Dear Penny: Will My Husband’s Bad Health Choices Drain My Life’s Savings?

Dear Penny,

My spouse suffered from a stroke three years ago. He is unable to work and is receiving Social Security and is very noncompliant about his health. I am currently and have been the breadwinner for this family. 

My concern is that he is going to financially take everything I have saved and worked hard for with his consistent medical expenses. I fear he could end up in a nursing home. 

I have thought about divorce, but I know he would take half of my retirement. I am 62, and I hope to be able to retire at 65. How can I protect my retirement from the possible nursing home and medical expenses? 


Dear T.,

Watching your spouse jeopardize his health and risk your future in the process has got to be agonizing. Unfortunately, the threat of unmanageable medical bills is far too common since Medicare only covers the first 100 days of skilled nursing care.

Paying for a nursing home can quickly erase a lifetime’s worth of savings. The average cost of a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility is over $7,700 per month, according to Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care survey. Eventually, Medicaid will kick in — but only after someone has depleted almost all of what’s called countable assets, which include things like retirement accounts and other investments, cash, bank accounts and homes that aren’t used as a primary residence.

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When one spouse needs Medicaid but the other doesn’t, the non-applicant spouse can typically keep no more than $137,400 of countable assets. That’s not much if you’re expecting a long retirement.

But you do have options for preserving the money you’ve worked hard for over the years. It’s essential that you consult with an elder care attorney. Medicaid planning is extraordinarily complex, and the laws vary significantly by state. You can use the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys database to search for an attorney near you.

You’re correct in that if you divorced, your husband would probably be entitled to part of your retirement. But most attorneys don’t recommend getting divorced solely to qualify one spouse for Medicaid for a host of reasons that are too complicated to delve into here.

One option you should discuss with an attorney is a Medicaid-compliant annuity. In a nutshell, Medicaid considers the income of the spouse who’s applying for coverage, but the other spouse’s income is off-limits. A Medicaid-compliant annuity takes part of your assets and converts it into a fixed income stream. The payments are based on your life expectancy, calculated according to Social Security’s life expectancy table.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you have $257,400 in countable assets, which would put you $120,000 above Medicaid’s threshold. You use that $120,000 to buy an annuity. If your life expectancy is 10 years, you’d immediately start to get payments of $1,000 a month, or $12,000 annually, for the next 10 years.

The insurance company makes its money by investing your principal. It’s a good tool for married couples when only one spouse needs care because, remember, the income of the other spouse isn’t used for Medicaid eligibility.

There are many rules an annuity has to follow to be considered Medicaid compliant. For example, it has to be a single premium immediate annuity, meaning you buy it in a lump sum and the payments start right away. If you’d opt to go this route, it’s important to look specifically for a Medicaid compliant annuity. Annuities advertised as “Medicaid-friendly” often don’t meet all the rules.

If you have debt, you could also use part of your assets to pay it off so you can keep your expenses minimal in retirement. Paying off a mortgage balance, a personal car loan or a credit card balance generally won’t violate Medicaid’s rules. If the two of you own your home, there’s no limit on your home equity as long as you continue to reside there.

You could have other options depending on your state. For instance, if you live in Florida or New York, you may be able to use a spousal refusal strategy, where you essentially sign a written statement refusing to contribute to the cost of your husband’s care.

These are just a few strategies that may be possible in the event that your husband needs long-term care. However, I can’t stress how important it is to consult with an experienced attorney about how to protect your assets. You may not need to take any action right away. But just knowing what options you have will set your mind at ease.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.


The Penny Hoarder’s Top Budgeting Stories of 2021

Your household runs better when you and your significant other are on the same page about spending, saving and other financial decisions. Sharing the same budgeting app helps you and your partner stay in sync.
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There’s no way to predict how long you’ll need your retirement savings to last, so it’s important to be a conscious spender after you’ve said goodbye to your 9-to-5.

10 Top Budgeting Stories From 2021

We talked with Lowry about how to navigate those essential but uncomfortable conversations.

1. Save Money Every Month With the 70/20/10 Budget

This year, we caught up with financial influencer Erin Lowry to discuss her latest book “Broke Millennial Talks Money.” The book details how to have those awkward money discussions with the important people in your life.

If you’re not a fan of the 70/20/10 budget, try one of these other budgeting methods.

2. Prioritize Health in Your Budget With These Cheap Gym Memberships

2021 was a record year for people resigning from their jobs. But income loss — whether intentional or involuntary — can be a major source of financial stress.
If you’re in this boat (or are about to be), here is some helpful advice on how to handle financial matters.

3. Enjoy a Low-Cost Vacation With Our Guide to Visiting the National Parks

This article will help you build a retirement budget so you don’t have to stress about money in your golden years.
Take this advice with you into the new year.

4. Learn How to Have Tough Money Talks from Broke Millennial’s Erin Lowry

It’s easy to get caught up in all the darling details of planning a wedding — and then get overwhelmed when tallying up all the costs.
Check out our guide to a low-cost vacation at one of the national parks.

