Flood Preparedness: 10 Expert DIY and Low-Cost Tips

Flood Preparedness

Extensive damage from a flood can turn your life upside down. Here’s what you can do to keep that damage to a minimum.

The Hurricane Harvey images coming out of Houston are pretty terrifying.  Between 14 and 15 trillion gallons of water have been dumped on the city already. Tens of thousands of people are seeking temporary shelter and hundreds of thousands of more have had their lives upended.

In situations like these, it’s natural to look at your own home and wonder what would happen if a flood hit your area.

Well, if you’re in a place that’s expecting Harvey-level kinds of water, there, unfortunately, isn’t much you can do besides pony up for flood insurance and start seriously considering a move. No amount of duct tape and plywood is going to stop four feet of rainfall.

But with lower levels of flooding, there’s plenty you can do to prepare your home and avoid mega-costly repair bills. That’s why we reached out to a whole host of home experts to get their best tips for DIY and low-cost flood prep.

That list of experts includes:

1. Get air conditioner covers and rain guards

Intense, wind-driven heavy rains can throw a wrench in the works, carrying projectiles and debris that can lodge inside your air conditioning system, making it essential to give your system a professional inspection post-storm. If you live in an area that frequently suffers heavy storms, you may wish to consider an air conditioner cover or rain guard. Designed or recommended by your manufacturer, these protective covers are created specifically to work in conjunction with HVAC systems, offering the proper amount of air circulation via ventilation holes.” —Richard Ciresi, Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning

Note: Ciresi strongly recommends that you go ahead and buy the actual equipment for this instead of trying find a DIY solution:

“If you’re thinking you’ll save a couple bucks and ‘do-it-yourself,’ think again. Covering your system with a makeshift board, plastic wrap, or garbage bag creates a hostile operational environment, voiding your warranty and allowing moisture and condensation to build-up and become trapped inside the system, where it can corrode and rust metal components, rot wire and rubber, and offer an attractive home for insects and critters.”

2. Find your shut-off valve

“Before the storm hits, make sure you know where the main shut-off valve is in your home and make sure it operates properly. Being able to turn off your water in an emergency is very important, as it will help prevent potential leaks and damage.” —Glenn Gallas, Mr. Rooter Plumbing

3. Take care of your backyard clutter

“Take time to trim trees and bushes of dead limbs or branches that may become airborne and cause damage to your house, pool equipment or screen enclosure. Patio furniture, toys, canvas awnings, patio umbrellas, grills, telescopic poles, and even some pool equipment can become dangerous projectiles. These can cause severe damage to surrounding property in heavy winds.

“Remove all possible unsecured items and store them indoors until the threat passes. Do not throw these items into the pool, where chemicals could damage the item and removal is difficult.” —Greg Sammel, Pinch A Penny Pool Patio & Spa

4. Cover your windows with plywood

“Plywood is an easy, affordable and protective solution for those who do not have shutters. Purchase 1/2-inch thick plywood for each window. Always make sure the plywood you purchase complies with any state inspection standards. Once you have the plywood in hand, you’re ready to start boarding up your windows on the exterior side of your house. Place the plywood over your window; it should cover your window adequately. Protect areas where wind can enter during hurricane season, plywood supplies go fast so be sure not to wait.” —Larry Patterson, Glass Doctor

5. Secure that plywood with steel clips

“Purchasing the plywood is half the battle. It is a common misconception that tape prevents windows from breaking. In order to adequately set the plywood into place carbon steel clips are recommended, which fastens the plywood inside your window casing. Carbon steel clips are available at any hardware store and take less time than drilling holes and securing the plywood with nails and screws. Clips give you a snug, solid fit and allow you to take down the plywood for storage and reuse later.

“The most popular brand of steel clips is Plylox. Simply cover the window with plywood, and then clip the plywood into the window casing. For windows that are 24×24 inches or smaller, only two steel clips are necessary.” —Larry Patterson, Glass Doctor

6. Clear your gutters and drains

“While you should always keep your gutters and downspouts clean, it’s particularly important to make sure nothing blocks flowing water during a storm. The water will want to go somewhere and if it’s not down and away, it’ll be in your roof and attic. Conduct a visual inspection of your gutters and downspouts to be sure nothing blocks the flow of water from your roof and away from your home. Also, all drains in your house should be kept clear to prevent basement or crawl space flooding.” —Glenn Gallas, Mr. Rooter Plumbing

7. Want to totally drain your pool? Think again

“Do not drain the pool completely. An empty pool is subject to “floating” or “popping” out of the ground due to lift pressure from excessive ground water. If you decide to lower the water level to help prevent overflowing, do not drain past the bottom of the skimmer, as running the pump dry can cause serious damage.” —Greg Sammel, Pinch A Penny Pool Patio & Spa

8. Install a surge protector to protect your appliances

“What most people might not realize when a storm hits is that kitchen appliances are at risk from electrical “surges” even though they’re located inside the house. A lightning strike, short-circuit, downed electrical pole or other causes can cause your home’s power voltage to soar to hundreds or thousands of volts. It lasts only a millisecond but can do some serious damage to your expensive kitchen appliances.  

“While unplugging some appliances may be an option, purchasing a surge protector may be a better choice. This is a device intended to help protect electrical devices from voltage spikes caused by surges. These come in two main types:

  1. A box that plugs directly into a wall receptacle
  2. A strip with a power cord and multiple plug-in outlets

“Using one of these devices is the most efficient option, and is more practical than trying to manually unplug all of your appliances ahead of the storm. Unplugging your appliances 24 to 72 hour in advance is not practical for all appliances, as the food in your refrigerator will likely spoil, and your frozen foods will thaw. In addition, dishwashers and ovens are often directly wired to the electrical supply, so a consumer may not be able to ‘unplug’ those devices.” —Doug Rogers, Mr. Appliance

9. Get insurance

Remembering to prepare your home insurance is a way to protect your future. Make sure your home has flood insurance, often a completely separate insurance policy than homeowner’s insurance. Every year, homeowners should make sure high-dollar items in the home purchased in the last year are added into their policy. Consider adding “guaranteed replacement cost” and increases in material costs to your homeowner’s policy.

