Tagged: spouse

5 Ways to Not Get Divorced During the Homebuying Process

image of a couple fighting on a bench

Even the most level-headed couples can go a little crazy when hunting for a home. If not careful, stress levels can suddenly shoot through the roof.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most homebuying decisions swirl around major life changes: marriage, a new baby, job relocation, retirement, and downsizing. Those are tectonic shifts in one’s life, and adding a hefty down payment and a 30-year mortgage to the mix doesn't ease the burden.

Tensions don’t end there. A home isn’t just an investment; it’s a place you’re tethered to for years. You’re literally shaping your future by the neighborhood you choose.

In such an emotional situation, people easily become overwhelmed. In fact, a U.K. report found that 70 percent of respondents thought buying a home was a critically stressful time in their lives. Only one other life event was ranked worse: getting a divorce.

Yet it’s not practical to live in the same place forever. In other words, it’s up to every couple to rethink the way they handle the house-seeking experience, starting with preparing themselves for the reality of the situation.

Decisions, Decisions, and More Decisions!

Any homebuying newbie can relate to how complicated the process can be. When two people are involved, however, the strain amplifies. Luckily, knowing a few upfront expectations and being prepared to make tough decisions can ease the pressure.

First, understand the substantial financial burden. You must openly talk about your expenditure expectations with your partner. Partners can have significantly different ideas of what they are willing to spend to have a comfortable, safe home.

You must also accept that both of your priorities won’t necessarily align. For example, you drive east for work, and your spouse drives west. Whose work is more important if you can’t find a house centralized between the offices? In addition, what if the new home allows your partner to be 10 minutes from relatives, while you have a two-hour trek to visit yours? Until these considerations are aired out, a couple will be far from acing the homebuying process.

5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Intact During Homebuying

Overall, communication is essential. In fact, with a few steps, you can turn looking for the perfect house into a way to strengthen — not wreck — your relationship:

1. Stick to a budget

Ironically, people often discuss stretching their budgets before they’ve even set them. Take a pragmatic approach, and know your budget first. A fast way to figure out your top monthly payment is by multiplying your combined monthly income by 0.25. For example, if you two make $10,000 a month, your mortgage payment with taxes and insurance shouldn’t be more than $2,500.

At that point, you can work backward. Use a mortgage calculator, like the one provided by Zillow, to figure out that a $2,500 monthly payment equates to a $500,000 house. Don’t even consider asking your mom to co-sign a loan to get more money. Instead, acknowledge the fact that you two can only afford what you can. Accepting this will help you both make decisions logically.

2. Start with the “good,” and work up to “best”

You know you can afford a $500,000 house, but don't initially schedule showings in that price range. The first three homes should be listed at about 20 percent below your budget. As you walk through the homes, notice what you like and what you don’t. For your next house, go up to the $450,000 level. Jot down what you love and hate. Finally, step into a $500,000 home. Is it tremendously better than the $450,000 one? Are its advantages worth an additional $50,000?

By starting at “good” options and moving toward “best” choices, you gain control over the process, and both partners have a chance to air out their objections. But be warned: If you flip the order and start with a $500,000 listing, anything less would seem subpar.

3. Quantify what’s important

Try to quantify preferences to put a more rational tenor on the process. An example is weighing the objective value of school districts and home prices. Typically, a home in a stellar school district will cost up to 25 percent more than comparable homes. Thus, for your money, you would have to get a smaller home to live in a preferred community.

Talk about this not as a way to “steal” opportunity from your kids but as a way to look at the pros and cons of each decision. For example, if you have 15 percent less of a house, your kids could attend a better school. This is a more rational approach than blaming your partner for not caring about your children's education. Quantifying priorities allows both of you to look at the big picture.

4. Speak magic words

Couples involved in buying homes often forget to incorporate productive, positive phrases into their conversations. Even if it doesn’t come naturally, emphasize how grateful you are for your partner throughout the process. Talk about how you appreciate that he or she has helped make it possible to look at better homes. Or admit that you’re blown away by the flexibility you’re seeing in your partner’s willingness to incur a longer commute to work.

