6 Black Financial Pros to Follow in 2021

We were fortunate enough to connect with six financial experts who are big on helping people with their money. While they range in their professions — including certified financial planners,…

Why It’s the Year of the Side Hustle

Side hustles have always been a good way to earn more money and better your finances. With so many people in debt while wages have fallen flat, they’ve become especially popular over the past decade. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen them shoot ahead in popularity even further.  According to a recent survey by […]

The post Why It’s the Year of the Side Hustle appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

5 Great Ways to Increase Remote Working Productivity

When the COVID lockdowns started, most business owners probably didn't think much about the efficiency of their remote working solutions as long as they were able to keep the lights on. As we head into 2021, we can see that remote working is going to become a permanent feature of our business lives. With more than half of employees reporting frustrations with their remote work solutions, now is a good time to think about getting the best software and apps in to help your team stay productive.

Remember, too, that many of your people will find working at home a very lonely experience and so things like video conferencing can help alleviate the mental health impact of a lockdown.

Let's look at some of the products that are available to help you stay in touch and remain effective no matter what 2021 throws at you!

Workflow boards

One of the things that many people have reported is difficulty in keeping motivated and understanding what needs to happen and when.

When you're in an office, it's easy to simply lean across the desk and ask what is going on. But what happens when your team is all working remotely?

Using Kanban boards like Trello and Asana allows you to posts jobs, tasks, and subtasks and then allocate them to individual staff members or team so that everyone knows where they are and what still needs doing.

Remote access software

Remote access software can have some real benefits for users across the organisation and doesn’t need to be confined to your IT helpdesk.

Modern remote working can give users a virtual desktop, which is the same wherever they log on. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also increase security.

Remote access software can also include functionality that enables video conferencing, chat functions, shared word processing, and file sharing, along with resources for troubleshooting in a pinch.

If you’d like to find out more about what it can do for you, check the best options in this excellent remote access software review by Neil Patel.

Remote shared storage

Many companies rely upon having drives readily available to all staff, and when you're all working in the same office, this is a simple matter. But when your team is spread out, then you need to think about organizing remote storage.

Google Drive and Dropbox are probably the most well-known offerings, but there are many more. They all provide you with the ability to have shared drives that are accessible based on your own organization’s security protocol.

Remote storage is a very competitive area, so prices have dropped over the last few years. So in many cases, you are better off subscribing to a best-in-class cloud storage solution (especially if it includes remote access desktops as above) rather than upgrading your on-premise servers.

Business-class video conferencing

For many businesses, this is one area where they just had to get a solution in place quickly so everyone could carry on working. But it really is worth choosing a business-class video conferencing system.

Having a better system makes life easier for your staff, but it also portrays a professional image to your customers and suppliers.

Free systems are great, but they will always come with limitations. Zoom, for instance, limits calls to 45 minutes on its free version. Other free solutions reduce video quality.

With paid solutions, the cost for a group subscription is often very reasonable when compared to the cost of losing even one customer.

Collaboration and sharing tools

When you can just pass files and papers across a desk, life is easy. But if you're miles away from your co-workers, contractors, and customers, how can you possibly collaborate effectively?

Many of the really good systems bundle in storage, video conferencing, Kanban boards and collaboration tools that help your teams act like teams rather than a collection of dispersed individuals.

Obviously, the big player here is Microsoft. But you can get excellent results with apps like Zoho Connect, Winio, and Wire. If you only really want chat capability, then look at Slack.

Take advantage of trials

What works for some people may not work for you and your company. But the good news is that pretty much every system mentioned here has some form of free trial.

The best advice is to take the developers up on their offer and test these solutions out. Get feedback from your employees and take into account how easy the apps are to use, the support available, and of course, the annual cost.

Don’t be swayed by attractive-sounding initial reductions. If the system is good, you’ll be using it for a long time. It is much more important to get the right features for you rather than buying something that isn't well-suited to the task because the developer was offering a half-price sale.
 

You Can Now Request COVID-Related Mortgage Forbearance for Up to 15 Months

Some good news for homeowners struggling to make ends meet thanks to COVID-19, which as the name implies has been going on for a while now. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has just announced an extension to the COVID forbearance period, which was previously capped at 360 [&hellip

The post You Can Now Request COVID-Related Mortgage Forbearance for Up to 15 Months first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

How to Make a Great Impression in a Virtual Interview

Global pandemic got you thinking this is no time for a job change? Think again! Unemployment did soar to alarming rates in the early days of Covid. According to the Harvard Business Review, U.S. unemployment jumped from 3.5% in February of 2020 to 14.7% in April. But as of November 2020, it’s back down to 6.7%.
 
