7 Money Steps to Take Before 2021

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s a good time to take stock of your financial situation as you head into 2021. 2020 has been a strange year, and a difficult year for many people. With many people’s health and/or economic livelihoods affected by COVID-19, many people’s situation looks very different than it did back in January. As we head into a new year, here are a few things that you can do to improve your finances before the end of 2020.

#1 Put at least $1000 into an emergency fund

If you don’t have an emergency fund set up to handle unexpected expenses, that is a good first step to putting yourself on a solid financial footing. $1000 may not be enough to handle every possible thing that could go wrong, but it can be enough to handle your car breaking down or an unexpected home expense. If you don’t have at least a minimal emergency fund in place, make a plan for how you can start one before the end of the year.

#2 Fully fund your retirement accounts

401k, IRAs, and other retirement accounts have an annual contribution limit that caps the amount that you’re able to contribute each year. Before the end of the year, set aside some time to go through each of your accounts that have an annual contribution limit. Decide for which of those accounts it makes sense to fund before the end of the year.

#3 Consider donating to charity

With the increased standard deduction available in recent tax years, not as many people itemize their deductions. But if you do itemize your deductions, then remember that your charitable contribution may be tax-deductible. If you make that charitable contribution before the end of the year, you may be able to deduct it in this tax year — otherwise, you’ll have to wait an entire year before you’re able to deduct it.

READ MORE: 5 Best Credit Cards When You Make Charitable Donations

If you’ve already made charitable contributions in 2020, make sure that you have them documented and ready to include on your tax return.

#4 Make sure you have a financial security plan in place

Still, using the same username and password on every internet site? It may be time to get a financial security plan in place. With data breaches always a possibility now’s as good a time as any to take some steps to minimize your risk in case of a data breach or a hacker accessing your financial information. One thing that you can do before the end of the year is to set up a password manager to put some variety into your passwords. Another thing is to set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your important financial accounts.

#5 Review your credit report

Each year you are entitled to a free three-bureau credit report once a year from annualcreditreport.com, and the end of the year can be a good time to do that. If you already have a Mint account, you have access to your credit score at any time, but reviewing your actual credit report can make a big difference to your credit report. Between 10 and 21 percent of people have errors on their credit report, and clearing up incorrect or inaccurate information can raise your credit score.

#6 Use up any money in your FSA

Flexible spending accounts can be a great way to save money on health expenses. An FSA is typically set up through your employer and allows you to make pre-tax contributions. Any money that you contribute to your FSA is not subject to tax, and you can use that money to get reimbursed for many different types of health expenses. The only downside is that most FSA plans are use-it or lose-it plans. So any money that is left in the FSA at the end of the year is forfeited. Check the details of your plan, and make sure that you use all the money in your FSA before the end of the year.

#7 Set your financial goals for 2021

Finally, the end of the year can be a great time to set up your financial goals for 2021. You don’t have to wait until January to start up a new resolution. Meet and talk with your spouse, family, or trusted friends and advisors. Decide where you want to be in one year, in five years and beyond, and start taking the steps to get yourself there.

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Source: mint.intuit.com

3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout

3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout

Paying off debt with “gazelle intensity” is a great way to get rid of debt quickly. Cutting your budget to a nearly bare-bones level and working hard to increase your income, speed up debt payments and save up for retirement will help you make great progress on your financial goals, but most people can only live on a strict budget for so long before they begin experiencing debt burnout.

Find out now: How much do you need to save for retirement?

What is Debt Burnout?

Burnout is feeling exhausted with your day-to-day routine or the lack of flexibility in your budget. Some people get tired of not having extra money in their food budget to go out to eat occasionally or buy a wider variety of foods at the grocery store. Others grow tired of having little to no budget for entertainment and fun. Burnout leaves you feeling fatigued, frustrated and ready to give up on your debt-free dreams.

Beating Debt Burnout

After you’ve diagnosed yourself with debt burnout, it’s important to take immediate steps to correct it so you don’t end up un-doing all the progress you’ve made toward paying off your debt. The steps to beating burnout don’t have to be drastic. It’s possible to do it by making a few simple adjustments.

1. Reassess Your Budget

After you’ve paid down some of your debt, it’s common to start feeling some burnout from the lack of flexibility in your budget. This may be a good time to reassess your budget and perhaps give yourself a little more money for things you enjoy, like increasing how much you spend on entertainment or giving yourself a little more money for going out to eat with friends and family. This may decrease the amount of money going to debt payments, but that’s better than getting burnt out and going on a crazy credit card shopping spree down the road.