“In addition to preparing an insurance policy, Rainbow International advises homeowners to also prepare their house in the event of a hurricane by checking for roof leaks, covering windows with storm shutters or plywood, installing straps to fasten the roof to the frame structure and reinforcing garage doors.” —Jeramy Sibley, Rainbow International

10. Insulate your water heater

“Hurricanes can cause leaks in your house that affect the consumption for your heating and air system, leading to high utility bills. Insulating your hot water heater saves energy by reducing heat lost through the sides of the water heater by 25-40%, which will help save you money on your energy bills. You can do this with an insulating blanket or insulation tubes.” —Glenn Gallas, Mr. Rooter Plumbing

Do you have some great ideas for DIY flood prep? We’d love to hear about them! You can email us by clicking here or you can find us on Twitter at @OppLoans.

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KR_NelsonRichard Ciresi is the owner of Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning of Louisville, Kentucky (@ASLouisville). Aire Serv is a global franchise company providing installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and indoor air quality systems. With over thirty years of experience in both commercial and residential heating and air conditioning, Ciresi’s technicians now serve the communities of Indianapolis, Southern Indiana, Louisville and Lexington. His company is known for exceptional customer service, employing the most innovative technology and the widest selection of product lines to provide custom solutions with outstanding results.  
PIGGlenn Gallas began his career at Mr. Rooter Plumbing (@MrRooterLLC) in Feb. 2000, as a franchisee in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Because of his success and achievements, he was offered the opportunity to become a Franchise Consultant before being promoted to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, Vice-President of Operations.
PIGLarry Patterson is the owner of Glass Doctor (@GlassDoctorDFW) in Dallas, Texas. Glass Doctor is a global franchise company providing home and auto glass repair, maintenance and installation. Larry has been a franchisee/business owner of Glass Doctor since 2003, served on the company’s leadership council and was named Franchisee of the Year in 2011.
PIGDoug Rogers joined Mr. Appliance (@mrappliancecorp in March 2004 as the vice president of operations and was later promoted to chief operating officer in June 2005. He was named president of Mr. Appliance in June 2006 and president of ZorWare, also known as Z-Ware, in February 2007. Doug has received several awards throughout his professional career. He was twice awarded Outstanding Contributor at Whirlpool Corporation, once in 1999 and again in 2003. He was also awarded the Presidents’ Choice Award at Dwyer Group in 2007.
SammelGreg Sammel came to work at Pinch A Penny Pool Patio & Spa (@pinchapennypool) as a store clerk in 1985 and grew with the company. In 1998, he became a Field Service Specialist and holds a range of credentials including: APSP certified; APSP Business Leadership; National Swimming Pool Foundation CPO Instructor; and State of Florida Swimming Pool/ Spa Contractors license.
RainbowJeramy Sibley is the Sure Start Coordinator for Rainbow International (@rainbowintl), where he leads the business segment of the training program at the company’s headquarters in Waco, Tex.

Six Personal Finance Podcasts You Should Listen To Right Now

Six Personal Finance Authors You Should Listen To

You’re busy. You’re always on the go. You want financial advice but you don’t have time to read (with the exception of this article). That’s where podcasts come in! We’ve gathered some of the best personal finance podcasts so you can gain money wisdom on the go.

Planet Money podcast

Planet Money

Planet Money (@planetmoney) is a twice-weekly podcast produced by NPR. If you have questions about money, and specifically how the economy works, then this is a great place to start. Here’s how they describe the podcast on their site: “Imagine you could call up a friend and say, ‘Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.’ Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.”

Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast

Quick and Dirty Tips

Quick and Dirty Tips (@quickdirtytips) is a podcast network and website that offers just that: quick and dirty tips for financial success, time management, and other aspects of everyday life. Check it out for some great advice on becoming more successful in your career and in life.

Listen Money Matters PodcastListen Money Matters

Listen Money Matters (@MoneyMattersMan) is described as a podcast for all things money and for building better habits. The podcast, started by Andrew Fiebert, spends a majority of its time focused on the four big tenets of personal finance: budgeting, investing, paying off debt, and income growth.

Stacking Benjamins Podcast

Stacking Benjamins

Joe Saul-Sehy started the Stacking Benjamins Podcast (@SBenjaminsCast) after being a financial planner and giving money advice on the radio for 15 years. On the podcast, he interviews people who have conquered tremendous amounts of debt or have had success accumulating wealth. The personal stories make for great money advice! 

You Need a Budget Podcast

You Need A Budget

You Need A Budget (@ynab) is a budgeting app and podcast that zeroes in on the topic of budgeting. They’ll cover rules of budgeting, as well as interview people on a number of topics like student debt. If you need a little help understanding and planning your personal budget, then you’d be wise to subscribe to this podcast!

Consumerism Commentary Podcast

Consumerism Commentary

This is a podcast that covers many different aspects of personal finance, such as economics, living debt free, entrepreneurship, and living a minimalist life. You’ll hear interviews with personal finance experts, and hopefully learn how to save some money in the process! Give them a follow at @ConsumerismComm for updates on their latest episodes and for the great articles they publish on the Consumer Commentary website.

What’s your favorite personal finance podcast? Give us a ring over at @OppLoans on Twitter!

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Six Finance Experts You Should Follow Right Now


When it comes to getting money advice, who is your most trusted source? Is it your dad? Your best friend? That stranger that you follow on Instagram for some reason who likes to post pictures of themselves waving around fat stacks?
(If it’s that last one, we suggest you look elsewhere for advice.)

Well, no matter who you look to for financial wisdom, it never hurts to get a second opinion. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of six bonafide money experts that you can follow on Twitter today.

You can look to them for insight into financial trends, credit, saving for retirement, taxes, and a whole heck of a lot more!

Michelle Singletary – @SingletaryM

Michelle Singletary is the author of “The 21 Day Financial Fast” and a Personal Finance Columnist for The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter for a plethora of awesome tweets and advice about money and how to manage it.

