4 Financial Steps to Take if You’re Raising a Child With Special Needs

Raising any child is expensive, but when you’re raising a child who has special needs, there are additional financial responsibilities to consider.

The cost of doctor’s visits, therapy appointments, medication and special equipment add up. The amount of time needed to provide care may restrict you or your partner from working outside the home — or even at all.

Depending on your child’s condition, you may need to provide them with lifetime support.

It can be overwhelming just dealing with the medical and emotional aspects of your child’s particular challenges. Here’s what to know so that your finances don’t add to that stress.

Apply for Government Benefits

After your child is diagnosed, you’ll probably want to speak with a social worker who can help you understand what assistance may be available to your family and how to apply for that aid. Your child’s physician may be able to recommend a social worker, or you can contact your city or county department of social services.

A special needs attorney can also assist you. Robert Fechtman is a special needs attorney in Indiana and the president of the Special Needs Alliance, a national organization made up of attorneys who specialize in disability and public benefits law. He helps families navigate the public benefits system and plan for their children’s futures.

Fechtman said families may qualify for financial assistance through Social Security.

The Social Security Administration gives out Supplemental Security Income, also referred to as SSI, to children with qualified medical conditions whose family’s income falls under a certain threshold. The amount of assistance, which is given out monthly, varies from state to state.

Once your child reaches adulthood, he or she may also be able to receive Social Security disability benefits, which the administration gives out when an adult isn’t able to work due to a medical condition.

Depending on your family’s income, your child may also be able to qualify for free health insurance through Medicaid. Oftentimes if your child qualifies for SSI, he or she would also qualify for Medicaid. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is available for families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but still can’t afford private health insurance.

The Fouche family of Ocala, Florida, qualifies for both Medicaid and SSI to cover costs for their 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, who has cerebral palsy. Vicki Fouche, Hannah’s mother, says the government aid has been a blessing for their family, but she worries that if her husband made more money, they’d lose those benefits and have more out-of-pocket expenses.

A mother puts shoes on her daughter as her daughter is playing on an iPad.

Families that don’t qualify for publicly funded medical insurance might find an affordable health insurance provider via the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Open enrollment has ended for 2019, but you can enroll if you have a qualifying life change, such as if you recently lost health insurance.

Fechtman also tells his clients to apply for Medicaid waivers, which allow those in need of long-term care to get free health care in home settings instead of a nursing facility. Children with special needs may qualify regardless of their parents’ income or assets. Each state operates its own Medicaid waiver program.

Fechtman said that many times, families aren’t aware of these waivers. There are often waitlists for applicants, so it’s generally one of the first things he brings up when meeting with new clients.

Families struggling with their finances should also check to see if they qualify for other public benefit programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). TANF provides monthly cash assistance for families, while SNAP provides money specifically for buying food. Both are income-based programs.

Set up a 529 ABLE Account or a Special Needs Trust

When you’re applying for government aid, the administering agency will typically have rules about how much income your family can earn and how many assets you can own. Money in a traditional checking or savings accounts could restrict a family from receiving public benefits.

However, Fechtman said parents can save money in a 529 ABLE account or a special needs trust, and those dollars won’t count toward a family’s assets.

ABLE accounts are tax-deferred similar to 529 college savings accounts. However, ABLE account funds can be used for more than just education. Fechtman said qualifying expenses also include health, wellness and transportation expenses for a child with a qualifying disability.

According to SavingforCollege.com, families can withdraw the money tax-free and can have up to $ 100,000 in the account without it affecting the child’s eligibility for SSI benefits.

The annual amount that could be contributed to an ABLE account in 2018 was $ 15,000.

Fechtman said it’s relatively inexpensive to open and maintain an ABLE account. However, one downside is if the child dies, the money in the account must go to reimburse whatever state provided Medicaid benefits for the child.

Families that save money for a child in a special needs trust don’t have to worry about those savings going to reimburse the state. A special needs trust is a legal arrangement set up to hold money for someone with a disability so that the person can continue to receive public benefits. The trustees — those who manage the trust — generally have few restrictions on how the money in the trust is used as long they don’t interfere with the beneficiary receiving government assistance.

Another difference between the two money-saving vehicles is the cost, which varies depending on factors such as who sets up the account and what state you live in.

Fechtman said an attorney might charge around $ 1,500 to draft a special needs trust. However, families can also join a pooled trust managed by a nonprofit organization, which could cost half that. Setting up an ABLE account could cost as little as $ 50.

Look Into Assistance from Nonprofits

Government programs aren’t the only source of assistance. Nonprofit organizations also provide help to families struggling financially.

Here are just a few organizations that help families in need:

  • The HealthWell Pediatric Assistance Fund provides financial assistance for families whose health insurance doesn’t cover the critical medical treatments their children need.
  • The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation issues grants to help children get medical services that aren’t fully covered by their private health insurance.
  • The Different Needz Foundation provides grants for families so they can get medical equipment or services.
  • The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project has a pediatric disability equipment exchange program that lets families receive donated medical equipment for free.
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities provides families with places to stay when they have to travel so that a child can receive extended treatment at a hospital away from home. Families may be asked to make a donation of up to $ 25 per day, but no family is turned away if they can’t pay.

Organizations like United Way and the Salvation Army also help families struggling financially — not just those with special needs children.

Think About the Future

No parent wants to think about a situation where they aren’t alive to care for their child, but it’s important to prepare for — especially if your child has special needs.

“Every person who’s got a disabled child is horrified by the notion that they’re going to die before that child and that the child won’t have the care and support and everything that the parents provide,” Fechtman said.

Having a will is a given. But Fechtman said the will should direct inheritance money to a special needs trust so that the child can continue to qualify for public benefits.

Designating who will become the child’s guardian is also key, he said. Parents should look for someone who would be able to provide proper care for their child.

In addition, Fechtman said parents should have an adequate amount of life insurance to provide for their family in the event of their untimely death.

He recommends parents — specifically those in a two-parent household — get a survivorship life insurance policy, also known as a second-to-die life insurance policy. It covers both parents, but it doesn’t pay out until both parents are deceased.

One benefit of this type of policy is that premiums are generally much lower than for other policies. Another benefit is that coverage lasts until the policyholders die — unlike term life insurance, which ends after a certain number of years. This is especially important for parents who have special needs children, because those children may not be able to be independent and support themselves once they reach adulthood.

Of course, single parents wouldn’t be able to open this type of policy, and it may be insufficient if one parent is the household’s sole income earner.

“If you only have one breadwinner, you’d need to have individual insurance on that breadwinner,” Fechtman said. “Maybe you’re lucky enough that they have some kind of life insurance through work, so maybe you wouldn’t have to run out and get a seperate policy.”

The important thing is to have a plan in place so that your child is financially taken care of no matter what.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at 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.

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7 Steps for Catching up on Bills When You Have No Idea Where to Start

So you want to pay off your debt. That’s a great goal! But if you can barely make payments on your monthly bills, what are you supposed to do?

First, don’t think there’s no hope. The process of getting current on your bills and becoming debt-free is simple — but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

To get on the financial path you want to be on, you have to commit. Here’s how to get started.

How to Start Paying Off Debt, Even if You’re Behind on Your Bills

We’ve got seven steps for paying off debt when you’re behind on bills. Go through them in order. Some steps may take you longer than others, but trust that each step is important, and complete each one fully before you moving on to the next.

1. Find Out Whom You Owe… and How Much You Owe Them

Prioritize your catch-up list by ordering bills and creditors by importance… and annoyingness.

