Sometimes, the grass really is greener on the other side. Sometimes, it’s just more of the same.
So when it comes to leaving your current job for a new one, how can you tell beforehand if the opportunity is really worth it?
While there’s always going to be risk involved when changing employers, you can make a more confident choice by considering some key factors. Here are the most important variables to take into account before changing jobs.
As the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, many employees can work from home just as efficiently as they would at the office. While some companies have vowed to continue letting people partially or permanently work from home, others have steadfastly refused to make working from home the new normal.
If you prefer a more flexible schedule because of family commitments, chronic health problems, or any other reasons, work-from-home flexibility should be a high priority.
Health insurance is one of the most important factors to consider. A company that pays your premiums is essentially giving you hundreds of dollars in benefits every month.
Ask about the health insurance coverage before you accept a new position, specifically how much the monthly premiums will cost. Many small businesses are not required to provide coverage for their employees. If you’re applying to work at a small company, inquire about health insurance early on.
If the company does not provide coverage, you’ll have to buy a policy from the HealthCare Marketplace, where you’ll be 100% responsible for the premiums.
Paid Time Off
Paid time off is another major consideration to take into account before leaving one company for another. If your employer has a generous vacation policy, you may be surprised to find out that other companies are more strict.
Paid time off includes vacation days, sick days, holidays, and parental leave. If you plan to have kids soon, examine your company’s maternity leave policy so you can compare it to prospective employers.
Retirement Contributions and Stock Options
If you currently receive matching 401(k) contributions from your employer, double-check the vesting schedule of your new job. The vesting schedule outlines how quickly you’ll earn 100% of the employer contributions.
Many employers have a graded vesting schedule, which means that every year you will earn a certain percentage of the employer contributions. For example, if your company has a five-year vesting schedule, you’ll pocket 20% of their contributions every year. Once you’ve worked there for five years, you’ll receive 100% of the contributions.
Others use a cliff vesting schedule, which has an all-or-nothing requirement. You have to work there for a certain number of years to be eligible for 100% of the employer’s contributions. If you work less than that, you won’t be eligible for any of it. If you don’t plan to stay at your next job very long, then it’s important to understand the vesting schedule.
Public companies often provide stock options to their employees, which can be worth thousands of dollars in extra benefits. Employees with a stock purchase plan can buy company stock at a discount and resell it later for a profit.
If you plan to go back to school, look for a company that provides tuition reimbursement. Many employers will pay for all or part of your tuition, but the benefits vary.
Some will require that your degree applies to your current position, while others will be more lenient. If you don’t want a full degree, you may be able to convince your employer to pay for special courses or certificates that will also boost your resume.
Some companies have begun to offer student loan reimbursement. With these programs, employers contribute to your student loans by either matching payments or providing a set amount each year. Like a 401(k) match, you may have to work there for a certain period of time to qualify.
Room for Advancement
If you’re searching for a firm where you can stay for several years or more, it’s important to consider if there’s room to grow. The bigger the company is, the more likely it is that you can stay there and get promoted to another position. That’s harder to do at smaller companies where room for advancement may be limited.
The general office environment can impact your overall job satisfaction, but it’s a topic often neglected during the interview process. If you’re interviewing in-person, notice how the office looks and how employees are acting.
Do you hear laughter or is it dead quiet? Do they have a diverse staff? Are there fun initiatives, like casual Fridays, or does there seem to be a strict dress code? Depending on what you’re looking for, the answers to questions like these are crucial.
No one wants to get a job only to be laid off months later. Before switching companies, investigate your prospective employer to see if they’re in danger of shuttering or being sold.
Look through recent press clippings, especially from the local newspaper or business journal. If you have friends in the industry, ask if they think the company is stable.
Sometimes you can’t help but take a risk, like if you’re working for a start-up or in a volatile industry. In this case, you should have a sizable emergency fund and keep your resume and LinkedIn profile updated in case you lose your job.
Education and Training
When you’re interviewing at a job, ask if they pay for employee education, like attending industry-wide conferences or local training sessions. It’s valuable to work for a company that cares about employee professional development.
If you don’t expand your breadth of knowledge, then you may find yourself in a tough spot years later when looking for another job, with out-of-date skills.
Use Your Intuition
If you’ve considered all the factors listed above but are still getting a bad vibe about the new job, don’t hesitate to back out. Your gut intuition may be telling you something important about the company that you can’t verbalize clearly.
Lots of Americans use unemployment benefits insurance to pay their bills while they’re looking for a new job. Many people consider it free money that can help you get by in dire times. But is unemployment taxable? Unfortunately it is, and for that reason, it’s best not to consider it “free money.”
Your unemployment benefits are taxed like income, and you’ll have to pay those taxes on unemployment during tax season when you file your return.
Sometimes, the Federal government accidentally overpays a huge amount of money in unemployment benefits. If you were overpaid unemployment, you might have to repay it come tax season.
When it comes to collecting unemployment overpayments, the Federal Government only recovers about a quarter of its losses. In fact, there’s even a procedure in place for those who have received overpayments but aren’t able to pay the money back; they might be able to waive the repayment amount and subsequent fees. The only criterion is that the recipient must prove that they did not set out to purposely deceive the Federal Government.
Unemployment Eligibility Requirements
The U.S. Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Program provides benefit payments to newly unemployed workers who lost their job “through no fault of their own.” If you’re an employee of the Federal Government, you may be eligible for unemployment during a Federal shutdown.
States are generally allowed to interpret that condition in their own way. But, for all intents and purposes, workers who are fired are usually not eligible for unemployment benefits. You’ll be eligible for unemployment benefits if you were laid off from your job due to budget cuts or downsizing.
If you lived in one state and worked in another, the laws of your employer’s state will apply, and not the laws of your state of residence.
It’s important to understand that unemployment benefits are not supposed to be your primary income. It’s only a temporary source of income that’s meant to help you cover some living costs while you search for another job. The amount of benefits that you receive is not dependent on your financial needs or lifestyle; a government formula will determine how much you receive.
If you’re going to collect unemployment benefits, you must be ready, willing, and able to work, and you must make a genuine effort to find new employment. There is usually a minimum number of jobs that you’re required to apply or interview for, so if you’re going to claim unemployment, it’s best to spruce up your resume and start scrolling through job sites.
You should keep detailed records of your job search efforts, whether they’re by phone, email, mail, online, or in-person. Your state’s unemployment authorities might demand to see your records at any time for proof that you’re making an actual effort to find work. Many states require that you report your job search activities weekly.
Whenever you’re in a financial bind, it’s helpful to reign in your spending as best you can and determine what your most minimal living costs can be. Use a budgeting app to help keep you from running through your unemployment funds faster than you can get a new job.
Types of Unemployment Tax Breaks
In the past, you could deduct a number of expenses related to your job search, like transportation, relocation costs, and seminar fees. Unfortunately, these deductibles were eliminated by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. But there are still certain ways you can find financial relief during unemployment.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax break for workers who don’t have a very large income. If you’ve earned income during the year (not including your unemployment benefits), you might be able to use that amount to make a credit claim. Single taxpayers can claim EITC, but workers with dependent children benefit from it the most.
Starting a Business
There are lots of people who, when unemployed, decide that they’re going to go into business for themselves. The IRS has three categories of tax deductions for startup businesses:
Creating a business/investigating creation of business: Deductible costs might include surveying markets, analyzing cost of products, exploring potential business locations, and other early costs.
Preparing the business to open: Deductible costs might include employee training, travel expenses, advertising expenses, and consultant fees. Equipment cost is not deductible, but you may be able to claim future tax deductions on depreciation.
Organizational costs: Deductible costs might include legal fees, state organizational fees, and initial salaries. You might need to have your business legally established within the end of the first fiscal year to claim these deductions.
Cash-Out Retirement Plan Early
If your unemployment has left you in a dire financial situation, you could consider cashing out your retirement plan and using it as emergency funds. Typically, there’s a 10% early withdrawal fee, but the IRS allows taxpayers to cash out their retirement plan tax-free if it’s a “hardship withdrawal.”
