Category Archives: Money Management

The Feminist Financial Roundup

About four years ago, The Feminist Financial Handbook hit the shelves at a bookstore near you. A lot has happened in the time since!

In the upcoming months, we’ll be doing check-ins with some of the women featured in the book. You’ll be able to catch up with the careers, lives, and money wins and losses of people like Nicole Lynn Perry, Heather Watkins, and more.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Femme Frugality (@femmefrugality)

Ahead of this series, I wanted to give everyone a chance to read the book who hasn’t. So today, we’ll be covering a bunch of reviews and roundups where you can learn more about The Feminist Financial handbook, and where you can catch a big sale on your purchase.

Get The Feminist Financial Handbook for Less

Black Friday and its related sales start EARLY anymore, friends.

And this week, you’ll be able to catch one of the best early holiday sales on Amazon.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Gabrielle (@punkygabz)

Last week, The Feminist Financial Handbook was 12% off on Amazon. We’re expecting a similar discount — or an even bigger one! — sometime over the next two days. This would be a great time to make your purchase to catch up on the stories of these amazing women.

UPDATE: The sale just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter! The initial Early Black Friday sale has come and gone, but in the time since Amazon’s started some even better ones. You can now get The Feminist Financial Handbook for 16% off!

It’s also a great time to make a purchase to gift to someone over the holidays.

 

New Sale Direct from Publisher

Announced just this week, the publisher — Mango — is having a huge holiday sale!

If you buy direct from Mango, The Feminist Financial Handbook is 30% off. That’s even cheaper than Amazon!

 

The Feminist Financial Roundup

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by WANITABACA (@wanitabaca)

Over the years, The Feminist Financial Handbook has been featured in some pretty fun reviews and roundups. If you’re looking for more background on the book to inform your purchase, be sure to check these out!

Bitches Get Riches

“Here is an example of how to say ‘Something is wrong,’ while simultaneously doing something about it. The whole premise of the book is ‘certain people are oppressed, but let’s help them find their power with the following financial tools.’ It belies the feminist=victim simplification. For the author is definitely a feminist (who knew?), and she’s using her financial skills to lift up both her own life and the lives of others who find themselves in dire financial straits because of prejudice…

It’s a huge departure in the best way. Instead of simply describing how financial systems work, The Feminist Financial Handbook details how social systems work within a financial framework: how they’re broken, how they’re disproportionately built for certain kinds of people and not others, and how to work within and around the system to beat the game.”

-Piggy of Bitches Get Riches, Bitchtastic Book Review: The Feminist Financial Handbook

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Femme Frugality (@femmefrugality)

Money for the Mamas

“I have absolutely viewed people’s hardships through my own lens. So, needless to say, this book was a much-needed total wake-up call for me. I say it was hard for me, but I know facing my own prejudices isn’t nearly as hard as those who have lived under this system that keeps people down. This book humbled me, and it will absolutely change how I help people navigate their finances.

One of the key differences of this book is that it’s very tactical in its help (which most finance books focus on strategies). Tactical help is much more actionable and immediately beneficial, as strategies are long-term benefits.”

-Kari of Money for the Mamas, 15 Best Finance Books for Women

Other awesome authors on this list:

  • Jean Chatsky
  • Lauren Greutman
  • Patrice Washington
  • Kumiko Love
@serraisabella The Feminist Financial Handbook by Brynne Conroy #womenauthors #womenwriters #WomenOwnedBusiness #womensappreciation #womensappreciationmonth #womanartists #financialbooks ♬ Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono – moshimo sound design

Clever Girl Finance

“We live in a society controlled by whoever can pay. Brynne argues that women can create a more fair world by building their own wealth.

It draws from stories of women of varying races, sexual orientations, abilities, and financial situations. Brynne provides motivation and resources to achieve personal success.”

-Ashlee Sang of Clever Girl Finance, The 15 Best Financial Literacy Books for Women

Other amazing authors on this list:

  • Vicki Robin
  • Jen Sincero
  • Beth Kobliner

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sarah (@thelitlover)

Review at Smart Money Mamas

“If you’re a woman who has never felt like a personal finance book was talking to you, or if you’re feeling weighed down by society or life’s difficulties, Brynne’s book is your chance to get advice from a perspective you know well. I want to be clear, though, that any woman can gain knowledge from this book, even if you’re feeling like a financial rockstar and just want to learn how to acknowledge where you’ve benefitted and better support other women.”

-Chelsea of Smart Money Mamas, The Feminist Financial Handbook: A Must-Read New Book

Review at The Plutus Foundation

“This book does more than attempt to bring understanding of differentiated circumstances and the resulting specific advice for women and other marginalized identities to the reader. Brynne nails down a number of inherent systemic problems, legacy issues with society and barriers that certain members grapple with but will never affect others, and shows how they apply to the quest for individualistic (with the individual being the important unit of a mostly-capitalistic economical society) financial freedom.

