Healthy Work From Home Habits to Incorporate

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Guest Post

We’re seeing a major trend in employees working from home in 2019. In fact, work from home is the new standard for 50% of the workforce.  While there are perks aplenty when you have a home office (sweatpants for the win), it’s easy to forget to take care of your health.  Below are some tips to make sure you take care of your mind and body while cranking out solid work.

Invest in good furniture

If you’re going to be working from home, it’s important to invest in good furniture to ensure you’re taking care of your body ergonomically speaking. You don’t want to be slouched over at your dining room table all day or sitting on your couch for 8+ hours. It’s important to read up on ergonomics and find the best furniture to support your work. This may be a chair with lumbar support, a wrist rest for typing, or even a footrest, it all depends on your comfort and job duties. Furniture that supports ergonomics can be pricey but this is an investment in your health, especially if you work at home every day.

Be aware of digital eye strain

Digital eye strain is the discomfort felt from extended use of digital devices. This includes your computer, television, smartphone, gaming device and tablets. You may feel the effects of digital eye strain after just two hours of device usage, maybe even less if you use multiple devices at once. Natural blue light isn’t harmful (it’s the light that makes the sky appear blue) but the artificial light from digital screens is emitted at a much higher frequency. Consider buying a new pair of eyeglasses to help avoid headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision, which are common physical symptoms of digital eye strain.

Schedule your days

Scheduling your work day to the fullest extent possible can have many positive effects. Firstly, if you are able to schedule your day by the hour then you can be as productive within that hour as possible and avoid overworking yourself. It’s common for people who work from home to work from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep at night. This can cause the inability to be productive in your work and ultimately, burn out.

Second, it’s important to schedule a time to workout, have lunch, and take breaks. Seeing these breaks on your calendar will allow you to be more mindful about actually taking the time for yourself, not skipping over it. Take breaks to stretch, go for walks, or grab a coffee. Things you’d normally do with your coworkers to get time away from your desk are still important to do at home! If you need some inspiration, treat yourself to a new planner to help motivate you to plan ahead, take time for yourself, and be the most productive that you can be.

Working from home is an amazing perk that the Internet has brought us. However, it can be harder to pay attention to your workplace health when your workplace is your comfy home. These tips are an easy way to improve your overall wellbeing! Do you work from home? Share your tips to stay healthy throughout the day below!

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3 Healthy Work from Home Habits to Incorporate
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3 Healthy Work from Home Habits to Incorporate
As the trend of work from home employees continues, it’s important that we remember to take care of ourselves. From scheduling out our days to protecting our eyes, check out these three habits to incorporate when working from home.
Holli Beckman
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5 Clues You May Have a Wi-Fi Squatter Causing Your Slow Internet

Strong Wi-Fi is not just a perk; it’s an essential service these days, now that remote work and school are the norm. Unfortunately, many of us have learned there’s nothing more frustrating than experiencing internet problems just as it’s your turn to speak on a Zoom call.

Those glitches in your service, however, could mean that someone is piggybacking on your Wi-Fi. After all, in the worst-case scenario, your systems could be hacked, and someone could gain access to your personal information.

“The first thing everyone should do to safeguard their in-home Wi-Fi network is to password-protect it. A strong password will help keep the Wi-Fi door locked to hackers,” says Todd Smith, a spokesperson for Cox Communications in Atlanta.

Not everyone who piggybacks on Wi-Fi is a criminal; some may just not be able to afford high-speed internet for their own needs. But as unfortunate as that is, you need to make sure your network is not vulnerable to malicious attacks, and that you’re able to get the speedy internet service that you’re paying for.

Penalties for stealing Wi-Fi are still being developed, so it’s best to be proactive. In the meantime, here are some clues that a Wi-Fi squatter is in your midst.

1. Slow internet speed

If your previously blazing-fast internet has slowed to a snail’s pace, that may be a clue that something is amiss.

“If your internet speed has decreased, and you are starting to notice an increase in buffering, this could be a sign that someone is using your Wi-Fi,” says Paige Hanson, chief of cyber safety education at NortonLifeLock.

Noopur Davis, executive vice president and chief product and information security officer for Comcast, says that for peace of mind, “Users may want to periodically change their Wi-Fi passwords, which will help to keep unauthorized people or devices from joining.”

Always use a password that is not obvious, with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

2. A sudden change in ads

These days, we’re all used to online ads that are strangely tailored to our tastes. If, instead, you’re suddenly seeing ads for products or services you’ve never heard of, it may be time to change your Wi-Fi password.

“Ads are typically tailored to you and your internet activity, so if you see a noticeable uptick in ads that don’t resemble your search or activity at all, this could be a sign of a Wi-Fi squatter,” says Hanson.

3. A higher-than-normal internet bill

Some internet plans allow you to pay a set rate each month, but with other plans, you pay based on how much data you use or when you exceed a certain amount of data in a month. If you have the latter and you notice a higher-than-normal bill, something may be amiss.

“When reviewing your bills, if you’re seeing an unusual spike in data usage and costs, this could mean someone else is using the Wi-Fi network,” says Hanson.

4. Spam notifications

Notice any spam notifications in your email inbox? If you’re sending emails and they’re getting flagged as spam, someone could be participating in illegal online activity on your Wi-Fi.

“If a Wi-Fi squatter is present, they could be causing your home IP address to get flagged by spam engines that filter into major email services and network security providers,” says Hanson. “This will create issues for you in the long run, as emails sent from home Wi-Fi networks could begin to get blocked and filtered into spam folders.”

5. New devices logged in

Regularly check your router by logging in to see all the devices connected to your network. Many network routers come with mobile apps that let you monitor and control your network from your phone. If someone you don’t recognize is on there, you’ve got a squatter.

To find out who is using your Wi-Fi, log in to your router and look to the “Client List” or “Attached Devices” tab.

