Tax Season Tips for Twenty-Somethings

First time filing taxes? Here’s what you need to know.

Tax season is something our parents and economics teachers should have taught us about but never did. Yet oddly, it’s one of the most important American chores adults have to take care of like clockwork each year. Screw it up, and you just might end up owing thousands of dollars to the government. Sort it out, and get a nice chunk of what feels like free money once a year.

Decide if you need to hire someone

If your tax situation is straightforward, you can do them yourself, maybe even for free.

There are circumstances under which you should hire an accountant to do your taxes. If you go this route, I recommend asking friends and family to refer you to someone, as there are countless horror stories about accountants butchering the tax returns of the innocent.

If you received unemployment benefits or earned large sums from self-employment, you might want to consider hiring an accountant, as opposed to navigating the quagmire of IRS forms all by your lonesome.

Don’t worry. We’re in this together

Find out if you’re required to file

You are required to file a tax return if you made $10,300 or more last year, assuming you are single and no one else can claim you as a dependent (see below). If you are a dependent, then you must file if you made $6,300 or more.

If you receive a 1099 form, usually from self-employment or independent contractor work, you must file if it states you made $400 or more on that single document.

If you are still unsure if you’re required to file, use this free tool (courtesy of efile.com)

Figure out if you’re claiming yourself

This sometimes involves a call to the parental unit. If they’re still claiming you, you can’t claim yourself. A parent might cling to your dependency status to milk their own tax return for all its worth. However, claiming yourself could also mean fattening your own tax return. Thus, you might have to do a bit of negotiating to figure out what’s best for you and your family. The general guideline states that if you pay for at least 51% of your own living expenses, you should claim yourself. Get the detailed version here.

Just because you’re not required to file doesn’t mean you shouldn’t

It’s likely that you can still receive a tax refund even if you aren’t required to file. This is true especially if you are claiming yourself and if you were a college or graduate student at any point during the last tax year.

Find out if you qualify for free tax preparation services

Depending on your income level, you may qualify for free tax preparation services sponsored by the IRS. This doesn’t just apply to tax software, either. You can hire an accountant to file your taxes at no cost to you.

If you made $31,000 or less this year, you qualify for TurboTax Freedom Edition. Do not confuse it with TurboTax’s Federal Free Edition. You will not find a link to the Freedom Edition anywhere on TurboTax’s site, though it’s a much more comprehensive software that covers 1089s, 1099s, and all sorts of goodies.

If you made $54,000 or less this past year (which you probably did if you’re under 30), you qualify for the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This means a real live accountant will help you do your taxes for free! To find one, you can look up a provider here.

Get your documents in order

A couple years ago, I forgot to report income from a job I worked at for only two months. This is a huge tax no-no that may result in you needing to file the dreaded Amended Tax Return. (Please do not do this to yourself.)

You should have the following documents on hand:

  • W-2 forms from every place you were employed throughout the year (no matter how long you worked there).
  • 1099 forms from any independent contractor work in which you made $600 or more. (Occasionally, incompetent companies may send you a 1099 when you made less than $600, and you will be required to report it if you made $400 or more.)
  • 1089-T forms if you were a student for at least ½ time during the past year. This could get you my favorite tax credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (translation: $1,000 extra on your tax return depending on how much dough you dropped on tuition, loans included, if you were an undergraduate).
  • Any additional documentation from stocks, bonds, and those other things I don’t have.
  • Documentation of large donations, work- or volunteer-related expenses, vehicle registration, and more.

Be thorough and consistent

One mistake can mean getting audited by the IRS. This is the last thing you want. The number one reason for an IRS tax audit is not reporting all of your income. Make sure to review all documents a couple times before you submit. If you hire an accountant, never sign a blank tax document.

Choose the direct deposit option

Just do it. I got my tax return in less than 5 days this year and already blew most of it on my bills.

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Bar Etiquette | Ordering a Drink

Ordering a drink at a bar is a somewhat elusive art. While we learn from a relatively tender age how to properly behave in a restaurant, place an order with a server, and leave an appropriate tip, it is rare that any budding adult has had training on how to order booze. In fact, our first efforts in bars are so frequently geared towards making sure our fake IDs aren’t taken away that we seldom realize there is an unspoken etiquette that needs to be observed whilst at the adult watering hole.

