100 Birthday Freebies ~~ Celebrate WIth Free Stuff in 2021!

Hooray! It’s your birthday!

The last thing you should do is pay for stuff. So we’ve put together a list of 100 places where you can get birthday freebies, updated for 2021.

Most of these places require you to sign up for their email list or join their rewards club at least seven days before your birthday.

So get busy now and enjoy the free birthday stuff as it rolls in on your big day.

100 Places to Get Birthday Freebies

These restaurants and retailers will provide you with free treats for your birthday. Be sure to sign up in advance.

A&W All American Food

Get a free root beer float on your birthday by joining the Mug Club.

ABC Liquor

Sign up for ABC Liquor Access to get a “birthday gift.”

AMC Theatres

Become an AMC Stubs Insider to get a free large popcorn during your birthday month. If you’re a Premiere or A-List member, you’ll also get a free large fountain drink.

Anthropologie

As a member of the Anthro Loyalty program, you will get a “special treat to celebrate your birthday.”

Applebee’s

Sign up for the email club, and get $5 off when you spend at least $25. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Arby’s

Sign up for Arby’s emails and get a free milkshake and curly fries on your birthday when you buy any sandwich. You’ll also get a free small fries and small soft drink when you sign up.

Au Bon Pain

Join the Eclub, and get a free coffee and pastry on your birthday. You’ll also get a travel mug and daily discounts on coffee just for signing up.

Auntie Anne’s

Download the Pretzel Perks app, and get a free pretzel on your birthday.

Aveda

You need to spend $10 to join Aveda’s loyalty rewards program, but you’ll receive a birthday gift valued at $23, as well as double points for your next Aveda purchase.

Baja Fresh

Sign up for Club Baja to get a “special offer” on your birthday.

bareMinerals

Sign up for the Friends and Benefits loyalty program to get “birthday gifts.”

Baskin Robbins

Create an account, join the Birthday Club, and get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

Banana Republic

When you sign up to receive Banana Republic’s emails, you can opt to also get a “birthday gift.”

bd’s Mongolian Grill

Get a free meal on your birthday when you join the bd’s Rewards eClub, plus get a $5 coupon just for signing up.

Benihana’s

Register for the Chef’s Table, and you’ll get a $30 birthday certificate.

Best Buy

My Best Buy members get a “birthday gift.”

Big Boy

Joining the I Love Big Boy email club gets you a free meal on your birthday.

BJ’s Brewhouse

Join Premier Rewards Plus and get a free Pizookie for your birthday. What’s that? It’s a big, warm cookie smothered in ice cream… yum. What’s even better is you don’t have to wait for your birthday – you’ll also get a free Pizookie just for signing up.

Black Angus Steakhouse

Join the Prime Club to get a free steak dinner on your first birthday as a member.

Bojangles’

Get a free Bo-Berry Biscuit with a purchase on your birthday as a member of the Bojangles’ eClub.

Bruegger’s Bagels

Members of the Bruegger’s Bagels eClub will enjoy a “free treat” on their birthday, as well as a free bagel and cream cheese just for signing up.

Buca di Beppo

You’ll receive a free pasta after signing up, as well as a $20 birthday gift for joining the eClub.

The sign of Buffalo Wild Wings is photographed.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards to get free birthday wings during your birth month.

Carvel

Join Fudgie Fanatics to receive a free treat for your birthday. You can get a small soft serve birthday cone, take $2 off any cake (except for a small square) or take $3 off any sheet cake.

Chevys Fresh Mex

Members of the eClub get a free entree on their birthday, as well as a free appetizer for signing up.

Chick-fil-A

Join Chick-fil-A One to get a “birthday reward.”

Chili’s

Get a free dessert for your birthday when you join My Chili’s Rewards Club, plus get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage with every visit!

Chipotle

Join the Chipotle rewards program to get free chips and guacamole on your birthday when you make a purchase of $5 or more. When you sign up and make your first purchase, you’ll also get free chips and a choice of guacamole, queso blanco or salsa.

Cinnabon

Subscribe to Club Cinnabon to get a free iced coffee on your birthday and a free order of BonBites for signing up.

Cold Stone Creamery

Get a BOGO coupon for your birthday by signing up for the My Cold Stone Club. You’ll also get a BOGO coupon just for signing up!

Columbia

Members of the Greater Rewards program get a “birthday gift” in addition to a welcome gift from the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer.

Container Store

Join the POP! (Perfectly Organized Perks) program to get a birthday gift.

Culver’s

Enjoy a free sundae on your birthday when you sign up for MyCulver’s. You’ll also get a BOGO value basket when you sign up.

The exterior of a CVS is photographed in Florida.

CVS Pharmacy

As a member of the ExtraCare Beauty Club, you’ll get “birthday gifts with beauty surprises,” as well as 10% off for joining.

Del Taco

If you’re a Raving Fan eClub member, you can enjoy a regular-size premium shake for your birthday, plus you’ll get two free grilled chicken tacos when you sign up.

Denny’s

Sign up for Denny’s Rewards program online or via the mobile app. You’ll get 20% off your next visit, plus a free stack of buttermilk pancakes on your birthday when you order online at Dennys.com.

Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW)

Join the free DSW VIP Club to get a $5 birthday reward. You’ll also get $5 on your birthday if you spend $200 annually as a VIP Gold member, and you’ll get $10 if you spend $500 annually as a VIP Elite member.

Dippin’ Dots

Get free Dippin’ Dots for your birthday when you join the Dot Crazy! Email Club.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

Edible Arrangements

Join Edible Rewards and receive a free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box (valued at $29.99) during your birthday month. You’ll also get a $5 coupon for signing up (valid for 30 days).

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Get a free egg sandwich with a purchase on your birthday when you join the Shmear Society — not totally free, but hey, you’ll need something to help wash that sandwich down. You’ll have 14 days to claim your reward.

