vows as they’re taking them. I want the couple and the guests to remember the service and what was said — and not just remember the bride’s dress and the cake.”

Before the wedding, you should also get familiar with the wedding venue as well as the other wedding professions, including the wedding DJ and wedding planner, for whatever coordinating is necessary to ensure a smooth event.

One more important thing: Make sure to rehearse!

Responsibilities After the Ceremony

Once the ceremony is over, the officiant needs to make sure they’ve taken care of all the required paperwork.

The couple should have received the marriage license prior to the ceremony, but they’ll also need a marriage certificate.

Most states require both spouses, the officiant, and at least one or two witnesses to sign the marriage certificate after the ceremony. The officiant will then file the signed certificate in the county office within a few days, with the couple receiving a certified copy soon thereafter.

How Much Can You Earn?

Wedding Officiant Insider says the average pay for wedding officiants is $350.

Doerr says she “would never consider officiating a career” because you’d never get enough work.

She usually charges between $300 and $500, depending on the size of the wedding and whether there’s a rehearsal. She spends an average of five to 10 hours on each wedding.

Could You Become a Marriage Officiant?

Anyone considering becoming an ordained minister should recognize that their role is more than just reciting the “I do’s,” says Jackson. You’ll be managing a major event in people’s lives, one you’ll want to treat with dignity and respect.

What qualities should wedding officiants have? Schwehm recommends knowing how to prepare a speech, how to keep proper records and a calendar, and understanding the ins and outs of bookkeeping and scheduling.

He also advises that officiants stay on top continuing education and keeping up with new quotes and poems and new styles of ceremonies.

You have to find it fun, or it’s not the job for you.

“I really enjoy the officiating. It is wonderful to be a part of such a happy occasion,” said Doerr. “I’ve met some really neat people in the process too.”

Alison Johansen is a freelance writer for The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Robert Bruce contributed to this article. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Are Cats Happy in Apartments? 21 Experts Weigh In

Are cats happy in apartments? Learn from the experts what it takes to make sure your feline shines at home.

Whether you’re loving life in an enormous industrial loft, sticking it out in a small studio or living the high life in a highrise downtown, odds are, you either have a pet or you’d like to get one. If you are one of the many people that side with cats in the great cats vs. dogs debate, this article is for you.

Listed below are the responses from over 20 cat experts to the question: Are cats happy in apartments? If not, what can a cat owner do to improve their furry friend’s quality of life?

Read up and redefine your relationship with your cat or use the information to ready your apartment for a new addition in the form of a furry feline friend.

1. Bring the outside in

Man at the window with his happy cat

Man at the window with his happy cat

“Cats that have been raised indoors can be perfectly fine in an apartment, but the key is to provide them with enough stimulation,” explains Daniel from Catpointers.

“Possible solutions would be to adopt another feline friend or to get some interactive toys that your cat can play with. But my favorite solution is to bring the outside in. Consider building a natural cat tree or placing a few non-toxic plants around the house. My cat loves exploring them!”

2. Create cat territory

According to Amy Shojai, CABC, “Cats CAN be happy in apartments but it depends.”

“Kitties want to own territory and in apartments that have limited space, that can increase feline stress. A stressed cat tries to relieve their angst by spreading self-scent, scratching or urinating outside the box.” In an apartment or home of any size, this is a serious problem.

“When limited space poses problems, remember that cats love heights. Create second-story real estate for cats by clearing off one shelf in the bookcase or top of the refrigerator for a feline perch.”

3. Provide entertainment options

Cat on a cat stand looking at a plant

Cat on a cat stand looking at a plant

“Yes, cats can be happy in apartments,” says Katherine Kern, the award-winning author behind the Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat website.

“In fact, some cats might feel more secure in a smaller space. To maximize your cat’s space in an apartment, I’d recommend several cat trees, maybe some cat shelves/perches and a great window sill for your cat to look out the window. These options are important for cats in big houses, as well. This way, your cat has an outlet for scratching behavior (which is instinctual), room to run and jump and space to survey his or her domain.”

Speaking specifically to apartment residents, Momma Kat explains, “In a small space, it’s even more important that humans consider a cat’s enrichment needs.”

“Most cats aren’t satisfied with just laying around and doing nothing. They need mental stimulation and outlets for their instinctual behaviors, like scratching and hiding. When these needs aren’t met, we’re more likely to see feline behavior that humans dislike.”

4. Consider vertical space

“Are cats happy in apartments? Of course! But I understand the space concerns. We should think vertically, as cats do,” says Pamela Merritt from The Way of Cats.

“The best way to solve this is to give the cat the tallest, sturdiest cat tree we can afford. We’ve doubled the runway space in the room when we play wand toy with them. Racing to the top will exercise all their muscles.”

Training your cat to forego picking away at furniture for a scratching post instead, Pamela explains, is not as hard as it may seem from the outside. “We take them from the furniture to their own scratching post and tell them how happy we are when they scratch it. Now we have trained them to use their post. It’s that easy.”

“Cats are ambush hunters. They don’t need a lot of aerobic exercises. They need short, intense, bursts of activity. A cat tree and a loving person will take care of many needs. Even in an apartment.”

5. Make space for naps

Apartment cat napping atop a cat tower

Apartment cat napping atop a cat tower

No strangers to a daily nap, “Cats sleep anywhere between 12 and 20 hours per day, so apartment cats mostly need lots of nice, cozy and warm places to take naps,” explains Isabel Ludick, the Brand Coordinator, Marketing Director and Avid Animal Advocate behind Excited Cats.

Isabel explains the reasoning behind this by saying, “Cats instinctively sleep this much so they can build up energy to hunt at night. Therefore, apartment cats need lots of playtime and stimulation when they wake up in order to put their preserved energy to good use. Otherwise, they might direct their energy toward destructive behavior.”

Isabel capped off her thoughts by reminding everyone, “Cats are creatures of habit. If you provide them with enough stimulation, playtime, chill zones and lookouts, your cat will adapt to their new environment soon enough and get comfortable in their space.”

6. Buy an extra litter box (or two)

“Most cats will do just fine in an apartment, although you may wish to keep it to no more than two or three cats in a one-bedroom, provided they get along well,” explains Ro Delrose a Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Fab.

She suggests that people, “Place several large, open-top litter boxes (one per cat plus one extra) throughout your home in the areas where your cat likes to hang out. The litter box is a very significant source of the scent and helps cats feel that their territory is well marked and secure!”