5. Download One of These Best Budgeting Apps for Couples

It’s a good budget to implement if you’re working toward savings goals and want to be more intentional about putting money aside each month.
Ready to stop worrying about money?

6. Plan for Your Big Day by Creating a Wedding Budget

Maintaining a budget is an excellent way to start. While keeping tabs on your cash flow isn’t necessarily fun, it will help you stay focused on your future goals.
When you join together as one in matrimony, you might believe all aspects of your life should be intertwined — including your finances. But there are reasons why separate bank accounts may be better for you.

7. Consider Keeping Separate Bank Accounts from Your Spouse

Here are five ways to manage when you experience a significant reduction in your household income.
Here are our recommendations for the best budgeting apps for couples.

8. Navigate Going From Two Incomes to One

As 2021 winds down, here are the best budgeting lessons we learned that we’ll be carrying into the new year.

This post shares the circumstances where it might be more beneficial to maintain individual bank accounts. It also explains how to successfully navigate shared expenses and financial goals.

9. Learn How to Budget for Everything When You’re in the Sandwich Generation

Staying home for much of 2020 gave us the itch to travel as much as we could this year. Visiting the national parks helps to keep more money in the bank while still satisfying that wanderlust.
The fitness industry wants you to think you need to invest in a bunch of classes, equipment, fancy yoga pants and more to stay in peak physical shape. But you don’t have to spend all your money in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

10. Set Up a Retirement Budget so You Don’t Run Out of Money

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Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
As life slowly crept back to normal in 2021 following the financial chaos and uncertainty of the year before, we were left with the desire to get a better handle on our individual money situations. <!–


The 70/20/10 budget is a percentage-based money management system where you earmark 70% of your take-home pay toward monthly expenses, 20% for saving and investing and 10% for extra debt payments or donating.

5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Seniors playing games together
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When people talk about “aging gracefully,” they’re usually referring to physical appearance. But you can also have a gracefully aging mind.

In recent years, scientific research has delved into the secrets of people in their 80s and 90s whose brains function well — by some measures, as well as the minds of folks decades younger.

Researchers have started calling these high-functioning older people “super-agers,” and we’re learning more about what sets them apart. While some factors are genetic, many are things within our control.

Following are some of the best things you can do to keep your aging brain sharp.

1. Stay positive

If you don’t think you can have any impact on your mental age, you aren’t going to take steps to try to impact the health of your mind. Although it sounds like a cliche, staying positive is important.

“How we think about who we’re going to be in old age is very predictive of exactly how we will be,” says Shelbie Turner, a doctoral student at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and co-author of a study on the effects of positive self-perception in middle-aged and older adults.

“We hold these tremendously negative stereotypes about aging, and these start from when we’re really young. By the time we’re older, these are actually having a negative effect on our health,” says Elissa Epel of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in a university blog post.

In addition, the stress associated with a negative outlook seems to trigger real changes in our bodies that can accelerate aging by causing cell damage.

2. Keep good company

Loneliness and isolation cause a lot of physically damaging stress. So, make it a priority to keep in touch with friends, whether you prefer a wide circle of acquaintances or a few intimate relationships.

Emily Rogalski of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine does research on super-agers. In a Northwestern podcast, she notes that one of the distinctive things about “individuals who are free of dementia, free of cognitive problems, and really thriving in their community as well” is their endorsement of “stronger positive relationships with others.”

According to Rogalski, super-agers who maintain strong social relationships have four to five times as many of a particular type of neuron in the brain thought to play a role in awareness and social processing.

3. Stay in shape

One of the better-understood aspects of aging well is the importance of sleep, exercise and diet.

Epel and fellow UCSF researchers have seen physical evidence in the brain that higher levels of exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet make us more resilient to aging and keep us thinking faster and more clearly.

“As we get older, when we see declines in memory and other skills, people tend to think that’s part of normal aging,” Kramer says in the UCSF blog post. “It’s not. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

That’s backed up by research previously reported by Money Talks News showing that aerobic exercise and resistance training improve cognitive abilities regardless of frequency.

Certain foods are also better for your brain health as you age, including whole berries and fresh vegetables. Research also shows that two or more servings of fish per week may help prevent brain damage.

Research has also shown that high blood pressure can contribute to dementia and that smokers have a greater risk of dementia. Mind and body are clearly linked.

4. Meditate

Epel’s research suggests meditation can help protect our brains from the damage caused over time by stress. According to the UCSF blog post:

“Meditation, exercise, and an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce and possibly reverse some effects of aging.”

“Our biological aging is more under our control than we think. If we can make small changes and maintain them over years, our cells will be listening,” Epel says.

The National Institute on Aging suggests relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

5. Learn something new

Whether it’s finding a new hobby or reading a good book, there are clear cognitive benefits to exploring new things. Research even shows that video games don’t actually rot your brain — they may preserve it.

A 2020 study found that individuals between ages 60 and 80 had improved memory after playing a 3D Super Mario game for roughly half an hour daily over a month-long period.