Famous Dave’s

Join the Famous Nation and get a free dessert with a value of up to $9.00 for your birthday.

Famous Footwear

Famously You Rewards members get a $5 birthday cash reward.

Firehouse Subs

Sign up for Firehouse Rewards for a free medium sub on your birthday or in the six days that follow it.

First Watch

Get a BOGO breakfast, brunch or lunch for your birthday as a member of the Sun EClub.

Friendly’s

When you become a BFF Club member, you’ll receive a free birthday sundae.

Godiva

As a member of the Godiva Rewards Club, you’ll get a free birthday chocolate offer every year.

Habit Burger Grill

Be sure to join Habit Burger Grill’s CharClub to enjoy a free Charburger on your birthday.

Harkins Theatres

Sign up for My Harkins Rewards and receive a $5 birthday coupon to use at the concessions.

Hard Rock

Sign up for Hard Rock Rewards to get an “annual birthday offer” from the cafe and shops.

Hooters

Get 10 free boneless birthday wings when you sign up for Hootclub. You’ll also get $5 off your first purchase of $25 or more when you sign up.

Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar

Email club members get a free birthday entree, plus $10 off just for joining.

IHOP

Sign up for MyHop and get free pancakes on your birthday. You’ll also get free pancakes on the anniversary of your sign-up.

Challenge yourself to score as many birthday freebies as possible and make the celebration — and savings — last all month!

J. Crew Factory

When you sign up for Factory First, you’ll get an extra 20% off and free shipping on your birthday. You’ll also get an extra 15% off your first purchase after signing up.

JCPenney

Receive a birthday gift when you sign up for JCPenney Rewards. If you are not a JCPenney credit card member, you must have earned points within the last 21 months.

A woman smiles as she holds up a drink and a sub she got for free from Jersey Mike's Subs.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Get a free birthday sub when you sign up for the email club.

Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott offers a 50% birthday discount on one fashion jewelry or color bar item. It also offers a 25% discount on fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry or gold vermeil jewelry. You can also get 25% off a home goods item. Find out more information here.

Kohl’s

Members of the Kohl’s Rewards program get a “special birthday gift.”

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive a free Original Glazed Dozen. You’ll also get a free doughnut when you sign up.

Longhorn Steakhouse

As a member of the Longhorn Steakhouse’s eClub, you’ll get “special offers and coupons” on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Marie Callender’s

Join the eClub, and get $5 off the purchase of two entrees, plus two free slices of pie, the choice of a free “Marie’s Magnificent Six” or a free slice of pie with the purchase of an entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a special dine-in offer for signing up. The company also sends special offers for your wedding anniversary and allows you to add family members so they can get birthday rewards.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sign up for Rockin’ Rewards and get a coupon for a free birthday burrito, plus a free cup of queso just for signing up.

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Join the Nothing Bundt Cakes eClub and get a free Bundtlet on your birthday.

Old Navy

Opt into the Birthday Club when you subscribe to Old Navy’s emails to get a “free birthday gift.”

Olive Garden

Get a complimentary dessert on your birthday by signing up for the eClub. You’ll get a free dessert or appetizer when you sign up.

On the Border

Join Club Cantina and get free queso on your birthday, and just for signing up.

Pandora

Members of the Pandora Club get a 15% discount during their birthday month. This offer can only be used one time and is valid on regular-priced jewelry only.

Pei Wei

Sign up for My Wei Rewards and choose from these birthday freebies: crab wontons, traditional edamame, vegetable spring rolls or pork egg roll. The reward will automatically appear in your app seven days prior to your birthday.

Perkins

Members of the MyPerkins Club receive a free Magnificent Seven meal on their birthdays. The meal includes two eggs, any way you like, plus two smoked bacon strips and three buttermilk pancakes. Plus you’ll get a 20% off coupon for signing up. You will also be able to add your children ages 12 and under so they can get birthday rewards, too.

Pinkberry

Sign up for a Pinkcard or download the app, and receive a free yogurt on your birthday.

Pita Pit

Sign up for the Pita Pit Rewards Club and receive a free pita on your birthday.

Pizza Hut

Join the Hut Rewards program to get a “birthday reward.”

Planet Smoothie

Join the Planet Smoothie Club and receive a free smoothie for your birthday.

A person selects a movie from a red box.

Redbox

Sign up for Redbox Perks and receive a free birthday rental (it must be used within 60 days). You’ll also get a free one-night rental for signing up (that offer is valid for two weeks).

Red Lobster

Enjoy a “birthday surprise” when you sign up for the My Red Lobster Rewards program.

Red Robin

Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.

Rita’s

Get a free Italian ice on your birthday when you download Rita’s Ice App.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Sign up for the email club, and get a free dessert on your birthday.

Ruby Tuesday

As a member of So Connected, you’ll get a choice of a free burger or a free garden bar entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer for signing up.

Sephora

Beauty Insiders are eligible to choose a free makeup or skin care gift for their birthday.

Sbarro

Become a member of the Slice Society to get a birthday surprise. You’ll also get a free New York slice when you buy a beverage after signing up.

Sonny’s BBQ

Get a free Big Deal Combo meal on your big day by joining the ‘Q Crew, plus a $5 coupon just for joining.

Sprinkles

Receive a free cupcake (make that a baker’s dozen if you’re a Red Velvet tier member) for your birthday when you join Sprinkles Perks.

Iced coffees from Starbucks sit on a table outside.

Starbucks

Get a birthday beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards.

Subway

Sign up for the Subway MyWay Rewards program and the sandwich-making company will give you “something special” on your birthday.

Swagbucks

As a birthday reward, “you’ll receive a Swag Up for a 55 SB credit when you redeem your next gift card.”

Pro Tip

Be sure to check out our Swagbucks review for how to get the most out of Swagbucks.

