Tag: Taxes

5 Speedy Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment

by Phillip Warren
Sally Elford/Getty Images

The best way for first-time home buyers to come up with a down payment for a home: save for one, of course! But sometimes you’re in a hurry. Maybe your dream house just popped up on the market, or you’ve simply had it with being a renter. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to buy a house, now. But while your credit is good and your career is stable, you still need to come up with that big chunk of change for a down payment.

Watch: 4 Things You Can Give Up to Make a Down Payment

 

Never fear: There are plenty of ways to amass a sizable down payment fast. Check out these tactics, along with their pros and cons.

1. Dip into your 401(k)

If you’ve been socking away money in your 401(k), it is possible to borrow from that for a home loan—and get that cash in hand fast.

“Most 401(k) plans allow you to borrow up to 50% of the vested balance, or up to $50,000, and it takes about a week,” says Todd Huettner, owner of Huettner Capital, a residential and commercial real estate lender in Denver.

But it will cost you: If you take funds out of your 401(k) early—that is, before you’re 59½ years old—you’re going to take a 10% penalty on that withdrawn money. And it counts as gross income, which can bump you into a higher tax bracket.

Check out this Wells Fargo calculator to see what your penalties would be. In addition to penalties, most companies require you to repay that vested money over five years—or sooner if you quit or get axed. So be sure your career is stable.

2. Crack your IRA

Digging into your IRA usually carries the same 10% penalty of breaking open your 401(k) piggy bank, with one major difference: The penalty doesn’t apply to first-time home buyers. And unlike a 401(k), you don’t have to repay what you take out of an IRA. However, the withdrawal is still taxable. Plus there’s the matter of not repaying yourself, which can hurt your long-term retirement. So if you take out a sizable chunk, restoring this nest egg to its former level will take you many years.

3. Hit up your boss

Let’s get real: You don’t want to stroll into your boss’ office and demand help buying your house. But you can ask if your company has an employer-assisted housing program. Think about it: Companies hate employee turnover, so what better way to keep you around than pitching in to help you buy a home? It’s a win-win: Home loans are often low- or zero-interest and are usually structured to be forgivable over a period of time, often five years, which further encourages employees to stay put. The downside? Not all employers offer it. Hospitals and universities most often do, so be sure to ask to avoid overlooking this ready source of financial assistance.

4. Explore state and city programs

Local assistance programs abound to help you scratch up cash for a down payment. Offered by either your state, your city, or nonprofits, these programs often partner with banks, who hope to gain clientele they might pass over otherwise: Bank of America, for instance, recently launched a searchable database of local programs. Wells Fargo’s partnership with NeighborhoodLIFT offers down payment assistance up to $15,000.

The catch? You’ll need to qualify. For NeighborhoodLIFT, for instance, your household income has to be no more than 120% of the median in your area.

5. Get a gift from family or friends

Understandably, many home buyers turn to their family for help buying a home, and for good reason: There are no limits on how much a family member can “gift” another family member, although only a specific portion can be excluded from taxes ($14,000 per parent).

But it’s not just as easy as that. Gifters, even family, will need to provide paperwork in the form of a gift letter. And if the gifter is a friend, it gets even more complicated. For example, you’ll have to wait about 90 to 120 days before you can use any of those funds.

The post 5 Speedy Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.


Source: realtor.com

A Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Home Ownership Costs [Free Download]

by Phillip Warren

Along with the excitement of purchasing a new home, comes the additional costs that you will be expected to pay as a homeowner. Apart from covering the mortgage of your home, you’ll have additional expenses – such as home insurance – that you will be expected to cover. If you’re looking to budget for a home purchase, it’s important that you consider these costs as they can add up to thousands of dollars each year.

To help you make educated decisions when budgeting, we’ve compiled a list of the major home ownership costs in one free, downloadable guide. Get the Home Ownership Costs to Consider guide here.

Home Insurance

Home insurance policies help protect against serious damage and destruction, like fires, leaks, floods, or break-ins. It also protects a homeowner from personal liability. Some banks may offer home insurance products, although you can typically purchase a home insurance policy through a home insurance agent or broker. 

Tip: You may get better rates if you use a broker or agent. It’s also important to keep in mind that policies typically renew on an annual basis.

Condo Fees

The cost of maintenance fees should be taken into account when you’re buying a condo. This recurring cost is in addition to your mortgage and impacts how much home you can afford. 

Your mandatory monthly fee will vary by your building and square footage. It typically covers:

  • Utilities (such as water and garbage collection)
  • Building insurance
  • Maintenance of common areas (such as the gym, pool, front desk, hallways, landscaping)
  • Building reserve fund (covers emergencies and long-term maintenance projects such as a new roof or elevators repairs)

What Are Status Certificates?

If you’re looking to purchase a condo, you’ll want to look into obtaining a status certificate so that you have as much information about the building and your unit as possible before buying. A status certificate provides valuable information about the condo corporation and its financial

situation. It includes details on the budget, legal issues, the reserve fund, maintenance fees, and any fee increases expected in the future. 

Tip: You’ll want to carefully review your status certificate with your lawyer before making a purchase.

Property Tax

Property taxes are paid annually by homeowners to their municipality. These taxes are ongoing and are separate from your mortgage. Your annual property tax can often be paid in installments.

Tip: It’s important to remember that this cost is not due at closing, but is a recurring cost.

How Are Property Taxes Calculated?

Your property tax rate will vary depending on the value of your property as assessed by your provincial assessment authority. This is then multiplied by a rate that falls between 0.5% to 2.5%.

How Do You Pay Property Taxes?

You can pay your property taxes either through your mortgage provider or directly to your municipality. 

Your Utility Bills

When you purchase a home, you’ll have to set up or transfer your utility bills to your new home. If you live in a condo, these costs may be included in your monthly maintenance fee. Your utility bill will include:

  • Hydro (electricity)
  • Heat
  • Water and Garbage
  • Internet, Phone, Cable

For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Home Ownership Costs to Consider Guide here.

