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If you have dreams of purchasing a home, you probably already know there's a lot of work involved before you can get started. Unfortunately, the home buying process is not an easy one to understand, especially if you are the first in your family to purchase a home or you are purchasing a home for the first time. There’s a lot to learn, but DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation’s FitKit personal finance curriculum helps students (and their teachers) understand the pillars of the process, everything from taxes and budgeting to credit and banking.
If you already have debt, such as from student loans or credit cards, you might feel even more intimidated and unsure of how to proceed. Even with previous debt, it’s still possible to pay it off and realize your dream of buying a house. Your best bet may be to take a financial literacy course to ensure you know your personal finances first. Here’s a quick primer on how to begin the process.
Know Your Current Debt Level
Before you start dreaming of purchasing a home, take the time to go through your current debt. This can include credit card debt, other types of obligations you might have such as student loans or a car loan and any outstanding monies owed. Rather than fear what the end total might be, face it head-on, knowing you are working toward paying off your debt. It's likely that once you find the total cost of what you owe, you can focus on getting everything paid off and figure out when it might be possible to buy a home.
Prioritize Paying Debts
Once you have a list of all your debts, decide how you'll begin paying them off. Many individuals utilize the snowball method, where, as CNBC explains, the focus is on eliminating the smallest debt first. Once that liability is gone, they are free to move on to the next smallest debt until all commitments are paid off one by one. This method is helpful when dealing with credit cards or a car loan prior to buying a house. It isn't suggested for larger debts, such as a student loan, because it is unlikely you'll have that all paid off by the time you buy your house. This offers a helpful method for reducing overall debt.
Create a Budget To See You Through
Putting together a financial plan gives you the chance to list all your expenses and see where your money is going. You can then review your budget and decide where to make cuts to help keep your spending down. By paying upfront for items rather than using credit, you can reduce debt, save money in certain areas and pave the way to buying a home. Your budget can help you decide how large a mortgage you can take on and if you need to increase your overall income, perhaps by picking up an additional part-time job.
Understand Home Loan Options
When seeking a mortgage, find out what different alternatives are available to you to lower the overall monthly costs. You can do this in a number of ways, such as paying points on your mortgage. This means you'll pay a fee to the lender when you close, according to Bankrate, giving you the opportunity to get a better interest rate in return. Overall, your monthly mortgage payment may be lowered. The best way to determine if this will work for you is to evaluate the home you want to buy, review your current finances and project the number of years you think you'll live at the property. Using a mortgage points calculator can help with this decision.
If you are ready to get a home loan, make sure you know your current debt level and figure out a definite plan to reduce it. Create a budget and find out what home loan possibilities are open to you so you can select the one that best meets your needs.
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As a business owner, you have an added burden when tax season arrives. Taxpayers with a business spend significantly more time on tax preparation than those without businesses. The process can be especially stressful if you aren't sure what tax reporting and payment requirements you are subjected to. DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to helping aspiring business owners, providing financial literacy resources to to schools that help to demystify the tax preparation and filing process.
Read on for a starter guide to a stress-free tax filing process.
Get your paperwork organized.
You will need to sift through a lot of paperwork to complete your business tax filing. Start getting organized now. Depending on your circumstances, you may need Federal Wage and Tax Statements (Form W-2), Employer Annual Federal Tax Return (Form 944), and Transmittal of Income and Tax Statements (Form W-3). You can find all of this paperwork on the Internal Revenue Service website. Figuring out and finding what you need now will save you stress when you're actually filing.
Make sure to clearly separate business and personal finances.
As you go through your paperwork, make sure to distinguish between personal and business-related documentation. This simplifies tax filing and will also make matters easier if you are audited by the IRS. If you don't already have one, consider opening a business bank account. There are various advantages, such as the ability to build business credit — improving your financing prospects, avoiding personal liability, and better revenue tracking.
Clarify what rebates and credits you are entitled to.
Tax credits and rebates can lower your final business tax bill. Take the time to check what you may be eligible for. Possibilities include earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit, retirement plan startup cost tax credit, work opportunity tax credit, and more. For tailor-made advice, consult a tax professional.
