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The Best Renters Insurance in Chicago, Illinois

The best renters insurance companies in Chicago, Illinois Best for Low Premiums: Lemonade Best Customer Service: State Farm Best for Add-On Coverage Options: Nationwide Best for Local Agent Network: Erie Insurance Best Coverage for High-Value Items: Country Financial Choosing your provider  When choosing the best renters insurance in Chicago, it’s best to compare policies and […]

The post The Best Renters Insurance in Chicago, Illinois appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

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

Learning How To Survive On A College Budget

Find out how to survive on a college budget here. This is a great list!College is expensive and everyone knows that.

Between paying for tuition, parking, textbooks, extra fees, and everything else, you also have basic living expenses to pay for as well.

All of these costs are either brand new or somewhat new to you most likely as well, so you might not even know how to survive on a budget, let alone a college budget.

Don’t worry, though, surviving on a college budget is possible. Learning how to save money in college is possible!

Related post: How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans In 7 Months

Whether you are trying to survive the whole year off of what you made over the summer or if you have a steady job throughout the school year, there are ways to budget your money and not fall into any extra debt. Plus, you can still enjoy your college years on a low budget as well!

Below are my tips on how to survive on a college budget.

 

Use your student ID.

Your student ID is good at many places beyond just your college campus. Before you buy anything, I highly recommend seeing if a company offers a student discount.

Your student ID can be used to save money at restaurants, clothing stores, electronics (such as laptops!), at the movies, and more. You may receive a discount, free items, and more all just by flashing your student ID.

After all, you are paying to go to college and you are paying a lot. You might as well reap one benefit of paying all of those high college costs.

 

Make extra money.

You may need to look into making extra money if you just don’t have enough to survive on. I am a firm believer in making extra money and I think extra time can be wisely spent doing this.

Some online side gigs with flexible schedules include:

  • Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I made over $150,000 last year by blogging and will make more than that in 2015. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $3.49 per month plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
  • Survey companies I recommend include Survey Junkie, American Consumer Opinion, Product Report Card, Pinecone Research, Opinion Outpost, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! It’s best to sign up for as many as you can because that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
  • InboxDollars is an online rewards website I recommend. You can earn cash by taking surveys, playing games, shopping online, searching the web, redeeming coupons, and more. Also, by signing up through my link, you will receive $5.00 for free!
  • Swagbucks is something I don’t use as much, but I do earn Amazon gift cards with very little work. Swagbucks is just like using Google to do your online searches, except you get rewarded points called “SB” for the things you do through their website. Then, when you have enough points, you can redeem them for cash, gift cards, and more. You’ll receive a free $5 bonus just for signing up today!
  • Check out 75 Ways To Make Extra Money for more ideas.
  • Read Best Online Jobs For College Students

 

Use coupons to stay on a college budget.

Just like with the above, you may want to start using coupons.

By doing so, you can save money on nearly everything. You can find coupons in newspapers, online, and in the mail. They are everywhere so you should have no problem finding them and saving money today.

Related post: How To Live On One Income

 

Learn how to correctly use a credit card or don’t have one at all.

Many college students fall into credit card debt, but I don’t want you to be one of them.

Many college students will start relying on their credit cards in order to get them through their low college budget, but this can lead to thousands of dollars of credit card debt which will eventually seem impossible to get out of due to significant interest charges that keep building up.

In order to never get into this situation, you should avoid credit cards at all costs if you think you will rely on them too heavily.

You should think long and hard about whether you should have one or not. Just because many others have them doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing! However, if you think you will be good at using them, then there are many advantages of doing so.

Related post: Credit Card Mistakes That Can Lead To Debt

 

Only take out what you need in student loans.

Many students take out the full amount in student loans that they are approved for even if they only need half.

This is a HUGE mistake. You should only take out what you truly need, as you will need to pay back your student loans one day and you will most likely regret it later.