Of course, you shouldn’t tap into your retirement savings without careful consideration. You should only do so if there’s no other sort of financial relief you can get, and if you’re facing homelessness or illness due to inability to pay medical expenses. If you do decide to cash your retirement funds, then you should come up with an aggressive financial plan to replenish your retirement fund once you’re employed again.
How Unemployment Overpayments Happen
The most common reason for overpayment is attributed to clerical errors that qualify an applicant for regular payment when that person would normally not have qualified for unemployment benefits. That includes people who quit their jobs, were fired for negligence, who aren’t actively looking for work, or who have found another job.
The overpayment amounts are significant, especially when viewed through the lens of strained state budgets: Colorado once overpaid by $128 million in a single year, while Indiana paid out more incorrect benefits than correct ones.
Withholding Tax Now vs. Paying It Later
Overpayments aren’t the only concern for the unemployed. Even though taxes aren’t taken out of your unemployment check, you’re still expected to pay taxes on the benefits you collect, which is taxed as regular income.
Additionally, any supplemental benefits coming from company-funded programs are not taxed as income, but as “wages.” That means that you’re going to get a W-2 for them at the end of the year, and the IRS will tax you then.
In some states, you have the option to collect taxes that are withheld at the time the unemployment check is issued. Generally, 10 percent is withheld from the check. This withholding is optional, and recipients can elect to collect the entire amount and pay taxes on it at the end of the year instead.
Collecting a larger check is tempting, but it’s wise to have the taxes withheld from your unemployment check. Taking a hit now is better than owing the IRS at the end of the year. If you end up with a tax refund at the end of the year instead of owing, that money can go toward any bills you incurred as a result of being unemployed.
If you still decide to not have tax withheld from your unemployment benefits, make sure to set aside a portion of each check (say 10 percent) in a high-yield, interest-bearing account.
Reporting Unemployment on 1099-G
When you receive unemployment compensation, you will get issued a 1099-G at the end of the year. This is how the IRS keeps track of any income received from governmental sources. You are required to report this as income, and failing to do so might be one of the biggest tax mistakes you can make.
If you fail to report your unemployment benefits as income, it’s unlikely you’re going to end up federal prison for tax evasion. But the fees and penalties associated with lying on your taxes are significant. And if you get audited (even if all your other finances are clean) the process will be time-consuming and potentially expensive. When it comes to paying taxes, honesty is always the best policy.
Reporting unemployment income on your taxes is easy. There are lines on your tax forms that are specifically for any 1099-G income.
Why did I receive a Form 1099-G?
You received Form 1099-G because you received unemployment benefits during the year. You’ll report the funds that you received on Form 1099-G.
How do I report this unemployment information on my income taxes?
If you received unemployment benefits, you’ll receive Form 1099-G in the mail. Report your unemployment on this form.
I never received Form 1099-G?
If you never received Form 1099-G, but you did receive unemployment benefits for the tax year, you’re still obligated to report your benefits on Form 1099-G when you file your taxes. Failure to do so may result in heavy tax penalties and fees. Order the form on the IRS website, fill it out, and include it with your tax return.
Can I get my Form 1099-G information online?
Form 1099-G is not available online. You can mail-order the form here.
May I send an inquiry regarding my Form 1099-G by fax or mail?
Yes! You may send an inquiry via mail or fax. However, your information can’t be faxed back to you due to confidentiality concerns, so it’ll be returned to you via mail.
Why is my overpayment, which I repaid, not reported on my Form 1099-G?
The IRS handles overpayments separately from your tax return. If you were subject to non-fraud overpayment (in other words, if the overpayment wasn’t your fault), then you would receive a notice from the IRS telling you whether or not you must repay the overpayment. If you already repaid your overpayment, and you receive an IRS notice demanding repayment, you should contact your local IRS office.
For more information on unemployment benefits, visit IRS.gov.
Millions of anxious, unemployed Americans are breathing a collective sigh of relief knowing that they will continue to receive – without interruption – supplemental weekly federal unemployment benefits into early September after President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday the $1.9 trillion stimulus package known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Biden’s signature comes just days before the enhanced federal unemployment benefits, established by previous stimulus packages, were set to expire. As part of the new plan, nearly one-third of American households who are currently unemployed or will lose their job this summer will receive federal unemployment benefit payments of $300 per week – on top of standard benefit levels – through September 6, 2021. What’s more, as much as $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 will be exempt from tax for households whose incomes are less than $150,000. (Note: The IRS is working on 2020 tax form updates to account for the new exemption. If you already filed your 2020 tax return, don’t rush to file an amended return – wait until the IRS issues instructions.)
The American Rescue Plan, which was finalized by the House on Wednesday in a firmly partisan 220-211 vote (with one Democrat voting no), is the latest iteration of federal health and economic aid to cushion the blows wrought by the novel coronavirus which, since March 2020, has significantly hobbled the American economy.
The costs of the extended unemployment benefits represent about 13% of the package’s $1.9 trillion budget, which also includes a new round of stimulus checks, an enhanced child tax credit, relief for renters and more. The original version of the bill, approved by the House on February 27, provided federal unemployment benefit payouts of $400 a week through the end of September, but a bevy of last-minute compromises between conservatives and progressives on the Senate floor, in order to secure approval among all Democratic senators, ultimately shrank the payouts by $100 a week and cut the period of the payouts by three weeks.
Democratic lawmakers assert that extending the timeline for providing the bonus federal unemployment benefits into early September will hopefully prevent millions of Americans from losing those benefits abruptly when the Senate is on summer recess. That’s what happened last summer, causing millions of unemployed Americans to worry about making up for that supplemental income.
In an all-too-typical 11th-hour compromise Friday evening, Senate Democrats agreed to tweak the unemployment benefit provisions of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The move came less than a day before the Senate – already divided evenly along party lines – passed the bill Saturday afternoon.
The compromise, introduced by Delaware Democratic Senator Tom Carper, alters the unemployment benefit provisions approved by the House in two ways:
Additional federal unemployment benefit payments will remain at $300 per week; and
The period of disbursing the enhanced unemployment benefits will be extended to September 6, 2021.
In addition, the revised bill would make as much as $10,200 of unemployment benefits exempt from tax for households whose incomes are less than $150,000. The House bill did not offer this incentive.
The House-approved bill, which passed less than a week ago, would have provided additional unemployment payments of $400 per week through the end of August, extending by 24 weeks the current period of benefits, which is scheduled to expire on March 14. Now, the weekly payout is $100 less and a week longer. For many Americans, however, $300 a week is too low to make ends meet, especially when compared to the $600 weekly payout approved last year under the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
Friday’s changes to the unemployment benefits provisions took a circuitous route late in the morning when the Senate was placed in a holding pattern for several hours after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a self-described conservative Democrat, expressed reservations about the changes to the House-approved bill. Manchin was in the middle of a tug-of-war between Republican and Democrat senators. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, encouraged by Friday’s rosier jobs report, proposed keeping the $300 weekly unemployment payments but shortening the period by 10 weeks to July 18. At one point, Republicans believe they had Manchin’s support for Portman’s proposal. However, the Senator from West Virginia ultimately threw his support behind the bill introduced by Senator Carper. That gave Senate Democrats the 50 votes they needed for the bill to be approved.
Extending the payment period just beyond August into early September will hopefully prevent millions of Americans losing the expanded unemployment benefits abruptly while the Senate is on summer recess. That’s what happened last summer when the $600 weekly additional payments stopped, causing millions of American to worry about where, and how, to make up for that supplemental income.
The goal now is to get the stimulus approved and signed by President Joe Biden before March 14, the date when current weekly unemployment benefits, which were approved under the second $900 billion stimulus package in December, will expire. The Senate bill – with the new terms – will return to the House for reconciliation. At this point, the House is expected to approve the Senate’s changes. Assuming that happens, President Biden will sign the bill, and millions of Americans should receive their unemployment compensation payments via direct deposit in mid-March. Those receiving paper checks will likely see their payments in April.
While there are many reasons you might find yourself unemployed, the primary reason more individuals are out of work right now is due to COVID-19 layoffs. As COVID-19 has swept the nation, it has left many wondering what to do now.
