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Should You Make Payments During Coronavirus Student Loan Deferment?

As Americans grappled with the financial consequences of the pandemic in March of this year, the federal government took several actions to help cash-strapped consumers. For starters, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March of 2020, which included a temporary suspension of payments and interest for government-owned student loans through the end of September 2020.

Beyond just suspending payments and interest, the act also halted all collections activities on federal student loans. Americans pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) would see these non-payment months counted toward the 120 months of payments needed to have their loans forgiven. 

You can continue making payments on your federal student loans during the deferment period if you want to. Whether you should, depends on your goals and your situation.

This announcement was a huge relief for Americans with student debt since it meant they could pause federal student loan payments without accruing interest or facing penalties for several months. And recently, this assistance was extended for the remainder of 2020.

About the Student Loan Deferment Order

According to a memorandum from the White House, this extension intends to “provide such deferments to borrowers as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020.”

What does this mean for borrowers? The extension of this order means that those with federally owned student loans (not private student loans) can continue skipping payments for the duration of 2020. Interest won’t accrue on federal student loans during this time, and penalties won’t come into effect for those who choose to defer loan payments.

How Does This Help Student Loan Borrowers?

Although unemployment numbers have improved since the summer, the initial pause on federal student loan payments was of massive help for borrowers struggling with job loss or a loss in pay. After all, getting a break from student loan payments made room for funds to go toward other household needs and bills. Keep in mind that the average student loan payment is approximately $393 for all borrowers, but that many with advanced degrees pay significantly more than that every month.

When the Presidential action was released, it was unclear whether borrowers pursuing PSLF will still receive credit for non-payment months. However, a U.S. Department of Education press release clarified that PSLF borrowers would, in fact, receive credit toward loan forgiveness as if they’d made on-time payments.

Just keep in mind that this order does not apply to consumers with private student loans. Only federal student loans qualify for this protection, although some private student loan companies are offering their own separate deferment options to consumers who can show financial hardship.

Pros and Cons of Making Payments During Automatic Deferment

One interesting detail from this order is buried in the fine print:

“All persons who wish to continue making student loan payments shall be allowed to do so, notwithstanding the deferments provided pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.”

In summary, you can continue making payments on your federal student loans during the deferment period if you want to. Whether you should, depends on your goals and your situation.

Benefits of Making Loan Payments 

If you haven’t faced a loss in income, then you might be tempted to continue making payments on your student loans. The benefits of doing so include:

  • Paying down your student loan debt faster. The Department of Education says that, through the end of 2020, “the full amount of your payments will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.” This means that every cent thrown toward your loans right now applies to your loan balance, quickly reducing your student debt on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
  • Saving money on interest. Because of the way interest accrues on student loans and other debts, reducing your balance will automatically save you money on interest over the long haul. The more you pay toward your student loans now, the more money you save.

Disadvantages of Making Loan Payments

There are a few potential downsides to making student loan payments when they’re not required. Plus, borrowers with certain types of student loans should not be making payments right now. 

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

  • You may need the money later on. Even if your income is fine right now, the financial fallout from the pandemic is far from over. If you choose to make student loan payments through the end of the year and lose your job in a few months, you might wish you had saved that extra cash instead. 
  • Those pursuing PSLF shouldn’t make payments. If you’re pursuing PSLF, then this deferment period is counted toward the 120 on-time payments you need for loan forgiveness. If you continued making payments through the end of the year, you would be throwing money down the drain.
  • Most borrowers on income-driven repayment plans have little incentive to make payments. If you’re on an income-driven repayment plan like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR), then your loan payment is only a percentage of your discretionary income, and your loans will be forgiven after 20-25 years of on-time payments. Borrowers who aim to have their loans forgiven after 20-25 years anyway should skip payments through the end of the year and set aside their cash for a rainy day instead.

The Bottom Line

Individuals who want to pay off their loans quickly would be smart to pay as much as they can, but only if they can afford it. It also makes sense to be cautious about any extra income you have for the time being. After all, more economic pain may be on the way, and it’s possible you could face a loss in income later in the year.

Without any interest accruing on federally owned student loans during this historic forbearance, however, you could always put your student loan payments into a high-yield savings account until the end of the year. At that point, you can assess your financial situation and make a large, lump sum payment toward your loans if you want.

This strategy creates a greater safety net for the remainder of 2020 while also paying down debt faster with a large payment before the end of December. Run the numbers and make sure you have a plan (and a back-up plan) in place.

The post Should You Make Payments During Coronavirus Student Loan Deferment? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen Finally Sell Their Massachusetts Mansion

Tom Brady Sells Massachusetts Mansionrealtor.com, John Shearer/Getty Images

NFL great Tom Brady has finally offloaded his Massachusetts mansion. The quarterback and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, have sold their luxe Brookline estate, according to the Boston Globe.

