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Earn Extra Money by Joining Online Focus Groups

A couple years ago, I was invited to participate in a focus group. I visited in-person along with about 15 other people. For two hours, we vented all of our feelings about the ways a particular health insurance company interacts with its customer base.

At the end, we each walked out with $125. The health insurance company wanted consumer feedback on their products and customer service, and it compensated us for providing our insights.

Focus groups can be a lucrative side hustle when you break down per-hour pay. You get to be a part of a company’s market research efforts, magnifying your opinion above those of other potential consumers.

These days, you don’t have to participate in paid focus groups in person. During the pandemic and beyond, you can use online focus group platforms to earn anywhere from $20 to as much as $600 per hour.

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Online Focus Groups: a Viable Side Hustle

Focus groups can pay extremely well for the amount of time you actually “work.” They can provide surges of side hustle income all at once.

However, they’re not likely to sustain you in lieu of traditional income. Earnings can be extremely inconsistent. First of all, you won’t qualify for every survey, as each focus group has a specific demographic it’s targeting.

Often, though not always, the highest-paying surveys also have the most exclusive demographic requirements. The company may be looking to work with construction foremen who work with specific brands of equipment, for example, or with mobile app developers who use a specific type of programming.

In addition, some consumer research companies will only allow you to participate in one focus group every six months.

Just because work is sporadic doesn’t make this a bad side hustle. When the money does come in, you’re getting paid so much per hour that it’s worth setting aside 30 to 90 minutes of your time.

What You Do in a Paid Focus Group

Most focus groups require between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of work. When you’re doing a focus group remotely, you may be asked to fill out a multiple choice survey. Most of the time, though, you’ll complete a phone or Zoom interview with a live person.

Topics for focus groups are unlimited: You could find yourself answering questions about your favorite margarita recipe, how you’re coping with pandemic parenting or a survey related to your profession.

Some focus groups may require you to dedicate some time outside the interview itself. For example, you might have to give a specific product a test run or keep a journal of your experiences. This extra time is often accounted for in the compensation.

Where to Find Online Focus Group Jobs

All of the following focus group companies currently have online opportunities. In the past, many national opportunities could be completed remotely. But during the pandemic, even most of the city-specific assignments are virtual, too.

These market research companies pay well for your time and consistently update listings for more opportunities. We surveyed current listings for hourly pay and estimated average hourly pay given the jobs currently available.

Respondent

An overwhelming percentage of the focus group opportunities listed on Respondent are remote. The majority of the listings are not city-specific, allowing you to qualify regardless of where you live.

Current job listings range between $20 and $400 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $120 per hour.

WatchLAB

WatchLAB doesn’t have as many opportunities listed, but it does regularly update its inventory on its Facebook page.

Jobs are often city specific, though there is a wide variety of cities with opportunities available. Even city-specific assignments have been primarily remote through the pandemic.

Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $60 to $150 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $100 per hour.

Focusscope

Focusscope is another smaller consumer research company. It updates its users regularly about new opportunities on its Facebook page, and most studies are now completed remotely.

Focusscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.

FindFocusGroups.com

FindFocusGroups.com isn’t a consumer research company in and of itself. Instead, it’s a job listing board. It aggregates current opportunities available across the country, and allows consumer research companies to submit listings.

You can search these focus group listings by state. For example, the pay range for current listings in Pennsylvania is $65 to $160 per hour. The average focus group pays around $100 per hour.

User Interviews

If you’re looking for online or over-the-phone focus group opportunities, User Interviews’ listings are plentiful. However, compared to the other companies on this list, more of these focus group opportunities are in-person. Use filters while you search to ensure you’re only being shown the remote opportunities.

A portion of the listings on User Interviews are medical studies rather than focus groups.

Participating in medical trials can be another lucrative way to hustle together some extra cash.

Listings on User Interviews pay between $25 and $600 per hour — though very few studies get close to the $600 mark. The average focus group pays $60 per hour.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover: Your Guide

Insurance of any kind can be confusing, but when it comes to medical insurance, it’s really tricky to tell what’s covered and what isn’t. Whether you’re shopping around for a new plan or recently just got on a new health insurance plan, it’s good to know the ins and outs of your health insurance coverage before you end up with a large stack of medical bills that you can’t afford. In this article, we’ll discuss the things that medical insurance surprisingly doesn’t cover so that you can make better decisions about your medical expenses. 