Whether you’ve been laid off because of coronavirus or other circumstances, your main focus should be applying for unemployment benefits and finding your footing in this time of uncertainty. To help you make this adjustment as smooth as possible, this post will cover the basic steps of what to do when you’re unemployed.
Unemployment & Coronavirus
While it’s believed that the virus may still hit its peak, in mid-April, it seems that for now, many individuals are still facing the risk of being laid off. As of early April 2020, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis had forecasted that 47 million Americans could lose their jobs because of coronavirus.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to panic. Of course, the thought of losing your job is scary and can have a serious impact on your lifestyle, but there are some resources in place that you can take advantage of.
So, what can you do to protect your livelihood? Let’s dive into the basics of what you need to know about unemployment benefits, then we’ll walk you through what to do when you’re unemployed.
The Basics of Unemployment
Before you can take action, you need to understand the different aspects of unemployment and how they’ll apply to you:
What Is Unemployment Insurance?
Unemployment insurance, commonly referred to as unemployment benefits or simply unemployment, is a program designed for individuals who have lost their jobs. This program provides payments to help sustain Americans who have lost their jobs.
However, not everyone is entitled to unemployment insurance. For example, you typically cannot claim unemployment benefits if you quit your job. That said, there has been a significant expansion of unemployment benefits, including who can qualify and for how much, due to the coronavirus.
In late March, the government passed the CARES Act into law. As part of the 2 trillion dollars of economic relief provided by the CARES Act, there are three main additions that you need to know about:
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC): The federal government is granting an additional $600 per week for unemployment insurance recipients. This will run through July 31st, 2020.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): Available to individuals who would not typically qualify for unemployment benefits but have lost their job directly due to COVID-19.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUA): A 13-week continuation of your state unemployment benefits after the initial period.
Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
Before coronavirus-related layoffs began, there were quite a few restrictions as to who could qualify for unemployment and who could not. Fortunately, the CARES Act has expanded upon who can qualify for these benefits. You may qualify for unemployment if:
You are unable to work because of coronavirus
Your hours have been substantially reduced due to coronavirus
You had to quit your job because of coronavirus
You can’t work because you are a caregiver (for example, your children’s school closed down)
Your job you were supposed to start fell through because of coronavirus
Typically, you’re ineligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job—unless it was for a reason that is deemed acceptable (such as leaving to care for an ill family member).
With the expanded benefits, more types of workers, including self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig workers can also qualify.So, if your freelance work has come to a halt as clients reevaluate their budgets, you may not be out of luck after all.
How Much Will I Receive in Unemployment Benefits?
The amount of money you are able to receive from unemployment primarily depends on your state’s pre-determined benefit amount and your previous income. These numbers are typically what is used to calculate a weekly unemployment payment.
However, in addition to the amount you’d traditionally receive from the state, you’ll also be able to get the additional $600 per week in PUC.
How Long Do Unemployment Benefits Last?
Usually, state unemployment benefits are only available for up to 26 weeks, be sure to check your state’s rules. With the changes made in response to coronavirus, you can receive unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks.
What Happens to My Health Care?
If you’re laid off, you may lose your health insurance benefits that were available to you through your job. However, there are health insurance options available for those who have become unemployed. You may be able to keep your health insurance through COBRA.
Otherwise, see if you prefer to elect coverage through the HealthCare Marketplace. Losing a job is considered a qualifying life event, and thus you can enroll during a Special Enrollment Period. If you go this route, carefully review your plan so you know what the monthly premiums, deductibles, limits, co-payments are, and what exactly is covered.
Visit HealthCare.gov to find out what your options are for health care. With the coronavirus still prominant in the U.S., it’s more important than ever to have a health care plan in place.
Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Unemployment Benefits?
Yes, unemployment income is taxable. When you file for unemployment, you can elect how much you want to have withheld from your unemployment payments. Just like with your regular income, these withholdings will be used to pay for taxes. However, you may still owe when tax season rolls around.
You’ll receive a special tax form (Form 1009-G), which will show how much tax you owe in unemployment taxes, if any.
Is There Other Assistance Available?
In addition to the increase in unemployment benefits, the CARES Act also provided a one-time stimulus payment that will be provided to many taxpayers. If you make $75,000 or less and are a single filer, you can expect to receive $1,200. If you’re married, you can expect to receive $2,400 total as long as you earn a combined income of less than $150,000.
However, if you are over this income threshold, you may still receive a smaller stimulus payment. Parents will also receive an additional $500 per dependent child.
In addition to this payment, there are other programs available to make unemployment more manageable including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For more information on assistance programs you might be able to apply for, visit USA.gov.
Your local government may also be providing additional assistance for unemployed or low-income workers during this time.
11 Things to Do When You’re Unemployed
Now that you understand the foundational aspects of the current unemployment landscape, let’s put a plan into action so you can get all your affairs in order. Whether you’re trying to figure out what to do now that you’ve lost your job or are preemptively researching what to do if you get laid off, there are some important steps to take to keep your life on track.
Here are our recommendations for what to do when you’re unemployed:
File for Unemployment Benefits
Find Out What You’ll Get from Your Employer
Explore Healthcare Options
Contact Bill Providers
Reassess Your Debt
Fine-Tune Your Budget
Figure Out How Long You Can Get By For
Take On Side Work
Plan Your Next Big Move
Give Yourself a Moment
1. File for Unemployment Benefits
While this may seem like an obvious one, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t bother to file for unemployment with their state’s unemployment office when they are laid off. For the quickest processing, you should file for unemployment online.
“Typically, anyone classified as a W2 employee [not an independent contractor] is eligible for unemployment benefits—unless they were fired due to gross misconduct, but it doesn’t hurt to file a claim anyway,” explains Dan Kellermeyer, president of New Heights Financial Planning. “Unemployment income won’t completely replace your wages, but your employer has paid for these benefits, so you might as well use them.”
The rules for claiming unemployment in the U.S. are essentially the same: you generally need to have earned a minimum amount in wages before filing an unemployment insurance claim through the state you live in, must be unemployed through no fault of your own, and are able to work and are actively seeking work. However, specific eligibility requirements and compensation amounts vary depending on the state you live in.
Because it can take a few weeks for your unemployment application to go through, you’ll want to file as soon as possible. You can start filing the day you get the pink slip. Just remember, filing can be frustrating but don’t lose hope. Stay steady while submitting your application to ensure you can get the help you need.
2. Find Out What You’ll Get from Your Employer
You’ll also want to have a sit-down with your boss or Human Resources department check to see what to expect in terms of a settlement, salary and any bonuses, plus vacation pay and extension of any other benefits, recommends James Q. Rice, CFA of JQR Capital.
“Usually these are paid in a lump sum,” says Rice, “and depending on whether they’re paid before the end of the calendar or next year, could have tax implications.” The money you’re getting from your employer will help tide you over until you land your next job, and should be factored in accordingly.
Knowing how much money you’ll have available to you will help you make the best choices when you’re trying to figure out what to do when you’re unemployed.
3. Explore Healthcare Options
If health insurance was offered by your employer, you have 60 days to decide whether to continue coverage through COBRA, which extends your current medical coverage for up to 18 months. Note that it could take up to a month for your paperwork to get processed, and typically costs a pretty penny. Or you can apply for different insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov.
Keep in mind that with COVID-19 still spreading, getting health insurance should be at the top of your list in case you need serious medical care.
4. Contact Bill Providers
If you anticipate difficulty in paying off your bills and credit cards, contact your cable and internet providers, the gas company and auto insurer to let them know about your situation. There’s a chance they may be able to offer you a temporarily discounted rate or offer you less-expensive options. For instance, I was able to get a promo rate for a year on my internet. And I opted for a cell phone bill with less data, at least until I got my bearings.
5. Reassess Your Debt
Take a look at your debt load. Would refinancing make sense and save you money in the long run? If you’re saddled with student debt, the coronavirus CARES Act includes a reprieve until September 30, 2020. For borrowers with federal student loans, no interest will accrue. This will be automatically instituted, so borrowers don’t have to sign up. If you have private student loans, you might consider deferring or asking for a forbearance with your student loan servicer for the time being.
