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5 Tips on Making Your Master’s Degree Achievable

Earning a master’s degree is a huge accomplishment, both for your professional and personal life. You will be offered better opportunities and higher pay, and you’ll live with the satisfaction of knowing you accomplished something above and beyond what was required. For many, the opportunity to earn this degree feels like it’s just out of reach, but with some careful planning and hard work, it might be much more attainable than you think.

1. Find Scholarships

If you have a passion, hobby, or talent, there’s a good chance that someone is offering a scholarship for it. If you are already working, some scholarships reward those who stand out in their profession. Nurses are offered a variety of scholarships by some of the leading healthcare companies in the nation.

2. Look for the Best Schools


Image via Flickr by Beraldo Leal

There are many universities that offer the best possible education and more affordable tuition rates. Choosing a school that’s in-state will help with the tuition fees. You can also look for a school that is committed to your field of study that might offer a grant or some sort of incentive for furthering your education with them.

3. Online Education

You may not be at a point where you can devote yourself to education full-time any longer, especially if you have already taken a job in your desired field. This is why many schools offer a program online for those trying to earn their master’s degree while already committed to working. Ohio University, for instance, offers online study programs for working nurses interested in furthering their education. Attend school where and how you need to as you pursue your studies.

4. Employee-Tuition Reimbursement

Many companies believe in investing in their employees. So much so, that some of the leading companies in the country will offer employee-tuition reimbursement programs. Talk to your employer to learn about the company’s policies on education and see if they offer a program like this. This is especially prominent in the medical field, where higher education is always an asset.

5. Take Your Time

As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. In most cases, the things that are worth having are not just going to fall in your lap overnight. They take hard work and efficiency. In a perfect world, we could all focus on one thing at a time, but if you’re trying to earn your master’s degree while keeping a roof over your head or supporting a family, you might need a bit more time to finish than if education had been your entire focus. The important thing is to do the job right, and as you learn to take your time, you will get the most out of the experience.

Earning a master’s degree is more accessible than ever before today. As long as you work hard, look for the best opportunities for your needs, and keep an open mind, you’ll find that you can further your education. Look into a program today and see what suits you best.

Does Private Health Insurance Cover me as soon as I buy the Policy?

Since the Affordable Care Act came into being not having private health insurance can lead to a fine if you don’t qualify for public healthcare. But when you purchase a health insurance policy how soon does coverage commence?

It’s understandable that you’ll want to be covered by your health insurance as soon as possible in case you should suffer any health problems. Health care can be extremely costly so you want to get the benefit of your premiums straight away. Find out more about specific coverage times on HBF’s health insurance policies by following this link, you can learn more about peace of mind for you & your family.

So if I buy a policy when does it start?

The health insurance market place was set up to give people a way of purchasing health insurance. It is open for a period each year to allow for purchase of health insurance for that year. For 2014 the open enrollment period for the market place ended on March 31 2014. The proposed open enrollment period for 2015 is November 15 2014–February 15 2015.

If you enroll in a health insurance policy during the open enrollment periods it commences according to the date on which you enroll. If you enroll between the first day of enrollment period and the third week in December your coverage begins on the first day of the new year. After that point if you enroll between the 1st and the 15th day of the month, and you pay your premium on time, coverage starts on the first day of the following month. If you enroll between the 16th and last day of the month your coverage begins on the first day of the month after the following month.

What happens outside of the open enrollment period?

People can enroll for health insurance during a special enrollment period. This is a period of 60 days following the loss of current health insurance or a specific life event. The same rules of entitlement apply as for the open enrollment period.

Of course you can enroll for health insurance outside of the market place altogether, although from 2015 your policy will need to meet the same essential health benefits as those offered in the marketplace. You will need to check with the insurance provider when the policy will become effective, with many policies coverage starts from the month after you take the policy out. Once you start paying for your insurance you will receive a proof of insurance which you will need to prove coverage to medical providers.

What happens if I’m covered but my claim is refused?

The most important thing to find out is why the claim was denied; there can be a lot of reasons for this happening. There could be a perceived lack of medical necessity for the claim, or maybe the claim was made outside of prescribed time limits. Once you know the reason for the refusal you have the right to appeal if you feel you have been treated unjustly. There are two ways the decision can be looked at; an internal appeal which is considered by your insurance provider, and an external review where your case is referred to a third party.

What to do When You Need Cash Now but Have No Job

When you lose a job and the cash runs out, it is hard to figure out which direction to turn in. Getting a loan is not an option since you have no way of repaying it. Borrowing from friends or family may also not be an option due to their own financial status. Even getting a credit card is impossible with no income. There are a few options to consider when you need cash now to purchase groceries, pay rent/mortgage and keep the utilities on.