The transaction appears to have been an off-market deal, with no price information disclosed for the transaction. Sources told the Globe that the property was offered for $32.5 million.

The custom-built,12,000-square-foot estate outside of Boston initially debuted at $39.5 million in 2019, then quickly dropped to $33.9 million.

The mansion built in 2015 came off the market in May, when luxury home sales were stalled by the coronavirus pandemic. But a buyer surfaced at the end of 2020.

Brookline, MA, estate

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Brookline abode

In 2013, the couple picked up a prime 5-acre plot from the local cash-strapped Pine Manor College for $4.5 million.

They tapped architect Richard Landry, of Landry Design Group, to create their East Coast estate. Landry has also worked on the couple’s Los Angeles mansion, which was featured in Architectural Digest.

Landry’s design sits adjacent to the ninth hole of the Country Club in Brookline, with serene views and plenty of privacy.

The five-bedroom main house features a dining room, living room, home office, chef’s eat-in kitchen, and family room. A grand stairwell leads to the bedrooms on the second floor.

The lower level includes a rec room, playroom, wine room, gym, and spa.

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Watch: QB Drew Brees Looks to Unload His Amazing Kauai Condo

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The sprawling grounds include gardens, a pool, and a “barn-inspired” guesthouse with a yoga studio, full bathroom, and sleeping loft. The property comes with a three-car garage, carport, and circular drive with ample parking.

Brady’s mansion sits just down the road from Reebok founder Paul Fireman‘s lavish property, which was finally sold in 2020 after four years on the market. That 27,000-square-foot mansion had been priced at as much as $90 million, before finally selling for $23 million. George and Manny Sarkis of Douglas Elliman represented Fireman.

The agents also sold Fireman’s adjacent 7 acres for $18 million to developer C. Stumpo Development, which plans to build luxury homes on the land.

“After closing on both 150 Woodland Road [the Fireman home] and the five adjacent lots, we are very excited about the current and future Brookline market,” says Manny. “Buyers continue to trend to the suburbs, seeking more land and bigger homes.”

Main house

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Living room

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Office

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Kitchen

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Home theater

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Spa

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Guesthouse

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Manhattan move

The jet-setting duo received another Christmas gift of good news in 2020, with a reported sale of their Tribeca loft. The two had made the penthouse available for just under $40 million last November. If they got their asking price, they’ll stroll away with a large profit.

The couple had picked up the place in 2018 for $25.46 million. The five-bedroom, 5.5-bath unit features a 1,900-square-foot terrace and Hudson River views. Building amenities include an 82-foot lap pool and a private drive-in entrance.

The couple still own a lower-floor unit in the same 14-floor building.

New year, new homes

Brady left Brookline after he signed with the Buccaneers. The QB has since put roots down in South Florida. In October, Brady and Bundchen were reportedly circling a waterfront property in Clearwater.

And then Brady made a move on Florida’s other coast in December, with a reported $17 million purchase of a home on Miami’s Indian Creek Island, known as the Billionaires Bunker.

The couple plan to raze the current house on the land in Miami and build anew. They’re reportedly looking to emulate the L.A. home they sold to Dr. Dre for $40 million in 2014. Sounds like the services of their favorite architect may once again be required.

The post Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen Finally Sell Their Massachusetts Mansion appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits

Before the coronavirus reached the U.S., unemployment was low and few could have anticipated a global pandemic. However, as the pandemic and ensuing recession took hold, a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits to stay financially afloat.

“COVID-19 led to an incredible number of American workers being without work,” says Julia Simon-Mishel, an unemployment compensation attorney. “And it’s caused a huge need for individuals to file for unemployment insurance.”

Unemployment insurance, or unemployment benefits, can offer an essential lifeline. But if you’ve never accessed these benefits before, you may have questions about how they work. You might also be asking: What do I do when my unemployment benefits run out and I’m still unemployed?

This article1 offers tips about what you need to know about filing an unemployment claim. It also addresses the following questions:

  • How do you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits?
  • Can your unemployment benefits be extended?
  • What can you do when unemployment runs out?
  • Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?

A record number of people have filed for unemployment, and many are wondering what to do when unemployment runs out.

If you’re just getting ready to file or need a refresher on the basics of unemployment benefits, read on to have your questions answered.

If you’re already collecting benefits and want to know what happens once you reach the end of the benefit period, skip ahead to “Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out.”

Common questions about unemployment benefits

Experiencing a job loss is challenging no matter what. Keep in mind that you’re not alone, and remember that unemployment benefits were created to help you.

As you consider how to prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, remember that you're not alone.

While they’re designed to provide financial relief, unemployment benefits are not always easy to navigate. Here’s what you need to know to understand how unemployment benefits work:

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance provides people who have lost their job with temporary income while they search for and land another job. The amount provided and time period the benefits last may vary by state. Generally, most states offer up to half of a person’s previous wages in unemployment benefits for 26 weeks or until you land another full-time job, whichever comes first. Requirements and eligibility may vary, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment agency for guidance.