As for your credit cards, it’s super important that you at least pay the minimum amount due. Otherwise, your credit score will get dinged. If you think you’ll have trouble making payments on your credit cards, reach out to the issuer. Most credit card companies have what’s known as a Hardship Department, and they may be able to offer a hardship plan. For instance, they could lower your interest rate, offer a smaller minimum payment or lower your fees and penalties.
Note that the credit card issuer will look at every situation on a case-by-case basis. What they may extend to you may not be the same as the next person. Also, you typically need to be in good standing with the credit card company to be considered. Reaching out to the credit card company before things actually go south is a sign you care and you’re responsible, and they’re more likely to respond favorably to that.
6. Fine-Tune Your Budget
Because of the change in your income, it is essential to reassess your budget after being laid off to see which areas you can cut back on. I remember carefully going over each of my expenses and trying to resort to living circa college survival days. I biked and took public transit as much as I could. For most of my meals, I cooked and only bought what was on sale, and committed to a no-spend challenge on non-essential items. Downloading a budgeting app like Mint can help you view all of your expenses, set your budget and keep your spending on track.
Besides contacting all my service providers and utility companies to see if I could get a better deal, I also reviewed my insurance policies to make sure they were still relevant to my situation and needs. While I didn’t end up making any changes, you might find that because you’re not commuting to work, switching to, say, a pay-per-mile auto insurance plan might be a better fit for your current scenario.
7. Figure Out How Long You Can Get By For
Between the settlement amount from your old employer, unemployment benefits, and the cash you have stashed in your emergency fund, figure out how many months you can reasonably get by without a steady paycheck. “Knowing this number will make you feel less stressed, and not knowing this feels like panic for some folks,” says Ian Bloom, a financial planner with Open World Financial Planning. “ ‘Oh no, I need a job now!’ is worse than ‘Oh…wow. Okay, well I’ve got four months to figure this out.’ “
8. Take on Side Work
While you’re looking for your next job, take on side jobs to boost your cash flow. You never know, these “bridge gigs” could potentially land you your next opportunity. Because I had been moonlighting as a freelance writer while working full-time, I had secured enough work to pay for half of my expenses. And having that existing base allowed me to pursue more freelance opportunities, which gave me the confidence to foray into it full-time.
I also took on side jobs test proctoring and pet sitting. That was extra money that helped me get back on my feet and not feel so anxious while I tried to figure out what to do next. FYI: If you’re taking on side work, you’ll most likely have to report it to the unemployment office, which can affect how much you’ll receive in unemployment.
9. Plan Your Next Big Move
Yes, it can be deflating to your ego when you’re unemployed. Yes, you may feel a mixture of sadness, anxiety, and stress. But it could also be an opportunity to figure out what you ultimately want to do career-wise and take steps to get there.
While the clock may be ticking depending on what your financial situation is, knowing you have a few months to figure out your next move allows you the option to do a career pivot, get your learning on, or explore work opportunities you weren’t able to do at your previous job.
10. Stay Active
When you become unemployed it can be tempting to become consumed by your favorite streaming service or scouring the internet for ways to fix your situation. However, one of the best things you can do for both your mood and physical health is to stay active. Right now there are many free resources you can take advantage of to help you stay mentally and physically healthy while staying inside.
11. Give Yourself a Moment
Being laid off can be overwhelming, which is why it’s important to give yourself time to process and take a breather. Once you’ve tackled the essentials on our “what to do when you’re unemployed” list to ensure you’re on the right track, allow yourself some time to reflect and relax. Indulge yourself in activities you enjoy, catch up on some sleep, or try something new.
Trying to figure out what to do when you’re laid off is stressful and time-consuming, allowing yourself this luxury will help you cope with the changes in your life and make your transition easier.
While being unemployed has an emotional and financial strain, while it’s tempting to hit the “panic” button, take a breather and follow these steps for what to do when you get laid off instead. Doing all you can to help you stay on top of your money situation will help you feel like your back’s not against the wall. In turn, you can make the most of things, and potentially forge a new career path.
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A lot of employers put more focus on onboarding than offboarding. But creating a positive experience for departing employees can help to increase retention, keep morale high, and make for a smooth and straightforward transition.
As an employer, you may think you have nothing to offer an employee who has chosen to leave your company. You may even feel hurt or resentful. But it’s important that you put those feelings aside and focus on how to offboard your staff member without burning bridges and providing support and direction to all involved.
How to Positively Offboard an Employee
Here are some tips you can use to create an effective employee offboarding strategy as part of your company culture.
1. Consider Your Organization’s Reputation
Some employers are tempted to let personal feelings take over when an employee decides to leave, but turnover is inevitable in almost every company at one point or another.
Employees choose to leave for a variety of reasons, and it’s important that no matter why a team member decides to leave, you keep your personal opinions in check. Do this not only to encourage a positive offboarding experience for your exiting employee and the rest of your team but to build your company’s reputation as well.
Before applying for a job with your company, many potential employees will conduct a quick online search to see what shows up. If a negative Glassdoor review is front and center, and it details a poor offboarding experience, you’re likely to miss out on qualified, high-quality candidates.
Alternately, a former employee who has a large network or who is involved in different professional groups isn’t likely to speak highly of an employer who behaved carelessly during the offboarding process to other industry experts.
2. Meet With Your Exiting Employee
It may seem obvious, but you should meet with your departing employee after they give their notice. A friendly and informative meeting can help to set the tone for the rest of the offboarding process and let your colleague know where they stand.
Cover the following topics so that you’re both on the same page when it comes to offboarding expectations and responsibilities:
What you can do to help them
What they can do to help you
What you expect them to do before they leave
Whether they need to develop training material
Who will be handling their job duties
Remember to be kind, positive, and friendly during this meeting. The more support and guidance you offer, the more likely the employee is to help with training their replacement and wrapping up any final projects.
You can also use this as an opportunity to ask where they’re going, what their new position will be, and what made them decide to make a move. However, if you suspect that they’re leaving due to dissatisfaction or unhappiness, this is best left for the exit interview.
3. Meet With Your Team
When an employee quits, it affects your entire team. It can cause a lot of uncertainty and negatively impact morale and engagement. But one of the easiest ways to get ahead of any adverse effects is to communicate early and well with your entire team.
After you meet with the employee who is leaving and you’ve made a plan for handing off duties, you should plan for a group meeting with all of your staff members.
If you’d like, let your outgoing employee announce their departure at the beginning of the meeting and then go over any details that will affect the rest of the team, like your transition plan and whether you’ll be hiring a new employee to fill the open position or if you plan to fill the role from within your company.
This is also a good time to make a short, straightforward speech about your ex-employee by thanking them for their contributions and congratulating them on their new professional adventure. A supportive and encouraging message can go a long way, both for departing employees and your current staff.
Give everyone a chance to ask questions so that there’s no confusion surrounding any new roles or responsibilities within your team. Clear communication makes employees feel secure and eases changes in workflow and job duties.
4. Communicate About the Change in Staff
Once an employee leaves, you want to make sure that everyone knows they’re no longer with your company. This includes the rest of your staff as well as any clients, freelancers, partners, or business contacts outside of the company.
Send an email before your employee leaves notifying anyone relevant of their last day and who will be taking over their duties going forward. Make sure that the email is addressed to your entire staff, including department heads and junior employees. As much as possible, you want to ensure that no one is taken by surprise and that they know who to work with in the future.
Once your employee has left, set up email forwarding so that you can catch any important work-related emails that may be sent to their previous email address in error.
5. Keep Morale in Mind
The rest of the team’s morale can be affected when an employee leaves, especially if their coworker has a negative offboarding experience. Poor offboarding tactics — such as refusing to communicate, letting personal feelings get in the way, or failing to plan and organize a smooth transition — give the impression that you only value your team members as employees and not as people.
Alternatively, a positive offboarding plan can keep morale steady and show staff members that you genuinely care about them and that you take your role as a manager or business owner seriously.
Keep a pulse on morale to determine how your staff is being affected by your previous employee’s departure and address specific issues or problems by communicating openly and honestly with your employees.
If morale seems low and you aren’t sure what to do, try adding a few more ideas to your offboarding checklist to help with engagement and motivation.