7. Give your cat something to look at

Happy cat staring out the window

Happy cat staring out the window

“I have had three cats and ALL were happy in apartments,” explains Caren Gittleman from Cat and Dog Chat with Caren.

The key to her success, she explains is, “I have a cat tree in every room with a window. I have LOADS of toys. I save empty boxes and provide multiple lounging areas.”

Caren also mentioned, “Having a dog doesn’t hurt either or a companion cat. A playmate is always fun!”

8. Create a custom catio

“Cats generally prefer larger spaces, but they can absolutely be happy in an apartment with their owners,” explains Molly DeVoss, CFTBS, CCBC, CRM, FFCP of Cat Behavior solutions.

Molly explains that “There are many things a cat parent can do to improve quality of life. These include:

  • Engaging in prey play. An example would be interactive play with a wand toy, simulating the hunting sequence at least two times a day for 10-minute sessions each.
  • Creating a safe catio experience where kitty can get some fresh air but not get fully out
  • Taking walks in a harness and leash or an enclosed stroller.”

Molly was also sure to add, “When you have to leave your cat alone, play Cat TV (YouTube) for them to watch and hide food puzzles around the home.”

9. Make time for play

Cat riding on a skateboard with a kid watching

Cat riding on a skateboard with a kid watching

“Your favorite feline can absolutely be happy living in an apartment,” According to Amanda O’Brien of The Discerning Cat.

Amanda concedes that “Of course, cats would love lots of space to hunt and prowl. But this isn’t a pre-requisite for cat happiness.”

According to her, “There are two things you can do to make your apartment as cat friendly as possible:

  • Invest in a cat tower with scratching posts. If you have limited space invest in a cat tower that has a small footprint on the ground but goes quite high. Your cat will most enjoy jumping up and down the tower and investing in some serious scratching action. Cat towers can also be a great place to store cat toys and other cat paraphernalia, saving more room.
  • Try to spend some time every day playing with your cat. This may be with a feather toy or simply throwing a ball or a puzzle toy. If your cat has less space to move, keeping its brain busy will increase its happiness and playtime is a great bonding time for you and your favorite kitty.”

10. Get a furry friend for your feline

“Many of Meowtel’s clients are thriving in apartments,” explains the Meowtel team.

“Cat parents can make even a small studio apartment comfy for their kitties. Strategically placing furniture near windows will provide a source of entertainment when they’re not home. Cats love watching squirrels, birds and people outside!”

“Finding a companion for your kitty is another option.” The Meowtel team notes that this solution may not be applicable in every situation by saying, “Some cats enjoy being in pairs and appreciate the company, while some prefer to be on their own.”

Be sure to make the right choice for your feline friend!

11. Be attentive

white cat playing with a wand toy on wood apartment floors

white cat playing with a wand toy on wood apartment floors

“Cats definitely can be happy in apartments. What is important is not the size of the space, but how much enrichment and attention they get, no matter what kind of cat,” explains Mary Tan of Whisker Media.

“Too many people think cats are like living room furniture and don’t need anything. If you don’t have activities for them, that’s when destructive behavior happens. They will get bored. While not having a lot of space, a studio apartment can still be a playland!”

“Cats need toys, scratching posts and catnip. They need to play to stimulate their senses. It’s also important that you rotate their toys daily, so they think it’s a brand new toy! I have three rotating sets of toys that I change out daily, and my kitty, Dr. Farley Waddlesworth, thinks they are new each day! Also, cats are hunters and predators by nature.”

Mary summed it all up by saying, “I recommend hiding their food and treats throughout the apartment, even up high, so they have to work for their food just like they do in the wild.”

12. Enrich your cat’s environment

“We from Katzenworld believe that, just like with humans, some cats are happy living in apartments while others are not.”

“It’s all about environmental enrichment,” the Katzenworld team explains. “We are not talking about a gaming console or a TV for your feline friend. We are talking about species-appropriate enrichment, such as scratch pads, interactive cat toys, catnip or valerian toys! The more enrichment you provide your cat, the happier they will be.”

13. Equip your cat with the comfort essentials

Cat relaxing on a green couch in a modern apartment

Cat relaxing on a green couch in a modern apartment

“Of course, cats can be happy in an apartment,” says Phil from Upgrade Your Cat.

“Most breeds of cats have fairly small environments. What’s more important is what they have within their immediate surroundings than what’s available across a large area.”

“As long as you have a good cat tree, a couple of litter boxes that are not near their food or sleeping areas and provide plenty of affection, I’m sure you’ll have a happy and healthy cat no matter how small your apartment is!”

14. Stimulate your cat’s natural instincts

“With all cats,” explains Patience Fisher of Patience for cats, “simulating hunts with a wand toy is an important part of each day. Cats were born to hunt, and being able to do this instinctual behavior can greatly add to a cat’s contentment. When living in a confined space this is even more important.”

15. Mimic your cat’s natural environment

Feline on a white couch. Wand toy in the foreground, person on computer in the background

Feline on a white couch. Wand toy in the foreground, person on computer in the background

According to Chris from Caredicat, “Cats can be perfectly happy in small spaces such as apartments.”

“The things that make a cat happy in the outdoors are climbing, scratching and predatory behavior, such as chasing prey. The key is to mimic this as closely as possible inside of your apartment. Here’s how to do it:

  • Cat hammock – This allows your cat to look out into the world and watch birds and people walk by which creates great stimulation for your cat
  • Scratching posts – A number of vertical and horizontal scratching posts around your apartment will allow your cat to sharpen its claws, as well as provide exercise and allow them to stretch their muscles
  • Toys – A big selection of toys and interactive toys is essential to provide physical and mental stimulation
  • Private space – Cats like somewhere to retreat if they are scared or anxious. Cardboard boxes or cat towers that feature a hideout box are excellent choices.
  • Playtime – It’s important to have a couple of short play sessions with your cat on a daily basis. This helps to create a great bond between the pair of you, as well as providing stimulation to keep your cat happy.”

If you can give your cat those five things consistently, the Caredicat team believes you and your cat will love life in your apartment.

16. Respect your cat’s basic requirements

“Cats can be happy anywhere as long as the right provisions are made available, says Katenna Jones of Jones Animal Behavior.

