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Valentines Day Proves That Money Can Buy Love + 4 Reasons to Fall in Love with Your Taxes

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There has always been the long-standing argument that money cannot buy love! And many preach this like gospel so vehemently you would think this is an undeniable fact. But if you let the numbers tell it Valentine’s Day may prove that money can buy love. That’s because Valentine’s Day is one of the priciest holidays in the U.S., with Americans spending on average $267 to mark the occasion, according to Bankrate’s 2019 Valentine’s Day survey. Consumers are set to spend $20.7 billion this year for Valentine’s Day, says the National Retail Federation, beating the 2016 record of $19.7 billion. And although men spend significantly more for the day ($339, versus women who spend on average $64) men also expect their partners to spend more on them — at least $211 to be exact, while women expect their partners to spend around $154.

So now that we have settled that, the next big love of our life that is on everyone’s mind is… those dreaded taxes that we have to file every year. For some reason, taxes have gotten a bad rap, but truth be told if you knew the secrets, you would fall in love with doing your taxes more than Kanye loves Kanye (they’re not really secrets, but it sounded cool to say). Face it, you work hard and meet your obligations all year round, so why shouldn’t you be rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to?

You absolutely should be rewarded! And to help you reap those rewards, check out the following five tips for filing taxes that will help you start to fall in love with the process.

Lovely Tips for Filing Taxes

1) You can possibly get tax credits and deductions for higher education.

For many Americans, especially millennials, student loans are one of the most concerning things keeping them up late at night. But, most don’t realize that they may be eligible for many deductions that will give them a bigger return come income tax time.

For example, the student loan interest deduction allows you to deduct the amount you paid in student loan interest, up to $2,500 per year. Some other deductions include: the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Visit IRS.gov for a complete list of deductions.

2) Staying healthy can come with financial kickbacks.

With the rising cost of health insurance these days, it may be tempting to forgo health insurance and take your chances, however, not only would that be a big health mistake, but it would also be a big financial mistake due to the penalty charged to those who are uninsured.

One thing that may make you fall in love with taxes is the fact that you can contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA). In order to pay for those high deductible health insurance plans pre-tax, contributing to an HSA can save you thousands of dollars when you file your taxes. For the 2015 tax filing year, the minimum annual deductible is $1,300 for individual coverage and $2,600 for families and the maximum annual deductible and other out-of-pocket expenses is $6,550 and $13,100 for families.

3) Doing good can be financially rewarding.

There are two universal laws that I live by: 1. “the more you give the more you get” and 2. “to whom much is given, much is required.”

Not only is giving back a noble thing, but it can also help give you substantial tax savings. If you made donations to a charity, you might be able to use them as deductions on your taxes. To qualify, your donations have to be made to a nonprofit organization that can prove they have 501(c)(3) tax status. Legitimate charities usually have their status clearly stated on their websites, or you can verify it directly from the IRS by visiting http://www.IRS.gov/charities, then click on the tab that says, Contributors.

The second criterion is that you must have a receipt from your donations. Not all of your donations count, and there are limits on what can be deducted, so make sure you check with a tax accountant to verify your eligibility. Some common deductions include real estate, furniture, clothing, cars, electronic equipment, office supplies, mileage, cash donations, and tithes paid.

4) Your side hustle can pay your dividends.

We now live in a time where starting a business is not only easier than ever, but it can be done with low overhead, which results in showing a profit earlier on. With many people now leaping faith to become their own bosses, it would behoove you to take advantage of the many associated benefits.

Starting a home-based business can cause two things related to your taxes to happen. First, with your initial investment into the business, it can increase your tax refund. And secondly, you can deduct things like your home office, telephone, Internet service, and office supplies. The deductions aren’t anything to sneeze at either. On average, a home-business can bring in around $3,000 to $9,000 in tax savings. The great thing is that it doesn’t matter whether you run your business full-time or part-time—you can still benefit from running a home business.

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Starting to fall in love with the idea of filing your taxes as much as you already love mobile banking? Just remember that in all things, love is a process!

Disclaimer: All material is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide tax, legal or financial advice.  Paradigm Money does not provide tax, legal or financial advice, so you should consult your own tax, legal and financial advisors before making a decision or taking any action.

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.