6. Work With Your Human Resources Department
Your human resources (HR) department is an essential resource for both onboarding and offboarding.
For example, your HR professional can assist with:
Ending health benefits, share plans, and other financial paperwork
Ensuring a final paycheck is sent out
Retrieving company assets, such a security pass, key, credit card, or laptop
Removing access to company accounts and software once the employee has left
Conducting exit interviews
Creating a job description and recruiting for a replacement
Reviewing documents like a noncompete contract or nondisclosure agreement
HR can also provide guidance on how to keep communications positive and productive after an employee decides to move on.
7. Ask Your Departing Employee to Help With Recruitment
When an employee leaves, don’t only focus on transferring duties and redirecting workflow. Have your former employee help with finding their replacement. After all, who knows their job better than they do?
When appropriate, ask them to:
Write a job description to use in online job ads for new hires
Review resumes and cover letters from potential candidates
Sit in on interviews
Discuss whether any existing team members would be a fit
Meet with a recruiter or hiring manager to explain their role and responsibilities
Involving your former employee in the hiring process for their replacement helps you to find better, more suitable candidates who will have an accurate and realistic understanding of the open position.
8. Conduct an Exit Interview
Although exit interviews should always be optional, they’re an important part of any employee offboarding process. They are a great way to encourage honest feedback and learn where you can improve as a manager and as a company.
Think of an exit interview as an opportunity for you to learn about your employee’s entire experience with you — from onboarding and training to reviews, office politics, company culture, and everything in between.
Some exit interviews are conducted by managers and others by HR departments. It depends on how your company is structured. Regardless of the logistics, exit interviews should be reserved for the last day or two before you and your outgoing employee part ways. If done too early, the employee who is leaving may not feel comfortable being completely upfront about suggestions or complaints.
Although your exiting employee may not have anything bad to say, encourage them to share any tips or advice they have related to their position, the company, their team, or their manager. If they do share negative feedback, remember not to take it personally and to remain professional.
9. Offer to Be a Reference
Depending on your company policy about work references, you can offer to be a reference for your departing employee for future jobs. Knowing that they can rely on you to provide an honest, helpful, and professional reference is a great way to ensure that your employee leaves on a good note.
Most companies prefer that candidates use previous managers or employers as references, so by making the offer, you’re letting them know that you care about their professional future. Plus, it saves them from having to ask you, which can be difficult if they’re not sure where they stand after handing in their notice.
10. Get Your Exiting Employee’s Contact Information
Don’t forget to get your outgoing employee’s new contact information, like an email or mailing address in case you need to contact them with questions related to their previous role. For example, you may need to get in touch about their benefits or to ask about a company account or password. Although you can plan for a comprehensive hand-off, some details can get lost during knowledge transfer, so it’s important to know how to reach your previous hire for a quick question.
And, if they leave on good terms, you may also want to use it to send a friendly message or invite them to a workplace social event down the road.
11. Welcome a Return
Boomerang employees are workers who leave a company only to return later. These employees learned that the grass isn’t always greener and came back to work for you because they had a positive experience at your company. These employees can be a boon to you since they already know the ins and outs of your business, your customers, and the role they held at your company.
But you’ll only get boomerang employees if you facilitate and participate in a proper offboarding process and let outgoing employees know that they’re welcome to return in the future.
If you’re open to having ex-employees work for you again down the road, make sure to communicate that during your offboarding process so that they know it’s an option. If you don’t make it clear, they may assume that you’re not open to it.
12. Connect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an ideal way to follow your ex-employee’s professional progress and to get in touch about work-related questions, references, or job opportunities. If you aren’t already connected with your departing employee on LinkedIn, send them an invite. You can take things a step further by providing a written recommendation on the platform as well, which can give them a boost during job searches and round out their profile.
And, as a bonus for you, giving recommendations makes you look like a stellar boss to your ex-employee’s connections and network.
13. Plan an Event
Planning an event like a lunch or after-work cocktail can give current employees a chance to say goodbye to co-workers and end the offboarding process on a happy note. Offboarding can be hard for both your former employee and their team members, so offering everyone a chance to have a casual get-together to reminisce and wish each other well can be a welcome change from typical last-day scenarios.
Involve your team in planning the event, and try to choose a venue that your previous employee enjoys. If possible, have the company cover costs for a meal or appetizers to make it even more enjoyable for everyone.
14. Purchase a Gift
A personalized gift from the company is the perfect way to express appreciation and gratitude for your departing employee’s hard work over the years. Some gift ideas for ex-employees include:
A briefcase or professional bag
Gift cards to their favorite restaurants
A donation to a charity or nonprofit they care about
Gourmet coffee, tea, or chocolate
Personalized office supplies
A gift basket
A bottle of wine
You can also get a cake, a framed picture of the team, or anything else you think they might like. Talk to their work friends for ideas and choose a gift that’s both appropriate and fits your budget.
15. Send Around a Card
A card is a cost-effective and common way to bid farewell to an employee. Give the whole team a chance to write a personal message and sign their name by sending it around in advance. If you have a good relationship with your departing employee, you may even want to give them a card yourself, expressing how much you have valued them and enjoyed having them on your team.
When you offboard employees with morale, engagement, and professionalism in mind, you reap the rewards of being a thoughtful and desirable employer. Your company’s reputation is a powerful tool in attracting and retaining quality hires, and how you treat previous employees can have a significant impact on how you’re viewed by potential candidates.
Keep your offboarding strategy professional, communicative, and positive to facilitate a smooth transition for everyone involved.
Manta.com is one of the most popular local business information websites in the United States. According to its own data, Manta draws about 11 million unique visitors per month and boasts more than 5 million small, mostly local businesses in its database — a significant fraction of all U.S.-based small businesses with physical storefronts.
Does this site’s popularity mean you, a small-business owner eager to reach more potential customers in your hometown (and perhaps beyond) should invest the time and effort necessary to create, optimize, and maintain a Manta listing?
Perhaps. It depends on what type of business you operate, how much effort you can devote to your listing, and whether business directory websites like Manta truly complement your marketing efforts — or whether you’d do just fine without them.
Pros & Cons of Creating a Listing on Manta.com
Does it make sense to create a small-business listing on Manta.com? This is the first question you need to ask before putting in the effort to create your Manta listing.
The truth is, Manta works better for certain types of businesses. Its most popular searches relate to customer-facing service businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and others:
Hotels and travel services
Beauty shops and spas
Plumbing, electrical, and other trade services
General contracting services
Health and medical
Like many other business information directory sites, Manta sorts listed companies geographically, down to the municipality or neighborhood level. This is vital for location-bound businesses, such as restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers, that cater mostly or exclusively to local customers.
Manta is less useful, although not entirely useless, for companies that don’t rely on physical locations or local marketing to drive sales. E-commerce businesses that sell through platforms like Shopify or Etsy and rely more on word of mouth and social media marketing aren’t guaranteed to find Manta and its ilk valuable.
Pros of Listing Your Business on Manta
Why create a business profile on Manta? Advantages include the inherent legitimacy of a claimed business listing, SEO benefits, and the importance of sites like Manta in customers’ research process.
1. Claiming Your Listing Makes Your Business Seem More Legitimate
Manta’s “Claim This Listing” button makes clear which of its listings are “claimed” — acknowledged and maintained by the featured business — and which are not.
The simple act of claiming your business, therefore, confers substantial legitimacy upon it, if only because doing so shows Manta-using consumers that you care enough about your establishment to take two minutes to make its listing your own. Rightly or wrongly, consumers might take an unclaimed listing as a sign you aren’t really interested in attracting new customers.
I’m guilty of this myself. All else being equal, I try to avoid businesses with unclaimed online directory listings unless I know of them by other means — such as word of mouth — or they’re part of a recognizable business franchise that I trust.
2. Manta Listings Are Good for SEO
Popular search engines’ ranking algorithms have a “black box” quality to them — no one knows exactly how they work except the people responsible for them — and maybe not even they do. Still, conduct 10 Google searches for 10 of your favorite local businesses and you’re liable to deduce that business directory sites like Manta rank well in organic search results — the list of results you see below the paid search ads on search engines like Google or Bing.
