How Long Can You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

How Long Can You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

No one looks forward to reviewing their monthly credit card statements. But, what should you do if you find an unauthorized charge? Although frustrating, the good news is that these kinds of mistakes are reversible. If you disagree with a charge on your credit card, or believe it was an error, you will have to dispute credit card charges with your card issuer.

What is the Timeframe to Dispute Credit Card Charges?

Disputing a Charge

When it comes to errors on your credit card statement, the sooner you act the better. You typically have 60 days to dispute credit card charges. The deadline applies to both fraudulent charges and contesting purchases that did not meet expectations. However, you should check the information included in your card member agreement or look it up online in case your credit card company has a different policy.

Keep in mind that the clock starts from the day your credit card company postmarked your statement or made it available to you online. Therefore, waiting for a hard copy of your statement could cost you valuable time. If you wait too long, you will be on the hook for the charges.

Appealing the Results of an Investigation

If you have already submitted your dispute, the credit card company must also adhere to strict deadlines. Once they receive your claim, the company has one month to respond or acknowledge it. They have an additional two billing cycles to conduct an investigation into the matter. Once the company completes their investigation, they must notify you in writing with the results and final decision. If the company chooses not to remove the charge, you have 10 days to respond. Otherwise, the law views it as a closed case with no further recourse.

When Should You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

Although there are several situations in which you should dispute credit card charges, they usually fall under one of these categories.

Unauthorized Charges

An unauthorized charge is any purchase made without your permission. While this is usually the result of someone stealing your card, it also happens if a friend or family member uses your card without your express permission. In the most serious cases, unauthorized charges may indicate that you have become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

Billing or Clerical Errors

You should also dispute any charges due to billing or clerical errors. This covers a wide range of mistakes including mathematical errors in the amount charged, repeat transactions or double charging, and failure to post credits or payments to your account.

A Merchant Provides Unsatisfactory Services or Products

Lastly, you also can dispute charges if your purchase did not meet your expectations. As long as you have already contacted the merchant and attempted to resolve the problem about the transaction, your credit card company can help you dispute these charges. Furthermore, they can assist you with refunds on items that were damaged or never arrived. Unfortunately, this service is limited only for purchases of more than $50.

How Do You Dispute Credit Card Charges?

When you find unauthorized charges, you will need to contact your credit card company to remove it. Oftentimes, it’s a simple process since most companies have a zero-liability policy. This means you are not responsible for any unauthorized charges. However, there may be different processes for handling disputes depending on the credit card company.

Call the credit card company directly.

The easiest way to dispute a charge is by calling the number on the back of your card. You can speak directly with a customer service agent and report the charge. In most instances, they will remove it and file the dispute on your behalf. If necessary, they can follow up with you by email. However, if it requires more action, this is also a good chance to find out what the company needs from you to proceed.

Submit your dispute in writing.

Many experts advise that you also write a letter including details about the charge. You have to be careful when using the issuer’s website or app to file a dispute. Sometimes there are arbitration clauses that limit your rights to dispute a credit card charge in the fine print. Submitting your dispute in writing is a good way to follow up any phone conversations and establish a paper trail.  Furthermore, a letter preserves rights to dispute charges that online options might eliminate.

Additionally, the credit card may also request more documentation from you. This would be a good opportunity to include copies of your statement, receipts, police reports, and any other relevant information. Make sure to keep the original documents for yourself, but send copies of everything to Billing Inquiries. It is also wise to use certified mail and ask for a return receipt in case you need proof later on.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

The best thing you can do for yourself is to know your rights. The Fair Credit Billing Act outlines all of the consumers’ rights when disputing a charge. There is a standardized procedure everyone must follow, including creditors. Any deviation from the process could result in a dismissal of the claim.

Another way to avoid unauthorized is by making it a regular habit to check your statements regularly and monitor your accounts using online banking. When you see a discrepancy, you can take immediate action on charges you do not recognize or did not make. You can also set notifications and alerts. If you respond to an issuer’s alert, it makes a much stronger case for removing disputed charges.

Finally, keep records of everything. Take detailed notes of every interaction with the credit card company and merchants. Be sure to write down names, ID numbers, dates, times, and a summary of your conversations. If it ends up in legal action, you will have everything prepared to support your claim. In all likelihood, you won’t need it. But, it is better to be prepared for anything, just in case.

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5 Reasons to Max Out Your Roth IRA

Reasons to Max Out Your Roth IRA Contribution

Time is your greatest asset when you invest with a Roth IRA. The earlier you begin investing, the greater your dividends will be during your retirement years. So, it is easy to understand why you would want to take advantage of accounts that let you build your tax-free retirement funds. There are many reasons to max out your Roth IRA this year, not the least of which is the extension for your 2020 contributions.

The Advantages of Maxing Out Roth IRA

When it comes to starting your retirement fund, the Roth IRA is one of the best options available. When you fund a Roth IRA, you capitalize on an important tax break if you contribute your after-tax dollars now. While traditional IRAs give you immediate tax breaks on your tax return, a Roth IRA lets you make withdrawals tax-free after retirement. A Roth IRA also gives you more control over your money since you choose the amount to invest.

One attractive feature of the Roth IRA is that you can maintain it indefinitely. Since there are no Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), you are not required to make withdraws once your reach a certain age.

Additionally, you can withdraw what you put in at any time.  You only pay a penalty if you prematurely take out the earnings in your account. So, there is no need to pay taxes if you only withdraw what you put into it.

A Roth IRA is especially good for young savers who will likely be in higher tax brackets after retirement.  Thanks to compounding interest, you get the most of your money when you max out your Roth IRA from an early age. Therefore, the sooner you start funding a Roth IRA, the more time you have to accumulate assets.

