Tag: COVID-19

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

Domestic Violence Awareness for Renters: What to Do About an Abusive Neighbor

Hopefully, you’ll never be put in this situation, but it’s important to have domestic violence awareness as a renter.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “on average, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner.” The coronavirus pandemic only worsened those statistics: CNN reported that incidents of domestic violence in the U.S. increased by 8.1 percent after lockdown orders were in place.

Such high numbers mean that there is a likelihood that someone you know directly or someone you live near might be a victim of domestic violence. How do you deal with this type of situation, if it’s a neighbor in your apartment building?

Here are some ways to educate yourself about the signs of domestic violence and improve your domestic violence awareness.

Domestic violence during Covid-19.

What are signs a neighbor is experiencing abuse?

The signs of domestic violence may come in the form of mental or physical abuse. You might hear one person threaten another with injury or you might hear someone humiliating their partner. But the cycle of abuse sometimes is quieter, more subtle. Domestic violence often is a private form of control by one person over another.

Here are some of the warning signs of an abuser as determined by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Possessiveness
  • Unpredictability
  • Bad temper
  • Verbal abuse
  • Extremely controlling behavior
  • Demeaning the victim either privately or publicly
  • Embarrassment or humiliation of the victim in front of others

Of course, not everyone with a bad temper is an abuser. Depending on how friendly you are with your neighbors, you will likely not see many of the more intimate forms of partner abuse. These include sabotaging someone’s birth control method or forcing sex on an unwilling partner.

If you hear verbal abuse and other aggressive sounds (yelling and screaming, plates breaking, doors slamming) through the walls or you see controlling or stressful interactions on the patio — take note.

Should I call the police?

According to the NDV Hotline, if you hear suspicious noises that you believe might be an abusive situation, speak with the survivor as soon as possible.

“Make sure to approach them in a safe, private space, listen to them carefully and believe what they have to say,” reads the NDVH website. If you were to call the police, the victim might experience blame and face terrible consequences.

Say something like this: “Please forgive me for intruding into your life, but I’m hearing it through the walls. I’m worried for your safety. Here’s a number you can call.”

Do call the police if you believe your neighbor’s life or your own is in danger.

NDV suggests doing the following:

  • Give the victim NDV’s number, (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or that of a local crisis hotline.
  • Take notes so that if the victim presses charges you can make a statement.
  • Support the victim as best you can. Let them know that they are not the cause of the abuse.

Am I in danger if I call the police?

First, if you believe that someone is being harmed, you should absolutely call the police. That said, you can tell the police that you are requesting a “wellness check.”

In many municipalities, there are separate domestic violence units — you can request a transfer to speak to someone in that unit. You can also make an anonymous call to 911.

If the police arrive on the scene, they will not tell the abuser who called them.

Domestic violence situation.

Should I tell the leasing office?

You can make your landlord aware of what you’re hearing or seeing, but it’s a secondhand account. Unless the landlord or property manager witnesses something firsthand it is difficult for them to get involved.

However, if you make your landlord aware of possible domestic violence, at least they can monitor the situation. Keep in mind that many property managers do not live on the premises — so it is tricky for them sometimes to know what is going on at all times.

Can an abuser be evicted?

As much as you’d like this to happen, it’s not your place to initiate an eviction. It’s up to the victim to contact the landlord or property manager. The victim must then provide proof of domestic violence. This often comes in the form of a restraining order, evidence of criminal charges or a letter from a “qualified third party” like a law enforcement officer.

Every state has its own rules regarding how a landlord must respond to instances of domestic abuse. The landlord can let a tenant who is in an abusive situation break their lease without penalty, for example.

As a concerned neighbor, if the noise from next door encroaches on your “right to quiet enjoyment,” you might be able to push for eviction.

Keep in mind that it can take anywhere from two weeks to three or more months for an eviction.

How do I cope with the situation?

