What to Buy and What to Skip in January

What’s your January shopping style–all shopped out, or ready to hit the mall again as soon as the last guest leaves? Whatever it is, we’ve got you covered! January begins with a bang, but there are no major shopping holidays once the new year gets underway. Of course, you can still pick up great bargains this month, or find that you’ve overpaid on items that get price drops just weeks after you’ve purchased them. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in January.

Buy: Winter clothing

Were you given a ton of gift cards to retailers over the holidays? If so, you’re in luck! Prices will start dropping on all winter apparel this month so retailers can make room for the new spring line. You can pick up warm-weather wear that’s discounted by as much as 85% and still have lots of time to enjoy it this season.

Skip: Spring clothing

The worst time to purchase an item is generally right before it’s in hot demand. With spring wear landing in inventory this month, prices will be high, so don’t plan on picking out a springtime wardrobe just yet. You’ll start seeing the first round of discounts on spring clothing in April. And of course, as the season deepens, so will the discounts. 

Buy: Fitness gear

The new year is here and it’s time to make good on that resolution to shed some holiday pounds. Retailers know this well, so they’ll slash prices on yoga mats, fitness balls, resistance bands, weights and more. You can also find athletic wear on sale this month, and sometimes exercise machines as well. Shop multiple retailers to score the best deals. 

Skip: Mattresses 

Is your deep winter sleep getting disrupted every night by a lumpy mattress? Hold on just a bit longer before springing for a new one. Online and brick-and-mortar mattress retailers will be dropping prices on their merchandise by as much as 60 percent next month during Presidents Day sale events. As always, look up prices at several online and in-store retailers for the best deal. 

Buy: Linens and soft goods

While you’ll want to skip the new mattress this month, you can still upgrade your night’s sleep without spending a bundle in January. The first month of the year is famous for its white sales, with soft home goods like blankets and pillows seeing discounts as deep as 70%.  

Skip: Snow gear

While winter apparel will see slashed prices this month, snow gear, which includes skis, skates, snowshoes and the like, tend to retail at full-price until the end of the season. Wait just a few more months for steep discounts on all things snow.

Buy: TVs

The football post-season is the perfect time to give your flatscreen an upgrade. Retailers will be competing for your business and offering up promotions on their TVs with discounts that rival those of Black Friday. 

Skip: A new car

Car prices tend to rise and fall throughout the year, so you usually don’t have to wait long for a discount on a new set of wheels. But, if you are shopping for a new car, you don’t want to finalize your purchase in January. According to Edmunds.com, January is the least discounted month of the year for car prices. If you’re not in a rush, you can wait for the big sales that run from fall through the end of the year. Otherwise, the next time you’ll see discounts on cars will be on Presidents Day next month. 

Buy: Holiday decor and gift baskets

The bargain-priced holiday leftovers you found on the shelves at the end of December will be selling at even lower prices this month. Get started on next year’s holiday prep by stocking up on wrapping paper, decor and even small gift baskets for those last-minute presents you frantically shop for each year. You can also pick up these small gifts to have on hand whenever you need one for any reason throughout the year.

It’s a new year, and a great time to pick up a fantastic bargain. This guide can help you learn what to buy and what to skip in January.

Your Turn: Have you picked up a bargain buy in January? Tell us about it in the comments. 

5 Workplace Resolutions for the New Year

It’s that time of year again: the time when you draw up a list of New Year’s resolutions looking awfully similar to last year’s list. This year, why not go beyond the usual weight-related goals and resolving to spend less time on social media by setting some resolutions for the workplace? It’s time to turn yourself into a star employee! Here are five workplace resolutions for the New Year.

  1. Acquire a new skill 

You may be a dedicated worker, but you’re only as good as your skills. Are they up-to-date? Make a commitment to learn a new skill in your field this year or to significantly expand your current skill set. Broadening your range of knowledge and expertise can help you advance in your career.

  1. Improve your sleeping habits

If you’re yawning your way through your workday and checking items off your to-do list in between too many cups of coffee, you may want to rethink your sleeping habits. Getting enough shut-eye each night will help you power through your workday while at your best, instead of slogging through it bleary-eyed and half-asleep. In addition to boosting your productivity, sleeping better can strengthen your immune system, improve your mood, make your memory stronger and help keep those extra pounds off. 