2. Plan a Fun Trip or Event

While your family is paying off debt, it’s common to give up all vacations, trips and fun events. But when you start experiencing debt burnout, planning for one of these events is a great way to stay motivated and give your family something to look forward to. The trip or event doesn’t have to be a huge and expensive ordeal. Even a short day or weekend trip is something to look forward to when you are living on such a tight budget. Try planning for when you hit a milestone – paying off half of your debt or even for when the whole thing is paid off.

3. Find Some Support

When you start to feel burnt out and unmotivated to continue your debt payoff journey, seeking out an accountability partner is a great way to help you stay on track. Single people can especially benefit from having someone to confide in and bounce ideas off of. But even couples and families can use the outside perspective of an accountability partner to help them keep focused on their financial goals and beat debt burnout.

Debt burnout is a real thing that many people struggle with as they work their way out of debt. The more debt you have to begin with and the longer the time frame for paying it off, the more likely it is that you’ll face burnout at some point.

Find out now: Should I get a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage? 

What other ways can you think of to help beat debt burnout?

Photo credit: flickr

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What Is the CVV on a Credit Card?

What Is the CVV on a Credit Card?

If you’ve made a purchase online or over the phone, you’re probably familiar with the three sets of credit card numbers you have to hand over. These numbers include the credit card number, the expiration date and the CVV. If you’re an online shopping pro, you’ll know where to find the CVV. But what exactly is the CVV on a credit card?

What Is the CVV on a Credit Card?

A credit card’s CVV acts as another line of security against fraud. The CVV, or card verification value, can also be referred to as the CSC, or card security code. These numbers serve as one of the most important anti-fraud measures for a credit (or debit) card, especially with the rise of virtual transactions. So when you make a purchase online or over the phone, giving the CVV assures a merchant that the purchase is legitimate and authorized.

When you use your card in person, retailers can check your ID to make sure you’re the cardholder. But merchants can’t do the same when you make an online purchase. Instead, the CVV serves a substitute for personal identification. Plus, your card carrier can verify your card’s unique CVV in the event verification is needed.

Not all merchants require you to enter your CVV when making a purchase. This doesn’t make a merchant illegitimate, however. In any case, you always want to make sure you’re handing over your credit card information to a merchant you trust.

Where to Find Your Card’s CVV

Card carriers print their CVVs in different places on their cards, so it’s important to know where the CVV is on your card(s). If you have a Visa, Mastercard or Discover card, you can find the three-digit CVV on the back of your card to the right of the signature strip. The number may also be adjacent to either your full credit card number, or just the last four digits of it.

However, if you have an American Express card, you can find the CVV on the front, right side of your card. Also note that Amex calls this number a card identification number (CID). An Amex CID is also four digits instead of three.

What Is the CVV on a Credit Card?

How a CVV Protects You

A card’s CVV comes in handy mostly for online purchases. Again, it acts as another line of defense against fraud. So even if a hacker gains access to your credit card number, expiration date and full name, they still need your CVV to complete the transaction. Luckily, CVVs aren’t as easily obtainable as your other credit card information.

This is due to the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DDS). This was created by Amex, Discover, Mastercard, Visa and other credit card leaders to establish standard rules for credit card information storage. One of its main stipulations states that merchants cannot store your CVV after you make a purchase. However, there’s nothing preventing merchants from storing the rest of your card’s information, like the credit card number. This makes it harder for criminals to find the CVV attached to your credit card number.

The CVV also works in tandem with a credit card’s magnetic strip and the newer EMV chip technology. The printed CVV on your card is embedded in the card’s magnetic strip. The chip has a digital CVV equivalent called the Integrated Chip Card Card Verification Value (iCVV). So when you use your card in person, whether you swipe or insert the chip, your CVV will still be confirmed.

Limitations of a CVV

What Is a CVV on a Credit Card?

Typically, the issues that arise with CVVs are often self-inflicted by the cardholder. Since it’s hard for fraudsters to obtain your CVV through a credit card database, they turn to other illegal means. This includes phishing and physically stealing your cards.

These scams occur as the occasional email or pop-up on your computer, enticing you to make an online purchase. Some scams are easy to spot, due to misspelling or other obvious errors. However, because online merchants so often ask you to enter your CVV, hackers can also include that requirement on their fraudulent page. If you enter your credit card information, including the CVV, the hackers have easily gained access to your account.

