Jobs: Hiring Surge as Schools Open

Job growth will remain strong the rest of the year, as economic activity resumes in the wake of the pandemic. There will be plenty of positions to fill, since employment is still 8.4 million jobs below its prepandemic level. The food service industry is 1.8 million jobs shy of its pre-COVID level. Education: 1.2 million fewer jobs. Hotels, amusements, entertainment & recreation, manufacturing, and administrative staffing are each 500,000 or more jobs below normal. In fact, if some of the 4 million workers who left the labor force over the past year don’t return, some sectors may have trouble finding enough workers. Manufacturers are already reporting difficulties in hiring.  

Employment surged by 916,000 net new jobs in March, as schools reopened and restaurant capacity expanded. Schools (+190,000 jobs), food service (+176,000), hotels (+40,000), and amusements (+41,000) accounted for half of the gain. Construction jobs jumped 110,000 thanks to warm weather, after a dismal February. Manufacturing added a robust 53,000 jobs. Clothing stores are reopening. Personal services are coming back.

All of this reopening activity pushed the unemployment rate down to 6.0%. The rate should continue to fall quickly, dropping to 5.0% or less by the end of the year.

Source: kiplinger.com

9 Factors to Consider Before Changing Jobs

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.

Work-from-Home Flexibility

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

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.

Educational Benefits

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.

Company Culture

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.

Company Stability

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.

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How to Compare Two Job Offers

Weighing two separate job offers can seem like an embarrassment of riches. In today’s job-starved economy, the prospect of having your choice between two positions is a rare and enviable position.

But there’s also an element of anxiety with choosing between two offers. One could be the job of your dreams, and the other could be a short-lived stint in hell. So how can you tell the difference between the two?

Compensation and Benefits

It’s easy to look at two salaries and decide to take the job with the highest one. But that’s not giving you the full picture. Compensation can include bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, pension and other monetary benefits. Add these up to get a real idea of the total salaries.

After you’ve compared the salaries, the second step is to examine the benefits packages. These can include vacation days and holidays, sick days, healthcare, retirement plan, tuition reimbursement and other perks.

Health insurance is one of the most important to compare, since costs can vary wildly. Check out the premiums and deductibles first and then see if either plan offers dental or vision coverage (these could make a big difference in how much you pay). Depending on your health, those could be major factors in how much money you take home.

Paid time off is also a deciding factor for many. Earning more money is great, but not if you only get 10 vacation days a year (compared to 21 days at another job). Does the company have a policy of increasing your vacation time over the years? How long do you hope to be at this company? These are all important questions to consider in how you value the vacation policy offered.

Commute

Driving to and from work is ranked as one of the worst parts of anyone’s day. No matter how great a job is, a long commute can kill the joy of a new position. Plus, being far away from home can make it difficult to run errands during lunch, make it to your morning workout and get home in time to let the dog out. Be realistic with yourself about how much time you can spend on the road and still be able to walk through your front door at the end of the work day with some energy to spare.

Not only does a long commute expend your own energy, driving a long way will also cost more money and put more wear and tear on your car. You can use GasBuddy’s trip calculator to compare how much you’d spend in fuel costs between each job and see if the amount is significant.

Company Culture

Finding out the company culture before you start working is much harder than figuring out what the bonus structure is, but it could end up being more important.

Talk to other employees and ask them the following questions:

  • Is it permissible to take a sick day or do employees fight the flu to get to work?
  • Are you allowed to work from home occasionally?
  • Is vacation time sacred or does your boss expect to reach you at all times?

Even a job with great benefits and a high salary could become your worst nightmare if you’re supposed to sleep with your phone on and respond to urgent texts on weekends.

Other Things to Take into Account

Once you’ve done the research for the factors listed above, here are some other questions to consider:

  • Does the company support and pay for employee training such as classes, conferences, etc.?
  • Is there room for advancement?
  • Have there been any layoffs recently?
  • How easy is it to start new projects and take risks?
  • Do people frequently work overtime?
  • Can you create your schedule or are you expected to work when everyone else does?
  • Is the company well-respected in the industry?
  • Are there frequent business trips?
  • Will you have direct access to the higher ups or is there a lot of bureaucracy?