But importantly, she shakes off the idea of societal victimization and offers practical advice for navigating finances in spite of the kyriarchy — which, by the way, is a word I needed to look up even though I knew the Latin etymology, so don’t be ashamed if you do, too.”

-Harlan Landes of The Plutus Foundation, The Feminist Financial Handbook

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Diana (@eclecticbooktalk)

Maggie Germano

“Any book with the words “financial feminist” in the title is going to catch my eye. Add someone as great as Brynne Conroy and you have a winner…

In this book, Brynne dives into the financial issues that disproportionately affect women in our society. But you won’t walk away feeling hopeless because she gives you actionable steps to achieve financial success in your own life.”

-Maggie Germano, 5 Books That Make Personal Finance More Accessible

Other fantastic authors on this list:

  • Erin Lowry
  • Kristen Wong
  • Alexa Von Tobel

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by kmc (@the_happy_single_momma)

Women Who Money

“Brynne Conroy has written a personal finance book like no other.

The Feminist Financial Handbook doesn’t tell you how to get rich quick or put you down for your money choices.

Her handbook provides valuable information, action steps, and resources to help you make changes in your personal and financial life.

More importantly, the personal stories and concepts she shares in the book will help you better understand the experience of others – and that’s priceless.”

-Vicki of Women Who Money, The Feminist Financial Handbook [Book Review]

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Femme Frugality (@femmefrugality)

Your Dream

Why is personal finance a feminist issue? I’ve read a bunch of finance 101 type books aimed at women, but the ‘The Feminist Financial Handbook’ by Brynne Conroy was the first of them that answered this question by walking the reader through a diverse array of rarely-heard perspectives on the issue.”

-Mallika Sen of Your Dream Blog, Book Review: The Feminist Financial Handbook

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by 🐝 (@beez_bookclub_)

Pretty Progressive

“Sometimes the best way to stick it to the man is by doing well for yourself. There’s just one problem: it’s hard to do well for yourself when systemic oppression has placed innumerable hurdles between you and your aspirations. The Feminist Financial Handbook provides real motivation and resources for real women who may be struggling―not only those who have already accumulated wealth.

In this book, author Brynne Conroy provides actionable tips for women in business to overcome these obstacles without dulling the visceral experience of the real-life struggles women face as they try to master their money management and their lives.”

-Pretty Progressive, 14 Clever Feminist Books To Read For Women In The Business World

Plano Public Library

“Author Brynne Conroy shares practical advice on saving, financial planning and more while delving into issues that disproportionately affect women, like the wage gap or the long road to economic recovery after experiencing domestic violence.”

-Plano Public Library, Financial Literacy: Latest Added to the Collection

Other great authors on this list:

  • Tiffany Aliche
  • Michelle Singletary
  • Bola Sokunbi

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by kmc (@the_happy_single_momma)

Roundup on This Book, That Book

“Because women’s experiences don’t exist in a vacuum relegated to their gender, the handbook explores financial issues with anecdotes and perspectives of women of different races, sexual orientations and abilities.”

-This Book, That Book, Celebrate Financial Literacy Month With These Awesome Personal Finance Guides

PA expands food stamp eligibility. Can you get help with groceries?

Woman in mask with gloves on holding a red basket full of healthy food from the grocery store.

Good news for my Pennsylvania friends!

On October 1, 2022, the state expanded eligibility for food stamps.

That’s a really good thing, because here in Pennsylvania, I find myself paying more than double for groceries compared to what I was spending before the pandemic. I know we’re all facing this same issue.

Today, we’ll get into changes to Pennsylvania’s SNAP program along with some of the extra savings programs you qualify for once you’ve got your EBT card.

Expanded SNAP Income Eligibility Guidelines in Pennsylvania

As of October 1, 2022, Pennsyvlania has expanded food stamp eligibility from 130% of Federal Poverty Income Guidlines (FPIG) to 200% of FPIG.

That means income limits are now:

  • 1 person household: $2,266 per month
  • 2 person household: $3,052 per month
  • 3 person household: $3,840 per month
  • 4 person household: $4,626 per month
  • 5 person household: $5,412 per month
  • 6 person household: $6,200 per month
  • 7 person household: $6,986 per month
  • 8 person household: $7,772 per month
  • 9 person household: $8,560 per month
  • 10 person household: $9,348 per month

Have a bigger household? Add $788 for each additional household member.

 

Income deductions for households with disabled or elderly people

If someone in your house is disabled or elderly (age 60+,) you can deduct certain expenses from your income in order to qualify.