What health insurance does cover

In accordance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Health Insurance Marketplace must now cover a specific set of services at little or no out-of-pocket expense to you. They are also required to cover at least 10 essential health benefits. These essential health benefits (EHBs) include:

  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization and surgery
  • Maternity and newborn healthcare
  • Mental health treatment and substance abuse disorders including counseling and psychiatric treatment
  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Rehabilitation services that provide care for those suffering from disabilities and injuries. 
  • Laboratory services (blood and urine testing, etc.)
  • Preventative and wellness services
  • Pediatric services

In short, a lot of the basic care that you will get on a regular basis should be covered by your health plan. Most of the time your doctor won’t suggest treatments that are not covered by your insurance. In a lot of cases, they will try to familiarize themselves with your health insurance plan so that they can lead you in the right direction. However, don’t leave the all the responsibility in the hands of your doctor. It’s important that you make time to read through your health insurance policy and look for any holes before getting services. 

What health insurance doesn’t cover

If you have a good insurance plan, most of your basic medical needs will be covered, but you might be surprised to know the services that generally are. Here is a list of services that health insurance does not cover:

  • Nursing home services: Most nursing home services are not covered by standard health insurance or even Medicare. However, nursing home care is covered by Medicaid. Many people are confused about this, because they confuse short-term care from a skilled nursing facility with long-term nursing home care. These two things are very different. For example, if you were to suffer from a fall or some other type of injury that required you to get surgery, you would need short-term care in a rehabilitative facility to help you get back on your feet. That kind of care is covered. Full-fledge nursing home care on the other hand, wouldn’t be covered because most health insurance providers place time limits on how long they will cover nursing home services. That being said, Medicare will only cover skilled nursing if the patient stayed for at least three days before staying in the skilled nursing facility. Additionally, the patient must be admitted to the facility for the purpose of seeking treatment for a short-term illness or injury as opposed to a chronic one. 
  • The shots you get before traveling abroad: At some point, health insurance companies decided that they would only cover services and procedures considered to be medically necessary, and travel vaccines didn’t make the cut. Now, we’re not talking about your standard health vaccines like the tetanus or flu shot; those are covered. But for those of you who like to travel, the cost of your Typhoid or Yellow Fever vaccine is coming out of your own pocket. This rule of thumb goes for the vast majority of health insurance policies, including Medicare.
  • Cosmetic surgery: Once again, health insurance policies will usually only cover what is “medically necessary.” It’s safe to say that Botox and lip injections will not be covered by your health insurance policy. However, there are certain surgeries that dance on the line between medically necessary and cosmetic. For example, if you wanted plastic surgery on your nose because you thought it was too big, that’s considered cosmetic. But if you had to get work done on your nose due to issues with your sinuses, then that’s probably going to be considered medically necessary. 
  • Acupuncture & alternative therapies: The rules surrounding acupuncture and other types of alternative therapies such as chiropractic care aren’t as black and white. Coverage for such services like massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care aren’t part of the requirements for most individual health care plans. However, depending on what state you live in, your health insurance plan might cover chiropractic costs. Say you are involved in a car accident that caused you to suffer from back injuries as a result. There is a good chance that your health insurance plan will cover these services. However, if you are a regular at the chiropractor just because you enjoy it, then it probably won’t be. While the standard Medicare plan does not cover acupuncture, there are some Medicare Advantage cans that can. Keep in mind that with most plans who do cover these types of services, there is usually a limit on how many visits you get. 
  • Dental, Vision & Hearing: If you are shopping around for health insurance plans with your employer, note that dental, vision and hearing services are not covered under a regular health insurance policy. If you want to get insured for these services, you will have to buy separate insurance plans for each one. Keep in mind that a lot of times, these insurance policies don’t have any limits on how much they can charge you in out-of-pocket expenses, so research different dental offices before receiving services. Some people choose to not include a dental plan at all. If you wear glasses or contacts, however, it’s probably worth looking into your options for vision insurance.
  • Weight loss surgery: If you’re considering having weight loss surgery, you might be in luck if you have Medicare or Medicaid. While there is currently not a requirement at the federal level for health insurance plans to cover bariatric surgery, Medicare and many Medicaid plans do cover it. Aside from those two plans, more than half of the states in the U.S. do require there to be at least partial coverage for bariatric survey as an essential health benefit (EHB). Remember that even if the state you live in mandates coverage for this procedure, you may still be responsible for some of the medical bills related to your weight loss surgery. 
  • Preventative screenings: Before we go any further, there are A LOT of preventative tests that are covered by your health insurance policy, but there are some that aren’t. This is where things get confusing for a lot of people. For example, mammograms, cholesterol screenings, and colonoscopies will be covered. But if you need to get Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening, it most likely will not be covered.