How do you apply for unemployment benefits?

Depending on where you live, claims may be filed in person, by phone or online. Check your state government’s website for details.

Who can file an unemployment claim?

This also may vary from state to state, but eligibility typically requires that you lost your job or were furloughed through no fault of your own, in addition to meeting work and wage requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government loosened restrictions, extending unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.

When should you apply for unemployment benefits?

Short answer: As soon as possible after you lose your job. “If you are someone who has had steady W2 work, it’s important that you file for unemployment the moment you lose work,” Simon-Mishel says. The longer you wait to file, the longer you’re likely to wait to get paid.

When do you receive unemployment benefits?

Generally, if you are eligible, you can expect to receive your first benefit check two to three weeks after you file your claim. Of course, this may differ based on your state or if there’s a surge of people filing claims.

Can unemployment benefits be extended? Check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

2020 enhancements to unemployment benefits for freelance and contract workers

In early 2020, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. In addition to other benefits, the CARES Act created a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other workers who were typically ineligible. That means that if you don’t have steady W2 income—for instance, freelance and contract workers, those who file 1099s, farmers and the self-employed—you still may qualify for unemployment benefits.

“That program is a retroactive payout,” Simon-Mishel says. “If you’re just finding out about that program several months after losing your job, you should be able to file and get benefits going back to when you lost work.”

Because legislation affecting unemployment benefits continues to evolve, it’s important that you keep an eye out for any additional stimulus programs that can extend unemployment benefits. Be sure to regularly check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

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“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you.”

– Julia Simon-Mishel, unemployment compensation attorney

Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out

In a perfect world, your job leads would become offers long before you reached the end of your unemployment benefits. But in reality, that’s not always the case.

If you’re still unemployed but haven’t yet exhausted your benefits and extensions, you may want to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits as early as possible so you don’t become financially overwhelmed. Here are four tips to help you get through this time:

Talk to service providers

Reaching out to your utility service providers like your gas, electric or water company is one of the first steps John Schmoll, creator of personal finance blog Frugal Rules, suggests taking if you’re preparing for the end of unemployment benefits.

“A lot of times, either out of shame or just not knowing, people don’t contact service providers and let them know what their situation is,” Schmoll says. “[Contact them to] see what programs they have in place to help you reduce your spending, and basically save as much of that as possible to help stretch your budget even further.”

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Save what you can

To help prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, a few months before your benefits end, Schmoll suggests cutting back spending as much as possible, focusing only on necessities.

“If you can try and save something out of the benefits that you’re receiving while you’re receiving them—it doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $20—that’s going to help provide some cushion,” Schmoll says. Keep those funds in a separate account if you can, so you’re not tempted to spend them. That way you’re more prepared in case of an emergency.

If you hunkered down during your period of unemployment and were able to save, try to resist the urge to splurge on things that aren’t necessary.

“There might be temptation to overspend, but curtail that and focus on true necessities,” Schmoll says. “That way when [or if] you receive an extension on your benefits, you now have that extra money saved.”

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Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Seek additional financial aid

If you find that your savings and benefits aren’t covering your expenses, and you’re reaching a point where you no longer qualify for benefits, look into other new benefit programs or features designed to help during times of crisis.

For example, there are programs across the country to assist people with rent or mortgages, Simon-Mishel says. Those programs are generally designed to keep those facing financial hardship from losing their home or apartment. You may need to show that you are within the programs’ income limits to qualify, or demonstrate that your rent is more than 30 percent of your income. These programs vary widely at the state and even city level, so check your local government website to see what might be available to you.

As you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, explore which government benefits or government agency may be best suited for your needs.

Keep up with the news

During economic downturns, government programs and funds often change to keep up with evolving demand.

“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you,” says Simon-Mishel. “You should closely pay attention to the social media of your state unemployment agency and local news about other extension programs that might be added and that you might be eligible for.”

Pay attention to social media and local news as you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Options for extending your unemployment benefits

If you’re currently receiving benefits, but they’ll be ending soon, you’re likely wondering what to do when your unemployment runs out and asking if your unemployment benefits can be extended. Start by confirming when you first filed your claim because that will determine your benefit end date.

If you’re wondering, “Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?” the answer is yes, but you’ll have to wait until your current “benefit year” expires. Note that a benefit year is 12 months from when you file a claim. If you filed at the beginning of June, for example, you generally can’t file again until the beginning of the following June.

You may get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, depending on your state’s rules at the time. Most states extended the payout period to 39 weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Check your state’s website for the particulars on what to do when your unemployment runs out.

If your claim is still active but you’ll be in need of additional financial relief after your unemployment benefits run out, here are your options:

File for an unemployment extension

During extraordinary economic times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government may use legislation like the CARES Act to offer people more benefits for a longer period of time, helping many people concerned about whether unemployment benefits can be extended.

Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out? It can vary by state, so reach out to your unemployment office.

For example, in 2020, for most workers who exhaust, or receive all of, their unemployment benefits, a 13-week extension should automatically kick in, Simon-Mishel says. This would bring you up to 39 weeks total. However, if more than a year has passed since you originally filed and you need the extension, you will likely need to file a short application provided by the government. Details vary by state.

As you’re determining what to do when your unemployment runs out, reach out to your unemployment office. It’s important to do this before your benefits expire so you can avoid a missed payment. You can also confirm you’re eligible and that you can refile for unemployment after it runs out.

Ask about the Extended Benefits program in your state

Can unemployment benefits be extended beyond that? In periods of high unemployment, you may qualify for a second extension, depending on your state.

“After those [first] 13 weeks, many states have added a new program called Extended Benefits that can provide another 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment when a state is experiencing high unemployment,” Simon-Mishel adds. This means you may be able to receive a total of up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits, including extensions. The total number of weeks of unemployment you may receive varies based on your state and the economic climate.

It’s hard enough keeping up with everything as you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, so don’t worry if you don’t have your state’s benefits program memorized. Visit your state’s unemployment insurance program page to learn more about what benefits are available to you.

For anyone considering what to do when unemployment runs out, it's important to take things one day at a time.

Beyond unemployment benefits

While life and your finances may seem rocky now, know that you’re not alone. Remember that there are resources available to help support you, and try to take things one day at a time, Schmoll says.

“Realize that at some point your current situation will improve.”

If you find that your benefits aren’t covering all of your expenses, now may be the time to dip into your cash reserve. Explore these tips to determine when it’s time to use your emergency fund.

1 This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Eligibility for unemployment benefits may be impacted by variations in state programs, changes in programs, and your circumstances. If you have questions, you should consider consulting with your legal counsel, at your expense, or seek free assistance from your local legal aid organization.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

‘I Lost My Job—and My Dream House’: How This First-Time Home Buyer Bounced Back

houseKaterina Rieckel

Imagine finding your dream home, then, a week before closing the deal, losing your job—and the house. House hunting during the coronavirus pandemic is no picnic.

COVID-19 has caused seismic changes not only to real estate markets, but also to the lives of home buyers hit with layoffs, furloughs, and other financial challenges. Just ask Katerina Rieckel, a digital strategist, knitwear designer, and first-time home buyer who, with her husband, was set to close on a glorious farmhouse in upstate New York in March.

But about a week before sealing the deal, Rieckel was laid off, which meant that she and her husband, a claims adjuster, could no longer afford the place.

As a part of our new series, “First-Time Home Buyer Confessions,” we asked Rieckel to share her story, and the hard-won lessons she wants to share with other first-timers.

Let her experiences show that even unemployment doesn’t need to spell the end of a house hunt—although it may require you to dust yourself off after a loss and try, try again.

home
Katerina Rieckel’s farmhouse in upstate New York

Katerina Rieckel

Location: Troy, NY
House specs: 1,544 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
List price: $249,900
Price paid: $245,500

2020 has been a wild one. How did you end up buying a home in the middle of a pandemic?

We started looking for a house a year ago, about halfway through the summer. At the time, both my husband and I had recently got new jobs, so the first issue we ran into was getting pre-qualified for the mortgage without a long track record at those companies. We also both felt pressure, as our jobs were very new.

What were you looking for in a house, and what was your budget?

We were looking for a house in the country that was move-in ready, private with at least 5 acres. We started off with a small budget, max $200,000, which made our choices more narrow.

Our search continued well into the winter, and around January 2020, we finally saw a house that was all we ever dreamed of and more. It was over our budget, at $229,000, but it had been listed for over a year, so we felt there was a good chance we could get it for less than the asking price.

What did you love about this house?

It was a beautiful, slate-blue farmhouse sitting on top of a hill, surrounded by woods. The house was warm and inviting, with chickens running around, as well as a big diving pool, and a workshop in the basement connected with a two-car garage. We got along with the owners really well, and we were going to keep the chickens. Everything went very smoothly, until just over a week before closing.

house
Rieckel and her husband almost bought this house, but it wasn’t in the cards.

Global MLS

So what went wrong?

It was March, and COVID-19 hit hard. The digital marketing agency I worked for had clients pause their work for unknown time. I was laid off, which meant we couldn’t afford the house anymore, and had to back out of the deal.

I was crushed. We didn’t know what was going to happen, and the country was under a lockdown. We had plans for my parents to come visit us in our new house, but instead, I ended up with no job, no house, and I couldn’t see my family, since they live in Europe.

In the summer, I was very fortunate to get my job back. So we resumed our house hunt and began to search for a new contender.

When you started the search again, how had COVID-19 changed the market?