There is a job market, and it’s yours to partake in if you so choose. But the search is likely to be virtual.
 
So whether you’re out of a job or just looking for a change, let’s talk about strategies that will help you shine on screen and land your dream job.

1. Polish that profile

Keeping your online presence current and polished is a good idea in any moment or market. But according to Fast Company, there’s a particular urgency to sprucing it up right now. 
 
“Because many HR professionals are relying on video interviews, they’re also looking for ways to get a better feel for who the candidates are… [so] many are turning to social media profiles and looking for evidence of the candidate’s work online.”
 
This is a moment to assess your professional online presence. Personally, I focus on LinkedIn.
 
What’s your headline? What achievements are you highlighting? Do you have links in your profile to samples of your work?  Can you ask for testimonials or endorsements from people in your network? Ask a few friends to check out your LinkedIn profile as if they were looking to hire. Get their feedback and make adjustments. 
 
This is your moment to use LinkedIn like a Rockstar.

2. Set the scene for success

My family has this little holiday tradition. Every year we watch the 1989 classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It gets worse every year, but you don’t mess with tradition. This year, my 13-year-old was savvy enough to recognize that no one in Clark Griswold’s office had a computer on their desk. She simply couldn’t fathom the idea of work getting done in a pre-technology world. I can barely believe it myself.
 
Technology has evolved in ways the workforce of 1989 could never have imagined. It’s amazing what we can do today. But while videoconferencing technology has technically enabled amazing things, we all know it can be clunky and awkward by 2020 standards. So do your best to make your virtual interview as smooth as possible.
 
Here’s a quick checklist:
 
  • Check your tech. Internet connection, microphone, webcam—are they all working? If not, make sure you troubleshoot ahead of time.
     
  • Create a professional setting. Your background—real or virtual—should be as professional as possible.
     
  • Test the platform in advance. Make sure that wherever you’re meeting (Zoom, Teams, etc.) you have everything downloaded or updated, and you'll be able to get into the virtual interview without a hitch. Do a practice run with a friend if you’re anxious.
     
  • Strip out distractions where you can. Kids, dogs, landscapers, snowblowers—they're all noisemakers of the highest order! Be aware, and do your best to minimize.
     
  • Acknowledge distractions you can’t control. In a tiny apartment or homeschooling kids solo? Don't stress! Just call this out as the meeting begins so no one is caught off guard. Any interviewer with a shred of humanity will offer you some grace.

If the interviewer isn't willing to cut you some slack, pay attention to that vibe! I mean, is a workplace that can't roll with real-world challenges graciously really where you want to be?

3. Account for the floating head syndrome

Videoconferencing is the best we’ve got, but it’s not perfect. There is so much about in-person interaction that we didn’t appreciate until we lost it! We’re now trading in floating heads. We’ve lost our access to body language which helped us read the room or sense how we were being received by our conversation partner.
 

In the absence of body language, you’ve got only your voice, so check in with the interviewer.

 
In a pre-pandemic world, the savvy among us might read subtle cues from the interviewer indicating we’ve gone off-topic, or we’re going into too much detail. But in the absence of body language, you’ve got only your voice.
 
So check in—not constantly, but periodically. Ask the interviewer “Am I answering the question you asked?” or “How’s this level of detail? I can provide more or less if that would be helpful.” 
 
The interviewer will appreciate your checking in. It demonstrates an emotional intelligence many of your competitors may not show.

4. Keep that energy soaring

We all know Zoom-fatigue is real. Energy tends to be lower on video, so find ways to express enthusiasm that the interviewer can’t help but experience.

Focus on being fully present.

This isn’t about singing and dancing (though some solid choreography would certainly make you memorable!) Focus instead on being fully present. Close all of your tabs or windows besides the videoconference. The temptation to multi-task or be distracted by an email is dangerous. This will help you stay focused on the conversation at hand.
 
Be prepared to share stories or examples about projects you were really excited about being a part of. Oh, and find moments to just smile! Let your interviewer know, visually, you’re just happy to be there. Your enthusiasm will shine through.