The Restrictions for a Roth IRA

These types of accounts have several restrictions on them because they have the greatest returns. These limits are put in place because Roth IRAs offer such a strong incentive to invest and take advantage of them. Here are some of the most important restrictions you should be aware of, but you can find a more comprehensive explanation here that outlines every detail of contribution rules.

Making Contributions

Although you can contribute to your Roth IRA at any age, you must have earned income for the year. However, if your income exceeds the set limit, you are ineligible to make any contributions for the year. If you do qualify, you can only contribute a maximum of $6,000 annually. If your earned income is lower than the threshold, you can only match the amount made after taxes.

There are no minimum contributions required, but you cannot exceed the yearly maximum threshold. The only exception to this rule is for people over 50 who can make a catch up contribution totaling $7,000. Keep in mind though, you can only make your annual contribution up until the tax filing deadline.

Making Withdrawals

When it comes time to make withdrawals, there are no penalties for the sum you have put in. However, you cannot make withdrawals on any earnings the account has generated for at least five years. There is a 10% penalty if you withdraw the earnings within the first five years of opening and funding the account.

To start receiving distributions from your Roth IRA tax and penalty free, you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • You must be at least 59 1/2 years old.
  • The distribution will be used to help purchase, build, or rebuild the first home for an account holder or qualified family member.
  • The account holder becomes disabled.
  • The assets are being distributed to beneficiaries after the account holder’s death.

My Contributions for 2020

With a Roth IRA, you are investing in higher-quality assets so you earn even more tax-free income. So, it makes sense to max out these accounts first. Especially now, when you have an extra month to get your contributions for an extra month thank to the extended tax filing deadline.

When I returned to the U.S. last year, I began investing by setting up my first retirement account with a Roth IRA. Unfortunately, I fall under a weird caveat of restrictions placed on foreign earned income. Although I had been working in country for a few months of the 2020 fiscal year, I am only able to match watch I earned domestically. This amount was less than limits set for maxing out a Roth IRA, so I will not be able to make a full contribution for 2020. However, it will give me a good head start for 2021.

5 Reasons to Max Out You Roth Contribution This Year

Any financial advisor can provide a long list of reason why it is a good idea to begin investing sooner rather than later. However, here are five great reasons you should max out your Roth IRA contributions for 2020 as well.

1. The IRS extended the tax filing deadline this year.

Now is the best time of all for maxing out your Roth IRA contribution. This year, you have an extra month for 2020 contribution thanks to the filing extension deadline until May 17.

2. You can begin accruing tax-free income for retirement now.

Retirement may not be on your mind if you are just starting your career, but it is never too early to begin investing in your future. Every dollar you contribute today equates to more tax-free income available to you in your golden years.

3. With time on your side, compounding interest is reason enough to open a Roth IRA.

Since you are unable to easily access the earnings from a Roth IRA, it encourages the account holder not to make withdrawals. If the principle amount remains untouched, compounding interest will drastically increase your initial investment. If you have time on your side, compounding interest is your best friend.

4. You never know when circumstance will change.

At some point in your future, you may not qualify for Roth IRA contributions. So, it is wise to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

5. A Roth IRA protects against increased taxation rates.

Taxes are most people’s biggest expense after retirement. Therefore, maxing out your Roth IRA means you keep more of your money since withdrawals are tax free.

Furthermore, if you add more money now, a Roth IRA protects you against increased taxation rate. Other retirement accounts like 401(k) and traditional IRAs will be heavily taxed when you withdraw. However, the money you add to your Roth IRA would be unaffected by any future rise in taxation rates.

As you can see, there are several good reasons to max out your Roth IRA this year. Contact your financial advisor with and specific questions about how to set up and take advantage of these retirement accounts.

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How to Get Over Buyer’s Remorse

How to Get Over Buyer's Remorse

The truth is that we all make unwise purchases and financial decisions at some point in our lives. Nobody is perfect. Even with the best of intentions, we occasionally make mistakes that lead to buyer’s remorse. However, it can be difficult to pick yourself up and move on afterwards. Here are some tips and pieces of advice to help you deal with and get over buyer’s remorse.

What is Buyer’s Remorse?

In the simplest terms, buyer’s remorse is the feeling of regret after making a big purchase or investment. The regret is often accompanied by stress, anxiety, or panic as well.

For most people, these feelings usually happen after making expensive purchases, such as a house or vehicle. However, we also experience them after buying smaller things that we believe we paid too much for. In some cases, you may even consider returning the item or pretending the purchase never happened.

Most psychologists attribute buyer’s remorse to the concept of cognitive dissonance. The reason it happens is because the action of buying something expensive contradicts the perception you have of yourself as frugal or having responsible spending habits. Buyer’s remorse is a result of your internal battle between the need to avoid risks and consequences versus the desire to get what makes you happy.

How Do You Deal With and Get Over Buyer’s Remorse?

For many people, these emotions are so deeply ingrained that they never fully get over buyer’s remorse. However, there are always ways to cope with it. Like most problems, the first step is to find the cause and understand where the regret is coming from. Once you know the source of your feelings, it becomes easier to accept that you made a mistake and move on from it.

If you are experiences feelings of regret over a recent purchase, here are some methods to help you get over and move past your buyer’s remorse.

1. Remind yourself of all the reason for making the purchase.

Unless you made an impulse buy, you probably had several reasons for spending the money. Take a few moments to remind yourself of the reasons why you made the purchase. Reflect on the circumstances the led to your decision to help you determine whether your feelings are valid or misplaced.

2. Determine whether you actually regret the purchase, or just the amount you spent.

Sometimes buyer’s remorse is confused with the guilt about spending money in general. If you are experiencing these emotions solely based on the sticker price, you can get over buyer’s remorse by reminding yourself of the value of quality over quantity. Investing in better quality homes, vehicles, and items will require more money up front. However, they will also last much longer, saving you more money over time.