The housing market in upstate New York got totally crazy. I heard there were houses being sold within hours. The market was just incredibly competitive, and not many houses were being listed, as a lot of people didn’t want to let strangers in their house during the pandemic.

We saw about seven to 10 houses in person, but they usually ended up disappointing us, with some strange arrangements. For example, one house had around 25 acres, but half of that acreage was on the other side of the road, behind other people’s houses, which made it almost impossible to use.

home
The couple’s pet cat has settled into their new digs, too.

Katerina Rieckel

With such a competitive market, how did you end up finding the right house?

Finally, around halfway through the summer, I saw a house listed that I hadn’t noticed before. I called on it right away and set up a showing that evening.

The real estate agent told me we were really fast, as he had just relisted this house. Someone had been buying it, but backed out of the process because of personal reasons.

porch
Their house has tons of privacy and a great view.

Katarina Rieckel

How did you know this house was the one?

The house had over 10 acres, it was in the country, and about 35 minutes to Troy. It was move-in ready, but definitely needed upgrades, as it looked like it got stuck in the ’80s.

Even though we didn’t like the style that much, we felt instantly comfortable and decided to put in an offer that same evening. It was partly due to the pressure of the market, but in the end, we are really happy we made this decision.

house
This house was totally 1980s, but Rieckel has been slowly updating it.

Katerina Rieckel

What surprised you most about the home-buying process?

Nothing prepares you for the amount of aggravation you have to go through. Buying a house is like getting a second job for about three months.

living room
After a little work, Rieckel’s home looks lovely.

Katerina Rieckel

What’s your advice for aspiring first-time home buyers?

Don’t trust the photos! The photos got me a few times. For example, a lot of times, the photos of the house are taken so that you can’t see the neighboring houses.

You think, “Wow, that looks so private!” Then you drive there, and you realize there’s a house sitting right next to it. Since privacy was very important to us, we got disappointed a few times by this. We started doing drive-bys first, before going in with a real estate agent, whenever possible.

Christmas decorations
Rieckel moved in in time to enjoy her new home for the holidays.

Katerina Rieckel

Anything else home buyers should look out for?

Call the real estate agent and ask a lot of questions before you even go see the house, like what the property and school taxes are—very important around here.

You also want to know what kind of heating the house has, as electric bills can really add up over the winter.

The driveway can also be a huge issue, which is why I think the first house we were buying was for sale for such a long time. It had a pretty steep driveway, which was definitely an all-wheel drive kind of thing in the winter.

We also changed who we were financing with while we were going through closing. We needed someone well-informed about the economy, who knew what they were doing and was ready to act fast.

Our first mortgage broker didn’t tell us as soon as interest rates started to go up—and basically sat on the information for a while. This is when we stopped trusting this person and went to work with a bank instead.

Maybe the best advice is not to fall in love with a house too quickly, since there can be so many setbacks that you will not see coming.

Katerina Rieckel
It took a little longer than expected, but this family is finally happy in their new home.

Katerina Rieckel

The post ‘I Lost My Job—and My Dream House’: How This First-Time Home Buyer Bounced Back appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How Banks Are Operating During Coronavirus

Coronavirus is changing American lives, including the way that they bank. Find out what some banks are doing differently.

Source: moneyunder30.com

Unemployment Benefits Explained: Terms, Definitions and More

After reading that sentence, you may have a couple choice acronyms yourself. Maybe, “OMG — WTH does that mean?”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.

The 2 Unemployment Programs You Definitely Need to Know

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.
“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.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

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.
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.
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.

Pro Tip
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.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

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.
Take, for example, this update to applicants on Arkansas’ unemployment website after the second stimulus package passed:
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
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.

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

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.
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.
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.
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.)
Here’s a primer on seven key terms that you’re sure to come across as you apply for benefits.
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.
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.
Use this tool from the Department of Labor to find your state’s unemployment website and start a UI claim.
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.
For the first time nationally, gig workers and freelancers, who are considered 1099 independent contractors, have been able to receive unemployment benefits through PUA.
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.
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.

Things To Do While You’re Stuck In Your Apartment

Creating An Inspiring Home Office Space

Guest Post

Things To Do While Stuck In Your Apartment During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By now, almost everyone in the country is under some kind of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders from government agencies due to the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities stress that this is the main way to try to flatten the curve of new infections.

OK, so what can you do while cooped up in your apartment. The options aren’t quite unlimited, but they are numerous. Take advantage of the space you have and undertake any activity that will be good for your mental or physical well-being. Here’s a look at some of the most popular:

1. Do a jigsaw puzzle

This has become quite popular around the country, with people finishing a jigsaw puzzle and then posting a picture of it on social media. The more pieces, the better, say, 1,000 or more. How long you’ll be able to do this to remain occupied depends on how many puzzles you have on hand, or how many times you’re willing to do the same puzzle over again.