Follow these tips from the CDC for a better night’s sleep:

  • Be consistent with your bedtime and wake time.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet when you’re ready for bed.
  • Keep your phone and other electronic devices out of reach or remove them from your bedroom. 
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and large meals before bedtime. 
  • Be physically active during the day.
  1. Rethink your work-life balance

A healthy work-life balance is crucial for success at work and further career growth. It isn’t easy to strike that perfect balance between absolute workaholic and careless employee, but you can do it! Take stock of your daily and weekly schedule now, at year’s end, to ensure you aren’t neglecting the parts of your life outside work, such as your family, friends, hobbies and more. If you’re overdoing it with work responsibilities, resolve to take some time each week to unplug from your job and tune into the rest of your life. 

  1. Improve your social media profiles

If you’re considering a career change within the next year or so, you may want to take a good look at your social media profiles. Most recruiters look up potential new employees online before moving ahead with the hiring, and if your social media profiles are in any way embarrassing and/or unprofessional, they can cost you a job. Spend some time now updating each of your profiles and ensuring that you’d be comfortable with any future boss checking them out.

  1. Create opportunities for engagement

Start the year off right by looking for ways to increase your engagement with other workers in your field. You can collaborate on present and future projects, share new insights and developments in your line of work and bounce ideas off each other for honest and productive feedback. Look for like-minded individuals on online forums and workspaces geared toward employees in your field. 

Let these workplace resolutions help you become the indispensable employee you’ve always wanted to be.

Your Turn: What are your workplace resolutions for the new year? Share them with us in the comments. 

What to Do Next: Taking Your Best Step When Life Is Uncertain

Title: What to Do Next: Taking Your Best Step When Life Is Uncertain 

Author: Jeff Henderson

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Zondervan

Publishing date: August 23, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone interested in changing their career or life circumstances, but unsure of how to take that first step.

What’s inside this book?

  • A practical guide toward reevaluating your purpose and determining your next step in your life and in your career.
  • Jeff’s personal story and insights he’s learned along his own journey from marketer to church-founder and beyond.
  • The “Career Risk Calculator” to help you determine if you’re ready for change.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to identify what to do, and what not to do when making decisions about change.
  2. How to exchange fear and confusion for confidence, freedom and purpose.
  3. How to cultivate optimal options in your life to guide you toward better decision-making.
  4. How to prepare for changes, both planned and unplanned.

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I pursue more meaning in my life?
  2. How do I know if I need a change?
  3. Is who I am right now as important as who I am becoming?
  4. I know I’m ready for change, so what’s my best next step?

What people are saying about this book: 

“The Great Resignation has resulted in millions of people wondering what’s next for them. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited about Jeff Henderson’s book. His practical and winsome approach will have you highlighting, laughing, and enjoying the story. All the while, he’ll help you take important steps toward figuring out what’s next for you.”–Michael Hyatt

“As a fellow restless traveler who took a career leap of faith in my fifties, I found comfort in Jeff Henderson’s journey … Change is hard. But Jeff Henderson helps make it easier.”–Stephanie Stuckey

“In an era when millions of people are facing a seemingly infinite set of career options and rethinking their futures, Jeff Henderson arrives with a thoughtful, highly practical and generous book. If you’re looking for actionable strategies and wise counsel, pull up a chair and let Jeff coach you.”–Carey Nieuwhof

“Reading this book is like having a million-dollar coach in your corner helping you navigate your next move confidently.”–Sangram Vajre

“Authentic. Helpful. Freeing….What to Do Next is a must-read resource for anyone looking for clarity, empowerment, and vision for what’s ahead.” –Shelley Giglio

Your Turn: What did you think of What to Do Next? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Don’t Get Caught in a Non-Delivery Scam

With the holidays approaching, and online shopping reaching its annual peak, scammers are out in full force to get at your money and your purchases. There are many scams to watch for this time of year, from online “retailers” phishing for information as you shop to brazen porch thieves who swipe delivered packages from doorsteps and so many more. The non-delivery scam can be particularly difficult to spot, and recovery is nearly impossible. Here’s what you need to know about this scam and how to protect yourself.