The post A Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Home Ownership Costs [Free Download] appeared first on Zoocasa Blog.


Source: zoocasa.com

A Beginner’s Guide to Insurance Premiums

by Phillip Warren

What is a premium?

To benefit from insurance coverage, you’ll need to pay a premium. A premium is a payment to your insurer that keeps your coverage in place. Insurance companies determine your premium by deciding what the risk is to insure you. Here’s a breakdown of the basics to help you understand what a premium is, why you have to pay it, how it works and ways to reduce your costs.

What Is a Premium?

An insurance premium is effectively the cost of your insurance, whether for health, auto or life insurance. Most companies allow you to pay the annual premium via monthly installments. However, some companies may require you to pay your premium on an annual basis or a semi-annual basis. Some may even want the entire insurance premium up front. Companies often decide they want the insurance premium up front if you have previously had your insurance policy canceled for non-payment.

The price of a premium is usually decided by an actuary or underwriter who takes a base calculation. The base calculation determines what the risk is to insure you. After the base calculation, the company may discount it based on your health, driving record, location and other personal details. This is all based on the type of insurance you’re looking to secure, too.

Your premium may also be determined based on your insurance history. Every insurance company uses different criteria to determine premiums. Some companies use insurance scores based on personal factors like credit rating, car accident frequency, personal claims history and occupation. If your personal factors are attractive to certain companies, you may want to secure a plan with one of them. It could mean a lower cost premium.

You may also pay more money for higher amounts of coverage, whether you’re purchasing life insurance, car insurance, health insurance or any other kind of insurance.

The value and condition of what you are insuring can also change the amount of coverage you need. For example, if you’re a healthy 28-year-old with no kids, your life insurance premium may be very inexpensive because you might not need a large policy. However, the price could increase as you age and your health and family situations change because you may need more coverage.

How Can You Lower Your Rates?

What is a premium?

The type of coverage you purchase affects your premium. If you get more comprehensive coverage with your insurance policy, it may raise your insurance premium. For example, if you insure your vehicle for all risks, you may have to pay more than if you insured it with a policy that doesn’t include collision coverage.

Deductibles can reduce your insurance premiums, as well. An insurance deductible is the cost you pay before the insurance company pays anything. If your car is insured and you have a $1,000 deductible, you have to pay $1,000 before the insurance company will begin to cover any costs. If there are $3,000 in damages to your vehicle, you would have to pay $1,000 and the insurance company would pay the other $2,000. As a general rule, the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.

In the case of health insurance, taking on a higher deductible, higher co-pays or longer waiting periods may lower your costs. However, if you can afford a plan with a lower deductible, you may want to take that. Lower deductible health plans offer customers more predictable prices for higher amounts of coverage.

Your homeowners insurance premium may be affected by the coverage limits you choose, your deductible amount, optional coverages you select, your home’s age and condition, your claims history and your credit rating.

Car insurance premiums may be affected by your age, your credit score, your driving record, the age of your car, the type of coverage you chose, coverage limits you select, where you live and drive, and how often you drive.

Your life insurance premium may be affected by the amount of life insurance coverage you buy, the type of life insurance policy you select, the length of your policy, and your age, health, and life expectancy.

Insurance Limits

Some companies, specific policies or types of coverage have insurance limits. An insurance limit is the maximum amount of money the company will pay. Typically, the higher your insurance limit, the higher your premium. It’s also the inverse of a deductible. You pay the part of the claim or claims that’s more than the limit on your policy.

Insurance limits can be on a per occurrence basis or on an aggregate basis. For example, a per occurrence basis could be a $20,000 insurance limit on bodily injuries per person, per car accident. An aggregate insurance limit might be a $100,000 limit on construction costs in the event of a natural disaster.

Car Insurance

Car insurance laws and policies typically list liabilities as a set of three numbers that stand for the coverage limits when you’re responsible for an accident. If your numbers were 22/66/15, your insurance would cover $22,000 for bodily injuries per person, $66,000 in total bodily injury coverage per accident and $15,000 for property damage per accident. For personal injury protection, collision and comprehensive coverage, the numbers are listed as a single amount for each type of coverage. Your state may have specific minimum limits for certain coverages, so make sure you’re getting a fair rate.

Health Insurance

Healthcare laws often change, and many lifetime and annual health insurance limits are illegal. However, some health insurance policies still list annual limits or limits on the number of times certain treatments will be covered, such as acupuncture, chiropractic services and orthotics. Companies may also place limits on prescription medication to keep costs down. There may be policies such as “step therapy,” which requires you to try less expensive drugs first, or quantity limits, such as only covering 30 pills in 30 days.

Homeowners Insurance

Your homeowners insurance policy will often list separate limit amounts for different types of coverage. The limit amounts for liability coverage – in case you’re sued by someone for property damage or injuries that occur on your property – may be different than the limit amount for damage to your home and personal property. Make sure you review all of your homeowners insurance coverage limits, such as the amount it may cost to rebuild your home (dwelling coverage), liability coverage and personal property coverage.

Shopping Around

What is a premium?

It’s important to shop around for insurance because different companies have different target clients. You may be the target client for one company, but not for another. That means your premium may be lower with one company than another. The price you pay for your insurance may include taxes or fees, as well. And these could differ from company to company. Before shopping around, call your insurance company and see if they’re willing to lower your premium.

In addition, insurance companies may decide to pursue a new market segment. That can lower rates on a temporary basis, or on a more permanent basis if that works for the company. In either case, you can get a better deal on your insurance if you are part of the demographic that insurance company wants to attract.

The best insurance company for you may not be the best insurance company for your parents or your best friend. It all depends on your age, location and many other factors.

The Bottom Line

Your insurance company will assess the financial risk of insuring you. The greater they perceive that risk to be, the more your premium will cost. It’s important to make sure you let your insurance company know all the ways in which you are a low-risk or lower risk client in order to get premium reductions. After shopping around, you’ll be able to find the insurance policies that are best for your financial situation.