TCBY

Sign up for TCBY emails, and receive your first 3 ounces free on your birthday.

Texas Roadhouse

Sign up for the email club and you’ll get a free appetizer or a sidekick of ribs on your birthday.

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The Melting Pot

Members of Club Fondue will get a “birthday voucher.”

The Spaghetti Warehouse

Join the Warehouse Club, and get a free meal on your birthday, plus a free appetizer with an entree purchase for becoming a member of the club.

Tijuana Flats

Become a Flathead and receive a free dessert for your birthday. You’ll also get a free Tijuana Trio when you sign up.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app to be eligible for a birthday reward. What you get depends on your loyalty tier, but it ranges from a $2 reward to a free menu item.

Ulta Beauty

As an Ultamate Rewards member, you’ll get an offer for extra bonus points on all purchases during your birthday month.

Uniqlo

Download the Uniqlo app to get a birthday coupon during your birthday month.

Uno Pizzeria & Grill

Join the Uno Insider’s Club, and receive a free dessert on your birthday, as well as a free appetizer with an entree purchase when you join.

Waffle House

Make sure you’re a member of the Waffle House Regulars Club to receive a free waffle on your birthday. You’ll also get free hashbrowns when you sign up.

Wienerschnitzel

Join the Wiener Lovers’ Club, and get a free coupon each year on your birthday, plus a free chili dog for joining.

World Market

Members of World Market Rewards get a “surprise offer” on their birthday, plus a 15% coupon for signing up.

Yogurt Mountain

Join the YOMO Club, and get free yogurt on your birthday.

Zaxby’s

Sign up for the Zax Club and get a free Big Zax Snak on your birthday, plus a free sandwich meal for signing up.

Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? Visit The Penny Hoarder Shop to see what freebies are available.

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

Greystone Mansion: the Most Familiar House You’ve Never Visited

There’s this mansion in Beverly Hills that a large part of the world’s population has already seen, even though they might not realize it.

It’s a historic house that’s been used in endless Hollywood movies, TV series, and music videos. After you finish reading this article, you might just realize that you’ve seen this house before, too. Well, now you will also know its history, and when you see it again on your TV screen (and more than likely, you will), you’ll recognize it. 

The place we’re referring to is known as Greystone Mansion or Doheny Mansion, and it’s located at 905 Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills. The Tudor Revival mansion was originally completed in 1928, after three years’ worth of construction and a total cost of over $4 million — an insane amount at the time. 

aerial view of Greystone Mansion
Greystone Mansion aerial view. Image credit: Luxury Architecture

The inception of Doheny Mansion

The 55-room, 46,000-square-foot mansion lies on a 16-acre site within Trousdale Estates. It was designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann and built by the P.J. Walker Company. The land was actually a wedding gift from oil tycoon Edward Doheny to his son, Edward ‘Ned’ Doheny, and his new wife, Lucy Smith. 

Edward Doheny was an American oil tycoon who drilled the first oil well in Los Angeles in 1892. His story was depicted in the Academy Award-winning movie There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Interestingly enough, the movie was actually filmed at Doheny Mansion. 

Ned Doheny’s house became known as Greystone because it was built mainly of stone, and has a grey, stone-cold appearance. The house took roughly three years to build, and included stables, kennels, tennis courts, a gatehouse, a swimming pool and pavilion, a lake with babbling brooks and waterfalls, and even a fire station. 

old photo of the Greystone Mansion driveway
Greystone Mansion driveway. Image credit: Friends of Greystone Mansion

A bittersweet move-in for the Dohenys

Unfortunately, Ned Doheny didn’t get to enjoy his new home for too long. Just four months after moving into Greystone Mansion, Doheny was found dead in the house, alongside his secretary and friend, Hugh Plunkett. The case was ruled a murder-suicide, however, some claim that there’s more to that story.

Doheny was killed by his own gun, and he was not buried with the rest of his family, but in a different cemetery, just a few yards away from where Plunkett was laid to rest. This has led some to believe that Doheny might have committed suicide, however, this is just a theory that certainly adds a bit of mystery to Greystone Mansion. 

Greystone Mansion exterior
Greystone Mansion exterior. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

Following Ned Doheny’s death, his wife Lucy remarried and lived in the house with her children until 1955. Greystone Mansion was later sold to Paul Trousdale, the developer of Trousdale Estates, who then sold it to Henry Crown of Chicago. The businessman never actually lived in the house, but leased it out to film studios — and that’s how Greystone’s prolific movie career started. 

Greystone Mansion, Hollywood’s favorite filming location

Over the decades, Greystone Mansion has been featured in numerous Hollywood movies and TV series, including classics like The Big Lebowski, Eraserhead, The Witches of Eastwick, Death Becomes Her, Batman & Robin, The Bodyguard, Dark Shadows, The Prestige, The Social Network, and X-Men.

The mansion has also made appearances in TV series, including Alias and The Young and the Restless, and it also played the part of Chilton Academy in Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls scene filmed at Greystone Mansion
Gilmore Girls scene filmed at Greystone Mansion, featuring the home’s famous staircase

Last but not least, Greystone Mansion has been featured in commercials and even music videos. You might have already toured the house alongside Robert Downey Jr., in the music video for Elton John’s single I Want Love. Let us refresh your memory:

In 1965, the City of Beverly Hills purchased Greystone Mansion, and a few years later, the property became a public city park. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, as Doheny Estate/Greystone.

The mansion continues to be used as a filming location and a destination for special events such as music festivals, fundraisers, and even weddings. Greystone Mansion houses the Beverly Hills Flower & Garden Festival, the yearly Catskills West drama camp, and The Annual Hollywood Ball, among others. 