Here are some of the expenses you may be able to deduct:

  • Standard deduction: Everyone should qualify for this one. It’s based on your household size. Households of 1 – 4 people get a standard deduction of $193; households of 5 people get a deduction of $225; households with 6 or more people get a deduction of $258.
  • Earned income deduction: You can deduct 20% of your gross monthly income from employment.
  • Excess medical deduction: If the elderly or disabled person in your household has medical expenses of more than $35, you can deduct it from the household monthly income for eligibility purposes. You can deduct almost anything — including dental expenses — except for special dietary expenses. Here’s which expenses count and how to calculate them.
  • Dependent care deduction: If you pay for childcare, or dependent care for a disabled person of any age, you can usually deduct them from your monthly income numbers. You can only do this if you’re paying someone outside of your household, and only if you need that care in order to work, get job training, or pursue your education.
  • Shelter and utility deduction: If your shelter and utility expenses combined are more than 50% of your income, you can deduct all of them when you have a disabled or elderly person in your home.

There is a catch: If you don’t naturally qualify because your income is more than 200% of FPIG, you can take these deductions if you have an elderly or disabled person in your home.

But the deductions will need to get you under 100% of FPIG in order to qualify.

 

New SNAP Asset Test Limits in Pennsylvania

Qualify for SNAP benefits because your household income is under 200% of FPIG?

Hooray!

There’s currently no asset test for you in Pennsylvania.

 

Asset tests for households with disabled or elderly people

Of course there’s gonna be an asset test for households with disabled or elderly people that need to use deductions to get under 100% of FPIG.

It wouldn’t be America if there weren’t additional undue burdens on already marginalized households.

The only good news on this front is that the asset test went up. Before, your countable assets could only add up to $3,750 before you were disqualified from SNAP.

But as of October 1, 2022, the asset test is now $4,250.

 

Use an ABLE account to shelter your assets

ABLE Accounts for the Disability Community

If the disabled person in your household was disabled before their 26th birthday, they’re eligible to open an ABLE account.

Even if they’re 47 today.

NOTE: There is currently legislation moving through Congress that would up the age of onset for ABLE eligibility. This would double the number of Americans eligible for ABLE accounts. Here’s how you can help support passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act.

An ABLE account is a 529 account that can be used to pay not just for educational expenses, but any expenses related to the disabled person themselves.

When you keep money in an ABLE account, it is sheltered from asset tests, allowing you to qualify for programs like SNAP even if you have up to $100,000 in the account.

You can open a Pennsylvania ABLE account here.

ABLE accounts are usable in all 50 states. But Pennsylvania’s comes with some tax advantages for Pennsylvania residents.

On your state income taxes, you’ll be able to deduct all contributions to an ABLE account from your taxable income.

Max contributions for 2022 are set at $16,000, but can be higher if the disabled person qualifies for ABLE to Work.

For now, you can also use ABLE contributions to qualify for the Saver’s Credit on your federal income taxes.

FUN FACT: Pennsylvania is currently only one of two states that allow you to deduct 100% of your ABLE contributions on your state taxes. The other state is Mississippi.

How to apply for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania

Okay, so you’re newly eligible for food stamps.

Exciting!

But how do you apply?

You’ll do so using the COMPASS website.

I’m not going to lie to you. The COMPASS website is glitchy. You should plan to spend about 30 to 45 minutes on your application, and you might have to log in multiple times as the site regularly kicks users out mid-application.

The good news is that if you’re logged into your account, it should save your application so you can pick up right where you left off when you log in again.

At the completion of your application, you’ll be given an option to ‘View required documents.’ Technically, there are certain households that are protected from having to provide all this extra paperwork.

But in my experience with welfare offices, it’s good to provide that paperwork, anyways. It’ll help the process go smoother and more quickly. It takes less time than trying to figure out if you’re one of the households that isn’t required to provide documentation.

There will also be a separate button that will allow you to upload that paperwork. You might as well do it right as you’re applying — putting it off means you might miss a deadline.

The paperwork you’ll be asked for will vary depending on your personal situation. But some examples of things you might be asked for include:

  • Image of your drivers license.
  • Income documentation. That might be your most recent W2s, or — if you’re self-employed — your most recent 1040 or business income records.
  • Proof of disability. (They might already have this if the disabled person is on Medicaid.)
  • Rental agreement.
  • Bank account information.
  • Medical bills from the past 90 days.
  • Etc.

Other savings that open up after you have SNAP

Supposedly, DPW is going to be qualifying people for SNAP in as little as 5 days.

I’ll believe that when I see it. But it’s a nice goal.

After you get approved for SNAP benefits, there are several other programs you’ll automatically qualify for.