5. Ask questions of the moment 

It’s good practice in any climate to ask thoughtful questions in an interview. Hiring leaders respond well to curiosity. Especially the kind that shows you did some prep work.
 
In this particular climate, be sure you ask a question or two that is relevant to the experience we're all having. You might ask how they’ve shifted their strategy or service delivery or what they’ve learned about their customers during Covid.
 
This line of questioning shows not only a spirit of curiosity, but that you’re thinking about the need to redirect, be agile, and consider the context when engaging with their products or customers.

6. Put your resilience on display

The great buzzword of 2020 will surely carry into 2021. You may have skills, experience, and connections, but every company wants to know: Are you resilient?
 
Buzzy though it may be, companies want, now more than ever, to recruit people who know how to deal with setbacks, handle rejection, learn from failure, and keep on truckin'!

Every company wants to know: Are you resilient?

So as you move through your conversation, find spots to highlight moments of failure that taught you something new; challenges you overcame; or difficult feedback you used to improve yourself. You can even talk about how you transitioned to working while homeschooling, nursing, and doing whatever else the pandemic has demanded of you.
 
These are the rules of the road when it comes to virtual interviewing. And of course, it goes without saying that what mattered in traditional interviewing—being on time, being professional, doing your research, sending a thank you note—all still applies.
 
Now go get ‘em, tiger!
 

Have You Met Mr. Market?

Mr. Market is a manic-depressive investor. And if you pay attention, you’ll realize that the *real* stock market acts just like him.

7 Big Insurance Mistakes to Avoid During the COVID Crisis

The coronavirus has upset lives and livelihoods all over the globe. While insurance can’t keep you from getting COVIID-19, having the right types of insurance can reduce your financial risk as the virus spreads.

There’s never been a better time to protect your health, life, property, and business with the right insurance. Let's take a look at seven insurance mistakes you might be making during the pandemic. You’ll learn how to face new risks and challenges with the help of different types of affordable insurance.

Coronavirus insurance mistakes

Here’s the detail on each mistake you should avoid to make sure you and your family stay safe during the pandemic.

1. Skipping health insurance

The coronavirus has changed the health insurance landscape in drastic ways. If you’ve become unemployed or have your work hours cut and lost employer-sponsored health insurance, don’t go without coverage when you may need it most.

Here are several ways to get health insurance:

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) may be options for free or low-cost coverage if you can’t afford health insurance. These programs allow you to get coverage at any time of year, depending on your income, family size, and where you live. You can learn more at the Medicaid website at Medicaid.gov.

Your parent’s health plan may be an option if they have coverage, you’re under age 26, and they’re willing to insure you. Even if you’re married, not living with a parent, and not financially dependent on them, they can cover you until your 26th birthday.

COBRA coverage is typically available when you leave a job with group health insurance. Whether you quit, are laid-off, or get fired, COBRA is a federal regulation that gives you the option to continue your employer-sponsored health, dental, and vision insurance for a certain period, such as 18 months. However, if you have funds in a health savings account or HSA, you can use them to pay your COBRA premiums.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage is available through federal or state health online marketplaces, insurance brokers, and insurance websites. If your income is below certain limits based on your family size, you qualify for a federal subsidy, which reduces your healthcare premiums. No matter where you live, you can begin shopping at the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.

2. Not using telehealth services

If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), it typically only covers certain preventive care costs, such as an annual physical or vaccinations, before you meet the yearly deductible.

The CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must cover it cost-free before your HDHP deductible is satisfied.

However, the CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must also cover it cost-free before your deductible is satisfied. For other types of health plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, they must also waive any cost-sharing or co-pays for remote health services.

The telehealth relief is only temporary for 2020 and 2021. However, it can give you significant savings if you have a non-emergency or medical question that you want to address with a doctor online.

3. Only getting minimum car insurance coverage

During tough financial times, it can be tempting to cut your auto insurance coverage or drive uninsured. Remember that it’s against the law to drive without having the minimum liability coverage for your home state.

Since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage.

However, since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage. This insurance protects you from a driver who hits-and-runs or is uninsured or underinsured for the damage they cause you, your passengers, and your car.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 13 percent of drivers are uninsured nationwide. My home state, Florida, has the highest number—almost 27 percent! This data from 2015 is the most recent. Due to coronavirus-related financial hardships, I’d bet those numbers are much higher now.