3. Practice self-forgiveness.

If you truly have made a mistake, you have to remember you are only human. We all stumble at times, but you cannot continue to beat yourself up for past mistakes. Practice a little self-forgiveness and cut yourself some slack. You cannot always undo a mistake once it has been done. So, it is better to take the lesson from the situation, but leave the regret behind. Holding on to guilt is a waste of valuable time and energy.

4. Try to recoup some of the financial losses.

In some instances, you may be able to recover a portion of the money you lost. Reselling unwanted items can at least help lessen the sting of large financial mistakes. Don’t force yourself to keep something you don’t like just because it cost a lot of money.

Even if you are unable to sell the unwanted item, you can always give it to someone who really needs it or would appreciate it more than you. Furthermore, you can adjust your budget and tighten the purse strings in other areas to save a little extra to compensate for your buying indiscretions.

How Do You Avoid Buyer’s Remorse in the Future?

Once you realize where you went wrong, the best way to get over buyer’s remorse is to make a plan of how you can avoid it in the future.

1. Research and compare before you buy.

Before making any big purchase, spend some time comparing your options and researching what features you actually need. The more you know about the item you are buying, the more difficult it will be for salesmen to talk you into buying more than you need. Doing your homework also means you are less likely to regret your decision later on.

2. Make a pros and cons list.

Whenever I am struggling with a decision, I use the old Ben Franklin approach. I list out the pros and cons of the purchase so I can better evaluate my decision. More often than not, I have an answer by the time I complete the list. Sometimes things become clearer when they are plainly printed out for you in black and white.

3. Stick to the list of budget you have created for yourself.

Once you have decided that the purchase is necessary, the next step is to set a clear budget and list of required features. When you know exactly what you are looking for, it is easier to resist the temptation to buy upgrades or add-ons you don’t really need.

4.Take a day and sleep on your decision.

This is one of the easiest and best techniques to help you avoid buyer’s remorse. First, it removes any pressure you feel to make a decision on the spot. Second, it also allows the excitement dissipate so reason can prevail.

Sleeping on your decision gives you more time to revisit your pros and cons list, compare options, and gather information. Taking an extra day to decide can help you make more practical decisions. When you remove your emotions from the equation, it is easier to see whether you are acting on impulse or making a good decision.

Feeling buyer’s remorse after a large purchase is perfectly natural. However, understanding where your feelings come from and recognizing your mistakes can prevent you from making them again and help you get over buyer’s remorse.

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The IRS Extends the Tax Deadline for 2021

The IRS Delays the Tax Deadline for 2021

Every American knows what April 15th means, and if you are like me, dreads the day every year. However, this year the IRS announced that it would delay the IRS tax filing deadline for the second consecutive year. Although it is not as long as the previous extension, this year taxpayers have until May 17 to complete their returns and pay outstanding levies. Many are grateful to have the extra time to sort through the confusion caused by the pandemic, including the IRS itself. But the most important question is…how will the extension affect you?

IRS Tax Deadline Delayed to May 17

The IRS just announced that taxpayers have till May 17 this year to file their returns. That means you have an extra 32 days to complete your paperwork or consult with your financial advisor about your taxes. If you are mailing it in, you must postmark it by midnight to avoid penalties. For those filing online, you will receive an electronic acknowledgement by email once you complete it.

This delay only applies for the year of 2020. For individual taxpayers, including those who are self-employed, first quarter estimated payments are still due on the regularly scheduled dates. Furthermore, it will not affect anyone who already applied for the October 15 extension.

Reasons for the Delayed Tax Deadline

The American government recognizes that the last year has been full of financial uncertainties for everyone. So, the IRS delayed the tax filing deadline for 2020 to provide extra time to “navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic.” Since many taxpayers are dealing with filing questions they have never encountered before, both accountants and lawmakers called for an extension of the IRS tax filing deadline as well. As many prepare their returns, there will be many lingering questions that will require guidance from the IRS.

However, if you have tried contacting someone at the IRS, you likely had to wait a very long time to talk to someone. This is due to the fact that their operations have been severely scaled back. And let’s not forget that in addition to its usual workload, it has also been issuing the next round of stimulus checks as well. In short, its offices have been understaffed and overwhelmed.

The extension of the deadline gives the IRS more time to process the massive amount of paperwork and calls they are handling. Not only will there be more complicated returns this year, but the IRS is also still processing remaining returns from 2019. There are an estimated 24 million returns still waiting to be logged. Furthermore, there is also an increased number of refinanced mortgages, estate, trust, and final returns. With new changes in the tax laws taking effect from December 27, 2020, this year is shaping up to become one of the most trying years for the IRS in recent memory.

How the Tax Deadline Affects You

No actions are required to take advantage of the new deadline. Every taxpayer automatically qualifies for the extension. Therefore, you will have an extra month to sort through the confusion and straighten out any problems you come across. Whether you are dealing with stimulus payments or waiting for updated forms, the extension offers you some breathing room. It also allows more time to raise funds you owe or get professional advice if necessary. This is especially good news for small business owners and the self-employed who have been among the hardest hit this tax season.

Claiming Exemptions and Deductions

Others are waiting to receive updated forms to ensure they file correctly under the new changes. For some, this means this will have to resubmit returns to claim additional deductions or exemptions. One of the most significant changes is the exemption for up to $10,200 of jobless benefits. Keep in mind this only applies at the federal level. Each state will have their own laws they determine on a case by case basis. While most are likely to adjust their deadlines as well, you should monitor the situation so you do not end up filing late if your state does not extend it.

Missing Stimulus Payments

There is another good piece of those who need to address issues with their stimulus payments. If you never received your stimulus checks, or need to contest the amount deposited, now is your chance. You can claim the missing funds on your 2020 tax return.