Tips for Reducing Insurance Costs
  • Consider all of the insurance options available based on your individual circumstances. This can help you save money. A comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is best.
  • If you need extra help weighing your insurance options, you might want to consider working with an expert. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs can be easy. SmartAsset’s free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to learn about local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/kate_sept2004, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Insurance Premiums appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.


Source: smartasset.com

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

by Phillip Warren

With the growing use of paperless forms, electronic information transfers and storage has become the norm. This is true about our medical information as well. So, how do we know that our sensitive medical records are being kept private? Thanks to a federal law entitled Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses are required to abide by a set of standards to protect your data. While this law does offer protection for certain things, there are some companies that are not required to follow these standards. Keep reading to find out where the loopholes are and how you are being protected by this law. 

What is the HIPAA Law and Privacy Rule?

Although HIPAA and Privacy and Security Rules have been around since 1996, there have been many revisions and changes over the years so to keep up with evolving health information technology. HIPAA and the HIPAA Privacy Rule set the bar for standards that protect sensitive patient information by making the rules for electronic exchange as well as the privacy and confidentiality of medical records and information by health care providers, health care clearing houses, and health plans. In accordance with HIPPA, Administrative Simplification Rules were created to safeguard patient privacy. This allows for information that is medically necessary to be shared while also maintaining the patient’s privacy rights. The majority of professionals in the health care industry are required to be compliant with the HIPAA regulations and rules. 

Why do we have the HIPAA Act and Privacy Rule?

The original goal of HIPAA was to make it easier for patients to keep up with their health insurance coverage. This is ultimately why the Administrative Simplification Rules were created to simplify administrative procedures and keep costs at a decent rate. Because of all the exchanges of medical information between insurance companies and health care providers, the HIPAA Act aims to keep things simple when it comes to the healthcare industry’s handling of patient records and documents and places a high importance on maintain patients’ protected health information. 

HIPAA Titles

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law which was designed to safeguard healthcare data from data breaches, has five titles. Here is a description of each title:

  • Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform: The objective of Title I is to help individuals maintain health insurance coverage in the event that they lose or change jobs. It also prevents group health plans from rejecting applicants from being covered for having specific chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification: Title II holds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for setting national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. In accordance with this title, healthcare organizations must implement data security for health data transactions and maintain HIPPA compliance with the rules set by HHS. 
  • Title III: HIPPA Tax-Related Health Provisions: This title is all about the national standards regarding tax-related provisions as well as the general rules and principles in relation to medical care.  
  • Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements: Title IV elaborates further on issues related to health insurance coverage and reform, one key point being for patients with pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title V: Revenue Offsets:  This title has provisions regarding company-owned life insurance policies as well as how to handle situations in which individuals lose their citizenship due to issues with income taxes. 

In day to day conversations, when you hear someone bring up HIPAA compliance, they are most likely referring to Title II. To become compliant with HIPAA Title II, the health care industry must follow these provisions:

  • National Provider Identifier Standard: Every healthcare entity is required to have a 10-digit national provider identifier number that is unique to them, otherwise known as, an NPI. 
  • Transactions and Code Sets Standard: Healthcare organizations are required to follow a set of standards pertaining to electronic data interchange (EDI) to be able to submit and process insurance claims.  
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This rule sets national standards that help to protect patient health information.
  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule establishes the standards for patient data security. 

What information is protected by HIPAA?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule safeguards all individually identifiable health information obtained or transferred by a covered entity or business associate. Sometimes this information is stored or transmitted electronically, digitally, on paper or orally. Individually identifiable health information can also be referred to under the Privacy Rule as PHI. 

Examples of PHI are:

  • Personal identifying information such as the name, address, birth date and Social Security number of the patient. 
  • The mental or physical health condition of a person.
  • Certain Information regarding the payment for treatments.

HIPAA penalties

Health industries and professionals should take extra caution to prevent HIPAA violations. If a data breach occurs or if there is a failure to give patients access to their PHI, it could result in a fine. 

There are several types of HIPAA violations and penalties including:

  • Accidental HIPAA violations could result in $100 for an isolated incident and an upward of $25,000 for repeat offenses.
  • Situations in which there is reasonable cause for the HIPAA violation could result in a $1,000 fine and an upward of $100,000 annually for repeat violations.
  • Willfully neglecting HIPAA can cost anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and $250,000-$1.5 million depending on whether or not it was an isolated occurrence, If it was corrected within a specific timeframe. 

The largest penalty one could receive for a HIPAA violation is $50,000 per violation and $1.5 million per year for repeated offenses.

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.


Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What Is A Blog, How Do Blogs Make Money, & More

by Phillip Warren

What is a blog and how does it work? Can you really make money blogging? How much do bloggers make?

Over the years, I have received many questions about blogging. People want to know what is a blog, how they work, is it really a way for people to make money, and so on. 

I completely understand all of the questions. While blogging has now been around for more than a decade, it's still a fairly new way to earn money. I still have people give me funny looks when I tell them what I do for a living.

But, I didn't really know what a blog was when I first started mine. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I didn't know how people made money from blogs or anything else like that.

Pretty much everything I learned about blogging was through trial and error, and I made a lot of mistakes over the years, haha! Honestly, it's because of those mistakes that I'm where I am right now.

My life has completely changed because of blogging. I was able to quit a job I didn't love, I travel full-time, and I can retire pretty much whenever I want. 

It's funny to think about how far I've come, especially since I had no idea what blogs even were.

Back then, I also never realized that you could learn how to earn money blogging. I don't think I even looked into it because that was never my goal when I first learned how to start a blog. I certainly never thought blogging would drastically change my future, but I'm so glad I gave it a shot.

I had so many questions when I started my blog, and I learned 99% of what I know the hard way – by making mistakes.

I know that many new bloggers probably have some of the same questions I had because I receive hundreds of emails a day from readers asking how to start a blog, how to make a living through blogging, and more.  

Today, I'm going to help you by answering some of the most common questions I receive about blogging.

