Is It Time to Consolidate or Refinance Your Student Loans?

Making your student loans more manageable can provide much-needed relief when it comes to your monthly expenses.

See how consolidation or refinancing can reduce your student loan-related stress.

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The decision to refinance or consolidate student loans can appear when financial waters get rough. You may need to reduce your monthly payment to pay all of your bills. Or you may want to shorten your loan’s terms to save on interest in the long-term. Regardless of your goal, keep reading to see if adjusting your loans is a move worth making.

Benefits of Refinancing or Consolidating Your Student Loans

A refinance or consolidation can provide multiple benefits to the borrower. You must define these benefits before you start researching your options. In doing so, you’ll get a clearer picture of whether or not you should change terms or stick with your current agreement.

As stated, you can achieve a lower monthly payment via refinancing, which can make your monthly costs much more manageable. Depending on your situation, you could also save money on interest in the long run. 

It’s not necessarily either-or when it comes to such benefits, though, as some people can refinance into a new loan that offers a lower interest rate and lower monthly payments.

To find this ideal arrangement, you’ll need to do some research, but it is possible. If you cannot achieve a better situation via refinancing or consolidation, avoid it. Refinancing at higher rates or adding a new loan on top of the old ones are likely to complicate things instead of fixing them.

The Ideal Candidate for Refinancing or Consolidation

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Who is a prime candidate for refinancing? Someone who is paying a large sum of their monthly loan payment towards interest. A private student loan borrower often fits this description, making them likely to save the most money via refinancing.

For example, a private loan borrower could be paying 10 percent interest per year on their student loan. Some types of refinancing could result in a 2 percent annual interest rate. When is this substantial reduction in interest most likely to be granted? If your credit has improved since you first started the loan.

What’s the benefit of a lower interest rate? Significant savings on interest every month and year. It could allow you to pay your loan off faster as well.


The Risk of Extending Repayment

You may want to extend the repayment of your loan to lower your monthly payment, especially if you’re having trouble managing your finances. While this can reduce your monthly costs, you could end up paying more interest over the life of the loan if you overextend it.

Refinancing can give you the option to change your loan term length from five to 25 years. If you choose the maximum term of 25 years, the overall cost of your loan will end up higher.

When does it make sense to choose such a long term? When you need breathing room and don’t mind a higher long-term cost. In other words, when the benefit of a lower monthly payment is your primary goal. By achieving it, you can make your payments on time and avoid defaulting on the loan.

DO YOU NEED FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Stop! If you need financial assistance such as money to pay bills, a personal loan, or debt relief. See what resources are available to help you today.

DO YOU NEED FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Stop! If you need financial assistance such as money to pay bills, a personal loan, or debt relief. See what resources are available to help you today.

The Convenience of Loan Consolidation

Sometimes, consolidation may not result in lower rates or more affordable monthly payments. Still, it can provide the benefit of simplicity. 

Consolidating your loans into one single loan payment can make planning and budgeting easier. Over time, this simplicity can help you pay the loan off faster while providing peace of mind.

It’s Like A Grant To Buy Your First Home

Owning a house is part of the American Dream. It’s possible to piece together an affordable home plan through a mix of subsidized programs.

Hey, are you ready to apply for a home already? The Freddie Mac New Mortgage Program is now available and you may be shocked when you see how much you can save!

You’ve heard some of the talk about home prices and the economy. Fact of the matter is that Governments want to see home sales rise. Along with home sales comes citizens with equity and wealth. The United States government supports  several civic programs through agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to help spur widespread homeownership.

DO YOU NEED FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Stop! If you need financial assistance such as money to pay bills, a personal loan, or debt relief. See what resources are available to help you today.

DO YOU NEED FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Stop! If you need financial assistance such as money to pay bills, a personal loan, or debt relief. See what resources are available to help you today.

Housing is such a fundamental precursor to building individual and national wealth that there are even several assistance programs to cover apartments for low income renters. Below, are resources supported by both private and taxpayer dollars that all go towards supporting your American dream of owning a home. Especially for those facing financial hardship, this resource is intended for you

Home Possible Mortgage Assistance Program

For first time home buyers, the Home Possible mortgage offered by Freddie Mac is one of the best solutions to purchase a home. Designed to benefit very low and low income families, this loan doesn’t require the borrower to have a credit score. It also offers comfortable interest rates, flexible refinancing options, and a down payment of only 3%.

This means that a family looking to buy a house valued at $50,000 will only have to put down $1,500 as down payment before being approved to borrow the balance of the purchase price. Freddie Mac often gives their borrowers up to 20 years to pay the money back, with options to refinance the mortgage if more beneficial terms become available. 


Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM)

The Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) provides special benefits to borrowers who plan to buy a house that is energy efficient, or that can be made energy efficient by performing improvements that will reduce energy consumption. This relatively new mortgage is a powerful tool that households have at their disposal when purchasing a more comfortable home with lower energy bills. To qualify for this unique mortgage loan, the borrower must obtain a home energy assessment to certify that the home they plan to buy meets the required criteria.

Ready to apply for a home already? The Freddie Mac New Mortgage Program is now available and you may be shocked when you see how much you can save!

 HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME)

The HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) is a federal assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with the purpose of providing affordable housing to low and very low income families across the country. It is one of the largest federal block grants given to states, covering an extensive list of programs and services that help families going through financial hardship.

One key program is the home purchase or rehabilitation financing assistance. HOME can make a contribution towards a  down payment to help buyers qualify for a mortgage. Although not officially a grant, money awarded through this program doesn’t have to be paid back. Instead, the family has to handle the monthly payments of the loan.

Eligibility to this program is determined by the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). Families must fall within the federal poverty level to be considered financially needy and qualify for this benefit. As of 2018, the poverty level is set around $12,000 a year in most states.

203(k) Mortgage & HomeStyle Renovation

The 203(k) Mortgage Rehab Insurance is a special type of loan sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that assist people and families when buying a home that is not habitable and which needs to be repaired before it becomes so. This loan is useful for parties that are interested in purchasing a home that needs improvements but don’t have the money to cover both the required down payment and the renovation.

A similar option would be Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Renovation mortgage. Like the 203(k) mortgage, families can finance the purchase and renovation of a home with this loan. However, it also includes the option to refinance the mortgage for up to 75% of the value of the home after repairs are made so that the family can perform the improvements they want. 

203(k) and HomeStyle loans have strict requirements and guidelines that families must meet to become eligible. They require a contractor’s bid to be made to estimate the repair costs, as well as a down payment that oscillates between 3.5% and 5%. Also, unlike traditional mortgages, families are required to complete the renovations to access the part of the funds that were destined to pay the contractors.

Both loans are beneficial for low income families. They provide a way for families to improve their homes without having to face the high interest rates of a home equity line of credit or a second mortgage.

Rental Assistance

An increasing number of low income families across the country are unable to buy a house, preferring to rent instead. The federal government operates a variety of assistance programs designed to make it easier for households to address their monthly rent payments without it becoming an economic burden. These housing programs are managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and they provide financial assistance to families who need it most and are eligible to receive the benefits.

