The Average Salary of an Architect

The Average Salary of an Architect

The average salary of an architect is $76,100 per year.

Have you ever wondered how much an architect earns? Becoming an architect requires an investment of money and time, but pays off in the form of a rewarding career that comes with above-average earnings. And for those lucky few who become “starchitects,” it’s a path to fame. Let’s take a closer look at the average salary of an architect. 

The Average Salary of an Architect: The Basics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that the average salary of an architect was $76,100 per year, $36.59 per hour in 2015. There is wide range of architect salaries, however. The top 10% of architects earn an average salary of $125,520 per year, $60.34 per hour. The bottom 10% of architects earn an average salary of $46,080 per year, $22.15 per hour.

Architects’ salaries are fairly high, but what do the future job prospects look like for architects? The BLS releases a “job outlook” for the fields it studies. The job outlook predicts the percent by which the number of people in a given job will grow between 2014 and 2024. For architects, the BLS job outlook is 7%, which is around the average for all the jobs the BLS studies. The field isn’t shrinking, but it’s not growing at faster-than-average rates either.

Related Article: The Average Salary of a Doctor 

Where Architects Make the Most

The Average Salary of an Architect

The BLS examines state- and metro-level data on earnings, too. Where does it pay the most to be an architect? According to BLS data, the top-paying state for architects is California, where the annual mean wage for architects is $97,880. Other high-paying states for architects are Georgia ($93,940), Massachusetts ($90,430), New Jersey ($89,130) and Minnesota ($88,680).

What about metro areas? The top-paying metro area for architects is West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL, where the mean annual wage for architects is $117,870. Other high-paying metro areas for architects are Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA; Syracuse, NY and Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA.

Related Article: The Cost of Living in California

The Cost of Becoming an Architect

The first step to becoming an architect is to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in architecture. A poll by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) found that poll respondents (all architecture school graduates) had an average post-graduation student debt of $40,000. The students also reported spending thousands on extra costs such as modeling materials, textbooks and more.

After obtaining a degree (often a five-year degree), budding architects do an average of three years at an architecture internship. Finally, they must take the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). That means that even the fastest path to becoming an architect in the U.S. takes eight years, but most people take around 11 years. In the meantime, most of these aspiring architects are paying back student loans. The ARE also comes with stiff fees. Depending on which version of the exam you take, the exam fee itself is either $1,470 or $1,260. If you have to cancel your exam, the fees you pay are non-refundable.

Bottom Line

The Average Salary of an Architect

The job of an architect comes with glamour and prestige, as well as a high salary and a solid job outlook. However, the path to becoming an architect is a long and expensive one and not everyone who wants to become an architect makes it through the multi-year process. Still, if you have the discipline, talent and funds architecture is a financially rewarding career path.

Update: Have financial questions beyond an architect’s average salary? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to up to three registered investment advisors who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

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Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next

mortgage forbearanceSEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

Millions of Americans struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments because of COVID-19 have received relief through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But mortgage forbearance is only temporary, and set to expire soon, leaving many homeowners who are still struggling perplexed on what to do next.

Enacted in March, the CARES Act initially granted a 180-day forbearance, or pause in payments, to homeowners with mortgages backed by the federal government or a government-sponsored enterprise such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Furthermore, some private lenders also granted mortgage forbearance of 90 days or more to financially distressed homeowners.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 8.39% of loans were in forbearance as of June 28, representing an estimated 4.2 million homeowners nationwide.

So what are affected homeowners to do when the forbearance goes away? You have options, so it’s well worth contacting your lender to explore what’s best for you.

“If you know you’re going to be unable to meet the terms of your forbearance agreement at its maturity, you should call your loan servicer immediately and see what options they may be able to offer to you,” says Abel Carrasco, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Advisors in St. Petersburg, FL.

Exactly what’s available depends on the fine print in the terms of your mortgage forbearance agreement. Here’s an overview of some possible avenues to explore if you still can’t pay your mortgage after the forbearance period ends.

Extend your mortgage forbearance

One simple option is to contact your lender to request an extension.