“The happiest cat in the world could thrive in a tiny studio apartment or an RV. At the same time, a very unhappy cat could be languishing in a sprawling mansion or farm. It’s all about environmental enrichment.”

Katenna elaborates on this idea of enrichment by explaining, “Environmental enrichment involves enhancing an animal’s environment to facilitate as many natural behaviors for that species as possible.”

The apartment cat happiness checklist:

  • Vertical climbing options such as shelves or stairs
  • Vantage points that are positioned at human foot height as well as waist height, as well as head height
  • Feeding out of food puzzles like those at Food Puzzles for Cats
  • Clicker training
  • Exercise wheels
  • Two large, easy-to-access litter boxes with small, natural granules

“Think of all the things that cats do naturally. Things like digging, sleeping, rolling around, running, playing, hiding and so on.”

17. Abide by the five pillars

White cat hanging out on a black book shelf

White cat hanging out on a black book shelf

“Whether they live in an apartment, townhouse or a traditional single-family home, all cats need access to important environmental resources. This includes access to food, water, litter boxes, rest and sleep areas and elevated areas or perches. These are known as the five pillars of a healthy feline environment,” states Dr. Michelle Meyer, the President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).

18. Make space for hunting and hiding

According to Holly, the founder of Cat Care Solutions, “Cats can be fantastic companions for apartment-dwellers. In fact, I once lived in a very small apartment with four cats of my own!”

Take it from Holly, “The key to a happy indoor apartment cat is enrichment. Simply put, enrichment satisfies your cat’s natural instincts, such as hunting, mental stimulation, bonding with you, observing their surroundings from a safe hideaway and getting up high. Bored cats are unhealthy, unhappy, destructive creatures. This is especially true for higher-energy breeds and personalities that don’t get enough activity.”

19. Take the time to take proper care

Happy woman holding her cat in her apartment bedroom

Happy woman holding her cat in her apartment bedroom

“Cats are happy in apartments as long as they are being well taken care of, they have all their needs and they are being trained to what their environment looks like every day,” says Zac Yap from Top Cat Breeds.

“Different cat breeds have different personalities. Not all cats like to go outside, for instance. They can adjust to their environment as long as the fur parent is giving them enough attention and treatment and not triggering them with any sudden noises.”

“Our team recommends investing in small, affordable cat furniture to increase the spaces where they can spend their time in your apartment.”

20. Understand your feline friend

“If your cat is going to be happy in an apartment, you need to know your cat,” Explains Anita Aurit of Feline Opines.

“For example, if you have a very active breed, like a Bengal, you’ll need to add some exercise and exploring time for your energetic feline.”

“It’s also possible to take your cat for a neighborhood stroll. Your cat should have a well-fitting harness and leash and you both can explore the neighborhood together. If things are a bit too busy in your neighborhood or your cat is not a fan of walks, consider a cat stroller.”

Anita encourages cat owners to remember, “Spending time with your cat makes them happy no matter whether you live in an apartment, a house or a mansion. Give them a little TV time with their favorite video from the cat YouTube channel of their choice. If your TV is safely secured, you can also leave a kitty video running for your cat to provide some interest to their day when you are away. One of my cats took a flying leap at the birds in the video and knocked the TV down which was good for the cat’s enrichment but not so good for my TV!”

“Finally, a little catnip always makes a day fun, whether it’s in a spray, a refillable toy or a catnip infused bag. No matter where you live, you and your cat can have a happy, fun and even adventuresome life when you are intentional about enriching their environment.”

21. Your cat can be content in a small space

Kitten kicking back on a small blanket

Kitten kicking back on a small blanket

“In our opinion cats are the purrr-fect animal for apartment living,” says Linda Hall, ABCCT, Executive Purrrr-ector and Meownipulator at Cat Behavior Alliance.”

One factor making felines the premiere apartment-friendly pets, explains Linda is, “They don’t need to go outside for walks or to relieve themselves and they don’t require as much floor space as dogs do. They can be happy even in a studio apartment.”

Find what works for you and your cat(s)

Regardless of the type of building in which you reside, what city you call home or where you go from nine to five, it’s possible to create a completely cat-friendly environment for your furry friend. Not an environment where your cat will simply survive, but one that both promotes comfort and incites excitement for you and your feline confidant for all the years you spend in your place together.

Source: rent.com

Buying Annuities in Your 401(k)

Despite the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of workers continued to contribute to their retirement plans in 2021, according to the Investment Company Institute. All told, Americans have more than $11 trillion stashed in plans offered through their jobs.

But even though workers get a lot of advice and encouragement on their journey to retirement, they are often left on the tarmac when they reach their destination. Historically, employers have provided little guidance on what retirees should do with the big pile of money they’ve accumulated over the past 40 or 50 years. 

Now, a growing number of companies are providing workers with a way to turn a slice of their savings into a monthly paycheck in retirement. In addition to the usual choices of mutual funds and other investments, they’re offering workers the option of investing in an annuity that can be converted into guaranteed income after they retire. 

Retirees can already purchase annuities from a variety of insurance companies, of course, but few do, even though many retirement experts believe that annuitizing a portion of your savings reduces the risk that you’ll run out of money in retirement. In large part, that’s because the security that annuities provide comes with some caveats: In exchange for guaranteed payments, you must hand over a large lump sum to an insurance company, and you usually can’t get that money back. In addition, some types of annuities are loaded with fees and restrictions that are often hard to decipher without professional help.

In the past, companies resisted offering annuities in their retirement plans because they feared they would be sued if the insurer went out of business. The 2019 Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act sought to address those concerns by providing employers that offer in-plan annuities a safe harbor from such lawsuits. To avoid liability, employers must still vet annuity providers to ensure that they’ve complied with state laws and have maintained healthy financial reserves. 

Annuity Offerings on the Menu 

Several companies that have added annuities to their lineups are offering them in their target-date funds. Target-date funds, which are owned by more than half of participants in 401(k) plans, provide a set-it-and-forget-it portfolio that gradually shifts to more-conservative assets as you near retirement. 

For example, TIAA-CREF’s Secure Income Account, a deferred fixed annuity, replaces a portion of the fixed-income holdings in a target-date fund and accounts for 40% to 60% of the individual’s assets by the time the 401(k) owner retires, says Philip Maffei, managing director for corporate income products for TIAA-CREF. Upon retiring, the participant would have a choice of annuitizing all of the money in the account, annuitizing just a portion of it or taking a lump sum, Maffei says. 