Moreover, Manta’s featured product or service pages often rank separately from the main directory pages. This means that your Manta listing could end up being responsible for several discrete search results, depending on how many featured products or service pages it appears on.
The bottom line is this: Unless your business’s name is easily confused with common or generic terms (“Quality Plumbing,” “Fast Oil Change,” “Tasty Sandwiches”), your Manta listing is likely to appear on Google’s or Bing’s first results page of a search engine. This is crucial because many consumers never venture past the first results page.
3. Consumers Rely Heavily on Directory Listings for Research
If you thought a PCMag study that found roughly 40% of online reviews to be fake would deter shoppers from relying on them, you’d be wrong. According to a 2017 ReportLinker survey, 60% of consumers give online reviews as much weight as recommendations from real-world acquaintances.
Setting aside the question of whether this is a wise policy for consumers to abide by, it’s a compelling case for taking the time to maintain listings on business directory sites with user-generated reviews, such as Manta.
Cons of Listing Your Business on Manta
Manta is a useful part of many a business’s online presences, but it’s not appropriate for every enterprise. Drawbacks include the time and resources involved in maintaining a profile and the fact that listings display potentially sensitive information — which may, in turn, invite abuse.
1. Maintaining Your Profile Takes Time and Effort
Although the initial step of claiming your Manta listing takes just a few minutes, keeping your listing optimized and up-to-date requires real ongoing work. Uploading photos, analyzing user data, responding to reviews, changing listing information that’s no longer relevant — all these activities take time and effort.
If you have an online store, other business directory listings, and multiple social media accounts, staying on top of your digital presence could prove overwhelming.
And, if you’re a cash-poor small business without the means to hire a part- or full-time marketing employee or social media manager, or even work with an outside PR or marketing firm, you’ll need to do this work yourself. If you can — otherwise, there’s no shame in waiting until your business has grown a bit to invest in a first-rate directory profile.
2. May Not Be a Great Resource for User Reviews
Although Manta never experienced the sorts of high-profile fake review scandals that bedeviled Yelp in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the platform is certainly mindful of the potential for inauthentic reviews to interfere with and dilute genuine user feedback.
Indeed, Manta and reputable business directory sites like it take measures to combat fraudulent reviews that can at times be overzealous — filtering out real reviews that you might want your customers to see.
Separately but relatedly, many Manta business listings simply don’t have many user-generated reviews, making them less useful for consumer research. Many of my favorite businesses — enterprises I know to be legitimate — have zero Manta reviews, likely through no fault of their own.
If you want to ensure your customers see every review of your business, good or bad, you’re better off investing in a more “social” directory like Facebook or Yelp.
3. Directory Listings Contain Sensitive Information
Certain types of businesses, such as restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers, have no choice but to reveal their business addresses, phone numbers, and other basic bits of important-if-sensitive information. Customer-facing businesses like these can’t survive in anonymity.
That said, other types of local businesses — including those that make house calls, like home service providers — might prefer to conceal their physical locations, and possibly contact information, from the public. For example, you might not want your clients to know that you work out of a home office or coworking hub rather than an office suite.
To be clear, if an unclaimed listing exists for your business, it may well list your true place of business, be it a residential address, coworking space, or virtual office. You’ll need to claim your listing to remove this information — but once that’s done, you can feel free to let it lapse.
4. Your Listing Could Attract Abuse
There’s a small but real possibility that your listing could become a forum for abusive or hateful reviews or feedback from misguided customers — and, potentially, members of the public with no connection to your business.
Unlike some online retailers, business directory sites like Manta tend not to require would-be reviewers to verify that they’ve patronized a listed business in the past. This makes it easier than it should be for people with a political agenda or personal grievances to single out individual businesses for criticism.
When they occur, such campaigns typically revolve around controversial actions or stances taken by the targeted business’s owners or employees. For example, in early 2015, the owners of an Indiana pizzeria made headlines for publicly announcing that they’d follow their state’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was widely interpreted to condone discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The stance prompted a backlash that saw thousands of comments, some of which were obscene and threatening, posted to the restaurant’s website. Citing safety concerns, the shop closed shortly thereafter, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Reasonable people can disagree with the restaurant owners’ politics without condoning threats to their and their employees’ safety. And, even if you have no plans to publicly announce your business’s support for controversial legislation, your digital presence might nevertheless become a venue for customers to air their grievances.
If you’d rather not deal with such backlash, perhaps it’s best to lay low.
How to Claim or Create Your Manta.com Listing
Follow these processes and tips to claim or create your Manta business listing.
Claiming an Existing Business Listing
Manta uses user-submitted and publicly available information to generate business listings, which legitimate owners can claim. Claiming your Manta profile allows you to do the following:
Update Your Listing Information. Claiming your listing unlocks the ability to edit your business name, contact information, business hours, brands carried, payment accepted, business categories (such as “doctors’ offices”), and other basic information. You can also add a brief, customized description of what your business does and provide links to your company website or social media pages.
Add Logos and Photos. You can upload your business’s logo or another representative photograph to appear at the top of your listing.
Highlight Products or Services. Basic Manta profiles allow for three highly detailed product or service pages, which are useful for describing core or high-value offerings to prospective customers. You can add photos, list prices or price ranges, and include a “Purchase Info” button, which prompts visitors to take a specific action like “call for a free quote.”
Manta has a good primer on claiming a legitimate business listing. To finalize your listing claim and any changes you’ve made, you’ll need to create a user account with your email address, Facebook account, or Google account. If you create a listing with an email address, you’ll need to input your full name, email, and a unique username and password.
If desired, you can add a headshot. Your profile doesn’t contain a ton of personal information about you — it’s more about managing your own business listing, recommendations for other businesses, and account privacy.
Once your profile is created, you can find out whether your business is listed by searching Manta’s database for your exact business name and city. If a listing already exists, click the “Verify Now” button next to it to sync it with your personal profile.
Unlike Yelp, Manta doesn’t require verification of ownership, but you can follow a similar process to earn a “Verified” badge, which Manta claims confers legitimacy. With your listing synced to your profile, you can begin editing and improving to your heart’s content.
Creating a New Listing
If your business isn’t yet listed, simply click the “Add Business” button that appears at the top of every Manta page. Doing so leads you to a form to list your company, where you’ll fill out some basic information about your business: exact company name, exact location, and contact details. This unlocks your listing and syncs it with your personal profile.
How to Optimize Your Manta Listing
Use these tips and resources to optimize your Manta listing once it’s claimed or created:
1. Create a Compelling “About Us” Section
A detailed About Us section is great for boosting your page’s visibility on search engine results pages. Use Google Keyword Planner or a similar tool to identify keywords that your business already ranks for, and then sprinkle them into your About Us copy.
Make sure your About Us is comprehensive, but not awash in detail — the goal is to create a high-level look at your business that shows why you’re different from the competition without overwhelming the reader with granularity.
2. Take Full Advantage of the Product and Service Showcases
Manta lets you highlight up to three products, services, or packages on separate pages within your listing, and there’s no reason not to take full advantage. Focus on popular, preferably high-margin products and services that somehow stand out from what the competition offers. Include images, pricing information, and keywords — check Google Keyword Planner.
3. List as Many Contacts and Links as Possible
In addition to your main business phone number and company website link, include as many relevant contact numbers and web property links as necessary to provide one-stop access to your entire business.
If your business has multiple departments — such as a dining room, bakery, and catering service — provide names and direct lines for the manager of each. Likewise, link to each of your social media properties and your online store, if you have one.
4. Solicit and Curate Customer Recommendations
Manta doesn’t make customer feedback a core part of its appeal. Manta frowns upon customer feedback manipulation, so don’t offer special deals to customers who provide glowing recommendations.
However, it does still allow customers to leave what are essentially reviews on companies’ directory listings, so you can certainly ask and encourage customers to leave feedback if they wish.
5. Use Educational and Social Resources
Manta publishes educational articles on how to get the most out of your Manta profile, as well as general tips on running and marketing your business. It also hosts discussion forums that allow you to connect with other Manta users, talk about your experience on the platform, and seek out advice from more experienced users.