Recently published research in the journal Neurology found that activities ranging from reading and writing letters to playing board games could help delay dementia into your mid-90s.

Other research shows that being bilingual could delay the onset of dementia. Never stop learning — or playing!

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


Retirement Checklist: 5 Things to Know Before Leaving the Workforce

Working more than 35 years can really pay off, especially if you’re making significantly more than you were in your early career because you get to replace some of those low-earning years with higher wages.
We’d love to say things get easier when you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare, but that’s not always the case.
Retirement is calling your name — but can your budget handle it? Check out these tips to avoid financial stress and worry during your golden years.
Another option is to extend your employer’s insurance benefits through COBRA for 18 months. But at an average cost of 0 to 0 per person per month, it’s a pricey option.
Let’s say you started collecting Social Security at 62 and receive ,200 a month.
Keep in mind that “taxable” doesn’t mean that’s what you pay in tax. Suppose you’re a single filer with ,000 of income: ,000 from Social Security benefits and ,000 from 401(k) withdrawals.

5 Essential Things to Put on Your Retirement Checklist


1. Know Your Social Security Full Retirement Age

But here are a few important guidelines about Medicare:
Once you reach full retirement age, Social Security will recalculate your monthly benefit amount and give you credit for the months they reduced your payment.
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You can start collecting Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. But if you opt in early, your monthly benefits will be reduced significantly.

  • If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66.
  • If you were born between 1955 and 1960, your full retirement age increases gradually up to age 67.
  • Anyone born since 1961 has a full retirement age of 67.

Here’s an example.
You get a larger monthly benefit by working past your full retirement age.

Pro Tip
You aren’t eligible for full Social Security benefits until you reach what’s known as your full retirement age.

2. Learn About Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Benefit

Contrary to popular belief, this federal health insurance program isn’t free and it doesn’t cover all your health care costs.
There’s a lot to know about Medicare — much more than we can cover here.
But many of those workers didn’t really quit — they retired.
If you’re married filing jointly:
Your benefit amount increases for every month you do not accept Social Security benefits, although this added benefit maxes out at age 70.
Report All Your Earnings
Marriage and Divorce Make a Difference
Like we mentioned above, you can increase your Social Security benefit by working past your full retirement age.
Work at Least 35 Years
That’s ,440 over the limit, so your yearly Social Security benefits would be reduced by ,520, or 0 a month.
Your Social Security benefits are technically income. So do you owe taxes on Social Security?
Or, if your current or ex-spouse dies, you could qualify for 100% of their benefit if you meet certain requirements.
But — and this is really important — that money isn’t gone forever.

3. Know the Social Security Earning Limits if You Plan on Working in Retirement

The Social Security Administration now bases your full retirement age on the year you were born:
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Ready to stop worrying about money?

  • Once you hit full retirement age, working doesn’t impact your Social Security benefits — no matter how much you earn.
  • If you’re not yet at full retirement age but receive Social Security benefits, you can make up to $19,560 a year without penalty. (For context, that’s $1,630 a month, or $376 a week).
  • After that, your benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 you make over $19,560.

Make sure to report earnings you make from tips, freelancing and self-employment throughout your career. Failing to report these earnings could reduce the amount of Social Security you get later on.
Other health insurance options for early retirees include:
You can only qualify for Medicare before age 65 if you’ve been on Social Security Disability for at least 24 months. People diagnosed with end-stage renal disease or ALS also qualify.
Full retirement age used to be 65, but that hasn’t been the case for a while.
How much you receive from Social Security also depends on your marital status.
But if you make more than ,560 a year in 2022, your Social Security benefits will go down.
Waiting until you reach age 70 can result in a monthly benefit that’s 77% higher than if you claimed at 62.

4. Get Familiar With Your Health Care Options

If Social Security is your only income source, you most likely won’t pay any taxes on it. The average benefit amounts to just ,516 per year and you can make up to 25,000 before taxes kick in.
Generous federal stimulus checks, strong stock market gains and rising home values prompted some better-off Americans to retire early.

  1. If you retire before age 65, you’ll likely lose coverage at work and need to find your own health care.
  2. At 65, you’re eligible for Medicare.

Social Security uses your 35 highest-earning years to calculate your benefit, so it’s wise to stay in the workforce at least that long.
You might be able to get coverage through a spouse’s plan, assuming you’re married to someone with workplace health coverage. (If they’re on Medicare, they can’t add you to their plan).
Yes, you can work and collect Social Security at the same time.
That simply means that your income will be ,000 in the eyes of the IRS: ,000 from the 401(k), plus 50% of the ,000 from your Social Security benefits. Uncle Sam can’t touch the remaining 50%.

  • Try to find a part-time job that offers health care coverage. Just be mindful of those Social Security earning limits.
  • Find a plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Losing health coverage at work qualifies you for a 60-day special enrollment period on the Marketplace — the federal government’s health care shopping and enrollment service for uninsured Americans.
  • See if you qualify for Medicaid in your state. Especially if you know your income in retirement will be small.
  • Get private health insurance on your own. This can be complex and costly, especially if you’re in poor health or on a limited income.