Homeowners granted forbearance under the CARES Act can request a 180-day extension, giving them a total of 360 days of forbearance, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The key is to contact your lender well before your forbearance expires. If you let it expire without an extension, your lender could impose penalties.

“If you just stop making regular, scheduled payments, you could have a late mortgage payment on your credit,” warns Carrasco. “That could severely impact refinancing or purchasing another property in the immediate future and potentially subject you to foreclosure.”

Keep in mind, though, a forbearance simply delays payments, meaning they’ll still need to be made in the future. It doesn’t mean payments are forgiven.

Refinance to lower your mortgage payment

Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, hovering around 3%. So if you can swing it, this may be a great time to refinance your home, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

Refinancing could come with some hefty fees, however, ranging from 2% to 6% of your loan amount. But it could be worth it.

A lower interest rate will likely lower your monthly payment and save you thousands over the life of your mortgage. Dropping your interest rate from 4.125% to 3% could save more than $40,000 over 30 years, for example, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Lenders have tightened standards, though, so you will need to show that you are a good candidate for refinancing,” Kapfidze says. You’ll need a good credit score of 620 or higher.

As long as you’ve kept up your end of the forbearance terms, having a mortgage forbearance shouldn’t affect your credit score, or your ability to refinance or qualify for another mortgage.

Ask for a loan modification

Many lenders are offering an assortment of programs to help homeowners under hardship because of the pandemic, says Christopher Sailus, vice president and mortgage product manager at WaFd Bank.

“Lenders quickly recognized the severity of the economic situation due to the pandemic, and put programs into place to defer payments or help reduce them,” he says.

A loan modification is one such option. This enables homeowners at risk of default to change the terms of their original mortgage—such as payment amount, interest rate, or length of the loan—to reduce monthly payments and clear up any delinquencies.

Loan modifications may affect your credit score, but not as much as a foreclosure. Some lenders charge fees for loan modifications, but others, like WaFd, provide them at no cost.

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Watch: 5 Things to Know About Selling a Home Amid the Pandemic

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Put your home on the market

It may seem like a strange time to sell your home, with COVID-19 cases growing, unemployment rising, and the economy on shaky ground. But, it’s actually a great time to sell a house.

Pending home sales jumped 44.3% in May, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ Pending Home Sales Index, the largest month-over-month growth since the index began in 2001.

Home inventory remains low, and buyer demand is up with many hoping to jump on the low interest rates. Prices are up, too. The national median home price increased 7.7% in the first quarter of 2020, to $274,600, according to NAR.

So if you can no longer afford your home and have plenty of equity built up, listing your home may be a smart move. (Home equity is the market value of your home minus how much you still owe on your mortgage.)

Consider foreclosure as a last resort

Foreclosure may be the only option for many homeowners, especially if you fall too behind on your mortgage payments and can’t afford to sell or refinance. In May, more than 7% of mortgages were delinquent, a 20% increase from April, according to mortgage data and analytics firm Black Knight.

“When to begin a foreclosure process will vary from lender to lender and client to client,” Sailus says. “Current and future state and federal legislation, statutes, or regulations will impact the process, as will the individual homeowner’s situation and their ability to repay.”

Foreclosures won’t begin until after a forbearance period ends, he adds.

The CARES Act prohibited lenders from foreclosing on mortgages backed by the government or government-sponsored enterprise until at least Aug. 31. Several states, including California and Connecticut, also issued temporary foreclosure moratoriums and stays.

Once these grace periods (and forbearance timelines) end, and homeowners miss payments, they could face foreclosure, Carrasco says. When a loan is flagged as being in foreclosure, the balance is due and legal fees accumulate, requiring homeowners to pay off the loan (usually by selling) and vacating the property.

“Absent participation in an agreed-upon forbearance, deferment, repayment plan, or loan modification, loan servicers historically may begin the foreclosure process after as few as three months of missed mortgage payments,” he explains. “This is unfortunately often the point of no return.”

The post Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Help, I Need to Get the Cosigner Off My Car Loan!

how to get a cosigner off a car loan

We’ve had many readers write in after a divorce and ask how to split their assets with an ex-spouse. One of the most common questions is how to remove an ex or another cosigner from a car loan and title. Here’s how to go about it.