These programs can save you money across a ton of areas, whether we’re talking about your internet bill, taking your kids to different cultural events in your city, or even maintaining your Amazon Prime membership.

 

Get $30 off your internet bill every single month

How to Get $30 (or more!) Off Your Internet Bill

The first program you should look at if you’re on SNAP is the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The income limits for this program are now very similar to Pennsylvania’s food stamp eligibility guidelines. But being on SNAP first makes the application process so much easier.

That’s because if you’re on SNAP, you qualify automatically. The application can take just a few minutes as you won’t have to answer as many questions when you’re already on SNAP.

This program gives you $30 off your internet bill every month, or $75 if you live on Tribal Lands.

The ACP has a ridiculously quick turnaround for a government program. You’re likely to see the discount on your actual internet bill in as little as 24 to 48 hours after filling out your application.

 

Get discount admission to attractions across the state

When you get on SNAP, you’ll be issued an ACCESS card.

ACCESS cards are pretty great because they get you discount admission to a ton of cultural sites and attractions across the state.

Here are a bunch of places you can get discounts if you’re in Eastern PA.

Tip for Philly People: I highly do not recommend applying for the Art ACCESS card unless you’ve already filled out a comprehensive application with COMPASS for all potential programs and been denied. If you’re disabled, there’s a strong chance you qualify for a regular ACCESS card for F-R-E-E. The Art ACCESS card comes with a not-inexpensive fee.

In Pittsburgh, here are a bunch of places that will give you discounted admission:

  • Children’s Museum: Regularly $16 – $18 per person; ACCESS admission only $2 per person.
  • Carnegie Science Center: Regularly $12 – $20 per person; ACCESS admission only $3 per person.
  • Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History: Regularly $12 – $20 per person; ACCESS admission only $2 per person.
  • Andy Warhol Museum: Regularly $10 – $20 per person; ACCESS admission only $1 per person.
  • Mattress Factory: Regularly $10 – 20 per person; ACCESS admission only $2 per person.
  • Phipps Conservatory: Regularly $11.95 – $19.95 per person; ACCESS admission only $3 per person.

There are tons of others, too. I’ll have to write an article for you all covering the ACCESS discount in Pittsburgh sometime soon.

Another way you can search for some of these locations across the country is through Museums for All. Though these discounts are certainly not limited to museums, depending on which part of the country or state you’re in.

 

Get a discount on your Amazon Prime membership

Did you know people with EBT cards get a discount on their Amazon Prime membership?

It’s true! Amazon raised its Prime membership prices to $14.99 per month this year. Alternatively, you can choose to pay for an entire year at once for $139.

However, if you’ve got an EBT card like the one you’ll get for SNAP benefits, you can get your membership for just $6.99 per month. That’s a discount of more than 50%.

You can apply for the discount here.

 

Get curbside groceries

Map of community transmission levels for the US from the CDC for the week of Wed Sep 21 2022 - Tue Sep 27 2022. 84%+ of counties are shown to be in high or substantial rates of transmission.

COVID-19 transmission map for Sept 21 – 27, 2022 via the CDC.

In 2020, there were serious problems with people getting curbside orders using SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania. There were state and local laws prohibiting it.

However, in the time since, both the state and many municipalities have lifted these restrictions.

Because those laws were discriminatory.

They inherently put lower- and middle-income people who received SNAP benefits at higher risk of catching COVID.

So now in all areas of the state that I’m aware of, you can get curbside orders using SNAP. If your municipality won’t let you, try hopping over to the next municipality.

Not all stores make SNAP checkout easy, though.

For example, Giant Eagle makes it super easy to check out with SNAP benefits. You can do so within the app or on the website.

But Target?

Not so much.

You could go inside Target to use your EBT card.

But you could also opt to protect your health by simply shopping with another store that does make using SNAP to pay easy within their app or on the website itself.

 

Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities

On Friday, the 13th Annual Plutus Awards happened in Orlando Florida, hosted by David & John of Debt Free Guys. The Plutus Awards honors creators in the independent financial media.

Some of you may remember that the podcast Joyce and I run, Mom Autism Money, was nominated for two awards this year: Best New Personal Finance Podcast and Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities.

Rainbow background. Text reads 'Momautismmoney.com Best new personal finance podcast (infinity symbol) best financial content for underserved communities' Image of a trophy with dollar sign over it. text below reads: \"13th Annual Plutus Awards Finalist\"

Thank you to all of you who helped nominate us! I have some news for you…

WE WON!

Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities

Mom Autism Money won the award for Best Financial Content for Underserved Communities, presented by Queer Money Podcast.

We were floored. We had hoped to get nominated, and were thrilled when that happened.