According to their needs, low-income families can apply for programs such as Section 8’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV), which gives them a housing voucher that can be used to rent the house or apartment they desire, or the Project Based Section 8 Rental Assistance, which offers subsidies to landlords so that they can lower the monthly payments of tenants.

Our Favorite Ten Survey Sites For Making Money

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If you are struggling with debt, there are advocates who are waiting to help. Debt consolidation options and services available.

This is the golden age to make money online. That’s why lately you may have seen ads on social media where agencies are investing big bucks to have authentic reviews of products. 

Not everyone can be accepted, but if you are an opinionated consumer and like to shop popular brands, this job offer is on the table for you.

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Don’t go at it by yourself. Your next step could mean the difference between getting out of debt or getting further into it from fees and deferred payments.

Let the professionals negotiate on your behalf.


It’s a good deal for companies too, online surveys are tools used by companies to understand the appeal of their products and services. People can take advantage of their spending routines to make some money by giving their opinion on the products they buy or the services they use. 

In this article, we provide basic information about online surveys, things to consider when filling them, and a list of sites actively hiring for survey responders.

What are online surveys?

Online surveys are digital questionnaires promoted by companies. Their purpose is to gather valuable information from people in order to improve their product, service or brand. 

Participants are often paid in return for such information. Some companies pay participants in cash, while others prefer to offer cash equivalents such as coupons and gift cards.

Most online surveys can be completed in twenty minutes. In general, they ask participants if they use one or more specific products, as well as their personal opinion on their quality and price. However, not everyone can participate in an online survey. 

Companies create criteria that potential participants must match before they are allowed to participate in any given survey. Some companies establish these criteria by asking participants to create an account and provide basic information about them.

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If you don’t have time to browse the list of survey providers, jump right in and get started, you could get paid by the end of today!


What is required to complete online surveys

Homeowners and renters who are thinking about doing online surveys on their spare time must prepare beforehand. First, they should make a list of brands whose services or products they purchase to measure how many online surveys they could realistically complete. However, most homeowners qualify for surveys that seek information about things almost everyone pays for, such as utility bills or groceries.

Second, people should be aware that most online survey platforms pay through Paypal. As a result, participants will have to create a Paypal account and link it to their bank accounts. 

Setting up a Paypal account is not complicated. A valid email account and identification number is all that is required to start receiving money. However, participants who prefer to cash out their rewards in gift cards may skip this step.

Third, some survey sites award points after each survey is complete. Rewards can be claimed once a certain number of points have been earned. In other cases, participants are given a flat amount of money per survey. However, sites who award money right away may impose minimum withdrawal limits, which can be between $50 and $100.

Finally, participants should be willing to provide personal information. Online surveys often ask questions that some people might be uncomfortable answering. 

It is recommended to read the fine print before signing up and understanding the nature of each survey before agreeing to participate in them. Most websites allow participants to abandon the survey if they do not agree with any of the questions.

Things to consider when doing online surveys

Regardless of which site they choose, participants must always read the fine print and be fully aware of all the terms and conditions. Despite their simplicity, online surveys can take a significant amount of time when added up. As a result, it is important to focus on a single survey website until enough points have been earned and a reward can be claimed. 

Jumping between survey sites is not recommended. Participants who do so often end up spreading their points across multiple platforms, claiming fewer rewards and thus making less money. However, participants are encouraged to test different alternatives after claiming a reward if the chosen survey site failed to meet expectations.

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Best online survey sites

Online surveys are one of many possibilities struggling families can exploit to help cover monthly expenses. Although $2 for a single survey may seem like a drop in a bucket, after a month of casual work, diligent people can add $200 to their pocket. In this section, we offer a list of ten online survey sites that offer reliable rewards.

  1. PaidViewPoint

PaidViewPoint is one of the best survey sites on the Internet. It has a long list of comprehensive surveys which take between 5 and 10 minutes to complete. Participants can withdraw their earnings starting from $15, either as cash to a Paypal account or as an Amazon or Walmart gift card. 

PaidViewPoint has become one of the best places for people looking to make extra money with online surveys. This is because of its simple interface and easy registration process.

  1. VIP Voice

VIP Voice is an online research community that belongs to the NPD Group. With more than 3 million users, VIP Voice is one of the largest survey sites on the Internet. 

Homeowners and renters who decide to join this community will get about 3 to 5 surveys each week, with the potential to make around $30 each month with little effort. VIP Voice does not give direct cash rewards. Instead, members receive points which can be used to enter sweepstakes and auctions. 

Winning a sweepstake may award cash, vacations and more. Auctions allow members to bid on products and services. Students may find VIP Voice an attractive proposition due to the $5,000 scholarship opportunity it provides to its members.

  1. Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a well-known online money making website, offering many alternatives to make quick cash beyond surveys. However, online surveys are one of its most popular features. Swagbucks is very newcomer-friendly, awarding free points to its members. 

It also awards $5 to new members who complete one survey right after they sign up. Users of this website can withdraw their earnings to a Paypal account or through gift cards from known retailers like Amazon.

  1. Toluna 

Toluna is another popular survey panel used by a large number of marketing companies around the world. Although it offers other products and services, the survey panel remains its most popular membership program. 

Each completed survey grants a number of points which can be exchanged for a voucher after enough points have been earned. Most surveys take 15 minutes to complete. In general, it takes about 4 hours to gather 80,000 points and turn them into a $15 voucher.


  1. MyPoints

MyPoints was established in 1996 as a rewards program website. Registered members can collect points by completing purchases from selected retailers. To collect points faster, members can complete daily online surveys. Unlike other survey panels, MyPoints rewards its members even if they are disqualified from a survey. 

Online surveys are not the only way to collect points on this website. Inviting friends, playing select games and printing coupons also give a considerable amount of points. Money earned can be exchanged for gift cards or sent to a Paypal account.

  1. Opinion Outpost 

Opinion Outpost is an online market research pioneer. This decade-old free community offers rewards for sharing opinions on certain products and services. 

The website is one of the most reliable in terms of fast payments, as it often takes less than several hours to deposit earnings. Those who decide to join can claim rewards as cash to a Paypal account or as iTunes and Amazon gift cards.

  1. One Opinion

One Opinion is similar to other free online communities mentioned above. Members are asked to share their opinions on selected products and services in return for points which can be traded for cash through Paypal or Visa prepaid cards. 

People can make hundreds of points per day by completing surveys, including those in which they were disqualified. The minimum amount that can be redeemed is 25,000 points which is equal to $25.

  1. Survey Junkie 

Survey Junkie is a popular alternative for people who already tested other paid survey websites. The company does not have a mobile app, which means that most of its surveys are meant to be completed on a computer. 

However, its constant stream of quality surveys and flexible payment methods make up for the lack of mobile options. Also, earnings are available for withdrawal as soon as $10 or 1,000 points are reached, a lower amount than most other survey sites.

  1. PointClub

PointClub offers much more variety than its competitors. Like many other popular survey sites, PointClub rewards points even if the member gets disqualified. However, it stands out due to its extensive reward options, which include Visa prepaid cards, Walmart and Amazon gift cards, and movie vouchers. 

The downside of PointClub is its high requirements for withdrawal. The only options are 25,000 points for a $25 gift card or 50,000 points for $50 sent to a Paypal account.