What’s the Role of a Cosigner?

It can be challenging to remove a cosigner from a loan. To gain a better understanding of why, let’s look at why a cosigner is used at all. Essentially, a cosigner is needed when the borrowers own credit and/or income isn’t enough to qualify for the loan by himself or herself. The cosigner, presumably, has stronger credit and income, and is required by the lender or creditor to help guarantee that the loan will be repaid.

Loans involving a cosigner include a cosigners notice. The notice asks that the cosigner guarantee the debt. This means that if the original borrower fails to make payments on the debt, then the cosigner becomes responsible for the balance. The cosigner then is obligated to make payments until the debt is paid when the borrower can’t.

Co-signing a loan is risky for the cosigner, because it can affect the cosigner’s credit if the borrower doesn’t satisfy the debt and the cosigner has to take over. The debt can ultimately affect the cosigner’s credit scores and access to revolving credit, such as credit cards.

Before co-signing a loan, a cosigner should be sure that he/she is able to comfortably take on the monthly payments if it comes to that. The cosigner should also make sure he/she doesn’t need to get a loan of his/her own over the course of the cosigned loans terms.  Cosigning on the borrower’s debt will affect the cosigner’s overall credit utilization and ability to secure other credit opportunities in the meantime.

Now that you know the role of a co-signer let’s look at what you can do to remove them from a car loan if needed.

Refinance the Car Loan to Get the Cosigner Off

You may be able to refinance a car loan in your own name to get your cosigner off the loan. In essence, you’ll buy the car from your ex-spouse and go through the car buying process again.

The spouse who is responsible for the car loan payments, the primary signer, should ideally assume credit liability for the loan. It’s a also good idea to go through this process right away, regardless of what your divorce decree states.

Divorce decrees (or court orders) don’t release either person from his/her obligations under the original contract of the loan. That means that if you and your ex-spouse have a joint account, like a car loan, and if the spouse who is supposed to pay doesn’t, the negative credit history will end up on both of your credit reports, and those late payments will damage both of your credit ratings. In fact, the other person may not know about the unpaid account until a collection agency calls.

Removing your ex from the car’s title, if the car already paid for, is similar and requires working with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You’ll both need to sign a change of title/vehicle ownership form and return it for processing. You can check online or call your state’s DMV for details and forms.

In some states you can file a transfer of title between family members, if the divorce has not been finalized yet. A transfer of title lets you avoid getting any needed inspections or certifications and paying taxes on the vehicle based on the purchase price. (If you live in the state of California, for example, research changing vehicle ownership versus transferring a car title.)

See if You Have a Cosigner Release Option

Some car loans include conditions that remove the cosigner’s obligation after a specified number of on-time payments are made by the primary borrower.

If you’re unsure if this is an option, talk to the lender and check any loan documents you have. The cosigner release option is probably one of the easiest methods of taking a co-signers name off a car loan.

Pay Off the Loan

Another option to get a cosigner off a car loan is to pay off the loan either directly or by selling the car. If you sell the car, you can use the money to pay off the loan. With luck, the sale value of the car will be sufficient to cover the remainder of the loan.

Be aware that if you are the cosigner, and the primary borrower fails to make payments, you can likely seize the asset and sell it.

This article was originally published February 20, 2013, and has since been updated by another author.

Image: iStockphoto

The post Help, I Need to Get the Cosigner Off My Car Loan! appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

When Should you Drop Full Coverage on your Car?

Full coverage car insurance covers you for most eventualities, but it is also expensive. You get what you pay for, and in this case, what you pay for is liability coverage, collision coverage, and comprehensive coverage.

The question is, how essential are all of these coverage options and at what point do they become surplus to requirements?

Your insurance coverage is never set in stone. You can increase your coverage as needed and drop coverage when it is no longer needed. Staying on top of everything is just a case of making the right choices at the right time.

What is Full Coverage Auto Insurance?