Some of the questions I talk about include:

  • Is 2021 too late to start a website/blog?
  • How do I come up with a blog name?
  • What blogs make the most money?
  • How do you design a blog?
  • How many views do you need to make money blogging?
  • How many blog posts should I have before launching?
  • How do I get my blog noticed by Google?
  • How long until a blog makes money?
  • How do blogs make money?
  • How do bloggers get paid?

I know that blogging can seem scary in the beginning, but remember that most other bloggers were in the exact same place you were when they started.

Blogging, just like any other hobby or job you start, takes time to learn what you're doing. You have to do research, read about what other people have done, and learn as you go.

For some people this can be frustrating at first, but good things always do take time.

Blogging isn't as easy as it looks from the outside. Even the most successful bloggers still spend time learning how to do new things. I am constantly signing up for new courses and learning from other people.

Even though it takes time and can feel difficult, blogging is something you can do. You can earn money blogging so that you can work towards living the life you want. 

One of the reasons I love blogging so much is that you can do it all on your own time. You don't have to learn everything at once. You can start your blog and grow it at your own pace.

While there is no 100% guarantee that you will be able to earn a full-time living by blogging, I know many bloggers who are full-time and are very happy with it.

Content related to what is a blog:

  • 12 Free Resources To Grow Your Blog Fast
  • How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog
  • How To Quit Your Job And Become A Full-Time Blogger

What is a blog? And your other top questions about blogging.

 

What is a blog?

Before we begin, I want to go over what is a blog definition and some other basic blogging questions.

A blog is a website.

Google's definition of a blog is, “a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.”

A blog is content that is written on a website. It usually consists of articles, like the one you are reading right now.

What is a blog used for? Blogs can vary from person to person. 

You may create a blog to journal, to teach on a topic, to sell something, to tell a story, and so on. There's no exact rules about what your blog has to be used for.

What is a blog post? Blog posts are individual entries on a blog. Blog posts usually include text, but they can also have photos, videos, infographics, and more.

An example of a blog post is what you're reading right now. There is a title, its own URL (that's the web address), and text where I share in depth information.

 

Is 2021 too late to start a website/blog?

No, it's not too late, and you haven't missed out.

The online world is still so new, and each year there are new ways to monetize and grow your blog.

For example, it wasn't until the past few years that companies and advertisers started realizing the value of online influencers, such as bloggers, and that means even more opportunities to earn money blogging.

Before that, companies mainly wanted to advertise with celebrities, but it is shifting to bloggers and other online influencers (such as Youtubers and Instagrammers!).

The online world is a huge place and it is just going to keep growing. Every blogger earns a living in slightly different ways, and everyone has a different message and story. Plus, there are so many different ways to earn money blogging, and the options have continued to change and grow since I started blogging.

Of course, because the blogging world keeps changing, there will constantly be new things for you to learn, but that will probably always be the case for managing any kind of business.

So, if you are thinking about starting a blog, today is the day. Don't let your fears hold you back any further! You can find my free How To Start a Blog Course here.

 

How do I come up with a blog name?

Deciding on a name for your blog is probably one of the hardest parts of blogging.

Even if you know exactly what you want to blog about and have some articles written, deciding on your blog's name may be stopping you from actually creating your website and launching it.

I don't remember how I came up with Making Sense of Cents, but I'm glad I did. It is still catchy, and I receive compliments on it to this day.

Coming up with a blog name shouldn't lead to stress, so here are my tips for deciding on a blog name:

  • Make it easy. My blog name isn't the easiest for people to spell, and even I sometimes jumble it when I'm spelling it. So, my top tip would be to make sure that your blog name is easy for people to type or spell out loud. I've seen blog names that are extremely long, contain words that are difficult to spell, and so on. Instead, you should make it as easy as possible for your readers to find you.
  • Think about what you'll be writing about. Think about the topics you want to write about, who your target audience is, and more, and then jot down descriptive words that are related to each. Brainstorming like this is a good way to come up with a blog name!
  • Use a thesaurus to find similar words. If your first or second choices are taken or if you want to see if there are some catchier sounding blog names, using a thesaurus can help you with some new ideas.
  • Make it catchy. You may want to think of something funny, use alliteration, or something else to make your blog name catchy and memorable.
  • Use your name. If you don't want something catchy and/or if you think you're not creative enough, then just use your name. It's super easy that way, and more and more people are starting to do this. 

See, creating a name for your blog can be easy!

 

What blogs make the most money?

There are many different types of blogs that make money, and you can monetize nearly any kind of blog.

So, how do you determine what to write about?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I always recommend creating a blog around a topic that you are passionate about, that you are an expert in, that you like, or something else along those lines.

This can make blogging feel fun instead of like a chore.

You can blog about several topics or you can blog about one specific thing, such as personal finance. For me, I cover a ton of different topics here on Making Sense of Cents. I talk about personal finance, life, travel, RVing, sailing, self-help, and more.

Some things that you may want to think about when choosing your blog topic include:

  • What are you passionate about? I always recommend that you start by thinking about what you love doing. Perhaps it's a sport that you really love, crafts, cooking, managing money, travel, or something else. Whatever it is, blogging about your passion is great because that will show in your writing, and your readers will enjoy reading your posts.
  • What blogs do you enjoy reading? If you are thinking about starting a blog, I'm assuming it's because you probably enjoy reading blogs yourself. If that's the case, then you may want to think about which blogs you really enjoy reading and possibly blog about something similar.
  • What are you an expert in? Now, you don't need to be an expert in your blog's topic to earn money blogging (more on that below in the next section), but if you are an expert at something, then this could be a topic that you blog about. There are many successful “How-To” websites because people love to learn new things through blogs. And, there is probably something you could teach (everyone's an expert at something, even if you don't realize that yet!). Think about the questions your friends and family are always asking you about, topics that you enjoy helping others with, and so on.
  • What things do you like learning about? Like I said above, you don't need to be an expert in a topic to blog about it. People LOVE reading blogs from people who are learning or trying new things. This is because everyone has to start somewhere, and people love following the journey and seeing how something is actually done. So, if you are learning how to earn money blogging, for example, that could be where you start your blog. You can write about all of your mistakes, talk about what you've learned, show how you have tried and reviewed different options, and so on.

