Tag: government

Emergency Preparedness Guide and Checklist [Download]

Emergency preparedness can mean the difference between weathering a disaster and finding yourself vulnerable in a long-term crisis. From power failures to hurricanes, emergencies strike every day, often without warning. By the time they do, it’s too late to start planning.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do now to prepare yourself and your family for a future emergency. But it can be an involved process, and it’s easy to forget something. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with an emergency preparedness checklist.

These recommendations will help you create your own family emergency plan, including a checklist of steps to take and supplies to pack in a disaster supplies kit in the event of an emergency.

Download our printable emergency preparedness checklist

This printable emergency preparedness checklist can help you take the steps needed for creating an emergency plan to keep yourself and your family safe and secure.

emergency preparedness checklist download buttonemergency preparedness checklist download button

1. Understand the risks for your area

Start getting prepared for emergencies specific to your location by assessing the risks of your particular location. Though there are basic requirements for preparedness, each type of natural disaster also requires its own specialized preparations.

For example, an ice storm might cause an extended power outage, so you may want to install a portable generator. In an earthquake or tornado, you’ll need to know how to find the safest place to shelter. (In both cases, stay away from windows, near the center of an inside room.)

And different regions are prone to different disasters: Texas has been hit by freezing weather, hurricanes, floods, hail and fires. In California, earthquakes and fires are common threats. Oklahoma is in “tornado alley,” and is often hit by ice storms.

Consult relief agencies in your area to get information about emergency alerts for the community, evacuation routes from the area and special assistance options for elderly people and those with disabilities. Ask at your workplace and your children’s schools or daycare to learn about each facility’s emergency plan.

Monitor weather and fire reports via NOAA weather radio. Download a reliable weather app, and sign up for emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts sent to your smartphone will signal you with a unique tone and vibration, then brief text messages explaining the type of alert and recommended action.

2. Write down emergency contact numbers

Important phone numbers should be available in multiple locations and formats. It’s a good idea to post them on the fridge — along with your home number and address for reference — as well as near any landline telephones. Also, program these numbers into the cellphones of every household member.

Choose a primary emergency contact and at least one secondary contact to call if your family gets separated. One should live out of state, and one should live locally. Tell your family members and loved ones which to call during each possible type of emergency. Remember that sometimes during a crisis, it’s easier to get through to out-of-state numbers than local ones.

It’s also a good idea to know which emergency management and response organizations you may be dealing with following a disaster, such as FEMA or the American Red Cross. Post these numbers, as well, and store them in your contacts.

Program emergency services numbers into your phone and put them near the top of your list, so you can find them right away. Hint: Most phones list contacts alphabetically, so you might want to list emergency contacts with “AA” or the number 1. Then write them on a small card to place in your wallet, in case you’re away from the list you’ve posted, your phone isn’t charged or your WiFi is down.

Here are some numbers you should include:

  • Fire / paramedics
  • Police
  • Local relief agencies
  • Area utilities
  • Work
  • School
  • Child care
  • Relatives
  • Poison control

3. Identify escape routes

Draw out the floor plan of your house and determine which escape routes would be safest for a quick getaway in each type of emergency. Escape routes also should be practical for pets, if you have any.

Post escape route plans in a central location in your house, preferably alongside the important contact numbers, and in each bedroom. Consider loading these directions into your smartphone, too.

It’s important to know when to get out and when to take cover where you are. Fires can occur in any climate and are the most common type of emergency that require escape or evacuation routes; if you’re indoors during a tornado or earthquake, you’re better off staying put.

Strategically store any equipment that could help you escape more quickly, such as collapsible ladders in upstairs rooms or window breakers for shatterproof glass. If your windows or doors have security bars, be sure they’re equipped with emergency releases so you can get out quickly if you need to.

And if you have pets, make pet carriers easily accessible so you can load them up quickly. (Herding cats is even more difficult in a crisis.)

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4. Locate emergency meeting places

Designate two different locations where family members can gather to find each other after leaving your home. One should be directly outside the home in the event of a fire. Identify a location that’s a safe distance from the house, such as a neighbor’s home, mailbox or nearby stop sign.

The other designated meeting place should be outside the neighborhood in case of an evacuation. In the event of a major disaster that requires an evacuation, tune in to local media and be on the lookout for alerts about where to find help at emergency shelters.

You might also designate an out-of-state meeting spot if it’s common for your whole area to be evacuated, as in hurricane season. Make sure your family members have these addresses and phone numbers among their emergency contacts.

Include all locations in your escape route plan, clearly marked on a map. Post the meeting plan alongside the important contact numbers and escape routes.

5. Practice escaping, responding and meeting with family

Discuss with household members what to do during a fire, storm, earthquake, etc. At least two people in your home should know how to shut off utilities and respond to power outages. At least two should be familiar with first aid procedures to address personal injuries.

Make sure your household takes time to review the escape routes and practice using them so your whole family will be ready in the event of an emergency. Hold periodic drills the way schools, businesses and other public facilities do, to be sure everyone can get out of the building. If you can, have your family meet up at the designated local emergency meeting spots.

6. Pack an emergency supplies kit

Have a go-bag or preparedness kit ready that includes family records and other important documents (stored in a safe portable container), along with survival essentials that you may need during an emergency. Refer to the emergency preparedness checklist below for supplies to include in your emergency kit.

