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Repaying Your Student Loan: 7 Essential Tips You Should Know

October 26, 2013

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If you borrowed money to finance your college education, you are in good company. According to data from FICO, the average student owes educational financiers $27,253; a figure which represents a 58% rise since 2005. The following tips will come in handy as you prepare to repay your student loan. [...]

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Five In-Demand Jobs that do not Require a College Degree

October 2, 2013

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In today’s society, you might think that a college degree is required in order to land a great job. But college just isn’t in the cards for some of us. We don’t have the time, the money, or the mindset. If you are one of these people, don’t lose hope! There are plenty of great jobs out there that do not require a college degree.

The majority of all working-class individuals in the United States (as of 2013) do not hold a college degree. Does this surprise you? These people aren’t just delivering pizza or driving garbage trucks. In fact, 30% of these people earn more money than college grads. With diligence and dedication, it is very possible to have a rewarding career without spending all that money on tuition. Based on projected job growth and salary, here are the top five jobs that do not require a college degree:

#5 – Dry Wall Taper

wall taperIf you like to be on your feet and use your hands, this might be a good job for you. A dry wall taper prepares walls for paint after they have been installed. This vocation doesn’t require a high school diploma, an apprenticeship, or a technical degree. You can simply learn the trade from experienced workers. The construction industry is expected to grow as the economy improves. The average salary for a dry wall taper is $45,490. Keep in mind that you will be working in a construction environment and will have to deal with the elements, dangerous materials, and loud noises.

 #4 – Electrician

An electrician is someone humanity will always need, especially considering how technology is advancing. The average salary for these guys is $48,250. Electricians work in all types of buildings from private apartments to offices to stadiums. The more gadgets we develop, the more we need people who know how to fix them. Although you won’t need a college degree to be an electrician, you will need to go through an apprenticeship – but you get paid while you learn! Because you are working with electricity, there is always the rare danger of electrocution.

#3 – Commercial Pilot

If you’re not afraid of heights and have good eyesight, consider becoming a pilot. Although airlines have suffered recently, they are projected to add 6,900 jobs by 2020. The average salary for a commercial pilot is $67,500 (that’s $26,000 more than the average full-time employee). The only requirement for this profession is a commercial pilot’s license and some time at a local flight school. Although many airlines prefer pilots with two- or four-year degrees, it is very possible to become a respected commercial pilot with experience and a pilot’s license. The downside is that you will be away from home a lot as you bounce from city to city.

#2 – Brickmason/Blockmason

brick-masonThe average brickmason earns $46,930 each year. By 2020, the workforce is projected to grow by over 36,000 individuals. With our rapidly increasing population, there is always a need for new hospitals, schools, and homes. Brickmasons are craftsmen who work for construction contractors. Growing urban areas are where they see the most business. Brickmasons are expected to complete a paid apprenticeship lasting three or four years. They will also pick up skills on the job from more experienced workers. Just like any construction job, masons are exposed to the weather along with dangerous materials and loud noises. Make sure to wear your helmet!

#1 – Pile-Driver Operator

Are you a high school grad good with machines? Pile-driver operators make 19% more money than the US average. With on-the-job training, you can become a pile-driver operator in no time. The average salary for this profession is $47,860. In this job, you might work on oil rigs, cranes, barges, or skids. Using large machines, you will drive construction supports deep into the ground. If you’re interested in this job, look towards Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Demand for pile-driver operators is expected to grow nearly three times the rate of all other US jobs in upcoming years. This job may be a little more dangerous than the average job, but if you like to use big machines and work outside, it might just be the perfect job for you.

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Health Insurance Tips for the Self-Employed

September 8, 2013

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self-employedBeing self-employed has lots of perks. You get to choose your own hours, hire whomever you want, and be your own boss. The downside is that your job doesn’t provide health insurance.  And if you own a small business, you’re probably too busy to even think about health insurance!

Most self-employed individuals just don’t have health insurance. The last thing you want is for a medical emergency to impede your flourishing new business. You need to have a backup plan in case of an emergency that involves you, your family, or injuries that may put your business at risk.

If you are currently uninsured and looking for health insurance, make sure to shop around first and consider all your options. Ask other business owners for advice. You can use the Internet to compare rates and find trusted licensed agents (like eHealthInsurance.com).

Assistance for workers who are retrenched or in career transition

If your self-employment stemmed from being laid off, there is another option available to you. COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) is a federal program that allows individuals to temporarily extend the insurance they had through previous employment (at their own cost). The federal government offers a 65% subsidy for COBRA premiums, making this a great option for many. COBRA is most attractive to those with pre-existing medical conditions that make it hard for them to qualify for coverage in other programs.

Look out for rate guarantees and tax deductions

When you decide to buy private health insurance, remember that the insurance company may increase your monthly premiums once in awhile. To protect yourself from this trick, look for a “rate guarantee.” Licensed health insurance agents can give you advice on which company to use and help you understand all the little details. Some companies offer to lock in your rate for a certain period of time if you pay a “small fee” each month. Do the math before you sign to ensure that you are actually saving money.

Some states allow qualified self-employed individuals to deduct health insurance premiums on their federal tax returns. There are rules to follow – make sure to ask a tax professional if you have any questions. Remember that you can’t deduct any money during any period of time in which you were eligible to participate in a health insurance plan sponsored by another employer.  A tax professional can also teach you about all the different types of self-employment statuses in your state and the associated tax implications.

Health Savings Account

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a good idea for many self-employed individuals. This account is set up with an HSA-eligible health insurance program. Compared to other plans, HSAs usually have high deductibles and low monthly premiums. With an HSA, you can deposit some of your pre-tax income into a savings account so that it can earn tax-free interest. You can use then that money to pay for medical expenses like copayments and deductibles. The money you don’t use builds up tax-free year by year.

No matter what type of health insurance you end up purchasing, make sure to speak with a health insurance agent and a tax professional so that you save as much money as possible. With a good health insurance program and peace of mind, you will have more time to focus on what’s really important: your business.

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