John Ulzheimer – @johnulzheimer

John Ulzheimer is a nationally recognized expert in credit reporting and identity theft. He’s been working in the credit industry for over 25 years and has held positions with FICO, Equifax, and Credit.com.

Lauren Young – @LaurenYoung

Lauren Young is the Money Editor for @Reuters. She has over 16 years of personal finance experience, covering topics ranging from taxes, real-estate and investing to retirement and saving for college.

Mr. Money Mustache – @mrmoneymustache

Mr. Money Mustache is an early retiree who, according to his blog, “writes about how we can all live a frugal yet badass life of leisure.” Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog for great advice on how to cut back on bad money habits and expensive lifestyle choices.

Tara Siegel Bernard – @tarasbernard

Tara Siegel Bernard is a writer for The New York Times with years of experience writing about Personal Finance and consumer issues. If you’re looking for tweets about current financial issues, she’s a great person to follow!

Chris Hogan – @ChrisHogan360

Chris Hogan is a #1 National Best-Selling Author of “Retire Inspired”, the book that teaches you how to prepare for a successful retirement. If you’re striving to achieve financial success, you’ll probably want to check out his book, and follow him on Twitter!

Are there other financial experts that you like to follow? If so, we’d love to hear about them! You find us (and follow us) on Twitter at @OppLoans.

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Need Money Advice? These 6 Twitter Accounts Are a Must-Follow


While you’re celebrating America’s independence, take some steps to achieve financial independence!

Hopefully, you’re taking next Monday off and enjoying a nice, loooong 4th of July weekend. In between the barbecues, the fireworks, and arguments about politics that you promised yourself you wouldn’t get dragged into but now you’re two beers in so let’s do this (ahem), you should probably find some time to sit down and take a look at your finances.

After all, 2017 has just passed its halfway point, so now’s as good a time as any to review your financial goals for the year. How are you doing on those New Year’s resolutions to spend less, save more, and start contributing to your 401(k)? If you’re like a lot of us, you certainly haven’t exceeded your goals, and there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve fallen well short of them.

And that’s totally okay! This weekend you can take the time to reassess, regroup, and start tackling your finances anew. And if you’re looking for some financial expertise to guide you, then boy oh boy have we some great recommendations for you.

Below you’ll find the Twitter accounts for six of the best experts, orgs and publications in the personal finance business. Take a few minutes and give them all a follow before you head off to your 4th of July festivities. Don’t worry! All their awesome money wisdom will be waiting for you when you get back.

1. Farnoosh Torabi – @Farnoosh

Farnoosh Tobari is a best-selling author, finance expert, and TV host. Check out her Twitter page for great personal finance advice! Whether you’re looking to save money, spend wisely, or even invest, Farnoosh has the answers.

2. Kimberly Palmer – @Kimberly Palmer

Kimberly Palmer is a personal finance expert and author of Smart Mom, Rich Mom and The Economy of You. She tweets regularly about money, retirement, and entrepreneurship. Check out her feed if you need some tips on personal finance.

3. Kelli B. Grant, CFP® –  @Kelligrant

Kelli Grant is a Certified Financial Planner and Consumer Reporter for CNBC. Her Twitter account is full of great facts and advice about improving your financial well-being. Follow her and you’re guaranteed to learn a lot about money.


Earn is a micro-savings non-profit organization, and a great Twitter account for anyone who has to stick to a tight budget. At Earn they believe that saving even very small amounts can help your future financial situation. Keep an eye on their Twitter feed, and check out their website to learn more!

5. The Billfold – @TheBillfold

The Billfold is a finance blog that shares personal stories about struggles and successes in personal finance. If you feel like no one can relate to your financial situation, then it’s time to check out some blog posts on The BillFold. Their motto is, “Everything you wanted to know about money but were too polite to ask. We like to get real.”

6. Money Under 30 – @MoneyUnder30

Money Under 30 is a website that offers simple strategies for saving and spending. You’ll get advice on credit cards, debt, investing, and more. Their website and Twitter page promise to deliver “simple, honest strategies to find success at any age.”

And don’t forget about us! To keep up on all our articles, tips, and financial expertise, just give us a follow at @OppLoans. Have a happy and safe 4th!

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Need Help Living Frugally? Follow These 6 Twitter Accounts Today!


Twitter can be a rough, confusing place sometimes. (Okay, all the time.) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t great accounts out there with genuinely thoughtful life advice.

That’s why we think you should follow these six great Twitter accounts that are chock full of helpful financial tips. If you want advice on couponing, affordable recipes, cheap travel, or just how to build a working household budget so you can avoid payday and title loans, these Twitter follows are the right choice for you!

1. Crystal Paine – @MoneySavingMom
Crystal Paine takes couponing and family budgeting to a whole new level. Check out her site, MoneySavingMom.com for deals, coupons, freebies/giveaways, and tips on managing your money.
2. Family Balance Sheet – @FamBalanceSheet
At Family Balance Sheet, you’ll get personal stories, practical tips, and affordable recipes from Kristia, a former corporate employee who went from managing millions, to creating a happy and peaceful home for less.
3. Amy Suardi – @Frugal_Mama
Amy Suardi created the Frugal Mama blog to help moms and families learn how to save money and live fulfilling lives. She covers budget travel, saving money, and frugal parenting advice, among many other things.
4. Mom and Dad Money – @MomAndDadMoney
At Mom and Dad Money, their mission is to help you take control of your money so you can take care of your family. It’s a great site for new parents to get financial advice tailored to your specific situation.
5. The Frugal Girl – @TheFrugalGirl
The Frugal Girl is a financial blogger who writes to inspire others to live on less with a perky attitude. At her website you’ll find picture-filled posts about practical, everyday frugal living. You’ll also find affordable recipes, DIY projects, and frugal home decor ideas.
6. Six Figures Under – @SixFiguresUnder
The Six Figures Under blog is designed to be a financial resource for you and your family. You’ll get advice on debt, budgeting, finance, frugal-living, increasing your income, and even a little motivation to keep going.

And last of all, don’t forget us! The OppLoans Twitter feed is a fantastic financial resource for anyone looking to live their dreams while staying within their means. You can find us at @OppLoans!