How to place your order

If you think they may not have seen you, or they didn’t hear your whimpering for a cocktail, you’re wrong. Bartenders see and hear everything (yes, even that one you thought couldn’t hear you telling your friend you thought he’s cute). First off, when attempting to get a tenders attention, please refrain from any of the following:

Waving a credit card/cash in the bartenders face (bartenders see everything)

Clicking/clapping/yelling (bartenders hear everything)

Shoving the people who have waited patiently to get to the bar (you get the point – act like an ass and its not gonna happen)

Once you’ve secured the bartenders attention, the worst you could do is waste his or her time. Get right to the point and order your drinks.

Use good manners

Know your order. Look a cocktail menu or beer list over before getting the bartenders attention. 1

Got a big order? Order all the drinks at once. Make sure everyone in your party knows what they want. This may seem counterintuitive but a bartender is most concerned with drink production efficiency (more drinks made = more tips paid). Making one round of five drinks is faster than making five rounds of one drink.

Stay attentive after you’ve placed your order – turn around or walk away to a conversation with your friends and you may never receive your drink. Thirsty people pay attention.

Now that you’ve placed and received your order like a gentleman or gentlewoman, it’s time to tip like one. Remember, like most positions in the service industry, bartenders are getting paid minimum wage or below. Not tipping is like deciding that your tender doesn’t deserve a paycheck. While it’s understood that you may be new to adulthood and therefore low on cash, it’s still good manners to huck over at least 20% (or at least two dollars per cheap beer/cocktail), though we will get to the benefits of tipping more soon…

Thats it! Congratulations, you’ve now ordered liquor like fully functional adult. 


  1. Be nice

6 Financial Resolutions for Twenty-Somethings to Stick to

We work for money. We sit in an office, wash dishes, shmooze, hustle just so we can make a buck and go have Chipotle when we want. But if you ever feel guilty about paying $14 for a cocktail you could have made at home, then your finances are probably not in order. You should always know how much you can spend and where you can spend it, because if you don’t have a handle on your bank account, you’re a chump.

Here’s a few tips and tricks to be a little smarter with your cashola.

Make a budget

And stick to it. Excel is definitely under your skills on Linkedin so use it. Make a Google doc because its free and set up the following tabs: Food, Utilities, Rent, Fun, and Total. Take the time to actually enter in all of your expenses from January and see where your money is going. Then set realistic limits on what you want to spend each month and hold to it.

Pay off your credit card every month

Seriously – if you don’t then add on $3 to every item you buy, because that is interest.

Review your statement

That way you can see how much the surge actually cost you in your Uber or how much you drunkenly tipped the hot bartender. Or you know, there might be fraudulent charges. Also while your doing this, you can input the information in your budget!

Schedule reminders for your Auto-Pays

It sounds silly because that’s why you have Auto Pay, but just set a little iCal reminder on the date the money usually leaves your account. You’ll have a better idea of what your balance is and how much money you are actually spending.

Save – even just 1%

1% of $1,000 is 10 dollars. It’s not much, but you’ll feel good about saving and it adds up fast (But seriously maybe try 15% and move it right into your savings as soon as you get your paycheck or else you never will).

Get a travel credit card and use it

The more you use, the more miles you’ll get and at the end of the year you can take a swanky vacation or at least visit a friend that lives in a different state! It’s like FREE MONEY!

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The Undeclared Life: Goal-Setting for the Undecided

Goals, the magic word that pops up when our generation talks about what it means to be an adult. From an early age the idea of striving towards something is instilled in us as a necessity. At each phase of our life we have goals to work toward, and by the time we graduate from school, we’re supposed to have this bright shiny elevator pitch prepared when your relative asks what our “plan” is.

Everyone needs to be working towards something, right? Going into a job interview with zero goals is basically asking for unemployment, right? If you don’t have any goals, you’re a failure, right?  Well, to hell with that.

Surprise: Failure doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means you’re not right yet.

There are a million reasons to remain undecided, and absolutely none of them mean “failure.” You’re worried enough to read an article about it on the internet, so you’re obviously doing something about it. And that is everything.

So why does indecision feel like failure?

