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California Still Battling the Most Destructive Fire in Its Modern History + How to Minimize Financial Losses Due to Natural Disasters - P A R A D I G M . M O N E Y
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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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Celebrities Caught Cheating to Get Students into College + How to Prepare for the Cost of College the Right Way!

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Actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among the dozens charged with using deceitful tactics to funnel students into top colleges. The alleged crimes, uncovered by the FBI, including bribing officials, cheating on exams and wrongfully claiming athlete status in order to nab spots at top universities such as Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown. “Desperate Housewives” star Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 for her daughter’s answers on the SAT to be corrected and was released on a $250,000 bond by a Los Angeles court Tuesday.

As a student, I understand that you want to do what is necessary to help your children succeed but breaking the law to do so is not worth it in the long run. So if you are a parent who wants to help your child with college what do you do? Although, college isn’t something that they will attend until they become an adult it is important that parents start to plan for this expense as early as possible. With childcare being almost as much as rent or a mortgage it can be difficult to save money for anything these days, especially college expenses.

Fortunately, a 529 Plan can help parents save money for their child ’s future college experience. The 529 Plan is a tax-advantaged investment. It was created to encourage parents, grandparents, legal guardians, etc., to begin saving money for the future college educations of their children, grandchildren, are legal wards. It receives its name from Section 529 in the IRS Code, and it is offered by state agencies and state organizations.

Not all states offer the 529 Plan, but those who do individually decide how the plan is designed and what kind of investment options they will offer. Most plans allow investors to come from out of state. The advantages for in-state residents who apply for a 529 college savings plan within their state can include tax deductions, matching grant and scholarship opportunities, protection from creditors, and even exemption from financial aid debt.

The 529 Plan is offered in two different forms. There is a prepaid plan, sometimes also called a guaranteed savings plan, which allows you to purchase tuition ahead of time, based on the current calculations of what the tuition of a specific university is. It is then paid out when the beneficiary of the policy attends a college or university.

There are also savings plans, which are based around the market performance of an underlying investment. These investments are generally comprised of mutual funds. Forty-eight states, plus the District of Columbia, offer the 529 savings plan. Usually, savings plans become more conservative, the older the beneficiary gets. There are also options for risk-based investments, which allows underlying investments to remain in the same fund, no matter what the age of the ultimate recipient.

The 529 college savings plans are a great way for parents, grandparents, or legal guardians to ensure that their young loved ones will be able to afford to go to the very best colleges and receive the very best degrees. It allows children the opportunity to follow their dreams, like before they are actually capable of reaching them. They are ideal plans for adults who want to provide college funds for their children but are unsure or unable to go about it in the way the movies have always told them they should. The 529 plans are realistic and affordable investments, designed to ensure a child’s future successes.

So as you contemplate whether or not you will start your family, keep in mind of these expenses but also know that there are vehicles available to make the ride smoother (pun intended)

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Is It the End for Brick and Mortar Retail Stores? + How to Find a Job with Longevity

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More than 5,300 brick-and-mortar stores are slated to close in 2019. The closures are “more of the same for the retail industry,” according to Business Insider, which suffered the shuttering of more than 250 million square feet of store space in 2017 and 2018. Payless ShoeSource is the driving force behind the latest crop of closures — with 2,500 of the discount shoe stores set to close, it may be the largest retail liquidation in history. Gymboree, Charlotte Russe, and Family Dollar are also planning mass closures.

This may be due to Amazon.com low prices and fast delivery or due to consumers being more and more comfortable to shop online. Regardless of the reason, Brick and Mortar retail stores closing have a big implication for young people since these jobs are usually the first job they get. So how do you find longevity in a job and how do you prepare for it? Here are four ways to prepare for the job you want no matter your age:

1. Focus on Your Strengths, Not What You’re Lacking

Whether you are 20 years old or over 40 instead of focusing on your age, you need to focus on your strengths. Many young people with limited experience or older people who may not be up to date with the latest technologies focus on what they’re lacking, and this is a big mistake. Do you have the qualifications for the job? Can you bring value to this position? Whatever your strong suits are you should play that up in your resume, cover letter or communications with the recruiter. It’s easy to focus on why you can’t get the job, but the trick is not to let that get to you. Focus on your value!