There are several different types of auto insurance, each covering you for something different. The most important cover is something known as liability insurance, which spans bodily injury and property damage and covers you when you injure another driver or their property.

Liability insurance is required in nearly all states and there are minimum coverage limits in all of them. To make sure you are legal, you need to meet these limits. If you want additional liability cover to protect your personal assets, you can pay more and aim higher.

Collision coverage and comprehensive coverage are also required if you want full coverage car insurance. With collision insurance, you are protected against damage caused to your own property, whether that damage is the result of a road traffic accident or a collision with a wall or guardrail. As for comprehensive insurance, it protects you against vandalism, theft, weather damage, and most of the things not covered by collision insurance.

A full coverage policy should also include some personal injury protection (PIP) cover, whether in the form of medical payments coverage or personal injury protection coverage. Both are designed to help you with medical bills and other expenses resulting from personal injury, while PIP goes one step further and covers you for transportation costs, childcare expenses, and loss of work.

All of these options are part of a full coverage insurance policy. There are also many additional coverage options and add-ons, but these aren’t necessarily part of a full coverage policy and, in most cases, need to be added for an extra cost. These options include:

  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Minimum cover car insurance won’t protect you if you are hit by an uninsured driver. It has been estimated that as many as 13% of all drivers on US roads are not insured and, in some states, this climbs as high as 25%. With uninsured motorist coverage, you will be protected for such eventualities.
  • Gap Insurance: When you purchase a brand new car on finance, the lender will often insist on gap insurance. A car depreciates rapidly and if that depreciation drops the value below the balance of the loan, the lender stands to lose out. Gap insurance protects them against such an outcome and covers the difference to make sure they get their money back if the car is written off.
  • New Car Replacement: A new car replacement policy will do exactly what the name suggests, providing you with a new vehicle in the event your current one is written off. Depending on the insurer, there will be limits concerning the age of the vehicle and the number of miles on the clock.
  • Roadside Assistance: With roadside assistance, you will be covered for essential services if you break down by the side of the road. It typically includes tire changes, fuel delivery, towing, lost key replacement, and more.
  • Pet Injury: What happens when your pet gets injured during a road traffic accident? If you have pet insurance, they will be covered through that. If not, many providers will give you a pet injury insurance add-on.
  • Rental Car Reimbursement: If your car is stolen or getting repaired, rental car reimbursement coverage will help you to cover the costs of a short term rental. This insurance option is often fixed at a daily sum of between $50 and $100 and lasts for no more than 30 days.
  • Accidental Death: A type of life insurance that focuses on accidents, paying a death benefit to a beneficiary when a loved one dies in an accident.

When to Drop Full Car Insurance Coverage

The value of the car you drive, along with your insurance rates and your driving record, will impact whether or not you should drop full coverage auto insurance. Take a look at the following examples to discover when this might be the right option for you:

1. Your Insurance Premiums are too High

If your car insurance rates are higher than the size of a payout following an accident, it might be time to trim the fat. Insurance is a gamble, a form of protection. You pay a small sum of money in the knowledge that you’ll be covered for a large sum if something untoward happens. But if you reach a point when your premiums begin to exceed the potential payout, it’s no longer useful.

2. You Have an Old Car

The lower your car’s value, the less you need full coverage car insurance. If you’re driving around in a car that costs less than $1,000 and you’re paying $2,000 for the pleasure, you may as well be throwing your money down a wishing well.

In the event of an accident, you’ll have a deductible to pay and that deductible could be near the value of the car. In such cases, it will nearly always make more sense to stick with minimum insurance and to just scrap your car if anything serious happens.

3. You Have a Large Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is a sum of money you keep to one side to cover you for emergencies, including job issues, medical bills, broken appliances, and car troubles. If you have such a fund available, you have a few more options at your disposal and can consider dropping full coverage.

It will save you money in the long term and if anything happens in the short term, you still have options and won’t be completely financially destitute.

Bottom Line: When It’s Needed

While there are times when full coverage is unnecessary and excessive, there are also times when it is essential. If you have a new car, for instance, you should get all of the cover you can afford, otherwise, you could be seriously out of pocket following an accident or theft.