Of course, there is always the possibility of getting your credit card physically stolen. In this case, the thieves don’t need to hack anything since all your information is there on the card. Your best bet is to cancel your card as soon as possible, request a new card from your issuer and dispute any unauthorized charges made to the account.

Final Word

What Is a CVV on a Credit Card?

While in-person purchases aren’t entirely foolproof, online transactions put you and your information more at risk of fraud. To combat this, credit card providers created CVVs and their associated regulations to help keep your personal credit information safe. You can help protect yourself, too, by only entering your card information on websites you trust.

Tips for Keeping Your Card’s Info Safe

  • It’s important to research and find the right credit card for you. When you’re looking through a card’s features, you should look at its security features. Make sure you’re comfortable with its limits.
  • Never engage with any emails, ads or websites that you don’t immediately recognize as legitimate. This includes not clicking on suspicious links and not entering your credit card’s account number, expiration date and especially the CVV.
  • Be sure to look for a “Secure” tag to the left of the web address of any site you’re making an online purchase through. Only encrypted sites feature these tags, so you can feel confident your card’s information will be safe in these transactions.

Find the Top 3 Financial Advisors for You

Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with top fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by Smartasset and is legally bound to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Georgijevic, CVVnumber.com, ©iStock.com/ShotShare, Â©iStock.com/wutwhanfoto

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The Average Salary of a Pilot

The Average Salary of a Pilot

The job of an airline pilot has a certain glamour to it. However, unconventional working hours and plenty of time away from home can be a recipe for stress and burnout. This could be why airline and commercial pilots are compensated fairly well, earning a median annual salary of $115,670. That one number doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as it varies depending on whom you fly for and where you’re based. 

The Average Salary of a Pilot

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of the group the BLS calls airline and commercial pilots was $115,670 per year in May 2018. The BLS also tracks the job outlook for the careers it studies, measuring how many jobs the career will add between 2016 and 2026. The BLS job outlook for Airline and Commercial Pilots is 4%, which is about as fast as the average across all careers. According to the BLS, the U.S. will add 4,400 airline and commercial pilots between 2016 and 2026.

Where Pilots Earn the Most

The Average Salary of a Pilot

When it comes to tracking state- and city-level earnings data, the BLS looks at commercial pilots and “airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers” separately. Let’s take a look at where commercial pilots earn the most.

The mean annual wage for commercial pilots is $96,530 per year. According to BLS data, the top-paying state for commercial pilots is Georgia, where commercial pilots earn a mean annual wage of $130,760. Other high-paying states for commercial pilots are Connecticut, New York, Florida and Maryland. The top-paying metro area for commercial pilots is Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC, where the annual mean wage for commercial pilots is $128,600. Other high-paying metro areas for commercial pilots are Savannah, GA; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA; Bakersfield, CA; Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO and Spartanburg, SC.

Now let’s take a look at where airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers earn the most. The top-paying state in this field is Washington, with a mean annual wage of $237,150. Other high-paying states for this profession are Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and California. Of the metro areas for which the BLS has data, the top-paying metro area for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers is San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, with a mean annual wage of $247,120. Other high-paying metro areas for this field are Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA; Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI.

Becoming a Pilot

Typically, it’s easier to become a commercial pilot than an airline pilot. Because of this, many airline pilots start their career as commercial pilots. To be a pilot of any kind, you’ll need to have a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  To be an airline pilot, you’ll need an additional document known as a Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. This is also issued by the FAA.

In terms of education, you will need a high school diploma and a commercial pilot’s license to become a commercial pilot. To become an airline pilot, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree, although it can be in any subject.

The typical path to becoming a commercial pilot is to complete an FAA-certified flight training program. These are held both at independent flight schools and through colleges and universities. Once you’ve assembled enough flying hours, you can get a job as a commercial pilot.

Regional and major airlines typically require significantly more flight experience for new hires. This is another reason why many people start out as commercial pilots and then move on to working for an airline. According to the BLS, many commercial pilot jobs require a minimum of 500 flying hours, whereas entry-level airline jobs require somewhere around 1,500.

Bottom Line

The Average Salary of a Pilot

Have you ever flown out of an airport and wondered what it would be like to be a pilot? With an average annual salary of $102,520, pilots earn a good living. Not just anyone can become a pilot, however. Commercial pilots must earn a commercial pilot certificate, while airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers must earn the Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for the specific aircraft type they fly. Being a pilot is also a dangerous job, so it’s not surprising that pilots’ compensation is high.