Living close to a domestic violence situation is extremely stressful. Verbal and physical disputes can happen at any hour of the day and many tend to occur during evenings, often into early morning hours.

You may find yourself on a work call hoping your colleagues don’t hear the neighbors screaming at each other on your end of the line or you may find yourself awake at 3 a.m. by a fight that eventually ends in a 911 call.

Getting rest could start becoming difficult, and you can also begin to feel like you’re walking on eggshells — basically, you’re living with the ups and downs and unpredictability of abuse by living too close to it.

It’s important to maintain your own self-care.

  • Understand that you are not responsible for your neighbor’s choices to stay in or leave the abusive situation. Seek professional help if you’re having trouble disengaging.
  • You might feel better by being proactive. Join (or start) a Neighborhood Watch group. You will get to know your neighbors, and more people will be aware of what’s happening in the complex.
  • Jog, take walks, do yoga, meditate — whatever you can do for yourself to help you cope. You don’t want the situation to overwhelm you. If you are friendly with the victim, you want to have a healthy headspace to support them.
  • If whatever is happening at your neighbor’s is too stressful, you may choose to break your lease and move.

Domestic violence awareness.

Be supportive

It’s difficult to end the cycle of domestic violence, but one step on the way to healing is to ask for help. Victims need to reach out to people that they trust, friends, neighbors, clergy or therapists.

If you suspect that a nearby tenant is having trouble, do what you can to make yourself available and supportive. Keep in mind how important it is for you to remain healthy and strong so that you can stay helpful.

The post Domestic Violence Awareness for Renters: What to Do About an Abusive Neighbor appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space

Working from home has become more prominent than ever, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when you’re living in an apartment, it can sometimes be challenging to create a productive remote workspace. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to maximize your space (no matter how small it may be), arrange it in a way that inspires creativity and productivity, and take care of yourself so you stay motivated. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make the most of your apartment while you’re working from home, so you can find a healthy work-life balance and stay focused on your job each day. 

Arranging Your Space

A productive apartment work-from-home space starts with actually creating a designated workspace. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate spare room to set up an office. As long as you have a specific location in mind that is dedicated to your work, you can get things done effectively. Some suggestions include: 

  • Fixing a folding shelf to a wall.
  • Using a large closet/wardrobe.
  • Utilizing a large hallway.
  • Pulling your sofa away from the wall in the living room and using it as a desk chair.

Having your own workspace can help you to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Remember, your environment can affect your mental health. It can either keep you motivated or bring you down. So, focus on things like using natural lighting, having live plants around to give you energy, and even controlling the temperature to keep things a bit cooler. 

If you know you will have to participate in Zoom meetings or similar video chats, make sure that your office looks as professional as possible. Because you’re at home, it’s okay to make things personal. But, whatever is in your background should still suggest that you’re working. A professional background for a video call can include things like plants, pictures, and artwork, but probably shouldn’t include your Star Wars actions figures. 

Keeping Your Health in Mind

In addition to having the right space set up, it’s crucial to take care of yourself in order to stay productive. When working from home, it’s easy to feel distracted and unmotivated. Taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, can have a huge impact on how well you do your job. 

One of the potential drawbacks of working from home is having a harder time with a work-life balance. You can combat this by having a routine each day. Start work at the same time and end it at the same time. Having a separate office space in your apartment will make it easier to “walk away” from work at the end of the day. 

It’s also important to take breaks, and you may need to encourage yourself to do so. Your apartment might be small, but don’t be afraid to splurge on a few “self-care” items including, perhaps, a sofa that you can put in or near your workspace for whenever you need to take a break. 

Your breaks should also consist of movement, as much as possible. Stand up and stretch every hour. Or, take longer breaks throughout the day that allow you to get outside and go for a walk. Studies have shown that simply being out in nature can improve your mood, which may help with productivity, and it will give you a chance to get some space after being in a small apartment all day. 