Greystone Mansion public gardens
Greystone Mansion public gardens. Image credit: Love Beverly Hills

A carefully preserved slice of L.A. history

Greystone Mansion is a remarkable feat of architecture, and most of its original features have been carefully preserved over the years. The property features hand-carved oak banisters, balustrades and rafters, seven chimneys, each designed by a different artist, a movie theater room, a billiard room, a hidden bar, and a two-lane original Brunswick bowling alley. The alley was renovated so that it could be used by the filming crew for There Will Be Blood. 

The bowling alley at Greystone Mansion
The bowling alley at Greystone Mansion. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

There’s a grand hall with distinctive, black-and-white marble floors and a very famous staircase. In fact, the staircase at Greystone Mansion has been featured in numerous productions, due to its majestic appearance. 

The grand hall and staircase at Greystone Mansion
The grand hall and staircase at Greystone Mansion. Image credit: Love Beverly Hills

Greystone Mansion also included a servant’s quarters that took up two entire floors on the east wing and was built to accommodate a live-in staff of 15.

Greystone Mansion plan. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

There was also a living room with a balcony where musicians performed at special events, and a kitchen pantry with a secret wall safe that held the family’s silver and gold kitchenware.

Greystone Mansion interior
Greystone Mansion interior. Image credit: The City of Beverly Hills

This stunning, stone-clad Beverly Hills mansion continues to attract filming crews, and we’re definitely going to be seeing it again on the big screen. At the same time, its beautiful, lush gardens and its rich history will continue to attract visitors from around the world.

Here’s a further glimpse into the mansion’s history, to keep you occupied until you get a chance to visit in person:

Featured image courtesy of The City of Beverly Hills

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Where to Find the Real Carrington Manor from ‘Dynasty’

The post Greystone Mansion: the Most Familiar House You’ve Never Visited appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita in Estate Planning

Three generations of one familyWhen creating an estate plan, one of the most basic documents you may wish to include is a will. If you have a more complicated estate, you might also need to have a trust in place. Both a will and a trust can specify how you want assets distributed among your beneficiaries. When making those decisions, it’s important to distinguish between per stirpes and per capita distributions. These are two terms you’re likely to come across when shaping your estate plan. Here’s a closer look at what per stirpes vs. per capita means.

Per Stirpes, Explained

If you’ve never heard the term per stirpes before, it’s a Latin phrase that translates to “by branch” or “by class.” When this term is applied to estate planning, it refers to the equal distribution of assets among the different branches of a family and their surviving descendants.

A per stirpes designation allows the descendants of a beneficiary to keep inherited assets within that branch of their family, even if the original beneficiary passes away. Those assets would be equally divided between the survivors.

Here’s an example of how per stirpes distributions work for estate planning. Say that you draft a will in which you designate your adult son and daughter as beneficiaries. You opt to leave your estate to them, per stirpes.

If you pass away before both of your children, then they could each claim a half share of your estate under the terms of your will. Now, assume that each of your children has two children of their own and your son passes away before you do. In that scenario, your daughter would still inherit a half share of the estate. But your son’s children would split his half of your estate, inheriting a quarter share each.

Per stirpes distributions essentially create a trickle-down effect, in which assets can be passed on to future generations if a primary beneficiary passes away. A general rule of thumb is that the flow of assets down occurs through direct descendants, rather than spouses. So, if your son were married, his children would be eligible to inherit his share of your estate, not his wife.

Per Capita, Explained

Older couple signs a will

Per capita is also a Latin term which means “by head.” When you use a per capita distribution method for estate planning, any assets you have would pass equally to the beneficiaries are still living at the time you pass away. If you’re writing a will or trust as part of your estate plan, that could include the specific beneficiaries you name as well as their descendants.

So again, say that you have a son and a daughter who each have two children. These are the only beneficiaries you plan to include in your will. Under a per capita distribution, instead of your son and daughter receiving a half share of your estate, they and your four grandchildren would each receive a one-sixth share of your assets. Those share portions would adjust accordingly if one of your children or grandchildren were to pass away before you.

Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita: Which Is Better?

Whether it makes sense to use a per stirpes or per capita distribution in your estate plan can depend largely on how you want your assets to be distributed after you’re gone. It helps to consider the pros and cons of each option.

Per Stirpes Pros:

  • Allows you to keep asset distributions within the same branch of the family
  • Eliminates the need to amend or update wills and trusts when a child is born to one of your beneficiaries or a beneficiary passes away
  • Can help to minimize the potential for infighting among beneficiaries since asset distribution takes a linear approach

Per Stirpes Cons:

  • It’s possible an unwanted person could take control of your assets (i.e., the spouse of one of your children if he or she is managing assets on behalf of a minor child)

Per Capita Pros:

  • You can specify exactly who you want to name as beneficiaries and receive part of your estate
  • Assets are distributed equally among beneficiaries, based on the value of your estate at the time you pass away
  • You can use this designation to pass on assets outside of a will, such as a 401(k) or IRA

Per Capita Cons:

  • Per capita distributions could trigger generation-skipping tax for grandchildren or other descendants who inherit part of your estate

Deciding whether it makes more sense to go with per stirpes vs. per capita distributions can ultimately depend on your personal preferences. Per stirpes distribution is typically used in family settings when you want to ensure that individual branches of the family will benefit from your estate. On the other hand, per capita distribution gives you control over which individuals or group of individuals are included as beneficiaries.

Review Beneficiary Designations Periodically

Multi-generational family

If you have a will and/or a trust, you may have named your beneficiaries. But it’s possible that you may want to change those designations at some point. If you named your son and his wife in your will, for example, but they’ve since gotten divorced you may want to update the will with a codicil to exclude his ex-wife. It’s also helpful to check the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, investment accounts and life insurance policies after a major life change.

For example, if you get divorced then you may not want your spouse to be the beneficiary of your retirement accounts. Or if they pass away before you, you may want to update your beneficiary designations to your children or grandchildren.