Obtain a Loan from a Pawn Shop

If you have items of value, this is one way to get a loan. Pawn shops do make loans that are generally required to be repaid within 90 – 120 days. The amount of the loan is based upon the value of the item or items you take in. Some will loan money on vehicles, so if you have a second vehicle, consider getting a loan on one of them but make sure it can be paid back or it will be lost. This temporary funding may not be the entire amount that you need, but it is a good start.

Advertise Services in Online Forums

Consider placing ads on online forums, on social media and in local classifieds advertising your special skills. This may bring a few jobs your way that will pay cash. These funds can be used for anything that you need whether it’s for survival or a vehicle repair. If you are not having any luck obtaining jobs, ask family if there is anything that you can do for them for pay such as yard work or a home repair. Some family members may be more willing to assist if you are actually working for the money.

Sell Items that are Unnecessary

Put items up for sale in local classifieds and price them to sell. Start a little high and be willing to negotiate. Items can be replaced, so anything that has been sitting around or is rarely used would be ideal. This includes electronics, collectibles and tools as the most popular items to sell quickly.

The options above will help you to get quick cash, especially when you are unemployed. Even if you receive unemployment compensation, it is rarely enough to make ends meet. The funds received from sales, pawn shops or side jobs should be enough to get you through until you find new employment.


How to Handle Tax Negotiations

Let’s face it, all of us are going to come across financial barriers at some point in our lives, no matter how fiscally responsible you may think you are. For many people, one of the biggest challenges standing in the way of their financial stability is their federal income taxes. While you might be earning sufficient funds to support a healthy and balanced lifestyle, income taxes have to potential to disrupt that lifestyle if you don’t manage your payments carefully and pay close attention to the amounts you owe before particular deadlines. If you happen to fall behind on paying your income taxes, it can be a major pain, but it won’t be the end of the world. You can still maintain financial solvency without having to declare bankruptcy or take other drastic measures. Thankfully you can engage in tax negotiations with the IRS. If your outstanding tax requirements are not in a range that can reasonably afford, it possible to settle your tax balance with an “offer-in-compromise” that is less than the amount you owe. While the IRS is settling for a lesser amount, it benefits them to work with individuals to receive at least part of the taxes owed as opposed to dealing with a bankruptcy case. Negotiating an offer in compromise to pay to the federal government in lieu of the full sum required for your official tax requirements can be a lengthy process but it is one that is worth the time commitment.


Offers in Compromise

The IRS will make a decision regarding how much it thinks you will be able to pay based on your income versus your allowable expenses. In accordance with how much income you have declared on your tax returns, the IRS will determine if the amount you have proposed as a compromise settlement payment is sufficient. That determination is by no means a guaranteed yes from the government agency. According to media outlet Quartz, “In 2013 the IRS received 74,000 applications for “offers in compromise,” which allow taxpayers to pay less than they owe. The agency accepted fewer than half—31,000; in 2012, 64,000 taxpayers applied for one and only 24,000 were accepted.” As you can see, the statistics are consistently daunting as tax payers are unable to meet the standards set forth by the IRS.

Options for Tax Negotiations

Because so few people who apply for offers in compromise are actually able to solidify such deals, your best option is usually to work with an outside agency to help you with your tax negotiations. Ideally, you can find a firm that will give a realistic estimate for a proposal that the IRS will accept. Sources such as 800TAX are available to negotiate on your behalf to ensure you have filed all of the necessary forms and documents to give you the highest likelihood of coming to an agreement on a settlement amount and subsequent payment timeline with the federal government. These firms are generally well-versed in the details of tax law so they can finesse your proposal to give it the best chances while remaining at the lowest feasible payments.

Submission Types

There are two different types of possible offers in compromise. You can offer a lump sum payment in which you pay the IRS in fewer than six installments. While you are saving money because your offer is lower than the amount you owe in back taxes, you will still need to include at least 20% of the total sum of your proposal up front when you apply.

The second option is generally easier to incorporate in one’s budget as it is a periodic payment offer. When you submit your application for a periodic payment offer, you are required to pay the sum of your first suggested installment. If your proposal is accepted and the IRS determines your timeline to be acceptable, you are bound to that timeline for its duration. Because the government is already making a compromise to accept a lower payment with an extended timeframe, it is generally not receptive to proposals for further changes to the plan. As less than half of the applicants for offer in compromise deals are accepted, those who do manage to reach an agreement should do everything in their power to adhere to that agreement and payment timeline. Should the proposal you’ve submitted for either type of payment plan get rejected by the IRS, your submission fee is not refunded to you. However, this money will be applied toward your outstanding debt with the IRS. As such, an offer in compromise proposal won’t hurt you financially even in the event that it is not accepted.