Job Offers

The last step – and probably the most important –  is to choose confidently. No matter which offer you decide on, it’s crucial to remove as much doubt as possible from the process.

Once you’ve made your choice, your happiness and satisfaction is going to have more to do with your attitude than the job itself. If you’re constantly asking “what if,” you’ll find yourself fantasizing about an alternate reality that doesn’t exist. Even if your new job isn’t everything you expected, it’s important to remember that the other job could have been even worse.

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Debt Free After Three.

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American Workers Get Enhanced Unemployment Benefits as Biden Signs Stimulus Package

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.

Source: kiplinger.com

Senate Alters Unemployment Benefits Before Passing Stimulus Package

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.

Source: kiplinger.com

Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits: How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits When Laid Off

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: 

  1. File for Unemployment Benefits 
  2. Find Out What You’ll Get from Your Employer
  3. Explore Healthcare Options 
  4. Contact Bill Providers
  5. Reassess Your Debt
  6. Fine-Tune Your Budget 
  7. Figure Out How Long You Can Get By For 
  8. Take On Side Work
  9. Plan Your Next Big Move
  10. Stay Active
  11. 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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How to Use the Qualified Business Income Deduction to Reduce Taxes

Small businesses are a significant part of the U.S. economy. According to the United States Small Business Administration, they generate around 44% of our gross domestic product. They also create jobs, drive innovation, and contribute to the communities in which they operate.

To help small businesses continue to thrive, the U.S. tax code provides several tax breaks and incentives. One of the newer incentives is Section 199A of the tax code, also known as the qualified business income deduction.

However, understanding who can claim the deduction and calculating the amount to deduct is no easy task.

What Is the Qualified Business Income Deduction?

The qualified business income deduction allows certain businesses to claim a tax break worth up to 20% of its “qualified business income.”

For many businesses, qualified business income (QBI) is the same as net income. However, there are several types of income that don’t count as QBI. The list includes investment income, such as dividends and capital gains. It also includes income from businesses located outside of the U.S. For a full list of the income types that don’t qualify, check out the IRS qualified business income deduction fact page.

Pro tip: If you have any questions about the QBI deduction and how it might affect your taxes, contact a tax advisor from H&R Block. You chat online with a tax expert and have all your questions answered.


Who Can Claim the QBI Deduction?

The QBI deduction is for owners of pass-through businesses, including sole proprietors, partnerships, LLCs, and S corporations. The term “pass-through” refers to the way these companies are taxed. In a pass-through business, income “passes through” to the owner, who pays income tax on the business income on their individual income tax return.

The QBI deduction isn’t available to C corporations or LLCs that elect to be taxed as a C corporation.

It sounds pretty straightforward. But once you’ve established that your business is a pass-through, you need to know about income limits, specified service trades or businesses, W-2 wages, qualified property, and an overall limitation. Let’s tackle each of these one at a time.

Taxable Income

Taxpayers with total income less than $315,000 for married couples filing jointly or $157,500 for single taxpayers can claim the 20% deduction from qualified business income.

Specified Service Trade or Business

If your taxable income is between $315,000 and $415,000 if married filing jointly or $157,500 and $207,500 for single filers, you need to determine whether your business is a specified service trade or business (SSTB).

An SSTB includes any service-based business other than engineering or architecture in which the company depends on the employees’ or owners’ reputation or skill. That’s a broad definition, but it typically includes doctors, lawyers, accountants, consultants, professional athletes, financial advisors, performers, investment managers, and similar occupations.

The IRS’s frequently asked questions page for the QBI deduction includes additional information to help you figure out whether your business is an SSTB. Once you figure that out:

  • If Your Business Is an SSTB: If your total taxable income is between $315,000 and $415,000 for married couples filing jointly or $157,500 and $207,500 for single taxpayers, the IRS limits your QBI deduction based on the business’ W-2 wages and qualified property. If your income is above that upper limit ($415,000 for married couples or $207,500 for single filers), you cannot claim a QBI deduction.
  • If Your Business Is Not an SSTB: If your total taxable income is between $315,000 and $415,000 for married couples filing jointly or $157,500 and $207,500 for single taxpayers, you can claim the full 20% QBI deduction. If your income is above that upper limit ($415,000 for married couples or $207,500 for single filers), the IRS may limit your QBI deduction based on your W-2 wages or qualified property.

