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10 financial steps to take the minute you lose (or quit) your job

(FINANCE) If you quit your job or get laid off, money can be a tremendous stressor. Here are some ways you can immediately take control.

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finances

Quitting or losing your job?

Whether you saw it coming or not, being laid off is always a bit of a shock. And even after months of consideration, quitting your job can leave you wondering what comes next, and how you’ll stay afloat until that next thing actually comes along.

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Traditional advice emphasizes dipping into savings, but for many Americans, that’s just not an option.

What do you do when you barely have a month’s worth of expenses, if that, and your career is in transition?

Do these ten things and feel calmer, more confident, and ready to conquer that job search with everything you’ve got.

10 things to do right away

(1) What do you have? Checking and savings accounts are an obvious place to start, but don’t neglect stocks, bonds, 401(k)s, and even the cash you have lying around. Depending on how you manage them, credit card points could be a small boon. Liquidate them for groceries, or cash them in to cover moving expenses if your situation is dire. Don’t forget to take into account any debts you owe, through your credit cards, student loans, or otherwise.

(2) What could you get? If you were laid off, you may be eligible for a severance package from your former employer, and this might be something you can negotiate. Don’t sell yourself short here. Being laid off also grants you access to unemployment benefits, and it could only hurt you to wait to apply. It only takes about an hour, and you can expect to hear back in about a week. Expect to receive a maximum of about half your former salary, and in some states you’ll need to fill out a weekly form to prove you’re actively looking for work.

(3) What could you get if you really, truly had no other options? I’m talking credit, and should definitely be your last resort. Nonetheless, it can be reassuring to know what could be there for you if you needed it, and if you inform yourself now about the various interest rates and other terms, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions down the line.

(4) How do you spend? This is going to take some time, but it’ll be worth it. Look at bank statements and credit card statements from the past two or three months to figure out how you’ve been spending your money lately. Keep track of predictable recurring payments like gym memberships and car payments, as well as more variable bills like electricity and water. If you haven’t moved recently, you could even check out utility bills from last year that correspond to the upcoming months, to get a more accurate estimate of what’s in front of you.

After rent and bills, create categories for your spending. You could simply use “Transportation,” “Food,” and “Entertainment,” or you could get more specific: “Transportation,” “Groceries,” “Restaurants,” “Movies,” and “Bars” might cover most things, and you could throw in a “Misc” for good measure. Do what makes sense for you – just be sure you get it all.

(5) How will you spend? Don’t forget expenses you may need to pay now that you’re unemployed. If you got insurance through your employer, you’ll need to find your own coverage. Same goes for gym memberships, public transit passes, etc.

(6) What can you cut? Now you know exactly how much you have, and how much you *want* to have for normal monthly expenditures. But since you don’t have your regular income anymore, unless you’ve been miraculously good at saving, you’re going to need to cut back. It’s important, though, to not cut out every little thing that makes life worth living. Sitting in a cold, dark room eating ramen and drinking tepid water isn’t going to get you fired up for a job search.

Do you actually use and need Netflix, HBO Now, and Hulu to be happy? Pause one or two until you’re back on your feet. Could you run on a trail instead of a treadmill? Could you improve your cooking skills and only eat out occasionally? You have more time on your hands – put it to good use and save some dough.

We recommend checking out Truebill which will find, track, and help you cancel subscriptions (some you won’t even remember you are paying for).

(7) Make a comprehensive budget. After you’ve gotten a handle on your assets and your expenses, plan out a monthly budget for the next six months or so. This is how much you can spend in each category every month, and it should have a little wiggle room for random fun so your soul doesn’t die. If you’re thinking, “There’s no way I have enough money to survive for six months,” don’t worry. Help is coming your way.

(8) Pay attention to your groceries. Do you have a tendency to buy a bunch of stuff that sounds good but that you’ll never cook, or that can’t possibly be combined to make an edible meal? Fix that by planning out your meals in advance and buying what you need for those meals. Limiting the number of trips to the store can also reduce random purchases.