Unless you are an expert in tax law, the offer in compromise system might seem overly complex, but this brief introductory overview should give you some familiarity with the basics of tax negotiations to get you started and on your way toward a clean slate with the IRS.

5 Apps to Help You Budget Better This Summer

Be honest. Sometimes finances get away from you, especially during the summer months. The weather’s nice, everything worth experiencing is finally happening, and summer sales are hot, hot, hot. Unfortunately, that means summertime can drain your bank account faster than you can drain a Mike’s Hard Lemonade at your uncle’s barbecue.

We’ve all been there. Thankfully, we have all of this technology floating around to lend a hand. Since there’s an app for everything, you won’t be surprised to learn that there are apps that help you budget your finances and save money.

1. Mint

Let’s start with the most well-rounded app: the Mint financial planning app. It’s available on the iPhone, Android, and Windows mobile operating systems, and it’s completely free to use.

The app gives you a visual of all your spending, lets you set financial goals for yourself, and plans out a budget based on your lifestyle with bill reminders and mobile alerts.


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Mint likes to claim that its incredibly detailed spending reports make you feel good about where your money goes, but that’s only after you feel great shame at looking at a pie chart that is 75% McDonald’s, 20% Netflix, and only 5% grownup things, like your  or underwear. That’s okay, though. We need a starting point.

2. RetailMeNot

RetailMeNot is a great little app for Android and iPhone that serves no other function than being a treasure trove of promo codes and coupons for thousands of businesses. You can get anything from a half-price pizza to discounted airfare, and anything in between. Scrolling through this app’s deals is more addictive than browsing related YouTube videos. Trust.


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All jokes aside, RetailMeNot is a lifesaver. We can’t always resist the seductive gaze of online shopping (FREE two-day shipping–how could we not?), so this app serves as a great buffer between our weakness and the poorhouse. This app can use quite a bit of data when you’re on the go, though, so you may want to look at getting a T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan or something similar that has generous data allowances for users.

3. Hotel Tonight

What good is summertime without an unforgettable road trip? Not much of a summer, is it? Money shouldn’t hold you back from visiting places you’ve dreamed of visiting.

So, when you find yourself in a strange city, and your back seat smells like feet, you’re going to want a nice bed to sleep in. News flash: hotels are a huge money sink. Unless, of course, you pick up Hotel Tonight, available on iPhone, Android, and Windows.


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Every day at noon, the good people at Hotel Tonight post unsold rooms at ridiculously discounted rates. What ensues is a feeding frenzy of last-minute bookings, but you’re sure to snag a great deal with this app. You’ll enjoy a comfy bed, complimentary WiFi, and more money in your pocket than if you had booked a hotel the archaic way.

4. Manilla

Here’s another budget app, but this one takes things to a different level. If you’re feeling particularly grown up, check out Manilla for iPhone and Android.

Manilla is a versatile financial app that lets you sync up every single account you pay into, keeps track of your bank accounts, and gathers up all of your account documents to store for safekeeping. Basically it’s a filing cabinet without the cabinet and an awesome way to keep your money in order.


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If you have tons of different bills, even things like babysitters or dog walkers, you’ll love being able to keep track of them all in one place. Late fees are friends to no one, so let them know they aren’t invited to the party by downloading this app.

5. RedLaser

Everyone has experienced it at least once. You go to one grocery store to pick up a few things. On the way home, you realize you forgot cheese and decide to stop at another store only to discover everything here is so much cheaper. Frustrating, right?

Well, with RedLaser for your iPhone, Android, or Windows device, that level of rage becomes a thing of the past. Scan a barcode, and the app looks up prices online and at local stores to find the best deal available.


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You’ll know exactly where to go to save money, and the app even shows you reviews of products, nutritional values, and coupons.

Each of these suggestions offers users a unique way to budget and even save a little money. In this economy, every little bit helps. If your bank account starts looking a bit parched this summer, give these apps a try.

4 Amazing Careers and Their Benefits

Want to find the perfect job? Whether your goal is to make lots of money, help others, or feel like a valued member of a team, today’s economy supports hundreds of thousands of workers in the careers they love. Read on to learn about some amazing vocational choices you can make today.

Software Development


Image via Flickr photologue_np

If you’re a creative who loves gaming or tinkering with computers, you might enjoy a career as a software developer. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions in this field are opening up much faster than average. With a Bachelor’s degree, you can expect to earn up to $100,000 per year in this multifaceted field.

Software developers are fluent in different computer languages and platforms. They’re responsible for everything from developing popular games like Candy Crush to creating coding applications for today’s mobile phones. Within the field of software development, a professional can choose his/her area of interest and expertise.

Medical Informatics

Perhaps you’ve never heard of this health-minded career, but it’s growing right along with today’s medical and IT industries. We don’t just need doctors; we need people to help assimilate, store, and retrieve medical information. Physicians and emergency technicians often need quick access to a person’s medical history. An informatic combines his/her medical expertise with a working knowledge of IT to develop and deliver that information.