Our generation was raised on failure; or rather, the fear of it. It’s not about survival, anymore. It’s about validation from others.

“Failure” starts by comparing ourselves to an outdated model.

What Grandpa doesn’t know is…if he were in your shoes, he probably wouldn’t have his own house, either.

People today are so enamored by achievement, that we don’t have time to incubate our ideas anymore. Why bother, when we can just share our half-formed notions in 140 characters or less?

As humans, we are designed to change our minds.

Adapting to this change is what made us as advanced as we are today. The last time we had one, singular purpose was in Prehistoric times. What was our “goal” then? Survival. And now, humans have more freedom than ever. We have more time. We have more food. We have more knowledge. And it’s a lot to process.

So: you’re out of college, but remain Undeclared. What do you do?

You were hoping for a list of tips for an easy way out, weren’t you? Too bad.

Because if you embrace your circumstance, you’re going to give yourself something better than the momentary misery of indecision or lack of direction.

Indecision is the most under-appreciated creativity hack in existence. Here are some famous examples.

Ever heard of James Joyce? You better have.

Joyce

Writing was something he enjoyed, but didn’t necessarily plan as a career. He happened to be a talented singer, so music was his main gig. It wasn’t until he was 32 that his first book was published.

His writing was better, from having lived it. Imagine if James Joyce spent his entire adult life doing nothing other than writing? Without failure, indecision, confusion, and wandering, he’d have nothing interesting to say.

Without those years of indecision, James Joyce may not have become one of the most celebrated authors of all time, publishing some of the most famous stories in the world including The Dubliners, Ulysses, and The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Suze Orman

201106-omag-suze-orman-949x534She is now one of the world’s top personal finance experts, with millions of fans. But she didn’t graduate college with plans to become a money maven. In fact, she had no idea what she wanted. But because she was “supposed” to, Orman settled on a goal: opening a café.

That was when it all went to shit. After a friend invested $50,000 into her business, Suze Orman lost it. Every single penny.

Realizing how poorly she managed her money, Suze Orman decided to get better at it. This led to her finally finding her niche, well into her 30s.

Now tell me, was her life before finance a waste of time?

“But what about finding your passion?”

The word “passion” is just another single-minded box to put your potential in. Your career does not depend on passion.

If Harrison Ford stuck with his “passion,” Han Solo would not be Han Solo.

han-solo-mainHarrison Ford was actually a carpenter for 15 years. And he loved it. His only real “goal” was to be financially stable, and make cool stuff. (Yeah, he made sets for The Doors on tour. NBD.)

One day, George Lucas (a no-name producer at the time,) offered him a tiny role on a set he had been building. He said yes, out of sheer curiosity. This was the beginning of a surprise career change for Ford, which would eventually lead him to Star Wars.

Yes, your passion can (and will) change.

Kalpen Modi (he played Kumar Patel in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) recently came to the realization that his true calling wasn’t Hollywood. It was Washington.

After spending years building his acting career, Modi changed his mind – big time. He actually had his character on House commit suicide, just so that he could quit and join the Obama administration. He now works at the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Yup, this guy works in the White House now.

So what does this mean for you?

Most success stories don’t follow the Hollywood Timeline.

Success is not a straight line. It might look like a zig-zag. Or a circle. Maybe it’s a series of unconnected dots. Some of the richest, most famous, and brightest people out there are still waiting for that moment where they’ve “made it.” Unfortunately, this moment only exists when you let it.

Your only “goal” is to find a goal. Here’s how.

1. Spend a day pretending that money doesn’t matter, time doesn’t matter, and what other people think doesn’t matter. Just pretend. I know… it’s hard.

2. Then, make a point to see what excites you most about your normal, boring day. Follow that glimmer of excitement and see where it leads you.

All it takes is one hour

Is making breakfast fun? Cool. Spend an hour trying to invent a new dish.

Do you love doing your makeup? Sweet. Experiment with it and see how many looks you can create in one hour.

Are you constantly on social media? If it makes you happy, explore it. Maybe take an hour to check out social media promotion gigs.

If you really enjoy yourself, decide to spend an hour on it tomorrow. Maybe next week, it’ll be two hours a day. Keep going, if it feels good – and in a year, you’ll have mad skills.