  • Certain medications: Once again, there are a ton of prescription medications that are covered by most health insurance plans, since pharmaceutical services are one of the essential health benefits (EHBs). However, health insurers get to choose what to cover and what not to cover. Most healthcare insurance plans will choose to cover the minimum. This means that they will pick a drug from each class to cover, and not cover the rest. Many times, the generic version of the drug you are prescribed will be covered by your health insurance, while the name brand will not.

What Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover: Your Guide is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright

When I first connected with Julia and John, the Queens, NY couple was expecting their first child and grappling with some debt, a lack of savings and income prior to the baby’s arrival. The couple was basically living paycheck to paycheck and in need of some advice to break through that cycle.

We reconnected this month to see how they’ve been doing. Julia is now nearing the end of her third trimester. The baby is due to arrive in two months.

I was hoping that with a baby on the way the couple would have found some ways to chisel away their debt or bulk up savings. Unfortunately, fie months later, they’re more or less still in the same money boat.

But they did act upon a couple of my tips and are benefiting from the goodness of New York and their parents, which has their futures looking brighter.

First, John, who lacks a college degree and was struggling to find full-time work, is going back to school. Not to a college or university, but to a 9-month software boot camp in New York that’s going to give him the skills and network to become a software developer. His potential earnings in the first year in the market could be as much as $75,000 (based on some people I know who’ve gone through similar programs in New York.)

The program will be about $15,000, a fraction of what it would cost to earn a bachelor’s degree. John’s parents have agreed to loan him the money. The couple’s decided to place that $15,000 family loan in savings and, instead, take out a small student loan to pay for John’s school. I agree with that strategy, given that their family is about to increase in size and having some cash on hand will be very important.

Once John completes school and finds work, I’d recommend the couple prioritize the credit card debt by paying at least double the minimums each month. Be most aggressive with the highest interest credit card debt first. Their student loan will likely have a smaller interest rate and can be paid over a 10-year period, making the monthly minimums relatively manageable. Automate those payments as soon as possible and benefit from a 0.25% interest rate reduction when they do.

While they’re taking on more debt, I’m okay with it. Investing in John’s education is one of the best ways this couple can get ahead and better secure their finances in the future – so long as they commit to earning more and paying it down.

Ahead of that program starting, John’s also taken on a side hustle (per my advice). He’s been working a few shifts here and there at Julia’s company, working with special needs patients as a social aide, taking them to community and outdoor events.

Some other good news that’s developed since we last spoke is that New York State has enhanced its Family and Medical Leave Act by implementing Paid Family Leave. In the past, certain employers were only required to provide workers with their jobs back after taking a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks. Now, qualifying private employers must provide paid time off and a continuation of health insurance for 8 weeks in 2018.

This came as a surprise bonus for Julia, who was preparing for zero paid time off from her employer.

It would be my recommendation to use part or all of that extra money to pay down their high-interest credit card debt.

Once Julia returns to work after her maternity leave, her mother-in-law will be the go-to caretaker during the day, another huge help.

They’re fortunate to have free childcare from a trusted, loved one. With that very big expense covered and John’s schooling about to start, I feel confident that the couple’s future is a financially bright one.

The post Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Choose the Best Healthcare Plan for Your Budget

Healthcare expenses can take a huge chunk out of any family’s budget so I want to break down how a family can weigh the pros and cons of a traditional health plan vs a high deductible one.