The Bottom Line

Per stirpes and per capita distribution rules can help you decide what happens to your assets after you pass away. But they both work very differently. Understanding the implications of each one for your beneficiaries, including how they may be affected from a tax perspective, can help you decide which course to take.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to get started with estate planning and what per stirpes vs. per capita distributions might mean for your heirs. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect, within minutes, with a professional advisor in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While it’s always a good idea to consult with a financial advisor about estate planning, you can take a do-it-yourself approach to writing a will by doing it online. Here’s what you need to know about digital DIY will writing.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Georgijevic, ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/FatCamera

The post Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita in Estate Planning appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible?

The average couple has a number of topics to discuss on their to-do list before heading to the altar. The least romantic topics, if they even make the list at all, are probably concerning debt and the possibility of divorce. If you foresee a divorce in your future or are currently going through one, it’s safe to say that you have some burning questions about your finances. Perhaps you and your spouse acquired some debt during the course of your marriage and you’re now wondering who is going to be responsible for what. While it’s important to note that each situation is unique, there are some ground rules in the Divorced with Debt arena. In the below sections, we’ll address the usual ways in which debt is divided up between each spouse.

Community Property vs. Common Law Property Rules

If you’re trying to figure out what debts you will be responsible post-divorce, you will first need to know if you live in an equitable distribution state that follows common law or if you live in a community property state. When it comes to debt and the divorce process, most states follow common law for property, meaning that following a divorce, each ex-spouse will be held responsible for the debt that they took on. In a community property state, both spouses, considered to be the “community,” may both end up equally responsible for debt that incurred throughout the marriage, known as “community debt.” The following states are Community Property States:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Most of the time, the banks aren’t interested in how the courts decide to split up your debt. Even after a divorce, the original contract or credit card agreement will typically overrule a divorce decree. This means that if the original agreement was set up under your spouse’s name, the banks are going to expect the payments to be as such. As you can imagine, this could potentially cause problems with an ex-spouse who is being asked to pay off debt that is not under their name, or at least under a joint account.

To put it into perspective, let’s imagine that the court orders your ex-spouse to make payments on credit card debt under your name. If your ex neglects to make the payments on time, it’s going to have an effect on your credit report. The good news is that if this happens, you have a right to pursue legal action against your former spouse for not following court orders. However, it’s possible that by the time legal action is taken, your credit score may already be damaged.

Prenuptial agreements will affect these outcomes as well. Depending on yours and your spouse’s marital assets, the debt in question will vary. Here are the typical categories of debt that are affected during divorce proceedings:

  • Credit Card Debt
  • Mortgage Debt
  • Auto Loan Debt
  • Medical Debt

Credit Card Debt

It’s possible that you could be responsible for your former spouse’s credit card debt, but it’s not likely. If you have a joint account, then the outcomes may vary. Usually, marital debt is considered to be any debt that was created during the time of the marriage. So if you racked up credit card debt under a joint account, expect that both of you will be equally responsible for paying it off.

Mortgage Debt

If both spouses have their names on the mortgage, the easiest way of solving the mortgage debt is to sell the house and divide the earnings between both parties. It might be tempting to keep the home for a multitude of reasons, but at the end of the day, selling the property and splitting the money is usually the least complicated solution for everyone involved.

Once the house is on the market, it’s time to start communicating with your former spouse about who is going to be responsible for what amount. Come up with an agreement on who will pay which portion of the mortgage, so that neither parties’ credit score is negatively affected.

If selling the home and dividing the earnings isn’t a viable option for you and your ex, then one of you will end up fully responsible for the debt. In most cases, mortgage debt following a divorce is assigned to:

  • The spouse with the higher annual income.

OR

  • The spouse who gains full custody of the children.

When this happens, one spouse will have to buy out the other spouse’s equity in the property.

Car Loan Debt

When it comes to car loans, things become more complicated. If the car loan has both names on it, here are the two best options:

  • Refinance the car without your ex.
  • Propose automatic payments to come directly from your former spouse’s account.

Let’s say one person ends up with the car loan debt, but the other person was also on the loan as a cosigner. Unfortunately, if one spouse is held responsible for picking up the tab on a debt, and they neglect their payments, both parties can suffer those consequences.

Medical Debt

Each state has different laws surrounding medical debt and divorce agreements. If you live in a Community Property state, you might have to pay for your former spouse’s medical debt. However, if you live in a state that follows common law, the court will ultimately make the decision about who is responsible for what debt.

Pay off your debt before the divorce is finalized

 If you and your spouse can find a way to work out the kinks of your debt issues before the divorce is finalized, it’ll make things a lot easier in the long run. Work together to figure out who should be responsible for which debt, so that you can lower your chances of having to pay off a debt that isn’t yours.

If you’re working with credit card debt, one of you may need to transfer your credit card balance to a separate card. Consolidating your credit card balances is another common option when dividing debts.

Generally, credit card debt is going to be easier to deal with than the big things, like home loans and car loans. In many cases, couples who are going through a divorce will have to consider refinancing their loans under one party’s name.

Keep in mind that the original loan agreement supercedes the divorce agreement, so if you wait until your divorce is finalized, you might have a harder time moving things around. You can ask your lender to take your name off of an account and have it replaced with your former spouse’s name, but be prepared to provide the divorce decree as evidence. If it doesn’t work out this way, then seek legal advice from your divorce attorney about your options. Another common solution is to sell the asset in question and use the earnings to pay off the debt.

How your former spouse’s bankruptcy can affect you

If your ex-spouse isn’t able to keep up with the payments on their share of the debt, they might decide to file bankruptcy. This could cause problems for you if you didn’t choose to file as well.

Filing for bankruptcy does not erase the debts, instead it erases your ex-spouse’s liability for the debt. In this instance, you could find yourself in a situation where the creditor is now pursuing you for the debt. It’s also important that you check your credit report. Even if you weren’t the one who filed bankruptcy, it could still end up on your credit report.

Be cautious about any joint accounts you may still have open post-divorce. If you leave joint accounts open and your former spouse has access to them, he or she could potentially transfer balances from other accounts onto those ones. Safeguard your credit by paying off any debts you can manage to pay off ahead of time, so that you don’t have to worry about it later.

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

UI Extension: How to Get 11 More Weeks of Jobless Benefits

Note: This article has been updated with new information from the Continued Assistance Act (the second stimulus package).

Most states offer Unemployment Insurance for 26 weeks. If your benefits are about to expire, and you’re still out of work, a low-grade panic may be setting in.

Here are two important things you need to know: One, unemployment extensions are available. But, two, they’re not automatic.

In March, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act authorized federal aid to supplement state-level Unemployment Insurance programs, a provision dubbed Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC. The second stimulus package passed in December revived PEUC, extending UI benefits for 11 more weeks.

Michele Evermore, senior researcher and policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, told The Penny Hoarder that the PEUC extension will become “incredibly crucial” as state benefits expire.

Data from the Department of Labor proves that. More than 4 million Americans have exhausted their state UI benefits and are relying on the federal extension.

How Unemployment Insurance Extensions Work

As an Unemployment Insurance recipient, you are likely eligible for PEUC, the new extension program from the federal government.

The catch: You can only apply for this extension once you have run out of your state’s unemployment benefits. You can’t pre-register. The Department of Labor directed states to alert you by email or letter if you are potentially eligible for the extension, but made it clear to states to not automatically enroll people.

By design, this may cause an interruption in weekly payments.

Another source of uncertainty is the number of weeks PEUC will extend your unemployment benefits in total. The first stimulus package authorized 13 additional weeks of benefits. The second package authorized 11 more. But it’s more complicated than adding those two figures together and getting 24 extra weeks.

The unemployment provisions laid out in the first stimulus package expired in December 2020. So the 13 extra weeks provided by the CARES Act are no longer available to new applicants.

But even if you didn’t get that first extension, you could still get the 11 additional weeks approved in the second stimulus bill.

Pro Tip

The PEUC application is based on your state-level unemployment claims. While you must opt in to receive the additional weeks of benefits, you won’t have to completely reapply.

Under PEUC, your weekly benefits will be the same as your state benefits, the check will just be coming from the federal government.

But Wait. There’s More.

If you are unable to find work after exhausting your state’s program and all additional weeks of PEUC, you may be eligible for a separate extension from your state.

In times of high unemployment rates, 49 states (all except South Dakota) have an Extended Benefits or EB system that adds up to 20 weeks of benefits, according to data compiled by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Provided that local unemployment rates are still high when you exhaust PEUC, you may qualify for more benefits.

“There’s an order of operations here,” Evermore said.

Based on guidance from the Labor department, the order of unemployment programs for typical jobless workers goes like this:

  1. State UI programs (which vary from 12 to 30 weeks)
  2. Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (as many as 24 weeks)
  3. State Extended Benefits or EB (six to 20 weeks)
  4. The final failsafe if all other programs are exhausted: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Here’s our 50-state guide to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. (We include an interactive map with specific state-by-state instructions.)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a federal program that’s available for a maximum of 50 weeks, including the weeks of all previous programs you may have been on.

For example, Florida has the shortest duration of unemployment benefits, at 12 weeks. The state’s Extended Benefits program is also one of the shortest, at six weeks. The order of operations for all possible extensions in Florida would look like this: 12 weeks of UI, 24 (max) weeks of PEUC, six weeks of EB. The total so far is 42 weeks, meaning Florida residents can potentially use Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for 8 weeks to reach the maximum of 50 weeks of aid.

New York residents who exhaust their state’s program, in contrast, would not be eligible for PUA because the total length of their state benefits plus all available extensions exceeds 50 weeks. By quite a bit, too. Including all sources of assistance, New Yorkers are eligible for up to 70 weeks of unemployment benefits.

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“Taken together, the expanded benefits have had a massive effect on the economy,” Evermore said. “Initial unemployment claims are still coming in at unprecedented levels — but this could have been a lot worse without all these federal benefits.”

For jobless applicants, though, taking all this in can be overwhelming. But benefits are there if you can trudge through the paperwork and arcane websites.

“Understanding the difference with all these programs and acronyms is going to be confusing,” Evermore said. “Just follow the instructions from your state agency. The agency is required to give you information on how to apply [for extensions].”

Whatever you do, don’t lose your password to your online unemployment profile.

“The password reset process, in many states, is really difficult,” Evermore said. “You have to call and talk to a password reset person, and then that person will mail you — in the mail — a new password.”

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Unemployment Benefits Explained: Terms, Definitions and More

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.

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.

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

“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.

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

“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.

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 2 Unemployment Programs You Definitely Need to Know

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.

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.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Also referred to as Unemployment Compensation, UI is the longstanding benefits program run by each individual state. It’s for people who are out of work at no fault of their own. To qualify for UI, you have to have made a certain amount of money in the recent past  — typically from a W-2 job with an employer that paid into the unemployment system through payroll taxes. Specifics like previous employment duration or earnings vary.

Depending on your state, average UI payments are between $180 and $490 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.

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.

Pro Tip

Use this tool from the Department of Labor to find your state’s unemployment website and start a UI claim.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal unemployment program. It’s up and running in all 50 states. The first stimulus package created PUA in March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, PUA has been a lifeline for tens of millions of jobless people who don’t qualify for regular UI benefits.

For the first time nationally, gig workers and freelancers, who are considered 1099 independent contractors, have been able to receive unemployment benefits through PUA.

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.

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 $180 and $490, you can expect minimum weekly PUA payments between $90 and $245 depending on your state.

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

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.

Here’s a primer on seven key terms that you’re sure to come across as you apply for benefits.

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 $1,200 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.

CAA: The Continued Assistance Act, aka Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers, is part of the $900 billion stimulus package that became law on Dec. 27, 2020. It extends many of the unemployment programs created by the CARES Act.

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.

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.

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.)

FPUC: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation boosts unemployment benefits by $300 a week for up to 11 weeks between Dec. 27, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Anyone who is approved for at least $1 of unemployment benefits will automatically receive this bonus. No separate application or action is needed. This program previously paid out $600 per week under the CARES Act, but that version expired in July 2020.

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.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Understanding Cash in Lieu of Fractional Shares

Woman on laptop

It’s not uncommon for publicly-traded companies to restructure based on changing market conditions or share prices. When companies merge, split their stock, or acquire competitors, it can raise the question of how to consolidate or restructure the company’s stock.

If such a corporate action generates fractional shares, the company’s leadership has a few options for how to proceed: They could distribute the fractional shares, round up to the nearest whole share, or pay cash in lieu of fractional shares.

What is Cash In Lieu?

stock price, or both.

There are several company events that can lead to investors receiving cash in lieu of fractional shares.

Stock Split

A stock split occurs when a company’s board of directors determines that their company’s strongly performing stock price may be too high for new investors. To make the stock price look more attractive to more investors and gain more liquidity and marketability, a stock split is executed to artificially lower the stock’s price by issuing more shares at a fixed ratio while maintaining the company’s unchanged value.

Depending on the predetermined ratio, a stock split could cause fractional shares to be generated. For example, a three-for-two stock split of a stock worth $111 would create three shares for every two shares each investor holds. Thus, a stock split would cause any investor with an odd number of shares to receive a fractional share.

However, if the company’s board isn’t keen to hold or deal with fractional shares, they will distribute investors’ whole shares and liquidate the uneven remainders, thus paying investors cash in lieu of fractional shares. The ratio or cash rate as set by the company performing the stock split can be located on the company’s corresponding SEC 8-K document.

reverse stock split because a stock’s prices are too low and they want to artificially raise them. If stock prices get too low, investors may become fearful to buy and the stock risks being delisted from exchanges.

When a stock undergoes a reverse stock split, each share is converted into a fraction of a share but higher-priced shares are issued to investors according to the reverse split ratio . For example, a stock valued at $3.50 may undergo a reverse one-for-10 stock split. Every 10 shares is converted into one new share valued at $35.00. Investors who own 33 shares or any number indivisible by 10 would receive fractional shares unless the company decides to issue cash in lieu of fractional shares.

Companies may notify their shareholders of an impending reverse stock split on Forms 8-K, 10-Q, or 10-K as well as any settlement details if necessary.

Merger or Acquisition

Company mergers and acquisitions (M&As) can also create fractional shares. When companies combine or are absorbed, they combine new common stock using a predetermined ratio, which often results in fractional shares for investors in all involved companies.

In these cases, it’s rare for the ratio of new shares received to be a whole number. Companies may opt to return whole shares to investors, sell fractional shares, and disburse cash in lieu to investors.

Spinoff

If an investor owns shares of a company that spins off part of the business as a new entity with a separately-traded stock, shareholders of the original company may receive a fixed amount of shares of the new company for every share of the existing company held.

How Is Cash in Lieu of Fractional Shares Taxed?

Just like many other forms of investment profits, cash in lieu of fractional shares is taxable , even though it was acquired without the investor’s endorsement or action. The stock’s company may send investors a check followed by an IRS Form 1099-B at year-end with a “cash in lieu” or “CIL” notation.

Some investors may simply report the payment on the IRS Form 1040’s Schedule D as sales proceeds with zero cost and pay capital gains tax on the entire cash settlement. However, the more accurate and tax-advantageous method would apply the adjusted cost basis to the fractional shares and pay capital gains tax only on the net gain.

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How to Report Cash in Lieu of Fractional Shares

Calculating the cost basis for cash in lieu of fractional shares is a little tricky due to the change of share price and quantity. The new stock issued is not taxable nor does the cost basis change, but the per-share basis does.
Consider the following example:

•  An investor owns 15 shares of Company X worth $10.00 per share ($150 value).
•  Investor’s 15 shares have a $7.00 per share cost basis ($105 total cost basis).
•  Company X declares a 1.5 stock split.

The investor is entitled to 22.5 shares valued at $6.67 each but the company states they will only issue whole shares. Therefore, the investor receives 22 shares plus a $2.73 cash in lieu payment for the half share.

The investor’s total cost basis remains the same, less the cash in lieu of the fractional shares. However, the adjusted cost basis now factors in 22 shares instead of 15, equaling a $4.66 per share cost basis and a $2.33 fractional share cost basis. Finally, the taxable “net gain” for the cash payment received in lieu of fractional shares equates to $2.725 – $2.33 = $0.39.

The Takeaway

It’s not always possible to anticipate a company being restructured and how it will affect shareholders’ stock. In the event the company doesn’t wish to deal with fractional shares, it’s important for shareholders to understand the alternatives such as cash in lieu of fractional shares, and how it affects them. While cash in lieu can be burdensome, investors can be made whole and can then proceed on their own accord.

There are many reasons investors consider fractional shares worth buying to add to their investment portfolio. For individuals looking to invest in fractional shares with the help of a simple account setup and no fees, SoFi Invest® can help.

Find out how SoFi Invest can help you reach your financial goals.


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How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

I've received several questions from Money Girl podcast listeners about paying off credit card debt. It's a fundamental goal because carrying card balances come with high interest, a waste of your financial resources. Instead of paying money to card companies, it's time to use it to build wealth for yourself.