 

When Should you Drop Full Coverage on your Car? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

If you buy or lease a car, you’ll need to arrange for insurance coverage. Not only is it the law in most states, it will also protect your bank account in the event of an accident. However, if you’re involved in an accident and the other driver doesn’t have car insurance, you could run into problems. That’s the thinking behind uninsured motorist insurance. 

Compare checking accounts here. 

Uninsured Motorist Insurance Basics

If two people who both have car insurance get in a car crash, they exchange insurance information. The other driver’s insurance company generally pays your expenses if you’re in a crash. So what happens if the other driver doesn’t have insurance? There’s no one to pay you, cover your car repair or replacement or foot your medical bills if you’re injured. Your own car insurance may cover those costs, but it depends on the plan.

That’s where uninsured motorist insurance comes in. Uninsured motorist insurance policies offer protection against property damage or personal injury resulting from a run-in with an uninsured driver. There are a lot of bad drivers out there, and plenty of people who drive regularly but can’t afford car insurance. Have a run-in with one of them and you could end up covering your own medical and car repair bills.

In 22 states and the District of Columbia, drivers are required to have uninsured motorist insurance, so if you have vehicle insurance you’re covered in the event of a crash with an uninsured driver. But if you live in a state that doesn’t require uninsured motorist coverage, your regular car insurance policy may not protect you from bills if you’re in a crash with a driver who doesn’t have car insurance.

Check out our budget calculator.

Is Uninsured Motorist Insurance Necessary?

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

If you live in a state that requires uninsured motorist coverage as part of the minimum coverage requirement for all auto insurance policies, you have at least some protection from uninsured drivers. You can always call your insurance company to check on the kind of coverage you have and discuss your coverage options.

If you live in a state that doesn’t require uninsured motorist coverage, the question becomes: Should you buy uninsured motorist insurance as an add-on policy to your regular car insurance? Before you decide, it’s worth pricing it out.

First, you can call your car insurance provider and check what level of coverage you already have against uninsured motorists. Your existing plan may provide some level of protection against medical bills and/or car repair bills resulting from a crash with an uninsured motorist.

If you don’t have any coverage or if you think your coverage levels are insufficient, you can ask your insurance provider how much it would cost you to add uninsured motorist insurance to your coverage package. You can also get quotes from other car insurance companies and opt for the policy that provides the best coverage for the lowest price.

Uninsured motorist insurance can give you some extra protections, too, such as coverage in the event that a hit-and-run driver crashes into your car or in the event that you’re struck by a vehicle as a pedestrian. So even those with built-in protection against uninsured motorists through their regular car insurance may be tempted to add extra coverage.

Related Article: All About Car Loan Amortization

Bottom Line

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?

Just because you have car insurance that you’re paying for every month doesn’t mean you’re protected in all eventualities. If reading this article has made you nervous that you might not have enough – or any – protection against uninsured motorists, this could be a good time to get your insurance company on the phone, particularly if you live in a state with a high percentage of uninsured drivers.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/bowdenimages, Â©iStock.com/bowdenimages, Â©iStock.com/vm

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Source: smartasset.com

The Safest Place in Your Apartment During a Tornado

Tornadoes are no joke. With winds that can top 250 miles per hour, these storms can clear a path a mile wide and 50 miles long. Emerging from afternoon thunderstorms, tornadoes usually include hail and high winds. This is why you need to take cover when the warning siren goes off.

The average alert time for a tornado is 13 minutes, but there are environmental clues one is on its way. The sky transforms into a dark, greenish mass and begins to roar like an oncoming train.

Tornadoes can happen anywhere

Tornadoes occur all over the world, but, “In terms of absolute tornado counts, the United States leads the list, with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

The U.S. experiences tornadoes all over the country, but one particular area gets hit the hardest. Known as Tornado Alley, the area covers South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Northern Texas and Eastern Colorado.

tornado alley map

Source: Accuweather

Whether you live in an area where tornadoes are common or not, it’s important to know how to stay safe in your apartment. Just as you create a plan for many emergency situations, know where to go in your apartment during these destructive storms.