If the IRS owes you money, you will need to find the Recovery Rebate Credit. You can find it listed on line 30 of the 1040 and 1040-SR Forms. This line lets you claim the missing checks or the discrepancy in the amount actually deposited. Once you enter this information, it will either increase your refund or deduct from any money you owe the IRS.

Future Extensions

Another thought on everyone’s minds is if the IRS will consider additional extensions as the pandemic continues. The IRS has the authority to extend the deadline even further without Congressional approval though if they deem it necessary. Last year taxpayers had until July 15 to file. However, this caused many difficulties for businesses whose fiscal year ended June 30.  So, when it comes to the question of a similar extension this year, your guess is as good as anyone’s. Although it does not appear to be necessary at this time, it is definitely a possibility.

It is important to note that even if you file for a longer extension, you must still pay 90% what is owed by May 17 or face late payment penalties. The new filing date does not exempt you from paying taxes, but rather delays the inevitable. As the IRS finishes distributing stimulus checks and processing tax returns, they still urge you not to wait. They have even issued guidelines to help speed everything along so you can get your money faster. Deadlines have a tendency to creep up on you, so do not wait until the last minute or count on additional extensions to file your 2020 tax returns.

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Fun Jobs after Retirement

Fun Jobs after Retirement

Although we all look forward to relaxing after retirement, many retirees are choosing to return to work during their golden years. In fact, 55 percent of Americans plan on working after retirement according to a recent study. Whether it is to earn extra cash to supplement your income, preserve your retirement funds, stay active, or simply because you miss social interactions, there are many fun jobs available to you after retirement. Here are a few low-stress jobs that cater to a wide variety of interests.

Solo Pursuits

Repair Work (Computer, Car, Home)

If you have honed technical repair skills, there is a high demand for your expertise. In particular, there is currently a huge market for cheap computer repair skills. Since there will also continue to be a need in the years to come, these jobs are also a fairly reliable source of income. Service and simple repair jobs are also a good outlet for those who like to work with their hands. The luxury of repair work is that you can scale back or increase your workload based on what you feel you can handle.

Freelance Writing

If you have a knack for composition, freelance writing is a great way to earn extra income after retirement. Not only can you work from anywhere, but it also allows you to apply your knowledge in a new way. You can browse through the different contracts online to see if your skill set matches their needs. If you find something that piques your interests, put in a bid and see if writing jobs are right for you.

Landscaping and Gardening

For those who enjoy the outdoors, landscaping and gardening are a great way to stay active and enjoy nature. You could check with local companies for openings or start a garden if you have a green thumb. There are plenty of opportunities to sell your home-grown produce at the farmers market or set up a roadside stand. Of course, you should check local regulations, but it is a good source of fresh vegetables and cash.

Arts and Crafts

If you are the creative type, you can try selling your works of art as a side job. It lets you turn your hobbies into fun jobs after retirement. Online marketplaces like Etsy allow you work from home and reach a wider customer base through their websites. You can also attend local or seasonal craft shows to help you sell what you make. When it comes to selling arts and crafts, your revenue potential is only limited by your own imagination.

Social Jobs for Retirees

Teaching

If you have an advanced degree, teaching jobs could be a employment option after retirement. Many educational institutions seek out instructors who have a wealth of real-life experience. Reach out to schools or local learning institutions that you would be interested to work with.  There are also ways to earn income by developing and selling course content based on your career expertise. Sites like Udemy.com help you earn more passive income after retirement.

Driving

One job will always have great security, because there will always be a need for drivers. With ride share and delivery apps like Lyft , Uber, and DoorDash, there are more options to earn money from side jobs than ever before. All you need is a car, a valid driver’s license, and the time to do it. The best part is that you determine how often and when you want to work. For the social butterflies, it is also a great way to meet new people from all walks of life.

Caretaking

Caretaking is a great option for both temporary and long term income revenue. You can look for part-time jobs that offer flexible hours or more permanent positions with steady income. Search for babysitting jobs if you enjoy spending time with children. There also find positions to assist with elder care to ensure they receive the attention they need. Animal lovers can offer services to pet owners who want to avoid expensive kennel fees. Caretaking jobs are a great way to meet both your social and financial needs.

Retail

If you want to work in retail, there are many fun jobs for you after retirement. Check for part-time or seasonal positions at your favorite stores. Retail jobs can help keep you sharp and meet new people. Although they are physically taxing at times, they also have many social benefits. The bonus of working in sales is that stores usually offer an employee discount as well.

Fun Jobs for Travelers

House Sitting

Since you have plenty of free time to travel after retirement, you have flexible hours that are perfect for housesitting. There are several websites posting positions to watch people’s homes while they are away. Some are temporary positions for only a week or two, like annual vacations. Others are seeking more long-term employees for vacation homes and rental properties. You can also search out these jobs in vacation destinations and help cover your travel expenses.

Tour Guide

Tour guides have fun jobs after retirement. It is the ideal job for those who live in places that attract many tourists every year. It does require a combination of skills, but these types of jobs allow you to teach, socialize, and get outdoors. You also get to do something you enjoy while getting plenty of physical exercise. Working as a tour guide could also be an interesting way to learn more about where you live.

Consultancy Jobs after Retirement

The best paying job for retirees are usually consultancy positions. For those who are highly trained or have years of professional experience, you can contract out your special skills. You could use your knowledge to find business solutions or develop structured frameworks for businesses to follow. Since these jobs are largely dependent on your networking and technical skills, there is more variation in how much they bring in. However, you have more marketability if you are familiar with software applications. The greatest draw to consulting work is that you can choose which clients to work with and determine your own schedules and fees.

If you are seeking new job opportunities after retirement, there are many opportunities available to you. Depending on your interests, needs, and skills, there are many fun jobs after retirement that could provide extra financial and social benefits during your golden years.

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Is Dogecoin a Joke?

Is Dogecoin a Joke?