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Tips to Help Your Kid Get a Summer Job

Tips to Help Your Kid Get a Summer Job

Summer jobs. For so many, they’re an important part of growing up. They can teach kids responsibility and, depending on your financial situation, they may even be a necessary contribution to the family’s finances.

But what’s the best way to help your kid get a summer job? Or is helping them just going to hurt their character? Should you just send them into the woods and warn them not to come back until they’ve earned a certain amount of money?

We asked the experts to find out!

Resist or assist?

Before we get into HOW you should help your child find a summer job, it’s worth asking IF you should help your kid find a summer job. Obviously, you want your kid to succeed, but is it better to keep them under your wing or push them out of the nest so they learn to fly?

The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. April Masini (@AskAprilcom), author, relationship expert, and creator of Ask April, told us how to thread the needle:

“Help doesn’t mean enable. Remember that the job search is a tool that your child will use for the rest of his or her life. Don’t focus on the goal as much as you focus on the process. Teach your child to help themselves—not to expect an entitled result where parents (or others) do the work for him or her.”

Laura Spawn, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Vocations (@VirtualVocation), advises a similar balance. “Parents can be a positive resource for teenagers and young adults looking for summer work, especially if the child will be job searching for the first time,” Spawn told us. “However, parents should also establish and respect boundaries with their child regarding how much influence they’ll wield throughout the process.”

No time like the present.

So it’s OK to help, but you shouldn’t go overboard and take over the process entirely. When should you get started? According to Masini, there’s no better time than the present: “Start early (now) and get organized. Make a list of all possible jobs and tick them off one by one as your child applies. This simple act of getting and staying organized will alleviate stress and give your child self-esteem because he or she will feel that they’re on top of the game. Kids love structure, and when you help them obtain it, they feel safe.”

As far as what age kids should start looking for a summer job, Donna Volpitta (@donnavolpitta), founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership, offered her take: “High school is a great time to start suggesting/requiring that your child get some type of job, just to get the experience and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with earning a paycheck. At first, it is not as much about how much money that your child is making, it is more about learning the skills.”

What’s the plan?

Now you know the who (your child), the when (probably while they’re in high school), and the why (providing your child with the tools they need for the future). So it’s time to talk about the how. Specifically, how should you go about helping your kid get a summer job? Here’s what Volpitta had to say:

“Parents can help brainstorm jobs that might be most appropriate, such as being a busboy, helping out at a store, babysitting, doing lawn work, or pet-walking. They can then help break down different steps that need to be taken such as go in and get an application at a restaurant or store, creating a flyer for lawn work or babysitting, or setting up a list of potential customers. Most jobs will require kids to interact with adults. It is helpful to prepare them with scripts for certain types of conversations, like how to ask for an application or what to say for their “pitch” if they want to babysit. It is important to remember this is a brand new experience and most kids will be reluctant and nervous. Given practice, they will become more and more confident and they will gain skills that will help them tremendously in their future.”

It can also be worth narrowing the job search based on the needs of your child at the moment. “Focus on different types of jobs and make decisions about which to apply for,” Masini advised. “There are money-only jobs where a child is focused on making a certain amount of money by summer’s end, regardless of what the job is. These jobs may be menial or rote types of jobs that others frown on because they’re not glamorous. But there is many-layered value in these jobs for teenagers. On the other hand, there are low or non-paying jobs that work for a resume, and these should be considered as well.”

Spawn adds that parents should “work with their child to create a list of possible job types based on availability and skill level, discuss expected wages and financial goals, and proofread job applications and resumes. But when it comes to cold calling companies or talking to a friend of a friend who knows a fancy CEO who may need an intern, parents should take a step back.”

Think outside the application box.

There are many resources for helping teens find jobs beyond the stereotypical lifeguarding or camp counseling or lemonade standing. Consider looking online for unique opportunities.

We found out about one such unique opportunity from Naomi Galimidi, the development director for the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (@thevycc), part of The Corps Network (@TheCorpsNetwork). She told us about the VYCC and The Corps Network at large:

“There are over 125 youth corps across the country that provide outdoor work on public lands. It’s a highly educational experience, and it’s a meaningful job that makes a difference. Youth Corps programs are built on the successful Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930’s. Info on the national association, and a member listing, can be found at corpsnetwork.org.

“Vermont Youth Conservation Corps will provide profound learning opportunities—which are also paying jobs (or AmeriCorps positions) – to nearly 300 young people this summer. We offer opportunities from 4 to 20 weeks, for youth and young adults ages 15 and over. Applicants do not need any work experience or skills to qualify. VYCC is a nonprofit that has been serving youth since 1985. Our mission is to teach young people personal responsibility that connects us to the land, community, and one another. Alumni consistently tell us that their VYCC experience had a positive influence on them and is the source of their strongest lifelong friendships.”

Finding a job for yourself can be tough enough, so you might not have the time and resources to help your kid or kids find one too. But if you are able, it can be a great way for them to start learning responsibility and independence.

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Naomi Galimidi is Development Director at Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (@thevycc). She is motivated and impassioned by VYCC’s ability to provide young people with skills and values that guide them into adulthood. Naomi arrived at VYCC in 2012 with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University at Albany and ten years of professional experience in nonprofit management including program development, marketing, communications, and fundraising. You can reach her at Naomi.Galimidi@vycc.org. (The YYCC is a part of The Corps Network (@TheCorpsNetwork.)
April Masini (@AskAprilcom) is a relationship and etiquette expert and popular media resource —  author of four relationship advice books, the ‘Ask April’ advice column and the #1 relationship advice forum where over 25,000 questions have been asked and answered, personally, by April. She has nearly a quarter million active forum members, 623,000 Facebook fans and over 1.4 million Twitter followers. She is also the relationship expert and consultant to TD Bank for it’s 2016 Love and Money Survey Campaign.
Laura Spawn (@VirtualVocation), CEO of Virtual Vocations, Inc., co-founded the company with her brother, Adam, in 2007 following a frustrating search for her own virtual job. For more than a decade they have been dedicated to providing jobseekers with safe and effective resources for researching and applying to the latest telecommute job openings from top employers. More than one million jobseekers subscribe to job alerts from Virtual Vocations, which has grown to become the number one telecommute-only job board online. Virtual Vocations’ services have also been discussed in publications from Forbes, AARP, Computerworld, and The Penny Hoarder.
As the founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership, Donna Volpitta (@donnavolpitta), Ed.D., teaches people about the brain in order to help them make more mindfully resilient choices. Her Resilient Mindset Model has been applied to areas of leadership from parenting to corporate management. Dr. Volpitta is co-author of the book “The Resilience Formula: A Guide to proactive–Not Reactive-Parenting” and co-creator of the Nametags Education Program. Dr. Volpitta holds Board positions for One Revolution Foundation (one-revolution.org) and Kids Helping Kids (kidshelpingkidsct.org), both of which develop resilience in youth. She is an expert contributor for Understood.org, is a Global Presence Ambassador for Parenting 2.0, is a life skills coach with Yathatgame.com, and presents at workshops throughout the country. For more information, please see her website: centerforresilientleadership.com.