It’s possible to create a productive apartment work-from-home space and to stay motivated each day. With a few simple changes, some organizational skills, and maybe a professional purchase or two, you can turn almost any area of your apartment into an effective workspace. 

Read Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space on Apartminty.

Source: blog.apartminty.com

Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift

If you have a special child in your life, you may be wondering what to put under the tree this year. One long-lasting and truly meaningful way to show the child in your life that you care is by taking a few minutes to set up a UGMA/UTMA account and give them a leg up in life.

The earlier you open a UGMA or UTMA account for a child, the longer your initial gift has to grow, thanks to the magic of compound interest. For example, investing just $5 a day from birth at an 8% return could make that child a millionaire by the age of 50. By setting up a UGMA/UTMA account, you’re really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, that’s a gift they’re sure to remember!

What is a UGMA/UTMA account?

UGMA is an abbreviation for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. And UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Both UGMA and UTMA accounts are custodial accounts created for the benefit of a minor (or beneficiary).

The money in a UGMA/UTMA account can be used for educational expenses (like college tuition), along with anything that benefits the child – including housing, transportation, technology, and more. On the other hand, 529 plans can only be used for qualified educational expenses, like summer camps, school uniforms, or private school tuition and fees.

 

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use UGMA/UTMA funds to provide the child with items that parents or guardians would be reasonably expected to provide, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Another important point is that when you set up a UGMA/UTMA account, the money is irrevocably transferred to the child, meaning it cannot be returned to the donor.

 

Tax advantages of a UGMA/UTMA account

The contributions you make to a UGMA/UTMA account are not tax-deductible in the year that you make the contribution, and they are subject to gift tax limits. The income that you receive each year from the UGMA/UTMA account does have special tax advantages when compared to income that you would get in a traditional investment account, making it a great tax-advantaged option for you to invest in the child you love.

 

Here’s how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodian’s’ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the child’s (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodian’s regular tax rate.

A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts

While there’s no doubt that UGMA/UTMA accounts have several advantages and a place in your overall financial portfolio, there are a few things to consider before you open up a UGMA/UTMA account:

 

  • When the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21, depending on the specifics of the plan), the money is theirs, without restriction.
  • When the UGMA/UTMA funds are released, they are factored into the minor’s assets.
  • The value of these assets will factor into the minor’s financial aid calculations, and may play a big role in determining if they qualify for certain programs, such as SSDI and Medicaid.

Where you can open a UGMA/UTMA account

Many financial services companies and brokerages offer UGMA or UTMA accounts. One option is the Acorns Early program from Acorns. Acorns Early is a UGMA/UTMA account that is included with the Acorns Family plan, which costs $5 / month. Acorns Early takes 5 minutes to set up, and you can add multiple kids at no extra charge. The Acorns Family plan also includes  Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the family’s finances, from one easy app.

 

During a time where many of us are laying low this holiday season due to COVID-19, remember that presents don’t just need to be a material possession your loved one unwraps, and then often forgets about. Give the gift of lasting impact through a UGMA/UTMA account.

The post Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.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

Dear Penny: My Sister Moved in With Dad, Says She Can’t Be Evicted

Dear Penny,

I am a 30-year-old who has built a stable and happy life after growing up in a family that was often unstable emotionally and financially. I love them, but as I become more successful, my family needs more and more of my support. 

My sister and her son moved into my father’s one-bedroom apartment in July, which is against the lease. I was very against this living situation because it’s way too small for two adults and a rambunctious child. My sister said she had no other options because she has terrible credit, little savings and an eviction. She was laid off for not having child care and is collecting unemployment. My father was struggling to pay for his apartment, as well. 

Their relationship has deteriorated. I don’t think they can continue living together. My aunt  co-signed for my father’s apartment and says my father can stay in her spare bedroom if he works with her to fix his finances. My aunt has been trying to help me, as she knows I am overwhelmed mediating their arguments and finances.