A couple years later, you go back to work and earn ,000 in a calendar year.
If you’re a single filer:
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

  • If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare. You don’t need to do anything else.
  • If you have coverage through a Marketplace plan, COBRA through a past employer or TRICARE for retired military members, you’re required to enroll in Medicare when you turn 65.
  • You may not need to sign up for Medicare right away if you’re still working and enrolled in your employer’s group health plan or if your spouse is still working and you’re covered under their plan. But be sure to check with your employer.
  • Otherwise, your Medicare eligibility begins around your 65th birthday, and you have a seven-month window to sign up.

For example, if you’re divorced and not remarried, you might be eligible to claim benefits based on your ex’s work record (provided that your marriage lasted at least 10 years). Doing so won’t impact their benefits.

5. Understand How Your Social Security Benefits Are Taxed

Nearly every strategy that might increase your Social Security check boils down to this: Work longer, earn more money and wait as long as possible.
Health care will likely be one of your biggest expenses in retirement.
If you have additional income, whether it’s from a job or investments, there’s a good chance at least part of your Social Security will be taxed.
In some cases, yes.

  • 0% of your benefit is taxable if your income is below $25,000.
  • Up to 50% of your benefit is taxable if your income is between $25,000 and $34,000.
  • Up to 85% of your benefit is taxable if your income is above $34,000.

Meanwhile, some Americans with modest incomes were forced into retirement due to job loss, COVID-19 health concerns and caregiving responsibilities.

  • 0% of your benefit is taxable if your combined incomes are below $32,000.
  • 50% of your benefit is taxable if your combined incomes are between $32,000 and $44,000.
  • 85% of your benefit is taxable if your combined incomes are above $44,000.

Millions of Americans quit their jobs this year as the Great Resignation took hold of the U.S. labor market.
The United State’s retiree population has grown by about 3 million since the pandemic, according to The Washington Post. That’s about double pre-pandemic retirement trends.
That’s why it’s essential to understand your health care options.
There are other ways to boost your monthly benefit, but unfortunately, there aren’t any quick fixes. <!–


In other words, making ,000 during a year that falls between 62 and your full retirement age reduces your ,200 monthly check to 0.

Now Hear This: Workplace Noise Isn’t Just Annoying, It’s Downright Dangerous

There’s an invisible danger lurking in workplaces across the country that can damage employees’ health and hamper their productivity as it attacks the brain. Believe it or not, it’s sound. Not even loud sound, like a jackhammer, but just the ordinary background noise that most any busy office tends to generate.

Occupational noise is something that few people in management ever think of, but Northwestern University Professor of Neurobiology and Communication Sciences Dr. Nina Kraus certainly has. Her book, Of Sound Mind – How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World, explains how it can take a nasty toll on your staff.

‘Safe Noise’ Isn’t Safe at All

I spoke with Professor Kraus recently. Her excitement for the magic of sound, how our brains make sense of the auditory world, her joy in what it all brings to us just permeates the book, complemented by her YouTube videos. She began our interview with this observation:

“All employers want to reduce the incidence of health problems, absenteeism, burnout, health insurance, workers’ compensation claims and insurance rates. They study ways to reduce risk, but are generally not aware of how safe noise is connected to all these things.”

I’ll bet you are wondering, “Safe noise? What’s that?”

“Most of us are aware of the risk in listening to music that’s too loud – in fact cellphones display a warning when we approach a level where we can do actual damage to our hearing,” she observes.

“Dangerous levels of noise are all around us. Just think of the poor gardener with a leaf blower or lawn mower and not wearing any kind of hearing protection. Over time, real hearing loss will likely develop.”

Injury to Your Sound Mind

“But there is another kind of noise – safe noise – that is not loud enough to physically damage your ears, won’t give you a hearing loss, per se, but will damage your hearing brain, or, as we call it, ‘your sound mind.’

“It is called ‘safe’ because it is below the noise levels the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health says requires hearing protection. These are quieter sounds, like the beeping truck outside, a refrigerator, the sounds generated in a typical office environment.”

And that’s one of the concepts Of Sound Mind develops through examples taken from everyday life. “Our hearing brain determines how we think, feel, move and interact with all of our senses. Safe noise can very much damage the hearing brain – not the ear, the brain.” Kraus underscores.

I had never heard the term before, aware of hearing damage from dangerously loud sounds, but not what it does to the brain. This made me think of Rod Serling’s opening remarks in The Twilight Zone: “There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.”

To Kraus, that fifth dimension is the hearing brain, “As our world has become filled with persistent levels of safe sound, our ability to think, to concentrate and to feel has been compromised as our brain – the hearing brain – sustains actual, provable injury.”

She cited a study of children at a school, where half of the students were in a room facing subway trains. Test results showed them to be far worse off than kids in a quiet room.

“In a typical office, ambient office noise includes the irritating sound of computer fans, chairs scraping on the floor, background noise of people talking who are not part of the conversation you are involved in, music, a radio or the TV. Phones are ringing, people are getting texts on their phones and on it goes.

