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Travel Bloggers Spill Savings Secrets

More than 25,000 Graco car seats recalled after failing portion of crash safety test

Popular Atlanta-based car seat company Graco announced a recall of more than 25,000 of its products manufactured in the summer of 2014.

>> Read more trending news

The webbing on the seats’ harness restraints on select My Ride 65 convertible car seats did not meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s federal requirements for breaking strength in its dynamic crash simulation, the company said in a press release.

According to the NHTSA’s safety recall report, the breaking strength for two samples of webbing were found to be less than the required 11,000 N strength.

>> Related: Possible mold on baby wipes prompts The Honest Company recall 

“In the event of a serious motor vehicle crash, the harness webbing restraining the child may break resulting in a child not being properly restrained,” the report included.

According to Graco, 25,494 My Ride 65 convertible car seats produced from May to August 2014 are affected.

>> Related: Chicken recall prompts schools to yank nuggets off lunch menus 

Here’s a full list of model numbers (with a webbing tag code of 2014/06) included in the My Ride 65 recall:

  • 1908152
  • 1813074
  • 1872691
  • 1853478
  • 1871689
  • 1877535
  • 1813015
  • 1794334

If your car seat’s model numbers do not have a webbing tag code of 2014/06, they are not affected by the recall.

You can also check if your car seat is affected by entering the model number, manufacturing date and webbing tag code on Graco’s online replacement form.

“Over the past 60 years, safety has been and will continue to be our priority at Graco,” a company spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said they are currently notifying affected customers and offering free replacement kits with new harness restraints.

More at Gracobaby.com.

10 things new grads should know before starting first jobs

As colleges across the country wrap up classes, final exams and commencement ceremonies, it’s time for new grads to find new jobs.

>> Read more trending news

If you’ve landed one, congratulations! Take a minute, enjoy the moment and read these pointers to help you get ready for the real world:

1. Your boss is a valuable resource

A smart boss will take the time to explain the job to you, provide training and monitor your progress. They aren’t your friend, so maintain professional relationships, but they, and you, should be friendly and pleasant.

A good supervisor will be responsive to your questions and help you move forward in your career.

2. Walk in prepared

No matter how much research you do, there is going to be a learning curve. But if you have a good idea of what the company does and how your role relates to that, you’ll flatten out that learning curve quickly after learning where the cafeteria and bathrooms are. Look at LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other online resources.

3. Be part of the team

You’re joining a group of people who have been working together for some time. While you might have hated doing group projects in school, you’ll need to learn how to do that now. You will likely rely on your co-workers, and your co-workers will rely on you. The most successful groups complete their tasks by working well together.

4. Hang your ego next to your diploma

Since you’re the new person on the scene, be prepared to listen and learn. Soak up all the information you can. Learn from people at the company who have experience on the job and can help get you up to speed.

As a new employee, the phrase “you have two ears, two eyes and one mouth -- use them proportionately” directly applies to you.

5. Enjoy lunch

While it is tempting to work extra hard to make a good impression, give yourself a chance to meet and get to know your co-workers. This is a simple way to build team chemistry without resorting to the painful “team-building exercises” you may have to go through.

6. Dress the part

This is office life 101: before you start, try and determine the office’s dress code and conform to it.

If you aren’t able to figure this out before your first day, err on the side of formality. Leave the extra piercings and ripped jeans at home until you get a sense of the office protocol.

7. Be nice

Having your first impression be one of a friendly, open person goes a long way. You’ll meet a lot of new people; expect a diversity of ages, backgrounds, attitudes, work habits and experiences. A positive attitude and cheerful demeanor will mark you as someone people want to be around and work with.

8. Be flexible

You might have strolled off the graduation stage with a 4.0 and an armload of awards, but that still means you’re the new person in the office. That’s going to involve doing a certain amount of menial labor to work your way up the food chain. It’s not sexy work, but getting it done with a smile will give your boss a good impression.

Flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability are all good traits.