Fidelity Investments, one of the nation’s largest 401(k) plan managers, is providing its 401(k) clients with a menu of immediate annuities from up to five different insurance companies. The annuities are available to workers age 59½ and older, who will have the option of converting any portion of their savings to an annuity when they retire. Funds that aren’t converted can remain invested in the Fidelity plan. 

Learning From Teachers’ Bad Experience With Annuities

Millions of educators already own annuities in 403(b) plans, the retirement accounts typically offered to public school teachers, and a lot of them would give their results a failing grade. Many school districts have turned the job of offering retirement plans over to sales agents who promote high-cost equity-indexed and variable annuities. Teachers who are unhappy with their investments often discover that moving their money to a lower-cost option will trigger hefty surrender fees.

Proponents of annuities in 401(k) plans say workers are offered plenty of protections from those types of problems. Even with the safe harbor provided by the SECURE Act, companies that offer 401(k) plans are required by law to act in the best interest of their employees, which means they must vet their plan’s investment options, including annuities. 

That kind of vetting could also give annuities offered through retirement plans an edge over annuities purchased on the retail market, providers say. “Having the plan sponsor play the vetting role gives a lot of peace of mind to participants that they’re getting a good-quality annuity product,” says Keri Dogan, senior vice president of retirement income at Fidelity.

A financial planner can help individuals select annuities available on the open market, but not everyone can afford to hire an adviser, says Jeff Cimini, head of strategy and financial management at Voya Financial, which provides retirement, insurance and investment services. Annuities “are complex, and generally speaking, they’re sold, not bought,” he says. 

Employees who buy annuities through their retirement plan may also benefit from institutional pricing, which means they’ll pay lower fees than they’d pay on the retail market, Dogan says. In addition, the SECURE Act mandates that annuities purchased in a 401(k) plan must be portable, which means employees who change jobs or retire can move their annuity to another plan or IRA without paying surrender charges or fees.

The Fine Print: Annuities Can Be Complicated

Although lower costs and portability could make annuities offered through retirement plans more appealing, annuities are still complex products. Fees and other expenses aren’t as transparent as they are for mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. In addition, annuities—including those offered in 401(k) plans—come in a variety of flavors. TIAA-CREF’s Secure Income Account, for example, is a deferred fixed annuity that offers a guaranteed interest rate, which currently ranges from 3.4% to 3.65%, depending on the size of the plan, with the option of converting the balance to guaranteed income after retirement. While Fidelity is currently limiting its offering to immediate annuities, it plans to add a qualified longevity annuity contract (QLAC), an annuity that starts payouts when a participant reaches a specific age, typically 80 or older. (These types of annuities require a smaller outlay of funds than immediate annuities because of the possibility that the owner will die before payments begin.) Some plans are adding variable annuities, which provide some exposure to the stock market before converting to income in retirement. 

If you decide to add an annuity to your portfolio, you’ll also need to decide when (or whether) to annuitize—that is, convert it into a guaranteed income stream, a decision that’s usually irrevocable. Complicating the decision is the current interest rate environment, which could depress the size of your monthly check, depending on when you annuitize an existing investment or purchase one that offers an immediate payout. In the case of immediate annuities, for example, payments are tied to rates for 10-year Treasuries, and while those rates are higher than they were a year ago, “they’re very likely to go higher in the future,” says Harold Evensky, a certified financial planner and chairman of Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial.

While Evensky believes investing a portion of your savings in an immediate annuity can significantly reduce the risk that you’ll run out of money in retirement, he says most retirees are better off waiting until at least age 70 to buy an annuity because payouts increase as you age. And if interest rates continue to rise, you’ll also benefit from delaying payouts. 

That means leaving your funds in your 401(k) for years after you retire—something many large plans are starting to encourage. Having more assets in their plans gives employers more clout when they negotiate fees and other services with fund managers. 

A Snapshot of the Future? 

Under a provision in the SECURE Act, companies are required to include an illustration in their retirement plan’s quarterly or annual statements that estimates the amount of monthly income your balance would provide if you were to convert the funds to an annuity. While these illustrations could raise awareness about the value of annuitizing retirement income, retirement experts say they’re primarily useful for older workers who have accumulated a significant balance. Without supplemental tools, such as projections of how much additional contributions would add to the balance, younger workers or new plan participants could end up with a “discouraging picture” of the amount of guaranteed income their savings would buy, the Insured Retirement Institute, a trade association, wrote in a comment letter to the Department of Labor. 

Annuity providers are hopeful that the DOL will allow plans to include future contributions, company matches and investment returns in the income estimates. Participants in the Thrift Savings Plan, the federal government’s version of a 401(k) plan, already receive those kinds of projections in their plan statements, says Paul Richman, chief government and political affairs officer for the IRI. ■

Immediate Annuities

Annuity Income Projection

Retirement plan providers will soon be required to provide employees with an estimate of the amount of monthly income their current 401(k) balance would provide if they were to purchase an annuity that provides payouts immediately. The example below assumes the participant and the participant’s spouse (in the case of a joint life annuity) will be 67 on December 31, 2022.

Current account balance: $125,000

Single life annuity: $645 per month

Joint life annuity: $533 per month for participant’s life; $533 per month for spouse following participant’s death

learning the Lingo 

Types of Annuities

Here are some varieties of annuities that may be offered by your 401(k) plan: 

Single-premium immediate annuity. Also known simply as an immediate annuity, you typically give an insurance company a lump sum in exchange for monthly payments for the rest of your life or for a specified period.

Deferred fixed annuity. These annuities offer a guaranteed interest rate over a specific period and can be converted into an income stream in retirement.  

Qualified longevity annuity contract (QLAC). A type of deferred annuity that’s funded with assets from your IRA or 401(k). You can invest up to 25% of your account (or $145,000, whichever is less) in a QLAC, and the funds will be excluded from the calculation to determine required minimum distributions. When you reach a specified age, which can be as late as 85, the funds will be converted into payments guaranteed to last for the rest of your life. The taxable portion of the money you invested will be taxed when you start receiving income.  

Variable annuity. A type of deferred annuity that invests in mutual-fund-like subaccounts to create future income (usually in retirement).