  1. Harris Poll 

Harris Poll is not as popular as other alternatives, mostly due to its focus on packaged food products. However, the companies looking to perform market research through this website tend to offer much higher pay than other online survey platforms. 

For example, a standard survey on Harris Poll pays between $3 and $4 and can be completed in less than 20 minutes. There are more comprehensive surveys called local panels that can take two to four hours to complete but pay as much as $75. Harris Poll is a potential gold mine for food enthusiasts.

Financial Aid Alert: Beloved Program Is Refunding Everyone Their Bank Fees

Trying to move up in a career requires some financial help so here it is. Complete this form and you’ll be exempt from ATM fees, monthly bank maintenance fees, or even overdraft fees. If you are like most people, that will add up to somewhere between $300 and $1000 in just one year.

Get more than just a refund. Open an Aspiration Save and Spend account and receive a $100 welcome bonus. Continue reading to learn exactly how Aspiration is giving everyone who applies back their bank fees.

Growing your savings with a traditional bank account is difficult due to low interest rates and expensive fees. Switching to an Aspiration Spend and Save account can deal with both problems at once.  This online account offers interest rates up to 25 times higher than traditional banks, helping families get the most out of their savings.

Aspiration is an online bank based in California. It is best known for its savings and checking account named Spend and Save, which comes with no fees. Instead, the bank gives customers the option to pay monthly maintenance or get their accounts for free. In this article, we explain why you should switch to Aspiration and how their Spend and Save account works.

Benefits of an Aspiration account

Aspiration has loaded its popular Spend and Save account with some attractive perks. For example, the company gives customers access to ATms with no fees. People who have tried online banks before know this perk is hard to come by. The reason is that online institutions must pay traditional backs for ATM access.

With Aspiration, customers will not have to worry about which ATM they can use. Also, if they get charged a fee, the bank promises to reimburse the money as soon as possible. Customers who are not be convinced by this benefit alone may find other benefits enough to switch. Aspiration Spend and Save accounts also come with cash back rewards on debit card purchases, identity theft protection, access to fossil fuel free investment funds and retirement savings accounts.

With Aspiration, people can invest their money in a range of actively managed funds. The minimum investment is $10, although some paperwork must be submitted beforehand. Those who are thinking about retirement can open a tax deferred individual retirement account with as little as $10.

Contributing to a charity is also possible with Aspiration. Customers who like their tax deductions can access a long list of charities directly from their Spend and Save accounts. Account holders can contribute to environmental causes, education, healthcare and poverty. Also, Aspiration chips in an extra $25 to charity when account holders refer a friend.

Why choose Aspiration

Choosing Aspiration will help  people save hundreds of dollars in fees each year. Aspiration gives customers the freedom to choose how much they want to pay for its services. If customers want to pay, they can select a monthly fee of up to $10. Otherwise, they will receive their account for free.

But how much can people save with Aspiration?

According to a Bank Finder Report from 2017, consumers can pay up to $330 each year in bank fees. Those who move their savings to Aspiration will get to keep that money.

However, Aspiration is more than just about avoiding expensive fees. The company also offers customers several ways to get the most out of their savings with cash back rewards for purchases made with their debit cards. In general, traditional banks tie cash bash rewards to credit cards.

Aspiration offers this benefit with their debit cards instead. The company offers 0.5 percent cash back on all purchases. Customers who complete purchases at selected merchants receive one percent cash back instead. In total, account holders can expect to receive up to $54 per year in cash back rewards.

Another good reason why people should switch to an Aspiration account is high annual interest rates. Traditional financial institutions offer a very low 0.1 percent annual interest rate on their savings accounts. SOme even go as low as 0.01 percent. To attract customers, some banks offer special rates that can go up to 2.5 percent. What most customers do not know is that these rates are only for customers with lots of money in their bank accounts.

For example, Wells Fargo advertises their “premium” savings account as having 2.15 percent annual interest rates. However, such rates are only valid for the first twelve months and customers must keep at least $25,000 in the account. Otherwise, they get downgraded to 0.1 percent.

According to Maurie Backman from The Motley Fool, almost half of all households do not have $500 in cash stored in their bank accounts. Also, the Survey of Consumer Finances released by the Federal Reserve confirms that the median savings account balance is $8,100. This means most families do not have enough cash to enjoy these promotional rates.

In contrast, Aspiration offers a permanent 2 percent annual interest rate on savings accounts. As a result, people can get the most out of their savings with a Spend and Save account than what they would do with a traditional one.

A family who has $10,000 saved would gain around $10 in interest after one year. However, they would most likely lose money due to all sorts of fees. With Aspiration, the same family would make $200 instead, with no money lost to fees. Also, money deposited in an Aspiration account is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, for up to $1 million, which means families are not at risk of losing their money.



How to Open an Aspiration account

Opening an Aspiration Spend and Save account does not require too much paperwork. In general, people can complete the process in less than twenty minutes. Customers must create a user account with the institution. Then, they can start the process to create their Spend and Save account.

To create their user account, customers will need a valid email address. Next, the bank will ask for personal details such as first and last name, address and social security number. Only U.S. citizens or permanent residents can open an Aspiration bank account. Because this is an online account, customers will have to provide the details of a traditional bank account. This is required in order to move money to and from the Aspiration account.

Providing personal information is not enough to complete the process. To protect customers from identity theft, Aspiration has some extra steps customers may have to complete. These steps involve several questions that will determine whether the person creating the account is who they say they are. If the system is unable to verify their identity, an additional step must be completed.

This additional step often involves providing a picture of several government identification documents, such as a driver’s license and a bank statement. Once these documents are submitted, the bank will take up to three days to verify the information and activate the account.

What You Need To Know About Boards of Nursing

There are more than 4.5 million licensed nursing professionals across the country. Before being allowed to work, they needed the approval of local government agencies known as Board of Nursing. These institutions regulate the industry and guarantee the safety of patients.

Boards of Nursing were established around one hundred years ago when the healthcare industry began its expansion. Their purpose is to make sure all nursing professionals have the required qualifications to perform their duties without harming customers. In this article, we explain what role Boards of Nursing play in healthcare, and how to contact them.

What is a State Board of Nursing?

A Board of Nursing, also known as BoN, is a local government institution that oversees the practice of nursing in a state. The responsibilities of a Board of Nursing includes regulating what nurses can do, what is required for them to work, and what qualifications they must have. To accomplish these goals, Boards of Nursing design and issue licenses to qualified nursing candidates, and approve training programs. Nationwide, all Boards of Nursing collaborate to administer examinations.

Each state has its own Board of Nursing. Other territories, such as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands, also have a Board of Nursing. Some states have more than one Board of Nursing. California, Georgia, Louisiana and West Virginia have separate Boards of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN). Nebraska has a separate Board of Nursing that oversees Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN).