If you don’t have jigsaw puzzles, maybe you have a Rubik’s Cube or a book of crossword puzzles. You can also find crossword puzzles online and in your daily newspaper, if you still subscribe.

2. Exercise!

If you have a set of weights in your apartment, use them. Or maybe you’re a packrat and still have exercise routines on VHS tapes or DVDs. If not, there are plenty of routines you can find for free online. 

If you can leave your apartment, go for a walk or a jog, as long as you observe the social distancing rules that are now the new normal. If you don’t want to go outside, walk up and down a stairwell or walk up and down your hallway. Again, give others their personal space.

Short of that, you can go old-school and do crunches, sit-ups and push-ups on your floor. You can also do isometric exercises using a rolled-up bath towel. For a refresher on the techniques, check out these workouts you can do in your apartment and then get to work. 

Whatever you chose, mix it up and keep it fresh as you stay in shape. 

3. Binge-watch

OK, the first two suggestions will put your mind and body to work. At some point you’ll feel like being a couch potato, so why not catch up on a series you’ve been meaning to watch on Netflix, Disney Plus or one of the many streaming services available? You’ve never had a better excuse than now. 

“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” has become all the rage on Netflix. It was released in mid-March and has given people something to do in the age of coronavirus. It is a true-crime documentary television series about the life of former zoo operator Joseph Maldonado-Passage.

If that’s not your thing, there are favorites such as “Narcos: Mexico” and “Stranger Things” on Netflix. If you’ve already seen them, what’s the harm in starting over? On Disney Plus you can watch “The Mandalorian,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “The Simpsons.”

4. Spring cleaning

It’s spring, and you have a lot of unexpected time on your hands. Now’s a great time to get in some spring cleaning of your apartment. Cut through the clutter and organize your closet and dresser. Most importantly, regularly clean and disinfect important areas such as kitchen surfaces and appliances that are used often. You should also keep your bathroom clean. 

5. Other stuff

There are plenty of other things you can be doing, such as catching up on your reading, playing a musical instrument, writing emails to friends and family and getting plenty of rest.

Read Things To Do While You’re Stuck In Your Apartment on Apartminty.

Source: blog.apartminty.com

How to Dine Al Fresco Year-Round: 7 Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for 2021

outdoor kitchenbrizmaker/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a new appreciation of backyards and other outdoor spaces. With many of us spending hours and hours at home, we’re all looking for places to relax other than the living room sofa and kitchen. If you have a yard with ample space for you and your family, consider yourself blessed.

But in 2021, outdoor space owners might want to consider taking it up a notch with one of the most sought-after features: an outdoor kitchen.

“I looked at this as an investment our family would enjoy for the next 20-plus years,” says lifestyle expert Evette Rios, who recently embarked on her own outdoor kitchen project.

For people who dream of spending even more time cooking outside and enjoying their backyard, an outdoor kitchen is a must. And now’s the time to get to work to ensure your kitchen is ready when the warm, sunny days arrive.

Take a look at the tips below from experts who have successfully completed outdoor kitchen projects of their own.

1. Set a budget

Outdoor kitchens are not a cheap investment, but the price range is really broad. The cost of an outdoor kitchen ranges from $5,406 to $21,699, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Therefore, there are many ways to tailor your kitchen to your budget.

That being said, you should always prioritize durable materials in an outdoor kitchen.

“Interior furnishings afford a bit more leeway on where you splurge and save,” says HGTV star Laurie March. “But for outdoor kitchens and living spaces, performance and durability—when it comes to cabinetry and appliances—will always be worth it.”

2. Seek out American-made products

Photo by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens

March says COVID-19 has caused major global supply chain interruptions, which has made acquiring building materials and appliances difficult. But sourcing for your outdoor kitchen might be easier if you opt for American-made products.

“I selected Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, which are manufactured in Connecticut. It made the process so much easier,” says March.

She says it wasn’t only about convenience, but also craftsmanship, quality, and the company’s established history.

3. Order appliances early in the planning process

Appliances are what will make your outdoor kitchen shine. But you’ll want to order them sooner rather than later because some companies have long lead times or backordered items.

March advises finalizing appliance picks first and ordering as quickly as possible.

“It’s easier to store them until you’re ready to install rather than have to wait for them to arrive, which can add substantial time to your project,” she says.

4. Design with four seasons in mind

Photo by Chicago Green Design Inc.

Rios highly recommends designing your outdoor kitchen for year-round enjoyment. For example, in her outdoor kitchen, she knew she wanted durable, high-quality cabinets to keep contents dry even in rain or high humidity.

“Heating elements in different zones of the outdoor space are also crucial,” says Rios. “In the kitchen, our pizza oven helps keep us warm during food prep, and the fire pit is a cozy spot for guests to gather.”

If you have a covered outdoor space, she recommends planning and budgeting for ceiling-mounted heat lamps, or invest in one or two free-standing, mobile heating units.