Source: kiplinger.com

The Impact of Aging in Place on the Housing Market and Younger Generations

The Baby Boomer generation broke records for its size and have dominated American business, culture, and politics since they reached adulthood in the ’70s. Last year, their children and grandchildren, the Millennials, overtook the Boomer generation as their numbers swelled to 73 million. The two “mega-generations” are so large that the combined size of both generations limits opportunities in areas like employment and housing.

Without the savings to retire during and following the Great Recession, many Boomers stayed in their jobs after they turned 65. The combination of a shrinking economy and reduced retirements slowed the careers of millions of Millennials which led to them taking longer to make enough to buy their first homes. Compared to Baby Boomers, only 37% of Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 own homes.

The strain on America’s real estate markets is so great that even one minor change in Boomers’ homeownership patterns can significantly affect Millennials. Traditionally, after children leave home, their parents “downsize.” They sell the family home, cash in the equity they have accumulated in their homes, and move into a retirement community or buy something much smaller to reduce their living expenses and chores.

Not the Millennials. Seventy-seven percent of people over the age of fifty want to stay in their homes as long as they can. This process of “aging in place” has helped to increase the average tenure to ten years. Despite the increase in equity, median tenure length jumped ten years in September 2018, and by last October, median tenure length reached its highest level in 18 years.

Row of large old brick houses with front porches and gardensRow of large old brick houses with front porches and gardens

“Aging in place” Delays the Inevitable

“The recent dramatic spike in tenure length is reflected in the growing performance gap between market potential and actual existing-home sales, which is up 48% since the end of 2017,” said Marc Fleming, Chief Economist at First American. “Homeowners are staying in their homes longer than ever, limiting supply and slowing home sales.”

Despite the cost of retrofitting a home for seniors, a Freddie Mac study last year estimates that approximately 1.6 million more senior households are staying in their homes than what would have been the case if they “behaved like older generations of homeowners.” 

However, aging in place may be just delaying the inevitable. “More than half of all existing homes are owned by Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, who will eventually age out of homeownership,” says First American’s Fleming. “When that occurs, the problem may not be a lack of supply, but the exact opposite.”

The oldest Boomers will reach 75 this year and it will take a few more years for the bulk of their homes to be sold. When it does arrive around 2025 and last through the end of the decade, some economists anticipate that over the next twenty years the flood of Boomer homes will reach upwards of 21 million, more than a quarter (27.4%) of the nation’s current owner-occupied housing stock. Over the next 20 years, homes are likely to hit the market as their current owners pass away or vacate their homes.

Not all of these will end up on multiple listing services and real estate sites like Homes.com right away, if at all. Many Boomer homes will require significant repair and remodeling and rather than pay to get their houses in shape to sell, many Boomer homes will be sold to “cash for homes” companies like HomeVestors or “iBuyers.” Both of these options are attractive because families can sell quickly to settle estates or use the proceeds to pay for long-term care. They also avoid paying brokerage fees. Once they are fixed up, then these homes may eventually end up on MLSs.

Millennials Don’t Want to Live in Boomer Houses

Boomers will face a big problem when they try to sell to Millennials. Their homes are large, expensive, and out of date. Young buyers prefer open living spaces, roomy bathrooms and kitchens with enough space for family gatherings.

A recent analysis of Boomer Zip Codes found that most live in major cities, not necessarily suburbs or retirement hubs. New York City is a serious contender for the title of the most popular place to live for baby-boomers. The urban districts of San Francisco, El Paso, Houston and Chicago make price the primary reason Millennials won’t be buying from Boomers

Many young buyers are saddled with debt and earning just enough to buy a first home in markets like Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Wichita, Omaha, and Toledo. Even in these places, Boomer homes will cost too much.

Sixty-five percent of owners ages 64 to 72 and 56% of those over 73 own homes worth $200,000 or more. Source: Statista.com

Move-up Buyers Can’t Move Up

As large numbers of mid-to-upper priced Boomer homes come to the market, they will still have a positive effect on real estate inventories. First-time buyers looking for starter homes aren’t the only ones suffering from inventory shortfalls.

The inventory epidemic has become so severe that it is moving up the real estate ladder. Supplies of mid-priced homes are now declining, and their prices are rising. “There are many Gen-X buyers who are still trapped in their first home and that’s because they can’t find the home that they want to trade up. And so, you get this ratchet effect that occurs with the lack of construction, which is not just impacting entry-level, first-time home buyers, but even trade-up buyers,” says Sam Khater, Chief Economist for Freddie Mac.

In normal times, real estate agents counsel their clients to sell their current home before making an offer on a new one to avoid being stuck with two mortgages. In today’s seller’s markets, however, it’s much easier to sell a house in the mid to lower price tiers than to buy one.

In November 2019, for homes priced below $100,000, inventory was down 15% annually. For those priced between $100,000 and $250,000, supplies were 7% lower annually. In December, usually the slowest month to sell a house, properties remained on the market for just 41 days. Forty-three percent of homes sold in December 2019 were on the market for less than a month. In these conditions, move-up buyers will be safer if they buy before they sell.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs That Discharge or Reduce Debt

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

If you’re living under the crushing burden of student loan debt, it’s natural to wonder how to get rid of it. I know I am. Who wouldn’t want to wake up one morning, log into their account, and see a balance of zero?

I don’t think I’m understating it to say it would change my life, and I’m sure many borrowers would say the same. 

While mass student loan cancellation from the federal government could still be a reality, it also may amount to nothing but wishing and hoping. Fortunately, plenty of programs already exist to help you eliminate your student loans.  


Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

If you’re overwhelmed by student loan debt, forgiveness programs can help ease some of the burden. Forgiveness partially or fully cancels education debt. Forgiveness programs are only available on direct federal student loans. You may have to consolidate other types of federal loans for them to qualify. And private loans don’t qualify at all.


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Forgiveness won’t erase your debt overnight, as many student loan repayment programs take 10, 20, or 25 years before you can get any remaining balance forgiven. But they can reduce your monthly payments in the meantime. There are two types.


Standard Federal Student Loan Forgiveness

Standard forgiveness is available to all borrowers of federal direct loans, including federal direct consolidation loans. It requires you to be on an income-driven repayment plan.

There are four income-driven repayment plans. Each bases your monthly payments on a percentage of your income and your family size. Depending on the plan and whether you have undergraduate or graduate loans, you could qualify for loan forgiveness in 20 to 25 years.