If you’re behind on utilities or rent, catch up on those first. Then list your bills from highest to lowest interest rate. If you’re trying to maintain your credit score, prioritize debts that aren’t yet in collections over those that are.

From there, if you’ve got one company calling you multiple times per day, you can move that debt higher on your list than a debt you owe to a company that’s relatively quiet. Alternatively, if there’s a debt that just nags at you personally, move it up the list to get rid of it ASAP.

Sign up for accounts with Credit Sesame or Credit Karma to make sure you don’t miss a single creditor. They aggregate all your debts to give you a comprehensive list of everyone you owe and what you owe them.

Make sure to exclude time-barred debts. Those are debts outside the statute of limitations, meaning they’re too old for a company to sue you over. Brush up on the statute of limitations in your state, so you can tell if any of your debts fall in this category.

Focus with intensity on the first bill on your list. Try to make minimum payments on the rest.

2. Make a Budget

A woman's hand puts cash in an envelope.

Now it’s time to fit your debt into your budget and get a realistic picture of how long it’s going to take to catch up. When you’re on a low income or behind on your bills, or your income varies from month to month, we recommend doing a zero-based budget.

A zero-based budget puts all your expenses in order of priority. Your necessities are your top priority, and your debts or catch-up payments get prioritized over wants. You’ll “spend” every dollar of each paycheck on whatever is in your budget.

If you’re new to budgeting, try splitting your month into two separate budgets — one for each paycheck.

The envelope system is a great complement to a zero-based budget. It helps limit your spending in areas that are triggers for you, because you’ll only carry the cash you’ve budgeted for in each category.

3. Cut Up the Credit Cards

At this point, if you have multiple credit cards, let them go. You know what’s coming in and what needs to go out. You know if you have enough income to cover an expense or if you’re coming up short.

Your budget should only include what you can afford based on your income, not your available credit.

If you need to keep one, choose the one with the lowest interest rate, and keep it at home so you’re not tempted to use it. Sau-Sha Hill, 27, who lives in Texas, actually asked her friend Sha’Kreshia Terrell to hold onto her cards while she paid off $ 30,000 of debt.

“Sha’Kreshia would literally take my credit cards out of my wallet and keep them at home,” Hill said.

You don’t need to close your credit card accounts to stop using them. But if closing the account is the only way you’ll stop using them, that’s better than continuing to rack up debt. Yes, your credit score will drop temporarily, but a good credit score is useless without a sound financial foundation. Do whatever it takes to stop your debt from going up while you’re getting current.

4. Lower Your Expenses

A man's hands prepare containers of homemade food for freezing.

You may think little cuts here and there are enough to make up for your spending vices, but when you’re trying to accomplish a big financial goal, you need to make big changes. And that includes saying no to things you previously said you’d never give up.

Remember: This isn’t forever. You’re ripping off a Band-Aid to heal a wound that’s been festering for a long time. Eventually, you’ll be in a place where you can indulge again. But that day is not today.

It might be hard, but you — and your kids — can get through it. Here are some expense-cutting ideas to get you started:

5. Manually Track Your Spending

To stick to your budget, it’s imperative that you track your spending. But automatic tracking through apps like Mint is not enough when you’re trying to lower your expenses

and pay your delinquent bills.

Just as counting calories or macros on a diet tends to make you eat less, manually tracking every dollar you spend results in you spending less.

EveryDollar is a great free app for manually tracking your purchases to make sure they’re aligned with your zero-based budget. You can also make a budget spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets if you need further customization.

6. Increase Your Income

A man rides a bike with a pizza delivery case strapped to his back.

Organizing your budget and lowering your spending are just the first steps. You’ll need to earn more money than you were bringing in when you got into this situation.

Deliver pizzas, drive for Uber, clean houses, do work-from-home customer support — anything that’s flexible enough to let you maintain your full-time job and that pays more than minimum wage, i.e., you’ll need to do more than just online surveys.

Organize your schedule to make time for increasing your income. Again, it’s not easy, but it’s not forever.

7. Tackle Your Debt

Achievement unlocked!

Once you’re current with your payments and you’ve created room in your budget to remain current (and have extra), you’re ready to begin tackling debt. And the good news? You already know how!

Keep following these steps, and you’ll remain current while you continue on the path toward of freedom from debt.

If you need more help, here are some tips for paying off debt on a salary of less than $ 50,000. And here are some other options you have for paying off debt if you’ve tried these steps but they just aren’t working for you.

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She and her husband paid off $ 78,000 of debt in less than two years on two less-than-average salaries. She gives money-saving and debt-payoff tips on Instagram at @modernfrugality.

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

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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Jerry Seinfeld steps in for Jimmy Fallon with a Thanksgiving monologue

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Jimmy Fallon apparently stuffed himself with too much turkey this Thanksgiving.

But that’s OK, because his replacement for The Tonight Show’s opening monologue just so happened to be Jerry Seinfeld, who stepped in at the last minute for a *totally* unplanned set.

The jokes might be a bit on the dad side of things, but who could say no to a comedy great? Read more…

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Spending Rehab: 3 Steps To Avoid A Financial Hangover

In an economy like ours—driven by consumer spending and near-ubiquitous advertising designed to get you to spend, and then spend some more—even the most financially disciplined among us can fall prey to overspending. For example, most of us are especially vulnerable during the holiday shopping season, during which many of us spend more money in 30 days than we have in the previous six months combined. To avoid a financial hangover after a serious shopping binge, here’s a plan—let’s call it a spending rehab intervention—to sober up your finances and get your budget back under control.

Spending Rehab Step 1

You have to be woke—more conscious and aware—when it comes to how you are spending your money. Most of us spend money mindlessly, without really considering the impact on our financial health, or even whether we really need or want what we purchase. That’s the very definition of impulse spending.

So, to begin the spending rehab regimen, for one month you’re going to track your spending (which is a good idea to do two to three time a year even if you don’t overspend). Keep a record of every penny you spend, and what you spent it on. Also, note how you made each purchase—with cash, credit card, debit card, personal check, automated payment, whatever. You can track your spending using a pen and small notepad, or your mobile device or computer. Using an app like Spendr might also help. Do whatever works to have a complete record of your spending for one month.

Spending Rehab Step 2

This is where we test your commitment to getting your spending under control: Continue to track your spending for a second month, with one change—no using credit cards. That’s right; you have to go cash only for the entire month. Debit cards are OK, too, since you are just using plastic to spend cash. But no using credit cards or other tools to borrow money to finance expenditures for the entire month.

As with the previous month, keep a record of every penny you spend, and what you spent it on. Use a pen and pad, your mobile device, whatever works to have a complete record of your spending—without using credit cards.

—Be sure to catch Alfred Edmond Jr.’s personal finance podcast: “Your Money, Your Life” sponsored by Prudential. 

For those who have become accustomed to treating their available credit balance as if it were income, this might be the toughest part of spending rehab. Brace yourself for the withdrawal pains of giving up the plastic. If you literally can’t make it through one month without using credit cards, you need emergency intervention. Make an appointment with a qualified credit counselor immediately. You can find one in your area at DebtAdvice.org.

Spending Rehab Step 3

Sit down and look at your spending choices over the two months. How did your spending differ from one month to the next? Have you been too reliant on credit cards, or using them needlessly when you could have used cash and avoided wasting money on paying interest on credit card balances? Where in your budget can you eliminate spending (or at least avoid paying interest and fees), and where can you better apply that money to more beneficial, financially healthy uses—such as paying down debt faster, increasing contributions to your retirement savings, building a stronger cash emergency fund or financing a new money-making venture?