While it isn’t an easy feat to be affirmative, you'll end up with better long-term results. You’re starting a new chapter together, after all. Don't you want your partner to know you are here for him or her in this journey? All it takes is a sprinkling of gratitude.

5. Invest in a little reflection

Whether or not you’re religious or spiritual, make time for reflection before signing on the dotted line. This will ground you and your partner and create a sense of much-needed calm. Ask yourself: “Is this really the direction for us? Is this where we’re supposed to be?”

In addition, vow not to bicker about dollar amounts after making your choice. Rather, use your home as a launching pad for the next page of your relationship.

Who has time to heap additional stress into their lives? Avoid the price of a divorce lawyer, and focus on the exciting possibilities ahead that come with buying a new home. The homebuying process might not be a cake walk, but your marriage doesn't have to pay for it.

An entrepreneur at heart, CEO Mike Kalis leads the team at MarketplaceHomes.com, a Detroit-based brokerage that specializes in new construction sales and property management. If you purchase a new home through Marketplacehomes.com, we'll agree to buy yours. Marketplace Homes has sold more than $3 billion in new construction homes through its unique home trade-in system and manages more than 3,500 single-family properties for investors who have 1 to 10 properties. It also offers new-construction homebuyers a guaranteed lease on their previous properties for up to six years.

Image © Pexels

Live Right, Save Money, Be Happy

Here are some of the tried-and-true methods, along with benefits unique to each approach.

See dentists and doctors regularly

No one likes medical surprises in the form of emergency dental or medical attention. Working adults who neglect doctor and dentist visits are taking serious risks.

Living right and staying healthy means getting the medical attention you need, and getting it routinely. Especially after the age of 50, it's smart to have a full medical exam once per year. There's a reason medical coverage typically reimburses in full for annual check-ups and twice-yearly dental exams. Carriers would much rather pay for a relatively inexpensive wellness exam or check-up than fork over a sizable sum of money for long-term treatment regimens that could have been avoided with preventive care.

Buy life insurance

Purchasing life insurance does two very important things. First, it allows you to provide for your family's financial needs after you're gone. Second, if you get permanent coverage, like a standard whole life policy, you can sell it if you ever need money in an emergency, or for any reason at all.

There's genuine peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones are protected from financial stress after you pass away. And if you face unexpected bills and need a ready source of funds, you can simply go online and get several estimates on the sale price of your whole life policy.

The process is fast and simple. Plus, when you sell your life insurance policy, the only amount of the proceeds that are taxable are those that exceed the tax basis (the total amount of premiums you've paid to date). Selling can be a very wise move, too—often, when one spouse passes away, when there's a dire need to pay unexpected medical or other kinds of bills, or the premiums become too high.

Learn how to relax

Stress has the potential to cause medical problems, but it also can make you miserable. The good news is that there are effective ways to beat stress and minimize its effects. Learning to meditate or taking part in guided relaxation sessions are two popular strategies. Regular exercise, stretching, and yoga are other choices that many people find satisfying for keeping stress at bay.

Get enough sleep

When you get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, it's much easier to wake up refreshed and feeling good every morning. Having the inner calm and physical relaxation that comes with regular, restful sleep means being able to take on the day with a positive outlook and a body that's ready to withstand 16 hours of activity. When you realize that sleep is part of your lifestyle, it's easier to make a commitment to get the amount you need.

Know what PMA stands for and learn to have one

There's an entire industry based on the concept of PMA, or positive mental attitude. Classic books about winning friends, influencing people, and simply thinking in order to grow rich point to the immense power of the human mind.

Of course, maintaining a positive attitude is easier said than done. It takes effort, patience, and persistence. But once you decide to cultivate a PMA, you're already finished with the first step of the journey. The upside is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books and no-cost online videos about how to create a positive outlook and attitude. The rewards are measurable and real and include things like being able to sleep more soundly, handle life's challenges more adeptly, and find solutions in the face of adversity.

Eliminate the negative

As the classic tune from the 1940s suggests, it helps to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Those timeless words of wisdom contain some potent advice. One way to make your life better is to say goodbye to destructive, negative forces, habits, and ways of thinking.