To learn how to make money with a blog, your blog can be about anything and/or everything. It's entirely up to you.

Below is a list of possible blog examples and blog topic ideas. The list doesn't end here either. Choose one, all, or some. It's all up to you.

  • Lifestyle
  • Home
  • Family
  • Finance
  • Crafts
  • DIY
  • Small business
  • Outdoor activities
  • Fitness and health
  • Food
  • Inspiration and advice
  • Animals
  • Travel
  • Games
  • Relationships
  • School
  • Electronics, and more!

That's the beauty of having a blog – it can be about anything and you can still earn money from it.

There are a few topics I would avoid if you aren't an expert, like blogging about legal issues, tax issues, or medical advice. You could get someone in a lot of trouble if you gave them the wrong information.

 

What is the best blogging platform to make money?

Your blog should be self-hosted if you want to earn money blogging. This is actually one of the first things you should do.

I recommend that you start on self-hosted WordPress (this tutorial will help you start your blog the correct way). I cannot say this enough, but I do not recommend Blogger or WordPress.com (you want the self-hosted version, which is WordPress.org – confusing, I know). Buying that $10 domain name from Blogger or GoDaddy does not mean you are self-hosted either.

Unless you self-host your blog, advertisers, companies, and readers will still know you are on Blogger or free WordPress, and that can look unprofessional. Plus, your blog can be deleted at any time and for no reason if you are using a free version, which actually happened to me. Even though you may save some money in the beginning, not being self-hosted can hurt your chances of earning money through your blog.

Seriously, just trust me. Go with self-hosted WordPress, and it will significantly increase your chances of monetizing your blog.

If you want further proof, take a look at my past income reports. You can tell that my blogging income didn't take off until I switched to WordPress. That right there is a lot of proof that being self-hosted on WordPress is the way to go!

To recap, the positives of being self-hosted on WordPress through Bluehost include:

  • Your blog will look more professional meaning you will increase your chances of making money online.
  • You will have complete control over your blog.
  • You own your blog, and it can't be deleted for any reason.

 

How do you design a blog?

To create your blog, I recommend heading to my tutorial: How To Start A WordPress Blog On Bluehost.

After that, you will have three options when it comes to designing your blog:

  1. Designing your blog on your own
  2. Paying someone to design your blog
  3. Purchasing a premade theme (the quickest option and surprisingly affordable)

I usually recommend that a new blogger purchase a premade blog design, such as through Beautiful Dawn Designs. She provides great premade designs for just $45 and this is probably the easiest and quickest design option.

 

How much do I have to spend before I can earn money blogging?

When I first started my blog, I spent almost NOTHING on blogging expenses.

I spent less than $100 the first year and not too much more in the second year.

In fact, I probably went a few years when I was only spending about 1%-2% of my revenues on blogging expenses.

Now, some of my expenses include:

  • My computer
  • The actual blog (design, hosting, etc.)
  • Courses, guides, and ebooks
  • My email (newsletter) list
  • Virtual assistant and editor
  • Technical management
  • Transaction fees

But, you do not need to spend money on all of these things to earn money blogging.

Learn more about my expenses at My Complete List of Monthly Expenses for a Multi Million Dollar Blog.

 

How many views do you need to make money blogging?

You do not need millions of pageviews per month to earn money blogging, but if you want to increase your income, it will be important to increase your page views.

Every blog is different, and it isn't always the blogs with the largest number of readers that make the most money. That's because once you understand what your readers want, understand how to effectively reach out to companies for partnerships, and know how to charge the correct rate, you can make a good income online in many cases, regardless of the amount of pageviews you receive.

But, if you want to increase your pageviews, here are my tips:

  1. Publish high-quality blog posts. Readers come back to blogs with high-quality and helpful posts. I recommend that your blog posts be at least 750 words, but more wouldn't hurt either. The majority of my blog posts are around 1,500 to 3,000 words (this one is close to 5,000 words!).
  2. Be active on Pinterest. Pinterest is one of my top traffic sources. To increase your pageviews with Pinterest, I recommend creating great images, making sure the description and title of your images are catchy, pinning regularly, and only pinning long images. I use Picmonkey to edit all of my images and Tailwind to schedule them.
  3. Be active on other social media sites. Social media lets you interact with your audience more and can help you expand your audience. Besides Pinterest, you may want to check out Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, and others.
  4. Post regularly. If you want to earn money blogging, you should publish something at least once a week. Going for weeks or months at a time without a blog post can lead to readers forgetting about you.
  5. Network with other bloggers. You should look at other bloggers as friends and colleagues, not competition. This means you may want to interact with them on social media, reach out to them via email, attend conferences, and more. Of course, be genuine and give more than you take.
  6. Guest post. Guest posting is a great way to reach a new audience and helps build partnerships with other bloggers.
  7. Make sure it's easy to share your content. I love sharing posts on social media, but it gets frustrating when some blogs make it more difficult than it needs to be. You should always make sure it's easy for readers to share your content. This could mean making your social media icons easy to find, having all of the info input that is needed for sharing (title, link, and your username), and so on. Also, you should make sure that when someone clicks on one of your sharing icons the title isn't in CAPS (I've seen this too many times). No one wants to share a blog post when it sounds like you're screaming at them.
  8. Create catchy headlines. The title of your post is a major factor influencing whether readers click over or not. I like to use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to help me with my headlines.
  9. Learn SEO. SEO (search engine optimization) is not something I could teach in such a small section, but I recommend doing your research and learning more about what it is and how it can help you.
  10. Make it easy for readers to browse. If you want more pageviews, you should make it as easy as possible for readers to read your other blog posts. Readers should be able to easily find your blog homepage, categories, tags, search bar, and so on. Also, I recommend including links for related posts in every single one of your blog posts.