To learn that we won was next level.

Mom Autism Money

Mom Autism Money centers financial education for parents of Autistic children. Part of the reason we created the podcast is because there is so little navigable personal finance information for disabled people and their families.

If we — as personal finance writers who have both been in this space for over ten years — had questions, we knew most other parents needed access to this information, too.

We feel so lucky to be able to contribute this super niche financial literacy content to the community, and the community’s support in return means everything.

That said, we were up against some pretty phenomenal competition. Part of the reason it was so unexpected to win was because the creators in this category have all accomplished amazing things while serving their communities.

Today, I want to encourage you to check them ALL out.

 

Dasha of The Broke Black Girl

Brand: The Broke Black Girl
Centers: Women of Color, particularly African-American Women.
Award info: Best Debt Freedom Content for her Instagram

 

Jeff of Homo Money

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Jeff a.k.a. Homo Money (@homo_money)

Brand: Homo Money
Centers: The LGBT+ Community
Award info: Best New Personal Finance Blog presented by Wallet Hacks

 

Berna of Hey Berna

Brand: Hey Berna (particularly on IG)
Centers: Women of Color
Award info: Most Entertaining Personal Finance Creator at the 12th Annual Plutus Awards

 

Yanely of Miss Be Helpful

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Yanely Espinal (@missbehelpful)

Brand: Miss Be Helpful
Centers: Gen Z & Latino Communities

 

Tiffany of Money Talk with Tiff

Brand: Money Talk with Tiff
Centers: The Black Community

 

Jannese of Yo Quiero Dinero

Brand: Yo Quiero Dinero
Centers: Latinx & POC communities
Award info: Podcast of the Year presented by Capital Group
Best Entrepreneurship or Side Hustle Content presented by Wallet Hacks

 

Best New Personal Finance Podcast: Rich by Intention


In the Best New Personal Finance Podcast category presented by Steve Stewart, the winner was Rich by Intention! We were so happy to see them win. Anjie & RJ consistently pump out new episodes with ever-interesting and accomplished guests.

Be sure to check out all of their fantastic work!

Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Hacks

woman with dark hair against a dark background in red robe and graduation garb dabbing with her degreeI dunno if you’ve heard, but the Biden-Harris White House announced some student loan forgiveness this week!

Today we’re going to look at who’s eligible, some hacks and highlights that aren’t getting enough attention, and some common misconceptions about this new program.

Who qualifies for student loan forgiveness?

You qualify for student loan forgiveness if you’re a single tax filer and you make less than $125,000.

If you file as married or head of household, you can make up to $250,000 as a household and still qualify.

Single moms: Pay attention. You likely qualify for the $250,000 income limit.

DID.

YOU.

SEE.

THAT.

You don’t have to be married to qualify for the $250,000 income limit. You qualify for this increased cap if you file as head of household.

This is pretty amazing, as it appears to mean that many single moms (and dads!) can qualify with a higher individual salary. As long as they’re filing head-of-household.

It could also help families who may have other nontraditional family structures.

Do I qualify if I have private student loans?

No. This program only applies to those with federal student loan debt.

How much loan can I get forgiven?

This program gives you $10,000 in forgiveness if you did not receive a Pell grant while in college. It gives you $20,000 in forgiveness if you did receive a Pell grant in college.

Do I get a refund if I owe less than ten grand?

Nah.

If you owe $9,000, you won’t get a $1,000 refund. You’ll just get $9,000 forgiven.

And if you qualify for $20,000 forgiveness?

You’ll still only get $9,000 forgiven. No refunds.

Though there is a hack if you’ve made any payments during the pandemic. Read on, dear reader. We’ll cover it in-depth in just a minute.

Why do Pell grant recipients get more forgiveness?

Pell grants are awarded based on income. That means the recipients have an economic disadvantage compared to non-Pell grant recipients. Essentially, their starting line is further back. They have to do more to achieve just as much as their non-Pell-grant-receiving peers.

While Pell grants can cover the entire cost of most community colleges, they do not come close to covering the costs of your average bachelors-degree-granting school. State schools tend to have a much smaller gap in funding than private schools, but your mileage may vary depending on institutional financial aid opportunities.

That means even if you receive a Pell grant, you’re probably going to have to take out student loans. In fact, you might be more likely to take out student loans because you’re less likely to have financial backing from your family.

Because you don’t have financial backing, you’re more likely to need a job or other means of putting food on the table. You might not only be working to feed yourself; you could be a nontraditional student who has to feed others, or you might be a traditional student who still needs to send some money home to help your family.

This extra stress makes it less likely that you’ll graduate school with a degree.