“Go bag” supplies

“Go bags” are emergency kits that contain the essentials for people to stay safe and secure in a crisis. Most items listed will apply across the board. However, you can decide whether you need to pack other essentials that address special needs — for instance, specialized medical supplies, prescription medications, spare eyeglasses, personal hygiene items or pet food.

For more information, check with the U.S. government’s official emergency preparedness website, ready.gov.

Essential survival supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket knife
  • Sleeping bag/tent
  • Drinking water
  • Protein bars
  • Canned food
  • Manual can opener

Additional supplies

  • Cellphone
  • Cellphone charger
  • Credit cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Garbage bags
  • Insurance policies
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Contact information
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Face mask
  • Rain gear, if applicable

Tool kit supplies

  • Pliers
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries]

Personal hygiene and health supplies

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine supplies
  • Extra change of clothing
  • Washcloths
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Clean wipes or towelettes

Food and drink supplies

Plan on having a 3-day supply of non-perishable food in a waterproof container, plus a supply of water. Keep a gallon of water per day for each person for several days, to be used for drinking and sanitation. Pack as lightly as possible without leaving out essentials. Foods like protein bars are great space- and weight-savers.

  • Drinking water
  • Peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Vacuum-packed meats
  • Canned foods
  • Crackers
  • Protein bars

Stay safe with our emergency preparedness checklist

It can be a complicated process to create an emergency plan and assemble a kit of supplies for your family. But it’s an endeavor that’s worth every moment of effort when your preparations keep your family safe and secure during a disaster.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Top 5 Rent Control Apartments Available to Rent Today

top-5-rent-control-apartments-in-dc

Our Top Five Picks for Rent Control Apartments in D.C.

What is a ‘rent-controlled apartment’?

Rent control apartments can be rented by anyone.

Low and predictable rent increases are what make rent control apartments so desirable.

Why are they so low?

The annual increases in your rent may not exceed an allowable increase set by the city government. The annual adjustment is based on the Consumer Price Index {CPI} plus somewhere between 2%-10% of your rent. The combination of CPI + the  % increase can never exceed 10% total.  The law also sets that the landlord may only increase your rent once in any 12-month period. So, if in 2016 your rent was $1000 upon your anniversary/lease renewal, your rent could have a maximum increase of $25. Because the CPI was .5% and the city allowed an additional 2% increase.

We wrote a whole blog about it if you want to Read more…

Or if you want, just check out the rent control buildings below and score yourself some new digs!

One of the worst things about renting is the inevitable rent increases that you get every year.  One way to combat the impact of those rent increases is to find a rent controlled apartment.  Rent control apartments have a cap on how much your rent can be increased each year.  How rent increases are calculated is a little tricky.  You can read more about it here. We searched the Washington, DC apartment inventory and compiled a list of the top five rent controlled apartments you can rent today.

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Frontenac
Studio $1495

4550 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

The Frontenac is nestled in the heart of elegant upper-Northwest. The Frontenac boasts spacious apartments with updated kitchens and bathrooms. Its classic architectural style, evident in our grand lobby’s high ceiling and in our apartment units’, arched doorways and traditional wainscoting, attracts tours of local art history students.You can meet your neighbors or take advantage of WiFi on the Frontenac’s peaceful roof deck or in its spacious laundry room. Take a stroll to the Van Ness metro station, Giant, Whole Foods, pharmacies, dry cleaners, restaurants, shopping, and great schools for students of all ages. Our neighborhood is full of hidden gems..

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Wakefield Hall
1 BR  $1895

2101 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009

Wakefield Hall’s decorative facade gives way to just as beautiful apartments. Hardwood floors, updated kitchens, and walk-in closets create a charming and comfortable living space. Wakefield Hall is located near U St./Cardozo Metro Station, giving you access to all DC has to offer via the yellow and green lines. You can step out your front door and experience the cultural vibes within your neighborhood.

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The Calverton   LEASED
Studio  $1485

1673 Columbia Road, NW
Washington, DC 20009

Simple elegance. The best things in life don’t have to be bragged about. They can be simply appreciated each time you arrive home. The Calverton Apartments are in in the heart of the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. An array of restaurants and grocery options are within minutes of your apartment. Inside, you’ll find updated kitchens with energy efficient appliances, grand living rooms and large windows for natural light to pour in. Whether you choose to rent a studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment, you will be treated to beautiful hardwood floors and ample closet space. This is thoughtful living.

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Dupont Apartments
1 BR  $1775

1717 20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009

Choosing this apartment community is all about choosing the location.  The building is located in one of the most desired locations in all of DC. DuPont Circle provides easy access to public transportation, a variety of restaurant and entertainment options, and a quick commute to many of DC’s finest attractions.  Living at the Dupont Apartments will give you the lifestyle you want, and the location you need. The apartments feature hardwood floors, high ceilings, and spacious floorplans in a controlled access building.

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Klingle Apartments
1 BR  $1675

2755 Macomb Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Right on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Macomb Avenue, you will find The Klingle, a Cleveland Park apartment building with one-bedroom apartments for rent. The spacious layouts, beautiful hardwood floors, energy efficient appliances, and bright and open atmosphere of the apartments aren’t all that you will love. The Klingle community has on-site maintenance and management teams available to assist its residents, on-site laundry facilities, and it is conveniently located one block away from the Cleveland Park Metro. Comfort and convenience are a given when you live at The Klingle. Make it your home today!WC Smith embraces the belief that great customer service is our best amenity. Living at The Klingle means experiencing a higher level of service. Our service team is available 24 hours a day, and you can access your resident account online at any time; day or night. Discover true convenient living in the city, at The Klingle located in the Cleveland Park neighborhood.