Health Insurance Getting Too Expensive

If I asked you what’s are your biggest expenses each month, what would you say? If you’re like most families, you’d probably mention rent (or mortgage), food, or transportation. And yes, those are huge expenses for the typical family.

However, one of the largest can be healthcare. The crazy thing is how much it can drain from your budget even if you’re a relatively healthy family.

We found out firsthand a few years ago when my husband’s employer had open enrollment. Each year we review the health insurance options and it seemed to us that the costs kept rising. After having kids, we went with the ‘basic’ family plan and the monthly premiums still rose pretty fast. Finally, we hit our limit.

With the latest update, our monthly premiums would pretty much be the same as our mortgage. Considering we only visit the doctors for the girls’ annual well visits, we knew we needed to change things up. We know we’re not the only family dealing with this.

Right now for a family of four, the average monthly premium paid is $833 or  $9,996 annually. Add in the costs of the average deductible and you can see what a huge chunk of money health insurance can be.

However, this year when you get ready to review your options during open-enrollment, you may want to look into whether a high deductible health plan is a practical and affordable solution for your family.

How High Deductible Health Plans Work

As the name suggests, a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) comes with a larger deductible than a typical health insurance plan. The appeal for employers and insurance companies to offer this is that you’re taking on more financial responsibility for your health care costs.

The upside for you is that you should see a drop in the monthly premiums. For us, we saw a difference of a few hundred dollars for each month for premiums. Using a $300/month in savings, that’s like an extra $3,600/year that can be used for other financial goals that you may have.

Huge Tax Wins with a Health Savings Accounts

Another reason why a high deductible plan may be appealing for families is the ability to have a Health Savings Account (HSA).  It’s an extremely tax-advantaged account that you can use to pay for medical expenses.

If this sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve heard of or used a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). That’s what’s typically offered with the ‘more standard’ health plans. Basically you put money in there before taxes.

We used an FSA for years and it helped us to pay for regular expenses like my glasses and contacts. The problem was making sure we calculated enough to go into the account because if we didn’t use it by the end of the year, we’d lose it.

With a Health Savings Account, however, whatever you don’t use you keep. It can then grow in the account over the years. After saving enough to cover things like the deductible, you may decide to invest a portion to improve growth over the long term.

Making it even better is the fact that your HSA contributions are tax-deductible. Depending on your employer, they may also offer contributions to your HSA. That’s a fantastic bonus!

What really sweetens the deal is that families can contribute up to $6,900 each year, that money grows tax-free, and if we use the money for qualified medical expenses, what we pull out is tax-free.

Sounds amazing, right?

It’s enough to make you want to jump in and switch right now, but a high deductible and HSA may not be the best solution for your family.

The Pros and Cons of High Deductible Health Plans

A high deductible plan sounds great, but there are some costs to consider. With the higher deductible, you need to be aware of what your typical annual expenses would be to make sure you’re coming out ahead.

For example, if you have chronic health issues that require regular visits and perhaps medication, then you’d be paying a lot of money upfront before you hit your deductible and have your insurance cover their portion.

One way you can review your expenses is by using Mint to pull the numbers quickly. You can then easily see how much you’ve paid out of pocket.

When we looked at a few years of expenses, it confirmed that our visits were pretty much limited to annual well-visits (which are covered by HDHP plans), meaning we can save a significant amount of money.

When I spoke to a certified financial planner about what families need to consider, he pointed out families should also be aware of their out of pocket maximums with the plan they are looking into.

You want to have enough stashed away (either with your general savings or with your HSA) to cover those expenses.

A relative of mine recently had a procedure done. Even with insurance, her portion came out to be $3,000!

Thankfully she has some savings she can tap into, but still, that’s quite a bit of money.

So please run the numbers to make sure you could absorb a medical problem, especially during that first year of switching plans.

Choose the Best Plan for Your Family

So after weighing the costs and benefits, took the leap and switched over to a high deductible health plan and opened an HSA. Years later, we feel it was the best decision for our situation.

I hope you now have a better understanding of your options when it comes to health insurance. Having that knowledge can assist you in making the best decision for your family and finances.