Which means there’s a disproportionate amount of Pell grant receipients out there with student debt and nothing to show for it. Without a degree, your income potential is stunted. Not only do you have debt and no degree — you also have to pay off that debt on less income.

So Pell grant recipients get more forgiveness. Deservedly.

How do I find out if I got a Pell grant?

Unless you were a nontraditional student, this all likely happened when you were 17. You probably filled out the FAFSA using your parents’ income information.

And let’s be real: You probably didn’t fill out that FAFSA. It was probably your parents handling the paperwork. You might not even remember if you got a Pell grant.

Luckily, it’s real easy to figure out if you got a Pell grant. Just visit StudentAid.gov. Then, click on ‘My Aid.’

There will be graphs and data that pop up showing any loan balance, along with where your aid came from. If you got a Pell grant, it’ll show up here.

How do I claim my student loan forgiveness?

For a lucky few, you won’t have to do anything. If the Department of Education (ED) has all your ‘pertinent’ information, including income information, it should be applied automatically.

But ED is also saying that if you’re ‘unsure’ if ED has your income information, you better assume the process won’t be automatic.

Also, if you’re very sure they don’t have your income information, you need to know that an application will be necessary.

How can I get an application?

Right now, you can’t. The application hasn’t gone live yet.

ED is fervently encouraging people to sign up for its Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates subscription. This is where they’ll be sending out information as soon as the application is available.

When will I actually get my student loan forgiveness?

Good question. We don’t actually know yet. We only know that the application will be available sometime before December 31, 2022.

I paid off my student loans during the pandemic and now I’m pissed.

Ohmigosh I have such good news for you.

If you made any payments on federal student loans during the pandemic (which is still happening, to help you understand the timing,) you can reclaim it.

This was a rule that preexisted Biden’s forgiveness announcement, and turns out to open up a nice little hack: Request a refund of your pandemic payments, get your money back, and watch your balance go up from $0. Then have the $10,000/$20,000 forgiveness wipe out the debt again.

Here’s how to request a refund of your federal student loan payments made during the pandemic.

HINT: It requires getting in touch with your student loan servicer. There is paperwork involved. Be prepared.

Be prepared for a bumpy ride with student loan repayment refunds and forgiveness.

Even before the forgiveness announcement, there were some reported back logs in these refund requests.

And we’re not totally sure when, exactly, forgiveness will be applied.

That means there is a potential scenario where forgiveness is applied before you get your refund. This could be a bad thing if the government doesn’t come back and try to give you forgiveness again after the refund is applied.

Let’s hypothetically say you got a $10,000 refund, but it wasn’t awarded to you until months down the line, after the government had already checked to see if they owed you forgiveness. Then, they don’t come back and try to apply forgiveness to your account a second time. It could end up looking like you still owe $10,000 when repayments start up again.

Fingers crossed that they’re already working on a mechanism to remedy this potential scenario.

But the two programs weren’t released in tandem. And it’s the government. So I’m skeptical.

If you go this route, at some point, you might have to advocate to get any remaining balance forgiven. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It just means be prepared — both mentally and in terms of your paperwork.

Other announcements that aren’t forgiveness

There were a bunch of other important bits of student loan news that came out alongside the official forgiveness announcement. Let’s look into them.

The changes to IBR aren’t real yet.

Ten thousand to twenty thousand in forgiveness is very, very real.

But in the same document, the Biden-Harris administration included some proposals for reform to the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program.

Those are not yet real.

They’re just proposals. Just something the White House wants to see happen.

So even though the proposals are pretty rad, I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about them. Because they’ll probably change at least a little bit over the coming months as they go through the public comment process.

Student loan payments are coming back. For real this time. Maybe.

The White House swears this is the final extension of the student loan payment moratorium.  For real this time. Pinky promise.

You do not have to start making payments on September 1 anymore. The new expiration date is December 31, 2022, which means payments will resume in January.

To be fair, they have said this is ‘the last time’ before. But this time they may actually mean it. Because Biden is using the resumption of repayments as an argument that this plan is inflation-neutral.

Oh, boy. Here we go.

Does student loan forgiveness cause inflation?

No.

Inflation happens when there are too many people willing to pay top dollar for too few goods.

One of the ways inflation can get worse is if people have too much discretionary spending.

For student loan forgiveness to have any chance of making inflation worse over the next couple years, we would have to assume people were currently making student loan payments.

But they haven’t been. For two and a half years.

People aren’t magically going to get $500 extra in their pocket every month now. Their budget is just going to stay the same.

Any damage that would be caused by the ‘extra’ discretionary income already happened way back in 2020.

Let’s say you don’t qualify for forgiveness. You’ll have to start making payments in January. That’s $500 less you have to spend per month. The White House is arguing that this will actually help combat inflation, offsetting any potential ‘problems’ with forgiveness.