Ensure you've properly differentiated employees versus contractors.
As a business owner, you will also have to submit tax paperwork to the IRS regarding your workers. What paperwork you submit depends on whether the worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Independent contractors require a 1099, for example, while employees need a W-2 and W-4. Legal Zoom explains how to properly differentiate between the two categories. For example, the courts may use the "right to control" test, determining how much authority you, the employer, have over whether the worker does their work or not.
Invest in tech tools to simplify record-keeping.
Tax preparation and filing will take time. Fortunately, there are tools available to help expedite the process. Take the 1099 forms for independent contractors, for example. An online payroll system allows you to file 1099 online, minimizing hassle and the confusion between 1099-MISC and 1099-NEC and when to use them. Online payroll systems also simplify payments, allowing you to pay contractors more quickly.
Change your business structure if needed.
As you prepare for tax season, you may discover that you would be better off with a different business structure. Diverse entities like limited liability companies, corporations, and sole proprietorships vary in terms of tax obligations and reporting requirements. While changing your business structure now won't make a huge difference when it comes to reporting for the last tax year, it can help you save money next tax year.
Don't let tax season overwhelm you. The above tips can help you get through it easily. If you find yourself struggling, don't hesitate to turn to a professional for help.
DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation, Inc. through FitKit programs for school gives youth the skills needed in to become successful small business owners. Visit the website to view the current course offerings.
DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation is worried that students will take on more loans, only to re-enter a compromised labor market as a result of the economic damage caused by COVID19 and emerging possibilities of higher taxes and less employment opportunities. Among our concerns is how the 2020 recession might exacerbate the wealth gap since 2008, which diminished homeownership rates for African Americans and led to significant income decline in low-income communities.
We are concerned that the next generation of young adults – especially those without family wealth – will struggle to reach financial independence and materialist milestones, compared to their parents and grandparents. But this delay in independent adulthood could motivate them to re-envision not just their careers, but social and personal priorities differently. The need for quality Personal Finance Education for every kid in every school across America is now more important the ever!
FitKit explores Income and Career goals important to young adults.
Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash
Did you log into your online banking account to find that you have a negative balance on your credit card? Your heart might have dropped for a moment — how could you have accrued this much debt? What does having a negative credit card balance even mean?
You can relax: having a negative credit card balance is not a bad thing. It does not mean that you owe the bank lots of money — the opposite, in fact.
That said, if you searched the internet for answers thinking that having a negative credit card balance is the same thing as having a negative bank account balance, we’ll discuss both situations and provide you with five pieces of advice to get out of debt.
Why is My Balance Negative?
If you have a legitimate negative credit card balance, that means your credit issuer owes you money. If you had a $100 balance on your statement but received a refund for $300, then your balance would read -$200. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you don’t have to pay up.
Refunds are a common reason why people’s credit card balances become negative (if they’ve paid off their previous statement balances, of course), but it may also happen due to canceled fees, removing fraudulent charges, or another reason. Your balance will return to zero if you contact your issuer and ask for your money back or choose to think of it as a kind of credit card prepayment. Remember, it’s not extra money; it was yours to begin with.
Negative credit card balances don’t affect your credit score. You aren’t earning money, either, but neither will your creditworthiness take a hit.
What if I Owe Money Instead?
If you’ve confused “negative credit card balance” with owing money, here are a few ways to get your bank account positive again: Use a Financial AppDo you have trouble budgeting, or is your financial situation a bit of a mystery? Use a financial app like Mint, PocketGuard, or Peak to create a budget, stick to it, and achieve your financial goals. Some apps allow you to view all of your accounts from one place and keep track of your expenses and spending habits.
If you are good at budgeting, but delays in payroll make you short on cash anyway, you can use Earnin to improve your overall financial health. With Earnin, you can take advantage of the “Tip Yourself” feature, so you remember to save, and you can access up to $500 per pay period before payday (you pay the app back when your paycheck comes in), so you can pay your expenses on time without over-relying on credit.