But what if I don’t like doing this in a year?

Chances are, you won’t like it the same as you did when you started. But moving in one direction – any direction – is better than standing still. It doesn’t matter if it’s your “calling.” You’re in your twenties. The skills you develop now will ultimately benefit you, no matter where you end up.

The most important decision to make right now – the one that will have the largest impact on the next 5 years of your life, is this:

Enjoy the process.

unbreakable kimmy schmidt ellie kemper

Play. Try something you’ll never be good at. Get better at something you already know. Focus on activities, not results.

Living undeclared is actually a gift. By not knowing, you are open to more possibilities than you would be if you just “decided.”

You don’t win an Oscar for writing your acceptance speech. Why should life be any different?

Adulthood is not a school. There are no A’s and B’s. There is no pass or fail. It’s really just a giant study hall.

…So, what would you like to work on, today?

Taking Your Life Back: Living Your Dreams and Not Your 9-5

Do you ever feel like your life revolves around your full-time job? You wake up, get dressed, go to work, go home, go to sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. Every minute of your waking life either sucks because you hate your job, sucks because you are wishing you were somewhere else, or sucks because even after 3 years in the “working world” you are still getting paid in experience. #broke.

i don't have a future 2 broke girls gif

Breaking the cycle is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes even getting my ass to the gym is tough because I would rather sleep, cook dinner, or watch mindless TV until I forget that I’m wasting my life waiting for the future.

“Waiting” is the operative term here

A lot of the time we tend to think about the future and how we will be rich, successful, and well traveled. But, that doesn’t just happen and sitting around doing nothing. “Waiting” for success isn’t going to propel you there.

The only way to get there is to make it happen yourself (unless you have rich parents, a famous friend, or you marry Prince Harry, who in fact is currently taken #nogo).

Take it from someone who knows, it’s hard to have high expectations for life and then see them crumble down around you when you realize that working a full-time job for a year means nothing to anyone, but you and another year just begins as soon as the first one ends. No one cares that you worked for a year because life is long and you will probably have to work for the next 40 years of your life.
high school graduate high school senior gifStop sitting around waiting for life to happen to you and make life happen for yourself. Don’t let your 40-hour or more work week define you. Take your life back! Do something that you care about that will make you happy. Here are some suggestions:

Start a business

You don’t have to invest a lot of money into your new business. It just takes an idea and a few hours of research. If following your dreams means becoming an entrepreneur, then do it! Its easier now than ever to start a business and there are tons of resources online. Get a group of your friends together to be on your team. Some people want to change their life, but don’t have big ideas of becoming an entrepreneur. Use their skills to your advantage and give them important tasks for your business. Starting a blog and/or website is easy to. Follow some awesome tutorials and you can have your own site for free in 30 minutes or less!

Volunteer

Maybe it’s messed up, but people always feel better when they see someone in a worse situation than themselves. Yes, you can sit on your butt and cry about how your boss doesn’t respect you, your mom likes your brother more, and how you will be single and broke forever.

Then, when you are done drinking and crying, which we all know can take hours and multiple glasses of wine, get up, move on, and help someone else. There are people out there who don’t have homes, health insurance, the ability to walk, move, or speak and there are many children all over the world, even in your backyard, starving everyday because they don’t have enough money or resources to get food. Help them and help yourself be less self absorbed. You might even make a few friends or meet a hottie at a volunteer activity. Studies show that people who are interested in the same things are more likely to stay together longer.

Broad City comedy central

Get on indeed.com, craigslist, whatever floats your boat and find a new job, a supplemental job, or even a couple side gigs.

Making some extra cash never hurt anyone and you can even meet new people and make connections while doing it. I’ve also learned that figuring out what you don’t want to do helps you narrow down the options for what you do want to do.

Remember, you are the driving force of your own life. If you sit around and do nothing, chances are that nothing will happen. Take a leap! Start a project, and begin loving your life. Each moment counts and we are only allotted so many.

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Applying for a Student Loan for Grad School

When I decided to go to grad school my parents said “this one is on you.” AKA they weren’t going to help me figure out the elfish language that is student loans. They say it would be a learning experience, but I know its because they didn’t want me to move out.