“After identifying the squatters, change the password for your router,” says Hanson.

She recommends making sure to choose WPA2 as the password type, a kind of encryption used to secure Wi-Fi networks. Turn off the Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, as she says this makes it easier for people to crack your Wi-Fi password.

“Once you’ve changed your password, restart your router, and this will kick off the squatters,” she adds.


Mvelopes Review: Digitize the Cash Envelope Method With This App

The cash envelope budgeting method can be a very effective way to control your spending.

The premise is simple. You come up with spending limits for your variable expenses, like groceries, eating out or entertainment. Next, you fill up envelopes with cash to match what you’ve budgeted for each category.

As you shop throughout the month, you can only spend the amount of money in your envelopes. Once you’ve run out of cash, you’ve got to freeze spending until it’s time to fill the envelopes again.

There’s one significant flaw in this budgeting method though: What if you don’t shop with cash? Many people opt for online shopping or use a debit or credit card rather than dollars and coins.

Fortunately, there are ways to adapt the cash envelope budget for cashless shoppers. One of the solutions is to use a budgeting app, like Mvelopes.

In this Mvelopes review, we’ll explain how this app works to help you keep your spending in check.

What Is Mvelopes?

Mvelopes is a budgeting app from Finicity, a fintech company owned by Mastercard. It’s based on the cash envelope system, so all of the categories you set up in your budget are essentially your digital envelopes.

Mvelopes syncs to your financial accounts, so whenever you pay a bill, shop online or swipe your debit card, that transaction shows up in the app. The app uses bank-level encryption to keep your information safe.

Once you assign the transaction to its appropriate envelope, you’ll automatically see how much money you have left to spend in that category. And if you do happen to use cash for something, you can manually enter that info in the app.

How to Get Started with Mvelopes

You can download the Mvelopes app for your Apple or Android mobile device — or you can create an account and manage your money straight from your computer.

Mvelopes offers three tiers of service. Mvelopes Basic costs $5.97 per month or $69 per year and lets you set up your budget by syncing to all your financial accounts. The next step up is Mvelopes Premier, which costs $9.97 per month or $99 per year and includes access to the Mvelopes Learning Center and Debt Reduction Center.

The Mvelopes Learning Center has online video lessons on topics like mastering your spending, creating an emergency fund, insuring your future, home buying and how to have stress-free holidays. With the Debt Reduction Center, you get support to create a tailor-made debt payoff plan.

The app’s top tier of service is Mvelopes Plus. This plan connects you with a real-live personal finance trainer for one-on-one virtual sessions four times a year. You’ll also get higher priority customer service support. Mvelopes Plus costs $19.97 a month or $199 a year.

Although there is no free version of Mvelopes, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Mvelopes Premier — the app’s most popular option — to test out the service with no financial commitment.

The Pros and Cons of Mvelopes

Mvelopes can sync with over 16,000 financial institutions, so most users can track their spending with minimal effort. Keeping your spending in check means you can free up more money to go toward saving or debt.

According to the company, Mvelopes has helped users save an average of $6,175 and pay off an average of $17,425 of debt.

One disadvantage of this app, however, is that it’s not free, like the budgeting apps Mint or Clarity Money. Also, if you’re looking for a tool that tracks more aspects of your financial life, such as your net worth and where you stand with your investments, you might want to consider an app like Personal Capital.

Who Is Mvelopes For?

The Mvelopes app is a great option for fans of the cash envelope method who are looking to digitize their money management.

It is also a good choice for people looking to nix overspending, because the app keeps you up-to-date with how much funds you have left to spend in each budget category.

Additionally, Mvelopes can help you boost your personal finance knowledge via online courses or pay down debt with a tailored payoff plan.

By signing up for the free 30-day trial, you’ll have a month to decide whether Mvelopes is the right choice for you.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.


Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space

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Working from home has become more prominent than ever, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when you’re living in an apartment, it can sometimes be challenging to create a productive remote workspace. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to maximize your space (no matter how small it may be), arrange it in a way that inspires creativity and productivity, and take care of yourself so you stay motivated. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make the most of your apartment while you’re working from home, so you can find a healthy work-life balance and stay focused on your job each day. 

Arranging Your Space

A productive apartment work-from-home space starts with actually creating a designated workspace. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate spare room to set up an office. As long as you have a specific location in mind that is dedicated to your work, you can get things done effectively. Some suggestions include: 

  • Fixing a folding shelf to a wall.
  • Using a large closet/wardrobe.
  • Utilizing a large hallway.
  • Pulling your sofa away from the wall in the living room and using it as a desk chair.

Having your own workspace can help you to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Remember, your environment can affect your mental health. It can either keep you motivated or bring you down. So, focus on things like using natural lighting, having live plants around to give you energy, and even controlling the temperature to keep things a bit cooler. 

If you know you will have to participate in Zoom meetings or similar video chats, make sure that your office looks as professional as possible. Because you’re at home, it’s okay to make things personal. But, whatever is in your background should still suggest that you’re working. A professional background for a video call can include things like plants, pictures, and artwork, but probably shouldn’t include your Star Wars actions figures. 

Keeping Your Health in Mind

In addition to having the right space set up, it’s crucial to take care of yourself in order to stay productive. When working from home, it’s easy to feel distracted and unmotivated. Taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, can have a huge impact on how well you do your job. 

One of the potential drawbacks of working from home is having a harder time with a work-life balance. You can combat this by having a routine each day. Start work at the same time and end it at the same time. Having a separate office space in your apartment will make it easier to “walk away” from work at the end of the day. 

It’s also important to take breaks, and you may need to encourage yourself to do so. Your apartment might be small, but don’t be afraid to splurge on a few “self-care” items including, perhaps, a sofa that you can put in or near your workspace for whenever you need to take a break. 