Apply for a Balance Transfer Consider applying for a balance transfer card with a 0% introductory rate. This measure allows you to transition your debt from one line of credit to another card with a different issuer (though there may be transfer fees, so do the math to make sure your current interest rate isn’t actually less expensive).
Negotiate with Credit IssuersIt never hurts to pick up the phone and just ask. Ask your credit issuer if they are willing to lower your interest rate, or if they are willing to let you switch cards. You might have a chance if you have a history of making your payments on time.
Do this for your bills, too. Many kinds of debt are more negotiable than you think, so call your healthcare provider to reduce medical bills, your insurance company, your internet service, your landlord, and other people if you want to pay less. It never hurts to try because the worst thing they can do is say no.
Pay More than the Minimum Payment Yes, the minimum payment is all you are legally obligated to pay each month — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay more. Paying the minimum only ensures that you are stuck with your debt longer and thus owe more money over time thanks to interest. Pay whatever you have the budget for so that you can climb out of debt faster.
Prioritize Debts Pay off your loans or debts with the highest interest rates first. Say you have two credit cards, one with 17% APR and another with 15%. Pay off the 17% debt first with as many funds as you have available and make the minimum payment on the other. The former credit card will cost you more money in the long-run due to accruing interest, so prioritize that one and keep up the pace with the second card once your other debt is gone.
Having a negative credit card balance is not bad, but a negative bank account balance definitely is. Either way, don’t panic — you don’t owe money in the first scenario, and there are ways to pay off debt in the latter.
Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.
This article originally appeared on Earnin.
New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group sponsored #FitKit Personal Finance course materials for New Hope Solebury High School, Pennsylvania in 2020 supporting their belief in making financial literacy a priority for students.
Thank you NJM Insurance Group for your efforts to empower youth and to be there with them along the way!
The federal income tax almost didn’t make it into law because the Supreme Court initially objected to the fact that it was a direct tax, rather than being apportioned among the states based on population. The 16th amendment to the constitution overrode the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1913 and the direct income tax was born.
You can’t avoid paying taxes. But understanding how taxes work can empower you to make smart choices about managing your finances and getting the highest net income.
A good tax plan can set up your personal finances strategically to take advantage of different tax breaks and tax credits. And this could help reduce how much you owe in taxes.
DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation is dedicated to helping young adults acquire the skills and understandings necessary to build for a lifetime of financial responsibility and a secure financial future. Understanding personal finances is not easy, nor can it be one of the most engaging areas of study, but having the ability to understand and plan for the future financially can have an incredible impact on a young person’s life. Though the US has focused on financial literacy education, and to date 45 states have adopted standards for Financial Literacy Education, only 24 states require that a personal finance course be offered. We are becoming less financially literate. Based upon our experiences, we believe the following are compelling reasons as to why it is important for schools to teach about personal finance.
1) The lack of “friction” related to the way we purchase and spend. Technology has made it increasingly easy to purchase items and spend money. Without handling it, we seldom think about the consequences related to purchases. In-fact most households overspend their income monthly, creating situations where individuals and families are continually trying to catch up.
2) Student loan debt increasing. Student loan debt has soared from $260 billion in 2004 to over 1.7 trillion last year. The average student takes on more than $35,397 in student loans and maintains student debt well into their 60s. Students who understand the decisions that they are making are more likely to avoid costly debt.
3) Understanding personal finances encourages good savings, investing and financial practices. From youth to adulthood the ability to learn, understand and practice sound financial decision-making skills encourages youth to ask questions, make better decisions and carry those practices on later in life. They are also more apt to share their financial decision-making processes and discuss personal finances with their children.
4) Young adults are filing for bankruptcy. Students start spending sooner, have more debt options, have more debt in general, student loans are costlier, and people are going bankrupt younger. In 2020 more than 1,253,444 million Americans declared bankruptcy according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. This is the fastest growing demographic in bankruptcy cases.
5) Common misunderstandings can lead to serious financial issues later in life. There are many myths when it comes to managing your personal finances. It’s important not to listen to outdated advice or blindly follow rules of thumb. In fact, many experts suggest that the commonly held rule of holding 6 months of income in emergency reserve is incorrect and now encourage holding 9 months in reserve.