If you drop any auto insurance coverage, make it collision or comprehensive, which repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged or stolen (after paying your deductible). Reducing or eliminating these coverages could make sense if your car isn’t worth much, such as less than $1,000. A good rule of thumb is to drop these coverages if their annual cost is 10% or more of your car’s cash value.

Another way to save on auto insurance is to increase your deductibles or bundle it with other coverage, such as your home or renters policy.

4. Not purchasing a non-owners auto insurance policy

If you’ve sold your car or you tend to borrow or rent cars when needed, don’t forget that you still need the protection of a non-owner auto insurance policy. This coverage gives you liability protection when you drive a car you don’t own or are a passenger in someone else’s car.

Here are some situations when you need non-owner car insurance:

  • You rent a car and don’t already have insurance on a vehicle you own.
  • You use ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft.
  • You borrow cars from family, friends, or neighbors for short or long trips.

5. Overlooking a renters insurance policy

According to the III, a surprisingly low number of renters, 35 percent have renters insurance. Whether you mistakenly believe that your landlord is responsible for your personal belongings (they’re not) or that you don’t have enough to insure (you probably do), you should have a policy.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Standard renters insurance offers a lot more protection than many people think. It covers your possessions if they’re stolen or damaged from a covered event, such as a water leak, fire, or natural disaster. A renters policy also pays living expenses if you have to move out while repairs get made after an insured disaster, such as a tornado or fire.

Even more important is the liability protection I mentioned. If you get involved in a lawsuit related to property damage or medical injuries, you’ll be covered up to your policy limit.

Renters insurance gives you a lot of protection for the money. It’s probably more affordable than you might think, costing only an average of $188 per year across the nation. Bundling it with your auto insurance could even reduce the cost.

6. Working from home without commercial coverage

Due to stay-at-home mandates during the pandemic, most people who can work from home are doing so. If you’re self-employed as a solopreneur or operate a small business from home, be aware that your home or renters insurance excludes most home-based business activities.

For instance, if you keep inventory at home or have special business equipment, they aren’t covered under a standard homeowner or renter policy. Make sure your business assets and liability are protected by having a separate commercial policy or adding a home-business rider or endorsement to your existing insurance.

The type of business coverage you need varies depending on your industry, whether you drive for business purposes, if you see clients at your home, the value of your business assets, and how much potential risk you have. But it could cost as little as $150 per year. Check with your existing insurance company or a trade association for your industry about getting coverage.

RELATED: How to Qualify for the Coronavirus Economic Relief Package

7. Thinking you can’t get life insurance

It’s not fun to think about death or what would happen to your family if you weren’t alive. If your surviving spouse, partner, children, parents, other dependents, or business partners would be hurt financially after your death, you need life insurance to protect them.

Think about how your survivors would care for your children and meet financial obligations without additional income. Consider how your children would survive if you and your spouse or partner died at the same time. If you’re procrastinating getting life insurance or increasing your current coverage, think about the legacy you want to leave.

The good news is that term life insurance is affordable and still readily available during the pandemic. For example, a $500,000 payout for your family could cost about $200 a year if you’re middle-aged and reasonably good health. Bankrate.com is a good site to learn more and get free life insurance quotes.

8 Essential Rules for Surviving Financial Hardship

At some point, most people experience an unexpected crisis that shakes their financial world. It could be losing a job, receiving a huge medical bill, or having a car break down at the worst possible time. But surviving a pandemic is a situation you probably never thought you would face.

No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first.

Along with the public health toll, the COVID crisis has put millions of people out of work. For those struggling financially, here are eight critical rules to help you manage money wisely, stretch your resources, and bounce back from this unprecedented health and economic disaster.

8 rules for managing a financial hardship

Here are the details about each rule to manage a financial setback during the coronavirus crisis.

Rule #1: Accept your situation and use your resources to seek help

The key to successfully navigating a financial setback is to be realistic. If you’re in denial and don’t face money troubles head-on, you can quickly compound the damage.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions. Start talking about your challenges with people and professionals you trust, such as a money-savvy family member, financial advisor, legitimate credit counselor, or an attorney.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions.