I’d love to hear from you – what plan are using now? Do you have any plans on switching?

 

The post How to Choose the Best Healthcare Plan for Your Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

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3 Tips for Finding an Affordable Life Insurance Policy

Life insurance offers protection for your family’s financial security. Many people buy themselves a life insurance policy that will protect their family. It’s also possible for people to purchase life insurance policies for someone else. For example, children can purchase policies for their parents and vice versa.

Life insurance coverage offers valuable financial protection. You need to find a policy that meets your coverage needs and fits your budget. Here are three tips that will help you find the right fit:

Understand Policy Options

Premium rates vary based on the kind of policy you choose. There are two broad categories of life insurance—temporary and permanent.

Temporary life insurance, or term life insurance, offers a death benefit payout if the insured passes away during the timeframe the policy covers.

Policyholders can choose the length of the term and the death benefit amount. Some companies offer additional coverage options, called rides, that can be attached. These range from accelerated death benefit riders to return of premium riders. These additional riders add more value to the policy, which also affects the rates.

Permanent life insurance has its own two categories—whole life and universal life. Both kinds of permanent life insurance accrue cash value over time. The cash value can be used to purchase paid-up additions, pay premiums or be borrowed against.

Like term life insurance policies, policyholders can choose to add additional coverage with riders. Riders vary by company and affect the monthly premium.

Whole life policies typically have the highest premiums because the coverage is permanent, and there’s generally a guaranteed cash value growth rate. Most whole life policies come with high death benefit amounts. Policyholders can choose the amount when they sign up for the policy.

However, for those who need less coverage or only enough to cover funeral expenses, final expense insurance policies are a great option. Final expense insurance is designed for seniors. It’s a type of whole life insurance, but the death benefit amounts are much lower. Because the death benefit is only enough to cover funeral expenses, premiums tend to be lower.

There are a few kinds of universal life insurance policies. The biggest difference with these policies is how the funds are invested. The cash value of variable universal policies is invested in multiple accounts, including stocks and bonds. The cash value of indexed universal policies is invested in indexes, which are diversified investments.

Because there is no guarantee of how the cash value will grow in the investments, universal life insurance premium rates tend to be lower than whole life insurance premium rates.

Work with an independent agent

While the various types of life insurance are common among life insurance companies, not all companies carry every kind. It’s a good idea to know what kind of life insurance policy you want before starting to work with companies.

If you’re not sure what kind of life policy you want, work with a life insurance agentto ensure that you find an affordable policy that meets your coverage needs. A licensed agent can help you through the entire process of selecting and applying for a policy.

Working with a licensed independent agent also has other advantages. The specific terms, riders and premium rates can vary by company. Independent agents sell policies from multiple companies, so they can help you compare similar policies across companies.

An independent agent can help you understand the underwriting process and find a policy that is a good fit for your situation. In addition to comparing coverage and terms across companies, an independent agent can help you compare premium rates.

Working with an independent agent makes the research process easier for you because you don’t have to reach out directly to companies. Instead, you can work with one person to find the best company and rate for you.

Use quote websites wisely

While some people like working with an agent, others may prefer to do independent research. Quote websites come in handy because they make it easy to quickly view your options.

There are many life insurance quote websites to choose from. So, how do you know if you’re working with a good company?

First, it’s important to understand what kind of quote website you’re using. Some websites, like Geico and Progressive, show quotes from multiple life insurance companies. These quotes allow visitors to compare their policy options across companies. However, these companies just show quotes and connect their visitors to companies.

Others, like Bestow, Haven Life and Ladder, only show quotes for the policies they offer. These companies help their clients through the application process, which is another benefit of working with them.

Others, like Quotacy, show quotes from multiple life insurers and help their clients through the application and underwriting process. Quotacy agents even assist their clients in making updates to their policy after they purchase a policy.

Second, it’s important to know what kinds of policies the website shows. Many online tools focus solely on term life insurance. While this is a shared characteristic across many quote websites, each one has its unique features.

For example, Ladder stands out because its policies allow policyholders to adjust coverage during the term as their needs change.