6) Understanding of basic skills in personal finance helps to ensure individuals do not become victims. Often during times of financial stress individuals are faced with having to make decisions financially that they lack confidence in, or because they are pressured by creditors. Understanding basic skills helps to avoid these situations and challenges and helps individuals overcome financial inequity.
7) Give yourself options. Understanding personal finances can help to plan and provide for options when faced with making financial decisions, especially during time of financial stress.
8) Planning for today and tomorrow. Understanding basic skills and practices in personal finance helps you to plan for the future and provides you with an understanding of how the financial decisions that you are making today affects you tomorrow.
9) Stabilizing parents and families. Understanding personal finance is an integral part of managing a household, planning for families, and securing futures. Most Americans would not give themselves better than a C in their own personal financial understandings. As husbands, wives and parents it is important to plan responsibly for the day to day, for family growth and for retirement.
10) Financially literate youth become good members of their communities. Financial literacy lays the foundation for the future. Understanding skills in personal finance helps individuals to recognize their dreams, to establish businesses and organizations and to help themselves, their families and others succeed.
By Robert M. Church
While money doesn’t buy happiness, understanding finances is key to owning a home, starting a business, raising happy children, and being independent. When people struggle to understand their personal finance, they struggle to achieve, to live and be successful. By providing personal financial education in high schools and in underserved communities, people can be empowered to be financially fit and achieve a better future. The impact of implementing an engaging, comprehensive personal financial literacy course in high schools is both life-changing and inspiring.
Many schools approach meeting the broad standards covered under financial literacy education with offerings that fail to provide a comprehensive focus on the basic skills needed to manage personal finances. Additionally, support for financial literacy education programs offered by the business and financial services sector as solutions often focus on marketing opportunities and products offered by those entities, not on the needs of the students. Statistics suggest that even with all of the attention given to financial literacy education over the last 9 years, there continues to be a systemic lack of education and understanding of personal finances and a financial illiteracy epidemic that is currently plaguing our country.
#FitKit Programs are inspired curricula created by DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation (DMFLF), a non-profit dedicated to building a better tomorrow by educating people today, in order to forge a “Financially FIT America”. These comprehensive turn-key personal finance courses are available to schools and empower young adults with the knowledge they need for a lifetime of financial responsibility, growth and prosperity. They teach students the entire spectrum of fiscal topics necessary for success. The #FitKit engages students with the use of video, animation, humor, and social collaboration. Unit topics include: Income and Careers, Pay, Benefits and Deductions, Taxes, Budgeting, Banking, Savings and Investments, Credit, Insurance and more.
Young adults want to learn about money and appreciate the tools #FitKit gives them. Recently a student in Pennsylvania, named Andrew, felt so empowered by the FitKit materials, he spoke to his local Board of Education about it. He credits the FitKit course that was available to him in high school for preparing him for adulthood. “The course material is well rounded and easy to comprehend. In just five months, I was able to build a foundation in investing, budgeting, debt and taxes.” He continues to be a vocal promoter of FitKit in his local community.
Teachers see the ripple effects of financial literacy in families and communities too. While teaching the FitKit to his high school class, Chris gave his students an assignment that involved speaking to their parents about the family budget. When he got a call from one of the parents the next day, he braced himself for a complaint, but instead received a call of gratitude. “The parents said it was the first time their son ever asked about budgeting and has a new appreciation for how hard his parents struggle to provide for him. With financial literacy, Chris’s student can finally understand his parent’s reasons for denying luxuries such as expensive sneakers and video games.” What used to be a constant source of conflict is now an informed conversation.
Teaching people early in life to understand basic financial concepts helps them take personal responsibility for their futures, it follows that successful stable citizens make for a successful and stable economy, so it’s important for us as parents to ask what efforts are schools are making to teach students about personal finance?
DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation is a non-profit organization that relies on generous donors and volunteers who share the vision of giving a new generation the tools they need to be financially responsible and prosperous. If you want to offer your support with a tax-deductible gift, find out how you can sponsor a #FitKit in your school or community.