How the scam plays out

In a non-delivery scam, a shopper makes an online purchase, often at a discounted price. They may have chanced upon this “sale” through a social media ad, an unsolicited email or a banner ad on their favorite website. Unfortunately, though, the promised package is never delivered. After weeks of waiting, the shopper may try reaching out to the seller, only to find that the seller’s gone AWOL, along with the victim’s chances of recovering their money and/or their purchase.

Protect yourself

The best way to protect yourself against non-delivery scams is to practice online safety measures and to shop smartly. Here’s how.

  • Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or on social media, regardless of how amazing the offer may be. If an ad looks promising, look up the alleged associated retailer directly and on your own. 
  • Keep your device’s security at its strongest settings and mark all suspicious emails as spam. 
  • Opt out of websites that are full of typos and/or grammatical errors.
  • Check each website’s URL for authentic spelling and signs of security, like the “https” and padlock icon. Recheck each landing page as you shop. 
  • When shopping a new seller, do some research before sharing any information with the seller. Look for a phone number and street address associated with the seller or company, dig up some online reviews and ratings and Google the retailer’s name along with the word “scam” to see if anything comes up. 
  • When shopping a private seller on an online marketplace, like Jiji or Etsy, check the seller’s profile carefully. Be extra wary if the profile is new.
  • Avoid shopping at retailers who insist on payment via prepaid gift cards or wire transfer. When shopping online, it’s best to use a credit card.
  • Stay away from sellers who advertise as if they are residents of the U.S. and then respond to questions by claiming that they are actually out of the country.
  • Always ask for and save the tracking numbers of online purchases. Monitor the shipping process so you can dispute the charge if the process seems suspect.
  • Be wary of items with prices that are too good to be true; in all likelihood they are.

If you’re targeted

If you believe you’ve fallen victim to a non-delivery scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. 

First, if you’ve paid via credit card, call the issuing company to dispute the charge as soon as you recognize the scam. If you believe the account has been compromised, you may want to close it and place a credit alert and/or credit freeze on your name as well. Next, be sure to alert the FTC about the scam so they can do their part in catching the crooks. If the alleged retailer is on the BBB website, you can let them know, too. Finally, let your friends know about the scam so they know to be aware.

Online commerce makes holiday shopping so much easier–but scams are everywhere. Shop smartly this season and follow the tips outlined here to avoid getting scammed. Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a non-delivery scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Don’t Get Caught in a Pre-approval Scam

You’ve got mail! But beware, because this particular missive telling you that you’ve been preapproved for a large loan – maybe even a mortgage – may not be as it seems! The exciting news may be accompanied by a check that’s made out to you and even for the full loan amount! It’s a dream come true. Until, of course, it all turns into a living nightmare. 

Here’s what you need to know about preapproval scams and how to stay safe.

How the scams play out

In a preapproval scam, a target receives a letter in the mail, an email or a text message informing them they’re preapproved, or “prescreened,” for a large loan. The letter is often accompanied by a live check, or an unsolicited check that can be cashed in by the named recipient – which is you. The letter may also be highly relevant to your life. For example, if you’re in the market for a new home, the offer may feature an alleged preapproved mortgage loan. If you’re looking for a new set of wheels, the letter will likely offer a bogus auto loan. More commonly, though, will be the offer of a personal, or unsecured loan, through a live check. 

When you go ahead and cash that check, you may be playing right into the hands of a scammer. 

The authentic-looking check cannot be cashed unless the recipient shares their personal information. Of course, this means providing a scammer, or a scam ring, with all the info they need to empty your accounts, commit identity theft or worse. In addition, the check may appear to clear but then bounce a few days later, leaving you to pick up the tab for any of the money you’ve spent. Finally, if you really do need to take out a large loan, the bogus offer can set you back significantly by hurting your credit score.  

Checklist for legitimate preapproval offers

If you have a credit history, you’ve likely received these preapproval offers at least several times. Some of them are actually legitimate offers to cover a loan for a large amount. How, then, can you tell which of these offers are legitimate or scam?

First, it’s important to know that, while some of these offers may be legit, that doesn’t mean they’re good for your financial health. If you cash that check and/or accept that loan offer, you’ll be bound by the loan terms, which you may not be truly aware of until the first repayment bill becomes due. Most of these preapproval offers will have exorbitant interest rates and may demand full repayment quicker than typical loans obtained from a bank or credit union. 