The point of this exercise is to make you more conscious of how you spend, what you buy, and most importantly, why—so you can challenge and change your thinking and adopt a healthier financial lifestyle. To get started, you want to identify and eliminate three kinds of spending—confused spending, compensatory spending, and conspicuous spending—if you are serious about improving and maintaining your financial wellness:

Confused Spending

This is when you make purchases without giving any real consideration to what you are getting for your money—or whether you even really want or need what you are buying. Confused spending almost always results in overspending.

Are you repeatedly surprised when you bounce a check, the ATM gives you a negative balance message or your credit card is declined at a store? That likely means that you are either operating without a spending plan—also known as a budget—or you have one, and are ignoring it, and instead, you are trying to keep track of it all in your head. The result: sloppiness, disorganization—and confused spending.

Compensatory Spending

This is when you spend as a form of self-medication in order to cope with emotional pain or discomfort, such as boredom, feelings of unworthiness, sadness, or repressed anger. The problem with this so-called “retail therapy” is that when you’re done, the bad feelings return, often more intensely, requiring more spending to cope—and leading to shopping addiction.

At its worst, compensatory spending leads to a vicious cycle: You feel bad, whether sad, angry, lonely or just plain bored. You go shopping to feel better—spending money you don’t have on things you have not budgeted for. When the high of getting so-called great deals wears off, you now have shopper’s remorse and guilt, on top of the original bad feelings. What do you do? Unless there is an intervention—more compensatory spending. If this is you, get help; a good place to start is the nonprofit self-help organization Debtors Anonymous.

Conspicuous Spending

This is when you spend in order to buy social status—to try to impress others, “keep up with the Joneses,” or maybe do a little frontin’ for the ‘Gram. If you rock nothing but luxury brands but have horrible credit, this is likely you.

Your friend or neighbor has the new custom kicks or latest smartphone, so you have to have it, too—whether you can afford it or not. This tendency can be exacerbated by engaging social media, where it is easier than ever to see the latest shiny new things that seemingly everyone but you has, including tons of approval in the form of likes, favorites, and shares.

Statistics show that you’re likely racing each other to the poor house. Unfortunately, too many of us spend money we don’t have to buy things we can’t afford, to impress people we don’t know and may not even like. Stay in your lane and live according to what you can afford, not by what others have.

How do you determine affordability? By continuing to monitor your spending, being more organized, sticking to a real spending plan, and otherwise staying woke when it comes to your money. The more diligent, consistent, and conscious you are, the lower the odds that you will relapse into overspending, and the less likely you’ll need another round of spending rehab.

—Be sure to catch Alfred Edmond Jr.’s personal finance podcast: “Your Money, Your Life” sponsored by Prudential. 

 

The post Spending Rehab: 3 Steps To Avoid A Financial Hangover appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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Ready to Buy a Home? 6 Simple Steps to Save for the Down Payment

So you’re ready to stop renting, and we don’t blame you.

The price of rent has been steadily increasing since 2014, according to a recent Penny Hoarder analysis of Zillow data. As of October 2018, the median Zillow listing nationally for a two-bedroom rental is $ 1,646 a month.

Your other option is to buy a home, and that isn’t cheap, either. It’s a big commitment — but at least you’re gaining an asset and not funneling your whole paycheck over to a landlord.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ll want to start saving for that down payment sooner than later.

Yes, it’s a big savings goal, but this guide will help you get on the right track.

Real Fast: What’s a Down Payment?

A down payment is the amount of money you pay upfront for your home — the money you’re putting down. Say you want to put 10% down on a $ 200,000 home; your down payment will be about $ 20,000.

This down payment goes directly toward you owning your home outright. What’s remaining will be covered by a mortgage loan. Like other forms of debt, you’re responsible for making monthly payments on that loan, which often include interest.

The more you’re able to put toward a down payment on a home, the lower your monthly mortgage rates — and the less you’ll pay in interest over time.

Pro tip: While you’re saving for a down payment, work to improve or maintain your credit score. The higher your credit score, the better chance you have to secure a mortgage with a low interest rate. If you’re not sure where to start, Credit Sesame is a free platform that allows you to see your credit score, credit report card and personalized advice.

How to Save for a Down Payment: Your Step-by-Step Guide

A down payment is different from any expense you’ve saved for before, including a car or a vacation.

“A down payment represents a ‘purchase’ that has longer-term consequences,” says Marc W. Lieberman, CFA charterholder and CEO of Shorepine Wealth Management.

“When you save for a vacation or a new TV, you are making a one-time purchase that likely does not have additional spending needs. A home is a purchase that requires constant maintenance and the financial wherewithal to maintain ownership.”

So how do you even start saving for such a big financial goal? Follow these six simple steps to start saving for what’ll likely be the largest purchase of your life.

No big deal or anything.

1. Determine How Much You Need to Save for a Down Payment

Woman doing finances
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Before starting your savings journey, you’ll need to map out your goal. Here are some numbers to consider:

  • Generally speaking, what’s your budget for a new home? In your desired city and neighborhood, take a look at properties you’d be interested in and that meet your needs. To determine the maximum mortgage payment you can afford each month, personal finance guru Dave Ramsey suggests multiplying your monthly take-home pay by 25% (0.25).
  • How much money do you want to put down? Now that you have an idea of how much you want (or need) to spend on a home, consider how much you want to put down. Putting down 3% is considered low — but doable.

On the other hand, if you’re able to put down at least 20%, you’ll avoid making monthly payments for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is generally 0.3% to 1.2% of your loan amount, according to Investopedia.

Don’t feel like you have to stretch yourself to pay 20% down, though. Say you take out a 10% down payment. Once you’ve made enough mortgage payments to hit 20% equity, you can cancel your PMI.

  • When do you want to make the big purchase? Set your timeline.

Remember: Buying a home doesn’t simply require a down payment. You’ll also need to consider closing costs, real estate agent commission, property taxes and homeowners insurance — just to name a few. You can find more details about closing costs in our first-time homebuyer’s guide.

Lieberman also suggests tacking on a 10% to 20% “slush fund” to your savings goal for any additional expenses. This can help cover any unforeseen maintenance required when first moving in. Even if you don’t need it (fingers crossed you won’t), it’s nice to have that just-in-case cushion.

Now, do some math. Calculate how much you’ll need to save each month — or week, if you prefer working on a smaller scale.

Using a mortgage calculator like this one from Zillow can be super helpful when playing around with these numbers.

2. Open a Separate Savings Account

A family at the bank
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Once you know how much you need to put away, start considering where you want to keep this savings. Keeping such a large chunk of money in your primary checking account is risky — just because it feels like that money’s at your fingertips, ready to spend.

Instead, open a separate, hands-off account. Lieberman suggests a high-yield-interest savings account.

Try an iOS app called Varo Money. Pair your Bank Account with a Varo Savings Account where you’ll earn 1.75% annual percentage yield. For context, one of my banks offers a savings account with an APY closer to 0.03%.

Additionally, you’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, no foreign transaction fees and no cash replacement fees.

Lieberman also suggests looking into a laddered certificate of deposit (CD) portfolio.

Whatever you choose, remember this: You want your money to earn some interest, but you don’t want the risk (like you’d face with investing). You’ll also want to keep the money in an easily accessible account.