(9) Get a job-related gig. Finding a part-time job of some sort ensures a steady stream of income and enough time to dedicate to your real job – job searching. Were you a copywriter? There are a million freelance copywriting gigs with your name on them. Teacher? Try tutoring. If you can find a gig that falls under your career umbrella, it’ll be worth putting on a resume and you won’t have to explain away an awkward gap.

(10) Get a random gig. Although not ideal, the gig economy has officially arrived, and it means you’ve got options. If your career doesn’t lend itself to part-time gigs, or if you’re ready for a break from your usual job description, consider taking on a different role. Drive for Uber or Lyft (or any number of smaller rideshare companies), deliver with Favor or Postmates – check out the services available in your area, and look at community-based job and gig posting boards like Craigslist for time filling gigs.

This too shall pass

You might get paid to fill out surveys, or be a movie extra, or hand out flyers. As long as it isn’t something that makes you so miserable you have no willpower or time left for writing cover letters, any paying gig could be worth checking out.

If you follow these ten steps, you should feel in control and ready to conduct a calm and thoughtful job search, instead of sending out resumes in a panic and accepting the first offer that comes along. Your next job should be an improvement on the last, and financial security will allow you to focus on finding the right fit.

#Finances

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Business Finance

Under-representation of women in fintech: Let’s talk about it

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Representation of women in fintech remains scarce despite a prevalent population of interest. Why is this the case, and what can we do about it?

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Woman reading a document in front of her computer, one of the women in fintech.

Women are 50% of the population – so why are there only 9 of us on the 2020 Forbes Fintech 50?

I’m personally shocked by how underrepresented women are in such a lucrative industry. By 2022, it’s predicted that fintech, or financial tech, will be worth $26.5 trillion, and we cannot afford to miss out.

And I’m serious when I say fintech is truly taking over. This includes payment processing, online and mobile banking, person-to-person payments (think Venmo or Cash App), financial software, to name a few. For some perspective, half of consumers use digital banking services as the primary way to manage their money. That’s a big deal.

So why does it matter that women are drastically underrepresented in leading roles at these companies?

  • Women CEOs receive only 2.7% of all VC funding – that is astonishingly low, considering that the remaining 97.3% is secured by their male counterparts.
  • While a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review on leadership skills found that women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 categories (I could’ve told you that), women founders make up only 17% of fintech companies. Some of the categories tested on were:
    • Bold leadership
    • Taking initiative
    • Resilience
    • High integrity & honesty
    • Collaboration and teamwork (this is a big one!)
    • Inspiring & motivating others

If you’re a woman interested in business, tech, or entrepreneurship looking to break into the big leagues, here’s some exclusive advice from lady CEOs, founders, and COOs:

  • Stay Passionate
    Suneera Madhani, Founder + CEO of Fattmerchant, says: “…remember why you started and hold that close to your heart when times get tough.”
  • Be Open to Learning
    “Never behave as the smartest person in the room because you may miss some of the best ideas.” Says Snejina, Co-founder + CEO of Insurify.
  • Trust Your Intuition
    As the Founder + CEO of Tala, Shivani Siroya urges us to: “Stay excited, focused on results and be incredibly optimist. It’s okay to really believe in your gut – just make sure that you see the results with it.”

2021 is a new year full of opportunity – even though the odds are (and always have been) stacked against us, let’s have this be the year where women techies and business owners capitalize on their leadership skills. We have lost time – and profit – to account for.

Author’s Note: Thank you to CreditRepair for the linked infographic!

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Business Finance

Is the convenience of payment apps worth the risk of fraud?

(FINANCE) Peer-to-peer payment apps like CashApp and Venmo are quick and convenient – for users and scammers alike. What are Square and PayPal doing to help?

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CashApp open on phone one of payment apps susceptible to fraud.

More and more people are using peer-to-peer payment services, like Square’s Cash App and PayPal’s Venmo, to make purchases, handle their banking, or just to pitch in on the pizza you and your friends had delivered last night. These payment apps have been particularly useful for folks who may not be able to afford bank fees or have other barriers preventing them from accessing a bank account.