Looking for something different?
Search available apartments in the Washington, DC area now.

Read Top 5 Rent Control Apartments Available to Rent Today on Apartminty.

Source: blog.apartminty.com

NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months

Even Americans who haven’t visited know that New York City never sleeps. Endless streams of people on the street and taxi cabs clogging the roadways are just part of the ceaseless movement in the city. With a population nearing nine million people, New York City always has something going on within its five boroughs.

With all the commotion, it’s safe to say that New York City could be one of the loudest cities on earth. However, it seems that New Yorkers are getting tired of the noise more than usual this year. From COVID-19 lockdowns to widespread protests, New York City has become quite chaotic lately — is this the cause of the increase in noise complaints?

Methodology

We analyzed data from NYC OpenData, which includes a database of 311 calls placed within the city. We looked at noise complaint calls placed from February 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, and from February 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019.

We also used available population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau to weigh noise complaint call data in relation to the population of each New York borough: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Noise complaints rise 106% in one year

a line graph showing an increase in new york city noise complaints from 2019 to 2020

It’s no secret that New York City is a noisy place –– the bustling streets and never-ending traffic jams create quite the cacophony of sound. However, it seems like residents are complaining about noise more than ever, especially since last year. Total complaints more than doubled from this time last year, increasing by 106 percent. 

Here’s a breakdown of the data between 2019 and 2020: 

Month 2019 2020 % Change
February 26,839 27,781 3.51%
March 33,567 37,396 11.41%
April 39,059 39,373 0.80%
May 40,339 77,628 92.44%
June 58,845 105,240 78.84%

Noise complaints increased by over 106 percent from 2019 to 2020 (within the measured time period). The city also saw a 97 percent increase in complaints from the beginning of April to the end of May 2020, marking the largest jump in noise complaints so far this year. These increases paint a striking picture of the considerable changes in city life over the last several months.

COVID-19, lockdowns and protests in NYC

an illustration showing a 279% increase in total noise complaints in New York City from February to June 2020

The beginning of March marked the start of quarantines, lockdowns and panic over the COVID-19 pandemic. With such a huge population density (27,000 people per square mile), New York City quickly fell into chaos as the virus spread through the city –– as of June 30, there were over 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City alone.

Quarantines and lockdowns within the city meant millions of people began working from home. With so many now at home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., it’s no surprise that New Yorkers had more to complain about when it comes to noisy neighbors and the sounds of city traffic. The data reflects this timeline perfectly, showing a difference of nearly 10,000 additional complaints logged in March (compared to February).

The end of May 2020 came with a new noise in New York City: protests. This unrest was widespread across New York City, with protests in all five boroughs. The sheer volume of these protests can be seen clearly in the data we analyzed. From the beginning of May to the end of June, noise complaints increased by 79 percent. Additionally, complaints of “loud talking” more than doubled from the beginning of April to the end of May, about the time when the protests began.

Battle of the boroughs: Who complains the most in NYC?

Despite having a smaller population than other boroughs, The Bronx has logged the most noise complaints in 2020 so far –– a total of 81,869 complaints logged from February to June.

Because populations differ across the five boroughs, we divided each borough’s total complaints by its respective total population to find comparable percentages.

Borough-specific data is below:

  • The Bronx: 81,869 total complaints (6 percent of the population)
  • Manhattan: 74,661 total complaints (5 percent of the population)
  • Brooklyn: 73,899 total complaints (3 percent of the population)
  • Queens: 49,469 total complaints (2 percent of the population)
  • Staten Island: 6,635 total complaints (1 percent of the population)

A borough rich in local culture, The Bronx has been called the birthplace of hip-hop and salsa, is home to Yankee Stadium and boasts one of the most diverse populations in the city. This diversity could be related to a higher volume of noise complaints, especially since a 2017 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal determined that neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and larger minority populations experience more noise pollution than other neighborhoods.

New York City explodes with fireworks

From the beginning of April to the end of June this year, complaints about illegal fireworks increased by a staggering 283,595 percent –– only 19 complaints were logged in April, while complaints in June totaled 53,902. Brooklyn is seeing the majority of complaints about fireworks, with approximately one in three complaints originating from the largest of the boroughs.

Fireworks are the second most complained-about noise in New York City from February to June, with loud music and parties taking the first place prize for the most complained-about noise (157,823 total complaints during this time period). With this in mind, it’s important to note that 311 OpenData categorizes these complaints in their own section, rather than grouping them with other noise complaints.

Here is a breakdown of the noises New Yorkers complained about the most in June 2020: 

  • Loud music and parties: 73,238 complaints
  • Fireworks: 53,902 complaints
  • Traffic: 10,795 complaints
  • Loud talking: 7,213 complaints
  • Construction: 2,014 complaints

While summer fireworks in New York City have always been present, this year is definitely unique. The unusual volume of fireworks has raised many conspiracy theories among New Yorkers, with some claiming the government is using the fireworks to desensitize the public to “war-like sounds.” Others claim the police are using the fireworks as a punishment for the recent protests, while some say New Yorkers are simply bored in quarantine.