I know someone who would take out the max amount each semester and buy timeshares, go on expensive vacations, and more. It was a huge waste of money and I’m still not even sure why they thought it was a good idea.

Just think about it – If you take out an extra $2,000 a semester, that means you will most likely take out almost $20,000 over the time period that you are in college.

Do you really want to owe THAT much more in student loans?

 

Skip having a car.

Most campuses have everything you need in order to survive – food, stores, and jobs. In many cases, you do not need to have a car whatsoever.

By foregoing a car, you may save money on monthly payments, maintenance costs, car insurance, gas, and more.

Related post: Should We Get Rid Of A Car And Just Have One?

 

Eat out less.

Now, I’m not saying you should stop eating out entirely if you are trying to survive on a college budget. I know how it is to be in college and to want to hang out with everyone. These are your college years after all.

However, you should try to eat in as much as you can, make your own meals, and try to eat out only during happy hours or when food is cheaper, such as during lunch time. Eating out can ruin your college budget!

 

Have a roommate.

The more people you live with, generally the less you will pay when it comes to rent and utilities. If you are living on your own, then you may want to find roommates so that you can split the costs with them.

This will help you to lower your college budget and you may even find some awesome friends.

Related post: What I Learned Having Roommates

What college budget tips do you have?

 

The post Learning How To Survive On A College Budget appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

The Magical Third Paycheck: 5 Budgeting Hacks If You’re Paid Biweekly

If you get paid every two weeks, you’ve probably noticed extra money coming your way certain months. Maybe you even thought your company’s payroll made a mistake! But it’s no mistake. You get two magical months like this a year: when you suddenly have a third paycheck and—the best part is—your monthly bills stay the same. Yes, it’s appropriate to jump for joy—provided you have a plan for that extra income.

Why does this happen in the first place? If you’re paid biweekly, you get 26 paychecks throughout the 52-week year. That means two months out of the year, you end up getting three paychecks instead of your regular two.

Those two extra paychecks can go a long way. But without a plan in mind, they can also disappear. Fast. The first budgeting trick to saving two paychecks is to find out when they will hit your account. Grab a calendar and write down your paydays for every month in a given year and highlight the two extras. Maybe even put calendar reminders in your phone so you can track when the additional funds will hit your account. The extra paychecks will fall on different days every year, so tracking them in advance is key.

Samuel Deane, a founding partner of New York City-based wealth management firm Deane Financial, says there isn’t one correct way to budget with an extra paycheck, but that it should depend on your personal situation and financial goals. You could decide to give yourself some extra room in your budget throughout the year, for example, or use the extra money for something specific.

There are a few different ways to budget with an extra paycheck.

How can I budget for an extra paycheck? Consider these 5 budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly:

1. Pay down (mainly) high-interest debt

Once you’re done jumping for joy at the realization of the third paycheck, consider how your budget with an extra paycheck could help you pay down debt. “The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt,” Deane says.

Before paying off debt with your new budget with an extra paycheck, make a list of all of your debts organized by balance and annual percentage rate (APR). Paying off the debt with the highest APR could save you the most money because you’re paying the most to carry a balance. Paying down a few low-APR, low-balance debts can also help you gain momentum and bring other financial benefits. For instance, if you owe close to your credit limit on a credit card, the high credit utilization—or card balance to credit limit ratio—could negatively impact your credit score.

If your budget with an extra paycheck includes debt repayment, you’ll start to owe less and have less interest accruing each month, freeing up even more cash from subsequent paychecks.

“The first thing I usually tell my clients is to get rid of high-rate debt, which is usually credit card debt.”

– Samuel Deane, a founding partner of wealth management firm Deane Financial

2. Build an emergency fund

Paying down debt isn’t the only way to budget with an extra paycheck. “Taking a look at whether you have a sufficient emergency fund is pretty important,” says Dan Stous, director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management.