Student loans for graduate school are completely different than for undergraduate degrees and my parents did that one for me so this was a completely new experience. Let me breakdown the process for you from beginning to end.

Get your taxes done

You are going to need this information when you fill out the FAFSA. It would be best to get them done early in January or February. Get TurboTax, take them to H&R Block, or have your friend do it.

Fill out the FAFSA

This is usually due the first few days in March. You have to fill it out before then. The FAFSA is pretty difficult to fill out, which is why you should have your tax return sitting in front of you while you do it. You can pretty much go line by line and plug in the numbers straight from there

Figure out which schools you are applying to

FUN FACT: You can apply for your loan before you’ve gotten into your university (I think everyone knew this but me). Once you fill out the FAFSA, the government will cross check with your university to make sure you actually applied there and aren’t just trying to get massive amounts of money.

Apply on studentloans.gov

Pretty straightforward after the FAFSA. They’re going to run a credit check on you and then you fill out the application, complete a Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling.

Know your loans: Subsidized, Unsubsidized, and PLUS

Subsidized loans are awesome because the U.S. government pays interest on them while you are in school. The not so awesome thing is that you can’t get a subsidized loan as a graduate student. However, this is good to know because you can defer the loans you have from your undergraduate degree while you are in grad school – LOANS ON LOANS ON LOANS. Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest the moment it is disbursed to you. PLUS loans are the same but the interest rates are higher so you’ll want to take out an unsubsidized loan for as much as you can before you take out your PLUS loan.

It’s scary and not very fun and overwhelming to think about how much money you’re going to owe at the end of it. The thing that keeps me sane is that the end of the world will probably come before I pay it back, so I’m all good!

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Grown-up Things | Moving in Together

Maybe it’s been months, or even years that you’ve contemplated moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner. But there’s a whole range of reasons and fears that prevent you from doing so. Your parents, friends and colleagues think you’re too young. Or maybe you’re just not ready to give up all of your gross habits. I am twenty-one and have been living happily with my boyfriend for almost two years. We both have busy schedules, so sharing an apartment makes it easier to hang out. If the thought of moving in with your significant other feels exciting, and even a little scary, go for it! Our culture makes this seem like such a grown-up marriage thing, but it really doesn’t have to be. We all need a home. Here’s what you should consider before making the move:

Observe their current living habits

I know you might be unconditionally in love with this person, but you have to treat them like a roommate for a second. If you’re a neat and tidy person and your partner is not, this will cause serious issues. You’ll end up resenting them for never washing the dishes and may take this frustration out in other damaging ways. Harmony in habit = harmony in the relationship.

Splitting up rent & other expenses

Figure out how much income is being made between the two of you and decide on a proportional rent budget. It’s best to make things as fair as possible. If your partner makes more money than you do per month, they should pay more rent. Then look at other expenses, like water & gas, internet, and electricity. Split the most expensive one and divide the others. Do your grocery shopping together – it’s fun and cheap(ish)! You can split the bill according to your grocery budgets.

You will share literally EVERYTHING

You’re going to sleep in the same bed, share all your groceries, use the same shower products, pee in the same toilet, you name it! Unless of course you buy something ridiculously expensive and/or personal and want it all for yourself, which is totally understandable. You’re also going to be sharing emotions. We all have our fluctuations of happy and sad, and you might see a side to each other you never knew before. But if you create a support system and separate the effects of the day-to-day grind from your love life, the relationship will prosper.

Credit: http://bit.ly/1k0hlY5

Have a life outside the home/relationship

Let’s be real – we all get annoyed with each other eventually. She hates the way you talk to her, and the way you cut your hair. You hate the way she drives your car, and you hate it when she stares. But 99% of the time, you both just need some space. It’s healthy to miss each other every once in a while. Go to the club with your girlfriends, sing-a-long with Taylor Swift, talk shit. Wake n’ bake with the bros and play FIFA all day. Whatever. By the end of the day you won’t care that she forgot to get quarters for laundry. Again.