“The last thing you need is to miss out on a home because the cash wasn’t available for the down payment,” Lieberman says.

3. Adjust Your Budget

A father and son eating fast food
Kosamtu/Getty Images

Now that you know how much you need to save and where you’re going to stash that savings, it’s time to adjust your budget.

Take that monthly savings goal and build it into your budget as an expense. To make some room, you’ll likely have to cut down in other areas.

To get an idea of how you can tighten your budget, try using the free app Empower.

Link the app to your bank accounts, and Empower will track your spending. It will also categorize your spending so you can see exactly where you’re overdoing it.

Set a monthly spending limit and the app will show you a graph that can tell you in one snapshot just how you’re doing for the month. Are you over the line or under it? It’s that simple to see how you’re doing so you can adjust your spending accordingly.

It’ll take some finagling at first, but be patient — and realistic. Remember you’re saving for what’ll likely be the biggest purchase of your life, so it isn’t going to be totally effortless. 

4. Automate Your Savings

Woman looking at credit cards
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Now that you know you can afford to save these monthly sums, it’s time to automate your savings. This helps hold you accountable and makes the process easier and more hands-off.

“Automated savings is a wonderful way to trick your mind into living off of less,” Lieberman says. “It is amazing how much less one can live off of without even noticing the difference.”

If you’re using a savings account, set your paycheck to automatically deposit a certain amount (see Step 1) into that account.

The easiest way to do this is to adjust your payroll settings or see whether your bank will automatically do it for you — most do.

With Chime, for example, you can opt in to save a portion of each paycheck when you set up direct deposit. You can also turn on its round-up feature, which rounds up all your Chime debit card transactions to the nearest dollar. It’ll dump the digital spare change into your savings — a nice bonus.

You can also tap into an app. Digit is a great way to save toward a specific goal. Set your timeline and savings goal, and Digit’s algorithms will determine how much money you can afford to save, which will be stored in an FDIC-insured savings account.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $ 2.99 per month afterward. If you’re saving for a big purchase, like your first home, that monthly fee could be worth it.

In all, automation is a great, hands-off way to keep building your savings — without obsessing over every penny.

5. Get Creative, and Cut Your Monthly Bills

Light bulbs hanging from ceiling
ArisSu/Getty Images

Outside of rent, your largest expenses are probably those monthly bills: electric, water, cable/internet, car insurance, student loan payments — you name it.

There are a number of ways to save on your monthly bills, but here’s a simple one to get you started: Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.

After downloading the app, create an account, and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. Boom. TrueBill is already searching for potential refunds — it might get you a refund even when you didn’t know an outage occurred.

On average, Truebill says it helps customers save more than $ 700 a year by lowering their bills, canceling necessary subscriptions and getting refunds.

6. Increase Your Income

Dog walker
hedgehog94/Getty Images

If you’re still struggling to meet your monthly savings goal, you might need to boost your income.

Luckily, there are a ton of platforms that’ll help you start up a side gig, including one of our favorites: Rover. (Because dogs, duh.)

On Rover you can choose to offer a variety of services, including dog walking, overnight boarding at your home or theirs, and daycare. Rover says sitters can earn as much as $ 1,000 a month — just for snugglin’ pups!

Other flexible side gig options include driving with Uber or listing your space on Airbnb.

You should also plan to bank any windfalls — big or small. If you get a raise at work, automatically dispense the difference into your savings. If you earn a holiday bonus, bank that, too.

You can work to sell off some items you don’t need, too. After all, you’ll be moving soon.

If you have an old smartphone, tablet or laptop collecting dust, snag a a buy-back price estimate from an online trade-in platform like Gazelle. For anything else, consider Letgo. You can list just about anything on there — from cars to clothes.

Moral of the story? Slide any extra money you make into that separate hands-of savings account to go toward your savings goal.

Another Option: Seek Down Payment Assistance

If you’ve followed these steps and are still struggling to save for a down payment — or don’t have enough time — look into down payment assistance programs in your city or state.

John R. Thomas, a certified mortgage planner and the Delaware branch manager of Primary Residential Mortgage, outlined a few nationwide assistance programs:

  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are government-backed mortgages for those who can’t afford to put a lot of money down. They’re a popular option for first-time homebuyers. In 2018, borrowers with a credit score of at least 580 could put down 3.5%, according to the FHA website.
  • If you’re a veteran, current servicemember or surviving spouse, you might qualify for a VA home loan, which offers competitive interest rates without a down payment or private mortgage insurance.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also offers a no-down payment option if you purchase a qualified home and borrow from a qualified lender. Although it caters to those purchasing a home in a rural area, the definition of rural is pretty broad. Be sure to read into the requirements.

Thomas assures prospective homebuyers that these programs are simple to look into in any state.

In the end, know that buying a home isn’t totally out of reach. Just be patient with yourself, and you’ll be able to put the money away.

Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d love to buy her first home sweet home… one of these days.

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.

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Next steps to take after stock market unpredictability

So now that the market correction is over, it’s time to take stock, engage in a little self-reflection of your buys or sells, if you made any at all. But it’s also a time for the Trump administration to do some soul-searching and review its handling of the hysteria that gripped the markets and kitchen…
Business | New York Post

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Jennifer Garner Is All Smiles As She Steps Out In N.Y.C For First Time Amid New Romance | PeopleTV

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Taking Steps to Be an Athlete for Life

Kevin McManigal’s active lifestyle is measured by many milestones … starting from the time Bill Bowerman, the famed founder of Nike, specially made a pair of shoes for Kevin and his teammates on the South Eugene High School track team. (They won the state championship.)

In the years since, the now 60-year-old Kaiser Permanente nurse has summitted just about every Pacific Northwest peak, cycled and run tens of thousands of miles, and explored wilderness trails on horseback, cross country skis, and foot.

Bump in the road

Then came the proverbial “bump in the road.” He hiked deep into the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon, and came out a week later, hobbling in pain.

Over the next several months, he tried ignoring the pain. He ran less and cycled more. He saw an orthopedic surgeon at Kaiser Westside Medical Center, where an X-ray revealed that cartilage — the firm, rubbery material that serves as a “shock absorber” — had deteriorated in his right knee.

“The pain was constant and became more intense over time,” he says. “It felt like my knee would break, and I would collapse.” He thought that he was “too young and active” to be having joint issues, but he has since learned that it can happen to athletes and others at just about any age in their adult lives.

He wore a brace and walked with a cane.

“It was difficult, but you manage and adapt,” says Kevin, who works in the Medical Procedures Unit at Westside. But when it became too much to endure, he consulted with orthopedic specialists and scheduled surgery for last April.

Just do it

“My surgeon (Erik Kroger, MD), thought that I might only need a half-knee replacement, but he wouldn’t be sure until he actually began the operation. I was confident that he would take excellent care of me, so I told him to ‘Just do it.’”

After total joint replacement, Kevin spent one night in the hospital, and continued his recovery at home. He describes the entire experience from pre-op through recovery “as smooth as can be.” He credits the knee surgery, as well as two previous hand surgeries at Kaiser Permanente, with saving his career and ability to thrive: “I would be disabled now, if not for the excellent care I’ve received. I’d be working at a desk, instead of doing what I love – taking care of patients at the bedside,” said the 32-year Kaiser Permanente employee.

Riding high

Five months following surgery, Kevin experienced another milestone. He participated in Cycle Oregon, an ambitious bike ride that climbs 28,000 feet in elevation through northeastern Oregon. On the last day of the weeklong event, Kevin happened to chat with Eric Bosworth, MD, who cycled the course and months earlier, consulted on Kevin’s case.