“Our hearing – the hearing brain – is connected to cognition,  to how we think, feel, move and engage other senses, our sensory motor and reward systems.

“These ambient noises harm employees in the typical office, as they cause significant physiological stress, which interferes with the ability to focus, to think, to pay attention, to remember. And, it is all on an unconscious level, worldwide costing billions of dollars due to decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.”

What to Do about Workplace Noise?

When I built my own office years ago, I had ambient noise in mind. It is quieter than a library, and we face a noisy street. We have carpeting, sound-absorbing baffles, cloth paneling on the walls, acoustic ceiling tile. All of these solutions are available to business offices too.

“When an employer is aware of the problem,” Kraus maintains, “so much can be done to provide employees an acoustically healthier work environment. We need to value quiet and noise reduction.” Here are some ideas on how to identify and fix problems with annoying sounds in the workplace:

  • Avoid florescent and other buzzy lights.
  • No background music or TV.
  • Good insulation from neighboring rooms and the outdoors if on a busy street.
  • Cloth wall-hangings.
  • Everyone can silence their phones and notifications.
  • Listen to the sounds of your workspace, giving yourself time to become aware of the irritating sounds. When you identify an annoying sound, ask yourself, “Is this necessary?” Come to honor the sounds you wish to hear.
  • Zoom calls can be quite loud sometimes – use headphones, or keep volume down when possible.

In addition, I’ll throw in my own tip: I bought a pair of 3M Peltor X4A earmuffs, which can be worn on an airplane, office or at home when trying to sleep. They virtually eliminate all ambient noise.

Of Sound Mind will change your understanding of our acoustic world and provide justification for business owners to develop a noise-reduction strategy. I encourage visiting the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory’s website to learn more: 

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 


How to Get a Raise: 5 Smart Steps to Boosting Your Salary

Along with your last performance review, compile your accomplishments in a document that your boss can review.
It’s also a good idea to base the amount on your achievements. You can do that by assigning a monetary value to each of the accomplishments you listed in the previous step — from the extra hours you put in on the weekends to the times you helped on projects that fell outside your assigned duties.
Then, consider your options. Is this a fair offer? Is this a deal-breaker? Reflect on how this decision will affect your work life going forward.
In salary negotiations for a new job? It’s not exactly the same as asking for a raise, though the two share a lot of similarities.
National averages are a place to start, and you can look up salary information on websites like Dice, Glassdoor, Robert Half and Payscale. But talking directly with your peers in similar positions and looking at actual job postings that mention wages might be even more accurate.

How to Get a Raise: A 5-Step Guide

The better prepared you are for the conversation, the more likely you are to hear a positive answer. You need to know how much you can reasonably ask for, and how to ask for it.

1. Research and Prepare

Don’t let nerves keep you from asking for the money you deserve. Boost your confidence by preparing yourself with our guide to how to get a raise.

Related Posts
First, hear out your employer — and prepare yourself for more than a simple yes or no.

Pro Tip
You present your argument, provide the data to back it up and ask for a raise you consider to be reasonable and fair.

But when is the best time to ask for a raise? When you look most valuable, ideally.
If your boss makes a counter offer, be polite and ask for time to consider it — especially if your initial instinct is to be insulted by the offer.
If so, have you asked for a raise? 

2. Calculate How Much to Ask For

Setting yourself up for a successful discussion starts with making sure your accomplishments are front of mind for your manager — such as after you complete a major project or discover a way to save your company a lot of money.
Salary negotiations show that you’re confident in your skills, you’ve done your homework and that you’re not going to dart off to another better-paying position as soon as it’s available.
Some companies have rigid policies about pay ranges for a particular position or level. As frustrating as that may be, consider this an opportunity to talk to your manager about what you can do to reach that next level that triggers a pay bump.
Review your work to make sure you’ve been doing a good job. If you’ve been consistently getting great feedback and hitting your targets, you’re on the right track.

Pro Tip
In terms of negotiation, your argument will be much stronger when it’s based on research and numbers rather than emotion. If you really need an extra ,000 for child care costs or a surprise medical bill, that’s OK to mention. Just don’t let that be your whole argument.

If your employer says that there are criteria you need to meet to earn the raise, ask for the goals in writing and set a follow-up appointment to hold your boss accountable. Then make it your priority to meet these goals, documenting your achievements along the way.
It’s best if you can directly link your work to an increase in sales or profits, but at least offer evidence that the company is doing better because of your efforts, and be specific with numbers and dates.

3. Time Your Request Right

If your employer’s response is that they like you but they can’t afford pay raises, that’s not necessarily a no. It could just be a “not now.”
One of the best ways to calm yourself and approach a salary negotiation with a level head is to do your homework about the company and your role. Don’t stress over manipulation tactics.
And remember that cash isn’t everything; benefits are also part of your compensation package. If you’re willing to give up extra money for more vacation time, education reimbursement or flexible work arrangements, you have more room for negotiation.
And if you do get the amount you ask for — congrats! Be sure to ask for the new salary in writing (email is fine) — after all, you don’t want all the hard work of negotiating to go to waste.