Manta isn’t the only free business listing site that small-business owners like you should consider using. Dozens of other sites, including some you’ve probably heard of — Yelp, for example — can increase your company’s name recognition and promote its services to more potential customers than you’d reach via more expensive marketing channels.
Not all such sites are created equal, of course. Some are free or nearly so, while others require a one-time fee or monthly subscription. And many are ill-suited to certain types of businesses or have other drawbacks that might give you pause.
Instead of spending time and money chasing after every directory site that might possibly help your business, take some time to research the most popular options and develop a narrower, more manageable list that works within the constraints of your marketing plan and budget.
Along the way, feel free to speak with peers and competitors about their own experiences on these platforms, assuming they’re willing to talk. With so much else on your plate, you certainly don’t need to make an investment that has little chance of paying off.
When a small-business owner decides they need more help, the next question is whether they should hire employees or freelancers. The decision can be difficult — especially if you’re working with a limited budget.
To help with your decision, we’ve outlined the legal differences between freelancers and employees, and some tips for deciding which type of help you need.
Freelancer vs. Employee: What’s the Difference?
There are significant legal differences between hiring an employee and bringing on a freelancer or independent contractor.
Employers are responsible for withholding income tax, Social Security, and Medicare from an employee’s wages.
Freelancers are responsible for paying their own income and self-employment taxes.
Employees are covered by several federal and state employment laws, including minimum wage and overtime regulations.
Although it isn’t true in all states, freelancers are typically not covered by most employment and labor laws.
Employers may be required to provide vacation, holiday, and sick pay to full-time employees.
Employers are not responsible for providing paid vacation, holidays, or sick pay to freelancers and independent contractors.
Employers may be required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance and pay unemployment insurance taxes.
Employers are not required to purchase workers’ compensation or pay unemployment taxes on freelancers.
Can I Classify My Employees as Independent Contractors?
Many small-business owners review the table above and assume hiring a freelancer is the way to go. After all, when you hire an independent contractor, you aren’t responsible for things like tax withholding, benefits, and insurance as you are when you hire an employee. However, the IRS has rules about whom you can treat as an independent contractor. You can face some pretty stiff penalties if you misclassify employees solely to avoid taxes.
According to the IRS, there are three factors involved in whether a business should classify a new hire as an employee or a freelancer.
Behavioral Control. An employer has the right to direct and control work performed by an employee, such as dictating when or where an employee must work, or what tools or services they must use. However, a business owner cannot determine how an independent contractor works, only the desired results of the work.
Financial Control. An employer has a right to direct and control the financial and business aspects of an employee’s job. For example, an employer can mandate an employee cannot have a second job or start a side business that competes with the employer’s business. Freelancers and independent contractors are generally free to work for other clients and seek out other business opportunities.
Relationship. An employer-employee relationship typically continues indefinitely, while the relationship between a business and a contractor usually exists for a specific project or period. It’s good to have a written contract between the company and the contractor that states the worker is an independent contractor. But it’s not sufficient on its own to determine the worker’s status.
Should I Hire a Freelancer or an Employee?
Aside from the IRS rules, think about your business needs when deciding whether to hire an employee or freelancer. The questions below will help you work through the decision-making process.
1. Do You Need Long-Term Support or Help on a Short-Term Basis?
If the work to be done is just a short-term project, you may want to hire an independent contractor. For example, if you need help building a website, but you won’t have much work for a web developer once your site is up and running, that’s a good project for a contractor that you find from a platform like Fiverr.
On the other hand, if you need ongoing help fulfilling and shipping customer orders, you may be better off hiring an employee.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to hire full-time employees, start your search with ZipRecruiter. Their technology will scan thousands of resumes and find the perfect candidates instantly.
2. Is the Work Part of Your Core Product or Service?
If the work to be done supports your business but is not a part of your core product or service, you may be better off hiring a freelancer. For example, you might outsource monthly bookkeeping to an independent contractor. However, if you need someone to handle customer service for your products, you’re better off hiring an employee.
Highly skilled freelancers are often busy, and they might not have time to work on your project at the drop of a hat. So if you have a regular and consistent need for someone to do work on your timeline, an employee is the way to go.
3. Can You Afford an Employee?
It’s easy to predict and control the cost of hiring a contractor by negotiating a flat fee or hourly rate. Beyond that agreed-upon compensation, there are few if any additional costs.
Hiring an employee is often much more expensive. Salary is just one component of the cost of hiring. You also have to plan for taxes and other government-mandated expenses, buying supplies like desks and computers for them to use, employee benefits, and how you’re going to calculate their paycheck with all the withholding you have to do.
Payroll Taxes. After salary, payroll taxes are usually the highest cost of hiring an employee. They include the employer’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes and federal and state unemployment taxes. ADP maintains a database of applicable payroll taxes by state to give you an idea of what it costs to hire an employee in your location.
Benefits. Providing employee benefits like health insurance, disability and life insurance, and retirement plans can cost anywhere from 20% to 40% of an employee’s gross salary.
Workers’ Compensation. Most states require a business to purchase workers’ compensation insurance as soon as they hire an employee. The cost of obtaining workers’ compensation depends on your state and the type of work the employee performs.
Payroll Processing. When you pay a contractor, you cut them a check for the amount you owe. But paying an employee means calculating and withholding payroll taxes, sending those taxes to the state or federal agencies, and preparing quarterly payroll tax returns. Most businesses outsource this task to a third-party payroll provider like Quickbooks Payroll. The cost of outsourcing payroll depends on the level of service required and how many employees you have but typically costs at least $15 to $20 per month.
Tools and Equipment. Generally, contractors are responsible for providing their own computers and any necessary tools and equipment. But employers are responsible for providing necessary equipment and supplies for employees. Depending on the type of work you expect your employee to handle and where you want them to do it, you may have to provide office space, a desk and chair, a computer, a phone, and other equipment and supplies.
Deciding between hiring freelancers or employees can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. If you need flexibility, low cost, and skills that fall outside of your typical scope, a freelancer is the way to go. If you need regular help, have more room in your budget, and want someone available on a regular basis, hiring a full-time employee is the best choice.
Have you hired a freelancer or employee in your business? How did you decide which one you needed?
Best Cities for Budget-Friendly Dating 2021 – SmartAsset
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Dating in the time of COVID-19 isn’t easy. The pandemic has impacted Americans and the economy unevenly. And cities have shutdown and reopened at different rates. So depending on where you live, it can be complicated for a couple to find a good restaurant, see a movie, visit a museum or enjoy any other romantic activity together. One small upside is that dates during COVID-19 may be cheaper than usual. Many COVID-friendly dates such as picnics and takeout are less expensive than typical activities, so wooers won’t have to dig as deep into their savings accounts to make Cupid strike.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, SmartAsset investigated the best U.S. cities for budget-friendly dating in 2021. We compared 96 cities across three categories and nine metrics. The categories include date affordability (cost of two cappuccinos, cost of takeout and a bottle of wine, average monthly internet cost), date access (coffee and snack shop density, restaurant density, percentage of households with internet access, percentage of city made up of parkland) and economic favorability (housing costs and unemployment rate). For more details on how we created this study, read the Data and Methodology section below.
$40 night in. The average cost of takeout and a bottle of wine across the cities we studied was $40.44. Without the restaurant mark-up on that vino and all the streaming options available right in your living room, a dinner-and-a-movie date at home is easier on your wallet than a night on the town.
Romance is more affordable in the South and Midwest. Six of the top 10 cities in this study are located in the South, and three are in the Midwest. The Midwestern city Madison, Wisconsin ranks as the best city for budget-friendly dating in the country, while Texas is the southern state with the most cities in the top 10 – Plano, Irving and Austin. Ninth-ranked Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the only top 10 budget-friendly dating city outside the South and Midwest.
1. Madison, WI
Madison, Wisconsin is a college town with the most budget-friendly dating opportunities in the country. With relatively inexpensive internet, it is easy and affordable to connect with a date on a video call and stream a movie or binge a TV show together. Residents here average $56.99 in monthly internet costs, ranking ninth-best for this metric. If instead you prefer a casual date outside, two cappuccinos will cost you $7.78 on average, the 19th-cheapest amount on our list. Madison also had the third-lowest unemployment rate in November 2020, at 3.5%, so your date is likelier to have a stable budget for dating.