The Daily Digm (News)

Credit Union Loans Getting Riskier + How-To Not Get Risky with Your Student Loans

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Credit unions have increasingly taken on high-risk loans, which could lead to borrowers or taxpayers getting burned in the event of another financial crisis, reports The Wall Street Journal. The member-owned alternatives to banks are designed to provide lower borrowing costs and higher deposit rates. Yet, credit unions’ assets have grown almost twice as fast as those of banks over the past ten years. High-risk loans from banks contributed significantly to the 2008 financial crisis. This is dangerous because unlike a traditional bank Credit Unions are owned by its members so it is the members who stand to lose the most. But how can you make your Credit Union loans less risky? This is the same question we ask when it’s time to pay off our student loans. Who will be the first? Or How can you pay off your loans faster? Here are six ways:

1. Develop a plan

Develop a plan to pay off your student loan debt before you graduate.

2. Save your money

Each summer throughout your college education, get a job or internship. Save half the money in a high-interest savings account. After a few months, consult a financial advisor to earn the highest possible return on your money. After college, you can use the money saved during all four years to pay down your college debt.

3. Consolidate your loans (But use caution)

Consolidating student loans combines your loans into one payment but may or may not provide you with a lower interest rate. Do extensive research before consolidating your student loans. In addition, you may not be eligible for various student loan forgiveness programs if you consolidate your student loans.

4. Exchange work to reduce debt

Perform volunteer work or work for the following in exchange for reducing student loan debt: teaching in certain locations with low-income students or areas with a shortage of teachers, providing legal and medical services in low-income areas or working for Americorps or the Peace Corps.

5. Get a work-study job

To help pay for the costs of college get a work-study job on campus to help defray the cost of college. Go to your campus employee office to ask about their work-study program. Work-study jobs pay at least the minimum wage for that state.

6. Apply for grants + scholarships

Apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Unlike loans, grants and scholarships never have to be paid back. Some grant websites are Zinch.com, Fastweb.com, ScholarshipPoints.com, Cappex.com, and Scholarships.com.

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The Daily Digm (News)

Black Friday Sales Could Hit $7.4b + How to Control Your Cyber Monday Spending

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You get a deal, you get a deal, you get a deal and you get a deal!!! This year everyone from Amazon, Walmart and Target are offering “holiday deals” ahead of Black Friday so it’s safe to say, Black Friday isn’t even a thing anymore? Right??? Wrong!!!! Looking at early numbers Black Friday is very much alive and well. According to CNBC shoppers spent a record-high $4.2 billion online on Thanksgiving, a 14.5% increase from last year. In addition, their data suggests Black Friday online sales are expected to hit $7.4 billion, with shoppers having already spent $5.4 billion as of 9 p.m. ET, or a 22.3% increase from last year. 

While we know that Black Friday is intended to help us save money on things we wouldn’t purchase anyway, Black Friday has now been fueled by intense FOMOOD (Fear of Missing Out on Deals). The pressure of having to amass dozens of holiday gifts coupled with the frantic message that you’ll never see these deals again often sends shoppers into a tizzy of overspending, eventually culminating in personal debt.

To avoid the deep despair that can haunt your bank account long after Thanksgiving weekend, heed the following tips:

1) Be honest: how much can you afford to spend on Cyber Monday?

Try to answer this question rationally and honestly. Do you live paycheck to paycheck, or have you saved up a little bundle that you can use on deals? Make sure that if you are going shopping on Cyber Monday, you’re not behind on any bills, and you are not using your credit cards to finance your splurging.

2) Think like Santa Claus and make a dang list.

It’s all about planning ahead. If you go into the insanity of Black Friday shopping without a plan to keep you tethered to reality, you’ll get swept up in the excitement of seemingly attractive deals and overspend, resulting in a buyer’s remorse that could ruin the whole holiday season. So make that list — and stick to it.

3) Figure out a hard budget.

It’s easy to go into Cyber Monday, believing you’ll be cool and rational and definitely won’t spend too much. You’re too smart for that, right? The most clever thing you can do is sit down ahead of time and figure out a hard budget — an amount that you’re sure you can spend — and write it down so you won’t forget. Without any limits set ahead of time, you can quickly go broke without even realizing it.