There could be an argument that forgiveness would contribute to inflation over the long-term, as it does cause a deficit compared to the money the government would have had if it had taken it from low- to middle-income private citizens via student loan repayments.

By the same token, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 added a massive long-term deficit to the American government while cutting taxes for only the wealthiest Americans.

Please note: I am not an economist. Here’s where you can find a real economist.

That sweet PSLF deal is changing.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is an amazing yet frustrating program that allows you to have your federal student loan debt forgiven after ten years of on-time minimum payments — but only if you have the right job, the right type of loan, and were on the right repayment plan.

A lot of people were horrified when the first round of applicants in 2017 found out that they did not, in fact, qualify because they had been on the wrong repayment plan or had the wrong type of loan.

They had been banking on this program as they planned out and made career moves over the past 10 years.

For that reason, during the pandemic the government said you could temporarily change your eligibility by:

  • Applying to get past late payments or payments that were less than the minimum due counted towards PSLF.
  • Consolidating your loans into the right type of loan to qualify for PSLF, then get past payments under the old loan structure counted towards your 120 minimum payments.
  • Applying to get payments that were made under the wrong payment plans counted towards PSLF.

You can apply for this phenomenal program here. And do it quick because as a part of the forgiveness announcement, the Biden administration announced the end date for this program.

You have to get your application in no later than October 31, 2022.

This is extra important with payments restarting in January, and because not everyone will have all of their debt wiped out by the $10,000/$20,000 in forgiveness.

Understanding 87%


Eighty-seven percent of this forgiveness will be going to individuals who make under $75,000/year.

Let’s break down what that means.

It does not mean that 87% of the people who get forgiveness will be making under $75,000/year. Part of the reason such a large percentage of the forgiveness is going to this demographic is because Pell grant recipients are more likely (though not assuredly) to be lower-income earners. Because of all the reasons we outlined above.

And Pell grant recipients get double the forgiveness.

Another reason for this framing is that it’s accounting for individual income, so a household could presumably make between $75,000 and $250,000 per year, but the person who is getting their loan forgiven contributes less than $75,000 of the total household income. That person would still be included in the 87% the way the numbers are framed.

But we also can’t ignore that a huge reason that so much forgiveness is going to this demographic is that more than half of American households make less than $75,000/year total.

According to the Census Bureau, median household income was $67,521 in 2020, the last year for which data is currently available. That means 50% of households made between zero and $67,521, and the other half made between $67,521 and infinity.

Part of the reason so much forgiveness is going to lower-income households is because such a large portion of our population has to live on less.

Income inequality is visceral American problem.

Even when you’ve got some college education at your back.

 

March Money News

Coming to you today with some of the latest money news. It’s chock full of COVID-related money stuff, because the pandemic is still happening.

But we’ll kick things off with some podcast updates.

Buckle up.

Launch Day for Season 2 of Mom Autism Money

Picture of a tatooed woman wearing glasses and a black shirt. Background is abstract shapes and flowers in shades of pink, green and white. Text reads 'How to Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month with Lei Wiley-Mydskey MomAutismMoney.com'

We’re baacccckkkk!

Today is launch day for Season 2 of Mom Autism Money.

In a couple days, Autism Acceptance month will start. With it, you’re probably going to see a TON of fundraisers for various autism-adjacent organizations.

Joyce and I sat down with Lei Wiley-Mydskey –  the founder of the very first neurodiversity library – to learn about which types of organizations many Autistic people would prefer you support, and how to spot them.

And if you’re not going to give money, that’s okay, too. Lei lets us in on other productive ways to celebrate. You can listen to this latest episode here.

More Mom Autism Money Episodes to Look Forward To This Season

Selfie of a woman overlooking a dramatic, canyon landscape. Background is abstract shapes and flowers in shades of pink, green and white. Text reads 'An interview with the Autistic Travel Goddess featuring Shalese Heard MomAutismMoney.com'

Joyce and I are pretty excited about Season 2. We’ll be releasing new episodes every Tuesday for the near, foreseeable future.

You can keep on top of the latest by subscribing to the show on your favorite podcast platform – whether that’s Apple Podcasts or Spotify or pretty much anywhere else.

Another good way to stay updated is by subscribing to the email list.

We have some phenomenal upcoming guests covering super interesting topics. A sampling of some upcoming episodes include:

Interested in sponsoring an episode? Get in touch!

ABLE Age Adjustment Act

Oh, hi. Here’s some more disability finance stuff.

Are you over the age of 26?

Did you get long COVID?

Or do you love someone who got long COVID?

Or are you just a human who cares that there are people out in the world getting long COVID?

