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.

The post 7 Money Steps to Take Before 2021 appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Increased Referral Offers For Referrer On American Express Cards (Up To 35,000 Points)

Update 2/4/21: More reports of people seeing increases on some of their lower offers, e.g. 7,500 are now seeing 15,000.

Original Post:

The referral bonus on the American Express Gold card has increased for some people to 20,000 points for the referrer (ht to noahmateen). This is YMMV as some people are still seeing 10,000 or 15,000, hopefully it’ll change over for everyone. The maximum per year is still 55,000 points.

The American Express referral program allows referring from any Amex card to any Amex card. When referring, the key is to refer FROM the card that gives the highest bonus, irrespective of which new card the friend is going to sign up for.

A lot of cards offer the referrer 10,000 points or $100 per referral; some cards offer even less. The Business Gold Rewards card has offered 20,000 points (not sure if that’s still current), and some were getting 20k on the Business Platinum as well at one point.

Related Posts:

  • How To Get Higher Referrer Bonuses With American Express
  • New Universal American Express Referrals Program, Now Crosses Over to ANY Card
  • American Express Universal Referrals – Self Referrals Working & How To Maximize (E.g 30,000 Points On BBP)
  • American Express Business Card Referrals Now Have Increased Signup Bonus Offers Incognito
  • American Express Business Gold: 50,000 Points After $5,000 In Spend Via Referral
  • American Express Lowers Referrer Bonus on Green, Everyday, BCE + Why That Matters
  • Refer-a-Friend From American Express Blue Business Plus Card And Get 15,000 Bonus Points

Post history:

  • Update 1/27/21: More people targeted for these increased offers.
  • Update 11/24/20: Some people seeing increased offers today. Interestingly, there’s a report of someone seeing 35,000 points on the Gold card. We’ve never seen higher than 30,000 before, it keeps edging up. (Of course there’s still the 55,000 annual cap.)
  • Update 11/15/20: Lots of people reporting their personal Gold card showing the 30,000 referral offer now. Not sure if everyone or targeted. (ht reader JJ). Remember, there is a 55,000 annual limit per card. There’s also $125 showing again on Blue Cash Preferred for some.
  • Update 9/9/20: More people targeted for the higher bonuses.
  • Update 9/1/20: Some of the cash referral links are now up to $125 (typically $75 or $100). basefifty noticed this on their Blue Cash Everyday and I’m seeing the same. Not nearly as good as some of the points offers, but good to know.
  • Update 8/13/20: Some referral links are now showing a 30,000 points referral for referring a friend (friend gets the regular signup bonus being offered and you get 30,000). This is a new high as previously 25k was highest. Remember, there is a 55,000 annual limit per card. Hat tip to reader GL and to ThomGault
  • Update 8/6/20: Some are seeing now increased offers. Not sure if anyone is getting 25,000 now, but some who were previously only seeing 10,000 points for referrer are now seeing 15,000 or 20,000 on various cards. Hat tip to Milestalk
  • Update 5/7/20: Some people seeing up to 25,000 points per referral on select cards.
  • Update 5/1/20: More people seeing 20,000 points per referral on select cards. Also, some are seeing 15,000 on cards that were previously 10,000. Hat tip to manageroftheyear
  • Update 4/14/20: More people seeing 20,000 points per referral on select cards.
  • Update 3/1/20: agilehumor reports an increase on select cards that the referrer gets 20,000 points per referral. It’s marked as Special Offer For You with a white star. (Now that Amex keeps pushing the referral bonus up and down, I guess the referral amount will be based on the time that the new member signs up.)
  • Update#2 on 2/20/20: It seems that they changed the referral bonuses for the referrer so that different people are getting different offers on each card. For the future, keep that in mind by checking your various cards AND different people (e.g. yourself and your spouse) to find the best offer before referring. Some cards people are seeing more than prior, other cards people are seeing less than before; there’s some good and some bad here.
  • Update 2/20/20: In addition to the increased Gold card referral which some are seeing (below), there’s also a report of an increased offer for the referrer on the Green card from 5,000 to 10,000 points. Personally, I still see 5,000.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You.

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You

It wasn’t until a few months after my husband and I got married that I decided to check both our credit scores. While my husband’s credit score wasn’t horrible, it certainly didn’t qualify as “excellent.” This got me thinking about how newlyweds’ financial histories can affect both spouses’ finances moving forward, and how critical it is to acknowledge this reality—ideally before getting hitched.

Why It’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score

Manisha Thakor cuts right to the chase in her book On My Own Two Feet: “Your credit score is essentially your financial reputation in numeric form.”