W-2 Wage & Qualified Property Limitation

For SSTB business owners with income between the phase-out limits and non-SSTB business owners with taxable income over the upper thresholds, the QBI deduction is limited to the greater of:

  • 50% of your share of the W-2 wages paid by the business
  • 25% of your share of the W-2 wages paid by the company plus 2.5% of the business’s qualified property

“Qualified property” includes all tangible, depreciable property owned by the business at the end of the year. You must use that property to produce qualified business income during the year, and its depreciation period (typically 10 years) cannot have ended before the close of the tax year.

Real Estate Investment Trust Dividends & Publicly Traded Partnership Income

As the business owner, if you receive income from real estate investment trust dividends or a publicly traded partnership, there’s a second deduction worth up to 20% of that income. So you can add that to the QBI deduction for your business income.

Overall Deduction

After calculating the two deductions outlined above, add them together. That figure is subject to an overall limitation equal to 20% of the excess of taxable income (before considering the QBI deduction) divided by net capital gains (including qualified dividends taxed at capital gains rates).

This overall limitation ensures you don’t apply the 20% deduction to income already taxed at lower capital gains rates.


Step-by-Step Guide to Calculating the QBI Deduction

As you can see, the QBI deduction is complicated. It’s best to take a four-step process to apply it to your business.

  1. Determine whether your business is an SSTB.
  2. Calculate your taxable income for the year. If it’s less than $157,500 if single or $315,000 if married filing jointly, then you don’t need to worry about whether or not your business is an SSTB. You can take the full 20% tax break. If your company is an SSTB and your total taxable income is more than $207,500 if single or $415,000 if married filing jointly, your income is too high. You can’t claim the deduction. If your total taxable income is between $157,500 and $207,500 if single or $315,000 and $415,000 if married filing jointly, then continue to the next step to calculate your deduction.
  3. If your business is an SSTB with income in the phase-out range, you’ll calculate your deduction by taking 20% of your qualified business income and applying the W-2 wage and qualified property limitation.

To illustrate, say you are a 50-50 owner in a non-SSTB business that pays out $100,000 in wages per year and has $50,000 of qualified property. Your share of the qualified business income is $400,000. Your taxable income for the year is $500,000, so you are over the taxable income threshold and need to apply the W-2 wages and qualified property limitation.

  • 50% of your share of W-2 wages would be $50,000.
  • 25% of your share of W-2 wages would be $25,000, and 2.5% of your business’s qualified property would be $1,250. Those two numbers combined are $26,250.

If your QBI deduction wasn’t limited, it would be $80,000 (20% of $400,000). But since we have to apply the limitation, your deduction would be $50,000 because $50,000 is greater than $26,250.

The IRS instructions for Form 1040 and IRS Publication 535 contain worksheets you can use to calculate the deduction. Then you need to complete Form 8995 or 8995-A and attach it to your Form 1040 tax return.


Final Word

If you think calculating the QBI deduction sounds really confusing, you’re right. That’s why it’s a good idea to discuss the QBI deduction with a qualified tax professional who can handle the heavy lifting for you.

While it can be a generous tax break for business owners who qualify, it’s not something most taxpayers want to handle on their own.

Will you take advantage of the QBI deduction this year? Do you feel comfortable calculating it on your own, or will you work with a tax pro?

Source: moneycrashers.com

Is Unemployment Taxable? (Guide to Taxes on Unemployment Benefits)

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.

EITC Eligibility

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.

FAQs

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.

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Source: mint.intuit.com

Employee Offboarding Process – 15 Best Practices for a Positive Transition

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.


Final Word

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.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Create or Claim Your Small-Business Listing on Manta

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:

  • Automotive businesses
  • Hotels and travel services
  • Beauty shops and spas
  • Cleaning services
  • 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.


Final Word

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.

Source: moneycrashers.com