9. Mistakes happen

You make a mistake. It happens. The worst thing you can do is try to cover it up. Instead try to find a solution and fix it.

Keep your head up, recognize what you did wrong, learn from it and do your best to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If whatever you’re doing still feels awkward, take the time to practice on a weekend or away from the office without other people watching.

10. Make the effort

The easiest path to success at your first job is figuring out what your objective is and doing your best to achieve it. Particularly for entry positions, effort is an important, if not the most important, part of the job. Be there early and ready to get started. 

>> Related: 19 mistakes college grads make when finding their first apartments

Help Your Teen Use Summer Job Earnings Wisely

Teens with summer jobs might be earning their own money for the first time — but it won’t be the last. The money habits they learn now could last for decades.

Here’s how to help your teen make the most of a job and those paychecks.

Encourage goal-setting

Susan Beacham, founder and CEO of financial education company Money Savvy Generation and co-author of the “O.M.G. Official Money Guide for Teenagers,” suggests teens ask themselves a few questions — perhaps with parental prompting — before job searching: Why do they want to work, and what needs or wants will the job address?

This helps them determine the kind of job to pursue, Beacham says. For example, your child might want hourly work in a potential career field, or maybe he or she wants to make money to contribute toward family finances.

And ideally, goal-oriented teenagers are more thoughtful come payday. Bailey Steger, a 17-year-old working at a restaurant in Half Moon Bay, California, just learned that she’ll be responsible for paying for most of her college expenses besides tuition. She’s now saving more of her earnings.

As an example, Steger mentions recently wanting to buy a cute — but pricey — shirt. Her mom reminded her that she’d have to dip into the paycheck she’d just received to buy it. And, just like that, Steger says, “that shirt wasn’t that cute anymore.”

Teens who know why they’re working also tend to be more focused employees. A camp counselor wrangling kids in 90-degree heat might feel more positive if he plans to pursue a career in early childhood education. And a teen saving for a car might view her eight-hour shift as eight hours’ worth of pay going toward new wheels.

Discuss investing opportunities

Saving for goals isn’t the only smart step teens can take with their summer earnings. Beth Kobliner, author of “Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not),” suggests teens invest part of their earnings in a Roth IRA if they can. Workers invest post-tax income in these individual retirement accounts. They can withdraw contributions without penalties at any time, but they must pay taxes and fees to tap interest earnings before age 59 1/2.

Investors can contribute no more than they earn in a year to a Roth IRA, up to $5,500 per year. If your child earns $1,000 at her job this year, she can only contribute that much to her IRA.

Roths help young workers bank toward retirement and teach the power of compound interest. Say an 18-year-old invests $500 of his earnings this summer. If he invests $1,000 more each year with a 6% return until he’s 65, he’ll end up with $47,500 in contributions and $215,798 in earnings for a total of $263,298. If he’d waited until he was 28 to invest $500 and contributed the same amount each year at 6%, he’d have earned only about $138,000 at age 65.

Contributing to a Roth also encourages the savings habit. Automatic transfers from a checking account to an IRA can make contributing effortless, Kobliner says. Young investors can have a certain amount transferred every payday. The extra money for a cute — or not that cute — top just won’t be in the checking account to spend.

Building this investing habit might benefit teens later, Kobliner says. When they’re on their own and possibly cash-strapped, they’ll likely be capable of finding extra money to invest. “It’s like flossing,” Kobliner says. “It’s a good routine that sticks if you learn it early.”

Make the abstract concrete

Beacham points out that teenagers are more likely to absorb and use money concepts when they aren’t abstract.

When your child learns the pay rate and hours for her new job, get out the calculator to determine how much she’ll earn over the summer. This will give her a realistic expectation of her earnings and perhaps prompt her to think about what she’ll do with it.

Printing paychecks or receiving physical copies also solidifies how much your teen has earned — and can thus save or invest. With direct deposit alone, that money might seem easier to spend. And when it comes to explaining that IRA, point your child toward a compound interest calculator. That way, he can input hypothetical timelines and contributions and see that money multiply.