Staying safe in an apartment building

On average, tornadoes move at speeds of about 10-20 miles per hour. They rarely travel more than six miles, which means they can damage a whole section of town. For that reason, if a tornado is in your area, seek shelter.

Basement

While basements are not an option in all apartment buildings, get low if you can during a tornado. Heading to the basement or even the sub-level of a parking garage offers the most insulation against the weather.

If your building doesn’t have a basement, try to get to the lowest floor if you can, regardless of whether or not it’s underground.

Interior rooms

The next safest option during a tornado is any area fully-inside the building. This means no outside walls. Under a stairwell, an interior hallway or even a room within your apartment can work. Make sure there are no windows.

Crouch down as low as you can get with your face down. Cover your head with your hands for extra protection or bring in a bike helmet to wear during the storm. Because of your location, there’s still a chance for debris to fall, so protecting your head is important.

Bathroom

Even if they have an exterior wall or windows, bathrooms are safe because the thick pipes inside the walls insulate you during a tornado. Climb into the bathtub if you have one and bring in your bed’s mattress to serve as a cover.

Closet

These are usually interior rooms by design, making closets a good choice to ride out a tornado. Pull your clothes off their hangers and grab any bedding from the shelves to insulate yourself. Don’t forget to close the closet door for even more protection.

tornado

Avoid dangerous areas

Tornadoes kill about 80 people each year, according to John Roach at AccuWeather. There was a decrease in tornado fatalities in 2018, with only 10 Americans dying. This is the lowest number since record-keeping started in 1875.

Yet, people still lose their lives to these dangerous storms. While knowing the safest places to be in your apartment during a tornado, you should also know what areas to avoid.

Windows

With gusting winds strong enough to shatter glass, windows become dangerous during a tornado. Even worse, once a window breaks, all kinds of debris can blow inside.

If you can’t stay completely clear from windows during a tornado, do your best to block them and protect yourself. If you can, duct tape a blanket over the window or slide a big piece of furniture in front to keep glass out of your apartment.

Heavy objects

While it may seem like a good idea to slide under your bed or inch behind a heavy dresser for protection during a tornado, it’s not. These pieces of furniture can shift during a storm or even fall through the floor. You don’t want to get pinned under or against something so heavy you can’t move.

Preparing for a tornado

If you live in an area where tornado warnings are common, consider creating a tornado evacuation kit to have on hand. These can include items you’d need to safely and easily exit your apartment after a tornado passes, such as:

  • Portable radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Cell phone charger
  • Bottled water
  • Spare set of car and apartment keys
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license
  • Cash

Having these items ready can make it easier to evacuate your building after the storm.

Remaining safe after the tornado passes

Being safe doesn’t stop once a tornado passes. Dealing with the aftermath of this type of storm includes new dangers. Make sure to watch out for fallen or exposed utility lines, downed trees or limbs and debris.

Exercise extreme caution when leaving your apartment building. If enough damage occurs, you may have to stay out of your apartment. You may not see the dangers, so it’s important to wait for an official word before reentering. When you can, take pictures of any damage to your own property since you’ll most likely have to file an insurance claim.

Preparing for the unexpected such as weather, fire or even flood means having the right supplies and the best information on how to stay safe.

The post The Safest Place in Your Apartment During a Tornado appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a convenient way to store funds specifically for medical expenses. If you qualify for an HSA, you will get to enjoy a few tax advantages as well. While this might sound like an ideal setup, not everyone is eligible for a health savings account. To qualify for a health savings account, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The details of these plans are revised every year by the Internal Service Revenue (IRS), which sets the bar for:

  • The minimum deductible a plan must have to be considered a HDHP.
  • The maximum amount that a customer who purchases a plan is able to spend out-of-pocket.