Most Boards of Nursing were established at the beginning of the twentieth century with the purpose to standardize the practice of nursing. Nursing licenses were created to protect the public from harm, establishing minimal qualifications for anyone who wished to become a nurse. In 1978, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) was created to help standardize the nursing practice across the country. This institution is made up of all state Boards of Nursing, and its main job is to administer the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a computerized test that all newly-trained nurses must pass before being allowed to work. There are two versions of the test. The first one is called NCLEX-RN and must be taken by registered and advanced practice nurses. The second one is called NCLEX-PN and must be taken by licensed practical and vocational nurses. Some entry-level positions, such as certified nursing assistant (CNA) and home health aide (HHA), do not require this test. However, they must pass other examinations before being allowed to work.

The importance of Boards of Nursing

Boards of Nursing play a critical role in the industry. They design and implement regulations that ensure safe nursing care to patients, avoiding malpractice and harm. Before Boards of Nursing were created, the general public did not have sufficient tools to determine which healthcare providers were qualified to provide safe care. Nowadays, nurses and healthcare providers must comply with strict local and federal regulations that guarantee a minimum level of safety for patients. State Boards of Nursing enforce those regulations, and expand them if necessary.

Boards of Nursing are also important because they issue licenses most nursing professionals require to work. This includes licenses for registered, licenced practical and advance practice nurses, as well as certificates for nursing assistants, occupational therapy aides and home health aides. As of 2018, more than 4.5 million healthcare professionals hold a licensed issued by a Board of Nursing, with more than one million expected to receive one in the next few years.


Another important role played by Boards of Nursing is approving training programs. To receive a license or certificate from the Board, aspiring nurses must complete a state-approved training program. These programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools and some hospitals. The name “state-approved” means that the program meets the training guidelines set by the local Board of Nursing. The list of requirements set by the Board may include specific content in lessons and mandatory practices in a hospital or healthcare facility.

How Boards of Nursing Operate

Boards of Nursing operate based on regulations approved by state legislatures. These regulations were first approved as part of Nursing Practice Acts, which defined the practice of nursing within the state and laid out local requirements for licensure. The main job of a Board of Nursing is to enforce these regulations through administrative rules and proceedings.

To carry out these tasks, the board has a group of members elected by the governor, as well as full-time staff tasked with keeping records, updating procedures and providing assistance and information to newly-trained nursing professionals. The functions of the board are funded by fees paid by licensees. In most cases, those fees are enough to cover operational costs, although some states offer additional funding when needed.

How to contact a Board of Nursing

Boards of Nursing usually have one or more local offices. However, in some cases, these offices may not be available to the public. Florida’s Board of Nursing, for example, has a customer contact center interested parties can only reach by phone. For applications and fee payments, applicants are offered instead a P.O. Box. New York’s Board of Nursing, in contrast, is part of the state’s Education Department and can only be reached by phone.

As a result, contacting a Board of Nursing often requires calling a phone number or sending an email. New York’s Board of Nursing also receives written statements from applicants through the state’s Office of the Professions. Each board has its own contact protocols, so interested parties may find it useful to visit their local nursing board’s website to find out which methods are available.

Finance Your College Degree With A Student Loan

Attending college requires spending thousands of dollars each year. Most families do not have the required financial strength to send their children to college. The federal government is aware of this, and has created several student loan programs to help individuals attend college and get an education.

Other financial institutions such as banks and credit unions also offer student loans for families who do not qualify for federal assistance. However, they do not carry the same benefits people might enjoy with federal student loans. In this article, we explain how student loan works and what it takes to submit an application.

The basics about student loans

Student loans are designed to help individuals fund college expenses. They are offered by the federal government, as well as private financial institutions. However, unlike other forms of unsecured funding, student loans must abide by certain regulations.

Student loans differ from other funding sources in several ways. First, they have lower fees and interest rates than other loans. Those interest rates are regulated by government policies and stay the same regardless of financial history. Most student loans have fixed interest rates, which can be subsidized or paid by the government under certain conditions.

Second, student loans have lower approval requirements. In general, most students do not enjoy a good salary or have extensive credit histories. This would make it difficult for them to receive funding. However, most student loans are guaranteed by the government, which reduces risk. This only applies to federal student loans, as private ones often come with less benefits and higher interest rates.

Finally, student loans often come with several borrower-friendly benefits to reduce the financial burden of monthly payments. Student loans obtained through the Department of Education have the most benefits, though some private lenders also provide them. The most common benefit of student loans is delayed payment. This means borrowers will not start paying back the loan until they finish their degree and get a job. In some cases, the federal government will cover interest payments during that period to make sure loan balances do not increase.

Another common benefit is known as deferment. This feature allows borrowers to halt loan payments while they are unemployed without facing a loss of credit score, late payment fees or penalties. However, there are some caveats to keep in mind. First, despite pausing payments, lenders might still charge interest during this period. Also, borrowers must apply and qualify for deferment before they stop making payments. The length of deferment is usually six months, although it can be renewed several times as long as borrowers still qualify for the benefit.

People who have taken out student loans may also qualify for certain tax breaks and deductions. For example, borrowers can deduct up to $2,500 each year from their loan interest. However, people who earn more than $65,000 each year will not qualify for the full deduction. Instead, the amount is determined by a tiered system according to annual income.


The difference between private and federal student loans

Student loans are offered by the federal government as well as private financial institutions. However, over 92 percent of borrowers have student loans issued by the federal government. This is because such loans have more generous benefits compared to those issued by private institutions.

The majority of students borrow from the federal government to cover most college expenses. If anything else arises during their college stay, they often turn to private lenders to cover the difference. Banks, credit unions and online lenders are among the list of institutions who are willing to help students fund their college studies.

The main difference between federal and private student loans is their terms and benefits. Federal student loans are designed to meet the needs of students. They also come with additional safeguards to protect their financial stability, such as deferment or loan forgiveness.

In contrast, private student loans are just unsecured loans offered to students. They often come with higher interest rates that match other funding sources and have less generous repayment options. Also, unlike the federal government, private lenders require good credit and sufficient income to meet monthly payments. Most students have no income until they graduate, which means they must rely on their parents or friends with good credit histories to co-sign the loan.

Private student loans often come with no deferment, loan forgiveness or delayed payment option. This makes them best suited for graduate students who already hold an undergraduate degree and have steady income. In general, the federal government offers less benefits to graduate and postgraduate students.

However, some federal loan programs are still preferable over private loans if the borrowing amount is sufficient to cover the cost. Federal direct unsubsidized loans, for example, offer up to $20,500 per year, which may not be enough to cover tuition for a graduate or postgraduate program. In such cases, students may need to complement federal funds with a private loan.

Types of student loans

Not all student loans offer the same perks and benefits. The federal government, as well as private institutions, have different loan offers that adapt to what students need. The federal government handles three major student loan programs designed to help undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students receive funding.

The first type is known as Perkins loans. They are the optimal choice for undergraduate students who do not have steady income. Perkins loans come with low, fixed interest rates and are made available to all qualifying students regardless of credit history. However, like Pell Grants, Perkins loans are awarded based on financial need. Funding is limited and only low-income families who cannot afford traditional loans are considered.

An undergraduate student who is awarded a Perkins loan can receive up to $5,500 each year, for a maximum of $27,500. Graduate students receive $8,000 each year, for a maximum of $60,000. However, the limit for undergraduate and graduate is shared, which means that an undergraduate student who borrowed $27,500 will only have $32,500 available to fund their graduate program.
The second type is known as Stafford loans. They provide more funding that Perkins loans, and students have access to a interest subsidy according to their financial need. Students who receive a subsidized Stafford loan do not pay interest while they attend school. Those who do not qualify must pay interest soon after disbursement. In general, only undergraduate students are eligible for a subsidized Stafford loan. Graduate and postgraduate students are only eligible for the unsubsidized version. In both cases, students will not have to repay the loan balance until they graduate.

Stafford loans award undergraduate students funding according to whether they are financially dependent from their parents, and their year in college. For example, a freshman undergraduate student living with their parents can receive up to $5,500, which matches a Perkins loan. However, if the student is independent, the annual limit is raised to $9,500. A sophomore student will receive $6,500 and $10,500, respectively. Graduate or professional students can borrow up to $20,500 each year. Stafford loans also have borrowing limits. Dependent students can borrow up to $31,000, while independent students are awarded $57,500. Graduate students are given significantly more funding, with a limit of $138,500.

The federal government also offers PLUS loans, which are similar to those offered by private lenders. They require a minimum credit score and students start paying soon after receiving the money. Private student loans and PLUS loans share many features, including higher interest rates than Perkins or Stafford funding, no delayed payments or subsidies. Also, PLUS loans are awarded directly to parents instead, as undergraduate students do not have the required credit score to qualify.

Finally, consolidation loans are also made available to help students streamline monthly payments. They combine multiple student loans into a single one, often with better repayment terms. However, consolidating several federal student loans into a single private loan may have its drawbacks. For example, students may lose access to deferment and subsidized interest payments. They may also be subjected to higher interest rates if their credit score is not robust.

How to apply for a student loan

Students who want to apply for a federal student loan must first complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, also known as FAFSA. This document is used by the government to determine how much assistance a current or prospective student qualifies for. The form must be submitted annually and includes financial information about students and their families.

According to the results of the FAFSA form, colleges and universities will send students a financial aid offer that best suits their financial position. This offer may include access to grants, scholarships or federal student loans. Some institutions award partial funds under certain circumstances.

The specific steps needed to complete the application process vary by institution. Students are advised to contact the financial aid office to receive details regarding the process. However, most students will be required to complete entrance counseling, which teaches students about their loan obligations. They must also sign a Master Promissory Note, in which they agree to the terms of the specific student loan they will be awarded.

Why Start A Career As A Home Health Aide

An aging population is increasing demand for all sorts of healthcare professionals, including nurses, medical billers and coders, and home health aides. Home health aides provide personal care to patients who need assistance. This often includes seniors, people with disabilities, severe illness or cognitive impairment.

Starting a career as a home health aide is affordable and takes a few months. To start working, aspiring home health aides must only complete a state-approved training program and pass an examination. Some agencies offer in-house training to help speed up this process. In this article, we explain what home health aides do, how much they earn, and the steps to get started as one.

The job of a home health aide

Home health aides are healthcare professionals who provide personal care to patients who need assistance to carry out their daily routine. For example, home health aides often assist people with severe illness, disabilities or cognitive impairment. In recent years, and due to increase demand, home health aides have been working mostly with senior citizens.

The specific responsibilities of a home health aide will mostly depend on where they work and the type of patient being treated. For example, patients with severe illness or old age may rely on home health aides to help them with bathing, eating and moving around. Other patients may request assistance with travel, grocery shopping, picking up medications, or setting up doctor appointments. Patients with a disability may also rely on home health aides to take care of housekeeping tasks, including cooking and cleaning.

Home health aides are trained to handle basic medical procedures. This includes monitoring vital signs, administer medications. Home health aides are often trained by registered nurses to carry out these tasks, and remain under constant supervision if working for a healthcare agency. Home health aides who work on their own usually have completed a state-approved training program or graduated from a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or licensed vocational nurse (LPN) program.

Home health aides often work for healthcare agencies or on their own. In general, they are dispatched to patients’ homes where some medical equipment has been installed. Others work in residential care facilities, where they must provide assistance to multiple patients. Home health aides who work for agencies often have fixed full-time schedules. In contrast, independent home health aides may work a few hours per day or week, according to the needs of their patients.


What is the average salary of a home health aide?

The average salary of a home health aide is around $23,000 per year. However, this number usually represents home health aides working full-time for a healthcare agency. Home health aides who work on their own might earn more or less depending on the number of patients and location. For example, a home health aide working in New York, Florida or California, three states with high demand for the position, may earn as much as $32,000.

A significant number of home health aides completed an education as certified nursing assistant (CNA) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). This explains why the salaries for these job positions matches that of home health aides. On average, certified nursing assistants earn around $27,000 annually, while licensed practical or vocational nurses can receive up to $37,000, depending on previous experience and location.

One significant drawback of this career is its low pay compared to other positions in the industry. Licensed practical nurses with additional certifications and years of experience may reach an annual salary close to $40,000. Registered nurses often earn as much as $70,000 before going into advanced positions, where salaries can reach $100,000. However, working as a home health aide does not require spending tens of thousands of dollars in an expensive college degree.

As of 2016, over one million home health aides were employed around the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of home health aide job positions to grow more than 47 percent by 2026. Similar positions, such as certified nursing assistant and licensed practical nurse, are also expected to experience job growth above 15 percent. This means people thinking about joining the field will have many opportunities to find work. Salaries are also expected to grow with demand.

How to become a home health aide

The requirements to become a home health aide are minimal compared to other positions in healthcare. In general, home health aides do not need a high school diploma or college degree to start working. However, they do receive training from registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and other healthcare professionals before they are assigned any patients.
Despite not needing a formal education, most home health aides have completed training as licensed vocational nurses or certified nursing assistants. This allows them to meet requirements set by certain states, which demand that all home health aides complete a state-approved program before being allowed to work.

Community colleges around the country provide affordable home health aide training programs aspiring workers can complete. For example, the Massasoit Community College, located in Massachusetts, offers a 100-hour home health aide certification program. Those who complete the program will receive a certificate that qualifies them to work as home health aides, homemakers or personal care homemakers. Most community colleges and vocational schools offer scholarships for students interested in their home health aide programs.

The Institute of Professional Care Education, though its Medifecta Healthcare Training division, also offers Home Health Aide training programs that comply with federal regulation, providing 75 credit-hours of training. This course can be taken online, although the practical portion must be done under supervision of a registered nurse with experience in home health care.
Also, home health aides who work for healthcare agencies that receive funds from Medicare and Medicaid must also have completed a state-approved program. This requirement is often achieved by competing at least 75 hours of training and 16 hours of supervised work. After that, they must also pass an examination or a certification program. Home health aides who completed a licensed practical nursing program from a community college or vocational school meet this requirement once they pass the NCLEX-PN examination and receive their licensure.

Finally, potential home health aides may also seek a certificate from other national and state associations to enhance their skills and resume. For example, the National Association of Home Care and Hospice, or NAHC, offers several certifications home health aides can complete. However, obtaining them is often not required to start working in the industry.

How costly is an education as home health aide?

To become a home health aide, people do not need to apply for a student loan or invest tens of thousands of dollars. The reason is that, as an entry-level position, home health assistance does not require a college degree. Instead, aspiring workers only need to complete a certification or state-approved training program before being allowed to work.

Aspiring home health aides have several paths to choose from. First, they can complete a Home Health Aide (HHA) training program that meets federal and state regulations. For example, the 100-hour training program offered by Massasoit Community College meets those guidelines. It costs less than $600 to complete, and students can request a scholarship to attend. Other programs may have a higher cost. The online course offered by Medifecta has a cost of around $4,000. Some home health care agencies also provide state-approved training programs.

The second option is to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). On average, a CNA training program costs around $1,200, which is twice as much as the HHA program offered by Massasoit Community College. In addition to that, CNA students must pay $175 to take the final test and receive their certificate. However, workers who complete a CNA training program are often offered higher salaries and have better options for career advancement.

The third option is to seek a nursing diploma or complete a Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse training program. Those programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools and some hospitals. Their cost is higher than a CNA training program, but workers who complete them have an easier path if they desire to become a registered nurse. A student attending Northeast Community College in Nebraska, for example, would have to pay around $4,000 to obtain a nursing diploma.

How To Become A Dialysis Technician

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million people currently suffer from chronic kidney disease. This number represents a 30 percent increase from ten years ago, and more people are expected to experience some form of kidney disease in the near future. As a result, demand for healthcare professionals trained to provide kidney (renal) treatment is expected to grow.

Dialysis technicians are trained to operate equipment and provide medical treatment to patients with kidney disease. They are supervised by registered nurses and are capable of performing different types of treatments, including acute dialysis and hemodialysis. To start working, dialysis technicians need to complete a state-approved training program and pass an examination. In this article, we explain what dialysis technicians do and how to become one.

The job of a dialysis technician

Dialysis technicians are healthcare professionals who operate renal equipment and provide care to patients with kidney failure or chronic kidney disease. Their main job is to administer dialysis to remove impurities from the patient blood stream. Other responsibilities of a dialysis technician includes monitoring patients, and perform medical procedures under the supervision of registered nurses.

Dialysis technicians work at dialysis centers, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities that provide renal disease. Any given day as a dialysis tech will involve taking blood pressure, weight and temperature of patients, as well as test and calibrate equipment. Once dialysis begins, technicians monitor equipment and patient status to make sure there are no issues. Along the way, and if needed, dialysis technicians can also administer any medicine that has been prescribed by a physician or registered nurse.
Most dialysis technicians eventually specialize in a particular field. For example, hemodialysis technicians (HTs) are trained to handle equipment which administers dialysis. Technicians who pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing can also be promoted to Dialysis Registered Nurse (DRN), which oversees all technicians and is often times responsible for day to day management of a dialysis facility.

Dialysis technicians usually work in long shifts for twelve hours or more. There is as much demand for night time shifts as there are for daytime shifts. In general, most dialysis technicians work between 40 and 50 hours per week, including weekends. In some cases, dialysis technicians may be hired by healthcare agencies to provide renal treatment at home.


What is the average salary of a dialysis technician?

According to PayScale.com, the average salary of an entry-level dialysis technician with less than five years of experience is around $30,000 per year. Dialysis technicians who have between five and ten years of experience receive total compensation of around $34,000. Those with ten or more years of experience are paid between $38,000 and $42,000, according to location. For example, a dialysis technician working in New York City is often paid 12 percent above the national average. Other places where dialysis technicians enjoy higher salaries include Cleveland, Milwaukee and Houston.

The salary of a dialysis technician is similar to other entry-level positions that only require a state-approved training program. Those include certified nursing assistants (CNA), who earn an average of $27,000, and licensed practical or vocational nurses, who can receive up to $37,000, depending on previous experience and location. However, dialysis technicians have plenty of career advancement options.

Dialysis technicians can earn a higher salary by specializing or completing a college degree. Those with training in dialysis and a nursing degree can work as Dialysis Registered Nurses (DRN), who earn a salary of between $65,000 and $80,000 per year. Another potential positions are Certified Dialysis Technician (CDT), Hemodialysis Technician (HT) and Certified Hemodialysis Technician (CHT). Those positions have average salaries of between $40,000 and $47,000, according to previous experience and location.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job demand for dialysis technicians and other similar positions is expected to grow at least 15 percent in the next few years. By 2026, the agency predicts that more than 50,000 new medical technician job positions will be created.

How to become a dialysis technician

There are several ways to become a dialysis technician, some of which are more affordable than others. The main prerequisite is a high school diploma, or GED, before training can start. Other entry-level positions, such as home health aide, do not have this requirement.

The first path aspiring technicians have is completing a dialysis tech program, which is offered at community colleges and vocational schools. Northampton Community College, located in Pennsylvania, offers a Dialysis Technician training program which lasts for six months. This online training program provides all the knowledge students need to start working as dialysis technicians, including hematoma prevention, anesthesia administration, monitoring and patient preparation.

The Manhattan Institute, located in New York City, is another example of a community college that offers a dialysis technician training program. This institute specializes in in-person training, and also offers courses in similar careers such as pharmacy technician and medical assistant. In general, dialysis technician training programs include practice lessons which take place at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. During those lessons, aspiring dialysis technicians are supervised by registered nurses.

Newly-trained dialysis technicians are often required to obtain a certification or licensure before being allowed to work, although not all states have such requirements. New York, for example, allows dialysis technicians to work as soon as they finish their education. However, they must pass an examination to become Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technicians (CCHT) or Certified Clinical Nephrology Technologists (CCNT) within 18 months of employment. Those examinations are administered by institutions such as the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC), National Association of Nephrology Technicians (NANT) and National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO).

To take the examination, dialysis technicians must meet certain requirements. First, they must have completed a training program that included both classroom instruction and supervised practices. Those who completed online-only courses might not be eligible to take the test. Second, applicants who have work experience must provide proof of employment. The NNCC recommends at least 6 months, or 1,000 hours of clinical experience before taking the examination. Applicants who have previous work experience but spent the past 18 months or more being unemployed or working for a different industry, must provide proof of retraining.

Finally, applicants must comply with regulations established by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, or CMS. This government agency has developed a set of rules known as Conditions for Coverage, or CfC. All dialysis technicians must meet the CfCs in order to receive their certifications and be allowed to work in healthcare facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. In particular, dialysis technicians must meet the coverage conditions that cover End Stage Renal Disease Facilities.

Dialysis technicians must continue their education to maintain their licenses and certifications. In most states, dialysis technicians must renew their licenses every two to four years. This means they must retake the examination. Some dialysis technicians take advantage of this rule to pursue additional certifications. Others prefer to specialize instead. There are several fields in which a dialysis technician can specialize, including renal, acute dialysis and hemodialysis.

How costly is an education as dialysis technician?

Like most entry-level healthcare positions, dialysis technicians do not require a college degree to start working. This makes the profession an affordable option for individuals with limited income. In general, most community colleges and vocational schools charge between $1,500 and $2,000 for their dialysis training programs.