Avoiding Payday Loans: How to Deal With a Bounced Paycheck

How to Deal With a Bounced Paycheck

Can a paycheck bounce? Unfortunately, yep. It does happen.
If your paycheck bounces or your employer is late with a payment, it can mean financial disaster. Here are the steps you can take to fix the situation, as well as savings strategies to make sure you have the funds to make it through.

If you’re one of the millions living paycheck-to-paycheck, then what would you do if your next paycheck happened to, well, just not show up. Or worse, it does show up, but when you go to cash it, you get the four worst words in the English language: “Transaction Failed, Insufficient Funds.”

What are you going to do now? Do you have enough money in your savings account to deal with a delayed paycheck?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry. There’s no need for you to run over to your local payday lender and take out a short-term, high-interest loan that’ll put you in an even deeper financial hole.

Instead, just keep reading.

1. Talk to your employer

“Nothing shakes your faith in the American enterprise system like a bounced paycheck,” says Howard Dvorkin (@HowardDvorkin), CPA and Chairman of Debt.com (@debtcom).

“It happens most often in small businesses, and many times, it’s not only unintentional, the employer is rightfully embarrassed as hell.”

Dvorkin says that your first step should be to “call your employer and politely inquire. You just might get a horrified apology because someone forgot to do something important.”

According to Roslyn Lash (@RosLash), an Accredited Financial Counselor and the founder of Youth Smart Financial Education Services, you should want to “make sure that the money wasn’t incorrectly transferred or some type of computer glitch.”

“Therefore,” she says, “you need to call your employer and explain the situation and inquire about a reissue date.”

2. Start a Paper Trail

If your bounced paycheck does turn out to be a simple error, then you’ll probably be fine. But if it’s something else—if your employer is maybe up to something—then you’re going to need documentation. You’ll need to not only document your lack of a paycheck, but your efforts to resolve the issue.

“If you contact your employer and you get an attitude, start a paper trail,” says Dvorkin. “Get a copy of the returned check, and keep copies showing if you had to pay overdraft fees.”

According to Lash, when people with a bounced paycheck contact their employer, they should “be sure to document the name, location of the representative that they speak with. This will be the beginning of the paper trail,” she says. “From this point forward, every conversation and everything… and I mean everything should be documented.”

3. Call Your Bank

Most people plan their bill payments around their paycheck. But when a paycheck bounces, that plan has got to change.

“Contact your bank to have all drafted automatic payments from your account canceled.” says Lash.  “Explain the situation to the bank representative and request proof that your paycheck was not deposited into your account.”

“Any documentation that they can provide proofing that the employer had insufficient funds or that the check bounced would be helpful,” she says.

Lash also recommends that “if you have an emergency savings, transfer some funds into this account to cover any outstanding bills.”

“Ask your lender if there are any provisions made for NSF fees that you may incur,” she says.

4. Contact your creditors

People tend to think that lenders are totally inflexible when it comes to your payments. And while it’s true that most lenders aren’t pushovers, and they don’t like it when people are constantly calling in about insufficient funds, they do understand that (and this a very technical banking term) “stuff happens.” The same goes for utility companies.

Lash says that you should call your lenders and “Advise them of the situation and request a payment date change.”

“Explain that you expect to be paid by date (whatever date that the employer advised you) but you will keep them abreast of any changes.”

If you have already incurred a delinquent fee, she adds, “request a courtesy removal.”

5. If you need to, then lawyer up

In cases where you aren’t able to get the situation resolved immediately, then you’re probably going to need an attorney. (Also: a new job.)

Lawyers can be expensive. For someone with a low-income, especially someone who’s now not even receiving that income, a traditional lawyer might be out of the price range.

This is is why both Lash and Dvorkin recommends contacting your local Legal Aid office. If you qualify for free legal aid, they should be able to set you up with a lawyer.

“Meanwhile, if you want to get your employer’s attention, report him to the Department of Labor in your state,” says Dvorkin. “There are laws about these things, and you can file a complaint.”

Try These Savings Strategies

Of course, if you aren’t able to get your paycheck issue resolved quickly, then you’re still going to need money. Even if you are able to find another job, it’ll probably be a few weeks before your paid. In the meantime, how are you gonna eat?

This is where a payday loan might start looking like a pretty good option. But stay away. The extremely high APRs and the short repayment terms can all too easily lead to you rolling the loan over instead of paying it off on time. That’s how the dangerous cycle of debt begins.

Instead, the best way to manage this situation is to have money in your savings. This way, you can bridge the gap without having to pay any additional fees or interest.

Saving money does take some extra work and discipline—especially if you’re someone with a low-income, but there are definitely ways you can make it work.

Kendal Perez (@HassleFreeSaver)is the Savings Expert for CouponSherpa.com (@CouponSherpa). Here are some of her tips for building your savings…

Hack your recurring expenses: “The most effective way to build your savings or emergency fund is to reduce your monthly payments and direct the difference to your savings accounts. It’s a good idea to regularly review these expenses anyway to ensure you’re not overpaying. Good candidates for review include cable TV and internet bills, mobile plans, auto insurance policies, and subscriptions. You can opt to swap your cable TV for a Netflix and/or Hulu subscription; decrease your data plan based on usage; increase the deductible on your auto insurance policies to drop your monthly premium, and review the subscriptions you pay for and start making cuts. You can also use a service called Trim to review and cancel unused subscriptions on your behalf.”