Whether it’s handing teens a calculator or asking why they’re working, parents can help them be more thoughtful with their earnings — now and in the future.

Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lmcmullen@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.

Personal Financial Planning Tips for New College Grads

MoneyTipsGraduation for the Class of 2017 is here. Some college graduates have studied physics and will pursue rocket science as a career. Others plan to become doctors, memorizing every bone in the body, while a few are walking encyclopedias when it comes to history. But how many of them can – and do – balance a checkbook? The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 1.6 million college graduates in 2014 will be unprepared for financial independence. A large percentage of the Class of 2014 have never paid their own rent, balanced a checkbook or created a budget, much less learned to live on one. The good news in this grim statistic is that learning the basics of personal financial management isn’t really all that difficult. Here are seven personal finance strategies that can help you get your post-college life off to a good start: Learn how to create and live on a budget. We’ve listed this as the first strategy because it will provide the foundation for everything else you do from a personal financial management standpoint. Until you have some knowledge of and control over how much money you’re earning and spending, you won’t be able to implement any other personal finance strategies. The concept of budgeting is actually very simple — it’s the execution that’s often difficult. The first step is to determine your total monthly income and expenses. Then subtract the former from the latter to see whether you’re currently spending more or less money than you make. Hopefully you’re spending less, in which case you can start thinking about how you’ll save and/or invest your excess money (see the next two strategies below). If you’re spending more than you make, it’s time to take a hard look at your expenses and figure out some areas where you can cut back a little — or maybe a lot. Additionally, you might consider a part-time, second job to boost the income side of the ledger. Make saving your top financial priority. As they embark on their professional careers, new college graduates often place saving at the bottom of their priority list, since their income is probably relatively low. But making saving a top priority instead will instill strong financial habits that can last a lifetime. Regardless of how small your paycheck is, you can probably afford to save something. The amount isn’t as important at this stage of your life as building the discipline of saving. One strategy is to save a percentage of your income — this way, your savings will automatically increase as your income grows. Set an initial goal of saving between three and six months’ worth of living expenses in an FDIC-insured bank or money market account. This can serve as a “rainy day” savings account that you can tap into if you have a financial emergency, like an expensive car repair, hospital bill or extended time of unemployment. Learn the basics of investing. It is important to realize that saving money and investing money are not the same thing. After you have built up your emergency savings account to a comfortable level, you can start thinking about how you might want to invest some of your excess money in stocks, bond or other financial instruments. Investing involves accepting the risk that you might lose some (or even all) of your money for the potential of earning a higher return than is offered by savings and money market accounts. In general, the riskier your investments are, the higher the potential return might be. It might make sense to assume a little more risk when investing for long-term financial goals like retirement (see the next strategy below). Start thinking about retirement. Yes, we said retirement. While retiring might seem like it’s the last thing you need to think about now, the reality is that the sooner you start saving for retirement, the more time you have to benefit from compounding returns and tax benefits. In fact, time is the retirement saver’s best friend. Look at the difference that getting an early start on saving for retirement can make: John started contributing $90 per week to his company’s 401(k) plan when he was 25 years old. If he continues doing this for 40 years and earns an annual return of seven percent, he’ll have a retirement nest egg worth $1 million when he turns 65. But Jane didn’t start contributing to her company’s 401(k) until she was 35 years old. She will have to contribute more than twice as much money to her 401(k) every week ($190) to accumulate $1 million by the time she turns 65 — simply because she waited ten more years to get started. Since investing for retirement is, by definition, “saving” (our Strategy Tip #2), you will be killing two birds with one stone if you put money into a 401(k) or IRA. Let the free Retirement Planner by MoneyTips help you calculate when you can retire without jeopardizing your lifestyle. Get — and then stay — out of debt. Excessive debt could be the biggest detriment to your long-term financial security. So paying off any debt that you have when you graduate college should be another top financial priority. If you have any student loans, start with them. Set a goal for having these paid off by a certain date in the future — maybe five years from now. If you have racked up any credit card debt while in college, also pay this off as quickly as possible. If you want to consolidate your debt, try the free Debt Optimizer by MoneyTips. Then make a commitment to staying out of debt, especially high-interest credit card debt. One way to do this is to pay for all purchases with a debit card or cash. If you do use a credit card, pay the balance in full each month to avoid paying interest charges. Build a strong credit history. Your credit score will become one of the most important parts of your financial life -- either positively or negatively -- going forward. It will affect everything from whether you are approved for a car loan or mortgage (or even an apartment lease) to the interest rate you will pay on these and other types of loans. Some employers even check credit history before offering a candidate a job! The best way to build a strong credit history and keep your credit score high is to pay your bills on time. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. Examine your credit report carefully and contact the appropriate credit reporting bureau (TransUnion, Experian or Equifax) if you spot any errors or mistakes to get them resolved quickly. If you believe there is a mistake on your credit report, you can resolve it with a single click using our credit correction service. Establish the discipline and humanity of giving. Take the same approach to giving that you do to saving by committing to give away a percentage of your income. It doesn’t matter where you give the money — it can go to your church or place of worship or to charitable causes that you support. By establishing the discipline of giving away money early in your life, you’ll adopt a more generous attitude in other areas of your life. The first few years after college graduation can be the most exciting time of your life. By learning and implementing basic personal finance strategies like these during this stage, you’ll build a solid financial foundation that will last for the rest of your life. Find out quickly at what rate you can refinance your student loan. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/fstop123 Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/financial-planning-tips-for-college-gradsHow to Start Saving for RetirementRetirement Is Not That Far AwaySimple and Tactical Budgeting

