Your take: Could you live on food stamps?

Could your family make it on food stamps?Today the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as food stamps, will take a fairly substantial hit, with the maximum benefit from a family of four falling from $668 to $632, amounting to $432 less per year in benefits. Overall, the cuts will shrink the average payout per meal from around $1.50 now down to about $1.40, according to CBS Moneywatch.

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College degrees expensive but also really valuable

Will drum for collegeWe hear a lot these days about the crushing burden of college debt on today’s college graduates. But one thing that’s tougher than having to deal with the rapidly rising cost of college and skyrocketing student loan debt is the financial burden of not going to college at all.

A recent review of census data by the Pew Research Center found that college graduates make a lot more than less-educated workers, and that the gap is growing rapidly.

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 Your Take 

Your Take: Should Unemployment Benefits Be Extended Again?

Umbrella on a Rainy DayEarlier this week CNN Money posted a story that pegged the bill for unemployment benefits at around $319 billion over the last three years. In those three years, the length of benefits has steadily increased to the now 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Ninety-nine weeks is nearly two full years of unemployment benefits. On November 30th, approximately two million unemployed individuals will lose coverage because they’ve been on unemployment benefits for so long. The total number of people collecting unemployment insurance is 8.5 million, which includes 4.8 million on federal benefits.

On the one hand, giving unemployment benefits is probably one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy. I think it’s safe to say that those on unemployment and collecting insurance will probably be spending that money, which goes right back into the economy. Unlike other methods of stimulus, very few are saving this cash for a rainy day because it is a rainy day.

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How to Keep Your Skills Fresh When Unemployed

There’s a security out there that tracks the average (mean) length of time someone is employed and that figure broke thirty weeks in January. The average person looking for work will not find it in seven months… seven months of job hunting. Seven months of going to job fairs. Seven months of searching online at job websites.

If you’re submitting resumes and calling companies, there are only so many resumes you can submit, calls you can make, before you start burning out. If you start burning out, you reduce the chances you’ll ace the interview because your brain is being beaten into submission by monotony.

That’s why it’s important for you to sprinkle in other activities throughout the day. It’s hard to do this because when you don’t have a job, you feel like you have to get one. To get one you have to submit resumes, call companies, and do all the things involved in “job hunting.” Then you fall into a vicious cycle… no job, want job, must search, keep searching, burn out… you get it. So how do you introduce activities that aren’t directly related to looking for a job but improve your prospects?

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 Your Take 

Your Take: Does Unemployment Insurance Reward Laziness?

Jobless Men Keep Going, Try Wall Street, They Pay BonusesThe Huffington Post shared the thoughts of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on unemployment this week:

Unemployment insurance “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,”

The title of the article is a little misleading. In quotes, Kyl said that benefits dissuade people from job hunting, not that they “make people not want to get a job,” as the title states. While I didn’t hear or read about the debate, it seems like a stretch to take the quotes and twist them to match the title.

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 Personal Finance 

Lemonade: It’s Not A Pink Slip, It’s a Blank Page

The first thing I thought of when I watched Lemonade was – “Wow, I’m surprised no one else has made a movie like this before.” The economy is slowly recovering, job losses are slowing, but we’re living in a world where 10%+ of the people who want to have a job, can’t get one and it was only until today, this morning actually, that I saw an uplifting and powerful movie about how being fired isn’t always a bad thing.

The movie itself is a mere 35 minutes and is beautifully done, with interviews of recent fired people (from advertising) who took what was an otherwise horrible experience (I’ve been fired before, though not as jarring as any of their stories) and made it a very powerful one. Some started new businesses, either in an unrelated field or as freelancers. Some focused on other endeavors like charitable and philanthropic work, painting, yoga, … you name it.

Lemonade is a very appropriate title. If you have the time, you can watch it in its entirety here:
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Unemployment Benefits Are Taxable

Tax CalculatorLast year was a year to forget, especially if you were one of the many millions to lose their job. Fortunately, through various stimulus packages and other laws, unemployment benefits were extended to help people through a difficult time. Unfortunately, some of those unemployment benefits are taxable as income. 🙁

Fortunately, for the 2009 tax year, not every dollar is taxed. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits tax-free. After that, the remaining benefits is considered taxable income.

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Homebuyer Credit & Jobless Benefits Extended (H.R.3548)

Stimulus!In the last few months, there have been two big “stimulus” related items discussed in the House and Senate. The first was talk of extending the first time homebuyer credit in both time (when you could use it) and scope (who qualified). The second was about extending unemployment benefits by an additional 13 weeks.

Well, it turns out both are going to become a reality as the Senate passed H.R.3548 – Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 two days ago. The House passed their version in late September and just yesterday agreed to the Senate amendment to the bill (this is the “marrying” up part). The bill is on its way to the White House, if it hasn’t been signed already.

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