Your breaks should also consist of movement, as much as possible. Stand up and stretch every hour. Or, take longer breaks throughout the day that allow you to get outside and go for a walk. Studies have shown that simply being out in nature can improve your mood, which may help with productivity, and it will give you a chance to get some space after being in a small apartment all day. 

It’s possible to create a productive apartment work-from-home space and to stay motivated each day. With a few simple changes, some organizational skills, and maybe a professional purchase or two, you can turn almost any area of your apartment into an effective workspace. 

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The ‘Cloffice’ Is the New Cubicle: Expert Inspiration To Put That Closet To Work, Beautifully

The dining table was fine for a while. We were supposed to be working from home for only a few weeks. But then the weeks turned into months, and now the months have turned into (gasp!) nearly a year.

So we found refuge wherever we could—behind closed bedroom doors, out on the patio, or even inside our closets.

And so the “cloffice” was born.

Sure, we used to dream of closets filled with designer handbags and red-bottomed heels and stacks of cedar shelves meticulously filled with new fashions. But times have most certainly changed. And for so many of us trying to type and Zoom through the chaos, the closet has become the last bastion for something resembling a dedicated office space.

In fact, the idea of the cloffice has become so popular it’s been called out by Pinterest as one of the hottest trends to watch for in 2021.

“Say goodbye to open floor plans,” the folks at Pinterest say. “Pinners are getting creative with closed doors. In 2021 we’ll all learn what a ‘cloffice’ is. Even when doors aren’t available, people will find new ways to create some personal space.”

While the circumstances surrounding our collective cloffice creation are undeniably garbage, that doesn’t mean our personal spaces need to be, too. We reached out to the experts for their best advice on creating a cloffice—these smart ideas will make you want to work overtime to transform that cluttered, dust bunny–filled closet into a bona fide home office fit for a boss.

Your ‘cloffice’ must-haves

There are three primary things every good cloffice needs, according to Ginger Curtis, owner of Urbanology Designs in Dallas: a place for everything, good light, and comfort.

“Good lighting is extremely important to a functional and pleasing workspace. If you are lacking natural light, make sure you have good overhead lighting,” says Curtis. “Having a designated spot for everything is also critical to making it a comfortable spot.”

Ideally, a cloffice should be a beautiful, personal space that helps set the tone for the workday, even if there are barking dogs, leaf blowers, and TV cartoons blaring in the background.

“I would elevate a cloffice by doing some really fun wallpaper paired with amazing art,” Curtis advises.

For inspiration, Instagram and Pinterest are filled with gorgeous cloffice spaces—some more lavish than others—but all manage to carve out a tidy, functional, and beautiful professional oasis in the middle of home.

Plan how you’ll keep your cloffice organized

Kayla Wallace, the designer behind Chippy Charm, says she’s thrilled with the results of the cloffice (above) she just installed in her home.

“When designing your cloffice, keep in mind what is going to be the most effective for your family to keep it organized,” says Wallace. “Open storage is usually best, so utilize as much wall space as possible for shelving.”

That’s why the shelves in her home cloffice are custom-shaped, she explains.

“Our closet is deep past the wall on both sides,” she says. “This is why our shelving makes U shapes instead of standard straight-across shelves. This way we can still utilize the free space between what would typically be the shelf and wall. It also creates a more custom built-in look.”

But you don’t need custom-shelving talent to create your own cloffice. This chic, airy closet-turned-homework station for the kids was done by Jennifer Gizzi, the talent behind the blog Making Pretty Spaces.

She created it with the Elfa system from The Container Store. Here, the wallpaper gives the area a bit of fun and focus, and helps define it from the rest of the surrounding room.

Keep your closet-office hybrid simple

This cloffice space is done in a beautiful blue, anchored by striking art, and even has a high shelf for functional storage with offsetting wallpaper for a finished, detailed look. The designer Lahari Rao calls it a “space within a space, ‘Inception’-style.”

But even though it looks complicated, creating a beautiful cloffice of your own is all about keeping things simple, Rao says.

“With a cloffice, you can leverage the existing features of the closet easily—for example the side nooks to tuck away bookcases or the top shelves for storage/books,” Rao says. “Since it is a smaller space, it’s critical to add just enough to still maintain an open, seamless feel.”

Pick a neutral paint color and/or wallpaper (pictured: Benjamin Moore’s Gentleman’s Gray and a terrazzo print), she suggests, and be mindful of the small space.

“Avoid too many decorative accessories and clutter,” Rao adds. “Swap the desk lamp for a ceiling one, or the horizontal paper tray for a vertical magazine file to store papers.”

And don’t forget to have something inspirational to look at during the workday.

“I’m a big proponent of surrounding yourself with imagery that reflects and inspires you,” Rao adds. “For me, that was powerful brown women that broke norms.”

Rao’s cloffice came about because trying to get work done in the common areas of her home just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

“Like many others during the pandemic, I tried to work in transitional spaces—the kitchen, living room, front door area, etc. It wasn’t working,” Rao says.

“I realized I owed much more importance to my workspace—it wasn’t selfish, but rather a self-care gesture to provide my mind and productivity the respect it deserves.”


Will the WFH trend affect the housing market after COVID?

Now that several vaccines are being distributed and hospitalizations appear to be on the decline in many areas, we can start thinking about life after COVID-19. I am interested to see what habits and cultural shifts stay with us and which ones are cast aside as soon as we can safely do so.

My instincts tell me that, for the most part, whatever happens in a crisis stays in a crisis. This is to say, I don’t expect that we will continue to bake our own bread and make time for afternoon walks once all businesses and commerce are back to full steam. But will we go back to shaking hands in the workplace? It is part of our human wiring that old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to grow. So what about the relatively recent cultural trend of working from home? 