How Costly Is Bad Credit? Many Don’t Know, Survey Shows

It’s 2017: Do you know what your credit score is?

Good credit is important for many reasons beyond qualifying for the best loan rates. And the very first step in building it is knowing your starting point. But a NerdWallet survey finds that while more than a quarter of Americans (26%) check their credit scores monthly or more often, nearly 1 in 8 (12%) have never checked their scores.

In an online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted by Harris Poll in April 2017, we asked Americans what they knew about the impact of bad credit, as well as factors that do and don’t affect credit scores. Here’s what we learned:

  • About half of Americans (49%) don’t know that having bad credit can limit a person’s options for cell phone service. There are ways to get a cell phone without a credit check, but consumers with poor credit have fewer options.
  • Almost a quarter of Americans (23%) think a person has just one credit score. Most consumers have many scores, and they can vary based on the information used to calculate them. The score provider and score model your lender will consult depends on the reason you’re looking for credit: there are auto-specific and mortgage-specific scores, for instance.
  • More than 2 in 5 Americans (41%) think carrying a small balance on a credit card month to month can help improve a person’s credit scores. This is a common misconception. To avoid interest charges, pay off credit cards each month.
What you don’t know about credit can cost you

About 40 million Americans have a FICO credit score lower than 600 [1], and many might not understand the impact it can have on their everyday lives, even if they’re not applying for loans or saddled with high-interest debt.

The everyday effects of bad credit

Having bad credit is expensive, and not just because of the high interest rates lenders charge. More than 2 in 5 Americans (43%) don’t know that having bad credit can negatively impact the price of car insurance, and more than half (52%) don’t know that it can negatively impact the cost of utility deposits. These expenses are often cheaper or nonexistent for those with excellent credit, even though they don’t involve borrowing money.

Bad credit can even limit housing opportunities. Many landlords check applicants’ credit reports, but almost a quarter of Americans (23%) don’t know that having bad credit can negatively impact a person’s ability to rent an apartment. And almost half (49%) don’t know that bad credit can limit the ability to get a cell phone. Consumers with bad credit might be restricted to prepaid phones and miss out on carriers’ best plans. It might even be challenging to get certain jobs with poor credit.

Bad credit means fewer credit card choices

More than 1 in 5 Americans (21%) believe that a person with a credit score above 600 will qualify for any credit card he or she wants. Another 40% aren’t sure if a score above 600 qualifies a person for any credit card. In fact, 600 is a below average score and won’t give consumers access to most of the cards on the market.