What does that mean for everyday people who seek self-improvement? It means they have plenty to gain from banishing harmful behaviors like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, taking part in dangerous sports like cliff diving, base jumping, and amateur race driving.

That's not to say there's anything wrong or with those activities when you do them in moderation and with appropriate safety measures in place. But they carry enough risk to make insurance carriers raise rates or flat out deny coverage to participants. So, if you have the desire to purchase an insurance policy that pays a death benefit to someone when you pass away, steer clear of extreme sports and risky hobbies.

Take the time to plan

Planning, both long- and short-range, gives you options and advance warning about financial and other types of problems. Consider making written, detailed plans about buying a first home, your career path, educational goals, relationship goals, whether you want to have a family or not, long-term care insurance, etc. Planning makes things real and attainable. A lifestyle that incorporates planning is a sustainable, rewarding one.

5 Tax Deductions for Self-Employed Freelancers & Small Business Owners

There are lots of expenses associated with the start-up and day-to-day operations of a business. Fortunately, many of these expenses are deductible, lowering the owner’s income tax and self-employment tax. Here are five deductions that can benefit small-business owners and self-employed taxpayers.

5 Tax Deductions for Self-Employed Freelancers & Small Business Owners is a post from Money Crashers.

HOW TO SPLURGE THS HOLIDAY (WITHOUT BLOWING YOUR BUDGET)

The post HOW TO SPLURGE THS HOLIDAY (WITHOUT BLOWING YOUR BUDGET) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Several years ago, 2010 to be exact, my husband and I made our final payment on our debt. We were officially debt free!! It felt amazing. We had done it through a lot of hard work and sacrifice.  We had done all we could to save so we could throw loads of money at our … Read More about HOW TO SPLURGE THS HOLIDAY (WITHOUT BLOWING YOUR BUDGET)

The post HOW TO SPLURGE THS HOLIDAY (WITHOUT BLOWING YOUR BUDGET) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable?

Social Security benefits, including disability benefits, can help provide a supplemental source of income to people who are eligible to receive them. If you’re receiving disability benefits from Social Security, you might be wondering whether you’ll owe taxes on the … Continue reading →

The post Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

6 Tips to Find Affordable Health Insurance When You Become Self-Employed

If you're dreaming about leaving a corporate job to work for yourself, getting affordable health insurance is probably one of your top concerns. Fortunately, there are more protections now than ever for those who leave the safety of a group health plan.

This post will cover six tips to find affordable health insurance when you become self-employed or leave a job for any reason, so you and your family get the coverage you need.

Major benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, became law in 2010, with significant provisions taking effect in 2014. One critical ACA benefit is that you can't be denied coverage or charged sky-high premiums when you have a preexisting medical condition. However, insurers can charge different rates based on where you live, your age, tobacco use, and family size.

One critical ACA benefit is that you can't be denied coverage or charged sky-high premiums when you have a preexisting medical condition.

The ACA also removes annual and lifetime caps on your health coverage. And no matter how much care you receive, the law caps how much you have to pay for it.

Out-of-pocket annual maximums vary depending on your health plan, but if you get in-network care, you'll never have to pay more than $8,150 as an individual, or $16,300 as a family, for the 2020 plan year. For 2021, these amounts increase to $8,550 and $17,100. Note that these limits don't include your monthly premiums.

What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Subsidy?

The ACA also offers many low- and middle-income Americans a health subsidy, which cuts the cost of premiums depending on your income and family size. It's a tax credit paid to your health insurance provider every month, which allows you to pay a lower premium.

For 2020, an individual earning approximately less than $51,000 or a family of four making under $104,000 per year may qualify for an insurance subsidy.

The ACA subsidy applies when your household income is between 100% and 400% of your state's federal poverty level. For 2020, an individual earning approximately less than $51,000 or a family of four making under $104,000 per year may qualify for an insurance subsidy. 

One challenge to using a subsidy is that it's based on your estimated earnings in the year when you'll get coverage, not on your last year's income. Since self-employment incomes can vary dramatically from month to month, the chances of knowing exactly how much you'll earn in the current or future year may be difficult. 