In contrast, other quote websites show quotes for different kinds of permanent life insurance. This is true of many sites that only offer quotes, like Geico and Progressive. Websites that offer more comprehensive services, like Quotacy and Policygenius, also offer quotes for permanent life insurance policies.

Finding affordable life insurance

Life insurance offers valuable financial protection for your family. It can pay off remaining debt, cover funeral expenses and even replace income.

While the protection offered is highly valuable, it’s important to find a plan that fits into your monthly budget. The first step is determining what your needs are and which kind of life policy best meets those needs. From there you can work with an independent life insurance agent and do your research into policies and premium rates offered by different life insurance companies.


Alice Stevens loves learning languages and traveling. She currently manages debt and tax relief, life and health insurance, and car warranty content for BestCompany.com.

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A Guide to Coinsurance and Copays

You often pay your copay when you check in for a visit.

Having health insurance makes it possible to receive medical care while only paying a fraction of that care’s true cost. Insurance doesn’t cover everything, however. Some of the cost of your care is still up to you to pay, and that cost comes in two primary forms: copays and coinsurance.

What Is a Copay?

A copay is a flat amount of money that you’re responsible for paying for a health care service. Copays typically apply for things like a doctor’s appointment, prescription drug or medical test. The amount of your copay is dependent on your specific health insurance plan.

You can typically expect to pay your copay when you check in for your service, be it an annual physical, dental cleaning or blood test. Copays are typically lower amounts ranging from $10 for something like a generic drug prescription to around $65 for a visit to a medical specialist.

Depending on your insurance plan, copays may not take effect until after you reach your deductible. Your deductible is the amount of money you must pay out-of-pocket before your insurance provider starts to pitch in. Deductibles reset at the beginning of every year.

When you are reviewing your plan information and you see the phrase “after deductible” or “deductible applies” in reference to your copays, that’s an indication that the copay is only in place once you meet your deductible. On the other hand, if you see “deductible waived,” that’s a sign that your copay is in place from the beginning. It may go without saying, but the latter situation is vastly preferable to you.

What Is Coinsurance?

Coinsurance is another method of splitting the cost of medical coverage with your insurance plan. A coinsurance is a percentage of the cost of services. You pay the percentage, and your insurance company foots the rest of the bill. So, if you have a $8,000 medical bill and a 20% coinsurance, you would be on the hook for $1,600.

Coinsurance typically only comes into play after you hit your deductible. Further, you may have differing coinsurance percentages for the same services depending on your provider network. If you have a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan, your coinsurance could be a higher percentage for providers outside your network than it is for providers in your network.

Similarly, your coinsurance may not apply to providers outside your network if you have a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan or an exclusive provider organization (EPO) plan. That’s because these plans typically don’t provide any out-of-network coverage.

Copay vs. Coinsurance

You likely pay a copay when you visit the doctor.

Copay and coinsurance are very similar terms. They both have to do with portions of the cost of your health care that’s under your responsibility. Because of that, and their similar names, it’s easy to confuse the two. There are a couple of important distinctions to keep in mind, however.

The most notable difference between copays and coinsurance is that copays are always a flat amount and coinsurance is always a percentage of the cost of the service. Another difference is that some copays can be in place before you hit your deductible, depending on the specifics of your plan. With coinsurance, you have to hit your deductible first.

Bottom Line

copays are fixed amounts, while coinsurance is a percentage.

If you’re choosing between health insurance plans, make sure to examine the provided copays and coinsurance for each option. While they may not be the most important factor to consider, a high copay can be quite a pain, especially over the course of years of appointments and procedures.

Tips for Staying on Top of Medical Expenses

  • One of the best ways to stay ahead of surprise medical expenses is to have an emergency fund in place for just such a situation. If you can manage it, have three to six months worth of expenses stashed away in a high-yield savings account. That way, if you’re dealing with medical bills or have to step away from work, you’ll have a bit of a cushion.
  • If you’re not sure how an unexpected medical expenses would fit into your finances, consider working with a financial advisor to develop a financial plan. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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Health Insurance Myths Debunked

A health insurance policy is essential for anyone seeking to safeguard their future and avoid the catastrophic consequences of high medical bills. Whether you’re buying coverage for yourself or a health plan for your family, it’s important to get complete coverage. But despite this fact, millions of Americans remain uninsured, often because they believe one of the following health insurance myths.