Consumers with excellent credit have almost eight times as many credit card options as consumers with bad credit do. [2] Those with bad credit miss out on the cards with the best rewards and lowest interest rates, as well as the best purchase protections and travel benefits.

Misconceptions surround credit scores

Why do so many Americans have bad credit? Here’s one possibility: Increases in the cost of living have outpaced income growth for the past 13 years, according to NerdWallet’s annual household debt study. Many consumers might be maxing out credit cards to bridge the gap and then falling behind on payments or defaulting.

Another theory is that Americans simply don’t understand how credit works. Our survey found many misconceptions about credit scores, including the number of scores people have and the factors that go into them.

What’s a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number, usually on a scale of 300 to 850, that estimates how likely someone is to repay borrowed money. If you make regular payments to a lender — on a credit card or auto loan, for example — you probably have credit scores.

More than 1 in 10 Americans (11%) think everyone starts out with a perfect credit score. Actually, you must build your scores from scratch — but they don’t start from zero. Want to measure your progress? Your scores won’t necessarily be listed on your credit report, although almost two-thirds of Americans (64%) think they are. The free credit reports available once per year from AnnualCreditReport.com don’t include scores. However, you can get free scores from various sources, including NerdWallet.

The components of a credit score

Five basic factors go into most credit scores: payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, types of credit in use and new credit.

Payment history: One of the best things you can do for your credit scores is to make payments on time, 100% of the time. You’re best off paying your entire credit card balance, but at least pay the minimum by the due date. Creditors won’t report payments that are only a few days late to credit bureaus, but pay 30 days or more late and you can tank your scores.

Credit utilization: This refers to the proportion of your available credit you’re using at any given time. Between 1% and 30% is ideal, but people misunderstand these numbers.

Possibly because using credit helps your scores more than not using it at all, more than 2 in 5 Americans (41%) think carrying a small balance from month to month can help improve a person’s scores, while one-fifth (20%) think it can hurt it. In fact, whether someone carries a small balance probably doesn’t affect his or her scores at all.

“The idea that you have to carry debt to have good credit is a dangerous, expensive myth that needs to die,” says NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston, author of the book “Your Credit Score.” Carrying a balance will mean you pay interest, but it probably won’t have any impact on your credit — just your wallet.

Length of credit history: This includes the total time you’ve had credit — starting from your first credit card or loan — and the average age of all your credit accounts. It’s a good idea to keep your oldest account open and avoid closing other older, unused accounts unless you have a good reason, like they charge annual fees or you need to shed a joint account. If you do choose to close other accounts, keep length of credit history in mind to limit the negative effect on your scores.

Mix of credit accounts: Having a mix of account types doesn’t have a large impact on credit scores, but it might be helpful to have both revolving accounts, such as credit cards and lines of credit, and installment loans, such as mortgages, auto loans or student loans. You can build and maintain good credit with just one type of account.

New credit: The final factor concerns the number of new accounts you’ve opened or applied to open. When you apply for a credit card or loan, a “hard” inquiry appears on your credit file. Checking your own scores results in a “soft” inquiry that won’t hurt your credit. But hard inquiries aren’t great for your scores, so you’ll want to limit the number of applications you submit.

The exception is when you’re “rate shopping” for a mortgage or auto loan. In these cases, it’s smart to apply at several different lenders to get the best rate. The credit bureaus count multiple inquiries as a single inquiry as long as they’re made within a certain time frame, usually a few weeks.

How to improve bad credit

Improving your credit means working on the five factors above. However, you also might be able to improve your credit by catching mistakes on your credit reports. Most consumers have one at each of the main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can obtain each of these reports for free once per year.

Once you receive your reports, read each one closely and dispute any errors. Incorrect information could hurt your credit, denying you access to low loan rates, superior credit products and other benefits of good credit.