Credit: 10 Things I Hate About You

Clarify your intentions

Moving in with your significant other means different things to different people. For some, it is very serious and considered a pre-marriage step. For others, it can be fun and casual. Communicate why you want to live together. However, if you are considering the move strictly for financial benefit, I would suggest holding off for a while. This next step in your relationship should be based on the love and passion you have for each other, not temporary financial convenience. It is also important to note that uncertainty about the future is ok. We are young, and most of the time life does not go according to plan. Just make sure you communicate a mutual openness to the changes that will come.

Have a plan for when shit hits the fan

You made an adult decision to move in together, so you have to act like adults if you break up. Put both names on the lease so that you are equally responsible for rent. That way neither of you will get screwed over with all the costs later on. Have a back-up place to stay while figuring out your next move, otherwise it’s going to be pretty awkward sharing the same bathroom and kitchen with your ex. Also, be aware of who paid for what possessions so that you can take what is rightfully yours upon moving out.

Living with your sig. other will be tough at times, but mostly (hopefully) it will be a blast! There’s nothing better than creating unforgettable memories with someone you love, and sharing a home is just an extension of that.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.”                  – Theodore Roosevelt

Getting Approved: Ways Around Rental Red Flags

So, you know about what the landlords are looking for when weeding out the tenant pool. For some of you, that list may have been a stress reliever. For others, it may have been slightly panic inducing (sorry…).

If any of the red flags I mentioned earlier apply to you, take a breath.

There is a way around them.

Money

swag animated GIF Most landlords will agree to accept a larger security deposit (think 2-3 months rent) as a means of approval to cover a wide variety of potential issues.

Low Credit Score

The golden number for approval is 620. If your credit score is below this line, be upfront with the landlord and be ready to explain the low score. Ask the landlord ahead of time if they allow NRGs [Non Resident Guarantors] and ask a family member with a higher score if they will co-sign the lease with you.

No Credit or Rental History

Get a credit card. Start with a low limit + pay it off every month. A year long history of on-time payments will boost your score and give you the credit history you need to rent. No rental history? Use your dorm address[es] and list your campus Residence Life as your landlord.

Income Rank

If your income does not meet requirements, you need to look for a cheaper place. Pay check to pay check living is terrifying. Trust me on this one.

(I know, I said I had solutions to every red flag. You’ll thank me later when you have $$ to buy a house one day)

Cashable Assets

If you don’t have a lot saved up, you have two options:

Option A: Wait until you have more money

Option B: Ask your boss to write a letter saying that you are a good employee and that they have no desire to let you go in the foreseeable future (think 6 months). Most landlords will accept that (with a larger deposit) and agree to lease to you.

Move History

Explain. Have detailed reasons why you left and references to back them up. Old place was infested with bugs? You’ll need pictures, emails and receipts to prove it.

Employment History­­

Again, reference letters are your best bet. The “promise of employment” letter I mentioned earlier will also help you here. Still in college? Get a professor and/or an advisor to write a letter about what a great student you are and what you plan to do in the future.

Criminal Record

This is one you definitely must be up front about. The best way to get ahead is to do a background check on yourself here or here. Whatever shows up on this record, will show up on your landlord’s search. Be honest + explain what happened. If possible, provide a reference letter from someone involved in your court process. As long as you have a non-violent record and the arrest/citation is over a year old, you should be clear to rent after talking to the landlord.

Overall, honesty is the best policy. A good landlord will be appreciative of your willingness to be upfront and honest about your past. They may still charge you more for a lease, but hey – at least you’ll get approved.

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How to Choose Your First Credit Card

Maybe this isn’t your first credit card. Your parents probably got you one in high school that was meant for emergencies and you used the entire limit on your Juicy Couture velour tracksuit with your friends at the mall that one time and immediately had to return it the next day. If you still live with them, they might still pay your bill.

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you need your own card, in your own name, that doesn’t have a $700 dollar limit. It helps you build your credit and, if used correctly, affects your credit score in a positive way. You’ll eventually need those things when you want to buy a house and get a mortgage. Credit cards can be scary and I know there was a point in my life where I just wanted to pay cash for everything because interest is some kind of torture device, but they can also have their perks (Miles! Cash back! POINTS!).

There are about a million credit cards out there and you probably get inundated with mail from various companies begging you to choose theirs. Treat your credit card hunt like a dating app. Get to know it, google it, and don’t just pick the first credit card that throws itself at you.