4. Negotiate Smartly 

Steve Gilman is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Former staff writer Adam Hardy and writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors also contributed to this report.
If you’ve been working in your current position for at least a year and haven’t seen an increase in your paycheck, it may be a good time to ask for a raise.
Are you worth more than you’re paid?
For example, the “mathematician” data shows an annual average salary of 2,530, but when you click through you’ll see that federal government mathematicians average 5,830 per year, while mathematicians working at colleges and universities make ,440.
Although a raise may be highest on your list, it may not always be an option.
Check your employee handbook for the policy on pay raises — and don’t be afraid to reach out to your HR department to ask about flexibility on the policy. It never hurts to ask.

Pro Tip
The “Great Resignation” of 2021 — when an estimated 1 in 4 Americans quit a job — could work to your favor. Companies are being forced to offer higher wages and better benefits to attract and retain employees, according to  an employer survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

You’ve done your research and preparation, created a fact-based argument for higher pay and planned your pitch to your manager.
Regardless of the outcome, remaining calm and professional throughout the negotiation and after is essential for maintaining a long-term work relationship with your employer.
If your company is doing relatively well and you’re consistently a high achiever — and have concrete evidence to prove your worth — it might be time to talk to your manager about a raise.

5. If All Else Fails …

Even though you do all this, you may not get the raise. Or at least, not the raise you wanted.
Remember: Even though this raise might be important to you, your boss is human, too. Consider their perspective and mindset before you launch into your demands.

Pro Tip
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Before you even consider negotiating, investigate whether your current employer is in a position to offer you anything. If your company has recently taken a financial hit or is facing a big lawsuit, this might not be the best time to ask for additional money.
If there’s a looming deadline for a major project, for instance, wait until after everyone is under a little less stress. Schedule the appointment with your employer at a time that you know they can focus on the topic



Ready to stop worrying about money?

Paying for College Without Parents Help

Paying for college without support from parents may seem like an overwhelming proposition, but it’s possible. Making college affordable without parental support may start before you even choose a college, by reviewing tuition and financial aid available to you at the colleges and universities you are interested in attending. Choosing the right college for you can go a long way in helping you pay for your education.

Other strategies that could help you make college more affordable include applying for scholarships and working through college. Each student is in a unique financial situation, and you may find a combination of these strategies can provide the help you need in order to pay for college. These strategies could also be used by students who do have parental assistance.

Strategies to Help Pay for College Without Parental Support

Finding the resources to pay for college can be a challenge and if you’re embarking on this journey alone, it may be stress inducing. These strategies and ideas could help you craft a plan that allows you to pay for college. As mentioned, a combination of these ideas may be required based on your unique financial situation.

Choosing the Right College

The best college for your situation lies at the intersection of ones that provide the programs you need to achieve your career goals and the ones you can afford.

Decisions you’ll need to make include:

•   Living at home or in a dormitory or other housing by the college

•   Choosing between a public or private college

•   Picking between in-state and out-of-state colleges

Living at Home

If you can live near the college, rent-free, or at low cost, then this is likely the most cost-effective choice. Perhaps you have family members who, although they can’t otherwise help you with college, will allow you to live with them while you pursue your education. Or maybe you could rent a cost-effective apartment near a community college or other school that doesn’t require freshmen to live in a dorm.

Considering Private vs Public Colleges

Public colleges are, generally speaking, less expensive than private colleges. According to The College Board, for the 2021 to 2022 school year, the average cost for tuition and fees at four year private institutions was $38,070, compared to the public college average which was $27,560 for out-of-state students attending a state school.

Prices get even more reasonable if you attend school in your home state and receive in-state tuition; The average cost of in-state tuition and fees was $10,740.

In general, in-state universities are more affordable than going out of state. But the difference between out-of-state and in-state students can vary widely, so check into your colleges of choice for confirmation. Factor in traveling costs for out-of-state options and also consider online college programs where you can take classes no matter where you are located.

Starting at a Community College

Completing your first two years of study at a community college is another option that could dramatically reduce the overall cost of college. In addition to less expensive courses, it may be possible for you to live at home, another financial benefit of attending community college.

Applying for Relevant Scholarships

Because scholarships don’t typically need to be repaid, they are a valuable tool to help fund your college education. If you’re finishing high school, talk to your guidance counselor about possibilities. There are often local scholarships provided by businesses and civic groups that you can apply for.

These days, you can also find a lot of scholarship opportunities online. There are often major-specific opportunities and more general offerings. It’s worth investing a bit of time in researching and applying for scholarships — a couple hours could really be worth it when those scholarship offers start rolling in.

Recommended: What Is a Merit Scholarship & How to Get One

As you’re researching scholarships, be sure to find quality opportunities and be wary of scams. Don’t shy away from smaller scholarships. While it would be nice to have one large scholarship to cover your cost of college, smaller scholarships can add up, incrementally chipping away at what you need to afford college. Some scholarships may be location-based. Check out SoFi’s state-by-state financial aid guides for more information on scholarships local to your home state.