Whatever the cause of the fireworks, they are wreaking havoc across the city. Countless residents have been hospitalized with firework-related injuries and the city government has created a police taskforce to curb illegal firework activity, with police donning riot gear and arresting anyone believed to be involved.

New York City has always been loud, but 2020 seems to have turned up the volume in the city. Noise complaints are at an all-time high with no end in sight. If you’re living in New York City this summer, there are easy ways to soundproof your home.

Sources

U.S. Census Bureau | New York City OpenData: 1, 2 | Gothamist | The Atlantic

The post NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

Due to financial consequences of COVID-19 — and the broader impact on our economy — now is an excellent time to consider refinancing most loans you have. This can include mortgage debt you have that may be converted to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as well as auto loans, personal loans, and more.

Refinancing student loans can also make sense if you’re willing to transition student loans you currently have into a new loan with a private lender. Make sure to take time to compare rates to see how you could save money on interest, potentially pay down student loans faster, or even both if you took the steps to refinance.

Get Started and Compare Rates Now

Still, it’s important to keep a close eye on policies and changes from the federal government that have already taken place, as well as changes that might come to fruition in the next weeks or months. Currently, all federal student loans are locked in at a 0% APR and payments are suspended during that time. This change started on March 13, 2020 and lasts for 60 days, so borrowers with federal loans can skip payments and avoid interest charges until the middle of May 2020.

It’s hard to say what will happen after that, but it’s smart to start figuring out your next steps and determining if student loan refinancing makes sense for your situation. Note that, in addition to lower interest rates than you can get with federal student loans, many private student lenders offer signup bonuses as well. With the help of a lower rate and an initial bonus, you could end up far “ahead” by refinancing in a financial sense.

Still, there are definitely some negatives to consider when it comes to refinancing your student loans, and we’ll go over those disadvantages below.

Should You Refinance Now?

Do you have student loan debt at a higher APR than you want to pay?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes: Go to next question.

Do you have good credit or a cosigner? 

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes:  Go to next question.

Do you have federal student loans?

  • If no: You can consider refinancing
  • If yes: Go to next question

Are you willing to give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance
  • If yes: Consider refinancing your loans.

Reasons to Refinance

There are many reasons student borrowers ultimately refinance their student loans, although they can vary from person to person. Here are the main situations where it can make sense to refinance along with the benefits you can expect to receive:

  • Secure a lower monthly payment on your student loans.
    You may want to consider refinancing your student loans if your ultimate goal is reducing your monthly payment so it fits in better with your budget and your goals. A lower interest rate could help you lower your payment each month, but so could extending your repayment timeline.
  • Save money on interest over the long haul.
    If you plan to refinance your loans into a similar repayment timeline with a lower APR, you will definitely save money on interest over the life of your loan.
  • Change up your repayment timeline.
    Most private lenders let you refinance your student loans into a new loan product that lasts 5 to 20 years. If you want to expedite your loan repayment or extend your repayment timeline, private lenders offer that option.
  • Pay down debt faster.
    Also, keep in mind that reducing your interest rate or repayment timeline can help you get out of student loan debt considerably faster. If you’re someone who wants to get out of debt as soon as you can, this is one of the best reasons to refinance with a private lender.

Why You Might Not Want to Refinance Right Now

While the reasons to refinance above are good ones, there are plenty of reasons you may want to pause on your refinancing plans. Here are the most common:

  • You want to wait and see if the federal government will offer 0% APR or forbearance beyond May 2020 due to COVID-19.
    The federal government has only extended forbearance through the middle of May right now, but they might lengthen the timeline of this benefit if you wait it out. Since this perk only applies to federal student loans, you would likely want to keep those loans at 0% APR for as long as the federal government allows.
  • You may want to take advantage of income-driven repayment plans.
    Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income each month then have your loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These plans only apply to federal student loans, so you shouldn’t refinance with a private lender if you are hoping to sign up.
  • You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with your student loan payments due to your job or economic conditions.
    Federal student loans come with deferment and forbearance that can buy you time if you’re struggling to make the payments on your student loans. With that in mind, you may not want to give up these protections if you’re unsure about your future and how your finances might be.
  • Your credit score is low and you don’t have a cosigner.
    Finally, you should probably stick with federal student loans if your credit score is poor and you don’t have a cosigner. Federal student loans come with fairly low rates and most don’t require a credit check, so they’re a great deal if your credit is imperfect.

Important Things to Note

Before you move forward with student loan refinancing, there are some details you should know and understand. Here are our top tips and some important factors to keep in mind.

Compare Rates and Loan Terms

Because student loan refinancing is such a competitive industry, shopping around for loans based on their rates and terms can help you find out which lenders are offering the most lucrative refinancing options for someone with your credit profile and income.

We suggest using Credible to shop for student loan refinancing since this loan platform lets you compare offers from multiple lenders in one place. You can even get prequalified for student loan refinancing and “check your rate” without a hard inquiry on your credit score.

Check for Signup Bonuses

Some student loan refinancing companies let you score a bonus of $100 to $750 just for clicking through a specific link to start the process. This money is free money if you’re able to take advantage, and you can still qualify for low rates and fair loan terms that can help you get ahead.

We definitely suggest checking with lenders that offer bonuses provided you can also score the most competitive rates and terms.