However, be aware you may owe income tax on the forgiven amount. The American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, makes all student loan forgiveness tax-free through 2025. And in March 2022, President Biden included a provision in his budget plan to make this policy permanent. But it still has to pass both the House and Senate to become law, so it isn’t a guarantee beyond 2025 yet. 

The best way to know how much of your student loan balance could remain for forgiveness at the end of your repayment term is to use the loan simulator at StudentAid.gov. However, know that your payments and balance could fluctuate if you earn more or less throughout your career.

The Biden administration is also currently working to reform the income-driven repayment plan program. Current changes include recalculating borrowers’ forgiveness timelines to include certain past periods of deferment and forbearance, regardless of loan type or payment plan. 

These future changes could include streamlining income-based repayment so that all enrolled borrowers are paying only 5% of their discretionary income in monthly student loan payments instead of the 10% to 20% they’re paying now.

These changes may not seem like much, but they could be huge for some borrowers. For example, I had to forbear my loans for six years in an attempt to pay off the private loans I took out before grad PLUS loans existed and still afford things like rent, child care, and groceries on my meager teaching salary. 

This change alone puts me six years closer to forgiveness and could save me over $50,000. And the government estimates more than 3.6 million borrowers will get at least three years shaved off their clocks.  

See other changes they’re planning at StudentAid.gov. 


Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Perhaps the best known federal student loan forgiveness program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is for borrowers working in public service jobs. To qualify, you must:

  • Have federal direct loans
  • Work full-time for a nonprofit or government agency for 10 years
  • Make 120 qualifying payments on an income-driven repayment plan (while working for the nonprofit)

Unlike forgiveness through an income-driven repayment plan, forgiveness through public service loan forgiveness has always been tax-free. So borrowers don’t have to worry about getting hit with a huge tax bill on any forgiven balance.

Additionally, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was the first to announce major changes to the payment counts. As a result of years of mismanagement, a temporary waiver allows past “payments” to count toward the required 120 total. That includes any nonpayments made during deferment or forbearance and even late, missed, or partial payments — pretty much anything as long as you weren’t in default on your loans. 

The only requirement is that you must have been working full time for a qualifying employer (a nonprofit or government agency) during the period for which you want the payment or nonpayment counted. And you must apply for the temporary waiver by Oct. 31, 2022.  


Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Federal forgiveness is only one option you can leverage to get rid of student debt. Some government and nongovernment organizations offer loan repayment assistance programs.

While they can’t directly forgive your debt (only the loan-holder can do that), they can contribute money on your behalf, which acts as a sort of forgiveness, usually in exchange for your professional contributions to a company or society. Plus, you can use them to pay off any type of loan, including private loans. 

Generally, you have to work for a certain company or in a certain public service field, such as medicine or the military, for a set amount of time. In exchange, they contribute money toward paying off your loans.

The amounts they contribute vary, but they can be anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars per year, depending on the program.

If federal forgiveness programs seem unlikely to benefit you, check into these options instead. 


Profession-Specific Loan Forgiveness

Though these exist primarily in public service professions, many career fields qualify for job-specific loan forgiveness programs over and beyond public service loan forgiveness.  

For example, there are organizations that repay student loans for health care professionals in exchange for working in shortage areas, such as for doctors working in rural locations or pharmaceutical scientists performing research in highly needed crisis subjects like opioid addiction. 

Professions with forgiveness programs include:

  • Doctors
  • Teachers
  • Nurses
  • Lawyers
  • Pharmacists
  • Dentists
  • Physicians Assistants
  • Physical Therapists
  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Psychologists
  • Veterinarians
  • Automotive Workers   

Employer-Sponsored Programs

Even if you don’t work in one of these professions, many employers offer student loan repayment assistance as a job perk. Through 2025, they can offer up to $5,250 per year as a tax-free benefit thanks to COVID-19 pandemic relief measures. So it’s worth checking with your human resources office to see if your company offers this assistance. 

If your current company doesn’t offer this benefit, crunch the numbers to see if it’s worth changing jobs. If the benefit is high enough, it could even offset a salary decrease or the extra cost of driving further to work. 

Do an online search to find companies that repay student loans. Examples include Google, Ally Bank, and Fidelity Investments.  

But don’t give up if you can’t find this benefit info on a prospective employers’ webpage. Student loan repayment is a top sought-after perk. Thus, more and more employers are beginning to offer it. It never hurts to ask during a job interview if it’s an option. 


State-Sponsored Programs

Although most borrowers think of federal programs when they think about student loan forgiveness, all U.S. states and the District of Columbia have at least one forgiveness assistance program. State forgiveness programs typically take the form of loan repayment assistance programs, which states design to attract high-need professionals to shortage areas. 

Thus, they’re always for specific professions and typically require a work commitment for a specified period.

For example, the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program for Health Professionals awards up to $50,000 ($25,000 per year for two years) to health professionals working in shortage areas. And the Rural Iowa Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program awards up to $60,000 ($15,000 per year for four years) to veterinarians who work in rural Iowa communities.

To discover what programs are available in your state, do an online search or contact your state’s department of higher education.


Military Programs

Every branch of the military offers various forms of student loan forgiveness, including programs for doctors, dentists, psychologists, veterinarians, and lawyers as well as both current members of the armed forces and veterans.

However, not all branches offer the same benefits or programs, and in some cases, benefits only apply to service members in certain fields. Examples include:

  • Army College Loan Repayment Program. The Army’s College Loan Repayment Program pays one-third of your loans every year up to $65,000 in exchange for a three-year commitment. There are also repayment benefits of up to $50,000 for those who join the Army Reserves or Army National Guard.
  • JAG Corps. JAG stands for “judge advocate general.” It’s essentially the military’s law firm. Law school graduates who join a JAG Corps in a participating branch, such as the Army or Air Force, can get up to $65,000 of their student loans repaid in exchange for a three-year commitment.
  • Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. The Navy repays up to $40,000 per year (minus 25% for income taxes) toward student loans for qualifying medical professionals through the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program in exchange for an agreed-upon commitment. And the Air Force repays $40,000 per year (minus 25% for income taxes) for a maximum of two years in exchange for a two-year commitment. 
  • Sign-On and Retention Bonuses. Professionals are often eligible for sign-on and retention bonuses they can use to repay student loans. For example, the Army Medical Department offers a $50,000 sign-on bonus, and the Navy JAG Corps offers $60,000 in total retention bonuses payable at the four-year, seven-year, and 10-year marks.   