People trying to build credit commonly run into a catch-22: They need a loan or credit card to increase their scores, but they can’t get approved for a loan or credit card because their scores are low or nonexistent. For example, it’s hard to find good credit cards for bad credit.

Those with poor credit have a few options:

Credit-builder loans: These loans typically have low interest rates, regardless of your credit scores. But there’s a catch: You don’t receive the money from the loan until you pay it off. These loans exist solely for the purpose of building credit. The lender puts the money into a savings account, and you can claim it once you’ve paid the balance in full. The bank will report your payments to the credit bureaus, which should help your scores, provided you’ve made all the payments on time.

Secured credit cards: With a secured card, you put down a security deposit that’s usually equal to the card’s credit limit, but sometimes is less. This reduces the issuer’s risk. Not everyone who applies for a secured card gets approved, but they’re still a good option for those with bad credit.

Secured cards aren’t prepaid, so it’s critical that you pay off your charges each month. After “graduating” to an unsecured card or closing the account in good standing, you’ll get your deposit back.

Secured personal loans: If you want to build credit but also need a loan, a secured personal loan might be the way to go. These allow you to borrow against a car, savings account or other assets, including such things as a recreational vehicle or furniture. The rate will likely be higher than it would be on a credit-builder loan, but you’ll have access to the loan money.

“You don’t need to carry credit card debt to have great credit scores,” Weston says. “But you do need to have credit accounts and use them responsibly.”

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from April 6-10, 2017, among 2,250 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample, and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact cc-studies@nerdwallet.com.

Footnotes

[1] According to Ethan Dornhelm, principal scientist at FICO, there are about 40 million U.S. consumers with credit scores below 600. There are an additional 53 million Americans who can’t be scored because they have too little information on their credit file or no credit file at all.

[2] According to the NerdWallet database of more than 1,200 cards, there are 7.7 times as many cards available to those with excellent credit compared to those with poor/bad credit.

7 Tax Tips for New College Grads

Graduating from college brings huge life changes — many of which have big effects at tax time. Here are a few ways you can save a little money — or even snag a refund — come filing time.

1. Take interest in interest

Student loan payments are a fact of life for many new graduates. But up to $2,500 of the interest portion of those payments can be tax-deductible if your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI, is below $80,000 for singles ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly). And you can still qualify for the tax break if the loan’s in your name but your parents make the payments — though if you want the deduction, they can’t claim an exemption for you on their tax return.

2. Get a move on

You can’t deduct job-search expenses if you’re looking for full-time work for the first time or in a new career field, but moving to a new city for that first job can come with major tax breaks.

The cost of movers, utility hookups, storage, and even hotel stays during your drive to the new city can all be deductible. Be sure to check the rules, though — they’re detailed. Your first 9-to-5 must be at least 50 miles from your old home, for example, and only expenses racked up within a year of your start date count. Moving expenses your employer pays might not count, either.

3. Let your boss help

“One of the biggest and most frustrating things that we see is people not taking advantage of their benefits offered through their workplace,” says Alex Hopkin, an associate planner at Gen Y Planning, a financial planning firm for millennials.

Contributing to a company 401(k) can shelter up to $18,000 per year from income taxes — and you’ll get a jump start on retirement saving, plus free money if your company offers a match. If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, contributions to a health savings account could shelter another $3,400 per year if you’re single and $6,750 if you have family coverage. And putting money into a flexible spending account could keep another $2,600 out of your taxable income. Be sure not to procrastinate, Hopkin says — you might be able to sign up for your company 401(k) at any time, but enrollment for HSAs and FSAs usually happens just once a year.

4. Don’t sideline that side gig

New grads planning to freelance or be their own bosses can claim huge deductions for business expenses. That means keeping careful records and filing a Schedule C. And be sure to set aside about 25% of what you earn for the IRS, Hopkin advises.

“In your workplace, chances are you’re having the taxes withheld. But for any sort of side gig, you’re responsible for those taxes,” she says.