Consider Your Personal Eligibility

Also keep your personal eligibility in mind, including factors beyond your credit score. Most applicants who are turned down for student loan refinancing are turned away based on their debt-to-income ratio and not their credit score. Generally speaking, this means they owe too much money on all their debts when you compare their liabilities to their income.

Credible also notes that adding a creditworthy cosigner can improve your chances of prequalifying for a loan. They also state that “many lenders offer cosigner release once borrowers have made a minimum number of on-time payments and can demonstrate they are ready to assume full responsibility for repayment of the loan on their own.”

It’s Not “All or Nothing”

Also, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. You can just refinance the loans at the highest interest rates, or any particular loans you believe could benefit from a different repayment term.

4 Steps to Refinance Your Student Loans

Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, there are four simple steps involved in refinancing your student loans.

Step 1: Gather all your loan information.

Before you start the refinancing process, it helps to have all your loan information, including your student loan pay stubs, in one place. This can help you determine the total amount you want to refinance as well as the interest rates and payments you currently have on your loans.

Step 2: Compare lenders and the rates they offer.

From there, take the time to compare lenders in terms of the rates they can offer. You can use this tool to get the process started.

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Step 3: Choose the best loan offer you can qualify for.

Once you’ve filled out basic information, you can choose among multiple loan offers. Make sure to check for signup bonus offers as well as interest rates, loan repayment terms, and interest rates you can qualify for.

Step 4: Complete your loan application.

Once you decide on a lender that offers the best rates and terms, you can move forward with your full student loan refinancing application. Your student loan company will ask for more personal information and details on your existing student loans, which they will combine into your new loan with a new repayment term and monthly payment.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans is a huge question that only you can answer after careful thought and consideration. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons, including what you may be giving up if you’re refinancing federal loans with a private lender.

Refinancing your student loans can make sense if you have a plan to pay them off, but this strategy works best if you create a debt repayment plan you can stick with for the long-term.

The post Should You Refinance Your Student Loans? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re looking to repair your credit, you may have come across websites that advertise a credit privacy number, credit protection number or CPN. These numbers are nine digits like a Social Security number (SSN), and sellers claim that you can use them instead of your SSN. However, these CPNs are often actual SSNs lifted from real people, reportedly children, prison inmates and the deceased – and you can never legally buy a new SSN. In other words, a CPN is no solution to your credit rating problem. Under no circumstances should you try to buy a CPN.

Why a CPN is No Credit Fix

Websites have sprung up all over the internet, offering CPNs to people with bad credit or low credit scores. They advertise that this number can serve as a “get out of jail free” card for your bad credit. In theory, you can use a CPN instead of your SSN on credit applications to hide the poor credit associated with your personal SSN. If you have bad credit but still need a credit card or loan, this can seem like the solution, assuming you can pay anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

That price might seem worth it for a chance to wipe the slate clean. However, these offers are essentially a big scam. The CPNs you can buy online are not legally assigned credit protection numbers. Instead, they are usually stolen Social Security numbers, taken from children, the deceased or inmates.

Also, using a purchased CPN puts you in some hot water, too. Credit agencies can easily spot discrepancies if you try to use a CPN on an application instead of your SSN. Not only will this fail to help your credit, but it’s also committing fraud which is punishable by jail time.

How to Avoid CPN Scams 

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

If you’re dealing with some bad credit, don’t turn to a CPN. Only scammers sell CPNs, and they in turn may cheat you out of your personal information as well as hundreds or thousands of dollars. Using a purchased CPN can also put you in jail, even if you didn’t know the number was fraudulent. This is why it’s important to be aware of this popular scam.

If you really need a CPN or new SSN, it will be free. The process will go through the Social Security Administration Office, since a new number would be tied to your old SSN. That said, it is very hard to qualify to receive a new number. Having bad credit is never a qualifying reason.

How to Get a Legal CPN

With so many fraudulent websites and companies trying to sell you a way to reset your credit, it’s hard to know how to get a legal CPN. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some experts say that you can speak with an attorney to obtain a legal CPN. The attorney can then contact the Social Security Administration Office on your behalf. However, others maintain that all CPNs are illegal.

Generally, it seems that you cannot get a legal CPN unless you actually need one. These situations include celebrities, government officials and people under witness protection. You can also apply in other specific instances, like if you’re a victim of abuse, stalking or identity theft. A real CPN would be attached to your SSN, so it’s still not an escape from the credit tied to your SSN.

You may also stumble upon offers to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. The IRS does issue EINs, but only businesses can use them for business costs. This means that you cannot legally obtain an EIN as an individual looking to improve your credit. You also cannot make up a home business, apply for an EIN and use that new number for a credit reset. It is a federal crime to obtain an EIN under false pretenses. In any case, the credit profile for your EIN is still tied to your SSN.

Bottom Line

What Is a CPN, or Credit Privacy Number?

You shouldn’t ever, under any circumstances, try to purchase a CPN. These offers are fraudulent and don’t provide any credit repair or relief. At the very least, buying a CPN wastes money you should put towards repaying your loans in the first place. At worst, you could go to jail for fraud. There are better, more constructive ways to repair your credit. If you’re truly in a situation that calls for a CPN, contact your lawyer for assistance.