The following financial associations have certified volunteers who can offer free help and advice:

  • National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
  • The Financial Planning Association
  • Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education

Rule #2: Get a bird’s eye view of your finances

To fully understand your situation, create a list of what you own and owe; this is called a net worth statement. Compiling your data in one place helps you evaluate your financial resources, make decisions more efficiently, and have essential information at your fingertips if creditors or advisors ask for it.

First, list your assets: 

  • Cash
  • Investments
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles 

Then list your liabilities:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt

Include the estimated values of your assets, the balances on your debts, and the interest rates you pay for each liability. You could jot down this information on paper, enter it in a computer spreadsheet, or create a report using money management software.

When you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets, you’ve calculated your net worth, which is an indicator of your financial health. It’s not uncommon to have a low or negative net worth when you’re in financial trouble.

RELATED: 10 Things Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Coronavirus Relief  

Rule #3: Understand your cash flow

An essential part of bouncing back from a financial crisis is keeping an eye on your monthly income and expenses. Create a cash flow statement that lists your expected income and typical expenses, such as rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, transportation, and insurance. Again, you can create this report manually or by using budgeting features in a financial program.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending. Making temporary sacrifices will help you recover as quickly as possible with less long-term damage to your finances.

Rule #4: Shop your essential expenses

As you review your spending, it’s an excellent time to comparison-shop your essential expenses. Evaluate your highest costs first, such as housing, vehicles, and insurance, since they offer the most significant potential savings.

For instance, you may be able to move into a less expensive home, purchase or lease a cheaper vehicle, and shop your auto insurance to find better deals. Ask your utility provider about assistance programs that offer energy-saving improvements at no charge.

Rule #5: Communicate with your creditors

If you haven’t been in contact with your creditors, start a dialog with each one immediately. You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles. Ask them for solutions, such as deferring payments for several months, setting up a reduced payment plan, or refinancing a loan to reduce your financial burden.

You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles.

Creditors are likely to ask about details regarding your financial situation, so have your net worth and cash flow statements on hand when you speak to them. Be ready to complete any required assistance applications quickly.

Rule #6: Prioritize your debts carefully

Based on guidance from creditors and finance professionals, prioritize your bills and debts carefully. Your goal should be to conserve as much cash as possible without skipping essential payments. Always pay for necessities first: food, prescription drugs, and auto insurance.

Debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized

Use your net worth statement to rank your liabilities from highest to lowest priority. For instance, debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized. Keeping up with an auto loan is a high priority if you rely on your vehicle for transportation. Federal student loans are in automatic forbearance through September 30, and the relief may get extended through 2020.

Your unsecured debts—medical bills, credit cards, and private student loans—are lower priorities. Never pay these debts ahead of rent, a mortgage, or utilities when you have a cash shortage.

Rule #7: Don’t let collectors force you to make bad decisions

Prioritizing your debts means some may be paid late or not at all. If a debt collector contacts you about a low-priority debt, such as a medical bill or credit card, don’t allow them to persuade you to pay it before your highest priority bills.

Collectors may try various aggressive tactics, such as threatening to sue you or ruin your credit. A lawsuit could take years, and a creditor is more likely to negotiate a settlement with you. Remember that a creditor or collector can’t send you to jail for civil debts.

If you are behind on bills, that fact is likely already reflected on your credit reports. By the time a collector contacts you, the damage is already done, and paying the bill won’t improve your credit in the short-term.

Rule #8: Take advantage of local and federal benefits

If your income and savings have entirely dried up, use these resources to learn more about local and federal benefits.

  • FeedingAmerica.org has a map showing local food banks
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal food program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov can help you find a housing counselor or see if your mortgage is backed by the federal government and qualifies for forbearance
  • Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that helps you discover the benefits you’re eligible for
  • Medicaid.gov is the federal health insurance program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • Healthcare.gov is the federal health insurance marketplace where you may find plans with substantial subsidies if you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid

Financial challenges can cause you and your family to experience a flood of emotions, including anger, fear, and embarrassment. As difficult as it might be to put a financial crisis into perspective, it’s critical. No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first. There are millions of people who are dealing with COVID-related financial hardships.

Face the fact that your recovery could take a while. Do everything in your power to manage your budget wisely by getting organized, seeking ways to earn more, and spending less. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from creditors, seek free advice from professionals, and take advantage of every local and federal benefit possible.