Kevin’s conversation with the Kaiser Permanente orthopedic surgeon went like this:

Dr. Bosworth: “I saw you limping on the job all last year … and you’re here at Cycle Oregon?”
Kevin: “Yes, I completed all 400 miles!”
Dr. Bosworth: “You did the whole tour after having had knee replacement surgery in April?”
Kevin: “Yes, that’s right.”
Dr. Bosworth: “That’s great – but did you check with your ortho surgeon before you did this?”
Kevin: “No, because my knee was/is feeling great — and I needed the bicycle ride!”
Dr. Bosworth: “I can understand that. I’m an athlete, too.”

The next milestone for Kevin? He’s planning a multi-day canoeing and hiking trip in Canada and a dozen other adventures, thanks to his new knee and lifelong passion for staying active.

The post Taking Steps to Be an Athlete for Life appeared first on Kaiser Permanente.

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Jennifer Garner Is All Smiles as She Steps Out in N.Y.C for the First Time Amid New Romance

Jennifer Garner was all smiles strolling through the Big Apple.

The 46-year-old actress stepped out on Thursday in New York City for the Fast Company Innovation Festival in which she spoke about her baby food company Once Upon a Farm. This is her first public appearance after news broke that she is “casually dating” CaliGroup CEO John Miller.

Garner looked chic in a blue-green coat, white scarf and strappy blue heels as she bundled up against the city’s cool weather.

A source told PEOPLE on Thursday that “dating is just a natural step” for Garner after finalizing her divorce from Ben Affleck.

“Although the divorce was just finalized, Jen has considered herself single for a long time,” the insider said. “Jen will always care about Ben and help him be the best dad. She was very ready to move on though.”

“She seems very excited about the future and is in a great place both personally and professionally,” the source added.

RELATED: Jennifer Garner ‘Casually Dating’ CEO John Miller, Says Source: ‘He Hasn’t Met Her Kids’

On Thursday, a different source told PEOPLE Garner and Miller, 40, were “casually dating but it’s not serious.”

“He hasn’t met her kids,” the insider added.

Garner shares Violet, 12, Seraphina, 9, and Samuel, 6 with Affleck.

RELATED VIDEO: Jennifer Garner Looks Sleek and Stylish in Tailored Pants for Camping Premiere

The friendly exes have continued to spend time as a family and co-parent after they officially filed for divorce almost two years after announcing their separation in 2015. They took the kids to see Hello, Dolly! on Broadway in mid-July, starring family friend Victor Garber, and spent Easter together in Hawaii where Affleck was filming.

Miller was also previously married before filing for divorce from celebrity violinist Caroline Campbell in 2011.

He and Campbell are parents to two school-age children, a daughter and a son. The businessman is CEO and chairman of holding company CaliGroup. The company owns the CaliBurger chain, which boasts a special robotics technique that flips burger patties.


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Les Moonves’ replacement Richard Parsons steps down as CBS interim chairman after a month, citing health reasons

Richard Parsons stepped down late Sunday as interim chairman of CBS barely a month after taking the job following Les Moonves’ departure.

“The reason for my departure relates to the state of my health,” Parsons said in a statement.

“As some of you know, when I agreed to join the board and serve…

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High society: El Alto, Bolivia, steps into the spotlight

After landing at El Alto, canny travellers don’t go straight to La Paz but soak up the exuberant architecture, culture and women’s projects of Bolivia’s second city

Most travellers never give El Alto a second thought. Bolivia’s second city, home to the highest international airport in South America (and fifth-highest in the world) at 4,061 metres, it is a place visitors fly into before being whisked to La Paz, the de facto capital, 15km away and 421 metres lower.

Yet, El Alto is emerging from the shadow of its neighbour, thanks to its fantastic rebel architecture, new cable car routes, emerging culinary credentials and the trailblazing input of its first female mayor, Soledad Chapetón. It’s also proudly championing the Fighting Cholitas, female wrestlers who perform regularly at its sports centre, called El Multifuncional .

Continue reading…
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5 Steps That Will Save You Serious Money Every Time You Shop at Walgreens

There’s a Walgreens on just about every busy street corner. That means they’re super convenient for those times I run out of toothpaste, toilet paper and hair care products AT THE SAME TIME.

I’ve been a Balance Rewards member for years, but I never paid much attention to how the program works. I’ve just shopped as I normally would and enjoyed the occasional surprise at the cash register.

But after noticing more frequent rewards offers, I did some digging. Now, I’ve figured out how to get the most of Balance Rewards, so I can save more money at Walgreens.

How to Maximize Your Walgreens Balance Rewards

 

How to get the most out of your Balance Rewards at Walgreens
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Walgreens Balance Rewards is a point-based system that offers 10 points for every $ 1 you spend in stores and online. You can also earn points on photo services and at the pharmacy.

You can track your points by logging in to your account or downloading the Walgreens app. You can redeem points as follows:

  • 1,000 points = $ 1
  • 2,000 points = $ 2
  • 3,000 points = $ 3
  • 5,000 points = $ 5
  • 10,000 points = $ 10
  • 18,000 points = $ 20
  • 30,000 points = $ 35
  • 40,000 points = $ 50

The best part is that you don’t have to rely solely on spending money to earn points. As a Balance Rewards member, you can also earn bonus points from paperless coupons, weekly ads and members-only perks.

Here are five ways to maximize your Balance Rewards.

1. Pay Attention to Your Receipts

How to get the most out of your Balance Rewards at Walgreens
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Walgreens receipts give you a summary of your rewards balance, and they’re often accompanied by Register Rewards.

Register Rewards are coupons you can use on your next purchase. Sometimes they offer savings on a specific item or type of purchase. Other times, you can earn bonus points, such as $ 10 worth of bonus points with the purchase of $ 25 or more of eligible items. Register Rewards for specific items are usually labeled with a yellow tag, and they expire after two weeks.

Another reason to pay attention to your receipts — aside from using them to score cash back through Ibotta — is to keep track of your points. While it can be fun to let your points add up without paying attention, you could miss out on points, because… well… technology.

You can see your point activity for the last 90 days in your account and your transaction history for the last year and a half.

Just remember: You can’t earn points on some products, including alcohol, tobacco and dairy.

2. Check Out the Weekly Ads

How to get the most out of your Balance Rewards at Walgreens
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

If you don’t pay attention to the Walgreens weekly ad, you could miss out on deals and opportunities to earn bonus points.

For example, an August 2018 circular featured these offers for bonus points:

  • 3,000 bonus points ($ 3 reward) for spending $ 12 or more on participating products.
  • 5,000 bonus points ($ 5 reward) for spending $ 15 or more on participating products.
  • 10,000 bonus points ($ 10 reward) for spending $ 50 or more on participating products.

Participating products are usually within the same category — for instance, the offer featuring 5,000 bonus points included children’s or infants’ Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin, Sudafed, Zyrtec and Desitin.

You can also find offers for bonus points and browse current sales, clearance items and online-only deals on the Walgreens site.

3. Save More With Paperless Coupons

How to get the most out of your Balance Rewards at Walgreens
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Walgreens rewards also offers paperless coupons, which you can find through your Balance Rewards account or in the app. These include manufacturer coupons, along with special offers for bonus points.

You can “clip” these coupons right to your Balance Rewards account, so there’s no need to print or physically clip coupons — just present your rewards card or phone number at checkout, and the coupons will be applied automatically.