Even before COVID-19, there was a rise in people working from home.

From early in the crisis, we had a we had a significant increase in working from home early in the crisis, as seen in this chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

It is a law of nature that parabolic moves like the number of folks working from home eventually moderate once the pressure that drove them diminishes. This is true in economics (like the parabolic rise in new home sales that are now moderating) and is true for cultural movements.

So will WFH be a cultural shift in society that sticks? The option of WFH is one that has great appeal for many people and offers some benefits to employers as well. For example, a company may shrink its corporate footprint and save on facility costs if its workforce is distributed rather than centralized. And the appeal of WFH will only increase when the additional burden of schooling from home is lifted off working families. 

And if WFH does stick, what will the consequences be for the housing market? For most of us, that decision is in our employer’s hands and not one we make for ourselves. But it is exciting to think about what the future may hold for our society if this trend that started during the COVID-19 crisis becomes a permanent feature.

One possible positive benefit would be an increase in inventory in urban areas. When workers are no longer obligated to live within driving distance to the office, homes in the centralized business area will become less attractive. A family that wants a bigger house or even a young couple who wants to start a family will no longer be geographically bound.

This doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the state — It may just mean going from expensive central cities to more affordable suburbs 20 to 40 miles away. But leaving a state like California to get a much bigger home and a less congested lifestyle for a much lower cost of living will have appeal for some.

Although inventory may increase in some areas, I do not expect WFH to result in forced selling. WFH does not force anyone to sell and move, but it is a variable that could create more inventory in certain areas if people do want to move. The WFH trend is more likely to increase inventory than if mortgage rates fell.

You may be familiar with the questionable mortgage rate lockdown thesis, which suggests that homeowners delay moving to preserve their low mortgage rate on their loan, and if interest rates fell, they would move. Therefore, according to this thesis, if interest rates fall, inventory will rise. This has never happened, and it won’t. Note that the last time rates moved lower, total inventory also went lower – because more folks wanted to get into the market. It all makes sense when you think about it! 

The WFH trend may allow some folks to move, but the fact is that people move every year, COVID or no COVID. People move to buy bigger homes, smaller homes, be near better schools, or get away from city life. But the trend before COVID was that Americans were staying in their homes longer. Homes have been growing in size for decades. If a family’s first home is large enough to accommodate a growing family, there is no need to move up. In an article I wrote earlier last year, I highlighted this reason as one factor that is keeping Americans in their homes longer.

American demographics are such that we have many people coming into the family formation/home-buying ages. The years 2020-2024 have the most significant number of people ages 27 to 33 years old ever. We had approximately 32,458,118  Americans in this group in the year 2020. 

People of this age typically have gone past the rent, date, and mate phases of their lives and are into the marriage, planning, kids, and home-buying phases. This demographic motherlode means we will have a healthy number of replacement buyers for 2020-2024. Even COVID-19 wasn’t big enough to destroy mother demographics.

With the trend of WFH in play, some people might consider moving who wouldn’t have if the COVID crisis didn’t happen. During 2017-2019, the cities with the most significant total population growth were Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, and Austin.

Looking out in the future, a young couple or a married couple looking to have a larger family might not need to worry about finding a new job to do so.  

From the Census Bureau:

Only time will tell if the work-from-home cultural phenomenon is just a trend or a persistent social movement. Curmudgeon that I am, my gut tells me WFH won’t be as big as some people will hope. Surveys show that workers typically feel that they have the resources needed to be productive working from home.

A study of nearly 3,000 employees in a global work from home survey last year showed that 78% of North American office workers say they have the resources they need to be successful. Additionally,  most managers “are just as satisfied” with the work performance (70% report the same or better results) of their WFH employees. The companies surveyed included heavy hitters like Adobe, Aetna, and Amazon

Some companies can function well with some of the workforce home-based. And for some people, it makes perfect sense to take advantage of the WFH trend. A young family that wants a more prominent home than they can afford in their current location can get a bigger home elsewhere and skip the commute to work. 

But the question remains: With over 6 million in total home sales, will the WFH trend be big enough to dent this number and create the much-needed inventory to cool down home prices in certain areas and drive home prices up in others?

My guess is no. We tend to go back to the norm, and while working from home sounds great on paper, I don’t think most of corporate America is ready to jump on board fully. I would love to be wrong here. However,  like many things that happen in a crisis, the excitement of a change loses its luster once the crisis is over and we drift back to “same as it ever was.”


It’s time to make work-from-home regulations permanent

To meet the overwhelming demand for loans, independent mortgage bankers have quickly adapted to social distancing and remote working via work-from-home models that were previously unimaginable. Through this rapid growth in use of online and digital correspondence, today’s IMBs continue to originate more than half of all new mortgages.

These rapid changes have not been without pause for concern with regard to regulatory requirements and legal statutes as well as enforcement. Many states and regulatory jurisdictions restrict, and in some cases unilaterally prohibit, mortgage workers from conducting their activities outside of the branch office. Fortunately, a patchwork of executive orders, temporary waivers, and do-not-enforce letters have enabled the workforce to continue operating safely from their homes, albeit temporarily. In turn, IMBs have acted responsibly, putting in place policies, processes and protocols to ensure robust managerial supervision over all remote employees and security over confidential and non-public information.

We believe that the move to a remote work model is a long-term, technology-driven transformation which was well underway prior to the pandemic and will continue long after the pandemic. The Community Home Lenders Association took the lead early on this issue, with a letter to the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. Work from home safeguards our workforce as well as our customers and ensures that mortgage credit continues to be available for the housing market. We urge state and federal regulators alike to address these temporary work-from-home flexibilities and to make them formal and permanent.

