Category Archives: Money

The Fantastic Benefits Of Health Savings Accounts

Even Americans with health insurance worry about medical expenses. The reason is high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. Here are facts about expenses paid by the insured.

A Way to Pay – HSAs

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were designed to help people with high deductible health plans pay for their uncovered medical expenses. At this point, you probably wonder what constitutes a “high deductible health plan.” For 2015, the deductible needs to be at least $1,300 for an individual policy or $2,600 for family coverage for it to meet the definition of a high deductible health plan.

Many banks and brokerages offer HSAs to their customers, and employers often make contributions if you use their chosen administrator. According to the IRS, the 2015 contribution limits for people under 55 are $3,350 for an individual and $6,650 for a family.

HSA Benefits for You

There are several good reasons for you to start on HSA.

  1. Tax Advantages – There are three tax benefits of HSAs. First, you can deduct all of your contributions from your taxes. Second, any money you get from an employer is tax free. Third, the growth is tax free. This is the best of both worlds, if you have access to an HAS, you should definitely take advantage!
  1. Use it for a Wide Range of Medical Expenses – You can use it to pay for medical expenses you incur before you meet your deductible. HSA funds can also help pay medical expenses that include prescription drugs, insulin, and dental procedures.
  1. Flexibility / Portability – When you set aside money in an HSA, you do not need to use it all within a calendar year. The amount rolls over and grows from year to year. This means you can use HSA money for retirement expenses. HSAs have some portability benefits. If you leave your job and become self-employed, you can take the HSA with you. Your spouse can inherit your HSA. You can even change administrators.
  1. Your Account Will Grow – With an HSA account, you can invest in a wide array of investments. You’re only limited by what your administrator offers. HAS Bank, for example, lets you invest in Vanguard funds.

Ask about HSAs

HSAs are only for qualified medical expenses. There are tax penalties if you use the funds for non-medical purposes. Make sure you comply with your plan’s record keeping requirements. Also, the plan needs to clearly communicate what does and does not count as a “qualified medical expense.”

Not only can you or your employer make contributions, parent can contribute too. This way the can help you start a nest egg for healthcare expenses. HSAs are a great tool to help with medical expenses. Look in to HSAs and take action if it is right for you.

Programs to Pay off Student Loans

College tuition increased from 1985 until 2013 by a whopping 538%. People started taking on more and more student loan debt to pay for college, and now it is a huge financial issue for Americans. Some stats that illustrate the problem include:

There is Help

There are thankfully some programs to help people pay off their loans.

Public Service Programs

Organizations such as the Peace Corp and AmeriCorp offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP). You work for these organizations for a certain amount of time, and then they help you with your loans. You also receive a salary (or stipend) as part of your employment. You can lose repayment benefits if you leave your employment early.

In addition to LRAPs, there are Public Service Loan forgiveness programs. If you are a Direct Loan Program borrower, you may qualify for income-based repayment and loan forgiveness after 10 years (and time spent in the Peace Corp or AmeriCorp could count toward these 10 years). You must continuously work as a public servant for 10 years. These are great options and can help people fields that include:

  • Emergency Management
  • Public Interest Law
  • Child Care

Private Volunteer Programs

Private organizations such as SponsorChange and ZeroBound operate on a basic premise that you exchange your labor for help paying off student loans. SponsorChange works this way: you volunteer at a designated nonprofit and donors pay your student loans. At ZeroBound, you come up with an idea (a program at a local hospital for instance), and people crowdfund your student loans when you put your idea in to practice. Donors know their money addresses an organization’s manpower needs and not administrative costs.

Military

The service branches also offers loan repayment programs. You must be in one the Military Occupational Specialties, not just an officer, to receive this benefit in the Army. Most of the programs highlighted here only help with federal loans. But the Army, for instance, also helps pay off private student loan debt.

Teachers and Health Care Professionals

Similar to public service programs, there are loan assistance programs for teachers and healthcare professionals. You may be eligible to cancel:

  • $17,500 for math and science teachers
  • $17,500 for special education teachers
  • $5,000 for full-time teachers in other specialties

Keep in mind, this program applies to Stafford loans and you are eligible for cancellation only after 5 years of service in certain low-income schools.

There are also programs that help people in the healthcare field. For instance the Nursing Education Loan Repayment program offers assistance to full-time RNs. If you work at certain nonprofit facilities, you can get:

  • Up to 60% of loans forgiven for 2 years of service
  • An extra 25% forgiven for an additional 3rd year of service

Additionally, the National Service Corp offers substantial assistance to people in healthcare professions that include:

  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Psychologists

If you know someone who is graduating with six figures of loan debt from a professional degree, this program offers qualified individuals who work in designated communities:

  • $25,000 per year in loan repayment for 2 years of service
  • $35,000 in loan repayment for an additional year

Review Your Options Carefully

As we noted earlier, some programs only help with specific federal loans, while the qualifications for others are complicated. Most programs pay little or nothing if you do not complete your term of service. For student loan borrowers that qualify, these programs offer solid debt relief for those willing to work in certain areas or in education.

Essential Tools for Starting an Online Business

When starting your online business, it is important to get it right from the start. There is a lot to consider and the number of choices available when it comes to what tools to use can be overwhelming at times. You want the very best tools, at the very best price. You need tools to help you with the building of the site and to make sure it is user-friendly. You will also need to market your business. In this article, we discuss three of the best tools that can help you to give your online business that edge from the very first day.

DesignCrowd

Unless you are a graphic designer yourself, you are going to need to look into getting some professional help when it comes to designing your logo, webpage, business stationery, etc. Hiring a graphic design firm can be expensive and you can never really be sure whether or not you will get the results that you want. Working with one graphic designer or firm could end up costing you time and money that you really cannot afford to waste.

DesignCrowd makes use of a very innovative concept to ensure that you get the best possible graphic solutions. It is simple – you set your budget – you can ask for a quote upfront to get an idea of what budget you should be looking at. You then post a brief on the site and set a deadline. Designers from around the world will then start sending you designs, based on your brief and budget.

You then decide which one is best suited for your needs – you can instantly dismiss any that are unsuitable and you are encouraged to give designers feedback so that they can tweak the design. It is then up to you – you choose the design you want and the relevant designer is paid. Should you feel that none are suitable, you have the option of rejecting all of them and having your money refunded.

You have complete control over the deadline, budget and, ultimately, the final word in how your budget is spent. You can see your concept come to life on the screen, with no risk of paying for graphic design that is unsuitable. With almost 450 000 designers on the books, you have a wealth of choice.

Elance

When it comes to content and functionality for your site, sales materials, or even a virtual assistant, Elance is the place to go. With around 9.7 million freelancers on the books, there is certainly someone on the site that can provide the skills that you need, at a price that you can afford.  You simply post the details of the job to the site and freelancers put in bids for the job. You the budget range and freelancers quote within those parameters. You then choose the proposal that suits you best and carry on from there.

You are able to view the freelancers’ histories and so can see what experience they have before making your final decision. You can choose to pay an hourly rate or one lump sum. You can set milestones for the freelancer to adhere to so that you can keep track of progress. At the end of the day, you decide whether or not to proceed with payments and so only pay for results.

MailChimp

Once your business gets up and running, you will need to be able to communicate with clients or prospective clients. A newsletter is a great way to accomplish this. Even if you decide not to set up a newsletter just yet, you are going to need help managing marketing and general emails. That’s where MailChimp comes in.

The basic free account allows you to send up to 12000 emails monthly, as long as there are less than 2000 subscribers on your list. The paid account packages allow you to send more mails and give you more functionality but the basic account will allow you to get a feel for how everything works and won’t cost you a cent.

Setting up your emails is simple. You choose the template to use, either one of the preset templates or one of your own design. Then you just need to draft the email. Mail Chimp will customize it with your company’s name and logo and you will be able to send out emails to everyone on your subscriber list.

By choosing the right tools to use when you are starting out, you are giving your business the very best shot at success. Start out strongly, with the right skills at the right price and your business will go places.

Brought to you by DesignCrowd.