As of this writing, 545 paperless coupons were available. Some of the most recent offers were for 5,000 bonus points on purchases of $ 25 or more and 500 bonus points on Walgreens brand bath tissue.

You can filter coupons by category and sort them by expiration date, coupon value, brand name, recommendations or most recent. You can also view and clip upcoming coupons.

Paperless coupons can also be used for online orders, as long as your Balance Rewards card is linked to your Walgreens account.

4. Earn Bonus Points With Members-Only Perks

How to get the most out of your Balance Rewards at Walgreens
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Walgreens Balance Rewards also offers members-only perks, which are usually opportunities to earn more bonus points.

One recent perk offered 10 times the points on purchases of $ 20 or more in stores or online between Aug. 12-25. So instead of earning 10 points for every $ 1 you spent, you would have earned 100 points for every $ 1.

Another members-only perk is the Beauty Enthusiast program, which offers 5,000 points for every $ 50 you spend on beauty products, including cosmetics, nail care, skin care, hair care, fragrances, beauty accessories, and bath and body products.

When you opt in, you’ll immediately receive a welcome email with an offer for 20 times the regular  points. You’ll also have access to exclusive promotions and samples, a personalized beauty profile, product picks, and expert tips and tutorials.

5. Get Even More Points for Making Healthy Choices

runners compete in a race.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

This is one of my favorite things about Walgreens Balance Rewards: You can earn points just for being healthy through Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices.

What I love most is it lets me automatically earn points for doing what I was already doing — tracking my health and fitness with devices and apps such as Samsung GearFit2, MyFitnessPal and Google Fit.

Points are earned by tracking your healthy choices, including:

  • Walking, running or cycling: 20 points per mile (limit 1 mile per day).
  • Exercise: 20 points per daily log.
  • Weight: 20 points per daily log.
  • Sleep: 20 points per daily log.
  • Blood pressure: 20 points per daily log.
  • Blood glucose: 20 points per reading (limit two readings per day).
  • Nicotine replacement therapy: 20 points per daily log.

And you don’t even have to connect apps or devices to earn points for healthy choices. You can still earn points by tracking your activities right from your account on the Walgreens website or app.

But if you do connect your apps and devices, you’ll earn 250 points per app and device. Plus, you’ll earn points without really thinking about it, as long as your activity tracker and fitness apps are all connected.

The maximum amount of points for healthy choices you can earn is 1,000 per month, which is equal to an extra $ 1 off per month. That may not be the biggest reward, but it’s great for a little extra motivation to keep your health and fitness goals on track.

If you’re an AARP member, you can an earn 50% more points for healthy choices, along with five times the points (50 points per $ 1) on Walgreens brand health and wellness products. You’ll also receive 1,000 points per vaccination you get at the pharmacy. All you have to do is link your AARP membership with your Walgreens Balance Rewards account.

After putting all of these tips to the test over the last month, I’ve saved a total of $ 17 from coupons and earned 21,000 points — enough for a $ 20 reward! I’m so proud of my new money-saving habits, I might just spend that $ 20 reward on something I don’t even need.

OK, not really. I’m saving it for the next time I run out of all of my bear necessities AT THE SAME TIME.

Jessica Gray is an editorial assistant at The Penny Hoarder. She had “The Bear Necessities” from “The Jungle Book” stuck in her head the entire time she wrote this post.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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.


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Sage’s Baby Steps Toward Health

Progress is measured in baby steps in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente’s Downey Medical Center, where babies who need specialized support receive care.

That’s where Sage Lee Carlisle spent the first 7 months of his life, when he was born nearly 4 months early. Sage weighed just 1 pound and 11 ounces, and as his health improved, his parents and care team celebrated each milestone.

“Just the other day, we were able to walk away from the bed without any ports and hold him like a normal baby. That was awesome,” said his mom, Crystal.

A team of experts

Sage’s care team included neonatologists, respiratory therapists, NICU nurses, neonatal nurse practitioners and other specialists. They worked together to care for the tiny infant around the clock.

“When we couldn’t be here, (we knew) he was in good hands,” said Sage’s dad, Scottie. “I feel blessed.”

Learn more about our expert care for the tiniest newborns.

The post Sage’s Baby Steps Toward Health appeared first on Kaiser Permanente.

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12 Steps to Protect Your Finances When Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Note: This article doesn’t contain any depiction of physical or sexual violence, but does detail financial and emotional abuse in relationships.

Lisa Orban was married to her abuser for three years. In 1990, she left after he threatened to kill her and their two young children.

She was 20 years old.

Her financial situation in the marriage? “Bad, in a nutshell,” she recalls.

Not unusual for the time, her husband was the main breadwinner, and he managed the finances.

“Whenever there was a chance that I might make enough money or make more money than him or do anything to upset his financial apple cart, so to speak, he would come in and sabotage it.”

She lost multiple jobs because of his meddling.

She moved with him from her hometown in Illinois to Arizona for college, where she’d won a four-year scholarship to study psychology. Before she could start, he contacted the university and told them she’d decided to drop out.

“Imagine my surprise when I go to registration day and find out that my scholarship is gone,” she says.

He even had control of the mailbox. He took her key, though she thought she’d just lost it, and put off replacing it. That had major, unexpected financial ramifications.

“It wasn’t until after we were divorced that I found out that I had not paid off my student loan.” The $ 4,000 loan ultimately cost her $ 38,000 to repay, she says.

The checks Orban thought were going into the mail were not, and the missed payment notices from her loan providers weren’t getting to her.

He kept control of the checking account.

He wouldn’t let her use the car alone.

He knew how much money she earned, and he would accompany her to the bank to deposit her paychecks.

He signed up for credit cards in her name.

By the time Orban left and filed for divorce, she was $ 80,000 in debt and didn’t even know about it.

What is Financial Abuse?

About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Domestic violence and abuse comes in many forms, whether it’s physical, emotional, psychological or sexual — but it can also be financial. Likely, it’s some mix of these, but not always all of them.

Of those who experience violence, 98% also experience financial abuse.

“Like all abuse, financial abuse takes a lot of forms, but it’s all controlling behavior; power and control,” explains Casey Harden, senior vice president of Strategic Initiatives and Membership at YWCA USA. “Imagine tightening the reigns on the financial condition of the home, so that there’s limited options.”

Abusive partners may leave you out of major decisions and purchase a home that’s well out of your family’s budget, for example. They may run up credit card debt without their partner’s knowledge or input, lie about paying bills or damage valuable property.

In addition to safety concerns, victims of domestic violence often stay in abusive relationship because of a lack of financial resources.

“Many survivors, even after they’ve left, often return because of finances,” says Kim Pentico, director of the Economic Justice Program at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Michelle Kuehner, a survivor of domestic violence who is now a financial advisor and author of The Money Diet blog, explains:  

“More often than not, the abuser has made the victim feel as if they are dependent upon the abuser. That without the help of the abuser, the victim could not survive financially in the world, and it is only by the grace of the abuser that the victim has a roof over their head, and food on the table.”

If you’re in a bad situation, we want to do our part in empowering you to move forward.

The Penny Hoarder features a ton of content to help you understand your finances and improve your financial situation. But it can be tough to see how it pertains to you when you feel like you have zero control over your financial life.

Here, I try to put it into context.

I spoke with financial, legal and relationship experts, as well as domestic violence advocates to bring you resources, advice and action steps to prepare you to leave and recover your finances afterward.