Tips on Rebuilding Your Credit 

  • Of course, the best way to legally clean up your credit is to pay back your debts and improve your credit practices. A good place to start is to pay off your credit card debt with the highest interest.
  • Sometimes you’ll just have to wait for your bad history to fall off your record. Generally, negative info stays on your credit report for seven years. If you can’t get a debt collection removed from your credit report, for example, it’ll stay there for seven years. However, as time goes on, the toll it takes on your report lessens.
  • Don’t go it alone. If you have a good income, but you’re just bad at managing your money, a financial advisor can help. With guidance, you can make smarter choices – and even start growing your wealth. To find an advisor, use our free, no-obligation matching tool. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/becon, Â©iStock.com/Xesai, Â©iStock.com/Kerkez

The post Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Tips And Services To Help Your Bookkeeping Go Paperless

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a catalyst to shift businesses toward digital transformation, it merely sped up the process. Businesses needed to scramble to move much of their operations online so workers could efficiently collaborate with each other and maintain business continuity during a difficult time.

Fortunately, departments not traditionally associated with the digital universe, like Bookkeeping, had an easier time adapting thanks to online services like Bookstime.com, a provider of digital bookkeeping tools with unique experience in difficult areas like sales tax automation, health benefits administration, and more.

Advantages of digital bookkeeping

Keeping track of every business transaction is among the most important and perhaps underappreciated tasks. Failure to keep track of transactions in a professional manner can result in a business owner making wrong decisions because they have inaccurate information.

Even worse, they might think they end the year with a profit but in reality, a bunch of small bookkeeping mistakes over several months means the business owner really lost money.

A shift to a digital platform eliminates these concerns. Online digital platforms make use of the most up-to-date accounting automation software that erases nearly every careless mistake. This is especially useful for a business owner who does the tedious but necessary job of bookkeeping themselves to save money. The more time a business owner spends on ancillary tasks, the less time they have to generate revenue and keep clients happy.

Some of the other advantages associated with going online include:

  • Eliminating clutter: keeping a clean home office is challenging enough but a digital platform means more space for higher priority files.
  • Save time: A digital bookkeeping platform is always available online with a few short clicks of the mouse. It can be accessed as needed and when needed in a few short seconds.
  • Environmental benefits: It isn’t unusual for a company to use at least 10,000 sheets of paper each year. Shifting resources online may seem like a small benefit but everyone has a responsibility to do a little bit more to protect our environment.

Case in point: Fill in a W-4

Every business owner is happy to hire new workers because it means they are expected to provide value to the company above and beyond their salary. But that doesn’t mean that the formal process is enjoyable.

One of the more undesirable parts of the hiring process is the pesky W-4 form that every employer has to ensure is properly filled in before a worker’s first day. Simply put, the W-4 form confirms how much income tax a worker wants to have withheld from their recurring paychecks. Under-withholding taxes means a worker will likely experience a shock come tax season as they owe money to the government. Over-withholding taxes means a worker is paying the government too much money and has to wait for a refund.

Digital bookkeeping can help simplify this process so you're less prone to errors. When other people’s finances are at stake, small careless mistakes could impact a worker’s desire to give the business owner 100% of their focus.

Businesses that shifted their bookkeeping process online to better navigate through the pandemic quickly realized this was a move that should have been done years ago. The advantages of having access to a clean and organized online tool far outweigh the costs.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Compound Interest Calculator

Compound interest is one of the most important concepts to understand in investing. It’s something about investing that many people aren’t familiar with, but it plays an essential role in making investments profitable. 

If you’re curious about compound interest and how it works, good for you — you’re on the right track. In this post, you’ll find a compound interest calculator that can quickly and clearly show you how much money you might make by investing in an account that delivers compound interest. 

Use the calculator below to get a sense of your potential earnings, then read the sections below to gain more insight into how you can make money through compound interest. 

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Compound Interest Calculator
First, tell us about your investment plan by filling in the fields below.
Investment Plan:
Starting Amount:
Amount of initial investment: Total amount you will initially invest or currently have invested toward your investment goal.
Years to Accumulate:
Years to accumulate: The number of years you have to save.
Contribution Amount:
Periodic contribution: The amount you will contribute each period and the frequency at which you will make regular contributions to this investment.
Every WeekEvery Two WeeksPer MonthPer QuarterPer Year
Rate of Return:
Rate of return on investment: This is the rate of return an individual would expect from their investment. It is important to remember that these scenarios are hypothetical and that future rates of return can’t be predicted with certainty and actual rate of return can very widely over time.
Compound Frequency:
Compound frequency: Interest on an investment’s interest, plus previous interest. The more frequently this occurs, the sooner your accumulated interest will generate additional interest. You should check with your financial institution to find out how often interest is being compounded on your particular investment.
DailyMonthlySemiannuallyAnnually
Years to Accumulate:
Years to Accumulate: This is the amount of time until you withdraw or use your investments.
Your Investment Results:
Ending Amount: $0
$0
Total Investment
$0
Compound Interest Earned
$0
Simple Interest Earned
Investment Growth Over Time
Investment Breakdown
Total Investment
Compound Interest Earned
Simple Interest Earned

  • How to use a compound interest calculator
    • Investment definitions
  • How does compound interest work
    • Compound interest formula
  • Compound interest accounts
  • Compound interest FAQs

How to use a compound interest calculator

Using the compound interest calculator is simple. Follow these steps to see what you might earn through compound interest investing. 