5. Find the right people for the job

March says homeowners should do their homework and hire the right professionals to guide them through their vision, flag any potential pitfalls, and elevate the overall aesthetic.

“For me, bringing a landscape designer onboard brought the whole vision for our outdoor kitchen and yard together,” says March.

Rios says it’s also important to lock in a trusted contractor and installer to ensure the vision and layout for your outdoor kitchen is doable and within your budget.

6. Have fun with color

Photo by DeGoey Designs

Rios says an outdoor kitchen is the perfect space to have fun with color, whether taking cues from the surrounding landscape or going bright and bold.

“Blues and greens can so easily play off of surrounding elements outdoors. I’m over the all-white kitchen, and I think outdoor kitchens are the perfect opportunity to embrace brighter hues,” says Rios, who used a beautiful juniper-green, powder-coat finish on her outdoor kitchen cabinetry.

7. Design based on how you’ll use your space

“Asking yourself the right questions as you think through design options can provide a lot of helpful guidance,” says March. “How do you want to live outdoors? What’s not working with your current or past space, and how could it rise up to meet you a bit better?”

She says it’s also important to consider who’s going to use the outdoor kitchen space. Does it need to be wheelchair-accessible or suitable for pets and kids?

“These details will dictate so much of your design,” says March.

For her space, she envisioned how it could pivot from a space to cook to a space to entertain. The big, open shelf she installed, for example, serves as additional landing space for items she brings out from the indoor kitchen.

The post How to Dine Al Fresco Year-Round: 7 Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for 2021 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

8 Ways You Could Get Stimulus Money With Your 2020 Tax Refund

If your coronavirus checks are long gone, you could have more stimulus money coming your way, even if Congress doesn’t do another thing. And if you didn’t qualify for a check based on your past tax return, you could get stimulus money if you file a tax return for 2020 that shows you’re eligible.

Here’s why: Both the first stimulus check and the second stimulus check are an advance on a temporary 2020 tax credit. But because of the urgency of the situation, the IRS was directed to get us that money ASAP, using information from our 2018 or 2019 returns.

That means if your tax situation changed through the course of the year, you could get stimulus money if your 2020 return shows that you’re eligible.

8 Reasons You Could Get Stimulus Money With Your 2020 Refund

If one or more of these scenarios apply, you might get more coronavirus money in 2021 by submitting a tax return. And relax: You won’t owe more at tax time or get a smaller refund as the result of receiving a check.

1. You’re No Longer Claimed as a Dependent

Attention, Class of 2020: If your parents or someone else claimed you as a dependent in 2019 but they don’t in 2020, you could get an $1,800 credit — $1,200 from the first check and $600 from the second one — provided that you file a tax return.

Generally, you can be claimed as a dependent if you’re under 19, or you’re under 24 and a student, if your parents provide at least half of your support.

2. You Had a Child in 2020

The parents of any bundle of joy who arrives in 2020 will be eligible for an $1,100 child coronavirus credit: $500 from the first round and $600 from the second. They’ll have to wait until they file their 2020 tax return, since the IRS doesn’t have record of these new additions yet.

3. Your Child Was Born in 2019, but You Took Advantage of the Tax Extension

If you had a child in 2019 but got a late start on filing your 2019 return due to the coronavirus tax extension or you filed on paper, the IRS probably processed your first payment using your 2018 return. You’ll get the extra $500 child credit next year when your 2020 return is accepted. But provided that your 2019 return has been accepted, you may receive $600 for your child from the latest round with your second stimulus check.

4. You Get Social Security or SSI Benefits and Have a Dependent Child

The IRS automatically processed coronavirus checks for people who aren’t required to file a tax return and receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement, SSDI, SSI or VA benefits.

But in many of these situations, the IRS only received the information needed to send the recipient the $1,200. They didn’t get information about dependent children who qualified for $500 coronavirus child credits unless the recipient provided it using the non-filer tool on the IRS website within a pretty narrow timeframe.

If you got a $1,200 payment for yourself but didn’t receive the extra payments for dependent children under 17, you’ll need to file a 2020 tax return to get the extra $500, even if you don’t normally need to file. The same applies if you don’t get the $600 credit with your payment in the latest round.

5. Your Income Dropped in 2020

A lot of people will no doubt have a lot less income to report in 2020 than they did in 2018 or 2019. If you didn’t qualify for the first check because your previous income was above the $99,000 threshold for singles or $198,000 for married couples, you could qualify based on your 2020 income. The second check has a lower phaseout because it’s smaller, so you won’t receive one if you’re single with an income above $87,000 or married with an income above $174,000.

Likewise, if your payment was reduced because your income was above $75,000 if you’re single or $150,000 if you’re married, you’d get the difference when you file your 2020 return.