The benefits of a health savings account

Here are some of the key advantages of having a health savings account:

  • It covers a large variety of medical expenses: There are many different kinds of medical expenses that are eligible, such as medical, dental and mental health services.
  • Pretty much anyone can make contributions: Contributions to your health savings account don’t have to be made by you or your spouse. Employers, relatives, friends or anyone who would like to contribute to your account can do so. There are limits, however. For example, in 2019, the limit for individuals was $3,500 and $7,000 for families.
  • Pre-tax contributions: Since contributions are generally made at your employer pre-taxes, they are not considered to be part of your gross income and are not federally taxed. This is usually the same case when it comes to state level taxes as well.
  • After-tax contributions are tax-deductible: Any contributions made after taxes are deductible from your gross income on your tax return. Doing so minimizes the amount you would owe on taxes for that year.
  • Tax-free withdrawals: You can withdrawal money from your account for approved health care costs without having to worry about federal taxes. Most states do not tax, either.
  • Annual rollover: Any unused HSA funds that are left over by the end of the year get rolled over to the following year.
  • Portability: Even if you change health insurance plans, employers, or retire, the money in your health savings account will continue to be available for qualifying health care expenses.
  • Having a health savings account is convenient: Most of the time, you will receive a debit card that is connected to your health savings account. This way, you can use your debit card to start paying for eligible expenses and prescription drugs on the spot.

The drawbacks to having a health savings account

While there are many advantages to having a health savings account, there are a few things to consider. For one, in order to qualify for an HSA, you must hold a high-deductible health insurance plan. The tax benefits might entice you to purposely sign up for insurance coverage under one of these health plans but think before doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages to having a health savings account:

  • The High-Deductible Health Plan: These types of health plans can end up being a lot more expensive in the long run, even with an HSA. If you have other options for health insurance that offer lower deductible, definitely consider those and don’t only choose a High-Deductible plan so that you can open an HSA.
  • You need to stay on top of your spending: If you have an HSA, you need to be willing to hold yourself responsible for recordkeeping. Keep track of all of your receipts so that you can prove you spent your HSA funds on eligible expenses.
  • Taxes and penalties: Using money from your HSA on other expenses that do not qualify as eligible health care expenses could result in you owing taxes. If you do this before the age of 65, you will have to pay taxes with a 20% penalty tacked on. If you are 65 or older, you will be responsible for paying taxes, but the penalty gets waived.
  • Fees: Sometimes, health savings accounts will charge additional fees, either per month or per transaction. Check with your HSA institution for more information on extra fees.

How an HSA works

In many cases, if your employer offers high-deductible health plans, they probably offer health savings accounts as well. Talk to your employer to find out what they offer. If your employer doesn’t offer HSAs, then you can sign up for a separate one through a different institution.

You get to decide how much you would like to contribute to your HSA annually, but keep in mind that you cannot exceed the HSA contribution limit. Once you are set up with an account, you will either receive a debit card or a series of checks that are linked to your HSA. Right away, you will be able to use the funds in your account for:

  • Deductibles
  • Copays
  • Coinsurance
  • Other eligible health care expenses that your insurance does not cover.

Generally, you cannot use HSA funds to pay your insurance premiums.  HSAs are not the same as flexible spending accounts, because HSAs rollover. Once you turn 65, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your account, but you can still use the available funds for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. If you use the funds for non-eligible expenses, you will owe taxes on these amounts.

Investment Opportunities

Another benefit of HSA that you may or may not have heard of is that you can invest the money in mutual funds and stocks. If this is something that you are interested in, seek advice from a financial advisor for more information.

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How to Change the Executor of a Will

A last will and testamentDrafting a last will and testament can help to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. You can also use your will to name a legal guardian for minor children or choose an executor for your estate. It’s possible to make changes to your will after it’s written, including removing or adding an executor if necessary. If you’re wondering how to change the executor of a will after the fact, the process is easier than you might think. As you go about the process, it may behoove you to find a trusted financial advisor in your area for hands-on guidance.

Executor of a Will, Explained

The executor of a will is the person responsible for carrying out the terms of a will. When you name someone as executor, you’re giving him or her authority to handle certain tasks related to the distribution of your estate.

Generally, an executor can be any person you name. For example, that might include siblings, your spouse, adult children or your estate planning attorney. Minor children can’t serve as executors and some states prohibit convicted felons from doing so as well.