 

How often should I blog?

I recommend publishing a blog post at least once a week.

This is because consistency is important when it comes to blogging.

I started out publishing short blog posts a few times a week. Now, I try to do just one long blog post each week. I find that works best for me and Making Sense of Cents.

Others may decide to blog every single day, and some may try every other day. It all depends on what you would like to do.

 

How many blog posts should I have before launching?

I recommend simply just launching your blog with one blog post. You can continue to add more as you go.

I recommend this because you won't have a ton of readers in the beginning anyways, so just getting started is going to be your best plan of action.

Too many people overthink this question, which just delays them from actually starting their blog.

 

What is the ideal length for a blog post?

The ideal length varies. I usually recommend that a blog post be at least 750 words.

For Making Sense of Cents, my blog posts are almost always at least 2,000 words, and I have written some huge whoppers (like this one) that are around 5,000 words too.

The ideal length for your article will depend on your niche, and the topic that you are writing about.

 

How do I get my blog noticed by Google?

For your blog to be found on Google search results, you'll want to learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

You can sign up for The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training) – Level up your SEO knowledge in just 60 minutes with this FREE 6-day video training.

  • The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year
  • How I grew my blog to over 80,000 page views a month in 14 months
  • How to Optimize a Blog Post for SEO

 

How long until a blog makes money?

This is a hard question to answer, and it's also one of the most common questions I receive.

As you can tell from my past income reports, it took me nearly a year of blogging to start earning a few hundred dollars a month from my blog. After two years of blogging, I was earning several thousands of dollars a month, which was all on the side of my day job.

I know some bloggers who were making thousands of dollars a month after just a few months of blogging. There are bloggers out there who began a year or two after me and are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. There are also other bloggers who aren't making any money at all.

As you can see, blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme and there isn't a timeline for when you will start to earn money blogging. However, if you are serious about it, you never know what it may turn into.

It all depends on you, the effort you put into your blog, whether you have the time to learn how to monetize your blog, and more.

 

How do blogs make money?

There are several ways to earn money blogging, including:

  • Affiliate marketing – I recommend signing up for 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income to learn more
  • Blog sponsorships
  • Display advertising
  • Product sales
  • Staff writing

I go in depth on each way monetization method here – How To Earn Money Blogging: Your Top Questions Answered.

 

How do bloggers get paid?

Many of you are interested in blogging, but you aren't sure where the income actually comes from.

How does the money actually get to you?

You receive blogging income from whoever is paying you.

  • If it is affiliate marketing you are providing, then you are paid by the company that makes the product or service. When someone buys something or signs up through your link, that's when you get.
  • If someone is paying you to place an advertisement on your website, then you get paid by the company who you are advertising for.
  • If you are publishing a sponsored post, then you are paid by the company who is sponsoring that post.
  • If you have display ads on your website, such as with Google Adsense, then you are paid by Google or by any number of other companies.

There are many companies and blogging networks out there that you can use to earn money blogging, and they usually pay you through PayPal or with a check in the mail.

 

What blogging ebooks and courses do you recommend?

It takes a lot of work to grow and build a successful blogging business!

If you want to earn money blogging, then you may want to look into buying ebooks and/or courses that will teach you about the topics that will help you become a better blogger from the very beginning. Plus, there are many blogging secrets that you just can't find by searching the internet. So, by taking a course or reading an ebook, you will learn the exact steps to take to help you succeed.

I'm almost always taking new blogging-related courses because I know that there is always something new to learn.

Here are the ebooks and courses that I recommend for bloggers:

  • Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I share my exact strategy and tips in this very informative online course. If you're a blogger, then you NEED this course. I show you exactly how to make passive income from blogging, even while you're sleeping.
  • 21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17k to 400k+ in 10 Months. Lena Gott's guide is full of great information on how to increase your blog's page views. If you are feeling stuck or if you are a new blogger, check out this resource! Lena went from 17,000 monthly page views to 400,000 and shares all of her best tips in this guide.
  • Making Sense of Sponsored Posts. I launched this course with my sister, Alexis of Fitnancials, in 2018 to help bloggers earn money through sponsored posts. Between the two of us, we earn around $20,000-$30,000 a month from sponsored posts. We teach finding sponsorship deals, maintaining partnerships, and how to always make sure that you are helping your readers.
  • My favorite Pinterest course is Pinterest Traffic Avalanche. This course shows you how to get free traffic from Pinterest to your blog. You'll learn about Pinterest SEO, how to set up Rich Pins, how to create viral content, how to make Pinterest images, all about group boards, and many other valuable Pinterest strategies.
  • If you want to learn about Facebook ads, I recommend reading How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year.

The blogging ebooks and courses above will help you to create a successful blog. They will show you how to master Facebook, get crazy traffic from Pinterest, grow your blogging income, and more.

 

If blogging is so great, then why doesn't everyone do it?

I hear questions like this pretty often. I also get a lot of people asking me, “If it's so easy, why don't you just start multiple blogs and make even more money?”

Blogging is not printing money.

It's not a scam, and it's not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Learning how to earn money blogging is work, and just like with all jobs – not everyone wants what you want.

And, for every successful blog out there, there are probably hundreds of bloggers who will never earn money blogging. While you can earn money blogging, not all bloggers will.

It would be like saying that 100% of people who start a business will see success. That is just never going to happen – businesses fail, business owners have a change of heart, and others just don't find it enjoyable.

I know I am always talking about the positives of blogging, but I also like to mention how it's not the easiest.

After all, if blogging was easy, then everyone would do it and everyone would make thousands of dollars a month.

But as you know, that's not the case.

Not everyone is going to earn money blogging because it is WORK! Most new bloggers quit just a few months in. A few months is not enough time to see if your blog will be successful. It took me six months before I started to earn money blogging, and I only earned $100. Now, I have made over $5,000,000 from my blog over the years.

It's funny/weird to think about what life would be like if I would have quit back then.