Limit your splurges: “If you’re prone to buying coffee or dining out for lunch each week, start cutting back on these treats and deposit what you save into your emergency fund. Cutting out these purchases entirely may lead to burnout, so select a day or two during the week or month to treat yourself. Limiting your splurges to Fridays and paydays only, for example, strikes a nice balance between enjoying your money now and saving for the future.”

Automate your savings: “Paying yourself first means placing a priority on your financial wellness and security. This can be accomplished by setting up an automatic transfer of funds between checking and savings every time you receive a paycheck, or at any increment you choose. You can also use a tool like Digit which reviews your daily spending and makes small, incremental transfers from your checking to an online, FDIC-insured account.”

Sell your stuff: “While reducing your spending and saving money is an important part of building an emergency fund, so too is adding to your income. ‘Tis the season to spring clean and declutter, so consider selling your stuff at a garage sale, or through Craigslist or Facebook community groups, and deposit your profits into savings.”

Attempt a no-spend challenge: “The more adventurous savers can try a no-spend challenge, whereby you try to purchase nothing for a certain period of time (one week, one month or even one year). The money you save by limiting your spending can go toward building your emergency fund.”

Hopefully, you will never have to deal with a bounced paycheck. But if you do, follow these steps and you’ll weather the storm just fine.

Have your own tips for dealing with bounced paycheck (and avoiding dangerous payday or bad credit loans)? Let us know! You can find us on Twitter at @OppLoans.

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Google+

Howard S. Dvorkin (@HowardDvorkin)  is a two-time author, personal finance expert, community service champion and Chairman of Debt.com (@debtcom). As one of the most highly regarded debt and credit expert in the United States and has played an instrumental role in drafting both State and Federal Legislation. Howard’s latest book “Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny” provides consumers with the detailed tools that they need to live debt free and regain their financial freedom. Howard has appeared as a finance expert on CBS Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, The Early Show, Fox News, and CNN.
Roslyn Lash (@RosLash) is an Accredited Financial Counselor and the founder of Youth Smart Financial Education Services.  She specializes in youth financial education, adult coaching and works virtually with adults helping them navigate through their personal finances i.e. budgeting, debt, and credit repair.  Her advice has been featured in national publications such as USA Today, TIME, Huffington Post, NASDAQ, Los Angeles Times, and a host of other media outlets.
Kendal Perez is the Savings Expert for CouponSherpa.com (@CouponSherpa), a popular source for online, in-store and grocery coupons. Her money-saving tips are often featured on Bankrate, GOBankingRates, US News & World Report, Wisebread and more. Kendal can be found on Twitter @HassleFreeSaver.

OppLoans Follow Friday


Is there any day more beloved or more cherished than Follow Friday?

Probably. But since the dawn of Twitter, every Friday hundreds of thousands of users proclaim to their followers which other accounts are deserving of the attention of the online masses. Today, the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog joins in that honored tradition.

We’ve had the pleasure of reading and working with some of the greatest financial experts across The Internet, and now we share their Twitter handles with you so that you may follow them and gain access to their wisdom. Time to up your personal finance game!

Jeanne Kelly (@creditscoop)

After being turned down for a mortgage 15 years ago, Jeanne Kelly realized she needed to get her credit in order. Not only was she able to fix her bad credit, but she took the skills and knowledge she gained and decided to share it with the world. Now she’s a nationally regarded credit coach and expert, with multiple books and television appearances. She’s also been kind enough to share her insights with the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog on many different occasions. Follow her on Twitter and check out her site to get the credit help you need!

Clark Howard (@ClarkHoward)

Clark Howard is a best-selling author and consumer expert. His Twitter feed and website both provide endless resources you can use to save (and make) money. You’ll even get additional tips on topics ranging from parenting to pet care (which is kind of just a different sort of parenting).

Gerri Detweiler (@gerridetweiler)

A credit expert for more than 20 years, Gerri Detweiler has built up a trove of credit resources, from podcasts to articles to books (two of which you can get for free right now). A friend of the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog, follow her Twitter account to get all the financial tips and news you need.

Kimberly Palmer (@KimberlyPalmer)

When she isn’t telling OppLoans Financial Sense Blog readers how to cope with a medical emergency, Kimberly Palmer works as the features editor for the money team at the AARP. She’s also the author of Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family. Follow her Twitter account, and check out her site.  

Shannon McLay (@blonde_finance)

Tired of dealing with various blonde stereotypes, Shannon McLay started the Financially Blonde Blog to share expert money advice. She also has her own podcast and created the Financial Gym, in case your economic situation could benefit from a personal trainer.

Kali Hawlk (@KaliHawlk)

Kali Hawlk is a financial advisor who helps small businesses market themselves. She also offers all manner of financial advice to help you save the most money in your day to day life. You can find said advice on her Twitter account and website.

Victor Ricciardi (@victorricciardi)

Professor Victor Ricciardi is an expert in behavioral finance, offering a unique perspective on how the decision-making process leads to different financial outcomes. He literally wrote the book on investor behavior. Follow his Twitter feed to understand why you make the financial decisions you do and learn how you can train yourself to make better ones.

Jamie Jeffers (@mediumsizedfam)

Jamie Jeffers runs the Medium Sized Family blog, where she’s documenting her family’s path out of debt and offering lots of practical saving tips along the way. She’s previously told Opploans Financial Blog readers how to smartly spend their tax refund and save money while traveling with kids. For more insights, check out her Twitter feed and blog.

Peter Dunn (@PeteThePlanner)

Since first getting interested in finance in sixth grade, Peter Dunn has made a name for himself in the world of personal finance with TV and radio appearances as well his regular USA Today column. Check out his Twitter feed and site to get all the advice you could ever want!