The hardest part is picking the card. There are a few different cards out there that give you rewards. Identify what you want. I knew I wanted to travel so I ran a search for cards that were the best for that; it generally falls between the Capital One Venture and the Chase Sapphire. Check it out here. “Travel” cards will give you benefits like points you can use towards flights, no foreign transaction fees, and double the points and travel related purchases. No joke, I get DOUBLE POINTS EVERY TIME I USE UBER.

Some credit cards offer cash back, airline miles, or rewards at stores where you may be a loyal customer. Nerd Wallet does a great job of comparing credit card options for you. Check it out here.

From there all you do is go to their website and apply! You’ll have to answer a few questions, but they’re generally pretty easy. This is not like applying to colleges. They actually want you because they want your money.

Do a lot of research a know what you’re getting yourself into because if you cancel a credit card and get a new one in a short period, that also messes with your credit. You’ll know you found the perfect one when you are excited to spend money knowing your getting more out of it than just a burrito.

I did about two weeks of research into my card and I don’t want to be a walking advertisement, but I love it. I was sitting on a plane a year ago bragging about my new credit card to the random person sitting next to me. He was on his way to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and was also a fellow travel junkie. I told him I had done tons of research and finally decided on the perfect card.

He asked, “Which one do you have?”

We both reached into our wallets and pulled out our Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It’s sleek, heavy, and made of metal. We then made out in the bathroom for the rest of the flight. Just kidding.

Do your homework and be smart with it!

I wonder what Nelly got with that purchase he just made…

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Red Flags Landlords Look For in Renters

This article is in a series of articles that cover the basics of what you need to know about apartment living. 

If you have ever been turned down by a landlord because of a clearance issue, I feel for you. It sucks. It’s stressful and the thought of moving back (or staying) with your parents is driving you nuts. It seems like everyone is keeping vital renting information from you.

Well, they’re not. They more than likely had to learn about the rental process the hard way too.

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I work in real estate. I know from experience how frustrating it can be when you are looking for a new place AND how irritating it is when a potential renter or buyer is unprepared for the process.

Now, (most) landlords are not looking to screw you over. They have a building and they want to fill it. If their building is empty, then they don’t get paid. Landlords are, however, easily frustrated when they have to waste time on an unqualified applicant. Time is money. And in real estate, money is all that matters.

To help make this experience as pleasant as possible for you and your potential landlord, check out these 6 things that you need to know before you even start looking for an apartment:

Your Credit Score

The golden number for renting a new place is 620 (and that’s the lowest of the low). Below that, you are considered HRD (high risk to default) and most landlords will not lease to you. Landlords who rent to individuals with low credit scores often charge more for less desirable places (FYI- these complexes also tend to be sketch af).

Income Rank

Landlords measure your income against your rent on a scale. In most large cities, your monthly take home income needs to be 3x’s your monthly rent. In places like NYC and LA, this may increase to 4 or even 5x’s. Example: You must take home $2,100/month after taxes to afford a $700/month apartment.

Cashable Assets

Landlords may ask to see your bank statements to prove you have savings just in case the worst happens. Many even require proof of 3 months’ worth of savings to rent. They may also ask for additional assets you could use to pay rent (ie a car with no loan payment) if you were to lose your job.

Criminal Record

If you have ever spent time in a drunk tank or have been arrested and/or cited for any other reason, it will show up on tenant background checks. In addition, outstanding warrants (ex: unpaid traffic or parking tickets) may show up as well. If you’ve been implicated in a domestic violence situation, have more than 2 traffic stops in the last 12 months or have more than 3 arrests on your record, then you will not be qualified to rent from most landlords.

Move History

For my former company, if you were not a student or military and moved in the same state more than 2 times in the past 5 years, you were automatically flagged as a potential lease breaker. Be prepared to convince the landlord that you are not and you just wanted a change of environment or that your past landlord was a weirdo.

Employment History

If you constantly change jobs or the landlord can’t tell on paper where your career is going, then you will be flagged as a risky renter. Landlords want to be sure that their tenants have stable employment so they don’t get stiffed on rent.

If you can check off these boxes, then you should be able to get approval wherever you want to rent!   If you don’t, don’t worry. There are things you can do to circumvent these issues. That information is coming very soon.

But for now!

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