An emergency fund of three to six months of your regular expenses can help you weather financial setbacks, such as a lost job or medical emergency, without having to take on new debt. Keeping these funds separate from your regular checking and savings accounts can help you keep them earmarked for the unexpected (and reduce the temptation to dip into them for non-emergency expenses). Places to keep your emergency fund include a high-yield savings account, certificate of deposit or money market account.

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If creating an emergency fund or adding to an existing one is on your to-do list, a budgeting trick to save two paychecks is to automatically transfer your extra paychecks into your emergency fund account.

3. Save for a big goal

If you want to save for a goal like a new car or home, or contribute to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, contributing two full paychecks out of 26 can be a good start. “If a client is debt-free and doing well, they might be able to focus on other goals,” Deane says. If you’ve got a financial goal in mind, a budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly is to transfer your two extra paychecks from your checking account to a savings or retirement account right away.

Using your extra paycheck to save for a goal, like a new home or new car, is a smart budgeting hack if you're paid biweekly.

If you have a 401(k) through an employer and already contribute enough to get your maximum annual match, Deane says you may want to consider a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is for retirement, but it also allows first-time homebuyers who have held their account for at least five years to withdraw up to $10,000 to buy a home, Deane says. Your budget with an extra paycheck could then go to either major goal.

Even loftier, “you could put aside money to start a business,” Deane says. If you plan on starting a business someday you could put away the paychecks annually and let those savings build as start-up capital.

4. Get ahead on bills

If you already have an emergency fund, are currently debt-free and are making good progress on your savings goals, try this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly and get a third paycheck: Pay certain monthly bills ahead of time.

“If you have the ability to prepay some of your bills, it can ease anxiety in the coming months,” Deane says.

Before using this budgeting hack if you’re paid biweekly, check with your providers to confirm that you will not be met with a prepayment penalty, and get up to speed on any prepayment limitations. Some providers may even offer a discount or incentive if you pay something like a car insurance bill all at once. You could also explore whether or not prepaying your bills makes sense for utilities, your cellphone or rent.

5. Fund much-needed rewards

If you’re looking for budgeting hacks if you’re paid biweekly, consider that managing money isn’t only about dollars and cents. Emotions often play an important part in personal finance, and they’re often the root cause of people’s decisions. Accepting this fact could be an important part of successfully managing your money.

“From an emotional and behavioral standpoint, people should reward themselves for being responsible,” Stous says. “Basically, treat yourself.”

Perhaps you need a vacation from the daily grind, want to enrich or educate yourself or your family or simply want to get a date night at your favorite restaurant on the calendar. A budgeting trick to save two paychecks could be supplemented with some spending on yourself.

“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal. On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”

– Dan Stous, director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management

There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting trick to save two paychecks

When you’re deciding how to budget with an extra paycheck, you might find yourself going back and forth between options.

“If you have an extra paycheck and a debt-reduction goal, then maybe you apply the whole thing toward that goal,” Stous says. “On the other hand, maybe you have a goal to retire in 10 years and you’re off track. Then, it’d be wise to put that money, or at least a portion of it, toward that goal.”

Even though budgeting solutions are not the same for everyone, being disciplined and proactive about the savings opportunity of a third paycheck can help you form a strong foundation for your financial future.

The post The Magical Third Paycheck: 5 Budgeting Hacks If You’re Paid Biweekly appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

 You are getting ready to send your child off to college. Before you start helping them pack their belongings, there is one thing you need to do.

You need to help them create a budget. You need to teach them how to manage their money so they can learn the tools they’ll use long after they graduate.

WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED A BUDGET?

The truth is everyone needs a budget. It does not matter your age. If you are dealing with money, a budget is necessary.

  1. Allows you to control your money. Rather than your money telling you what it wants to do, you get to tell your money where it needs to go. You are always in control when you have a budget.
  2. It teaches financial skills. A budget helps ensure that expenses such as rent, tuition, food, insurance, transportation, and housing are paid – before spending money on the fun stuff. (It also helps to make sure you don’t spend more than you make.)
  3. Makes you aware of where your money goes. When you use a budget, you see how you spend. It is very simple to see if too much is going toward dining out when you should be building your savings.
  4. Helps you track your goals. You need to cover expenses but you should also work on building savings at the same time. Your budget allows you to not only see those goals but track them in real time.