FROM THE TAXES FORUM
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6. You and Your Child’s Other Parent Take Turns Claiming Them for Taxes

The Washington Post’s Michelle Singletary reported on this odd quirk of stimulus payments: It appears that in situations where divorced, separated and never-married parents take turns claiming their dependent children on taxes, each parent could wind up with a $500 payment.

Whoever claimed the child for 2019 probably received both the $500 and $600 payments with their stimulus check. But since the payments are technically a credit for 2020 taxes, there could be a loophole that allows the other parent to get the credit for the same child when they file next year.

7. You Increased Your Retirement Contributions in 2020

Suppose you’re a single filer who earned $80,000 in 2019 and your income stays the same in 2020. You would have gotten a $950 coronavirus check in the first round, because payments are reduced by 5 cents for every $1 of income over $75,000 if you’re single. In the second round, you’d get $350.

But if you reduced your 2020 taxable income to $75,000 by contributing an extra $5,000 to your 401(k) or traditional IRA (sorry, a Roth IRA won’t work), you’d get the additional $250 coronavirus payment from both rounds, so $500 total.

8. You’re Married to Someone Without a Social Security Number

If you have a Social Security number but you’re married and file a joint tax return with someone who doesn’t have one, neither of you initially qualified for a stimulus check under the CARES Act. But the latest relief bill changes the rules so that anyone in the household with a Social Security number will qualify for the second payment — and it also makes the change retroactive to the first round.

That means if you’re in a mixed-status household, you could get a $1,200 credit for yourself, plus $500 for each dependent child 16 and younger who has a Social Security number.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

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

Using Credit Cards During COVID-19

Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re all trying to figure out the new normal. Whether you’re working from home, have a houseful of kids to keep busy or find yourself facing financial uncertainty, everyone has at least a little adjusting to do. While you’re taking stock of your life and what you need to adjust, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at your finances and credit card use, too.

Wondering how you should use your credit card? We’ve got some ideas for you on how you can use your credit card in the middle of a global emergency. 

How to Use Your Credit Card During a Pandemic

But before we get started, remember to take a hard look at your personal finances before following any financial information. Everyone’s situation is different—so what might work for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.

1. Keep Online Shopping to a Minimum

If you’re working from home, the temptation to online shop can be all too real. But when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, you might need to put your money towards unexpected expenses. 

David Lord, General Manager of Credit.com, has some advice on preventing frivolous spending. “Try browsing, putting things in your cart and leaving them for the day,” Lord suggests. “If you take a look at your cart the next day, you’ll most likely find that 90% of the time you won’t remember the things you placed in your cart in the first place.”

If the temptation to online shop is too strong, Lord suggests buying something that’ll keep you occupied for a while, like a puzzle, a paint set or a yoga mat. That way, you’ll be too distracted to buy something else.

2. Try to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape

During a global emergency, it feels like everything’s up in the air. Because of that, it’s important to stay as on top of things as you can and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Having good credit is important in the best of times, but it can be even more so in the worst. 

Let’s say you find yourself with a bill that you can’t pay on your hands. If you need to take out a loan, you’d probably want a loan with the best interest rates possible. In order to qualify for those types of loans, you’ll need a good credit score. 

If you’re in a position to do so, try to keep your credit score healthy. Here’s some quick things you can do today:

  • Keep an eye on your credit score and credit report
  • Pay your bills on time—at least the minimum payment
  • Keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%

But if you find yourself in a financial situation where you can’t keep up with everything, you can prioritize. For example, going above 30% of your credit utilization ratio won’t impact your score as much as missing a payment. That’s because credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, while your payment history makes up 35% of your score. 

3. Utilize Cashback Rewards

Do you have a great rewards credit card on your hands? Now’s a great time to use them. While some credit cards might not be handy right now, like travel rewards cards, there are others that could be useful. If your card offers cashback on categories such as groceries, gas and everyday purchases, take advantage. You could use those rewards to help you cover essential purchases. 

4. Use Your Balance Transfer Credit Cards

If you already have significant debt or if you’ve recently taken on new debt, you might want to consider using a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your debt from one card to your balance transfer card, which typically has a lower promotional interest rate. These promotional interest rates can last from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer.

These are great options if you’re faced with new debt. If you’re struggling to pay the rent, groceries or medical bills, and your stimulus check can’t cover it all, you can use your balance transfer credit card. Just make sure to be careful. You still have to pay off your debt, so make sure to do so before the promotional balance transfer offer ends. If you can, try to make regular payments on your card, so you’re not faced with an overwhelming amount of debt when the promotional offer ends.

Be Mindful of Your Situation

Above all else, be mindful of your situation. What urgent bills do you have to pay? Do you have a loved one in the hospital? Have you or your significant other lost their job? Make goals based off of your situation, and use your credit card accordingly.

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If you’re looking for more information on coronavirus and your finances, check out our COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide. We update it frequently, to make the most up-to-date and useful information available to you. 

The post Using Credit Cards During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com