Robert T. Kiyosaki (@theRealKiyosaki)

Author of the number one personal finance book of all time, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert T. Kiyosaki served as a US Marine before returning to civilian life and attempting to start a business. After some initial setbacks, he was able to gain incredible success and now tries to pass the knowledge he has gained onto others so that they too can improve their financial situation.

Nouriel Roubini (@Nouriel)

If you’re looking for some big picture analysis, Nouriel Roubini is a professor credited with predicting many major economic events. You can read his thoughts and predictions on his Twitter feed as well as at his blog.

Donna Freedman (@DLFreedman)

Donna Freedman is a personal finance writer who has been featured in a wide range of money-related magazines and sites. She offers advice you can use every day to improve your financial situation. The header on her site reads “surviving and thriving” and she’ll help you do exactly that.  

And before we forget, you’ll definitely want to follow the OppLoans Twitter account. We compile the best financial advice you could ask for into a delicious money stew.

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Google+

14 Tax Experts To Follow Right Now!

14 Tax Experts

The tax filing deadline is coming up quick, but there’s still time to get (and use) strong advice from the experts. We’ve rounded up the greatest tax gurus on Twitter so you can get the best tips for filing your return this year, and each year to come!
Get yourself a head start on those deductions with these top tax tweeters:

 1. Jeff Rosan (@a_tax_pro)

Jeff Rosan has been an enrolled agent of the U.S. Treasury Department for 30 years, meaning he’s able to represent his clients directly before the IRS (@IRSnews). His San Diego-based firm helps individuals and small businesses make their tax experience as painless as possible. The firm’s Twitter account shares helpful articles and advice with a special eye on raising awareness about tax scams. Give them a follow and stay a step ahead of the scammers!

2. Janet Novack (@janetnovack)

Janet Novack is the Washington D.C. bureau chief for Forbes (@Forbes), focusing on tax advice and personal financial planning. Follow her for good information and advice about your own money matters, as well as her takes on the economic world at large.

3. K Sean Packard (@AthleteTax)

Would you rather read about sports than tax advice? Well, you can get both at once! K Sean Packard is the tax director for OFS (@OFSWealth), a firm that offers tax advice and financial guidance to athletes and celebrities. Follow him for tax information and sports views. And are there tweets that mix sports and taxes? Of course there are! Check him out.

4. Robert Raiola (@SportsTaxMan)

We hear what you’re saying. You want another account that will provide you with a wonderful swirl of tax and sports takes. Perhaps an accountant so well-regarded by the sports world that they made him into a baseball card? Well, then you should follow Robert Raiola. When Sports Illustrated or The Washington Post needs a sports accountant to talk to, they talk to Raiola, and for just the low, low price of one Twitter follow, you can get his insights too!

5. Sylvia F. Dion (@SylviaDionCPA)

Sylvia F. Dion is the founder of PrietoDion Consulting Partners. She has over 22 years of tax experience and a Twitter feed that’s dedicated to not just personal tax advice, but important news stories about taxes in general. It’s a great way to get all the knowledge you need to make you seem like a tax genius at parties. Assuming that’s what they talk about at the parties you attend.

6. Rick Telberg (@CPA_Trendlines)

Rick Telberg is the former editor-in-chief of Accounting Today (@AccountingToday), and his company, CPA Trendlines, offers in-depth research and tax analysis. His twitter feed highlights endless important articles and views to give you the full picture of the current tax environment.

7. Tax Mama (@TaxMama)

If you want your tax advice with a more personal touch, check out Tax Mama’s Twitter feed. Eva Rosenberg has been offering tax advice through books and the internet for a while now: her site has been around since 2000, when most accountants were probably still figuring out how to use Excel. Check out TaxMama.com to find the answers to your tax questions and even find out how to become an enrolled agent yourself.

8. Kay Bell (@taxtweet)

Kay Bell’s website is called DontMessWithTaxes.com and the self-described “native Texan and tax geek” provides tax advice in an amusing, accessible way. She also writes regularly about racing for multiple trucking magazines, if you want your tax advice to be literally speedy. Are the racing articles actually related to the tax articles? You’ll have to find out for yourself!

9. National Associations of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) (@Tax_Experts)

Remember those enrolled agents we mentioned earlier? Well, there’s a whole organization of them, and you should follow their Twitter account. Their tax advice tends to be a little more tailored by region than some other accounts, so you can keep an eye out for the tips that make sense for where you’re at.

10. Jason M. Blumer (@JasonMBlumer)

Jason M. Blumer is an accountant who specializes in working with creatives. That means his Twitter feed, while informative, also has its own spin, mixing in advice with pictures of what his clients are up to.

11. Rania Combs (@RaniaCombs)

Rania Combs has a fully online law firm. So when you follow her, you know you’ll be getting tax advice from someone who is totally up to date. These are solutions for the taxpayer who’d rather spend their time online than waiting IN LINE. (Sorry.)

12. Sandra Feinsmith (@SandraFeinsmith)

Sandra Feinsmith is a CPA who works with nonprofit organizations. So when you follow her, you might also see some suggestions of where you can donate this year to get those deductions…  we mean… out of the goodness of your heart.

13. Jim Frazier (@SalesTaxGuy)

You’ve read about a lot of tax experts, but none of them so far have specialized in sales tax. None of them have been a sales tax gentleman, or a sales tax individual, if you will. But now we’ve got a sales tax guy to recommend! Jim Frazier posts all about sales tax and, given that it’s a tax you’re probably paying every day, it’s not a bad idea to learn more about it.

14. Tracey Shannon Levy (@TaxAddict)

Tracey Shannon Levy shares a wide range of tax articles across many different topics. Following her is a great way to diversify your tax knowledge base. One read through the feed and you’ll be up to date on the latest tax happenings.

Follow all of these experts, and you’ll become a real tax expert yourself. But don’t get so distracted by tweets that you forget to file! File, then reward yourself with as many tax tweets as you like. The best reward!

Also, be sure to check out the OppLoans ebook “Tax Season 101: An OppLoans Explainer eBookTax Season 101” for an overview and step-by-step instructions for managing and filing your taxes.