7 Strategies to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

1. Stop making new card charges

If you're carrying card balances from month-to-month, it's essential to understand what it costs you. As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

The first step to improving any area of your life is to acknowledge your mistakes, and financing a lifestyle you can't afford using a credit card is a biggie. So, stop making new charges until you take control of your cards and can pay them off in full each month.

As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

Yes, reining in your card spending will probably require sacrifices. Consider ways to earn extra income, such as starting a side gig, finding a better-paying job, or selling your unused stuff. Also, look for ways to cut costs by downsizing your home, vehicle, memberships, or unnecessary expenses.

2. Consider your big financial picture

Before you decide to pay off credit card debt aggressively, look at the "big picture" of your financial life. Consider any other debts or obligations you should prioritize, such as a tax delinquency, legal judgment, or unpaid child support. The next debts to pay off are those already in default or turned over to a collection agency.

In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

Assuming you don't have any debts in default, focus your attention on your emergency fund … or lack of one! I recommend maintaining a minimum of six months' worth of your living expenses on hand. In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

3. Make more than the minimum payment

Many people who can pay more than their monthly minimum card payment don't do it. The problem is that minimums go mostly toward interest and don't reduce your balance significantly.

For example, let's assume your card charges 15% APR, you have a $5,000 balance, and you never make another purchase on the card. If your minimum payment is 4% of your card balance, it will take you 10½ years to pay off. And here's the worst part—you'd have paid almost $2,400 in interest!

4. Target debts with the highest interest rates first

Make a list of all your debts, including credit cards, lines of credit, and loans. Include your balances owed and interest rates charged. Then rank your liabilities in order of highest to lowest interest rate.

Getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most.

Remember that the higher a debt's interest rate, the more it costs you in interest per dollar of debt. So, getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most. Then you can use the savings to pay more on your next highest interest debt and so on.

If you have several credit cards, evaluate them the same way—tackle them in order of highest to lowest interest rate to get the most bang for your buck. And if a credit card isn't the most expensive debt you have, make it a lower priority.

In general, debts that come with a tax deduction such as mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and student loans, should be paid off last. Not only do those types of debt have relatively low interest rates, but when some or all of the interest is tax-deductible, they cost you even less on an after-tax basis.

5. Use your assets to pay off cards

If you have assets such as savings and non-retirement investments that you could use to pay down high-interest credit cards, it may make sense. Just remember that you still need a healthy cash reserve, such as six months' worth of living expenses.

If you don't have any or enough emergency money saved, don't dip into your savings to pay off credit card debt. Also, consider what you could sell—such as unused sporting goods, jewelry, or a vehicle—to raise cash and increase your financial cushion.

6. Consider using a balance transfer card

If you can’t pay off credit card debt using existing assets, consider optimizing it by moving it from higher- to lower-interest options. That won’t make your debt disappear, but it will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Balance transfers won’t make your debt disappear, but they will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Using a balance transfer credit card is a common way to optimize debt temporarily. You receive a promotional offer during a set period if you move debt to the account. By transferring higher-interest debt to a lower- or zero-interest card, you save money and use it to pay down the balance faster.

7. Consolidate your high-rate balances

I received a question from Sarah F., who says, “I love your podcast and turn to it for a lot of my financial questions. I have credit card debt and am wondering if it’s a good idea to get a personal loan to pay it down, or is that a scam?”

And Rachel K. says, "I love listening to your podcasts and am focused on becoming more financially fit this year. I have a couple of credit cards with high interest rates. Would it be wise for me to consolidate them to a lower interest rate? If so, will it hurt my credit?" 

Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

Thanks to Sarah and Rachel for your questions. Consolidating credit card debt using a personal loan is not a scam but a legitimate way to shift debt to a lower interest rate.

Having an additional loan added to your credit history helps you build credit if you make payments on time. It also works in your favor by reducing your credit utilization ratio when you reduce your credit card debt.

If you qualify for a low-rate personal loan, here are some benefits you get from debt consolidation:

  • Cutting your interest expense
  • Getting a fixed rate and term (such as 6% APR for 60 months with monthly payments of $600)
  • Having one monthly debt payment
  • Building credit

A couple of downsides of using a personal loan to consolidate debt include:

  • Being tempted to continue making credit card charges
  • Having potentially higher monthly loan payments (compared to minimum credit card payments)

While it may seem counterintuitive to use new debt to get out of old debt, it all comes down to the interest rate. Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

What should you do after paying off a credit card?

Credit cards come with many benefits, such as purchase protection, convenience, and rewards. Don't forget that they're also powerful tools for building credit when used responsibly. If maintaining good credit is one of your goals, I recommend that you keep a paid-off card open instead of canceling it.

You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To maintain or improve your credit, you must have credit accounts open in your name, and you must use them regularly. Making small purchases charges from time to time that you pay off in full and on time is enough to add positive data to your credit reports. You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To learn more about building credit and getting out of debt, check out Laura’s best-selling online classes:

  • Build Better Credit—The Ultimate Credit Score Repair Guide
  • Get Out of Debt Fast—A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Ask the Readers: What Are Your Holiday Shortcuts?

Woman using holiday shortcuts to go christmas shopping

The holidays can be a stressful time for many families — why spend more time and energy on the prep when you don’t need to? Holiday shortcuts like hosting a potluck (rather than making dinner all by yourself) and opting for Secret Santa (instead of buying gifts for everyone) can make things a lot easier — and cheaper.

What are your holiday shortcuts? How do they make things easier for you? What old traditions are you skipping altogether?

Tell us about your holiday shortcuts and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We’re doing three giveaways — here’s how you can win:

  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Tweet about our giveaway for an entry.
  • Visit our Facebook page for an entry.
  • Follow @janetonthemoney on Twitter.

Use our Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards:

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Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, December 16th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Winners will be announced after December 16th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
     
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook or Twitter.
     
  • You must be 18 and U.S. resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Good Luck!

Tell us about your holiday shortcuts and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!


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