Myth 1: I’m Young and Healthy; I Don’t Need Health Insurance

You’re never too young to start shopping for health insurance plans because you don’t know what’s around the corner. Medical expenses can be astronomical at any age and anyone can have an accident, fall ill or be diagnosed with a serious disease. 

It’s not pleasant to think about and many people prefer to bury their heads in the sand and live as if they are invincible, but they’re not. No one is.

Health care is very expensive in the United States, there’s no escaping that fact. This is one of the few developed nations in the world where being the victim of an accident or attack could lead to insurmountable medical expenses and essentially ruin your life. You can’t rely on luck and you can’t assume you’ll be safe just because you’re young, fit, and healthy.

In fact, buying at this young age has many benefits, including the fact that you’ll likely clear all exclusion periods by the time you actually need to start claiming.

Myth 2: The Benefits are Lost if I Don’t Renew by the Due Date

You should always try to pay your monthly premium on time, thus avoiding any issues and ensuring you are covered at all times. However, your health insurance coverage does not end the minute you miss a payment.

Insurance companies have a grace period, during which time your policy will remain active. This period allows you to gather the funds needed and to pay your monthly premium, thus keeping your policy active. 

Typically, this grace period lasts for between 7 and 15 days, but it differs from provider to provider. Check your policy for more details but try to avoid playing fast and loose with your payments as they could be the only thing protecting you.

Myth 3: It’s All About the Deductible

The deductible is the amount of money you pay before the health insurance policy takes over and to many consumers, it is the single most important part of any health insurance policy. However, while it is important to consider the deductible, you should not choose your policies based solely on which one has the lowest deductible.

Look for the sort of cover that they provide and whether this will suit your needs or not, and then focus on the deductible. 

It’s also important to find the right balance between a deductible that is cheap enough for you to afford when the time comes, but is not so cheap that it sends the premiums through the roof. To do this, avoid focusing on how much your first monthly payment will cost and ask yourself what you would do if you had to pay for a medical expense today.

Would you have an issue paying the deductible? Would it require you to borrow money from friends or family? If so, it’s too high and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Myth 4: I Have Insurance from My Employer so I Don’t Need any Additional Cover

If your employer offers any kind of group health insurance cover, take it, but don’t assume that it will cover you for everything you need. Read the small print, look for gaps, and seek to fill those gaps with your own cover.

With your own policy, you’ll also be protected if you lose your life. If anything happens in the time it takes you to find a new job, you could be left to foot the bill, making this an even scarier and more stressful time. But if you’re covered, you can take your time as you search for a suitable role.

Myth 5: It’s Not a Pre-Existing Condition if I Didn’t Know About it

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions you will be subject to an exclusion period, one that may last for up to 48 months. During this time, your insurance company will not pay out for any issues related to this condition and contrary to popular belief, not knowing about the condition is not enough to avoid this exclusion period.

If, somehow, it is proven that you had a medical condition that was simply not discovered at the time you applied, it will still be subject to an exclusion period. The good news, however, is that you can no longer be refused because of pre-existing medical conditions, which means that everyone can benefit from health insurance.

Myth 6: I Don’t Need Health Insurance If I Have a Life Insurance Plan

A life insurance policy can cover you for critical illness, which could be used to cover health care costs. You can also purchase accident and dismemberment insurance to cover you in the event you lose a limb. However, life insurance is designed to pay out a death benefit when you die. It goes to your loved ones, not you, and is therefore not a viable replacement for health insurance.

For complete cover, you should look into getting both life insurance and health insurance. You can find low-cost options for both.

Summary: Common Myths Debunked

If you don’t have any health insurance coverage, it’s time to change that and start looking for coverage today. Take a look at our guide to choosing a health plan to get started. We also have guides on everything from life insurance (term life insurance, whole life insurance, and other life insurance coverage) car insurance and pretty much all other insurance products.

By purchasing all of these together you could even save some money while getting essential coverage! Just remember to do your research, plan ahead, and never settle for less than you need as you may live to regret it in the future.

Health Insurance Myths Debunked is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com