Now, let’s take a look at how you can determine whether one of these preapproval offers is legit. If you receive an offer as described, look for this information to verify the authenticity of the offer: 

  • A disclosure of the loan fees
  • The annual percentage rate (APR), which is the annual cost of the loan 
  • The payment schedule
  • The loan agreement
  • A privacy notice about the sharing of your personal information
  • An opt-out notice for future offers
  • Contact information for the sender, which includes a number and street address

If any of this info is missing from the preapproval offer, you’re likely looking at a scam. 

If you’ve been targeted

If you’ve been targeted by a preapproval scam or a legitimate but shady offer, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from further harm and to stop the annoying letters from landing in your mailbox. 

First, let the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) know about the circulating scam. Next, it’s important to note that, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to opt-out of future loan offers for five years, or permanently. To opt-out for the next five years, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit OptOutPrescreen. To opt-out forever, visit OptOutPreScreen to request a Permanent Opt-Out Election form. Return the signed form and you should be off the list of all preapproval offers. Finally, keep your online interactions safe from scams by using the strongest and most up-to-date security settings across your devices and being careful about the information you share online.

Preapproval scams can be super-annoying and destructive, but you can outsmart them. Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a preapproval scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

What is the Homestead Exemption?

Q: What is the homestead exemption and how do I know if I qualify? 

A: The homestead exemption can help you save a significant amount on your taxes and offer other legal provisions. Read on for all your questions on the homestead exemption, answered. 

What is the homestead exemption?

The homestead exemption is a legal provision in a state’s tax laws that reduces the property tax on a home, can protect a home from bankruptcy and provides specific rights to surviving spouses. 

A homestead refers to a dwelling that is inhabited by the homeowner. It can be a manufactured home, a condo or a three-story colonial, though the exact criteria will vary by state.

The “homestead exemption” generally refers to the exemption the homeowner can claim when filing taxes to lower the taxable value of their home by a specific dollar amount. However, a homestead exemption can also provide additional legal protections, such as preventing the homeowner from having to sell the home after declaring bankruptcy. The homestead exemption also includes a feature of probate law, wherein the homestead does not have to be included during probate and can allocate an allowance for a surviving spouse or children.

What are the qualifying factors for a homestead exemption?

Eligibility requirements for the homestead exemption are different in each state. However, the principal qualifying factor in most states is that the homestead is the primary place of residence for the homeowner. Generally, the homeowner must be able to prove they have lived in the homestead on Jan. 1 of the taxable year to be eligible for an exemption. 

Some states make a general homestead exemption available to all homeowners who reside in the home. In other states, only senior citizens, surviving spouses of veterans and former military members and people with a disability can qualify for the exemption. There may be income limits for the exemption, as well. Other states establish qualifying criteria around the homestead alone. Still others, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, don’t offer the homestead exemption for tax filers at all. [In XXX, the homestead exemption is available for…]

How much money can I save with a homestead exemption? 

The homestead tax exemption can lower a property tax bill by a substantial amount. The dollar amount of your exemption can be directly deducted from the total taxable value of the home. For example, if you qualify for a $30,000 exemption on a $250,000 home, your taxable home value will only be $220,000. 

As mentioned, criteria for the homestead exemption can vary tremendously by state, and this is true of the exemption amounts as well. Most states have established a maximum amount for the exemption, which starts at just $5,000 and goes all the way up to $500,000 in states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In Florida, the homestead exemption can be as high as $50,000, Texans can write off $25,000 in a homestead exemption for school district taxes, and Californian homeowners can deduct $7,000 off their taxable home value. 

The average homestead exemption amount in the U.S. is approximately $30,000 to $50,000.

In addition to the dollar savings on your taxes, a homestead exemption can also freeze your home’s assessed value or limit how much the future assessed value can increase. 

How can the homestead exemption shield me from unsecured creditors?

The homestead exemption offers a limited amount of protection from unsecured credit lenders, which includes credit cards, personal loans and lines of credit. This means these types of creditors cannot force the homeowner to sell the home if they are owed money. The amount of financial protection offered for unsecured credit varies by state, with some states, including Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Texas, providing unlimited financial protection to qualifying homeowners against unsecured creditors.