I told my sister we will need to find another place for her to live after April, and that I would co-sign if she sat down with me to go over her finances. She cried and said it would be impossible to find a place being unemployed, and that no one cares about her ending up homeless. 

She said she will refuse to leave the apartment if management doesn’t let her take over the lease. She believes that since she is a single mother with a child, they won’t be able to evict her. I’ve explained there could be negative consequences on her tenant record and for my aunt since she’s the co-signer,  but my sister says everything will be fine. 

I don’t want to hold my sister’s past mistakes against her, and COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted single mothers. She has been better with her money the last three months, but she has been very irresponsible in the past. (Example: paying for breast implants.) She can’t stay with me because I’m a head of house in my alma mater’s dorm, which grants me and my partner a free apartment. 

How should I proceed with my sister? Am I being too supportive, or not supportive enough? I feel guilty even having my own financial goals when my family is struggling. 

Sister Struggles

Dear Sister,

When someone tells you they’re about to behave terribly, listen. I don’t care if your sister has been more responsible for three months. She obviously doesn’t plan to be responsible moving forward. She’s also made it clear that she’s up for a fight. Please don’t co-sign for her and let her take down your credit in the process.

This is a problem between your sister, your dad and your aunt. I certainly feel for your aunt. I get that you’re both trying to help each other work through this mess. But you’re both ascribing magical thinking to your fix-it powers for your dad’s and sister’s financial messes. Nothing in your letter suggests that either one is interested in help.

If I were your aunt, I’d talk to an attorney who specializes in tenant law ASAP. You can suggest she do so. You also need to tell your sister you’re no longer in a position to co-sign. She’s going to cry and scream about how you’re ruining her life. Tell her by phone so you can hang up if things get out of hand.

The beauty here is that your living situation legitimately gives you a reason your sister and nephew can’t move in. I’d urge you to hang onto this arrangement as long as you can so you can develop firm boundaries. It’s OK to use dorm rules as an excuse while you get comfortable making it clear that you’re done bailing out your family.

Your signature probably isn’t the only thing standing between your sister and homelessness. Maybe she’s eligible for public housing, or she has friends who will let her couch surf. I’m not going to waste any energy exploring these options, though, because this is not your problem.

But here’s the trade-off: You don’t get to have an opinion even if you’re “very against” whatever living situation your sister comes up with. The second you weigh in, you’re throwing your sister a lasso. Don’t allow her to drag you back in.

This may seem like a money problem, but deep down it isn’t. Yes, life would be easier if you could buy your dad and your sister separate homes on opposite sides of town. But I suspect they’d still leave you emotionally drained. Emotional vampires always do.

Your financial goals are completely unrelated to your family’s struggles. The sooner you can separate the two, the better off you’ll be. Please don’t feel guilty for using your money to make good decisions for yourself instead of enabling your family’s bad ones.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Amex launching limited-time offers on co-branded travel cards

The COVID-19 pandemic has put millions of travel plans on hold for many months. As a result, travel credit card issuers have had to adjust their products to make sure they still offer plenty of value to cardholders, even while the opportunities to earn or spend travel rewards are limited.

To make its co-branded travel credit cards valuable to customers even during the pandemic, American Express is launching new limited-time offers for eligible Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers. With these offers, cardholders can earn up to $220 in statement credits for non-travel spending, including dining for customers with consumer credit cards and wireless telephone services for business credit cardholders.

“We want to support how our customers are living their lives and running their businesses today, which is why we focused our statement credits on restaurants and wireless,” said Eva Reda, executive vice president and general manager of Global Consumer Lending & Cobrand at American Express. “We are also giving our Delta Card Members more ways to build up their bank of miles and earn higher status now for when they feel they are ready to travel again.”

Earn up to $220 in statement credits for dining

If you had a consumer Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy credit card as of Jan. 1, 2021, you can enroll via Amex Offers to earn statement credits for dining out or take out. (Note, Amex Offers are targeted, so you might not see every promotion listed below.)