2. Attack Your Job Search from All Angles

Networking, Answering ads and/or working with recruiters are the most effective ways to land a job. It is important that you just don’t focus on one method but all three. Networking obviously is the ideal way because it allows you to communicate your value directly, but the other methods have their benefits as well. Be proactive and use each method effectively.

3. Show/Explain Your Leadership Abilities and/or Innovation

Leadership and taking the initiative have nothing to do with age. Young leaders and old leaders can be more or equally effective as those who have the “ideal” age. Focus on your leadership abilities and be sure to display this to your current or potential employee. Also, make sure you are keeping up to date with current trends in your industry. This will allow you to show your innovation and add more value to your company.

4. Ask For What You are Worth

Lastly, ask for what you are worth. Don’t let being “too young” or “too old” deter you from asking for a salary you deserve. In fact, trying to downplay your worth may very well backfire on you. Also, if you have been with a company for a long time and your salary outpaces what the position is worth making sure you are adding to your skill set and not staying complacent.

Following these four tips can help you gain or retain employment. What are some other ways? Comment below>>>

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President Trump to Send 2020 Budget + How to Stick to Your 2019 and Beyond Personal Budget

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President Trump will send the White House’s proposed 2020 budget to Congress today — a month later than usual following the partial government shutdown. Trump is expected to ask for $8.6 billion for additional barriers along the Mexico border, with $5 billion allocated to the Department of Homeland Security. The budget is also expected to seek increased military funding and a reduction in domestic programs, according to The New York Times. We will see in the upcoming days whether the budget will be improved or not.

When it comes to properly managing your personal finances, a budget is the best tool you can use to guarantee your success. It is your roadmap to tell you how to get to your desired goal in a timely manner. Contrary to popular belief a budget doesn’t limit the amount of money you can spend. Instead, it gives you direction based on what you tell it to do.

Despite this unrestrictive control everyone has, it is still a difficult fear for some to stick to their budget. The following are five ways you can hold yourself accountable and stick to your budget:

1. Create Affirmations

Affirmations are a great way to achieve any goal. They keep in your mind’s eye what is most important and transport those ideas to your subconscious. Put them in your smartphone as an alarm in the morning so that as you begin your day, you are reminded as to what your goals are. For example, if you have a financial goal of saving $5,000 this year to invest, your affirmation could be, “I am so happy that I have saved $5,000, I will use and spend this money wisely to grow my net worth.”

2. Limit Your Access

Many people falter on their budgets because the access they have to their money is too easy. Separate your bill account, savings account, and a spending account. Automate all of your bills to your bill account, automate your savings into your savings account, and what is left over goes into your spending account. Managing your money in this way removes the temptation that you undoubtedly will have to use the money for other purposes.

3. Track Your Spending

Most people who don’t stick to a budget don’t really know where they went wrong. It is usually small unplanned expenses that do the most damage. When you track your spending consistently, you are creating a mechanism that will hold you and every dollar accountable. As you spend and subsequently track your spending, you can assess where you are unnecessarily spending and stop as soon as possible.

4. If You Can’t Stick to Your Budget, Change It

You are in total control of your budget so, in order to hold yourself accountable, you need to face the fact that if you can’t stick to your budget, then you must change it. Whether it is by decreasing expenses or increasing income, focusing on how to recreate a budget that will be more suitable to the lifestyle you want is imperative. Don’t assume you will fail at something that you have the power to change.

5. Find an Accountability Partner

Sometimes holding yourself accountable requires some reinforcement. Because of competition or the fear of letting someone down, having an accountability partner is a powerful tool in trying to stick to any financial goal. Creating a system that allows you to have periodic check-ins on your budget can go a long way. Whether it’s a friend, a significant other, a financial coach, or co-worker, align yourself with someone who can help you stay the full course of sticking to your budget.

We want to hear from you! What are some other helpful ways that you can hold yourself accountable to your budget?

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