Our proposal makes the case for smart regulation. Smart regulation does not require that we choose between stronger or weaker sets of rules. Flexibility is appropriate and strengthens compliance. Allow mortgage employees to work from home without requiring their home to be licensed as a branch location. Allow them to work from home without imposing an arbitrary distance requirement to and from a licensed office. Consumers need to be protected as well. Require robust corporate policies and procedures to ensure sound managerial supervision of employees. Require that consumers’ data and private information is kept confidential and secure.

Mortgage servicing requirements by non-banks are another concern. Regulation can be effective without imposing unnecessary compliance burdens or costs on IMBs and ultimately on their customers. The CSBS is in the process of soliciting comments on a proposal to create financial and management requirements for non-bank servicers (often IMBs) in all 50 states. This is in response to the strong growth in servicing by nonbanks in the 12 years since the 2008 housing crisis. It makes sense for CSBS to ensure that the largest servicers are properly regulated. It is the handful of large servicers that have grown quickly that pose the great majority of financial and systemic servicing risk. It also makes sense to close servicing regulatory gaps for non-agency mortgage loans.

However, CHLA is requesting adjustments to this proposal to protect smaller nonbank servicers from new unnecessary burdens. These changes would support the CSBS’s overall goal of closing regulatory gaps in supervision of servicers without impeding the consumers’ access to credit. Smaller IMB lender/servicers primarily originate federal agency loans — GSE, FHA, VA and RHS loans — and are already subject to robust capital, liquidity and corporate management requirements by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. The proposed requirements are largely duplicative of existing GSE and Ginnie Mae requirements. Therefore, in its comment letter to the CSBS, CHLA is asking that smaller servicers with de minimis levels of nonagency loans should be deemed in compliance with the new CSBS requirements if they are a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac servicer (or Ginnie Mae issuer) in good standing.

The letter also asks for state-by-state exemptions from the new requirements in states where a servicer has a de minimis number of loans serviced in that state. CHLA members are typical of smaller community-based lender/servicers; they originate and service loans primarily in one or only a few states, but also originate and service smaller levels of loans in a number of states in proximity to their main state(s) of operation. Without exemptions in states with de minimis servicing volumes, smaller servicers will simply abandon servicing in these states.

Without these changes, the risk is that many smaller servicers will simply exit the servicing business and the servicing industry will be more concentrated, meaning less competition and higher prices and less personalized service. The broader impact would be more concentration of nationwide mega-servicers, leading to more financial and systemic risk exposure.

The choice is not between either more or less regulation. It is how to achieve smart regulation. Smart regulation is the best way to protect consumers and reduce risk, without imposing unnecessary compliance burdens on small lenders and the consumers they serve.


Best Cities to Work From Home in 2021

Best Cities to Work From Home in 2021 – SmartAsset

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Since the onset of COVID-19, remote work has become the norm for many Americans, allowing them to continue to meet some of their expenses while saving where possible. In the late spring of 2020, about half of American workers were working from home, according to two surveys conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Many researchers believe that increased work flexibility and work-from-home opportunities may continue even after the pandemic is over. With that in mind, SmartAsset looked at the best cities to work from home in 2021.

To determine our rankings, we compared 100 of the largest U.S. cities across seven metrics. They span work-from-home flexibility prior to and during COVID-19, along with employment opportunities, poverty rates and housing affordability. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s third annual study on the best cities to work from home. Our 2020 edition can be found here. Note: This year’s methodology was adjusted to account for COVID-19 and its impact.

Key Findings

  • A strong showing from North Carolina. Three cities in North Carolina rank in our top 10: Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, taking second, sixth and seventh place, respectively. In all three cities, the percentage of people working from home grew by more than 3% between 2014 and 2019, so that even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 7% of all three cities’ workforces worked remotely.
  • Mid-sized cities also rank well. With the exceptions of Charlotte, North Carolina and Austin, Texas, all other cities in our top 10 have populations between 240,000 and 500,000. These cities potentially offer residents larger homes and apartments better suited to working from home. In all eight cities, more than 80% of residences have two or more bedrooms and workforces of which more than 7% were remote in 2019.

1. Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale, Arizona ranks in the top five cities for four of the seven metrics we considered. Census Bureau data shows that in 2019 about 17.9% of workers did work from home, a 6.7% increase from 2014. Additionally, Scottsdale has the fourth-highest estimated percentage of the workforce who can work from home – at about 37% – and third-lowest 2019 poverty rate – at 6.0%.

2. Raleigh, NC

Like Scottsdale, a high proportion of the workforce in Raleigh, North Carolina worked from home prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 10.5% of the workforce worked remotely in 2019 – the fourth-highest rate for this metric in our study. Raleigh also ranks in the top quartile of our study for four other metrics: It has the 21st-highest estimated percentage of the workforce that can work from home (31.79%), fourth-largest five-year change in workers working from home (4.3%), 18th-lowest October 2020 unemployment rate (5.3%) and 21st-lowest poverty rate (10.9%).

3. Plano, TX

North of Dallas, Plano, Texas ranks as the No. 3 city to work from home in 2021. It ranks in the top 10% of the study for three metrics: percentage of the workforce who did work from home in 2019 (9.6%), estimated percentage of the workforce who are able to work from home (35.44%) and 2019 poverty rate (7.5%). Additionally, Plano has the 14th-lowest October 2020 unemployment rate, at 5.2%.

4. Gilbert, AZ

Working from home often requires more space, whether that’s a dedicated room or section of a room where one sets up shop. Gilbert, Arizona – one of our best cities to buy an affordable home – has the potential for just that, with a high percentage of residences that have two or more bedrooms. Census Bureau data shows that 96.3% of Gilbert apartments and homes have two or more bedrooms, the highest percentage for this metric in our study. Gilbert also ranks well in our study due to its high percentage of the workforce that worked from home in 2019 (9.5%) and relatively low poverty rate (4.6%).