DOESN’T A BUDGET MEAN YOU CAN’T HAVE FUN?

Not at all! If anything, your budget will allow you to have guilt-free fun.

For example, the budget may allow you to spend $50 a week dining out. That means you can go to dinner with friends once (possibly twice) a week and enjoy yourself. You won’t be left wondering how you are now going to make rent.

WHAT TYPE OF BUDGET SHOULD YOUR STUDENT USE?

There are various methods of budgeting such as the 50/30/20 and the zero-based budget. For most college students, the zero-based is the simplest and easiest to follow.

The reason is that you track everything. You give every penny a job. That means if you earn $1,500 for the month that you “spend” the entire $1,500.

You will first cover the needs (food, shelter, transportation) and then your wants. If there is money “leftover” after this is done, it can be added to your savings.

You can use other types but if you have never budgeted before, using this method is the simplest.

WHAT SHOULD A COLLEGE STUDENT INCLUDE IN A BUDGET?

The budget will vary for each person, as the income and expense will be different. However, these are the most common categories that need to be included in a budget:

  • Rent
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance (also saving for annual renewal fees)
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Utilities (phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Entertainment (movies, games, concerts)
  • Dining out
  • Emergency fund savings

Again, you may have items that are not included above or see some that you do not need.

However, the most important thing of all is that every penny is given a job. Account for everything you will spend each month so you never have too much month and not enough money.

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUDGET?

For most college students, apps or digital trackers are the best options.  But, before you rush and sign up, keep the following in mind.

  1. Cost. Many apps are free and they will work perfectly fine. Other apps have a monthly fee attached to them. If you plan to use one of them, make sure you include that as one of your regular expenses. However, do not let the cost alone be a single factor when it comes to clicking the sign-up button.
  2. Security. Your security trumps all else. You need to make sure the app uses encryption as well as two-factor authorization.

Some of the best apps include:

  • Mint
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB)
  • PocketGuard
  • Mvelopes

However, your student may also like the traditional paper and pencil method – and that is OK as well.

Find the right one that works best for your student. That is all that matters.

TEACHING THEM TO BUDGET

Knowing you need a budget and where to track it is just the beginning. You need to teach your child how to budget.

Start by looking at each category that they need on their budget. You may already know the cost for each category but if not, you may need to make phone calls or do research to know.

For example, you know the rent for the apartment is $850 a month but how much are the average utilities? Ask the manager for these costs so you can include them in the budget.

Next, decide how much they want to allow themselves to spend on food. Show them how much a meal costs for a single person at each restaurant you eat at so they can create an average.

You will then have them decide how much “fun money” they want to include as well. You can base this on them wanting to go to the movies two times a month, one concert a month, or attending three events.

Now you can see the expenses for your student. Add their income to the budget and deduct the expenses. They will see if they are operating in the black (money left over) or in the red (spending more than they make).

Show them how to adjust the numbers by increasing their savings or lowering the amount they can spend on clothes – until the budget equals zero. Zero meaning they are spending every penny they earn.

And making them keep track now will help ensure they stay on track well into the future.

 

 

 

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Unemployment Benefits Explained: Terms, Definitions and More

CARES Act: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was the first coronavirus relief package passed in March 2020. It expanded unemployment assistance, authorized ,200 stimulus checks and provided relief for small businesses, among several other things. Under this law, those who are partially or fully unemployed as a direct result of the coronavirus may receive up to 39 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.
Beyond helping those who were laid off, PUA offers benefits to people who can’t go to work or lost income due to a variety of coronavirus-related reasons. Some examples include contracting COVID-19, caregiving for someone who has COVID-19 or staying home to take care of your kids whose school closed due to COVID-19 lockdown rules.
Millions of newly eligible folks now have access to benefits. But the new programs put state unemployment agencies in a tricky position. They are receiving record-breaking surges in applications at the same time that they are tasked with creating and paying out brand new benefits. The result: overburdened websites, unclear instructions and lots of jargon.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.
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.
Here’s a primer on seven key terms that you’re sure to come across as you apply for benefits.
Take, for example, this update to applicants on Arkansas’ unemployment website after the second stimulus package passed:

The 2 Unemployment Programs You Definitely Need to Know

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
DOL: The federal Department of Labor oversees all states’ unemployment systems. Your state may have its own agency named the Department of Labor that administers its unemployment benefits. Generally speaking, DOL refers to the federal agency.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Also referred to as Unemployment Compensation, UI is the longstanding benefits program run by each individual state. It’s for people who are out of work at no fault of their own. To qualify for UI, you have to have made a certain amount of money in the recent past  — typically from a W-2 job with an employer that paid into the unemployment system through payroll taxes. Specifics like previous employment duration or earnings vary.
PEUC: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extends the length of Unemployment Insurance aid for a maximum of 24 weeks. The first stimulus deal extended UI benefits for 13 weeks, and the second stimulus package added an additional 11 weeks. New applicants (after Dec. 27, 2020) are only eligible for the 11-week extension. This program does not extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
“Understanding the difference with all these programs and acronyms is going to be confusing,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment benefits policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Pro Tip
These two foundational programs provide the bulk of unemployment aid through weekly payments. Once you understand the difference between them, a lot of the other programs will start to make sense.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

“Some extensions and changes to federal UI programs will include the reinstatement of the FPUC program, extension of PUA program and PEUC program for those who qualify,” the notice states.
The overwhelming majority of people relying on unemployment benefits are receiving aid from two key programs. According to figures from the Department of Labor, more than 13 million people are collecting Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.
Our plain English guide will help you make sense of it all. Consider bookmarking this page and referencing it as you trudge through the process of getting your benefits.
DUA: Disaster Unemployment Assistance is not Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may come across this long-standing natural disaster assistance program on your state’s unemployment website. Do not apply. Despite their similar names, they are very different.

Our guide to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance includes an interactive map to help you find your state’s application rules.
A woman holds hands with her infant while looking for something on her laptop.

7 Quick Definitions to Important Unemployment Terms and Programs

FPUC: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation boosts unemployment benefits by 0 a week for up to 11 weeks between Dec. 27, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Anyone who is approved for at least of unemployment benefits will automatically receive this bonus. No separate application or action is needed. This program previously paid out 0 per week under the CARES Act, but that version expired in July 2020.
Additionally, to collect UI, you have to be able to work, available to work and actively seeking work. Some states have waived the “actively seeking work” requirement during the pandemic.
Depending on your state, average UI payments are between 0 and 0 per week, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor. The duration of UI programs also depends on your state. They last between 12 and 30 weeks (without any extensions). The most common duration is 26 weeks.
Since the start of the pandemic, mass unemployment has rocked the nation. To help mitigate the damage, two economic stimulus packages allotted unprecedented sums of money to create new benefits programs that assist people who are out of work.
EB: Extended Benefits are available in every state except South Dakota. EB is a state-level benefit that extends Unemployment Insurance by six to 20 weeks — depending on your state and your local unemployment rate. To qualify during the pandemic, you may have to exhaust a federal unemployment extension first. (See PEUC below.)
For the first time nationally, gig workers and freelancers, who are considered 1099 independent contractors, have been able to receive unemployment benefits through PUA.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal unemployment program. It’s up and running in all 50 states. The first stimulus package created PUA in March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, PUA has been a lifeline for tens of millions of jobless people who don’t qualify for regular UI benefits.
CAA: The Continued Assistance Act, aka Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers, is part of the 0 billion stimulus package that became law on Dec. 27, 2020. It extends many of the unemployment programs created by the CARES Act.
Because PUA is a federal program, all states must offer it for a maximum of 50 weeks. The minimum weekly payments vary by state, however, because they’re calculated as half your state’s average UI payment. With average state UI payments between 0 and 0, you can expect minimum weekly PUA payments between and 5 depending on your state.
Use this tool from the Department of Labor to find your state’s unemployment website and start a UI claim.
After reading that sentence, you may have a couple choice acronyms yourself. Maybe, “OMG — WTH does that mean?”
Now that you have a better understanding of the two major unemployment benefits programs, let’s look at extensions, payment enhancements and other important programs that you may be eligible for.

A Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your First Car Loan

auto-loan-down-payment

Buying a car is almost a rite of passage. Making that first car purchase, negotiating with the seller, and arranging financing (if you need an auto loan) all require a certain amount of savvy.

And, once you successfully achieve the car-buying milestone, another signpost looms in the distance: Refinancing.

Whether you’re getting an auto loan for the first time, or you want to refinance your existing car debt, it’s important to be an informed consumer. Here’s what you need to know.

Get your finances in order

Before beginning your car search, you need your finances in order, according to Joe Pendergast, the vice president of consumer lending for Navy Federal Credit Union.

“Know your budget, check your credit score, and review your existing credit accounts to ensure they are reported accurately,” Pendergast said. Your credit situation can directly impact the interest you pay on your auto loan.

Emily Shutt, a certified financial coach who works closely with millennial women to help them manage a variety of money issues, suggested calling around to different dealers and banks or credit unions to see what credit bureau they use to check your score. Then you can check your report for errors and have them fixed before you talk to someone about financing your car purchase.

“Having errors on a credit report can negatively impact score, which can put you at a huge disadvantage when you’re negotiating for an auto loan interest rate,” Shutt said.

You should also know ahead of time where you stand with your budget. Use an online loan calculator to determine what you can afford in terms of a monthly payment. For example, if you think you can handle a $305 monthly payment, and you have the credit to get an interest rate of 2.9% for a five-year loan, you might feel you can afford to borrow up to $17,000 for a car.

Save up for a down payment

Just because you might be able to borrow so much for a car doesn’t mean you necessarily should. In fact, saving for a down payment makes a lot of sense, Shutt said. Not only does having a down payment help you to better negotiate your loan rate, but it also can allow you a shorter loan term and save you money in the long run.

Play around with the numbers a little with an online calculator. If you can put $7,000 down, so that you borrow only $10,000 of that $17,000 car, you could maybe get an interest rate of 2.5% and a loan term of three years. Even better, your monthly payment would only be $289 — and you’d save $1,494 in interest.

The less you borrow, the more money you have in the end. And that’s money you can put toward investing in your future, rather than paying interest to someone else.

Know what you want — and what it costs

Once your finances are in order and maybe you have a down payment saved up, it’s time to figure out what you can actually buy. Avoid over-borrowing by knowing what you want in a car and having an idea of what it costs, Shutt suggested.

“Everything should already be online so you can get a sense of what all the options are,” said Shutt. A little research can go a long way toward helping you get a sense for which cars will fit into your budget.

Shutt pointed out that the job of salespeople is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The more you spend, the more you have to borrow — and the more you’ll pay in interest. “Confidently stand your ground when a salesperson tries to upsell you or steer you in another direction,” she said.

Pendergast agreed on the need to research your car choices ahead of time. “Know the price other dealerships in the area are offering so you can make an informed purchase,” he said.

It’s even okay to play one seller’s price off another’s to get the best deal. Don’t be afraid to let the other dealerships know you’re shopping around. They’ll be more inclined to negotiate with you, potentially resulting in a better deal.

Get an auto loan quote from a bank or credit union

Before you ask for dealer financing, suggested Pendergast, talk to a bank or credit union.

“You should see what type of loans your financial institution has to offer,” said Pendergast. “This will give you guidance for your budget, but will also increase your purchasing power to help you in negotiations, regardless of the dealer’s proposition being on par with the lender’s.”