That’s because they are very easy to set up, requiring nothing more than an email address or phone number. Even folks with bank accounts are using these payment apps more as folks are trying to stay home and reduce their in-person contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of daily users on Venmo has grown 26% since last year.

While these apps bring a lot of convenience to our lives, they have also made running scams more convenient for cybercriminals. According to experts, the rate of fraud on Venmo and Cash App is three to four times higher than with credit or debit cards. While PayPal and Square don’t provide statistics about scams, there are some telling signs. The New York Times and Apptopia, a mobile services tracking firm, found that the number of users mentioning frauds or scams in Venmo customer reviews had increased by four times in the past year.

It seems that Cash App has the most fraudulent activity, with the Better Business Bureau reporting twice as many complaints about Cash App as Venmo, even though Venmo has more users. Zelle has a better track record when it comes to fraud, most likely because it requires a more thorough authentication process when setting up an account. It also has better legal protections for folks who have been scammed.

Some of the things that make these payment apps so quick and easy are exactly the reasons it’s so easy to scam users. The instantaneous payments mean that there’s not much of a vetting process, and not much time to catch a fraudulent transaction before it’s too late. Because you only need an email address or phone number to set up an account, it’s easy for criminals to set up dummy accounts for running scams.

Other scams have been facilitated by the marketing choices of the companies. For example, Cash App regularly runs a Cash App Friday promotion, in which users are rewarded for sharing their username, or $Cashtag, on social media. Unfortunately, this has essentially created a Rolodex of potential victims for criminals.

Square and PayPal are doing what they can to address the problem. Lena Anderson of Square says that they are “aware that there has been a recent rise in scammers trying to take advantage of customers using financial products, including Cash App. We’ve taken a number of proactive steps and made it our top priority.”

One “proactive step” Square has taken is to roll out a customer service phoneline, not only to make it faster and easier for customers to vet potentially fraudulent transactions or report scams, but also because scammers have been creating fake customer service phonelines to target users and collect their personal information. The phoneline is currently available to only some customers, but Square plans to scale it up to be available for all users over time.

Until these companies come up with more robust security systems, there are several things you can do to avoid scams. While you might get a cash bonus from Cash App, it’s probably not worth it to share your $Cashtag on social media. Only share your username with people you know. Never share your personal or banking information with strangers. Examine all transactions carefully. Some scammers are stealing money by making a payment request from an account that looks legitimate, but may have a slightly different spelling or one-letter change in the name.

No legitimate agents of these services should ever ask you for your sign-in code, or to download software, and you shouldn’t click on any links in messages promising cash prizes. Never send small payments in exchange for a promised reward – if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Don’t use digital payment apps to pay for or receive payment from sales on Craigslist, Offer Up, or Facebook Marketplace.

If you think you’ve been scammed, changed your PIN number immediately and contact the company and/or the FTC.

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Business Finance

Will your stimulus check be taxed? (and other burning questions)

(BUSINESS FINANCE) One of the biggest questions of 2020 (and potentially further) is whether or not your stimulus check will be taxed. Let’s take a look at this, and other questions.

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Couple looking at computer together to see how to use their stimulus check.

We’re finally able to put 2020 – and its unending laundry list of concerns, tragedies, and turmoil – behind us. At least, it’s a new year finally, but we’ll still be feeling some of the effects from a historically volatile time for a bit, and part of that includes one of the great certainties in life – filing taxes.

Arguably the biggest question that has been repeatedly asked is whether or not a stimulus check is taxed. This is against the greater backdrop of questions as well – does it affect (lower?) one’s tax refund, whether or not someone qualifies for the checks to begin with, when additional rounds might be deposited, whether or not anything changes when filling out tax forms, and so on.

So let’s break these down as simply as possible.