Here are the offers available to eligible Delta SkyMiles cardmembers:

  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $165 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express cardholders can receive $15 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Those with Hilton Honors American Express cards can also get up to $220 in statement credits:

  • Up to $55 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Card members can receive $5 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® cardholders can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Eligible Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers can take advantage of the following Amex Offers:

  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express cardholders can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Earn up to $220 in statement credits on wireless telephone services

If you carry an eligible co-branded business card from Amex, you can also enroll to earn up to $220 in statement credits through Dec. 31, 2021.

These offers are available for Delta SkyMiles cardholders:

  • Up to $110 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card members can earn up to $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $165 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express cardholders can earn up to $15 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card members can earn up to $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

With the “Score More on Wireless” offer, Hilton Honors American Express Business cardholders can receive up to $110 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services – up to $10 back per month (up to 11 times).

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card members can earn up to $165 per month in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services – up to $15 back per month (up to 11 times).

More offers to earn extra points or miles

Besides earning statement credits, eligible cardholders now have more opportunities to get rewards on purchases. For example, Delta SkyMiles cardmembers can earn up to 3 additional miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases through Dec. 31, 2021 – that’s up to 5 miles per dollar in total.

For more offers, check our guide to limited-time credit card offers and promotions during COVID or log in to your Amex account to see Amex Offers available to you.

Source: creditcards.com

Turkey, Money, COVID, and More

I’m thankful for you, reading this article. But I’m also thankful for turkey and potatoes and pecan pie. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving dinner, I’d like to serve you with a smorgasbord today. The appetizer comes from the engineering world. The main course brings in investing. And for dessert, I added a quick calculator to consider the risk of COVID at your Thanksgiving dinner.

Low and Slow

I’m a mechanical engineer. In the engineering sub-field of heat transfer, there’s an important quantity called the Biot number. The Biot (bee-yo) number compares the way heat enters a body at its surface against the way that heat travels through the body.

That might not make sense to you. That’s why the Biot number needs to be explained using food!

Why do we cook pizzas at 900ºF for 3 minutes? Great question, especially when compared against cooking turkeys at 350ºF for multiple hours.

Pizza has a small Biot number. It has a large surface area compared to its volume—it’s very thin. Any energy added to the pizza at its surface will quickly propagate to the center of the pie.

But turkey has a large Biot number. It’s roughly spherical, so its ratio of volume to surface area is vastly larger than a pizza’s. It takes time for energy added at the surface of the turkey to propagate to the center of the turkey.

Food pizza cooking GIF on GIFER - by Aragami

And then there’s the matter of mass. This is separate from the Biot number, but equally important. Cooking a 20-pound turkey will take longer than cooking a 1-pound pizza. That’s easily understood. Heavy stuff takes longer to warm up.

Potatoes and Pumpkin Bread

Why do I have to bake pumpkin bread at 325ºF for an hour? Why can’t I bake it for 450ºF for 40 minutes? Or in a pizza oven, at 900ºF for a few minutes?

I don’t recommend it, but it’s an experiment you could conduct yourself. You’d find that you’d overload the exterior of the loaf with heat before giving that heat enough time to propagate to the center of the loaf. The outside burns. The inside remains raw. And everyone’s sad at the lack of pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin bread GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

The more cubic or round or dense a food is, the more low-and-slow the cooking or baking will be. This applies to loaves of bread, cakes and pies, or dense cuts of meat. A meat smoker might run at 225ºF all day.

If a food is flat or thin or narrow, it can probably be cooked high and fast. Pizzas, bacon, stir fries all apply. Lots of surface area and lightweight.

But what about mashed potatoes? We only boil potatoes at 212ºF degrees for 15 minutes. That’s way colder and shorter than a turkey or pie. And potatoes are reasonably dense. What gives?