Northampton Community College, for example, charges $1,400 for their online training program. The Manhattan Institute has a similar cost. It charges $1,350 in tuition, plus 150 in registration and book fees. In total, students must pay $1,500 to enroll in the institute’s dialysis training program. How much training lasts varies by institution. Northampton’s program, for example, lasts for six months. In contrast, The Manhattan Institute’s program lasts for 90 hours, which can be completed in two months.

Other additional expenses must also be considered. To obtain a certification, newly-trained dialysis technicians must pay several fees to the issuing institutions. Aspiring dialysis technicians who desire to obtain a certification from the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission must pay $225 to take the examination. Other fees may apply if students request extensions or rescheduling.

Dialysis technicians can also pursue a college degree in nursing to become Dialysis Registered Nurses. However, a nursing degree can cost up to $80,000, which may be out of reach for many low-income families. The cheapest option would be an associate’s degree in nursing, which some colleges offer for less than $30,000.

Pursuing a Career in Criminal Justice

While police officers serve on the front line, there is a deep network of talented and well paid jobs that support law enforcement. Criminal Justice career opportunities beyond the front line include canine officers, those who protect fish and game, and government special agents. People who work these jobs often say they are stimulated or challenged by their work and never run short of interesting stories to tell.

K-9 Officer

K-9 officers are law enforcement officials who work on a canine unit. They handle large dogs such as German shepherds and perform a wide range of activities. Among them are searching for hidden drugs, investigate crimes, control riots, locate human remains or provide disaster assistance. K-9 officers develop a bond with their assigned dogs, which is necessary to make them behave as expected.

People who want to become K-9 officers must first meet requirements and complete training as law enforcement officers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least a high school diploma is needed to become a police officer. However, some departments and federal agencies prefer candidates who have a degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. Candidates must also pass a rigorous background check, as well as several physical and mental tests, before working in law enforcement.

After several years of experience understanding police procedures and law enforcement practices, officers can apply for specialized instruction in several dog-related fields, such as canine behavior, dog obedience, search and seizure protocols, and practice exercises in established dog teams. Candidates must also receive certification from the U.S. Police Canine Association before becoming eligible for a position within a K-9 unit.

The salary and compensation received by K-9 officers varies according to certifications and years of experience. For example, a newly-trained K-9 officer would earn around $52,000 at the beginning of their careers. However, several years later, their salary could climb to as much as $97,000. K-9 and other specialised officers also receive additional compensation for their work. The California State Highway Patrol, for example, offers its K-9 unit an additional $160 per month.


United States Marshal

The U.S. Marshal Service is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It was originally established by George Washington in 1789 to assist federal courts with their law enforcement functions. The modern version of the agency was established in 1969 and currently handles most fugitive operations and federal arrest warrants. It is also responsible for protection of federal judiciary officers, housing and transportation for federal prisoners, and criminal asset management. The federal Witness Protection Program is also operated by the U.S. Marshal Service.

U.S. deputy marshals are appointed by the president to one of the 94 federal judicial districts. People who want to join the U.S. Marshal Service must meet minimum requirements set by the agency. Only U.S. citizens who are between 21 and 36 years of age are accepted into the training program. Federal rules also require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree or no less than one year of experience in other law enforcement positions. The agency accepts any degree from an accredited college, though most candidates have studies in criminal justice, criminology, or law enforcement.

As with other law enforcement positions, U.S. deputy marshal candidates must go through an extensive selection process. In general, candidates will sit for a lengthy interview, undergo several physical and mental examinations, as well as a rigorous background check. After that, new members must complete a four month training program at the U.S. Marshals Service Training Academy in Georgia. The training program includes seven exams which candidates must pass to receive their certification.

The salary of U.S. deputy marshals is determined by the federal government’s General Schedule (GS) pay grade system. Most newly-trained deputy marshals begin their careers earning around $39,000 per year. As they gain experience, their salary will grow to as much as $50,000 if they remain in the same position. However, employees of the U.S. Marshal Service often receive additional compensation which is not counted towards their base salary.

FBI Agent

Agents for the Federal Bureau of Intelligence, or FBI, are tasked with protecting people and upholding the U.S. Constitution. They are responsible of enforcing over 300 federal statutes, as well as carry out criminal investigations. People from all backgrounds can become an FBI Agent. The agency often hires people with degrees in education, science, business and other careers. This is because of the wide range of activities performed by the FBI, which require people with many different skills. In general, only U.S. citizens who are between 23 and 36 years of age, with a bachelor’s degree in any field, are considered for this position.

To become an FBI agent, people must pass the Special Agent Selection System (SASS), which includes mental and physical tests. However, candidates must also be eligible for a Top Secret sensitive compartmented information clearance and be in compliance with the FBI pre-employment Drug Policy. This policy states that applicants should not have consumed any illegal drug, including marijuana, for at least three years before they apply. It also states that applicants must have never sold, distributed or manufactured drugs without prior authorization.

According to PayScale.com, the average salary of an FBI Agent is around $64,000 annually. However, federal employees are often included in salary and promotion schedules. According to the Office of Personnel Management, most FBI agents start earning around $48,000 per year. This General Schedule (GS) pay grade system has ten levels. At level ten, FBI agents earn around $98,000 each year. Supervisory and executive positions have higher salaries which can reach $137,000 before retirement.

Special Agent

Special agents are law enforcement officials who work as detectives or criminal investigators, often for a federal agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Department of Homeland Security. They are tasked with investigations into criminal violations of federal laws, and often determine whether or not prosecution is warranted. Special agents are also known as criminal investigators.

Special agents investigate a wide array of criminal activities. These include kidnapping, cyber attacks, drug trafficking, bank robbery, financial fraud, and violations of federal statutes. Most criminal investigators work across state lines and are constantly monitoring the landscape for potential threats to national security. They often perform undercover assignments to gather evidence, carry out surveillance, wiretap suspects, interview witnesses and examine personal or business records.

In general, special agents hold a certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. Federal agencies often hire workers with other skills, such as engineering, or medicine. However, they may be required to obtain a certificate in law enforcement or criminal justice to better perform their responsibilities. Like any other law enforcement officer, special agents are also subject to background checks, mental and physical tests to determine qualification. Some federal agencies also demand compliance with drug policies.

According to PayScale.com, the average salary of a federal special agents is around $80,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job demand for this position will grow an average 4.5 percent in the next few years. However, demand could also be affected by policy changes enacted by individual states or the federal government. Like FBI agents, the salary of criminal investigators is tied to the General Schedule (GS) pay grade system. This means that before retirement, a special agent could earn as much as $120,000 per year.

Conservation Officer

Conservation officers, also known as fish and game wardens, are law enforcement officials who make sure that local and federal Fish and Wildlife Codes are followed. They oversee fishing, hunting and boating activities in their states, making sure that wildlife is protected from illegal practices, such as poaching and trapping. Conservation officers also act as criminal investigators, writing reports, making arrests, gathering evidence and interviewing suspects. They are also responsible for attending wildlife-related emergencies, such as wild animals invading residential areas.

Most states ask potential conservation officers to have a bachelor’s degree before being hired. However, some jurisdictions accept associate’s degrees if the candidate has previous experience law enforcement or wildlife conservation. In general, only U.S. citizens who are at least 18 or 21 years old are considered for the position.