When you find a college scholarship of interest, check the guidelines carefully to ensure you qualify and to make sure that you apply in exactly the right way. Fill applications out thoroughly, as early as possible within a scholarship timeline.

Proofread before turning in your applications and note that, although you can often reuse parts of one scholarship application to complete another, each opportunity has unique requirements, formats, and deadlines.

Need to fund your education?
Learn more about SoFi private student loans.

Obtaining Grants to Help Pay for College

Grant funding can come from multiple sources, including state agencies, local organizations, corporations, and more. And as with scholarships, this is money you don’t typically need to pay back. The biggest source of college grant funding comes from the federal government, with one of the best known is the Pell Grant .

Federal grants come in different categories, including:

•   Need-based grants which are based upon financial hardship.

•   Merit-based grants awarded to students who exhibit exceptional scholarship and/or community involvement.

•   Grants awarded to specific groups, including students with disabilities, those from under-represented groups, veterans, National Guard members, foster care youth, and those who select certain careers.

Obtaining federal grant funding without help from your parents can be challenging, though. That’s because most federal grants require students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which, if you are a dependent student, will be considered incomplete without parental information. In the event that your parents are unable to fill out their portion of the FAFSA , you’ll have to contact your college’s financial aid office and show appropriate documentation that verifies that your parents cannot fill out the form.

In certain circumstances, you can obtain independent student status and complete the FAFSA yourself, but parental refusal to help with FAFSA completion might not be enough to gain this status.

Even if you fully support yourself financially and are no longer claimed as a dependent on your parents’ tax forms, this status may not necessarily be granted. See your guidance counselor if you want to explore obtaining this status.

Applying for Student Loans

As mentioned, students that fund their college educations without assistance from their parents often need to craft a financial aid plan that consists of funding from multiple sources. In certain circumstances, students may have found funding from both the federal government and private lenders.

Applying for Federal Student Loans

Federal and private student loans are available, but most federal loans require a portion of your FAFSA to be completed with parental information, unless you have independent student status.

Effective with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 , college financial aid departments can offer students unsubsidized Stafford loans even if their parental section on their FAFSA isn’t completed, as long as they confirm that parents are not willing to financially help the student or fill out the FAFSA.

Applying for Private Student Loans

You can also apply for private student loans, although, if you don’t have a built up credit history, you may need a cosigner. Private lenders generally evaluate a potential borrower’s credit history, among other factors, as they make their lending decisions. Adding a cosigner with a strong credit history could potentially help secure a more competitive interest rate. If you aren’t able to find a cosigner, it is possible to apply for a student loan without a cosigner.

Another important note is that private student loans may not offer borrower protections like those offered to federal student loan borrowers, such as the option to apply for Public Services Loan Forgiveness. For this reason, private student loans are generally borrowed as a last resort option.

With determination and a willingness to seek out and accept help, students do find ways to fund their college educations without assistance from their parents.

Cutting Costs While Attending College

Smart budgeting and careful spending can help you stay in line with your means as you pay for college. Cutting costs when possible could allow you to save or funnel more money toward college tuition.

If, for example, you plan to rent a room in a house near your college of choice, you can furnish it in funky, eclectic ways using stylish and affordable finds from thrift stores and garage sales. ​If you’re handy, you can even build your own loft bed and other furniture, with plenty of instructions available online.

Recommended: What Percentage of Parents Pay for College?

Food gets expensive quickly. If you’ll be on a college meal plan, choose one that doesn’t include waste. Or if you’re living somewhere where you can cook your own food, plan thrifty meals in advance and shop in bulk. Watch for a slow cooker at rummage sales, and you can cook plenty of delicious soups and more.

Another considerable expense: textbooks. Do your due diligence and shop around to see if there are any used options you can purchase at a discounted rate. If the book you are buying is directly related to your college major, and you plan on saving it for reference in the future, it could be worthwhile to buy the book. If it’s a textbook for an elective class, you could consider renting the textbook which can often be cheaper than buying it brand new.

Working While Attending School

In addition to potentially helping you qualify for financial aid, your FAFSA may qualify you for federal work-study programs. Of course, finding a part-time job that isn’t associated with work-study is also an option.

You will need to determine how many hours per week you can work and still do well in school. And you’ll also need to find a job that is willing to accommodate the work-school balance you require. For example, it’s important to find an employer who will offer flexibility in scheduling during, for example, midterms and final exams.

The Takeaway

Students who are planning on paying for college without their parents’ help can start by choosing an affordable college option, applying for scholarships, getting a part-time job, and applying for federal student aid. As a dependent student, applying for federal aid may be challenging without your parent’s support, because the FAFSA may be considered incomplete without their information.

In the event that other avenues of funding have been depleted, students may consider private student loans. Note that as previously mentioned, private student loans don’t always have the same borrower protections as federal student loans. This is why they are generally considered an option after all other sources of funding have been evaluated.

If private student loans seem like an option for you, consider SoFi. Private student loans at SoFi have no hidden fees and the application process can be completed entirely online. Potential borrowers can find out if they pre-qualify, and at what rates, in just a few minutes.