2. Arlington, VA
Arlington, Virginia ranks at the top of our study for economic favorability, which means that your date in this D.C. a suburb is likely employed and has a decent disposable income. In November 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.8%, the fourth-lowest in our study, and on average, residents pay only 26.14% of their income on housing costs, the second-lowest for this metric. Those looking to share a special meal with a significant other also have a vast variety of options: Arlington ranks 15th for the greatest density of restaurants, with almost 230 for every 100,000 residents in the city.
3. St. Petersburg, FL
Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, St. Petersburg claims third place in our study for the most budget-friendly dating city. The average cost of two cappuccinos is $6.64, the third-most affordable place on our list to go on a coffee date. A takeout date night here with a bottle of wine would cost $37 on average, and if you prefer to go on a romantic outdoor picnic, 15.63% of the city is reserved for parkland. Relative to other cities in our study, that is the 23rd-lowest average cost of takeout for two and a bottle of wine and 18th-highest percentage of the city that is parkland.
4. Plano, TX
Census data shows that more than 95% of households in Plano, Texas have interest access, the third-highest rate in our study. This may make it easier to speak with a date on a video call or enjoy a movie night together at home. Takeout for two with a bottle of wine costs $31.50 – sixth-lowest in our study – and a coffee date with two cappuccinos costs $7.48 – 14th-lowest overall.
5. Raleigh, NC
The average resident in Raleigh, North Carolina spends only 29.29% of income on housing, the 11th-lowest percentage in our study. The leaves plenty of disposal income for dating. The average cost of two cappuccinos is $8.58, and a takeout date with a bottle of wine will cost you $41.50 — 37th and 18th in this study, respectively. Speaking to your date on a video call and binging a TV show together can also be affordable, with monthly internet costing $57.05 – 10th-lowest across all 96 cities.
6. Cincinnati, OH
The average cost of monthly internet in Cincinnati, Ohio is an affordable $55.57, sixth-lowest in our study. And the price of ordering takeout for two with a bottle of wine is just $36, while a coffee date with two cappuccinos will run you $8.30. But if you prefer to go out on a romantic picnic, Cincinnati has the 26th-highest percentage of city area that is parkland, at 14.17%.
7. Irving, TX
Irving, another suburb of Dallas, ranks in the top 20 for all three date affordability metrics we considered. A coffee date here will cost you an average of $7 for two cappuccinos, the 4th lowest cost we found. If you prefer to watch a movie at home, your monthly internet service will cost $56.89 on average, ranking 8th. And if you want to treat yourself to a takeout date with a bottle of wine, it will average $35.99 — 17th in this study.
8. Austin, TX
Austin is the third Texan city to rank in the top 10 cities for budget-friendly dating. Your date here might spend only about 30% of income on housing, which means that that person will likely have more money to spend on dates with you. Austin has more than 27 coffee and snack shops for every 100,000 people – a top-25 rate – and a coffee date will run you $7.90 for two cappuccinos, 23rd-lowest overall.
9. Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the only Northeastern city in our top 10. The odds of finding a solvent romantic partner in the Steel City are good: The average individual spends just 28.65% of income on housing. And dates that meet the parameters of the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic are affordable: The average cost of two cappuccinos is 13th-lowest in our study, at $7.46, and takeout for two with a bottle of wine is 29th-lowest, at $38.
10. St. Louis, MI
St. Louis, Missouri rounds out the top 10 in our study with the ninth-highest number of restaurants per 100,000 residents, at 246. Inviting your date for takeout with a bottle of wine will cost you roughly $33, ninth-cheapest in our study. And the average cost of monthly internet is $59.67 – the 16th-lowest across all 96 cities.
Data and Methodology
To find the best cities for budget-friendly dating in 2021, we compared 96 cities across the following categories and metrics:
Average cost of two cappuccinos. Data comes from Numbeo and was pulled in January 2021.
Average cost of takeout for two and a bottle of wine. Data comes from Numbeo and was pulled in January 2021.
Average monthly internet cost. Data comes from Numbeo and was pulled in January 2021.
Coffee and snack shops per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the 2018 County Business Patterns Survey and is at the county level.
Restaurants per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the 2018 County Business Patterns Survey and is at the county level.
Percentage of households with internet access. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
Percentage of the city that is parkland. Data is from the 2020 Acreage & Park System Highlights from the Trust for Public Land.
Housing costs as a percentage of income. This is median annual housing costs divided by median income for an individual. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
November 2020 unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
First, we ranked each city in each metric, assigning equal weight to each metric. Then we averaged the rankings across the three categories listed above. For each category, the city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0. We created our final ranking by calculating each city’s average score for all three categories.
Financial Tips for Couples
Whether you’re dating or married (or happily single), let us be your matchmaker for another important partnership. Making smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money is easier with a financial advisor. Finding the right one, though, is a lot easier than in dating. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.
Try mapping out your date expenses. If you need to keep your dating affordable, SmartAsset’s budget tool will help you break down your monthly spending so you can set money aside for entertainment, including dates.
Thinking about moving in with someone? If you want to move in with someone that you are dating, our rent or buy calculator can help you figure out the best financial option for living together.
Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
Following two months of steady declines, Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), a composite index designed to track the housing market and consumer confidence to sell or buy a home, rose in January.
The HSPI rose 3.7 points last month to 77.7. Though it’s undoubtedly a positive sign, the HPSI has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels and is still down 15.3 points year over year.
Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, noted a slight chasm has formed in confidence among lower and higher-higher income groups based on recent stimulus and fiscal policies.
According to Duncan, this newfound optimism in lower-income borrowers and renters could indicate those who have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic may be starting to feel the economic recovery.
“Among homeowners in higher income groups, however, the other five components of the index remained relatively flat or slightly negative, suggesting to us that some consumers are waiting to gauge the effectiveness of any new fiscal policies and vaccination distribution programs on both housing and the larger economy,” Duncan said.
Making housing more affordable by bridging the affordable supply gap
In the last few years, the number of existing single-family homes for sale has decreased. But home prices have increased. To make homeownership a possibility for everyone, there needs to be a higher supply of affordable homes.
Presented by: Fannie Mae
Overall, January’s housing market confidence jump was largely driven by renewed optimism for prospective home sellers, after December’s increasing home prices and tight inventory left homeowners weary that 2020’s record sales may not roll in to the new year. However, the percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell a home increased from 50% to 57% in January, while those who believe it is a good time to buy remained unchanged at 52%.
Even though buying sentiment stood idle in the first month of 2021, mortgage applications jumped 8.15% from the week ending Jan. 29, breaking a two-week streak of decreases, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
And borrowers are still relatively unsure of how long elevated home prices will hold. The HPSI reported 41% of respondents expect home prices will go up in the next 12 months – unchanged from the month prior – while those who believe it will go down increased from 16% to 17%.
But even if those prices do rise, borrowers can still save on the record low rates the industry has become accustomed to. The percentage of respondents who say mortgage rates will go down in the next 12 months increased from 8% to 9%, while the percentage who expect mortgage rates to go up increased from 43% to 45%.
Though economists are fairly certain all signs indicate to rising mortgage rates, experts said it won’t be a sudden jerk reaction but rather a slow build that will force its way over 3% later in the year. Regardless, LO’s made insane money in 2020 thanks to record low rates, with the jury still out on whether they can swing it again in 2021 if refi’s begin to fall with rising rates.
But rising rates are a sign of a recovering economy, and though that recovery may look slow, the housing market is showing signs its already occurring.
The percentage of respondents who say they are not concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months remained unchanged at 75%, while those who are concerned fell from 25% to 24%. And the percentage of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago increased from 20% to 21%, while the percentage who say theirs is significantly lower decreased from 18% to 14%.
January’s unemployment numbers weren’t overly impressive to economists, with the unemployment situation virtually unchanged for the month.
“The number of people on temporary layoff fell slightly in January, while the number of permanent job losers rose, a troubling sign. On the other hand, the number of people working part time but who would prefer full time employment also fell slightly, a positive indicator of labor demand,” Duncan said.