Just like you, I went from asking “what is a blog?” to where I am now. And, I'm constantly learning new things about blogging and that is one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much.

Once you realize that blogging is hard, you will be ahead of 99% of everyone else in the game. Don't assume, like most people do, that blogging is easy money.

Starting a blog can be difficult. But, all bloggers start at the same point.

I remember being so lost when I first started my blog. I had to learn everything the hard way – it sure was difficult at times.

But, I have always really enjoyed blogging. I think that is so important when it comes to this type of business – you either need to have passion in your blog and/or passion in what your blog allows you to do in your free time (such as travel or spending more time with your family).

 

Have other blogging questions?

Don't fret!

I have other blog posts similar to this one where I have answered many other blogging questions.

Please head to How To Earn Money Blogging: Your Top Questions Answered for answers to questions such as:

  • How does a blogger network with other bloggers?
  • What processes do you have with new blog posts?
  • In what ways can I start making money from a blog?
  • What is affiliate marketing?
  • What are sponsored posts?
  • What is display advertising?
  • Can I create my own product to sell on my blog?
  • Do you have to pay taxes on blogging income?
  • Where do you get your photos from?
  • Why do I need an email list for my blog?
  • How do you think of ideas for new blog posts?

I was going to include all of those questions here but that would have made this blog post well over 10,000 words!

What other questions do you have about blogging?

The post What Is A Blog, How Do Blogs Make Money, & More appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Who Can and Cannot Witness a Will?

by Phillip Warren

A will is notarized

A will is an important part of your financial plan. When you create a will and testament, you’re creating a legal document that determines how your assets will be distributed once you pass away. You can also use a will to name legal guardians for minor children. When making a will and testament, it’s important to follow the rules in your state to ensure the will is valid. One of those rules centers on the requirements for witnesses. For more guidance on the intricacies of wills and estate planning, consider enlisting the services of an expert financial advisor.

Why Wills Need to Be Witnessed

A will is a legal document but in order for it to be binding, there are certain requirements that need to be met. For instance, although state laws regarding wills vary, states generally require you to be of legal adult age to make a will. You must also have testamentary capacity, meaning you:

  • Must understand the extent and value of the property you’re including in the will
  • Are aware that you’re making a will to decide who will inherit your assets
  • Aren’t acting under duress in making the will

Having someone witness your will matters in case questions are raised over its validity later or there is a will contest. For example, if one of your heirs challenges the terms of your will a witness may be called upon in court to attest that they watched you sign the will and that you appeared to be of sound mind when you did so.

In other words, witnesses add another layer of validity to a will. If all the people who witnessed the signing of a will are in agreement about your intent and mental state when you made it, then it becomes harder for someone else to dispute its legality.

Who Can Witness a Will?

When drafting a will, it’s important to understand several requirements, including who can serve as a witness. Generally, anyone can witness a will as long as they meet two requirements:

  • They’re of legal adult age (i.e. 18 or 19 in certain states)
  • They don’t have a direct interest in the will

The kinds of people who could witness a will for you include:

  • Friends who are not set to receive anything from your estate
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers
  • Relatives who are not included in your will, such as cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.
  • Your doctor

If you’ve hired an attorney to help you draft your will, they could also act as a witness as long as they’re not named as a beneficiary. An attorney who’s also acting as the executor of the will, meaning the person who oversees the process of distributing your assets and paying off any outstanding debts owed by your estate, can witness a will.

Who Cannot Witness a Will?

Two minors looking out a windowStates generally prohibit you from choosing people who stand to benefit from your will as witnesses. So for example, if you’re drafting a will that leaves assets to your spouse, children, siblings or parents, none of them would be able to witness the will’s signing since they all have an interest in the will’s terms. Will-making rules can also exclude relatives or spouses of any of your beneficiaries. For instance, say you plan to leave money in your will to your sister and her husband with the sister being the executor. Your sister can’t be a witness to the will since she’s a direct beneficiary. And since her husband has an indirect interest in the terms of the will through her, he wouldn’t qualify as a witness either.

But married couples can witness a will together, as long as they don’t have an interest in it. So, you could ask the couple that lives next door to you or a couple you know at work to act as witnesses to your will.

You may also run into challenges if you’re asking someone who has a mental impairment or a visual impairment to witness your will. State will laws generally require that the persons witnessing a will be able to see the document clearly and have the mental capacity to understand what their responsibilities are as a witness.

Note that the witnesses don’t need to read the entire will document to sign it. But they do need to be able to verify that the document exists, that you’ve signed it in their presence and that they’ve signed it in front of you.

How to Choose Witnesses for a Will

If you’re in the process of drafting a will, it’s important to give some thought to who you’ll ask to witness it. It may help to make two lists: one of the potential candidates who can witness a will and another of the people who cannot act as witnesses because they have an interest in the will.

You should have at least two people who are willing to witness your will signing. This is the minimum number of witnesses required by state will-making laws. Generally, the people you choose should be:

  • Responsible and trustworthy
  • Age 18 or older
  • Younger than you (to avoid challenges presented if a witness passes away)
  • Free of any interest in the will, either directly or indirectly
  • Willing to testify to the will’s validity if it’s ever challenged

When it’s time to sign the will, you’ll need to bring both of your witnesses together at the same time. You’ll need to sign, initial and date the will in ink, then have your witnesses do the same. You may also choose to attach a self-proving affidavit or have the will notarized in front of the witnesses.

A self-proving affidavit is a statement that attests to the validity of the will. If you include this statement, then you and your witnesses must sign and date it as well. Once the will is signed and deemed valid, store it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box. You may also want to make a copy for your attorney to keep in case the original will is damaged or destroyed.

The Bottom Line

A last will and testamentMaking a will can be a fairly simple task if you don’t have a complicated estate; it can even be done online in some situations. If you have significant assets to distribute to your beneficiaries or you need to make arrangements for the care of minor children, talking with an estate planning attorney can help you shape your will accordingly. Choosing witnesses to your will is the final piece of the puzzle in ensuring that it’s signed and legally valid.