Aiming for an excellent credit score—generally defined as 750 or more—is a worthy goal, owing to the range of ways in which it can save you money. Credit scores are critical when applying for loans—for instance, car loans and mortgages. In addition, many employers consider prospective employees’ credit scores during the hiring process.

A high credit score means you can access lower interest rates when borrowing, because creditors will view you as reliable. The perceived risk that you’ll default on your loan is lower compared to those with poor credit scores. Lower interest rates, especially on large amounts borrowed over significant timeframes, can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!

A poor credit score can indirectly hurt your financial efforts as well; consider the fact that when you’re paying over the odds in debt repayments, you’re committing fewer dollars to saving and retirement planning.

photo credit: LendingMemo via photopin cc

Till Debt Do Us Part

Marriage makes you one combined financial unit.

However, that doesn’t mean your credit scores are merged; your credit history continues to be maintained on an individual basis. One spouse’s poor credit cannot directly damage the individual score of the other spouse.

That being said, if you apply for a loan as a married couple, creditors look at both your credit scores to determine your eligibility and terms. So, if one of you has the credit of an angel whereas the other’s credit history is limited or even littered with missed payments and liens, you may find your application is denied.

But, this is not just about loan applications—poor credit can belie more than just a few bad credit card habits. Other financial follies, like paying taxes late, not focusing on saving, and day-to-day overspending, could be lurking in the closet.

What Do You Do After You’ve Said I Do?

While bad credit isn’t good news, it’s not necessarily a reason not to get married. And, it’s not necessarily the precursor to divorce! It is, however, an alarm signaling that it is time to get clear on your joint financial situation and start communicating. Make sure you do this respectfully and compassionately to minimize blame and financial stress. (If you’re the type of person who’d like to know this information from prospective partners before things get serious, there are now dating sites catering just to you.)

Once you’ve identified that one of you has less-than-optimal credit, it’s time to take action. Here are four top tips for taking immediate action:

1. Check your credit report for mistakes: Errors are, unfortunately, pretty common and can be really detrimental. Check your report at least once per year.

2. Make payments on time: Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said! Mary Beth Storjohann of Workable Wealth says, “35% of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills (making this the biggest determining factor for your score)! Are you often late of missing payments? The impact of just one 90-day late payment goes way beyond the three months you took to pay, so set up automatic bill payments.”

3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio: This is how much debt you have as a proportion of your overall credit limits. 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of money you owe versus the amount of credit available to you. The higher the amount of credit you’re utilizing, the more negative the impact on your score. Keep the debt level as low as possible (30% of your limits, or less).

4. Pay down your debt faster: Make more than the minimum payments wherever possible by utilizing the snowball method or targeting the balance with the highest interest rate to pay down first.

photo credit: natloans via photopin cc

Alongside these tips, it’s super important to remember that improving your credit score won’t happen overnight. The length of time it takes for your score to improve is directly related to reasons for the drop. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for your credit report to reflect the positive changes you’re making. As Mary Beth notes, “The most important thing is to be proactive in clearing up any issues.” In addition, two of the criteria factored into your score are the length of your overall credit history and the average age of your accounts.

So, don’t be discouraged—be patient and give it time.

And, Finally, Some Tips on What Not to Do!

There are always two sides to every coin so, while you’re following the tips above, make sure that you’re not unwittingly hurting your score and negating your good work.

Be mindful of the following ways that you could be hurting your credit score:

1. Opening too many new accounts: This comes back to the point that the average age of your accounts is a key factor. Opening lots of new accounts reduces that average.

2. Closing too many old accounts: Older accounts indicate that you have managed payments for a long time and increase the average age of your accounts. When you close credit card accounts, this also decreases the amount of credit available to you, which can reflect negatively if you have other accounts that are still carrying high balances (it essentially increases your debt to credit ratio).

3. Signing up for lots of retail incentive programs: Every time you apply for credit, the company issuing the credit will request information about you from the credit bureaus. Too many of these requests can reduce your score.

4. Over-utilizing your credit. Mary Beth advises, “If you’re depending on your credit cards to fund your daily expenses and lifestyle needs, but aren’t able to pay them off in full at the end of each month, something needs to change. Start tracking your spending and get a handle on your expenses.”

In summary, start taking positive steps, be aware of actions that can hurt your credit, and focus on building solid financial foundations for the future.

This post was written by Erika Torres of GoGirl Finance. GoGirl Finance is a fast-growing community of women seeking and providing financial wisdom across money management, lifestyle, family and career. For more finance tips, follow GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance

The post Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You. appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com