Within months, what started as an internet joke quickly became one of the most highly valued cryptocurrencies. Spurred on by its base of online supporters, Dogecoin quickly changed from a joke to something very real.

What is Dogecoin?

Even if you are unfamiliar with internet meme culture, you have probably heard about Dogecoin in recent months.  Pronounced “dohj-coin,” it is a cryptocurrency that facilitates individual transactions through a decentralized network. Like its predecessor Bitcoin, you can get coins by solving math puzzles.

However, Dogecoin was never intended to be a legitimately traded digital currency. It combined the concept of blockchains with a popular internet meme featuring a Shiba Inu that spoke in monosyllabic words that appeared in comic sans font. Its creators never dreamed it would blow up like it did. Rather, they expected Dogecoin to quickly die off once the novelty of the joke wore off.

Where Did Dogecoin Start?

Dogecoin was born from a joke between two software engineers from opposite sides of the globe. Jackson Palmer, who describes himself as your “average geek,” was working as an Adobe software engineer in Australia when he came up with the idea. He combined two wildly popular cultural phenomena – the Doge meme and cryptocurrency – to create Dogecoin.

Meanwhile, an IBM software engineer, Billy Markus, had been developing a new cryptocurrency derived from Litecoin. Markus was looking to appeal to a broader market interested in more than profits. After posting the idea for Dogecoin, Markus tweeted at Palmer, expressing his interest to work together. Both men thought it was funny, so they ran with the joke and made an actual coin stamped with the meme. In December 2013, the pair launched Dogecoin and it soon gained traction among the Reddit community.

How Is Dogecoin Different from Other Cryptocurrencies?

While many speculate that Bitcoin will revolutionize monetary transactions in the 21st century, Dogecoin is a meme that has been stamped on a coin. Its founders never had plans to compete with larger cryptocurrencies. Markus and Palmer created Dogecoin as a joke. It was never designed to serve any other purpose that to get a few laughs.

Like other cryptocurrencies, you mine the coins by completing math puzzles. However, the rewards are entirely random. You could earn anywhere from a single coin to several hundred coins for each one you solve. Furthermore, there were no limits on the number of coins the system could produce.

How Did Dogecoin Become More Than a Joke?

Although Dogecoin started out as a joke, that was all about to change. Reddit threads quickly picked it up and users began trading it as a source of kudos and thanks for comments. After the introduction of the “tipping bot,” stock prices soared as people continued tipping each other with Dogecoin. However, as they shared the cryptocurrency, it greatly expanded the user base and increased its value.

One week after it launched, Dogecoin become the second-most used cryptocurrency for internet tipping. The community grew as it created mining pools and normalized trading Dogecoin between members. One reason for its widespread popularity comes from the Internet sub-culture that prides itself on its irreverent attitude towards corporate America and Wall Street. The fact that it started as a joke is partially what helped drive the buzz about it.

Another factor that helped legitimize Dogecoin as a viable cryptocurrency was the famous people attaching their names to it. Dogecoin was no long a joke when it was validated by a $1.5 million investment from Tesla. Memes and social media posts from celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Soulja Boy, and Gene Simmons further popularized it. Elon Musk even posted one himself with a spoof fashion cover titled “Dogue.” Following a string of tweets as well, Dogecoin shares skyrocketed nearly 1,500% this year.

What is the Current Value?

Dogecoin hit a new milestone in 2017 when it reached $2 billion. However, it now has an estimated market value around $10 billion. Its stocks are worth more than Under Armour, Western Union, and Xerox.

When the markets opened on January 1, 2021, Dogecoin sold at $0.0057 per share. Within a few short weeks, it peaked on February 7 at $0.0788. Since the beginning of the year, the valuation has stabilized, closing at $0.055 on Friday, March 12.

What Can I Use Dogecoin for?

Even though shares are only worth about a nickel each, you can still buy and sell Dogecoin. As long as you have a credit card, you can purchase it through cryptocurrency exchanges and trading apps. Any exchange where you can trade Dogecoin will also convert it into traditional currencies as well.

Although cryptocurrency has not yet become a standardized form of payment for most major retailers, it is still worth something. You can trade in your Dogecoin at dogeswag.com for a wide selection of doge swag apparel. There is also the option to redeem gift cards at Bitrefill.

What’s the Future for Dogecoin?

Dogecoin’s rapid rise was primarily driven by Reddit users. However, when profiteers began taking over and driving up its valuation, both founders quickly got out of the venture. Both Palmer and Markus have distanced themselves from the cryptocurrency, especially after the Moolah debacle.

Instead, the founders have given all their Dogecoin to charity initiatives to use Dogecoin as force for good. When the Jamaican bobsled team qualified for the Winter Olympics in 2014, they set up a Dogecoin address on subreddit and raised $25,000 for them. They have also raised money to build wells in Kenya and train service dogs for autistic children.

When questioning the future of Dogecoin, I look at how the creators view it themselves. In an interview, Markus stated that he doesn’t “think it solves anything. If anything, it exists as an educational tool. It’s a reminder that we can’t take this stuff seriously. ”

What we can all learn from Dogecoin is that future of cryptocurrency remains uncertain. Until it becomes a widely accepted for retail transactions, it will always be vulnerable to the market’s volatility. As Markus advised, “keep educating yourself as much as you can on how cryptocurrency works, how these markets work, never risk more than you could safely lose, be vigilant and aware.”

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What Are Your Retirement Options after Employment Termination?

What Are Your Retirement Options after Employment Termination?

When you leave a job, there are several loose ends that you will need to tie up. One important consideration when you leave your position is what to do with your employer-sponsored retirement accounts. If you are new to investing or not well-versed in financial matters, you may be wondering what your retirement options are after employment termination. You have a few choices. But, some are better than others. Before you make any major decision, you must evaluate eligibility requirements, know the tax implications, and compare the fees and investment options available to you.