SoFi makes the student loan process simple. Find your rates in just minutes.

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How to Ask for a Pay Raise in 5 Easy Steps

In any economy, it’s possible to negotiate a raise. Have you been asked to cover another employee’s duties because your company is struggling to find help? Have you been putting in extra hours to help your department meet its goals? Has your company benefited from your stellar performance? Then it may be time to ask for a raise.

But summoning the courage to ask for more money can be tough — especially if this will be the first time you’ve ever done it.

We’re not talking about cost-of-living increases to keep your buying power up with inflation. Rather, we’re talking about a reward for your performance and contribution to the company that goes beyond expectations.

If you want a real raise — a raise you deserve — you need to ask for it. It probably won’t fall in your lap. But with the right timing and preparation, you’ll feel less fear and more confidence in making your request, and you’ll have nothing to lose by asking. Just remember: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here’s how to plan your pitch and get the pay you deserve.

Prepare and make your pitch

Step 1: Make a list of your specific accomplishments

Think you deserve more money? Be prepared to prove it. You need to show your boss the value you add to the team and point out specific instances you went above and beyond the call of duty.

Ideally, you should keep a personal log of significant contributions you made to your job from day one. If you haven’t, start now. For example, note how you saved the company money or boosted sales, how you decreased hassle or stress on a project, and how you showed leadership under pressure. Use as many details as possible, such as numbers and facts. You’ll want to take five to seven of your most recent or biggest-impact contributions and present them in a bulleted list.

If your job description has changed over the past year, or you’ve taken on added responsibilities, include those with your list of accomplishments. If you’ve recently completed training, received credentials or obtained an advanced degree that will benefit your employer, make sure to point that out as well. To drive home your case, you might want to make copies of any e-mails, memos or notes you’ve received from higher-ups, clients or colleagues that praise your performance, advises Teena Rose, president of Résumé to Referral, a résumé writing service provider.

Remember: your pay raise is based on your contribution to the company. Do not bring your personal financial situation into the discussion at all — your boss doesn’t care that your rent has gone up, you’ve got a wedding to pay for or you’re expecting a new baby. When handing out raises, he or she only cares about the bottom line of the company. You should only ask for a raise if you feel you truly deserve it — not because you need it.

Step 2: Find out how your salary compares

You’ll need to tell your boss exactly how much you’d like to get paid. When you know what others in your field are paid and what your position is worth, you can use that figure as a starting point for negotiations.

Step 3: Consider negotiating benefits and perks

A raise doesn’t have to come in dollar signs. So before entering negotiations, think of other areas you are willing to negotiate such as vacation time, flexible work hours, stock options or tuition reimbursement. You might also consider bargaining for the right to telecommute, a more prestigious title or a week at a professional conference in Hawaii, suggests career coach Marty Nemko.

If the benefits and perks are as important or more important to you than money, you can include them in the forefront of your pitch. But if you prefer the dough, keep a couple of possible perks in your back pocket just in case your boss says “no” to a monetary raise. They’ll give you something else to bargain with if negotiations stall.

Step 4: Time your pitch right

If your annual performance review isn’t any time soon, approach your boss after you’ve done well on a project or taken on extra responsibilities. This will make your case much easier to present because your boss already will have a positive taste in his or her mouth. You don’t want to allow him or her time to forget what an asset you are.

Step 5: Broach the topic professionally

 Set up a meeting with your boss and approach the subject like two parties trying to reach a compromise. Come with your list of accomplishments neatly typed for your boss to reference and your salary request printed at the top.

When making your case, don’t compare yourself to co-workers — stick to the field in general. And don’t be cocky or greedy. If you’ve only been at your entry-level job for a year or two, expecting a hefty bonus, substantial raise or prestigious promotion is probably unrealistic unless you really, truly outdid yourself. Going into the negotiations with a sense of entitlement may actually hurt your chances.

Oh, and don’t threaten to quit unless you really mean it. If you give your boss an ultimatum — “Give me a raise or else” — you just may find that “or else” is your only option.

If your boss says ‘no’

There are a number of reasons your boss may turn down your request, but if it’s because there simply isn’t enough money available, shift gears. “Suggest an upgrade in your position,” says Nemko. “It’s easier for your employer to rationalize a higher salary if your job description is changed to include higher-level work.” You could also ask to reopen negotiations in a few months.

Ask your boss candidly what it’ll take for you to get a raise by that time — and then do it. This shows your boss you truly are interested in increasing your value to the company and will give you a specific accomplishment to quantify when you reopen negotiations.

Boss still turning you down flat? Simply say, “I understand your position,” and leave the room. “An ambiguous response is often more effective than an aggressive one because it leaves your boss wondering what you’ll do next,” says Nemko.

Indeed, you have some thinking to do. “If they consistently say no, and you are consistently performing well, it may be time for you to start looking for a company that is willing to pay you what you deserve,” says Ross MacPherson, founder of Career Quest, a job coaching firm.