4) Only use cash — and leave all credit and debit cards at home.

This one’s tough, but you’ll be glad for it in the end. Once you’ve figured out your budget, take out that amount in cash so you’ll have solid, visual evidence of exactly how much you have left to spend.

This trick won’t work if you also bring along credit and debit cards; however, because the temptation to use them will become overwhelming. Despite your preparation, there will be many tempting deals that may cause you to go temporarily insane, and with access to money at your fingertips, that can be a dangerous blow to your finances. Keeping your cards at home removes the ability to fold to temptations.

5) Don’t be overcome by emotions.

There’s a dizzying, frenetic energy to Cyber Monday, what with all the “once a year” deals demanding that you buy now or forever hold your peace. Combined with the sentimentality of the holidays, when you may be feeling more generous than usual, it becomes a perfect storm of excitement, obligation, and anxiety, causing you to spend beyond your means.

Don’t forget that retailers are actually playing upon these emotions in order to get your business. In fact, the reason why Black Friday is called Black Friday is because this is the day consumers (you) help retailers (them) get in the ‘black,’ which in accountant terms means profitable. See, they aren’t even hiding the fact that they are using you for their gain. And the reason they don’t have to hide it is because they get you to buy by appealing to your emotions. Toughen up and don’t be lured into spending money you don’t have.

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The Daily Digm (News)

Mcdonald’s Settles Its Wage Dispute + How to Settle Between Being an Employee or Entrepreneur

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McDonald’s has finally decided to end a multi year-long dispute in California over wages by agreeing to pay $26 million to cooks and cashiers who say the fast-food giant didn’t pay them enough for their work. Tens of thousands of workers are behind the class-action lawsuit, which alleges in part that McDonald’s planned shifts so as to avoid paying overtime to its workers and did not allow fair breaks during shifts. McDonald’s denies any wrongdoing.

Issues like this has many people wanting to be their own boss, but what are the pros and cons of entrepreneurship vs. being an employee?

Employee Benefits vs Do It Yourself

As an employee, you get benefits, which include health, dental, vacation, sick leave, and holidays. This allows employees to have some time to create a work-life balance. They can enjoy paid time to work on personal relationships, hobbies, exercise, or just get some rest.

As an entrepreneur, you do not have a guaranteed income, so if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Many entrepreneurs don’t consider this, so a lot of them find themselves stressed out and overworked. For those who plan early enough, they budget accordingly to afford themselves some rest and relaxation

Guaranteed Income vs. Unlimited Income Potential

Obviously, a huge advantage of employment vs. entrepreneurship is guaranteed income. As an employee, you get a fixed amount of money deposited on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis into your bank account, which means you get afforded some level of financial security. But in the same breathe as an employee, your income is limited to what you agreed on as your salary or hourly rate, which means you are capped on the amount of money you can make.

As an entrepreneur, you have unlimited income potential, which means there are no ceilings when it comes to your income. If you put in the work and sell the right products or services, you can make a lot of money, but on the flip side, there can be months that you go without a deal or steady income and other months where the faucet is overflowing.

Fixed Working Hours vs. Flexible Working Hours

As an employee, you will agree on a fixed amount of hours and schedule in which you will work. Overtime or any extra hours needed will be worked at the employee’s discretion and can include time and a half pay. Sometimes instead of extra pay, you can agree to get comped time, which means you get extra time off.

As an entrepreneur, you choose your working hours. Many entrepreneurs work 80-hour weeks when they’re first starting out, but eventually, they will get people and resources to allow them to sit back and work as little as possible.

Less Responsibility vs. Everything is On You

As an employee, you are often assigned a particular role and are only responsible for performing the tasks that are directly related to that role when you are working. You don’t really have to worry about how others are performing in other parts of the company because they too have their roles, and you are responsible for you.

As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for everything. You are the janitor, the cook, sales, marketing, promotion, operations and everything else in between.

There are many other differences, but based on what you read so far, which would you choose? There’s no right or wrong answer, and honestly, the decision should be made based on your preference. There are many successful employees who love what they do and thrive, and there are many entrepreneurs who wouldn’t trade their life for the world. Ultimately it’s about your happiness and what makes you feel full. I believe that And is better than Or, so if you get stuck on making a decision, try both.

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