Options for Your Retirement Plans after Employment Termination

1. Leave it where it is.

Depending on how much you have invested in the employer-sponsored 401(k), you may be able to leave your money in the current account. If you have more than $5,000 invested in the old plan, most companies allow you to maintain your retirement account. Even if you are no longer work for the employer, you may be able to leave your money parked in the account.

This will be most beneficial to you if the old plan has low fees, good investment options, or you have a large balance. If you go in this direction, you could always roll it over to a different account in the future as well.

However, if the balance is less than $5,000, your former employer might require you to move it after employment termination. For balances under $1,000, the company could force you out by simply writing a check. But, for balances between $1,000 – $5,000, your former employer must assist you in setting up an IRA if they are forcing you out of their plan.

When considering you retirement options after employment termination, this may not the best one for you. You may want to consider alternatives if you are likely to forget about it, let the account sit dormant, or you are not impressed by the terms. Your former employer’s plan may have more limited options when compared to various IRA offerings or your new employer’s retirement savings program.

2. Roll it over to a plan with your new employer.

Another possibility is to roll over the balance to your new employer’s retirement plan. Most companies will allow new employees to enroll in their retirement savings plan once they have reached the minimum length of employment. It is a fairly simple process, and only requires some paperwork to complete a direct transfer. The administrator of your former plan can deposit the balance of the previous account into your new one.

Rolling your retirement plan into a new one prevents you from paying any taxes on the balance. If you do not want the direct transfer, you can also have your former employer issue a check for the balance. Then, you can deposit the funds yourself. However, you must do so within 60 days. Otherwise, you will pay income tax for the entire lump sum. Before you close the first account, make sure the new 401(k) is set up and able to receive balance transfers.

This option is cost-effective because you can defer taxation. Additionally, you can consolidate your funds into a single account rather than keeping track of several different retirement accounts after employment termination. It also makes things easier down the line for family members or heirs when they need to handle your financial affairs. Just be sure to compare the available options and fees. Once you transfer the balance, you cannot go back to your old plan.

3. Roll it over to an IRA.

If your new employee does not have a retirement plan for its employees or the options are not ideal, you should consider rolling it into an IRA. Whether you choose a traditional or Roth IRA, the account will be in your name. Therefore, you have greater control over the account and can choose any financial institution you like. Since you are not restricted by your employer, you have freedom to decide how and where you invest your money.

There are few restrictions or limitations on these kinds of transfers. Furthermore, both traditional and Roth IRAs provide a wide range of low-cost offerings. Consolidating your investments into a single account also makes them easier to track.

If you go this route, you will have to include the untaxed amount in your gross income for the fiscal year you completed the rollover. But, if you meet certain qualifications, future withdrawals could be tax-free.

4. Begin taking distributions.

If you are nearing retirement age, you may want to begin taking distributions from your accounts. You can begin receiving distributions at age 55. But, you may have to pay the penalty on the taxable portion of it. Most retirement accounts dictate that you must be 59 ½ to receive distributions without the 10% tax penalty on early withdrawals. However, those who retire between the ages of 55 and 59 ½ do not need to pay this penalty.

Many people avoid this option because of the taxation and penalty fees. Moreover, when you begin receiving distributions from a traditional 401(k) you will need to pay income tax. On the other hand, distributions from your IRA will be tax free as long as you meet the age requirements and had the account a minimum of five years.

5. Cash out the balance of the account.

The last resort is to cash out your retirement accounts. However, if you liquidate your retirement accounts early, you will have to pay taxes on the full amount in addition to the 10% penalty. Most financial advisors warn against this because you are depleting your retirement savings. Unless you need the cash now, it is better to leave it in your accounts until the balance and distribution payments are tax-deferred.

Explore Your Retirement Options

Before making any major financial decisions, you should explore all your options. Weigh the pros and cons and determine which route gets you closer to your financial goals. There are many online resources that can help you make informed decisions. However, there is no shame in admitting you need help if you are in over your head. When in doubt, it is always wise to seek professional advice.

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The SMBX: Changing the Way You Invest in Small Businesses

SMBX: A new way to invest

As an individual investor, I am always looking for new and innovative ways to diversify my portfolio and increase my earnings. I already have a healthy range of holdings in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

However, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to generate passive income. That’s where platforms like the SMBX come in. This new marketplace directly engages with its investors to make it simpler for you to invest in small businesses.

The platform is somewhat complicated and new, so here is some explanation of what it is.

What is the SMBX?

The SMBX is new investment platform where small business owners can directly connect to the public. Their model utilizes regulation crowdfunding to allow small businesses to go straight to the source. As their tagline states, individual investors get to “be the bank,” providing an entirely new way to raise capital. Rather than purchasing stock in a specific company, any investor can buy small business financial securities through their marketplace.

What sets the SMBX apart is that they have created a new asset class: the Small Business Bond. The idea is to help small businesses generate capital through bonds instead of relying on bank loans. Private investors purchase bonds, which are debt-based financial assets. The investor (you) loans money to an issuer (the small business) for a period of time. In exchange, the issuer has a legal obligation to repay them, plus interest.

It is a win-win scenario for everyone. Small businesses can bypass the loan process to get the funding they need at better prices than banks offer. Meanwhile, investors have more control over where their money goes since you can pick which small businesses to invest in.

What are the Advantages of Investing with SMBX?

The greatest advantage of the SMBX is that it creates new options for both small businesses and individual investors. Unlike other marketplaces that emphasize equity, the SMBX is transforming small business debt through community engagement. Additionally, investors have the opportunity to affect change by supporting these businesses. What seems like a modest investment to the individual has the potential to impact not only the business owners, but also the people they serve.