Newly-selected conservation officers must enroll in a training academy before being deployed. The training period lasts between three and twelve months. People hired directly by the federal government must also complete a 20-week law enforcement training program in Georgia. Like any other law enforcement official, conservation officers must pass a background check, physical and mental examinations, and a drug test. Once training is complete, officers are assigned to a field training officer for 10 weeks, before being deployed on their own.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a conservation officer is around $59,000 per year. Senior officers with ten or more years of experience can earn as much as $80,000. As of May 2017, there were 6,020 conservation officers nationwide. However, one drawback of this career path is slow job growth. In 2017, the Bureau predicted that job demand for conservation officers would grow only one percent. Conservation worker, a similar position, is expected to grow 4 percent.

How To Save For Retirement As A Gig Economy Worker

A study by Betterment.com revealed that over 30 percent of gig economy workers are not saving money for retirement. This is because the nature of these jobs leaves most workers unprepared when it comes to planning for their eventual retirement.

Without employer benefits such as matching contributions, gig economy workers must rely on alternatives to save for retirement. However, most gig economy workers are not aware of how to best carry this out by themselves. In this article, we explain five strategies gig economy workers will find useful to boost retirement savings.

Get your finances in order, including money available and outstanding debt accounts

A significant number of families do not keep track of their finances. This means they are usually not aware of how much money they have at hand. The first thing gig economy workers should do when they start saving for retirement is putting the books in order and creating an overview of their current financial position.

To do this, workers must first take a look at how much cash they have. This should include, for example, money received from tips if they work as drivers for a ride-sharing company. Then, they can add that money up to what they have stored in checking and savings accounts. Those who have been employed before can also include money available in previous retirement accounts, such as a 401(k).

Another important thing to keep in mind is debt accounts. A significant number of gig economy workers have mortgages, car loans or credit card debt. Having a clear picture of outstanding debt is needed to determine debt-to-income ratio. This number represents how much income goes into debt and is critical to determine how much money can be set aside for retirement.

Open a individual retirement account, or IRA

Opening a retirement savings account is the next logical step after getting finances in order, unless people already have one they can contribute to. Not all previous retirement savings accounts from past jobs can be used. In general, those accounts are 401(k)s that were tied to a specific employer who was matching contributions. However, most 401(k) accounts can be rolled into an individual retirement account, or IRA.

IRAs are retirement savings accounts anyone can open regardless of employment status. They are not tied to an employer and gig economy workers can contribute at their own capacity. Opening an IRA often requires an initial investment, which can be around $1,000. Workers who have old 401(k) accounts can use those funds as investment to open their IRAs. If someone has no previous retirement savings accounts or personal savings to use as funds, opening a Roth IRA may be a better solution.

Traditional IRAs are funded using pre-tax dollars, which means workers will have to pay taxes once they reach retirement. This approach can be problematic for workers who expect to end up in a higher tax bracket, as they will have to set aside a larger portion of their retirements to pay taxes. In contrast, Roth IRAs are funded with post-tax money, which will be tax-free when workers reach retirement.

Roth IRAs are the preferred individual retirement account for gig economy workers. This is because most are currently in a lower tax bracket, and anticipate earning more in the following years. A Roth IRA also protects them against future tax increases.
Traditional and Roth IRAs have annual contribution limits. For 2019, the limit is $6,000. Workers over 50 can contribute more to make up for previous years when contributions were not made. Gig economy workers who also have a full-time job can contribute to a 401(k) and IRA at the same time, with the potential to set aside up to $25,000 each year.


Invest wisely, avoiding options with expensive investment fees

Gig economy workers who don’t have access to employer-sponsored retirement savings plans cannot rely only on IRAs. The $6,000 annual limit may be too low to save enough money, especially for workers approaching retirement. Therefore, investing money in the stock market or a private enterprise might be needed to offset the difference.

When investing, gig economy workers must keep two things in mind. First, they should always try to maintain a diversified portfolio of investments. This will minimize exposure to risk if something goes wrong. Second, they should focus on options with the least amount of investment fees.

One potential way of avoiding hefty investment fees is through index funds. They are mutual funds designed to match or track the behavior of a stock market index. In general, most index funds use the S&P 500 as their benchmark for profits, although some use other indexes such as the Russell 2000 for small companies, or MSCI EAFE for foreign stocks.

The main benefit of index funds is their low investment cost compared to other types of funds such as those being actively managed. On average, the expense ratio of an index fund, or percentage of invested money that goes to the fund company, is around 0.03 percent. This means that someone investing $10,000 only pays $3 in fees. By comparison, actively managed funds have an average expense ratio of 0.69 percent. Investing the same amount of money in such a fund will incur fees of at least $69.

Some gig economy workers might ask what is the benefit of investing in an index fund instead of purchasing stocks directly from the market. It may be tempting to purchase stocks from companies like Apple, Netflix or Facebook, which have grown significantly in value in recent years. However, investing in a single company increases risk. An index fund is made up of stocks from all the companies in the matching index, reducing risk and exposure to heavy losses.

Take advantage of modern tools to streamline contributions towards retirement

Most gig economy workers do not have fixed salaries. Uber drivers, for example, will earn according to how many passengers they take, the length of rides and local fare prices. Freelancers working as graphic designers or web developers will earn according to the nature of the project, and under specific budgets. It is not unusual for a gig economy worker to make $5,000 one month, then $2,500 the following month.

Making fixed contributions to a retirement savings account is more difficult for gig economy workers. However, there are several tools they can use to make sure contributions are still being made each month. For example, workers can use their bank accounts to set up automatic monthly transfers to IRAs. Money transferred should be an amount of money they know will be available each month. For some workers, this can be $200, for others $50. What matters is to make sure money is being set aside for retirement without affecting debt payments, rent and other critical expenses.

Nowadays, many savings apps have been developed to help people achieve this purpose. For example, one popular mobile app called Digit analyzes account information, including deposits and withdrawals, to determine how much money can be transferred each month to IRAs. The program also helps schedule automatic transfers after workers have approved an amount they feel comfortable with.

One side benefit of using savings apps is that they help avoid overdrafts, which can be expensive. Also, they can set up alerts to inform workers when there are not enough funds to carry out an incoming transfer. However, most savings apps are not free. Digit, for example, charges $3/month, though it has a free 30-day trial. A similar app called Mint is available at no cost and includes a wide variety of additional services.

Count extra money as income and set aside a portion towards retirement

Gig economy workers should look beyond their job’s income to fund retirement. The lack of employer matching contributions and other full-time job benefits has to be offset through non-traditional methods. This includes funneling extra money, such as bonus payments, birthday gifts or tax credits and refunds towards their retirement savings account.

A significant number of gig economy workers only count earnings from their main jobs as real income. However, this calculation often fails to show the full picture. For example, Uber drivers receive around 6 percent additional income through tips. The best drivers receive as much as 20 percent. It may not seem like much, but a driver who completes 300 fares each month can make an extra $350 from tips.

How much extra money can be put aside depends on several factors. For some gig economy workers, their income only allows them to set aside $50 each month for retirement. However, workers who have some free time could take advantage of resources such as TaskRabbit, an online labor marketplace, to increase their income.