5. Keep learning

A degree can take you a long way, but many people need extra certifications or classroom training to move up in their career field. That’s when the Lifetime Learning Credit can come into play.

If your MAGI is below $65,000 as a single filer or below $131,000 as a married person filing jointly, you could claim a tax credit of up to $2,000 per year for post-secondary work at eligible educational institutions. You don’t need to be in a degree program — a single class can suffice.

6. Save yourself

Start stashing cash for retirement now, and that money could balloon over time. Saving can also cut your tax bill. For example, you might be able to deduct up to $5,500 of contributions to a traditional IRA each year.

And if you’re single and have an adjusted gross income, or AGI, of less than $31,000 (or $62,000 if married and filing jointly), you might qualify for the Saver’s Credit. That can slash your tax bill by up to 50% of the first $2,000 (for single filers) or $4,000 (married filing jointly) you contribute to an eligible retirement plan.

7. Be a tax deal-seeker

Chances are your tax situation is as uncomplicated as it’ll ever be, so don’t overpay for tax software or help. Most major tax software companies offer free packages to people with simple tax situations, and the IRS’s Free File program provides free tax software to people who make less than a specific AGI (currently $64,000). If you need human help, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or other programs could hook you up with a pro at little or no cost.

Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: torem@nerdwallet.com.

Does Your Credit Card Limit Measure Up

MoneyTipsAre you aware of your credit card limit, the total dollar amount that your credit card issuer will generally allow you to spend without involving penalties, fees, or declined transactions? If you do not spend anywhere close to your limit, you may not care about it – but you should. Your credit card limit plays a role in your credit score, and vice versa. According to data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus along with Equifax and TransUnion, the average credit card limit in the U.S. as of December 2016 was $8,071. However, average credit limits vary greatly with cardholders' credit scores. Borrowers with Deep SubPrime credit, defined as a credit score of 300-499 on the VantageScore system, have an average credit limit of $1,834. On the other end of the scale, borrowers with SuperPrime credit (credit scores above 781) merit an average credit limit of $11,357. SubPrime credit (credit score 500-600) cardholders have an average limit of $2,645. NonPrime credit (601-660) produces an average $4,674 limit, and Prime credit (661-780) yields an average limit of $7,593. It's reasonable that those with lower credit scores have average lower credit limits, based on the risk of non-payment. Credit scores are derived from your credit report, which contains information on your record of borrowing and repaying money. If you have a demonstrated history of missed or late payments, you pose a greater risk to a lender – therefore your credit score will be lower and your credit limit will follow suit. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. Are you still wondering why you should care if you spend well below your limit? If you have a credit limit that is lower than your credit report and spending habits should warrant, you may be missing an opportunity to get a higher credit score simply by asking your card issuer to raise your credit limit. Along with improving your credit score, you increase the chances for better offers on future credit cards and loan qualifications because of lower credit utilization – the amount of credit you are using compared to your credit limit. Payment history is the factor that contributes the most to your credit score, but another large portion is determined by credit utilization. Experian's Director of Public Education, Rod Griffin, describes their findings: "What we found is that people with the very best credit scores have utilization rates of less than 10%...One of the numbers you'll hear out there is 30% - that's really a maximum." Missed or late payments will always ding your credit score, but that behavior causes even more worry to a creditor when you are near your credit limit. A recent study by CreditCards.com found that only 28% of cardholders have ever asked for a credit limit increase, but that 89% of those who do receive an increase. With a good history, a card issuer is likely to see more reward than risk in increasing your limit, expecting that you may incur more interest charges without risking an unpayable debt spiral. If your credit is too shaky to ask for a credit limit increase, improve your credit score the old-fashioned way: limit your expenses and pay down your debts with regular, on-time payments. You can expedite the process if you qualify for a balance transfer card that allows you to use an introductory 0% APR period to pay down debt without incurring interest charges. April Lewis-Parks, Director of Education and Public Relations for Consolidated Credit, illustrates with the example of a person with $4,000 in debt on a card with a $5,000 limit. "If they take that debt and transfer it to another card that has a higher credit limit (say $10,000), that $4,000 is much lower percentage-wise and that alone will raise their credit score." Keep in mind that this strategy fails if you use your higher credit limit as an excuse to spend more money. Be proud of your large credit card limit if you like, but be even prouder of your relatively low spending, low credit utilization, and high credit score. Creditors will be proud of you, too. If you want more credit, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/WeekendImagesIncOriginally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/does-your-credit-card-limit-measure-upHigher Credit Limits Help Improve Credit ScoresLenders Profit From Your Minimum Credit Card PaymentsCredit Cards Offer Rewards For Adding Authorized Users

