About · Press · Contact · Write For Us · Top Personal Finance Blogs
Featured In:
Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

When and Reasons Why to File for Bankruptcy

By Kira Botkin

past due bills handDeclaring bankruptcy is a pretty extreme measure, but used in the right way at the right time, it can save you money, preserve your peace of mind, and get you back on your feet financially.

However, declaring bankruptcy can also be expensive and time-consuming, and have a huge impact on your credit store. This, in turn, can have far-ranging effects on other aspects of your life, such as buying a new car or home, or even applying for jobs. Also, waiting to declare bankruptcy until you are completely broke can actually work against you.

Click to continue reading...

How to Declare and File for Bankruptcy – 4-Step Process

By Kira Botkin

bankruptcy wordsPetitioning for bankruptcy can be a long process, but it doesn’t need to be a difficult one. Most of it is simply a matter of filling out the paperwork correctly and approaching things in the right order.

When a debtor attempts to declare bankruptcy, their case is examined by a government employee called a trustee. The trustee is responsible for overseeing the bankruptcy and handling issues throughout the process. Most petitioners deal mainly with the trustee, and won’t actually have to appear in court, other than to confirm their debt payment plan for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A large portion of bankruptcy cases are handled mostly through paperwork, and are more like an administrative process than a legal proceeding.

Click to continue reading...

10 Factors That Affect Your Health Insurance Premium Costs

By Kira Botkin

doctors office cardIf you search for health insurance quotes online, you will receive a range of prices from different insurance companies for very similar policies. Different insurance companies assign differing values to components in your risk profile. The information in your insurance application, and your medical history, comprise your risk profile.

Insurance companies use historic data and extensive product research to compile various factors and create a benchmark for risk profiles. The companies review your risk profile, the information included in your health insurance application, against their company benchmarks to decide whether or not to provide you with insurance.

Click to continue reading...

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – Which Should You File?

By Kira Botkin

bankruptcy eraserIf you’ve decided to declare bankruptcy, it’s important to understand the different types. Both Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy offer unique benefits.

Which one will make sense for you depends on your personal situation including, but not limited to, the amount of debt you have, your income, and the value of your assets.

Which Do You Qualify For?

Anyone can submit a bankruptcy petition (i.e. your “application”) for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, the court does not have to accept your petition if the trustee determines that you should be filing for the other type of bankruptcy, or if you do not qualify to declare bankruptcy at all.

Click to continue reading...

What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – Filing Rules & Information

By Kira Botkin

bankruptcyFiling for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop creditor harassment, runaway interest rates and fees, and can provide you with a structured plan for paying down your debt. It’s sometimes referred to as a “reorganization” bankruptcy because it reorganizes your debts so that you can afford to pay them.

Unlike a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it does not completely discharge your debts, but rather provides you with the structure to pay them off using your income. People who might benefit from Chapter 13 bankruptcy have regular income, but aren’t able to afford their debt payments and living expenses. Generally, under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a three to five year payment plan is established and once all the payments under the plan have been made, any remaining debt is eliminated.

Click to continue reading...

What Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – Filing Rules & Means Test

By Kira Botkin

bankruptcy billsWhen you think of bankruptcy, you probably think of Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It is sometimes referred to as a “straight bankruptcy” or a liquidation. Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows most debts to be entirely forgiven without entering into a payment plan.

Your non-exempt assets are “liquidated,” or sold off, in order to pay for at least a portion of your debt. After the proceeds are distributed to your creditors, the remainder of  your dischargeable debt is forgiven.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be appropriate if you have significant debt you can’t currently pay and don’t foresee an ability to pay in the future. It is an extreme measure, but can offer a way out from an otherwise untenable situation.

Click to continue reading...

H&R Block Income Tax Course – How to Become a Tax Preparer

By Kira Botkin

hr block logoIf you’re handy with finances, you might have helped some of your family or friends do their taxes. Want to get paid for it? If you take the H&R Block tax course, you’ll learn a lot about how taxes work and get an opportunity to work for H&R Block during tax season.

This class is very comprehensive and will teach you a ton about taxes that you can use in your own tax preparation, when you’re helping your friends, or planning ahead for next year. I took it a few years ago and had a great time while learning a lot.

Click to continue reading...

Frivolous Tax Arguments and Cases of IRS Tax Fraud

By Kira Botkin

money handcuffsOver the years, many people have conjured up incredible arguments about why they shouldn’t have to pay taxes. Using convoluted arguments or ultra-specific, twisted-around readings of tax codes, they convince themselves that the tax laws are there to be ignored.

There’s a reason the United States Tax Court officially refers to these claims as “frivolous tax arguments.” They have rules about people who try these moves, and they’ve thrown thousands of people in jail for wasting their time with these attempts to get out of their fair share of taxes.

Click to continue reading...

How to Withdraw from Your 401k or IRA for the Down Payment on a House

By Kira Botkin

down payment house retirementBuying a home can be a big step towards securing your financial future, but saving for the down payment can be very time-consuming.

However, if you already have money in your retirement accounts, you might be able to use it to speed up the process. We’ll discuss which accounts don’t penalize you when you use the money to buy a first home as well as strategies for saving on penalties and taxes.

Using Your IRA for a Home Down Payment

The IRS discourages you from withdrawing money from your retirement accounts early by charging a 10% penalty on withdrawals before you turn 59 1/2.

Click to continue reading...

How to Tap into a Roth IRA for College Savings & Education

By Kira Botkin

graduation student moneyIf you have children at home who hope to go to college someday (or someday soon), it’s important to plan ahead financially. College tuition is increasing every year and financial aid is never as generous as one could hope.

You might already be familiar with 529 college savings plans, but you can also take advantage of another way to save for college – your Roth IRA. While it won’t generally be suitable as your only method, it can offer several advantages.

Click to continue reading...

529 College Savings Plan – Best Way to Save for Your Child’s College Education?

By Kira Botkin

529 college savings piggy bankSaving for your children’s college tuition might seem like an unavoidable necessity. Financial aid doesn’t help everyone, and with education expenses rising, college scholarships aren’t going to cover everything. How much thought have you given to saving for your child’s education?

For many couples, planning for college is part of everyday budgeting. For others, there just never seems to be enough money available to start saving. Your child will be going to college before you know it. If you have five years left or even fifteen, don’t wait to start saving. Start today. When you are ready to take the plunge, make sure that you take a look at a 529 savings plan. Investing in a 529 plan is one of the most efficient ways to save for your kids’ college costs.

Click to continue reading...

401k vs 403b – What’s the Difference in these Retirement Plans?

By Kira Botkin

retirement plan bookOn my first day at my first job out of college, I was given a big packet of information about my benefits, including health insurance and retirement. I’d read about the 401k beforehand, but my packet instead had information on a 403b retirement plan. I was confused – what is a 403b, what’s the difference, and why did I get a 403b instead of a 401k?

A 403b is a tax-deferred retirement plan that is very similar to a 401k. That is, it allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars out of your paycheck to save for retirement – up to $16,500 per year, and for some people, the limit may be higher.

Click to continue reading...

IRA & 401k Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) – Rules & Requirements

By Kira Botkin

hammer piggy bankThe government wants to help you save for retirement by giving you incentives like tax-deferred growth and deductible contributions through IRAs and work-sponsored plans.

But while the government forgoes taxes on the front-end, it doesn’t want to end up entirely empty-handed. At the age of 70 1/2, you’re required to start taking withdrawals from most retirement accounts; otherwise, you will face stiff penalties. These are known as required minimum distributions, or RMDs. They’re intended to prevent individuals from hoarding money, so the IRS can eventually get its cut of your savings.

Click to continue reading...

What Are Substantially Equal Periodic Payments (SEPP) – Rule 72(t) Distributions

By Kira Botkin

golden egg cash handIf you’re lucky enough (and prepared enough) to retire early, you may run into a little snag when you try to withdraw money from your IRA or 401k: You’ll be charged a 10% penalty for taking it out before the age of 59 1/2.

However, one way many early retirees get around this is by withdrawing specific amounts of money in substantially equal period payments, or SEPP. It’s also known as the 72(t) rule, after the IRS code section to which it refers.

An SEPP plan allows you to withdraw money without getting the 10% penalty, as long as you adhere to specific rules set out by the IRS.

Click to continue reading...

How to Choose a Certified Tax Preparer – 3 Common Tax Scams to Avoid

By Kira Botkin

taxes scam accountantIf you hate doing your own taxes, you’re not alone! More than 60% of Americans hire tax professionals to fill out those seemingly unending forms.

But while having someone else do your taxes can take a load off your shoulders, if you don’t choose the right person, you might have bigger problems. There are unscrupulous tax preparers out there looking to make a quick buck – and can get you in all sorts of hot water by finding less-than-legal ways to boost your refund or take advantage of you.

Click to continue reading...

The content on MoneyCrashers.com is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice. Should you need such advice, consult a licensed financial or tax advisor. References to products, offers, and rates from third party sites often change. While we do our best to keep these updated, numbers stated on this site may differ from actual numbers. We may have financial relationships with some of the companies mentioned on this website. Among other things, we may receive free products, services, and/or monetary compensation in exchange for featured placement of sponsored products or services. We strive to write accurate and genuine reviews and articles, and all views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which MoneyCrashers.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they appear on category pages. MoneyCrashers.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers, although best efforts are made to include a comprehensive list of offers regardless of compensation. Advertiser partners include American Express, U.S. Bank, and Barclaycard, among others.