It’s important to note that protection limits are relevant for the equity of the home and not for the value of the property. Consequently, if the equity of your home is less than the limit, the law prevents creditors from selling your property. However, if the equity of the home exceeds the state limit, creditors can force the sale of the home in question but will need to share a portion of the proceeds with the homeowner. 

Secured credit, however, like mortgage loans, cannot be protected by the homestead exemption. That means a homeowner can, therefore, lose their home to a mortgage lender if they are not up-to-date on their mortgage payments, even if they qualify for a homestead exemption. 

How can the homestead exemption help a surviving spouse?

Homestead exemptions are part of the probate code to help a surviving spouse. After someone dies, their surviving spouse and family may be granted the right to continue living in the homestead as their residence, even if the title of the house transfers to someone else. The right to live in the homestead may continue until the surviving spouse passes or the youngest child turns 18 years old.

In addition, some states preclude a property with a homestead exemption from probate proceedings. This can significantly lower the amount of estate tax owed to the state after the death of a loved one. 

Finally, homestead allowances can provide a surviving spouse with a specific amount of money, which is also protected from creditor claims. It’s important to speak with an estate attorney to find out exactly what you’d qualify for as a surviving spouse under the homestead exemption. 

How do I file for a homestead exemption?

To receive a homestead tax exemption, you’ll typically need to make a homestead declaration by filling out an application. The deadline is usually toward the beginning of the year, before the first quarter’s property taxes are due. The exact deadline will vary by state, so be sure to verify your state’s deadline and file the application in time. You’ll likely need documents to show proof of residency when filing an application for a homestead exemption. Depending on your eligibility criteria, you may also need additional documentation. 

Your Turn: Do you qualify for a homestead exemption? Tell us about it in the comments. 

5 Steps to Take When Applying for a Business Loan

If your business can use a shot of cash to help it grow, fund a move or to get through its slowest season, a business loan can be the right answer. 

Here’s what you need to know about applying for a business loan.

  1. Check your credit

Before you apply, check your personal and business credit health. 

Personal credit scores range from 300-850. A score in a range of 580-669 is fair, 670-739 is good, 740-799 is very good and 800-850 is exceptional. In general, the higher your score, the easier it will be for you to qualify for a loan and the lower the interest rate you’ll have on your loan when approved.

Business credit scores are measured differently. Experian uses Intelliscore Plus as its credit scoring model, with scores ranging from 1 to 100. Equifax assigns each business a payment index score, which ranges from 0 to 100; a credit risk score ranging from 100 to 992 and a business failure score ranging from 1,000 to 1,880. The D&B score, assigned by the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, ranges from 0 to 100. Finally, the FICO Small Business Scoring Service score ranges from 0 to 300. 

If your personal and/or business credit scores are low, work on improving your credit before applying for a loan. Be timely or early with your bill payments, work on getting rid of debt and check your monthly credit statements for any erroneous charges.

  1. Update your business plan

Most lenders will ask to see a current business plan before approving a loan. It’s a good idea to review and update yours so it’s ready to show a potential lender. The plan should include information about the loan, such as how the company plans to use the funds. 

Be sure to have a comprehensive business plan to show a prospective lender. The plan should include details about how the company intends to use the funds, the anticipated increase in revenue and plans for repaying the loan. 

3. Organize your personal and business documents

You’ll need the following documents and identifying paperwork when applying for a business loan:

  • Photo ID
  • Accurate monthly financial statements from the past two years
  • Business license
  • Any commercial leases
  • Business insurance plans
  • Payroll records
  • Incorporation documents
  • Current financial obligations
  • 3 months of bank statements
  • Personal and business tax returns
  • Collateral

4. Research potential lenders

A business loan is a big deal, and it’s best not to jump into the decision too quickly. Take the time to research potential lenders carefully, being sure to check each lender’s eligibility criteria, the average size of the loans they offer, their current interest rate average and more. 

Consider applying for a business loan through a credit union. A credit union will offer you personalized service, looser qualifying criteria and a competitive interest rate. [Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to discuss your options.] 

5. Submit your application

You’re ready to apply for a loan! With luck, you’ll soon have the funds you need to take your business to the next level. 

Your Turn: What are your best tips for taking out a business loan? Tell us about it in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in August

Independence Day sales are long gone and Labor Day is a month away, but you can still pick up great bargains in August. Here’s what to buy and what to skip this month. 