5. St. Petersburg, FL

With particularly strong low unemployment numbers, St. Petersburg, Florida takes the No. 5 spot. As of October 2020, the greater Pinellas County unemployment rate was just 5.2%, which is 1.5 percentage points below the national average. Remote work has also grown more popular here over the years: The percentage of the workforce working from home grew by 4.6% in St. Petersburg from 2014 to 2019, the third-highest increase in the study.

6. Durham, NC

Durham, North Carolina ranks in the top third of cities across six of the seven metrics we considered, only falling behind for its high poverty rate (15.2%). Durham had the 10th-highest 2014-2019 increase in the study of the percentage of the workforce working from home – and as of 2019, more than 7% of the city’s workforce worked remotely. Taking into account recent changes during COVID-19, we estimate that an additional roughly 25% of the workforce could have telework flexibility.

The October 2020 employment rate in Durham stood at 5.7%. Furthermore, housing costs make up less than 36% of earnings and 86.3% of residences have two or more bedrooms.

7. Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, North Carolina saw the second-largest 2014-2019 increase in the study of the percentage of its workforce working from home, at 4.8%, such that in 2019, 10.0% of workers were remote. Charlotte ranks 23rd-lowest out of all 100 cities for its relatively low poverty rate, at 11.2%.

8. Colorado Springs, CO

Though housing costs as a percentage of earnings are high in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the city ranks in the top quartile of cities for four metrics. It saw the seventh-largest 2014-2019 increase in percentage of workers reporting they worked remotely (3.6%), and it had the 13th-highest percentage of 2019 remote workers (8.5%). Moreover, the city’s 2019 poverty rate is the 12th-lowest overall (9.3%), and it has the 17th-highest percentage of homes and apartments with two or more bedrooms (87.3%).

9. Austin, TX

Working from home was on the rise in Austin, Texas prior to COVID-19. The percentage of workers reporting they worked from home increased by 3.7% over five years, from 7.1% in 2014 to 10.8% in 2019. With that increase, Austin had the third-highest 2019 percentage of the workforce who worked from home across all 100 cities. Employment in Austin has remained strong during COVID-19 relative to other cities. As of October 2020, its unemployment rate was 5.2% – the 14th-lowest of 100 of the largest cities and 1.5 percentage points lower than the national average.

10. Fremont, CA

Fremont, California rounds out our list of the 10 best cities to work from home in 2021. Based on the occupational breakdown of workers, we found that upwards of 35% of Fremont’s workforce could work from home if necessary – a top-10 rate. Apartments and homes in Fremont also generally have the space for working from home. Census Bureau data shows that 87.7% of residences in Fremont have two or more bedrooms – the 13th-highest percentage in our study.

Data and Methodology

To find the best cities to work from home in 2021, we examined data for the 100 largest U.S. cities. We compared those cities across seven metrics:

  • Percentage of the workforce who worked from home in 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Estimated percentage of the workforce who can work from home. This metric was calculated using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017-2018 Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules Survey and the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Five-year change in percentage of the workers reporting they work from home. This is the difference between the percentage of the workforce who worked from home in 2014 and 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2014 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.
  • October 2020 unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is at the county level.
  • Poverty rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of earnings. This is median annual housing costs divided by median earnings for workers 16 years and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of residences with two or more bedrooms. This includes both owned and rented apartments and houses. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

We ranked each city in every metric, giving a double weighting to one metric – the estimated percentage of the workforce who can work from home – and a full weighting to all other metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking and used that average to determine a final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Deciding Where to Live?

  • Buy or rent? Even if you have the savings to buy a first home, be sure the switch makes sense. If you are coming to a city and plan to stay for the long haul, buying may be the better option for you. Additionally, a home may offer more space for people who do regularly work from home. However, if your stop in a new city will be a short one, renting may make the most sense. SmartAsset’s rent vs. buy calculator can help you see the cost differential between purchasing a home or apartment and renting.
  • Mortgage management. It is important when purchasing a home to know what you’ll pay each month and for how long. To get a sense of what that might look like, check out SmartAsset’s free mortgage calculator.
  • Seek out trusted advice. No matter where you live, a financial advisor can help you get your financial life in order. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact us at

Photo credit: ©

Stephanie Horan, CEPF® Stephanie Horan is a data journalist at SmartAsset. A Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®), she sources and analyzes data to write studies relating to a variety of topics including mortgage, retirement and budgeting. Before coming to SmartAsset, she worked as an analyst at an asset management firm. Stephanie graduated from Williams College with a degree in Mathematics. Originally from Philadelphia, she has always been a Yankees fan and currently lives in New York.
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How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards and Earn Cash and Perks

If you’re looking for ways to put some extra cash in your pocket, make sure to take advantage of credit card rewards programs.

Credit card companies and banks make some of their money from the merchant interchange fees that are charged when you use your card.

As an incentive for you to use their cards, many credit card issuers pass some of those funds on to the consumer in the form of credit card rewards.

If you have good credit and the ability and discipline to pay off your credit cards in full each month, you should try to maximize your credit card rewards. Otherwise you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.

But it can be challenging to navigate the world of credit card rewards. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different credit cards exist, and the type and amount of rewards vary with each card.

There are three main kinds of rewards card offers available:

  • Bank and credit card points: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, etc.
  • Airline miles and hotel points: Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors points, etc.
  • Cash back: Straight cash that can be redeemed either as statement credits or checks mailed to you.

How to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

You have three different ways to maximize any credit card rewards program:

  • The sign-up bonus or welcome offer: Many cards offer a large number of miles or points as a welcome bonus for signing up and using the card to make purchases totaling a specific amount within a specified time period.
  • Rewards for spending: Most rewards credit cards offer between one and five points for every dollar you spend on the card. Some cards offer the same rewards on every purchase, while others offer a greater reward for buying certain products.
  • Perks: Simply having certain credit cards can get you perks like free checked bags on certain airlines, hotel elite status or membership with airline lounge clubs and other retail partners.