Good Personal Finance for the Long Term with Tim Maurer

Good Personal Finance for the Long Term

When it comes to getting your finances in order, there are a lot of different boxes you need to check…

There’s keeping your costs down through a monthly budget (check); there’s increasing your income through taking on a side gig or working for a promotion at work (check), there’s paying off your credit cards and then continuing to pay off your balances every month so that you’re not wasting hundreds—or even thousands—of precious dollars every year (check check check)!

But the box that it’s easiest to leave blank time and time again is the box marked “long-term.” When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re often worrying about how much money you’ll have next week, not how much money you’ll have 20 or 30 years from now.

But if you’re serious about securing your financial future, then investing your money long-term is something you’ll need to deal with – preferably sooner rather than later. The earlier you start investing, the longer your investment will have to earn interest, and the more money you’ll have decades from now when you retire. (Remember, interest here is something that works for you, not against you.) Without investing some of your money long-term, you might as well have “win the lottery” as a retirement plan – which, by the way, that is a very bad retirement plan. Seriously.

That’s why we reached out to Tim Maurer (@TimMaurer), author of Simple Money and Director of Personal Finance for Buckingham Strategic Wealth and the BAM Alliance. If there’s anyone who knows how to break investing down to its simple building blocks, it’s Tim.

Here are 7 great pieces of advice that Tim gave us for folks who want to start investing – but just don’t know where to start.

1. Wealth management is for everyone – not just the wealthy

TM: “First, I think that the word “wealth,” in and of itself, carries a misconception. The financial services industry has conflated wealth with abundant riches, a goal that is out of reach for many people. But the original derivation of the word “wealth” has a definition that is much closer to “contentment.”

“In other words, wealth isn’t just for rich people. Investing, similarly, must not be seen as a practice reserved only for the materially wealthy. When applied as a personal discipline, it works just as well for those of more modest means.”

2. Get your high-interest debt paid down, stat!

TM: “High-interest-rate debt is financial enemy No. 1. Therefore, paying it off is a priority over investing for the future. This may feel frustrating if you’re excited to move forward–but paying off a 21 percent interest credit card can reasonably be seen as the equivalent of MAKING a guaranteed 21 percent rate of return on a long-term investment. I’ll take that!”

3. When you’re ready to invest, first figure out why

TM: “Assuming you’ve 1) mastered your cash flow with a functional budget, 2) addressed your most important risk management issues with a buffer of emergency reserves, base levels of insurance and the requisite estate planning documents, and 3) eliminated any high-interest-rate debt, the first step is to clarify WHY you’re investing.

“We don’t invest in the stock market in the hope of making a quick buck–that’s gambling. Rather, we align our long-term goals–like our desired quality of life in retirement–with an appropriate mix of investments. I recommend beginning with a simple, moderate, balanced portfolio, then calibrating it by increasing or decreasing your exposure to stocks depending on your ability, willingness and need to accept risk.

“It may make sense to begin investing with a single mutual fund designed to be an all-in-one, balanced investment, but consider only using low-cost, index-based funds that are well-diversified.”

4. You don’t have to choose between saving money and investing it

TM: “This is a challenge that most of us face. I believe that it’s imperative to get at least one month of expenses saved in pure cash so that you’re not living paycheck-to-paycheck. Beyond that, how much you dedicate to cash versus future investment will be a byproduct of your income stability and your tolerance for risk.

“One handy vehicle for those who find themselves pulled between these two worthy goals is the Roth IRA. While we’d certainly prefer NOT to touch anything we set aside in our Roths, we’re able to extract the principal we’ve invested in these accounts without fear of taxes or penalties–at any age for any reason. This may in some cases make the Roth a serviceable “hybrid” savings vehicle.”

5. Don’t bet (on) your house to get you through retirement

TM: “For a lot of people, their home is their main source of wealth. The 2008 financial crisis showed us the dangers of relying on your house to pay for your retirement. How can people balance and diversify their wealth to protect themselves and their money?

“As much as we’d all like it to be, it’s a fallacy to think of our primary residence as an investment for this simple reason: We live in it! We’re always going to need a place to live, and we’re more prone to buying-up than downsizing. Plus, for many of us, the equity in our home will be our default long-term care insurance.

“Owning rental real estate is different, and may well be considered a wealth-building tool, but this type of investment is far more complex than most expect and more financially dangerous that we’d like (because of the debt involved).”

6. In fact, think about “retirement” differently

TM: “Retirement, as a concept, also presents us with a challenge. People picture themselves working full-time until they can afford to do nothing full-time, as though they are on a permanent vacation. But both medical professionals and financial planners recommend phasing into full retirement.

“Consider working as long as you can, doing something that you (mostly) enjoy and that keeps you engaged intellectually, physically and emotionally. Doing so also helps build and extend financial security.”

7. Investing and saving 20 percent of your income is good – but do more when you can!

TM: “The grandfather-like wisdom of giving 10 percent and saving 10 percent of one’s income works, believe it or not! But life is not linear; we’re likely to have more disposable income before we have children–and then again well after.

“Therefore, in anticipation that our investing *may* dip during our highest-expense years of child rearing, it’s sensible to invest MORE than 10 percent in our early years…and then more again after the kids are out of the proverbial nest.

“Life is so much easier when you begin this practice early and learn to live off of 80 percent or less of your income. But whether 10 percent, 15 percent or 20 percent feels impossible or easy, the answer to the question ‘How much should I be putting toward investing?’ for most people is simply, ‘As much as you can.’”

If you want to hear from Tim (and we highly recommend that you do) then you should check out his website, www.TimMaurer.com, or follow him on Twitter at @TimMaurer. His book, Simple Money: A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance, is available on Amazon.com.

About the Contributors:

Financial planner, speaker and author, Tim Maurer, is a wealth advisor at Buckingham Asset Management and the director of personal finance for the BAM ALLIANCE. A Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner working with individuals, families and organizations, he also educates at private events and via TV, radio, print and online media. Tim is a regular contributor to Forbes, CNBC and TIME/Money. A central theme, that “personal finance is more personal than it is finance,” drives his writing and speaking.

You can follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMaurer.