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California Still Battling the Most Destructive Fire in Its Modern History + How to Minimize Financial Losses Due to Natural Disasters

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Our prayers go out to those in California, family, and friends who are dealing with this natural disaster that is wreaking havoc on the state. The most destructive fire in California’s modern history is still raging in the northern part of the state. At least 29 people have died, and about 6,700 buildings have been destroyed north of Sacramento, where more than 2,000 firefighters are battling the 105,000-acre Camp Fire. A further two people have died in two other large, uncontrolled fires burning in the Malibu and Thousand Oaks communities of Southern California. Overall, 250,000 Californians have been forced from their homes. The reality is that a natural disaster can be a devastating blow to your finances. Thanks to SmartAboutMoney.org, you can use the following checklists to help minimize any additional financial losses:

Protect Your Property

If you are being asked to evacuate the area and authorities allow you to enter your home, be sure to:

Collect your important financial documents along with your valuables. You will need them to file insurance claims, pay bills and take care of family members. Important documents include:

  • Legal certificates
  • Wills
  • Powers of attorney
  • Insurance policies
  • Social Security cards
  • Your checkbook
  • Bank account information

Get a visual. Take pictures and/or video of your damaged property.

Call your insurance agent as soon as possible to find out exactly what to do and what information is required to make a claim. Leave a contact phone number if your home is uninhabitable and you are staying elsewhere.

Separate damaged and undamaged items until a claims adjuster inspects them. Protect your property from further damage by making temporary repairs (such as putting a tarp over a damaged roof).

Save receipts for repairs and temporary lodging to submit to your insurance company. If you are not fully reimbursed for these expenses, they may be tax-deductible.

Keep copies of all correspondence with the insurance company and provide them with a detailed list of damaged property. The claims process will be much easier if you take the time before a natural disaster occurs, to photograph or videotape the contents of your home and list the brands and serial numbers of appliances and electronics equipment.

Look to relief organizations. Contact the American Red Cross. The Red Cross can provide emergency shelter, meals, clothing, medical assistance and referrals to government and nonprofit organizations for additional services.

Work With Your Employer

Disability benefits. If you or a family member is injured, you need to begin the process of applying for any available employee-sponsored disability benefits.

Family Medical Leave Act. You may be able to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act if you are unable to return to work in the near future because you are caring for an injured family member. This law applies to companies with more than 50 employees.

Contact Creditors

As always, paying your bills on time protects your credit rating. But, considering the circumstance, your creditors might be willing to work with you on a delayed payment schedule if necessary.

Prioritize your bills. Keep in mind that insurance policies and mortgage or rent payments are the top priority.

Consider stopping some bills immediately. For example, you can contact your utility, telephone and cable providers to halt services on the property you have vacated. Before cancelling the service though, make sure you ask about termination and reconnection charges.

Seek Available Tax Relief

For victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and tornadoes, there are federal income tax deductions that may be able to offset some of the financial loss.

Casualty losses are deducted on  Schedule A as an itemized deduction. After the first $100 of loss, which is nondeductible, the remainder of a loss that is not reimbursed by insurance is allowed to the extent that it exceeds 10 percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI).

If the president declares an area affected by a natural disaster a Federal Disaster Area, there are automatic extensions of the time for filing tax returns and paying taxes, waived penalties for late filing and payment of taxes, and special mailing addresses for faster processing of tax returns from disaster victims.

Under normal circumstances, a casualty loss is deducted on your tax return for the year in which the event occurred. However, in areas which the president has declared to be a Federal Disaster Area, victims have the option of taking their entire loss on their prior year’s tax return. If they have already filed a prior year return, they can file an amended tax return on Form 1040X to get a refund to help pay for disaster-related expenses. The IRS recommends writing “Disaster, (name of city or county and state)” in red ink at the top of the 1040X form. For additional information, consult IRS Publication 584.

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

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Is the Job Market Booming or Are People Seeking Entrepreneurship Instead?

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Job openings in the U.S. continue to exceed the number of unemployed people, with 1 million more positions available in October than those Americans actively seeking work, per the Labor Department. The information, real estate, and education industries were seeking the most help. Until March of this year, job openings never exceeded the number of those looking for work in the 17 years since record-keeping began. This leads to the question: Is the Job Market Booming or Are People Seeking Entrepreneurship Instead?

The truth of the matter is that a 9-5 can be taxing on anyone especially those trying to raise a family.  There are a lot of people who believe that it is far better to be an entrepreneur than to work under someone, as an employee. This is mainly because of the flexibility as well as the ability to create your own schedule. Being an entrepreneur allows you to plan your work around your life’s needs, so you can have your cake and eat it.

In the past, it was much more difficult to run a business and have a good quality of life, but because of technological advances, it has become easier to manage both. And this isn’t only small local ventures; the internet has made the world a smaller place, so many entrepreneurs are running global businesses.

Women are also starting to lead the charge; they comprise of about 10.6 million women all over the world and produce 2.5 trillion dollars in sales annually! It takes a lot of patience being an entrepreneur because it is a tough job to take care of other responsibilities while running a business at the same time. You must learn how to keep your cool during stressful times and be able to put out fires simultaneously. Overall, entrepreneurship is a great option in today’s day and age but always remember… Quality of life first!

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Amazon Battling Against Scammers + Why Do Scammers Exist in the First Place

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Amazon is battling a torrent of seller scams on its website and has sacked a handful of employees it alleges took bribes and fed inside information to independent merchants, reports The Wall Street Journal. The company has fired some workers from the U.S. and India as well as purging several thousand dubious customer reviews. It’s also curtailed seller access to internal data and worked to curb techniques allowing sellers to game the site’s search results to their benefit.

 These dishonest sellers and employees make things difficult for those who are trying to do the right thing. But why do scammers exist in the first place? The truth of the matter is that money is an important aspect of life and many believe that cheating the system is the way they know how to get ahead. Money started as a simple concept then it became complicated.

Bartering became was a system of economics for centuries. A fisherman would exchange his catch with the carpenter for a table. Cattle, clothes and other necessities were traded without cash tender. The introduction of money changed that system making it of greater influence in our lives. So, why is money so darn important?

Global Exchange. Money is important mainly because it’s a tool for global exchange. Simply put, it’s important because we have made it important. Giving up other systems to heavily depend on cash and its many forms. You may not provide a product or service needed by a person who creates a need of yours. You’d use money as a medium of exchange used to obtain wants and needs.

Time. Money in some ways buys time. The key is making money work for you by creating passive income – monies earned which a person is not actively involved. Examples of passive income are royalties from intellectual properties, rental properties, or a business you don’t have to physically operate to earn a profit. Passive income equals more time to other things you love such as traveling with family, volunteering, or working for fun (not out of necessity).

Allows You to Make a Larger Difference. More money can multiply you. Volunteering at the local Girls and Boys Club requires your presence. Being able to donate financially to multiple local Boys & Girls Clubs makes an even bigger difference. Your reach increases with the amount of money you possess.

While money isn’t the most important thing in the world, it does effect the things that are. Using your money strategically will afford you more time, expand your reach, and pay for some pretty cool experiences.  And ultimately managing our money responsibly will assure that we don’t fail. Face it we are too important!

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NYC Introduces Minimum Wage for Drivers + How to Slowly Crawl Your Way into Wealth

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Living in a big city may not be what it’s cracked up to be.  The cost of living seems to be going up while wages are going down. Well thankfully for cab drivers they may be getting some relief. New York City is introducing a minimum pay rate for drivers working for app-based services such as Uber and Lyft. Drivers must now be paid a minimum of $27.86 per hour, or $17.22 after expenses, which city officials say translates to a yearly increase of roughly $10,000. The new pay rates, which will be implemented in 20 days, were criticized by the ride-sharing services. The changes will likely lead to fare hikes for riders, said Uber but drivers are at least happy. But what about another worker?

According to a 2017 CareerBuilder report, 78% of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck. And while the cost of living continues to climb there are ways to get out of this slow crawl to wealth. Here are four tips on getting out of living paycheck to paycheck and live life more abundantly. 

Live below your means. The more we earn, the more we seem to spend. Think about it when you made less than what you make now, you survived. And then when a raise came along or some random lump sum of money like your tax refund you either made a purchase that increased your long-term expenses or wasted it on things that didn’t shift your lifestyle in a financially positive way. Start living below your means. This may look like downsizing your phone plan or apartment. Pretend you have $100 to 500 dollars less than what you make on a monthly basis.

Set Financial Goals. If your money doesn’t have an aim, it will land anywhere. When you have a financial vision, you are more likely to end up where you’d like to be. You are careful enough to put aside tax money, mortgage payments, and other necessities; take the same approach to build wealth.

Aggressively Save. Think of a number that you don’t want to go below when it comes to your savings account. Let’s say you want to have no less than 10,000 dollars in your account. Save until you get there without spending unnecessarily. Remember put aside an amount that you feel comfortable with but an amount that will also get you to your goal in a comfortable amount of time. Once you have arrived, don’t go below it.

Change your words. Words are powerful. Chances are if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you aren’t able to do things you like. And that can cause stress and discomfort. And you may have the tendency to complain. STOP. Your words have the ability to build up and tear down. Choose to build up with money affirmations such as “I have an endless supply of cash,” “money is flowing to me,” and “I place no limits on the amount of money I can make.” (IG: @paradigmmoney). Before you know it, you’ll be financially free and loving it.

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