6 Steps to Prepare Your Finances Before Leaving

The largest hurdle you face in an abusive relationship is getting back your independence,” Kuehner says.

“Only when you take back the feeling or idea that you are not completely dependent on another can you move towards financial independence. And only then can you successfully remove yourself from that type of relationship.”

Even then, it’s easier said than done.

In addition to the financial hurdles, Harden repeats a fact many of us have heard often: “Lethality for an individual and her loved ones goes up drastically when she makes the decision to leave, when she leaves and the time period following.”

That’s why before you do anything, we recommend this step:

1. Connect With a Victim Advocate

Harden and other experts urge anyone trying to leave an abusive relationship to work with a victim advocate.

These people are trained and experienced, so they know how to help you plan to leave safely and quietly. They can point out potential pitfalls and let you know what major financial hurdles to expect.

How to get in touch with local advocates:

  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY: 1-800-787-3224. The national hotline can get you in touch with an organization in your area.
  • Statewide advocacy groups can also connect you with local advocates.
  • Your local YWCA has resources to fight domestic violence, including shelters and services around the country.

We have additional recommendations for your financial health, but can’t tell you what’s best or what’s safe for your situation.

You’re the best at assessing your own safety, so listen to your own instincts, work with an advocate and only consider these steps if you know it’s safe.

2. Save Money

“Be sure you have liquid funds held in an account in your name only,” says Allison Alexander, a financial advisor at Savant Capital Management. She also recommends having credit cards in your name alone.

Allstate’s financial empowerment curriculum includes advice on how to build a solid financial foundation, including places where you could find loans.

If you don’t have access to a loan, see if there are other ways to secure money for yourself that your partner doesn’t have access to.

Here are some creative ways to make extra money:

You can also keep an eye out for influxes of cash your partner doesn’t know about or have access to.

“A lot of survivors … wait until that tax return comes, and that’s a nice little chunk to get started on,” Pentico says.

A bonus at work may be a similar lifeline.

You may be able to work with the human resources department at work to automatically deposit part of your paycheck into a separate bank account.

Catherine Scrivano, a Phoenix–based financial planner, says HR may also be able to help you make an adjustment to your W-4 to help you receive more money with each paycheck that you can save or invest throughout the year.

3. Make Copies of Important Documents

“Make copies of all financial documents you can find, e.g., tax returns, bank statements, investment statements, mortgage/loan information, car titles, paystubs, etc.,” Alexander says.

You can simply snap a picture of these documents with your phone and email it to a friend. Or store them in a cloud drive that you — and only you — can access from anywhere, like Google Drive.

4. Cut Ties and Open a New Bank Account

Before opening your own account, Harden recommends, you’ll need a new mailing address — a P.O. box could work — and an email address your partner doesn’t know about.

Harden also suggests you contact your bank to update your account’s security questions, if your partner already has access to an account in your name.

“Your husband of 10, 15 years probably knows the answers to most of your security questions,” she points out, “especially if he’s been actively working to know them.”

She says you can tell your bank the question you want to use. You don’t have to stick with a default question your partner might know the answer to.

If you can, set up separate accounts your partner doesn’t know about, or at least can’t access.

Also, “remove your personal items from a safe deposit box if it is held jointly,” Alexander says. And “establish your own safe deposit box at another bank and place your financial documents and sentimental items, including jewelry, pictures (or) valuables there.”

5. Find a Financial Advisor

“Find a supportive financial advisor, therapist and friends who will encourage you during the bleak times and celebrate your successes,” Scrivano recommends.

If you have the resources to hire a professional financial advisor — who works for you alone, not you and your partner together — great.

If you can’t afford to work with a professional, utilize your local library or Parks and Recreation department for resources. It may have financial literacy classes, support groups and literature to help you.

Even financially-savvy friends and family can offer advice.

Pentico often tells survivors, “There’s somebody in your life, more than likely, that seems to know what’s going on when it comes to money and finances, whether it’s a co-worker or a family member. Reach out to them.”

6. Find an Attorney

When Kuehner was preparing to divorce her abusive husband, she started by meeting with attorneys.

“I scheduled appointments to meet with all of the best attorneys in town. … All in all, I had meetings with over 85% of the local lawyers in a matter of a couple of weeks…

“If I had an introductory meeting with a particular attorney, my ex-husband wouldn’t be able to use them. It could be considered a conflict of interest. … By narrowing his options, and forcing him to use a less-experienced professional, I gained some ground in the divorce.”

California-based family law expert Amey Telkikar confirmed this tactic, though called it “unsavory” for typical situations.

“An in-person meeting going over the circumstances almost certainly will (include confidential information), resulting in a conflict of interest. A lawyer may still represent the other spouse, but only with the informed written consent of both spouses,” Telkikar explained.

He recommended, “It is in the best interest of a spouse to consult at least one reputable attorney as soon as they suspect or learn of a possible filing for divorce.”

If you don’t have money to hire a lawyer or don’t feel safe conducting this kind of business on your own, a victim advocate can help you discover the resources available to you.

6 Steps to Rebuild Your Finances After Leaving

Unfortunately, Lisa Orban didn’t make a plan to leave her abuser. She did what she pointed out many survivors do:

“Most abused women do not ‘plan’ their escape, they run blindly for their lives when the situation reaches deadly levels, and then pick up the pieces afterward,” Orban explains.

“If you have a golden opportunity to escape, that’s generally what people do,” Orban adds.

“They look for a moment — a credit card left unattended, a check that unexpectedly arrives that you somehow got access to, a Christmas bonus from your work that your spouse doesn’t know about,” Orban says. “These are things you look at, and you go, ‘This is it. This is my chance.’”

When you see that opportunity, she said, “You grab it and you go.”

And then what?

Once you’ve left and you’re safe, your greatest financial hurdle may be not knowing what you’re working with.

Start by figuring that out.

1. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

Nearly everyone I spoke with recommended one simple, important first step to rebuilding your finances: Get a copy of your credit report.

If you haven’t had control of your finances for years, you may have no idea what state they’re in. To create a rebuilding plan, you have to first know what you’re dealing with.

Do you have credit card debt?

Is an unpaid mortgage in your name?

Are you behind on medical bills?

Your credit report will give you this information.

How to get a free copy of your credit report:

  • Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus to get a free copy from each. They’re legally required to give you a free credit report once every 12 months. This FTC guide explains how to request your report.
  • Get your credit score and “credit report card” from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it. (Note: We sometimes partner with this company, but Credit Sesame did NOT pay to be mentioned in this post.)

Your credit history can affect a lot of what you do going forward.

Someone will likely pull it when you apply for an apartment, mortgage, vehicle loan or credit cards, before hiring you for a job or opening a new bank account. It’ll affect how much you pay to rent a car or get a new cell phone. It could even affect your car insurance rates.

Once you know what’s in your credit history, you can figure out how to fix it.

2. Find Resolution on Lingering Debts

Harden recommends resolving the debts you find on your credit report as soon as possible.

“Close out the relationship with the credit union and close out all the loans and be done, so the relationship is over, period,” she says.

Closing accounts and making agreements to eliminate debt quickly may not be your greatest financial option, Harden says, but these steps help you cut ties with your abuser, which is still vital.

Your credit report should show you which creditors you’re dealing with. Reach out to them directly and ask what you need to do to eliminate those debts.

Scrivano points out a divorce agreement isn’t enough to get you out of debts you shared with your partner. For example, even if the agreement says credit card debt is your ex’s responsibility, the creditor doesn’t know — or care.