For Small Businesses

The greatest benefit to small businesses is that they have the ability to bypass traditional lenders. Small companies no longer have to be captive to bank loans. It is much easier and cheaper to raise capital through Small Business Bonds since they can appeal directly to the public. Furthermore, there are less regulations and fees associated with this type of asset. Here is what their website says:

SMBX value for businesses

For Investors

There are even more advantages for individual investors. Since you get to replace corporate banks, you have the ability to affect change within your community. You support local commerce when you invest in small businesses, allowing them to continue operating. What seems like a modest investment from the individual can have a huge impact on hundreds of people by creating more jobs locally and returning profits back to their communities.

Another benefit is that the SMBX welcomes non-accredited investors to join. The platform is easily accessible and very user-friendly. There are no investors fees and you can begin with as little as $10. The average returns on investments is approximately 6.5%, and it pays the principle plus interest each month.

What are the Disadvantages?

As with any investment, there is always risk. It is possible that your investment will not see profitable returns, and you could lose your money. SMBX is offering bonds, so you’ll want to read the bond prospectus for each offering.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the SMBX is a relatively new platform. Any financial advisor will tell you that it is risky to invest with new firms that have a short history. However, the expertise and combined experience of the founders give me confidence that I’m not throwing my money away.

One thing that I was disappointed with was the limited offerings. Since it is a relatively new marketplace, this makes sense. However, I hope to see a wider variety of small businesses on the marketplace and more frequently updated offerings in the future.

Here are some of the companies in their marketplace offering bonds.

SMBX Offerings

How Do You Start Investing with SMBX?

Getting started was the easiest part. It is simple to sign up. First, you need to create an account, which requires you to enter your personal details. They will ask for typical information including your legal name, address, estimated income, and estimated net worth. Once you verify your email and add a payment method, you are ready to get started. Just be aware that you must link to either a credit card or bank account to your profile.

After you confirm and submit everything, you can then browse the available offerings and choose which one to invest with. I carefully looked at each one, evaluating their financial goals, bond duration, expected yield, and overall mission.

Once I reviewed my options, I chose to purchase my first Small Business Bonds from ChildWise because I am very passionate about education. Furthermore, the bonds I bought have an estimated 8% yield. Not only can I feel good about where I am investing, but it also seems like I will see good returns.

Why Should You Use SMBX to Invest in Small Businesses?

My initial experience with the SMBX has been extremely positive. I feel it is important to find innovative ways to directly connect investors with the small businesses they want to invest in. Through their marketplace, investors are able to engage and interact with the company in an entirely new way. As the markets continue to evolve, it is important that small businesses find ways to thrive.

The best part is that it creates new revenue streams for your portfolio by supporting your local community.  You don’t need thousands of dollars to get started. Even a modest investment in Small Business Bonds with a high yield can significantly increase your earnings. You can get started with as little as $10 and choose from the latest offerings at the SMBX. The bonds pay between 4% and 9%, which is higher than most bank accounts, although you are taking a bit more risk.

By way of a quick wrap up here, if your looking for some additional revenue and you like the idea of investing in small businesses, you can sign up here.

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Energy Stocks during America’s Cold Snap

Energy Stocks Have High Performance during the Cold Snap

This February brought another bout of extreme weather to the United States. As subzero temperatures swept across the country, energy providers experienced unprecedented demands for heat and electricity. While many of us were watching the news, financial analysts have been watching how these winter storms affect energy stocks during this cold snap.

Record Lows during America’s Cold Snap

Normally, Arctic temperatures are contained within the polar vortex by the jet stream. However, the pressure systems usually concentrated around the North Pole pushed winter snow storms south. It brought snow and freezing temperatures to some of the driest, hottest parts of the country.

At one point, an estimated 150 million Americans experienced winter storm warnings. Meteorologists said roughly 73% of the country received snowfall. Many who live in the northern regions have seen these conditions before. But, southern states proved they were unprepared to deal with energy demands during the cold snap.

For the first time in the state’s history, every county in Texas was under winter storm warnings. At the coldest point of these extreme weather conditions, it was colder in Dallas than it was in Anchorage. When these drastic changes in temperature occur, it becomes dangerous to be outside. There are serious concerns of frostbite, hypothermia, and death when the power grid is disrupted.

Dealing with Rising Energy Demands

The Midwest and Southern parts of the United States faced record low temperatures that tested the limits of the power supply. To cope with rising energy usage, SPP implemented rotating power outages. The company had to reduce demand on their power grid in 14 states. By Sunday February 14, it became clear that supply and distribution would reach critical levels.

Rolling power outages began February 15, with residents told to expect them to last about 30-60 minutes. Here in the Midwest, we were left without power for up to an hour at a time. But, local providers quickly restored electricity and heat. Although it was inconvenient, the worst part was not knowing when or which part of the city would be affected.

However, it becomes more serious in places where the infrastructure is not designed for such extreme temperatures. The blackouts left 4.3 million people without heat and electricity in Texas. Some residents criticized the lack of response and preparedness, especially those who lost loved ones due to the extreme temperatures.

Energy Stocks Performance During the Cold Snap

As bitter temperatures drove up the country’s demand, the energy sector saw significant gains. Natural gas prices skyrocketed by 7.5%, reaching the highest levels since November. Meanwhile, oil prices also saw a boost. Oil production dropped to approximately 2 million barrels a day. This drove prices to more than $60 a barrel, the highest they have been since January 2020.

The Winners

Comstock Resources was one of the biggest winners. They reported that it was “like hitting the jackpot” since it was able to sell natural gas for premium prices. EQT Corp, a natural gas provider based in the shale regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania, also saw gains from the high prices. Australia’s Macquarie Group also expects to see a 10% rise in profits this year.

With large swaths or refineries out of commission along the Gulf Coast, companies like Valero Energy Corp and HollyFrontier Corp also saw increased production. Other refiners, like Shell and Total, have little exposure to the Texas markets. So, they are also in a prime position to ramp up production and increase profits.