If you underestimate your income for a health subsidy, you may have to return a portion of the tax credit already spent on your insurance during the previous year. In other words, you may owe additional taxes that you weren't expecting.

When you enroll in an ACA plan, you'll have access to a marketplace account. That's where you can update changes to your expected income or family size that affect your tax credit so you can correct it as quickly as possible.

What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Mandate?

The ACA mandated that individuals be covered by a qualified health plan or pay a tax penalty if you're uninsured for more than two consecutive months. The mandate applies no matter if you're employed, self-employed, unemployed, a child, an adult, or where you live. 

Technically, it's still illegal to be uninsured, but the federal government won't penalize you for it.

However, starting in 2019, due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the mandate penalty for not having health insurance no longer applies. Technically, it's still illegal to be uninsured, but the federal government won't penalize you for it. 

But several states have their own insurance mandates, requiring you to have a qualifying health plan. You may have to pay the penalty for being uninsured if you live in:

  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

For example, California residents without ACA coverage in 2020 face a penalty up to 2.5% of household income, or $696 per adult, and $375.50 per child, whichever is greater. So, even if the federal government won't penalize you for being uninsured, you could have to pay a hefty state penalty, depending on where you live. More states will likely adopt penalties to keep the cost of coverage for residents as low as possible.

The ACA established health insurance exchanges, primarily as online marketplaces, administered by either federal or state governments. That's where individuals, the self-employed, and small businesses can shop and purchase qualified insurance plans and find other options, depending on your income.

How to get affordable health insurance

When you go out on your own, the cost of a health plan can be shocking—especially if you just left a company that paid a big chunk of the insurance bill on your behalf.

Remember that the high cost of health insurance pales when compared to the alternative. Having a medical emergency or being diagnosed with a severe illness that you can't afford to treat could be devastating. 

Remember that the high cost of health insurance pales when compared to the alternative.

Here are six tips for finding affordable health insurance when you become self-employed or no longer have job-based coverage for any reason:

1. Join a spouse or partner's plan

If your spouse or partner has employer-sponsored health insurance, joining their plan could be your most affordable option. Group insurance generally costs much less than individual coverage. Plus, some employers subsidize a portion of your premium as a benefit. 

However, some employer plans may not offer domestic partner benefits to unmarried couples. So, find out from the benefits administrator what's allowed. 

If you're under age 26, another option is to join or remain on a parent's health plan if they're willing to have you. Even if you're married, not living with your parents, and not financially dependent on them, the ACA allows you to get health insurance using a parent's plan. However, once you're over age 26, you'll have to use another option covered here.

2. Enroll in a federal or state marketplace plan

As I mentioned, the ACA established federal and state marketplaces for consumers who don't have access to employer-sponsored health insurance. The following states have health insurance exchanges:

  • California
  • Colorado 
  • Connecticut 
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho 
  • Maryland 
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New York 
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

No matter where you live, you can begin shopping for an ACA-qualified health plan at healthcare.gov. However, you can only apply for a policy during the annual open enrollment period—November 1 to December 15, for coverage that will begin on January 1 of the following year. Some states with healthcare exchanges have an extended enrollment period

In general, if you miss the enrollment window, you can't get an ACA health plan until the following year unless you qualify for a special enrollment. That allows you to purchase or change coverage any time of the year if you have a major qualifying life event, such as losing insurance at work, getting married or divorced, having a child, or relocating. However, you typically only have 60 days after the event occurs to enroll.

If your income is too high to qualify for a healthcare subsidy, you can still buy health insurance through the federal or your state's exchange. You can also get an ACA-qualified health plan directly from an insurance company, a health insurance agent or broker, or an online insurance aggregator.

3. Consider a high-deductible health plan (HDHP)

One way to reduce the cost of health insurance premiums is to choose a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). You enjoy lower monthly premiums but have higher out-of-pocket costs. If you're in relatively good health, an HDHP can make sense; however, if you get sick, it can end up costing you more. 