Usually, the rewards for signing up are much higher than the rewards you get from ongoing spending, so you may want to pursue sign-up bonuses on multiple credit cards as a way of racking up rewards.

Consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you can get 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first three months of having the card. That means that while you’re meeting that minimum spending requirement, you’re earning 15 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Compare that to the one or two points you’ll earn with each dollar of spending after meeting the minimum spending. You can see the difference.

Other than getting the welcome bonus offers for signing up for new credit cards, another great way to maximize your rewards is by paying attention to bonus categories on your cards. Some cards offer a flat 1 or 2 points for every dollar you spend.

How Applying for Credit Cards Affects Your Credit Score

It’s important to be aware of how applying for new credit cards affects your credit score.

Your credit score consists of five factors, and one of the largest factors is your credit utilization.

Credit utilization is the percentage of your total available credit that you’re currently using. If you have one credit card with a $10,000 credit limit and you charge $2,000 to that card, then your utilization percentage is 20%. But if you have 10 different cards, each with $10,000 credit limits, then that your credit utilization percentage is only 2%.

Since a lower credit utilization is better, having multiple credit cards can actually help this part of your credit score.

New credit — how recently you’ve applied for new credit cards — accounts for about 10% of your credit score. When you apply for a new credit card, your credit score usually will dip 3-5 points. However, if you’re conscientious with your credit card usage, your score will come back up in a few months.

What to Watch Out for When Using Credit Card Rewards

While it’s true that careful use of credit cards can be a boon, you should watch out for pitfalls.

The first thing is to make sure that you have the financial ability, discipline and organization to manage all of your credit cards. Missing payments and paying credit card interest and fees will quickly sap up any rewards you might earn.

Another thing to be aware of is the psychology of credit card rewards. It can be easy to justify additional spending because you’re getting rewards or cash back, but remember that buying something that you don’t need in order to get 2% cash back is a waste of 98% of your money.

The Best Credit Cards to Get Started

Before signing up for a new credit card, it’s best to pay off your existing cards first — otherwise the fees and interest will quickly outweigh any rewards you earn.

If you’re ready to start shopping rewards offers, here are five credit cards to consider. Note that these introductory offers are subject to change:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – The Sapphire Preferred card earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards and currently offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. It comes with a $95 annual fee.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards – The Capital One Venture Rewards is offering 100,000 Venture miles, which can be used on any airline or at any hotel. It also comes with a $95 annual fee.
  • Barclays American AAdvantage Aviator Red – With the AAdvantage Aviator Red card, you’ll get 50,000 American Airlines miles after paying the $99 annual fee and making only one purchase.
  • American Express Hilton Honors – If you’re looking for a hotel card, consider the no-fee Hilton Honors card, which comes with a signup bonus of 80,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in three months. There is no annual fee.
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards – The Bank of America Premium Rewards card comes with a bonus of 50,000 Preferred Rewards points (worth $500) after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card has a $95 annual fee.

The Bottom Line

The best credit card is the one that gets you the rewards that help you do what is most important to you.

If you’re looking to maximize travel credit, then pick an upcoming trip and figure out what airline miles and hotel chain points you’ll need. Then pick the credit cards that give those miles and points. If you want to maximize your cash back, look for a card with a good signup bonus that either offers cash back or bank points that can be converted into cash.

Dan Miller is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.




DoorDash vs. UberEats: Which App Is Right For Your Next Side Gig?

For better or worse, apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats have disrupted the food-delivery industry. Since their launch in 2013 and 2014 respectively, restaurants across the country have outsourced delivery services to independent drivers who use the apps to make extra cash.

During the pandemic, these services have seen demand like never before. For customers, the apps make ordering food from just about any restaurant as easy as opening their smartphones. For drivers, it’s almost as easy to land a delivery job hawking food from local eateries.

But before you download your next job, take some time to review the key differences between DoorDash and Uber Eats so that you can make the most of your delivery gig.

DoorDash vs Uber Eats: The Top Food Delivery Apps Duke It Out

The general premise of the two apps is almost identical: Customers place food orders at local restaurants. The apps alert drivers in the area with the order details. The first driver to accept the order picks up the food and drops it off to the customer. Simple enough, right?

Several differences are worth noting, though. Some minor and some major. We took a deep dive into those differences, looking at pay, vehicle and job requirements, available locations, driver reviews and more to help you make an informed decision before you start delivering.

And if it’s too close to call, you can always sign up for both to see which one suits you better.

Round 1: App Reviews

A woman looks at what's offered on Uber Eats.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

Because the apps are so popular, they’ve amassed more than 4.1 million driver reviews. Both companies require their drivers to use different apps than customers, a huge perk when trying to get a sense of drivers’ perspective. Worker reviews from Glassdoor are also included.

DoorDash Driver (Dasher) Reviews

Feedback from Dashers is overall mixed, but there’s a clear preference for the iOS version of the app. Trends in negative reviews across all platforms show that many drivers have trouble with glitches and crashes, especially Android users, and that the nature of the work takes a toll on their vehicles. Many negative reviews mention that DoorDash’s strict performance metrics are a hassle.

Workers reviewed DoorDash more than 760,000 times.

App Store (iOS) review: 4.7 out of 5.
Google Play (Android) review: 3.3 out of 5.

Glassdoor review: 3.7 out of 5.

Uber Driver Reviews

More than 3 million drivers reviewed Uber. A caveat worth noting is that Uber has one driver app. That means it’s hard to get the opinions of only Uber Eats drivers because general Uber app reviews are mixed in. Overall, reviews are positive.