A Medical Informatic Degree qualifies you to work in this dynamic service field. It’s a popular advanced-study choice for doctors who want to use their IT skills to make a difference, but students without prior medical experience can pursue the degree as well.

Market Research Analysis

If you’re interested in how businesses work, you might enjoy the field of market research analysis. A Bachelor’s degree in a number of areas, including computer science, business, and communications, can get you in the door, but your training won’t stop there. Whatever area of sales and marketing you join, you’ll need to learn the ins, outs, and statistics of that field.

Depending on where you land a job, the pay can range between $43,000 – $85,000. For those interested in upward mobility, the job often boasts great career potential.

Customer Service

Customer service jobs get a bad rap, but some businesses offer their employees stellar benefits and working conditions. The following 4 well-known companies all offer their employees health care and other fringe benefits:

  • Starbucks: Baristas now receive two years of online college tuition from their employer, as well as employer-matched 401K contributions and health insurance.
  • Costco: Employees are eligible for health care and the employee stock purchase plan.
  • Lowe’s: The hardware chain offers health benefits and the right to purchase company stock at a discount.
  • Land’s End: The apparel giant offers health benefits even to seasonal workers who promise to return the next year.

Finding your niche in life can be difficult. It helps to know that jobs in customer service, business, IT, and the medical field can all serve you well in today’s tricky economy. It’s important to find a career that fills your social, emotional, and financial needs. Once you do, you’ll be set for life.

How to File Name Change Requests with Ease


If you have recently been married, adopted a child, or just decided you cannot put up with your name any longer, it’s time to file for a name change. This can seem like a very daunting task with the protections put in place against people stealing another person’s identity, but this is still a pretty easy and straightforward process. As long as you’re getting the right help and you’re following the guidelines, you’re going to have an easy time of changing your name. So, whether it’s a joyous occasion to change your name, or you’re getting rid of something that’s bothered you for years, you can get the information you need to change your name quickly and easily.

Make Sure to State the Reason for Changing Your Name

If you want for your name change request to be approved, you’re going to need to provide your reason for it. If you are getting married or adopted, you have a great reason to change your name and your request is all but assured to be changed as soon as you file with a company like LegalZoom, according to The Knot. If you’re changing your name just because you don’t like your old name, you’re going to need to come up with a good reason why your name should be changed to the one you prefer. If you have a compelling argument about being teased relentlessly, or just that you’ve always looked up to the person for whose name your taking, or simply everyone already calls you by the name anyways, this can be a good reason to state you want to change your name. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have a good reason for changing your name. If you have any reason at all, you’re more than likely going to receive the name change you desire.

Make Sure You Know the State Laws

The main thing you’re interested in accomplishing is to have the legal ability to change your name on your social security card. Each state has different laws surrounding what has to be accomplished before this can happen, according to Baby Center. For instance, if you live in Minnesota, you have to be a resident for at least six months before you can legally change your name. This is why it is always recommended to contact a lawyer whenever you’re thinking about changing your name. While this may be a little more expensive than filling out all of the paperwork yourself, it’s the best way to be assured you’re complying with all the state laws so your name will be changed right away. Lawyers will review all the laws surrounding a name change and ask you questions prior to filling out the paperwork. This way, you’re assured you’re in complete compliance and that your name change request will be accepted with ease.

Know the Timing to Handle All Your Legal Documents

Changing your name on your social security card is one of the hardest parts of changing your name, but it is only part of the process, according to The New York Times. You will also have to change your name on your State Identification (i.e. Driver’s License), with your employer and with any other legal parties you work with (like your bank account, etc.). These all have different requirements in terms of timing you’re going to have to observe. If you’re not sure of the timing, you’ll either have to make several phone calls or defer to your lawyer. In most cases, the lawyer can take care of filing all the paperwork at the appropriate time for you. If you’re worried about delays in things like receiving your tax return, or obtaining a new license, you should consider the timing of when you file for your name change.

Posting Your Name Change in the Newspaper

Among the state laws you may have to abide by when going through a name change is posting your intent to change your name in the local newspaper. In the state of Georgia, according to the Georgia Government, you have to post the intended name change along with your old name, the court filed in and the date you filed. In the ad, you also have to mention anyone who has an objection can file a petition in the court. Only after 4 weeks have elapsed with no petitions can you legally change your name. This is just one example of a state law regarding changing your name. If you’re not aware of this kind of law, you may be caught off guard when you go to change your name. Talk with a lawyer about all the state laws to make sure you fully understand what you’re going to go through. If you still want to go through with it after you understand the process completely, you can go through with the name change.