Paying for a broad range of HSA-eligible medical, dental, mental, and vision costs on a tax-free basis can add up to massive savings!

Another benefit of having an HDHP is that you qualify for a health savings account (HSA). Contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible and can be withdrawn at any time to pay for qualified medical expenses, such as doctor co-pays, prescription drugs, dental care, chiropractic, prescription eyeglasses, and mental health care. 

Paying for a broad range of HSA-eligible medical, dental, mental, and vision costs on a tax-free basis can add up to massive savings!

4. Get a short-term plan

If you miss the deadline to enroll in an ACA health plan and don't qualify for special enrollment, are you simply out of luck? Fortunately, no. You can purchase a short-term health plan until the next enrollment period comes around.

The problem is, short-term plans don't have to meet ACA standards and only offer temporary coverage, such as for a few months or up to a year. You may be eligible to renew a plan for up to three years in some states, depending on the insurer. 

You won't find short-term plans on the federal or state exchange, and therefore can't get a subsidy when you purchase one. However, they can be less expensive than an ACA-qualified plan.

Short-term plans can charge more if you have preexisting conditions, put caps on benefits, or not cover essential services like prescriptions and preventive care. Because they fall short of ACA requirements, you can have one and still be subject to a state-mandated health penalty. 

You won't find short-term plans on the federal or state exchange, and therefore can't get a subsidy when you purchase one. However, they can be less expensive than an ACA-qualified plan. 

Having short-term coverage is certainly better than being uninsured, but I recommend replacing it with qualified health coverage as soon as possible. That's the best way to have the protection you need against the enormous financial risk of medical costs. 

5. Enroll in Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program)

If you can't afford health insurance, you may be eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or CHIP at any time of year, depending on your income, family size, and the state where you live. In general, if you earn less than the poverty level, which is currently $12,760 for an individual or $26,200 for a family of four, you may qualify for these programs. They may have different names depending on where you live. 

Unlike ACA health plans, state-run health programs don't have set open enrollment periods, so if you qualify, coverage can begin any time of year. 

When you complete an application at the federal or state health insurance exchange, you can also determine if you qualify for coverage through Medicaid and CHIP programs. You can learn more about both programs at medicaid.gov

6. Get COBRA coverage

If you leave a job with group health insurance, you can enroll in COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) coverage. It isn't an insurance company or a health plan, but a regulation that gives you the option to continue your employer-sponsored health insurance after you're no longer employed. 

Instead of having your plan canceled the month you leave a job, you can use COBRA to continue getting the same benefits and choices you had before you left the company. In most cases, you can get COBRA benefits for up to 18 months.

The problem with COBRA coverage is that it's temporary and can be expensive. Unlike other federal benefits, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers don't have to pay for COBRA. You typically have to pay the full cost of premiums, plus a 2 percent administrative charge, to the insurer. 

If you're not eligible for regular, federal COBRA, many states offer similar programs, called Mini COBRA. To learn more, check with your state's department of insurance.

Health insurance shopping tips

After you become self-employed and purchase health insurance, it's crucial to shop for plans every open enrollment period. Your or your family's medical needs or income may change.

Additionally, new health insurers come in and go out of the health insurance marketplace. Carriers that offered plans in your ZIP code last year may not be the same set of players this year. In other words, a competitor could offer a similar or better plan than yours, for a lower price. So, if you don't shop annually, you could leave money on the table.

Will You Ever Be Able to Save Enough for Retirement?

With the stock market still in roller coaster mode and more and more companies reducing or eliminating retirement benefits, many people—from Boomers and Generation Xers to savvy Millennials—are facing the fact that they need to seize control of their retirement financial plan. And they need to do it sooner rather than later. Boomers in particular… Read More

The post Will You Ever Be Able to Save Enough for Retirement? appeared first on Credit.com.

Life Insurance Over 50

For individuals who are young and in good health, shopping for life insurance is often easy and stress-free. Most of the time, young people only need to decide how much coverage they want and apply for a free quote online. Some companies that market term life insurance coverage even let qualified applicants start their policies […]

The post Life Insurance Over 50 appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.