Tips for Saving Responsibly

  • The median pilot salary is enough to live comfortably in most areas of the country, but it’s still important to make sure you’re saving some of that money for emergencies and retirement.
  • A financial advisor can be a big help in managing your money and choosing smart investments that grow your nest egg. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/xavierarnau, ©iStock.com/Jacob Ammentorp Lund, ©iStock.com/amesy

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Source: smartasset.com

Financial Lessons Learned During the Pandemic

2020 has shaped all of us in some way or another financially. Whether it is being reminded of the importance of living within our means or saving for a rainy day, these positive financial habits and lessons are timeless and ones we can take into the new year. 

While everyone is on a very unique financial journey, we can still learn from each other. As we wrap up this year, it’s important to reflect on some of these positive financial habits and lessons and take the ones we need into 2021. Here are some of the top financial lessons:

Living Within Your Means

It’s been said for years, centuries even, that one should live within one’s means. Well, I think a lot of people were reminded of this financial principle given the year we’ve had. Living within your means is another way of saying don’t spend more than you earn. I would take it one step further to say, set up your financial budget so you pay yourself first. Then only spend what is leftover on all the fun or variable items.

Setting up your budget in the Mint app or updating your budget in Mint to reflect the changes in your income or expenses is a great activity to do before the year ends. Follow the 50/20/30 rule of thumb and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you spending more than you earn?
  • Are there fixed bills you can reduce so you can save more for your financial goals? 
  • Can you reduce your variable spending and save that money instead?

The idea is to find a balance that allows you to pay for your fixed bills, save automatically every month and then only spend what is left over. If you don’t have the money, then you cannot use debt to buy something. This is a great way to get back in touch with reality and also appreciate your money more. 

Have a Cash Cushion

Having a cash cushion gives you peace of mind since you know that if anything unexpected comes up, which of course always happens in life, you have money that is easy to liquidate to pay for it versus paying it with debt or taking from long-term investments. Having an adequate cash cushion this year offered some people a huge sigh of relief when they lost their job or perhaps had reduced income for a few months. With a cash cushion or rainy day fund, they were still able to cover their bills with their savings.

Many people are making it their 2021 goal to build, replenish, or maintain their cash cushion.  Typically, you want a cash cushion of about 3- 6 months of your core expenses. Your cash cushion is usually held in a high-yield saving account that you can access immediately if needed. However, you want to think of it almost as out of sight out of mind so it’s really there for bigger emergencies or opportunities that come up.

Asset Allocation 

Having the right asset allocation and understanding your risk tolerance and timeframe of your investments is always important. With a lot of uncertainty and volatility in the stock market this year, more and more people are paying attention to their portfolio allocation and learning what that really means when it comes to risk and returns. Learning more about which investments you actually hold within your 401(k) or IRA is always important. I think the lesson this year reminded everybody that it’s your money and it’s up to you to know.

Even if you have an investment manager helping you, you still need to understand how your portfolio is allocated and what that means in terms of risk and what you can expect in portfolio volatility (ups and downs) versus the overall stock market. A lot of people watch the news and hear the stock market is going up or down, but fail to realize that may not be how your portfolio is actually performing. So get clear. Make sure that your portfolio matches your long term goal of retirement and risk tolerance and don’t make any irrational short term decisions with your long-term money based on the stock market volatility or what the news and media are showcasing.

Right Insurance Coverage

We have all been reminded of the importance of health this year. Our own health and the health of our loved ones should be a top priority. It’s also an extremely important part of financial success over time. It is said, insurance is the glue that can hold everything together in your financial life if something catastrophic happens. Insurances such as health, auto, home, disability, life, long-term care, business, etc. are really important but having the right insurance policy and coverage in place for each is the most important part.

Take time and review all the insurance coverage you have and make sure it is up to date and still accurate given your life circumstances and wishes. Sometimes you may have a life insurance policy in place for years but fail to realize there is now a better product in the marketplace with more coverage or better terms. With any insurance, it is wise to never cancel a policy before you a full review and new policy to replace it already in place. The last thing you want is to be uninsured. Make sure you also have an adequate estate plan whether it’s a trust or will that showcases your wishes very clearly. This way, you can communicate that with your trust/will executor’s, beneficiaries, family members, etc. so they are clear on everything as well. 

Financial lessons will always be there. Year after year, life throws us challenges and successes to remind us of what is most important. Take time, reflect, and get a game plan in place for 2021 that takes everything you have learned up until now into account. This will help you set the tone for an abundant and thriving new financial year. 

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Source: mint.intuit.com