The answer is that water transfers heat more effectively than air. That’s why 60ºF air feels temperate to your skin, but 60ºF degree water is frigid. That’s why you can stick you bare hand in a 400ºF oven (for a few seconds), but sticking your hand in boiling water (212ºF) will scald you. Water moves heat better than air.

Snoop Dogg Adds Mayonnaise To His Mashed Potatoes And I'm Actually OK With It

And moving or flowing fluid transfers heat better than stagnant fluid. This is why cold winter air has a “wind chill” factor—the blowing cold air removes more heat from your skin that stagnant cold air. And those Thanksgiving potatoes are surrounded by boiling and roiling water. They cook quickly.

Invest Like a Turkey

Enough engineering. Let’s bring it back to money.

You can approach investing like baking a pizza. Or you can invest like you would cook a turkey. I recommend the turkey version.

Turkey Cooking GIFs | Tenor

You can (try to) pick stocks that will double overnight. Or you could explore exotic asset classes with promises of “going to the moon.” You can even borrow money—or leverage—to further extend your investments. This is investing like a pizzamaker. It’ll be hot and fast and potentially over in five minutes.

But sadly, historical context provides ample data suggesting that pizza investing is not effective. Hand-picking stocks has more risk than reward. Short-term flips are closer to gambling than to investing.

That’s why you should invest like a turkey. Low and slow and long-term. Check on your progress occasionally. Adjust your timeline if needed. A half-cooked turkey does not resemble your final product, just like a half-funded portfolio can’t support your retirement. But mostly, stay on plan and trust the process. Plan for the long-term and let time take care of the rest.

Use last week’s retirement calculator to plan for the long-term…starting with your savings goal for 2021.

A Plate Full of Stuffing

And speaking of Thanksgiving, ensure that your investing portfolio resembles a Thanksgiving plate: diverse and well-balanced.

Could you imagine eating 1500 calories worth of gravy? Well, maybe. But it would be accompanied by plenty of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and potatoes, too. You can even fit in a slice of something exotic, like pecan pie.

Thanksgiving Dinner GIFs | Tenor

Similarly, a well-balanced investment portfolio reduces your risk from being over-exposed to any single asset type. I described my personal choices in my “How I Invest” article. But there are many ways to skin a turkey, and many ways to diversify a portfolio.

Will Your Turkey Get COVID?

Everyone seems to be all huffy about gathering for Thanksgiving. So-called “experts” are saying the holiday will act as a super-spreading event for COVID. First, Starbucks cancelled Christmas. And now China is cancelling Thanksgiving? What’s up with that?!

Don’t be an ignoramus. For most of the United States, a gathering of 10 or more people has a higher than 50% chance to contain at least person who is positive for COVID. Re-read that sentence.

If you’re going to gather for Thanksgiving, it’s helpful to understand the risk involved. For some, the risk is small and reasonable. For others, the probability of COVID being at your gathering will easily surpass a coin flip.

The following calculator is a simple, first-order estimate. It provides an example of how probabilities work. There’s more explanation after the calculator.

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I’m not an epidemiologist or virologist. Please take this math at face value. If an area has a positive infection rate P, then then odds of a person being negative is 1-P. The odds that all N people at your gathering are negative is (1-P)^N. Therefore, the odds of at least one positive case at your Thanksgiving gathering is 1-(1-P)^N.

I recommend looking up your area’s positive case rate here—COVID ActNow. Now, a large positive test rate is just as indicative of insufficient testing as it is of high infection rates. If you only have enough test supplies to test the sickest people, then you’re likely to have a higher rate of positive infections. More reading here from a guy named Johns Hopkins.

So feel free to play around with the infection rate. The true infection rate of an area is likely lower than what’s reported on COVID ActNow.

Keep Grandma healthy!

Thanks Again

Thanks a ton for reading the Best Interest. I try to stuff this blog full of fun and helpful information, and having wonderful readers is the gravy on top.

I wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. And don’t burn the pumpkin bread!

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

Source: bestinterest.blog