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5 Things to Think About When Starting your Family

Starting a family is an exciting time, but it can be overwhelming too. As you search for fertility specialists, determine the factors involved in the logistics, and understand the laws and finances of starting a family, it gets to be a lot.

We’re here for you every step of the way, helping you understand the ins and outs of starting your family the way you dream.

Mixed race lesbian couple smile. One is pregnant.

1. Conceive or Adopt?

The first order of business is how you’ll bring a child into your life. If you want to conceive, you need to think of the method and everything that goes along with it. 

LGBT+ couples have a variety of options today – many more than ever before! A few options include:

  • Insemination of a partner with a uterus from a sperm donor
  • IVF using donor sperm and/or donor eggs
  • IVF using a gestational carrier
  • Reciprocal IVF (for example, one partner provides the egg and the other carries the baby)

What you’re comfortable with, what you can afford (more on that below), and the gender of the couple will determine the options. Most gay couples, for example, will have to rely on a gestational carrier with either a donor egg or donor embryo. Lesbian couples typically have a few more options.

Adoption is something any couple can do and is a wonderful way to bring a child into your life. You can do a private adoption or work with an agency. You’ll have to think about issues like ‘open or closed adoption,’ and if you want to be placed or you want to choose the situation.

2. Cost and Process of Conception 

Think long and hard about the cost of both conception and adoption as neither is cheap! IVF, for example, costs an average of $12,000 – $15,000. Some insurance companies may help with the cost, so be sure to check with yours.

Artificial insemination without donor sperm costs an average of $1,000, but if you need donor sperm, add an extra $1,000 per vial. Remember, not every cycle is successful, so plan a few rounds in your budget. 

If conceiving doesn’t work or you go straight to adoption, budget between $30,000 – $40,000 if you do an agency adoption and less if you go the private route (but this is less common).

3. The Laws Where you Live

Before you conceive or try to adopt a baby, make sure you know the laws in your state. Not every state recognizes the rights of biological parents of the same sex. Some states don’t recognize same sex parents, while others require you to ‘adopt’ your own child in order to make it legal.

If the laws in your state don’t make it possible for you to claim your child as yours legally, this could make it difficult to do things like add them to your medical insurance, or even authorized medical decisions including vaccinations.

Know your state’s laws well before adding a child to your relationship to avoid headaches and heartache.

4. Savings Plans

As you bring a child into the world, it’s important to set them up for financial security as young as possible.

Today there are many options to help your child get a healthy start on life. A few options to start savings include:

  • Start a 529 savings plan – You contribute money before taxes (lowering your tax liability) and the earnings grow tax-free. You can use the funds for your child’s education whether K – 12 or college.
  • Save in an online high yield savings account – Save money in an online high yield savings account as early as you can. Set up automatic transfers so you don’t even have to think about the savings. They happen automatically and as the interest adds up, your child will have a nice nest egg when they are older.

5. Work Benefits

You may not have the same maternal and paternal rights as non-LGBT+ parents at your company, so make sure you know your company’s policies.

If you plan to take time off to be with your new baby, find out if you’ll get paid leave through maternal/paternal leave, FMLA, or if the time will be unpaid. This will play a role in how long you take off and how you handle the first few months of your child’s life. 

Also, consider who will insure the child. A parent who’s not considered the ‘legal parent’ according to the state law can’t insure the child. If you both have insurance at work that your child is eligible for, determine who has the best coverage and the lowest premiums. Look at deductibles, issues that are covered, and the co-payments required for each instance.

Starting a family is exciting – and if you do your research, know your state laws, understand your rights, and know what it will take to conceive or adopt the child you dream of having with your partner, you can start the family you’ve always dreamt of having. 

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5 Things to Boost your Financial Situation Right Now

Do you not love your financial situation right now? Do you wish you could snap your fingers and improve it?

While we don’t have a magic wand to make things happen, we do have 5 simple ways you can turn things around quickly. 

With these five tips, you’ll see the light at the tunnel a lot faster than you thought possible, whether that means getting out of debt, increasing your savings, or funneling your money to other financial milestones in your life.

1. Get rid of unneeded expenses

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Go through your bank statement (credit card statements too) and notice where you spend. Chances are you have memberships, subscriptions, and other recurring expenses you don’t need.

Cancel them. You may save yourself around $100 a month with this simple tip if you’re the membership/subscription loving type.