If you didn’t previously have a disability, you might not know that there’s now a high likelihood that you’re going to need to use some social programs at some point throughout the course of your life.

And those social programs don’t just come with income caps. They also come with asset tests.

Asset tests count up certain, well, assets – like your savings account. Cash on hand. Emergency fund. Sometimes the value of your vehicle. Sometimes even the value of your home.

Then, if you have too much saved or own property that’s worth too much money, you won’t qualify for social programs.

For a lot of these programs, we’re talking about a maximum of $2,000 in assets. Sometimes more, depending on your state and the program. But also in some cases? Less.

You might find yourself wondering…isn’t $2,000 not enough for an emergency fund?

And you’d be right. This is actually a huge problem, and frequently keeps disabled people in poverty without a choice in the matter.

Luckily, there’s a solution.

ABLE accounts solve this problem – at least the asset test portion. Any money you put into your ABLE account cannot be counted against you for asset tests, and you can currently contribute up to $16,000/year (more with ABLE to Work.)

For some programs, like SSI, you can shelter up to $100,000 total. Other programs may not have a cap.

Unfortunately, you don’t qualify for it.

Right now you can only open an ABLE account if you were under the age of 26 at the time of onset of your disability.

That means everyone who developed long COVID who was 26 and older at the time cannot open an ABLE account under current law.

So they’re permanently stuck with the asset tests that prevent them from saving money or building wealth.

YAYYYYYY ABLE Age Adjustment Act

Or maybe not so permanently.

Right now, there is legislation in the Senate that would up the maximum age of onset to the day before your 46th birthday.

This legislation is known as the ABLE Age Adjustment Act.

If it were passed into law, it would mean an entire generation of people with long COVID and people with other disabilities (including about a million veterans) could newly access an ABLE account.

In my ideal world, it would be available to anyone regardless of age of onset.

But this would be a marked improvement.

Oh, one thing. Congress actually needs to pass it.

The ABLE Age Adjustment Act has been introduced in Congress. It’s gotten enough support for that.

But now it needs to actually make it into a bill. There’s an opportunity to make that happen right now by including The ABLE Age Adjustment Act in the Senate’s version of SECURE 2.0.

Here’s what you can do to help make it a reality:

In this specific moment, contacting your Senators is of particular importance so The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S331) gets into an upcoming bill – SECURE 2.0.

If you already have an ABLE account…

I recently wrote a story for The Penny Hoarder about ways residents of Pennsylvania and Mississippi could potentially use their ABLE account to make their rent and housing payments effectively deductible on their state taxes.

It also applies to some other states to varying degrees:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Virginia

If you live in any of those states, or are just a curious personal finance nerd, here’s where you can get all the details.

Are you getting your free COVID tests every month?

If you have health insurance, you should be able to get 8 free, at-home, rapid COVID tests per month from your local pharmacy.

Well, they’re technically not free. But they are billed to and covered by insurance. There should be no co-pay required; at least there hasn’t been in any of the cases I’ve encountered.

So while the tests may not be technically 100% free, they should be 100% free-to-you.

If you test positive with an at-home rapid test, ideally you’ll find a way to report your positive case to your local and/or state health agency. That helps community transmission data be more accurate, so we can all make more informed decisions.

Get COVID-19 funeral funding.

I don’t know how I made it this far through the pandemic without knowing about this particular program, but one of Kat Tretina‘s posts alerted me to it recently. Since it was new to me, I figured I should share it with you:

If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, or COVID was a contributing/co-occurring cause of their death, you can get up to $9,000 from FEMA to help cover the funeral and burial costs.

You can even go back and do this retroactively for deaths occurring on or after January 20, 2020.

And if you already used life insurance policy proceeds to fund the funeral? You may still be able to get that money back.

Right now I’m not seeing an expiration date on this program. But it would be great if Congress could pass more COVID funding for a plethora of reasons. I might not wait to apply for this, even if there’s not an end date currently issued.

We’ve watched so many of these programs shutter at this point; I can’t help but wonder how long it will last.

You can learn more through FEMA, though I also found this recent press release from Pennsylvania’s EMA to be fact-filled and helpful.

Intersectional Money Series

If you didn’t catch the latest installment of the Intersectional Finances Series, make sure you get caught up!

Another installment is in the works – make sure you’re subscribed to the email list so you won’t miss it once it’s live.

What do you want to see in April’s Money News update?

Having a money struggle you’d like to see tackled in next month’s update? Or just a nerdy PF question?

Leave it in the comments! If you’re a newsletter subscriber, another way to submit your question is to simply reply to the latest Femme Frugality email you received.

If I don’t know how to answer your question personally, I’ll find a qualified colleague who can.

Testimonials and/or tips about your money woes or wins through these past couple years are also welcome!