Donald E. Peterson, a consumer lawyer with almost 30 years of experience, warned that dealer financing still often requires the involvement of a bank or credit union. Dealers submit your information to lenders and get interest rates quotes back.

“Sometimes dealers mark up the interest rate above the rate banks would buy the loan at,” Peterson said. “The bank and the car dealer split the excess interest, usually 50-50.”

This practice isn’t just limited to banks, either. “Some credit unions have entered into interest-rate kickback agreements with car dealerships,” Peterson said. “You must apply to the credit union yourself to get the best rate.”

Starting with a financial institution allows you to get an idea of what’s available to you. Then, you’re in a position where a dealer who wants to finance you has to match the rate you’ve already been offered, rather than steer you toward an alternative arrangement.

Consider a cosigner

With my own first auto loan experience, I had to deal with the fact that I had a thin credit file. I didn’t have enough credit established to get a car loan without an unacceptably high interest rate.

I went through the steps of creating a budget and deciding how much I could afford, including factoring in my car insurance costs. However, after checking my credit report, I realized that having a credit card for six months wasn’t enough for me to establish much of a credit history.

After compiling research about the types of used cars I could afford, and how my earnings from my job were enough to cover an auto loan payment, I approached my parents. My dad was willing to cosign on a modest car loan through his credit union.

My interest rate — and my monthly payment — were lower because I had cosigner with good credit. I made all my payments on time, helping build my credit history so that the next time I bought a car, I was able to get a good interest rate without the need for a cosigner.

As you research your options, don’t forget about the possibility of using a cosigner. If you don’t have the credit history to get a good auto loan rate on your own, borrowing someone else’s good name can help you save money — while at the same time allowing you a way to establish your own credit for the future.

Don’t fall for the monthly payment scheme

While you do want to figure out what monthly payment you’re comfortable with, you don’t want to get caught up in it at the dealership, cautioned Shutt.

“Focus on the all-in price of the car,” said Shutt. “If the salesperson can get you to verbalize a monthly payment target, they’ll just manipulate other factors like the duration of the loan.”

When that happens, Shutt pointed out, you might end up hitting your targeted monthly payment, but long-term interest charges and other factors could mean that your car ends up being a lot more expensive. She said you should figure out about how much you’ll pay each month over a loan term you’re comfortable with, and then buy a car with a final price that fits those parameters.

“Take your time, and don’t be manipulated,” Shutt said. “If you’re not comfortable negotiating, bring a friend or family member who can support you in sticking to your budget.”

What about refinancing?

In some cases, you might discover that you qualify for a lower auto loan interest rate than you currently pay.

“Maybe you’ve been making timely payments for a year or two and your credit score has gone up,” said Shutt. “Now you can consider refinancing the loan.”

However, it’s important to be careful moving forward. Just as you shop around for the best auto loan rates on a new loan, it makes sense to shop for refinancing rates. Check with a few banks and credit unions to see if you can get a few quotes for refinancing.

When you refinance, watch out for lengthening the loan term. If you only have three years on your term, it might not make sense to refinance to a five year loan. Instead, only refinance what you have left. You could save on interest charges and still get rid of your car debt in the original time frame.

Shutt also recommended looking online for car loans. Compare the rates you find with online auto loan refinancing platforms to what your local financial institutions offer. By playing different lenders off each other, you could strike a better bargain — especially if you have good credit.

Know your finances and be ready to negotiate

Auto loans are a massive industry, with more than $1 trillion owed to U.S. lenders. Rather than being just another statistic, consider how you can come out on top.

Know your finances and understand what you can expect, Pendergast said. When you know where you stand, and when you research ahead of time, you can call dealers and lenders out. Shop around for the best auto loan rates and terms, and let dealers know you’ve done your homework, so that negotiations will go much better, saving you time and, importantly, money.

 

If you want to be sure your credit is good enough to purchase a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.

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