2. Save only in high interest accounts

APYs at your local bank are laughable. Don’t waste your time. Look online and you’ll see much higher APYs available, many with no minimum balance required. Online high-yield savings accounts are more common today as more banks jump on board. 

Stick to the online-only banks because they offer the best interest rates thanks to their lack of overhead.

3. Automate your payments (and savings)

We all get busy and caught up in the craziness of life. Bills slip past us or we forget to transfer money to savings. We are only human.

Avoid this by setting up automatic bill payment and savings transfers. You’ll avoid late payments, unnecessary interest, and grow your savings account faster.

4. Check your credit report

Everyone has free access to all three credit reports annually. TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian all post different information (some may overlap). Pull each credit report at least once a year and go over it.

Look for errors, large and small. Check account balances, payment history, and even if the accounts belong to you. Mistakes happen all the time. If you don’t catch them, they could hurt your credit score quite a bit.

If you’ve changed your name or gender marker recently, make sure you’ve updated all three credit bureaus with those changes, otherwise you may end up with a partial score and history.

5. Use a rewards credit card

It seems odd to recommend using a credit card, but only do this if you will pay the balance off in full each month.

If you charge only what you’d normally buy and can pay for in cash, apply for a rewards credit card. Choose one that offers rewards you’ll use (i.e., cashback rewards, Amazon gift cards, travel rewards, etc.)

Make your regular purchases and expenditures and get rewarded for doing it!

Take Control of your Finances Today

Taking control of your finances won’t happen overnight, but with these five small changes, you’ll set the wheel in motion. Use the motivation they create to keep going – making other important changes in your financial life until you feel financially secure by having your debts under control, your savings account growing, and a plan set to reach your financial milestone goals, both short and long-term. 

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5 Things to Know About Saving for Retirement

Retirement may seem like it’s so far off, but it will be here before you know it. Even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, the time to plan for your golden years is now. The earlier you start saving, the more money you’ll have available during the years you can do what you want and not worry about the 9 to 5 rat race.

A lesbian couple hug and smile at the camera.

Even if you haven’t given retirement a second thought yet, consider these five factors.

1. The earlier you save, the more money you’ll have.

The difference between saving now and not starting for 10 years can be tens of thousands of dollars. For example, if you save at $500 a month at 25-years old, you’ll have $1.39 million saved by age 67. If you save the same amount but wait until you’re 35-years old, you’ll have $0.69 million. That’s a tremendous difference and it’s all thanks to compounded earnings.

2. Max out your employer’s 401K match.

Many employers match 401K contributions. They won’t match the entire $19,500 you can contribute in 2020, but they may contribute up to the first 5% of your salary or something similar. 

Find out what your employer will match (is it dollar-for-dollar or 50% match) and up to what amount. Then make sure you contribute at least that much to your 401K.

3. Take advantage of IRA tax advantages.

If you work for yourself or you maxed out your 401K, you can still take advantage of the IRA or Roth IRA plans. Regular IRAs provide tax deductions now (the year you contribute) and you may contribute up to $6,500. Roth IRAs don’t have the tax deduction now, but your contributions and earnings grow tax-free. If you wait until you are at least 59 ½ to withdraw funds, you pay no additional taxes.

4. Don’t cash out your retirement funds if you leave your job.

Leaving your job isn’t free reign to cash out your retirement funds. Instead, roll your retirement balance over to another retirement account. It could be another 401K or a personal IRA. Just don’t cash it out. If you do, you’ll not only owe taxes on the money but also a 10% early withdrawal penalty as it counts as ordinary income.

5. Choose a diversified portfolio.

You are in charge of how your retirement funds get invested. When you’re young, choose a more aggressive portfolio – one that’s heavier in stocks than bonds. As you get closer to retirement, though, go lighter on the stocks and heavier on the more conservative investments to avoid a major loss so late in your career.

It’s more important than ever to save for retirement now. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 45 years old – start saving. If you’re unsure where the best place is to start, consult a financial advisor. Discuss your retirement plans, your current financial status, and what you need to save to achieve the life you desire during your golden years. 

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5 Things to Know When Becoming a Freelancer

Becoming a freelancer is exciting! Suddenly you are at home and able to work your own schedule. You and your partner have more freedom to do what you want, and you can still make a decent income. It’s the best of all worlds!