Are stimulus checks taxed?
In short, no (woohoo!). The tax code states that taxes are levied on “all income from whatever source derived” unless there is a specific exemption. While that makes it sound like a stimulus check would be taxed as a form of income given that it is not directly excluded, stimulus checks are considered an advance payment of a tax credit, and thus are not considered taxable income.

Does the stimulus check lower my tax refund?
Also no (hooray!). If anything, it will increase your tax refund. Essentially, this lowers the amount of taxes you are paying. There’s more to it than that, but this is the quickest summary.

Does anything change when filling out my taxes?
I’ll start by saying this is a bit of a trickier area, and I would absolutely suggest speaking with a CPA if you have any specific or in-depth questions.

When filling out the Form 1040, there will be a line on the second page for “Recovery Rebate Credit,” and this is where a number is entered under certain conditions. This is directly related to taxes filed in 2018 and/or 2019, as these years were used to determine who gets a stimulus check and the amount. The general rule is that if there was a big change between those years – losing a job, having a child, starting a new career, graduated college, etc. – then this line may need to be filled in. Essentially, if you are/were entitled to more stimulus payout, then you would enter in the difference here.

For example, if your taxes from 2018 were used to determine your stimulus amount, and this resulted in a low payout due to a high income for that year, but then you lost your job in 2019, you’d write in the difference here. So if you received $100 in stimulus but were laid off in 2019, you could still be owed $1100 (going by the first stimulus check that was valued at $1200 for an individual). You’d enter that amount on this line, which would then lower your tax bill and potentially (should) lead to a higher refund.

Essentially, this line is where you’re stating that you are still owed additional funds that the stimulus was designed to pay out. The IRS website goes over this in some detail, where it explains that individuals who did not receive the full amount via stimulus checks (called “Economic Impact Payments”) from the CARES Act should fill this line out.

In short, if you did get the full amount? Ignore this line. If you did not, you may be eligible, and should determine what to fill in so that you maximize a potential refund.

Will I get the second stimulus check?
President Trump did sign a COVID relief bill recently that was designed to give $600 checks to individuals, as well as other stimulus benefits for unemployment and various funding programs. However, not everyone is eligible for this second check. This includes high earners (anyone with an adjusted gross incoming of $87,000 or more), dependents, and persons who lack certain legal documents/designations.

If I qualify, when do I get the second stimulus check?
Some people have already received this payment via direct deposit, and these will continue onward for the next few weeks. The IRS cannot send any checks for this second round past January 15th, 2021. If an eligible person does not receive the payment by then, they can utilize the “Recovery Rebate Credit” mentioned above when filing taxes.

It should also be noted that some individuals could receive their stimulus via debit cards, so be sure to always check your mail carefully! There’s no indication this could happen with the second round yet, but it’s always best to keep in mind.

Is the tax deadline still April 15th, 2021?
At this time, this is still the official date that taxes must be filed. It should be noted that the same deadline was originally in place for 2020, but was pushed back once pandemic-related obstacles arrived. As such, there is a chance that the date could change for 2021, but until an official ruling is given, plan on having taxes filed by the standard April 15th date (or filing for an extension if that is a possibility).

Will additional stimulus checks arrive in 2021?
While there has been talk within the government regarding additional rounds, and while many are hopeful for a $2000 check, there is no official word or regulations in place to ensure that this will happen. It is still uncertain what the incoming administration will do, can do, or be able to pass in the future; to speculate would be ill-advised at this time.

Keep in mind that debates on the second stimulus check had been ongoing since July 2020 and were only recently passed; this would suggest that additional rounds could face similar discussion.

Summary
So, the good news here is that stimulus checks are not taxed and will not affect your tax refund, and this should help a large number of the populace as we continue to work through these difficult times. There is a chance that additional payments will arrive in the future, but keep in mind that they may not arrive soon. Lastly, as I previously mentioned, know that there is a chance to file for the rebate directly on your tax forms, and that I strongly encourage you to speak with a CPA if you have any questions.

Otherwise, as sincerely as I can say this, good luck in the new year!

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