Trends in negative delivery reviews on Glassdoor indicate GPS issues and trouble contacting customer service. Several drivers mentioned problems with promotion and surge pay (bonus pay during in-demand times). Negative reviews regarding vehicle wear-and-tear are common.

App Store (iOS) review: 4.6 out of 5.

Google Play (Android) review: 3.8 out of 5.

Glassdoor review: 3.9 out of 5.

Round 2: Job and Vehicle Requirements

A woman drives for Uber.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

To become a Dasher or Uber Eats driver, you have to meet a baseline of requirements. Some are vehicle related and some are age and experience related.


To qualify as a Dasher you must be at least 18. Dashers need to have a valid driver’s license. There are no car requirements, but auto insurance is required. In some markets you can make deliveries on scooters, bicycles and motorcycles.

Uber Eats

To make automobile deliveries, the minimum age requirement is based on your local jurisdiction, plus at least one year of driving experience. Vehicles must be no more than 20 years old. Drivers must be properly insured and can use bikes and scooters in certain markets. The age requirements are higher for those who prefer two wheels — 18 for bicycles and 19 for scooters.

Round 3: Sign-Up Process

Becoming a delivery driver for DoorDash and Uber Eats is simpler than landing a part-time job. You can complete the entire process from your smartphone or computer.


You can sign up to become a Dasher on the driver app. You’ll have to consent to a background and motor vehicle check (and pass both). They could take as little as a few days, but err on the side of a week or two.

After passing the checks, you’ll need to select what type of “orientation” you want. The pandemic paused in-person orientations. Depending on your market you may need to request an “activation kit” instead. Receiving your activation kit may take an extra couple of weeks, according to driver reviews.

The activation kit includes a Dasher manual, a hot bag and a credit card, which is used to pay for orders. Once you receive and set up the card through the app, you can start accepting orders.

Uber Eats

For drivers new to Uber, you can sign up on the website or through the driver app. Because of the stricter vehicle requirements, the application requires more detailed information on your ride. A background check is also required, which may take three to five business days to process.

After the background check clears and your application is approved, you’re free to start taking orders. No orientation or additional equipment is needed.

If you’re a current rideshare driver for Uber, it’s easy to start delivering with Uber Eats. You simply opt in to Uber Eats orders through the driver app and start delivering without any additional screening.

Round 4: Pay and Tipping

The two apps handle pay a little differently, both in how you get paid and how you pay for customers’ orders when you pick them up. Neither company offers guaranteed wages (unless you live in California).


As of Fall 2019, the company switched to a payment model where Dashers earn a higher base pay per order in addition to keeping 100% of their tips. Previously, a customer’s tip would subsidize the Dasher’s base pay.

Dashers report earning between $11 and $15 an hour depending on location, but those earnings aren’t guaranteed. Pay is based on how many orders you accept per hour and how much customers tip you. DoorDash pays weekly through direct deposit, or you can access your earnings early through Fast Pay, for $1.99.

When picking up orders, you may be required to pay for the order using the company red card from your activation kit.

Uber Eats

Depending on your location, you can expect to earn $11 to $14 an hour on average. Again, those wages aren’t guaranteed because your earnings are based on orders and tips. With Uber Eats, you pocket 100% of your customers’ tips. You get paid weekly via direct deposit, or you can pay a fee to access your earnings early through Instant Pay for 50 cents.

You won’t be involved in the payment process for food orders. Partner restaurants are reimbursed directly by Uber.

Round 5: Available Locations

People walk alongside a lake and tall buildings.
Aileen Perilla/ The Penny Hoarder

This one’s easy. Both services are available in most big cities in all 50 states.

Previously, DoorDash and Uber Eats ran driver support centers in major metro areas of most states. In 2020, many of these centers closed due to the coronavirus. Some still exist, but neither company offers a comprehensive, public list of remaining locations.

Final Round: Additional Perks

Promotional offers are popular with both DoorDash and Uber, but they’re temporary and vary by location. Aside from sign-up bonuses and referral codes, here are a couple perks that are here to stay.


A few perks unique to DoorDash include grocery delivery options, automatic insurance coverage and health care services.

After you’re screened and accepted as a Dasher, you can choose to deliver food in any city where DoorDash operates, meaning there are no hard location requirements. The company also launched grocery delivery services in some Midwest and West Coast areas.

Dashers also get supplemental auto insurance and occupational accident insurance for accidents or injuries that fall outside your current auto insurance. The insurance plan covers up to $1 million in medical costs, a weekly payment of $500 for disabilities and $150,000 to dependents for fatal accidents. Coverage is automatic. There are no deductibles or premiums.

While DoorDash doesn’t offer health insurance, the company does partner with Stride Health, which provides free health care advising and assistance to Dashers who need help finding affordable insurance plans.

Uber Eats

Uber Eats drivers get a variety of discounts and may be eligible for Uber Pro perks.

All Uber drivers receive discounts for vehicle maintenance and phone service plans. Uber also partners with Stride Health to provide health plans and tax advice. Drivers automatically receive supplemental auto insurance, which covers up to $1 million in damages. There’s a $1,000 deductible before benefits pay out.

Uber Pro perks have recently expanded to all of Uber’s markets across the U.S. Only top-rated drivers receive Pro perks like tuition and gas reimbursement, and the program is designed for Uber drivers primarily, not Uber Eats drivers.

If you drive for both Uber and Uber Eats, your food deliveries may apply to Uber Pro, but Uber-Eats-only drivers aren’t eligible.

Final Decision in DoorDash vs Uber Eats

Ding! Ding! It was an even match-up. Uber Eats and DoorDash were neck and neck throughout. No knockout punches. A good few jabs by DoorDash’s insurance coverage and grocery options and a couple of hooks by Uber’s overall ratings and ability to switch to ridesharing.

The decision goes to our judges. (That’s you.)

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.