The Losers

Unfortunately, many other utilities providers reported huge losses due to the winter storms. Alternative power sources became ineffective with wind turbines and natural gas wells freezing over.

Innergex Renewable Energy Inc estimates the financial impact on their Texas wind farms to be about $48 million. Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp adjusted their projected core earnings by $45-55 million due to restricted production. Just Energy doubts they will be able to continue after it forecasted $250 million in losses.

Furthermore, the extreme weather also interfered with transportation of oil and shutdown many refineries. The country’s hub of refineries along the Gulf Coast were the hardest hit. Exxon Mobil and Phillips 66 halted operations, losing 19% of the U.S.’s refining capacity. Diamondback Energy expects to lose at least five days of production. Other southern shale oil producers say it could take two weeks to restart their crude oil operations.

As milder temperatures return, you can be certain that financial analysts and investors alike will continue to watch the energy sector.

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Best Trade Simulator Apps for New Investors

What Are the Best Trade Simulator Apps?

The stock market can be an intimidating place for new investors. If you have no training or background in finance, investing your hard-earned money seems like a huge gamble. There is always some level of risk associated with investing. However, the best trade simulator apps allow you to test the waters before you dive in head first. Creating and trading with a virtual portfolio lets you learn through experience without risking real money.

How Do Trade Simulator Apps Work?

In essence, trade simulators use practice accounts, also referred to as paper trading accounts, as an experiential educational tool. Even better, most of them are free once you set up your account. The purpose of these apps is to provide a learning environment for new investors within real time market conditions. Users have access to the same tools utilized by active investors, including live feeds and tickers, watch lists, and stock screens. However, since you are using “play money,” you eliminate all financial risk.

Additionally, you can use trade simulator apps in a variety of ways. Individual investors can test new ideas and strategies before making any changes to their actual portfolio. You can also make a game of it by inviting friends, family, or coworkers to join a friendly competition. Investors that get the highest returns at the end are the winners. But, since you are not investing real money, there are no losers.

What Benefits Do Trade Simulator Apps Offer?

As an educator, I firmly believe that the best way to learn something is by doing it. The only way to get better at something is through practice and repetition. If you have never invested or learned about the stock market, trade simulator apps are a great place to start. Here’s why:

1. There is no risk since you are investing fake money.

The best part about trade simulator apps is that there is zero risk. Since you are trading with virtual currency, you can be as conservative or aggressive as you like. If it is your first time investing, these apps allow you to get your feet wet without risking your retirement accounts. If you make a bad trade, it is a lesson learned rather than a nest egg lost.

2. You can test new investing strategies and individual stock picks.

Trade simulator apps provide a safe place to learn the basics. You can begin with the fundamental mechanics of investing, then move on to other trading options. Since it is virtual money, you are free to take more chances and make mistakes as well.

Furthermore, it gives your room to explore potential strategies and ideas. Although financial experts tell you to avoid taking advice from just anyone online, these trading platforms act as a safety net. Not only does it protect your finances, but it will also help you determine which advisors have the most credibility.

3. You have access to their full library of educational resources.

In addition to real-time trading, you also can get a focused education through their resources. You can find articles, tutorials, videos, and demos on nearly every investment topic imaginable. Moreover, you can also join the online communities where you can interact with other investors and discuss strategies.

These free resources will help you become a more savvy investor by learning and mastering the basics. They can also teach you how to factor in outside variables, such as trading costs, and perform stock analysis. Understanding how these factors affect the market will help you see the broader economic picture and become a more successful investor.

4. There is less emotional investment in the outcome.

Lastly, trade simulator apps remove emotion from the equation. They grant you a more objective view since your money is not at stake. Riding the markets’ highs and lows can bring a roller coaster of emotions. However, the apps give you a preview of market volatility and how you will react to them.

What Are The Best Trade Simulator Apps?

There are a lot of trade simulator apps out there. However, these three are consistently recommended by financial experts and analysts across the web.

Wall Street Survivor

This trade simulator app has withstood the test of time…and for good reason. Wall Street Survive is a fountain of personal finance and investing knowledge. It offers more than 30 courses which you can complete at your own pace. Each one provides step-by-step instruction to help you succeed in the stock market.

Once you are ready to invest your virtual cash, it is time to get in the game. You can join the leagues and work your way to the top, or start your own game. All the while, you can apply different trading strategies as you play the stock markets. As you improve, you will earn more virtual cash, badges, and even compete for real prizes.

Market Watch Virtual Stock Exchange

This app is also popular with adult investment clubs and first time investors. Just like the other trade simulator apps out there, you create a virtual portfolio to trade real-time stocks. However, as you develop you investing strategies, you can also turn on more advanced features. Once you join, you are also able to join their discussion groups to compare strategies with skilled traders.

However, as an educator, I will admit that I do have bias here. In my opinion, the Market Watch Virtual Stock Exchange is one of the best resource for teachers. It even has lesson plans with required readings, videos, and report cards to help you track your progress. Public and private games allow you to interact with other users or challenge those you know to test their skill. It’s both a fun and educational way to gain experience trading stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

HowTheMarketWorks

HowTheMarketWorks is another app that has been around for quite some time. It remains at the head of the pack because it is specifically tailored for beginners. It offers all the tool and resources you need in their Education Center. In addition to basic instruction and advanced techniques, it also provides career guidance if you are interested in a future in finance.

However, this app isn’t just for beginners. This simulator gives you the ability to practice trading in the global market, mutual funds, ETFs, options, and commodities. Since you can customize your private competitions, it is another excellent resource in the classroom.

Reality Over Simulation

While trade simulator apps are a great resource, there are certain things they cannot do. Unfortunately, some lessons can only be learned through real experience. However, simulators ensure you will be better prepared to jump into the stock market.

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