Other programs may be available, and offerings may change without notice, so contact a recruiter for the branches you’re considering for more information. 


Other Types of Student Loan Relief

If you’re wondering about the difference between forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge, the answer is: not much. The only real difference is implementation. 

Forgiveness and cancellation apply when you’re no longer required to make payments because you fulfilled your program requirements. Discharge happens when your loans are eliminated because of your circumstances — for example, if you become permanently disabled and can no longer work or you win a bankruptcy or lawsuit. 

The other important difference is timing. If you qualify for one of the many cancellation or discharge programs for federal student loans, you won’t have to wait decades to see your loan balance disappear. Instead, you can be free of the burden as quickly as the Department of Education processes your case. 


Cancellation Programs

The term “cancellation” only applies to federal Perkins loans. A Perkins loan is a discontinued type of federal student loan that featured a low, fixed interest rate and was for low-income borrowers. Additionally, they were typically a school loan. Your school, and not the government, was the lender. 

Those who work in various public service fields can qualify to have some or all of their Perkins loans canceled under certain circumstances. These typically include working in shortage areas and high-need specialties, such as math or special education for a teacher.   

Perkins loan cancellation happens a little at a time. For each year of service, you get a percentage of your loan canceled. It can take up to five years to wipe out 100% of your loans.

Professions eligible for Perkins loan forgiveness include:

  • Preschool teacher
  • Employee at a child or family services agency
  • Faculty member at a tribal college or university
  • Firefighter
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Librarian with a master’s degree at a Title I school
  • Military service member
  • Nurse or medical technician
  • Provider of early intervention disability services
  • Public defender
  • Speech pathologist with a master’s degree at a Title I school
  • Volunteer with AmeriCorps VISTA or the Peace Corps

Discharge Programs

Meeting eligibility requirements for a student loan discharge is rare. But if you qualify, you can get some or all of your loans eliminated. 

There are many situations in which you could qualify for a federal student loan discharge. These include: 

  • Closed School. If your college or school closes while you’re enrolled or within 180 days of your graduation or withdrawal, you’re entitled to a discharge of your debt.
  • Total and Permanent Disability. If you become permanently disabled to the extent that you can no longer work, you’re entitled to a disability discharge.
  • Death. If you die, the government can’t collect against your estate. And if you borrowed parent PLUS loans, and your child dies, you no longer have to pay the debt.
  • Bankruptcy. This one’s tough to do, but if you can prove repaying the loans would cause undue financial hardship, you can get your student loans discharged in bankruptcy.
  • Borrower Defense to Repayment. If your school broke the law, such as lying to you to get you to enroll, you can get your loans discharged.
  • False Certification. If you had your identity stolen and someone took out the loans under your name without your knowledge or forged your signature on the documents, you’re entitled to have them discharged.
  • Unpaid Refund. If your school owed you a balance but never paid it to you or returned it to the U.S. Department of Education, you can have that amount discharged.

Final Word

If you’re searching for ways to wipe out your student debt, you may be susceptible to student loan forgiveness scams. So-called debt relief companies prey on desperate borrowers by charging high upfront fees and then failing to deliver the promised forgiveness. 

Be forewarned: Legitimate student loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge programs will never charge you a fee to apply. And you never have to pay to sign up for an income-driven repayment plan. 

Be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true. Additionally, never give out your personal information over the phone or pay fees to companies whose names you don’t recognize or programs you’ve never heard of. 

If you’re unsure if a program is legit, always ask for information in writing and contact your student loan servicer, who can tell you what programs your loans actually qualify for. 

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Expert Tips for Protecting Yourself from the Next Crypto Crash

If you’re investing in cryptocurrency, it needs to be part of a balanced portfolio that meets your goals. For most people, this means allocating no more than 5% of your portfolio to a risky investment like crypto.
Possibly the most important thing for investors to remember is don’t panic. Cryptocurrency is a highly volatile investment and these types of price swings are to be expected.
— Cody Lachner, certified financial planner and director of financial planning at BBK Wealth Management
Most investors are seeing a broad pull back in all their investments right now, including stocks. There’s not much investors can do in such situations except to keep their portfolios balanced and diversified.
The machine worked great — until it didn’t.
The collapse of terra and luna erased some billion in market capitalization in a week. Experts say that money is unlikely to return. The fallout sent ripples across the entire crypto ecosystem, causing bitcoin and ethereum to hit lows not seen since December 2020.
The crash in crypto has reminded us why a long-term investment strategy is so important. The crypto community has even come up with the phrase HODL which means “hold on for dear life.”
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
In the months and weeks ahead, cryptocurrencies will face the same challenge as other major asset classes — rising interest rates — which tend to negatively impact the value of risky investments.
Sometimes people only look at the upside when investing. They think “Wow, I could have made a lot of money if only I had invested in this or that.”
— Chris Brooks, co-founder of Crypto Asset Recovery
But why did investors sink so much money into these tokens?
By May 12, the stablecoin once pegged at was trading for less than a penny.
When investing for the long-term, you understand that corrections are part of a normal market. That makes it easier to ride out the lows and wait for the eventual recovery.
Terra’s value is meant to stay at . But it wasn’t backed by real-world assets. Instead, the two tokens were tied in value to one another like a seesaw. One token would be automatically created or destroyed based on the supply and demand of the other.

How To Protect Your Portfolio From Another Crypto Crash: 5 Experts Weigh In

A portrait of Robert Persichitte
Photo courtesy of Robert Persichitte

1. Don’t Go All in

Ready to stop worrying about money?
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Eventually, trust will re-enter the market and you’ll get another shot.
— Lance Elrod, a certified financial planner with Next Step Financial Transitions

This is a portrait of Erik Goodge who is wearing an eye patch while sitting in a green office chair.
Photo courtesy of Erik Goodge

2. Read the Fine Print

— Robert Persichitte, a tax accountant and certified financial planner at Delagify Financial
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.
New York Magazine described the system “as a perpetual wealth-creation machine, a way to always make money through the magic of code and financial engineering.”
Terra’s algorithm eventually broke — there’s still some confusion and debate over why — and its value started nosediving May 8. As investors sold off UST, the supply of luna ballooned, causing its price to plummet. From there, UST and luna locked arms in a death spiral race to the bottom.

3. Be Safe, Be Secure

By May 16, bitcoin traded at around ,000 — more than a 50% decline in value from its all-time high of roughly ,000 five months ago.