A person with a camera looks to the right.

Before you start freelancing, though, you should know the top five things that could affect your bottom line. They all affect the largest liability you’ll face as a freelancer – your taxes.

Here are the top ways to minimize your tax liability and keep more of the hard-earned money you make freelancing.

1. You’ll pay both sides of the taxes.

When you work for someone else, they cover the Medicare and Social Security taxes. When you’re on your own – there’s no one to pay them but you. The self-employment tax is equal to 15.3%.

2. You may write off your home office.

If you use a part of your home exclusively for your business, you may write off the expenses on your taxes. Keep in mind, though, to write off your rent, mortgage, utilities, or even taxes for that portion of the home, it must be for exclusive use and not shared for other uses outside of business hours.

3. You may deduct mileage and meals.

If you can prove any mileage and meal expenses you deduct are strictly for business purposes, you may deduct them. They cannot be intermingled with personal uses, though. For example, if you and your partner go on vacation, but you spend two of those days in seminars, it doesn’t count as a business expense since the vacation was personal.

4. Keep your business and personal expenses separate.

Even if your freelancing business is small, keep a separate business account for your business expenses. It will make your life a ton easier at tax time. Without the separation, it’s hard to distinguish between the two and could even trigger an audit from the IRS if you aren’t careful.

5. Pay your taxes quarterly.

No one likes that big unpleasant tax bill on April 15th, especially freelancers. Since you’re responsible for your own taxes, it’s best to make estimated quarterly payments. This does two things:

  • Lowers your total tax bill on April 15th as it’s hard to pay the entire bill upfront
  • Eliminates the risk of paying a late payment penalty because you didn’t keep up with your quarterly payments

As a freelancer, you have a lot more tax worries than a person who works for an employer. It’s important to get the tax support you need from a professional. You’ll learn which deductions you can legally take, how and when you should pay and what forms you must file.

While taxes are a bit more complicated when you work for yourself, they aren’t impossible and the benefits of working for yourself are amazing. Take advantage of your ability to work from home or for yourself and get the tax support you need to make it worthwhile. 

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5 Things You Can do to Improve your Credit Score Right Now

Your credit score is important. It’s how lenders decide if they’ll approve your loan application, how insurance companies determine your premiums, and even how some employers decide if they’ll hire you.

If your credit isn’t where you’d like it to be, you may run into some brick walls. Fortunately, there some quick ways you can improve your credit score right now.

1. Bring all payments current

Life happens and sometimes we get behind. That’s okay, as long as it’s temporary. As quickly as you can, bring your payments current. The faster you show a positive payment history, the faster your credit score will improve. Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score – it’s the largest component of it.

Do what you can to get the payments current and then keep paying them on time. Late payments affect your credit score the most. 

2. Reduce your credit utilization ratio

Your credit utilization ratio measures the amount of outstanding debt compared to your credit lines. It makes up 30% of your credit score (the second largest portion of your credit score) and any credit utilization rates higher than 30% hurt your credit. 

If you can’t pay your balances down quite yet, consider asking your credit card companies to raise your credit limits. This decreases your utilization rate too. Keep this in mind – every $100 in credit limit shouldn’t have more than $30 outstanding at once.

3. Keep unused credit cards open

It seems natural to close credit cards you or your partner don’t use – but don’t. Keep them open, just lock them up. Closing credit cards hurts your credit length, which makes up 15% of your credit score. 

Lock the cards in a safe or give them to a trusted family member – just don’t close them as it’s hard to make up credit length.

4. File a dispute for credit report errors

Credit report errors happen often. Whether it’s human error or creditor error, fixing it may help increase your credit score. File a dispute with the credit bureau with the incorrect information. You can file it online or write a letter and mail it in. Make sure you include as much proof of the error as you have. The credit bureau has 30 days to respond to your request.

5. Become an authorized user

If your partner or other close family member has good credit and/or good credit habits, consider asking to be an authorized user on their credit card.

You don’t have to use the credit card or make the payments, but you get the benefit of the cardholder’s good credit habits reporting on your credit report. Make sure the credit card you go on reports authorized users to the credit bureaus, though, as not all do. 

 

With the right habits, you can turn your credit score around quickly. Consistent and good credit habits can create change in your score in as little as 30 days. Make sure you’re consistent with your efforts and you’ll see a nice increase in your credit score.