There’s no rule preventing a beneficiary of a will from also serving as executor. While beneficiaries can’t witness a will in which they have a direct interest, they can be charged with executing the terms of the will once you pass away.

What Does the Executor of a Will Do?

Being executor to a will means there are certain duties you’re obligated to carry out. Those include:

  • Obtaining death certificates after the will-maker passes away
  • Initiating the probate process
  • Creating an inventory of the will-maker’s assets
  • Notifying the will-maker’s creditors of the death
  • Paying off any outstanding debts owed by the will-maker
  • Closing bank accounts if necessary
  • Reading the will to the deceased person’s heirs
  • Distributing assets to the persons named in the will

Executors can’t change the terms of the will; they can only see that its terms are carried out. An executor can collect a fee for their services, which is typically a percentage of the value of the estate they’re finalizing.

Reasons to Change the Executor of a Will

While you may draft a will assuming that your choice of executor won’t change, there are different reasons why making a switch may be necessary. For example, you may need to choose a new executor if:

  • Your original executor passes away or becomes seriously ill and can’t fulfill his or her duties
  • You named your spouse as executor but you’ve since gotten a divorce
  • The person you originally named decides he or she no longer wants the responsibility
  • You’ve had a personal falling out with your executor
  • You believe that a different person is better equipped to execute your will

You don’t need to provide a specific reason to change the executor of a will. Once you’re ready to do so there are two options to choose from: add a codicil to an existing will or draft a brand-new will.

Using a Codicil 
to Change the Executor of a Will

Woman changes her will

A codicil is a written amendment that you can use to change the terms of your will without having to write a new one. Codicils can be used to change the executor of a will or revise any other terms as needed. If you want to change your will’s executor using a codicil, the first step is choosing a new executor. Remember, this can be almost anyone who’s an adult of sound mind, excluding felons.

Next, you’d write the codicil. In it, you’d specify the changes you’re making to your will (i.e. naming a new executor), the name of the person who should serve as executor going forward and the date the change should take effect. You’d also need to validate the codicil the same way you did your original will.

This means signing and dating the codicil in the presence of at least two witnesses. Witnesses must be legal adults of sound mind and they can’t have an interest in the will. So, a beneficiary to the will couldn’t witness your codicil but a neighbor or coworker could if they don’t stand to benefit from the will directly or indirectly.

Once the codicil is completed and signed by yourself and the witnesses, you can attach it to your existing will. It’s helpful to keep a copy of your will and the codicil in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box. You may also want to give a copy to your estate planning attorney if you have one.

Writing a New Will to 
Change the Executor of a Will

If you need to change more than just the executor of your will, you might consider drafting a new will document. The process for drafting a new will is similar to the one you followed for making your original one.

You’d need to specify who your beneficiaries will be, how you want your assets to be distributed and who should serve as executor. The new will would also need to be signed and properly witnessed.

But you’d have to take the added step of destroying all copies of the original will. This is necessary to avoid confusion and potential challenges to the terms of the will after you pass away. If you’re not sure how to draft a new will to replace an existing one, you may want to talk to an estate planning attorney to make sure you’re doing so legally.

What Happens If You Don’t Name an Executor?

Probate court hearing form

If, for any reason, you choose not to name an executor in your will the probate court can assign one. After you pass away, eligible persons can apply to become the executor of your estate. The person the court chooses would then be able to carry out the terms of your will. If you don’t have a will at all, then your assets would be distributed according to your state’s inheritance laws.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to at least write a simple will. This way, there’s no question of your estate being divided among your heirs the way that you want it to be.

The Bottom Line

Making a will can be a good starting point for shaping your estate plan. Naming an executor means you don’t have to rely on the probate court to do it. But if you need to change the executor of your will later, it’s possible to do so with minimal headaches.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about creating an estate plan and what you might need. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with an advisor in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • A will is just one document you may need as part of your estate plan. You may also consider setting up a trust, for example, if you have extensive assets or own a business. Life insurance is something you may also need to have, along with an advance health care directive and/or power of attorney.

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Source: smartasset.com