Tips for Estate Planning
  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about will-making, trusts and how to create a financial legacy for your loved ones. If you don’t have a financial advisor, finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors in your local area in just a few minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • A will is just one document you can include in your estate plan. You may also opt to establish a living trust to manage assets on behalf of your beneficiaries, set up a durable power of attorney and create an advance healthcare directive. A trust can help you avoid probate while potentially minimizing estate taxes.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/djedzura, ©iStock.com/SanyaSM, ©iStock.com/Spanic

The post Who Can and Cannot Witness a Will? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.


Source: smartasset.com

Still Waiting on Your Second Stimulus Check? Here’s How to Track It

by Phillip Warren

The second stimulus check started hitting bank accounts last week.

That means many people who have direct deposit are waking up to find an extra $600 in their bank accounts if they’re single or $1,200 if they’re married, plus a $600 coronavirus credit for each dependent child 16 or younger.

But what if your second check hasn’t arrived? There’s a new way to find out when it’s coming.

Where’s My Second Stimulus Check?

The IRS released an updated version of the Get My Payment application on its website Monday, Jan. 4, that allows you to track your second stimulus check. You can use it on your computer, phone or tablet.

Here’s all of our coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, which we will be updating every day.

Click on the link, and then click the blue “Get My Payment” button. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait a couple minutes to get through. This corner of IRS.gov is getting a lot of traffic right now, because people really want to know when they’re getting their $600 stimulus check. When you do get through, you’ll get a warning that the system is for authorized use only. Click “OK.”

Next you’ll need to enter your Social Security number or Individual Tax ID number, date of birth, street address and ZIP code.

Once you submit your information, the website will tell you the date your payment is scheduled to be made and whether it will be by check or direct deposit. If it’s scheduled for direct deposit, it will tell you the last four numbers of the bank account it will be deposited into.

You can also use the tool to provide your bank account and routing numbers. If the IRS can’t pay you via direct deposit, you’ll get one via paper check or prepaid debit card. The first paper checks were sent last Wednesday, Dec. 30.

What if Something Is Wrong With My Payment?

What if you haven’t gotten the payment that should have been deposited already? Or what if your payment isn’t scheduled, or the wrong amount has been deposited? Check this FAQ page, but don’t bother trying to call the IRS right now.

If your payment hasn’t been made by Jan. 15, you’ll need to submit a tax return and get it in the form of a rebate recovery credit. The same applies if you were eligible for the first round of checks but didn’t received one, or if you got the wrong amount.

Payment status not available? Here’s what that means, plus a few hacks that worked in the first round.

Your coronavirus stimulus check is not taxable — so however you plan to spend that money, just know that you don’t need to save any of it for Uncle Sam.

Robin Hartill is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and a certified financial planner. 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

What Does Having a Derogatory Public Record on My Credit Report Mean

by Phillip Warren

I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report. Now What?

Since the National Consumer Assistance Plan went into effect in 2017, public records must meet strict requirements in order to appear on consumer credit reports. Civil judgments and tax liens do not meet these new requirements, so they were removed from credit reports. At this point, the only derogatory public record that should appear on your credit report is bankruptcy. If a tax lien or civil judgment still appears on your credit report, you should dispute that record with the credit reporting agencies.

How Much Do Public Records Affect Credit Scores?

Bankruptcy can cause a FICO score to drop by 200 points or more. A filing may lower credit scores for seven to 10 years and be difficult to remove from a credit report unless any information is inaccurate.

The decision to exclude other public records slightly increased FICO scores for many consumers and resulted in increases of 20 to 40 points in some cases.

Bankruptcies and Your Credit Report

Bankruptcies are the one public record that are still included on your credit report. In most cases, they will remain on your report for seven to 10 years.

You can dispute an inaccurate report of bankruptcy or one being reported beyond the statute of limitations. Review your report for any inaccuracies and contact the credit bureaus to dispute inaccuracies if need be. If a credit bureau claims to have court verification of a bankruptcy, you should send a procedural letter to determine how they verified the public record on credit report. Follow up with the courts to determine whether the bankruptcy was actually verified.

〉 Learn more about when and why you should file bankruptcy and how doing so will affect your credit.

Civil Judgments and Your Credit Report

Civil judgments result when a creditor sues you for an outstanding debt and wins. That creditor then has more avenues for pursuing payment: they may now satisfy delinquent or outstanding debt through wage garnishment or by seizing funds from checking or savings accounts.

Judgments are no longer factored into credit scores, though they are still public record and can still impact your ability to qualify for credit or loans. Lenders may still check to see whether any outstanding judgments against a potential borrower exist. You should pay legitimate judgments and dispute inaccurate judgments to ensure these do not affect your finances unduly.

〉 Learn more about how to deal with civil judgments.

If a civil judgment is still on your credit report, file a dispute with the appropriate credit reporting agencies to have it removed.

Tax Liens and Your Credit Report

Tax liens are filed by the IRS when you don’t pay your taxes. A lien is automatically filed when you owe more than $10,000. When the IRS files a tax lien against you, it essentially gives the agency first dibs on any payment you receive from selling or liquidating your assets to pay your debts.

While tax liens are no longer reported on credit reports, they can significantly impact your financial situation in ways that indirectly affect your credit score.

〉 Learn more about tax liens.

If a tax lien is being reported on your credit report, file a dispute.

How to Deal with Derogatory Public Records

Although judgments and tax liens are no longer filed on credit reports or factored into credit scores, these penalties can undermine your financial standing. If a derogatory public record is filed against you‚ you should monitor the effects on your credit and ensure that information pertaining to your filing is accurate.

Check your reports regularly to ensure they are fair, accurate and up-to-date. You can watch for changes by getting your free Credit Report Card and credit score monitoring from Credit.com.

〉Sign up now!

The post What Does Having a Derogatory Public Record on My Credit Report Mean appeared first on Credit.com.


Source: credit.com