Does Your Credit Card Limit Measure Up

MoneyTipsAre you aware of your credit card limit, the total dollar amount that your credit card issuer will generally allow you to spend without involving penalties, fees, or declined transactions? If you do not spend anywhere close to your limit, you may not care about it – but you should. Your credit card limit plays a role in your credit score, and vice versa. According to data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus along with Equifax and TransUnion, the average credit card limit in the U.S. as of December 2016 was $8,071. However, average credit limits vary greatly with cardholders' credit scores. Borrowers with Deep SubPrime credit, defined as a credit score of 300-499 on the VantageScore system, have an average credit limit of $1,834. On the other end of the scale, borrowers with SuperPrime credit (credit scores above 781) merit an average credit limit of $11,357. SubPrime credit (credit score 500-600) cardholders have an average limit of $2,645. NonPrime credit (601-660) produces an average $4,674 limit, and Prime credit (661-780) yields an average limit of $7,593. It's reasonable that those with lower credit scores have average lower credit limits, based on the risk of non-payment. Credit scores are derived from your credit report, which contains information on your record of borrowing and repaying money. If you have a demonstrated history of missed or late payments, you pose a greater risk to a lender – therefore your credit score will be lower and your credit limit will follow suit. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. Are you still wondering why you should care if you spend well below your limit? If you have a credit limit that is lower than your credit report and spending habits should warrant, you may be missing an opportunity to get a higher credit score simply by asking your card issuer to raise your credit limit. Along with improving your credit score, you increase the chances for better offers on future credit cards and loan qualifications because of lower credit utilization – the amount of credit you are using compared to your credit limit. Payment history is the factor that contributes the most to your credit score, but another large portion is determined by credit utilization. Experian's Director of Public Education, Rod Griffin, describes their findings: "What we found is that people with the very best credit scores have utilization rates of less than 10%...One of the numbers you'll hear out there is 30% - that's really a maximum." Missed or late payments will always ding your credit score, but that behavior causes even more worry to a creditor when you are near your credit limit. A recent study by CreditCards.com found that only 28% of cardholders have ever asked for a credit limit increase, but that 89% of those who do receive an increase. With a good history, a card issuer is likely to see more reward than risk in increasing your limit, expecting that you may incur more interest charges without risking an unpayable debt spiral. If your credit is too shaky to ask for a credit limit increase, improve your credit score the old-fashioned way: limit your expenses and pay down your debts with regular, on-time payments. You can expedite the process if you qualify for a balance transfer card that allows you to use an introductory 0% APR period to pay down debt without incurring interest charges. April Lewis-Parks, Director of Education and Public Relations for Consolidated Credit, illustrates with the example of a person with $4,000 in debt on a card with a $5,000 limit. "If they take that debt and transfer it to another card that has a higher credit limit (say $10,000), that $4,000 is much lower percentage-wise and that alone will raise their credit score." Keep in mind that this strategy fails if you use your higher credit limit as an excuse to spend more money. Be proud of your large credit card limit if you like, but be even prouder of your relatively low spending, low credit utilization, and high credit score. Creditors will be proud of you, too. If you want more credit, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/WeekendImagesIncOriginally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/does-your-credit-card-limit-measure-up/885Higher Credit Limits Help Improve Credit ScoresLenders Profit From Your Minimum Credit Card PaymentsCredit Cards Offer Rewards For Adding Authorized Users
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