You’ll likely have to take further action to clear your name, she explains. Contact your creditors to determine exactly what needs to be done — and what, in the end, is your responsibility.

“Hold your advocate accountable for that kind of thing,” Scrivano says, referring to your financial or legal advisors. They should know your divorce agreement’s reach and advise you accordingly.

To prevent your ex from building new debt in your name, Telkikar recommends placing a 90-day fraud alert with the major credit bureaus. That way, businesses must verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.

To initiate a fraud alert with one of the bureaus:

You only have to place an initial fraud alert with one bureau. It will contact the others, the FTC explains. You can renew the alert after 90 days as often as you need.

3. Create a New Budget

Next, Harden says, a survivor has to spend time “learning to budget in the new reality, whatever that new reality is.”

With control over your finances, you can set up new savings and investing plans to “become proactive about having full ownership over (your) finances,” not just reactive to your situation.

“There’s financial stability, and then there’s financial vitality,” she explains.

Without the internet to teach her, Orban learned how to manage her budget through trial and error. She always kept a detailed budget.

“I ended up itemizing my life on a day-to-day basis and seeing how much I had coming in and how much, realistically, I had to pay out to function in a normal way,” she says.

Read our tips on how to budget if you’ve never done it before:

4. Rebuild Your Credit

Even if you have damaged credit, you’re not doomed.

“Since my credit had been damaged a bit, I wanted to rebuild that as well,” Kuehner explains.  “Taking out share secured loans … was the easiest way I knew. Within a year and a half my credit had been repaired.”

With a secured loan, she explains, “the bank freezes a specified amount of money in your account until payments are made. Each payment frees up the same amount of principal.”

A secured credit card is a similar way to build or repair your credit,

It’s similar to a debit card — you put down a cash deposit and can use that amount in credit.

Unlike a debit card, secured cards report your payment, balance and other relevant behavior to credit bureaus. So it’s a way to establish a credit history if yours is shot or nonexistent.

Read more tips for rebuilding your credit:

5. If You Need to, Find a New Job and Housing

If your abuser didn’t allow you to keep a job, the effect can ripple beyond your lack of control in the relationship.

“It could interrupt a work history,” Harden points out, “or prevent a work history from ever developing in such a way that an employer would find the candidate to be compelling as a potential employee.”

If you’ve lost your job, read these tips:

“Your local domestic violence program has relationships with community resources, so while they may not provide (job placement) themselves, they certainly have built partnerships and relationships with those who do, so to reach out to them,” Pentico advises.

Community colleges can also be a great resource for job placement.

If you want to go back to school, you can even find scholarships specifically for survivors of domestic violence.

If your relationship has forced you to take a break from the workforce, but you don’t want to return to college, you might be able to ease back in through a return-to-work internship.

If you’re able to live with friends or family to cut expenses and save for a while, go for it.

If you’re ready to find your own place (or not ready, but need to, anyway), here are some tips for getting the best deal out of your next rental.

On a positive note, Kuehner adds, “Replacing household items can be done fairly reasonably as well. Social media sites have ‘online garage sale’ postings, and you can pick up items really cheap. Hitting the Goodwill and other thrift stores are a great idea too. You can find some great treasures at rock-bottom prices.”

6. Prepare for Financial Success

The final step is refocusing on financial vitality, Harden says.

What does a thriving, successful life look like for you? Is there a business you need to reclaim, a career you need to start over or education you need to finish?

If you’re relying on financial support from loved ones, these 13 steps could help you cut the cord.

Focusing on financial independence will take you from reacting to a bad situation to being proactive about your own success.

And remember, you don’t have to go through it again.

Remember going forward, “Being in a relationship, regardless if married or not, does not mean you have to commingle all funds,” Kuehner says.

“I am a huge proponent of a mine, yours and ours type of finance. It is a simple technique, but can have enormously positive effects,” she explains.

To maintain financial independence and vitality in the future, know you don’t have to relinquish control to your partner. Early on, negotiate a split of resources and financial responsibilities that satisfies and respects both of your needs.

Starting Over

Now, Orban is retired and has been writing about her experiences for three years.

Her first book, “It’ll Feel Better When It Quits Hurting,” is a memoir of her life before leaving her ex-husband.

Her second will cover how she rebuilt her life after leaving.

Since 1990, Orban remarried and divorced her second husband. She has five children altogether, and one grandchild. One son is in college, one is still in high school and the rest are grown.

She eventually went back to college and earned her associate degree in psychology.

Healing emotionally and financially took a lot of time and work. But a small epiphany late one night made her realize she could do it.

“(I realized) I didn’t have to wait for time to heal all wounds. I could make steps and go forward and go, ‘I am in control of my life now — me — and I can make these changes.’”

If you or anyone you know needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to speak with an advocate or be connected with someone in your area: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) / TTY: 1-800-787-3224

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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.


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PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi Steps Down, With a Parting Gift for Investors: Better-Than-Expected Earnings

Indra Nooyi’s 12-year tenure as PepsiCo’s CEO came to and end Tuesday as the 24-year PepsiCo veteran hands the corporate reins over to her successor. Starting Wednesday, Ram?n Laguarta will oversee the Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Tropicana, Gatorade, and Quaker brands.

Nooyi’s final day on the job included a quarterly earnings report that beat analyst estimates–the 75th such earnings call she has participated in as the company’s CEO or CFO. Revenue rose 1.5% to $ 16.5 billion while earnings totaled $ 1.59 a share. Both figures beat analyst estimates, although some analysts nitpicked the results because they benefited from a lower tax rate rather than higher operating margins.

As a result, PepsiCo’s stock fell 1.9% to $ 108.72 a share during Nooyi’s last day. But the company’s stock has risen 109% since Nooyi was named CEO in August 2006, a notable performance in an industry known more for slow, steady improvements rather than tech-like hypergrowth. Coca-Cola’s stock, by comparison, has risen 67% since August 2006.

Under Nooyi’s leadership, PepsiCo’s revenue grew by 80% during a period when consumer tastes began to change and when food companies faced consolidation. Nooyi pushed PepsiCo early on to shift from junk food toward healthier snacks and beverages, anticipating a change that caught some companies off guard. She also advocated for stronger recycling policies as well as snacks that were tailored toward the tastes of female consumers.

Nooyi won numerous business accolades, included landing at or near the top of Fortune’s annual ranking of Most Powerful Women in business, where she appeared in 18 of the last 20 years. Last year, when Nooyi was ranked No. 2 on the list, she spoke about the formidable challenges she still faced as PepsiCo’s leader.

“The industry is seeing a pace of change and disruption that we’ve never seen… You’re going to have consolidation, disruption, and a shakeout in the industry. You’re going to see the emergence of new players,” Nooyi said. “You can look at it with pessimism, that, ‘Oh, my God, all of this is changing,’ or optimism, to say perhaps this is the time to rewrite some of the rules and rebalance the competitive equation in the industry. I’m in the latter camp, and I’m looking at the world and saying, ‘Interesting times.’”

Nooyi’s successor Laguarta is also a PepsiCo veteran, having worked at the company for 22 years. Laguarta will be the sixth CEO at PepsiCo, which has historically appointed new CEOs from within its ranks.

Nooyi will remain PepsiCo’s chairman until early next year. When she was named CEO of Pepsi, she was only of only 11 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. After she steps down, there will be 25. In an interview this summer with Fortune, Noori expressed regret that number remained low. “It concerns me in that we can actually count how many there are, as opposed to saying there are hundreds,” she said.

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