This is a portrait of Chris Brooks.
Photo courtesy of Chris Brooks

Cryptocurrency investors are reeling and wondering what comes next after a massive market shakeup sent the price of bitcoin plummeting to its lowest level in 17 months last week.
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A portrait of Lance Elrod.
Photo courtesy of Lance Elrod

4. Play the Long Game

One positive that can occur during a correction like this is a tax-loss harvesting opportunity: You can sell certain assets to capture losses and offset capital gains tax you may owe next year.
Many cryptocurrency investors are now wondering what comes next and how to safeguard their portfolios. After all, it’s not just cryptocurrency that’s suffering — the entire U.S. economy is sluggish. Inflation is high, interest rates are rising, stocks are down (the S&P 500 has lost 16% of its value so far in 2022) and many experts are forecasting a recession in the next six to 12 months.
But few terra/luna investors paused to realize they were stacking risk on top of risk on top of more risk.

A portrait of Cody Lachner, certified financial planner and director of financial planning at BBK Wealth Management.
Photo courtesy of Cody Lachner

5. Buy and Hold (on for Dear Life)

— Erik Goodge, a certified financial planner and president of uVest Advisory Group
No one has perfect foresight. That’s why it’s so important to diversify with other assets.
Employ best practices in diversity, securing your private keys and don’t over-leverage yourself. Know that while this is a setback, it’s a temporary one.
We sat down with five experts who offered insight into navigating these uncertain times — and the best ways to protect your portfolio from a future crypto crash.

The phrase reminds us that investing in crypto is anything but a smooth ride. <!–

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A scheme known as the Anchor protocol promised crypto investors annual returns of nearly 20% in exchange for lending out their terra holdings. With cryptocurrency markets relatively stagnant since December, the lure of 20% returns seemed too good to pass up.

Thinking about Rolling Your 401(k) into an IRA? 7 Deciding Factors to Consider

The Department of Labor has outlined new rules for advisers to follow when rolling over retirement plans. Whether it is a 401(k) to an IRA or an IRA from one custodian to another, there are several considerations that need to be evaluated before making a change. If you are initiating a rollover on your own, it may be beneficial for you to evaluate these items as well.

You should be able to get all the information you need on your plan from your statements, Annual Participant Fee Disclosure and Summary Plan Description. If you do not have access to these documents, you can usually request them from your human resource department.

All-In Fees and Expenses

Before deciding whether to do a rollover, you will want to compare the fees within your 401(k) plan vs. the fees for the IRA. Fees in the 401(k) could include any mutual fund loads, plan expenses and any underlying fees. Sometimes the fees may be higher in your 401(k), but there may be additional benefits to keeping your funds in the 401(k) wrapper.

It would be up to you to decide whether any benefits are worth the fees. For example, if you are opening an IRA and moving over to an investment adviser there will be additional management fees paid to your adviser, but you may also receive financial advice, retirement planning or wealth management services.

Available Services

Some retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, provide added creditor protection, the ability to take out a loan or take hardship withdrawals, which are not available with IRAs. In certain circumstances you may be able to keep some asset protection if 401(k) funds are rolled into a separate IRA and not commingled with other IRA funds. Some 401(k) providers provide investment education to participants that may be valuable if you are a younger investor.  You will also want to look at your vesting schedule and company match to determine whether they may be affected. In addition, some retirement plans offer Roth 401(k) contributions, which may not be available to you otherwise.

Available Investments and/or Products

Several 401(k)s offer participants limited investment options. On one hand, that could be viewed as a positive, because when there are too many choices it can confuse participants and make it harder to manage the plan. However, some plans’ limited options may be  more expensive, such as actively managed funds, and they might not offer any low-cost index options.

If you roll over funds into an IRA you then have access to a much wider universe of investments. That said, this should not be your only decision criteria. Some company retirement plans offer a “BrokerageLink” option, which allows you to move funds from the “core” 401(k) account to a brokerage account –  another way to access more investment options. Some plans have restrictions on what can be invested in a BrokerageLink so you would want to consult the plan document before deciding.

Guaranteed Income/or Interest Rates

Are you invested in anything earning a guaranteed interest rate that you will lose by moving from a 401(k) to an IRA or other plan? For example, TIAA CREF’s 401(k) offering has TIAA Traditional, which could be earning 3%-4% –  a great return in this environment. You may not want to roll out funds into an IRA and lose access to this option.

Tax Considerations

If you are required distribution age but still working past retirement (providing you are not an over 5% owner in the company), you can defer taking money out of your 401(k). Unfortunately, if you have an IRA on the side, that IRA is subject to required distributions at age 72, even if you continue to work. If you leave the funds in the 401(k) you can still contribute and don’t have to take money out.

One caveat related to the Roth part of a 401(k): If you are age 72 and a greater than 5% owner or retired you have to take a distribution from the Roth side. A way to get around this is to roll the Roth 401(k) balance into a Roth IRA prior to age 72.

Also, if you happen to be in a zero-income year and all you have is retirement funds and need cash, it may make sense to take a taxable distribution rather than do a rollover.

Distribution Considerations

If your 401(k) retirement account is invested in an insurance product or annuity you will want to evaluate whether there are any surrender charges. Usually annuities cannot be moved to IRAs in kind. Some annuity products may have certain benefits that will be lost if liquidated, so you will want to make sure you understand how your product works before making a decision.

Some plans may offer annuity options rather than a lump sum, which would be lost if you roll your 401(k) over to an IRA. You will want to look at the financial implications of the lump sum vs. the annuity options to see which option is better for your situation, especially if you have a spouse who can receive survivor benefits.

You will also want to check if there are any in-service distributions options or guaranteed payment options.

Beneficiary Considerations

If you are married, your 401(k) must list your spouse as beneficiary unless your spouse signs a waiver. You can list anyone on an IRA as a beneficiary, so you may want to review your estate planning and beneficiaries if you make any changes.

Senior Financial Adviser, Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial Wealth Management

Roxanne Alexander is a senior financial adviser with Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial handling client analysis on investments, insurance, annuities, college planning and developing investment policies. Prior to this, she was a senior vice president at Evensky & Katz working with both individual and institutional clients. She has a bachelor’s in accounting and business management from the University of the West Indies, she received an MBA at the University of Miami in finance and investments.

Source: kiplinger.com