  1. Enter your initial investment. It can be any value that you like, but it’s helpful to make it a realistic amount. For instance, if you’re saving up to invest right now, you can put the amount that you plan on investing once you’ve saved up enough. 
  2. Next, enter the amount you plan on adding to your investment portfolio each month. This can also be any value you like, but it’s most useful if you enter an amount that you can budget for. Even if that’s just an extra $10 a month, it makes a difference. 
  3. Choose whether you want your interest compounded annually, compounded monthly, or compounded daily. (If you don’t know what that means, stay tuned for the definitions below.) 
  4. Input the estimated rate of return. This can vary considerably, but index funds and similar investment vehicles can yield between 2% and 10% returns. 
  5. Input your time horizon — the amount of time until you withdraw or use your investments. 

Once you’ve filled out the calculator, you should see an estimate of the amount you’re likely to have when the period of compound investing is up. If you’re a little confused about how we got this number, or what you need to do to grow your money in this way, check out the definitions, guide, and FAQs below. 

Investment definitions

  • Compounding: This occurs when the money that is made from an investment is reinvested, increasing the total amount of interest yielded the next time your interest is compounded. 
  • Index fund: Index funds are bundled investments that roughly track the growth of a market index, which is a collection of publicly-traded companies. They are often considered lower-risk investments.
  • Interest: The money you make on your investments; essentially, the money you earn for investing in the success of a company, a government bond, or a fund.
  • Principal: The amount of money that you start out with when you begin investing.
  • Rate of returns: The rate at which you accrue interest — for example, 3% returns would mean that, for every $100 invested, you would earn $3. 
  • Returns: The money that you earn on your investments. 
  • Time horizon: The amount of time that you plan on investing.

Now that you have a few key compound interest definitions in mind, we can explain how it works. 

How does compound interest work

Having more money can help make you more money — that’s the principle behind compound interest. Here’s how that breaks down. Let’s say that you have $1000 to invest. You put it in an account (let’s say a money market account) that yields 2% interest, compounded monthly. At the end of the first month, you’d have $1020. So far, so good.

But here’s where it gets really interesting. That 2% rate of return now applies to the $1020 total, not just the principal investment of $1000. So, after the end of month 2, you’ll have $1040.40 — an added $0.40 compared to the previous month. 

That might not sound like a lot, but it starts to add up. Have you ever rolled a snowball down a hill? The same idea applies. As your money grows and adds to itself, the amount that it can add to itself the next time your interest compounds is more. It may not be a get-rich-quick scheme, but it’s a reasonably secure way to start building your net worth in the long term. 

Plus, you’re not limited to money market accounts with rates as low as 2%. If you’re willing to put a little more risk on the line, you can get returns as high as 10% in some cases. We’ll cover that more in a later section. But first, time for a little math homework (just for those who are curious!). 

  • Looking for a longer explanation? Check out our full-length guide to how to earn compound interest. 

Compound interest formula

Compound interest is really mathematically interesting. Here’s the formula: A = P(1 + r/n)(nt)

If you want to try to see what’s going on behind the scenes in our calculator, here’s how to do the math yourself using the compound interest formula. 

  • The A in the formula is the amount you’ll end up with; this comes last. 
  • The P in the formula above stands for your principal, that’s the amount that you start with. 
  • Multiply P by 1 + your interest rate r (given in a decimal; so 4% would be 0.04) divided by n, the number of times your interest is compounded in a given period. 
  • Raise all of that to the power of n times t, where t is the number of time periods elapsed. 
  • For example, if you’re investing for 12 months, and your account interest is compounded daily, n would be roughly 30, and t would be 12 if you want to know how much you’ll have in a year. 

Try the formula out yourself, and see what result you get compared to the result in our calculator to check your work!

Compound interest accounts

Now that you understand the basics of compound interest, you’re probably wondering how you harness it to increase your net worth. The key is to use accounts that offer compound interest. Here are a few examples:

  • High yield savings and money markets. These are essentially savings accounts. They aren’t investment accounts (which we’ll discuss in a minute), but they do use a similar principle to grow your money. Rates on these can be fairly low compared to other options, but your money remains accessible, so you won’t have to worry if you need access to your cash fast in an emergency.
  • Retirement accounts. If you have a 401k or IRA opened right now, good news: you’re already accessing the power of compound interest. Most retirement accounts use a diversified and stable portfolio to grow your money over time, investing in index funds, government bonds, and dividend stocks to help you build your nest egg. 
  • Investments. Of course, one of the most aggressive and effective ways to utilize the power of compound interest is to start investing. There are a number of different ways you can invest — be sure to read our guide to investing for beginners for a more thorough explanation — but all can involve compound interest. For example:
    • Dividend stocks sometimes allow you to reinvest the payout from your dividends, increasing the amount of your dividend the next time there is a payout. 
    • Index funds, like mutual funds and ETFs, also often allow investors to reinvest their earnings, harnessing compound interest in their favor. 
    • If you invest directly in stocks, you can always use the money that you earn to reinvest or invest in another stock — be aware that this is a riskier option, however. 
    • Whether you choose an in-person brokerage or a trendy new robo-advisor, you’ll likely be able to use the power of compound interest to grow your capital. 

Compound interest is a mathematical force that can help you build your net worth over time. You can get started today by finding the right investing or saving vehicle for your personal finances. And don’t forget to download the Mint app, where you can conveniently track your investments all in one place. 

Compound interest FAQs

How do I calculate compound interest?

You can calculate compound interest in one of two ways: you can use the formula listed above to calculate it by hand, or you can use the compound interest calculator to figure out your total more quickly. Just be sure you know the necessary variables:

  • The principal amount
  • Your interest rate
  • How often it’s compounded
  • The number of compounding period that will occur

What will $10,000 be worth in 20 years?

That totally depends on how much interest your account produces and whether you invest more as time goes on. 

Let’s assume an average return rate of around 7%, and assume that you don’t add in any more money. In that case, your $10,000 could turn into $40,547 — still an impressive amount. That’s the power of compound interest. 

How do you calculate compound interest monthly?

To calculate compound interest monthly, simply set the “compounding frequency” setting on the calculator above to “monthly.” Alternatively, you can use the formula above and set n equal to 1 and t equal to 12 to find out how much money you’ll have if interest is compounded monthly for a year. 

Sources

Wealthsimple | Investor.gov

The post Compound Interest Calculator appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Go Green: 5 Tips for Saving Electricity

After a few weeks of talking about ways to go green, I thought an episode on how to save electricity would be a great way to finish out this green series. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning ways to save water, to cut down on the amount of trash you create in your kitchen as well as some environmentally-friendly laundry tips.

If you’ve ever Googled “How to save electricity,” you’ve found out the hard way that there are hundreds of tips out there. Some of these tips are easy to implement, but some of the ways to save electricity that are suggested online are tips like, “Use candles instead of turning on lights.” While this will certainly save electricity, it’s not incredibly practical. That’s why I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite, easy-to-do tips to help you save electricity.

Tip #1: Save electricity by turning off lights

If your parents were like mine, you probably still have a voice rattling around your head saying, “Turn off the lights!” whenever you exit a room. Our parents had it right, because there’s absolutely no reason to keep a light on in a room you are not in. If you can commit to simply turning off the lights in every room when you leave it, you can save electricity immediately.

Whether you are going to return to the room in 10 minutes or 10 seconds, there’s no reason to have the light on while you’re not in the room.

Tip #2: Save electricity by turning off (and disconnecting!) electronics

Just like there’s no use in keeping lights on while you’re not in a room, there’s no use in keeping electronics on while you’re not using them. When you leave for the day, make sure all your electronics are off. This includes your TV, sound system, computer, and any other electronic gadgets you may have around your home.

Did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home?

Taking it one step further, did you know that electronics that are plugged in, and not even turned on, can account for 5-10% of electricity used in a home? Computers, printers, coffee makers, and even phone cords that are plugged in can be energy vampires, sucking electricity (and your hard-earned money) when they aren’t in use. So you may want to invest in a power cord that you can plug most electronic devices into. That way, you can simply unplug off just one switch when you leave for the day (instead of walking around unplugging things throughout your home). Yes, it might take 2 more seconds of your time to turn the power cord on than simply turn the electronic device on, but it can make a big impact in your electricity bill.

Tip #3: Save electricity by taking care of your air conditioner

If you live in an area of the world where you use your air conditioner a lot, this can play a major part in your energy consumption. If you want to save electricity, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your air conditioner is running as efficiently as possible.

First, have your air conditioning unit serviced annually. Most companies charge a nominal fee to have this service completed. It involves cleaning out the coils and checking for any small repairs that are making your unit work overtime. Next, make sure you change your air filters monthly. These filters catch a lot of dust and dirt, which starts to clog them. The more clogged the filters, the harder your air conditioning unit has to work to get the air to pass through the filter. If your filters are any color other than white, making a slight whistling sound, or worse yet, are bent because they are being sucked into the vent, change them immediately. This change alone will save a ton of wasted electricity from being used to cool your home.

Tip #4: Save electricity by making easy swaps

A couple of quick swaps in your house can help you save electricity. The first you may want to consider is using ceiling or box fans instead of running your air conditioner as much. Oftentimes, just circulating the air in a room will help the room feel cooler. Instead of running the massive cooling unit outside your home, a fan uses about the same amount of electricity as a light bulb. For every degree you can raise your air conditioner, you save about 5% of the energy being used. I live in the desert of Arizona and my fellow dessert-dwellers are very familiar with this technique. It costs an arm and a leg to cool a house in Arizona to 70 degrees, so most people set their thermostats between 77 and 81 degrees and run the fans to do the rest. It keeps us comfortable, both with the feeling inside our house as well as when we see our electric bills!

Another easy change is to switch incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent, otherwise known as CFL, light bulbs. CFL bulbs use just 25% of the energy of regular light bulbs, so when you combine that with always shutting them off, you can dramatically save on your electricity consumption. Just remember that CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to be disposed of properly. Check with your local government agency to see how they require these bulbs to be disposed of.

Tip #5: Save electricity by keeping nature outside

The final tip on how to save electricity is to make sure you don’t have any drafts coming into your home. If you hold a feather around the edges of your windows and doors, the feather should be perfectly still. If it wavers, that means outside air is getting into your home. The more outside air that gets into your house, the more your air conditioner or heater has to run. Seal up your windows and doors with weather stripping, which is available at your local hardware store and is relatively easy to apply.

Also, during the summertime, keep the sunshine out of your house using room darkening blinds and curtains. By keeping the sun out, especially from south and west facing windows, you will keep your house from heating up, which will do a big part in helping to save electricity.

These are just a few tips to save electricity to get you started. 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com