Buy: Back-to-school supplies

Back-to-school season is still going strong. Cash in on great deals before the season draws to a close with the start of the school year at the end of the month. Look for weekly deals on all kinds of school and office supplies at big-box stores, pharmacies and e-tailers alike. Think beyond school – you can stock up on a year’s worth of pens and paper for your home printer at a bargain price this August by shopping back-to-school sales. Don’t forget to take advantage of any sales tax holidays your state may offer this month as well.

Skip: iPhones

Apple hasn’t officially confirmed it as of this writing, but word on the street is that the iPhone 14 will drop in late 2022. If you’re looking to replace your phone with a newer model, you’re best off waiting a bit before you make your purchase. When the brand-new models hit the market, retailers and private sellers will be desperate to get rid of their older phones to make room for new inventory. You’ll see prices slashed on any phones that aren’t the newest model being sold directly from Apple, all the way down to private sellers. 

Buy: Summer apparel

Expect to find prices on hot-weather wear dropping lower as summer slowly fades into autumn. Pick up a few new stunners to add to your wardrobe this season, or load up on timeless classics you can wear next year. 

Buy: AC units

In some parts of the country, temperatures hit their annual high in August. But even as temps peak, retailers know that most shoppers already purchased their AC units for the season. If your AC needs replacing, take advantage of discounted prices to snag a great deal on a brand-new unit.

Skip: Major household appliances and other items

Need a new fridge or another major household appliance? Hold off a bit until Labor Day, when you can find prices on brand-name appliances slashed by as much as 30%. Similarly, if you’re shopping for new mattresses, you’re best off waiting until Labor Day sales for more savings. This year, Labor Day is on Sept. 5, but sales can start up to a full week before the actual date. Check the sites of your favorite retailers a few weeks before Labor Day so you have time to comparison-shop and snag the best deals. 

Buy: Wedding decor, gifts and wear

According to wedding magazine The Knot, the months of June, September and October are the most popular for weddings. With August right in the middle of these months, but not popular for actual weddings, it can be the perfect time to pick up discounted wedding decor, gifts and even wedding wear. 

Skip: Amazon devices

Amazon just hosted its Prime Day sale, so don’t expect to find any great prices on Amazon devices this month. Wait for Black Friday to shop for a new Kindle, Echo device and more. 

Buy: Storage supplies

It’s nearly time to head (back) to college, and retailers know this well. You can find deals on all kinds of storage supplies this month, such as shelving units, large containers, decorative bins and more. Shop stores like Office Depot, Target and Walmart, or check out online sources, like Overstock and Wayfair, for similar offers. 

The summer is dying down, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a blazing hot deal in August! Use the tips outlined here to know what to buy and what to skip this month. Happy shopping!

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great bargains in August? Tell us about them in the comments. 

8 Ways to Spot a Survey Scam

Survey scams are almost as old as the internet. They’re so prevalent, you can hardly spend an hour online without running into an ad for a “super quick” survey promising a reward for just a few minutes of your time. 

What actually happens, though, is that the scammer walks away with a free survey, or worse, your information and/or your money. The alert consumer can spot a survey scam easily, but fraudsters are unfortunately becoming more sophisticated at luring innocent victims into their schemes. 

Don’t get caught! Here are eight ways to spot a survey scam:

  1. You’re asked to pay to participate in a survey

Authentic survey companies need you – you don’t need them. There’s absolutely no reason to pay to take a survey of any kind. If you’re targeted by an ad asking you to take a survey and to pay for the privilege of doing so, don’t respond. 

  1. You’re asked to share sensitive information before you can take the survey

They’d really appreciate it if you could take this quick survey for them. They just need some information from you first, like your Social Security number, date of birth and maybe even your checking account number. If a survey company asks for anything more than basic information from you, sign out as quickly as you can. 

  1. They advertise on Craigslist and similar sites asking for your email address

“Survey companies” that advertise on sites like Craigslist asking you to share your email address are usually fronts for scam rings. They use the bogus surveys as bait so you will share your email address. Once they have this information, they’ll use it to spam you with scam emails, phishing schemes, malware or worse. Alternatively, they’ll sell your email address to another scam ring to be used for similar purposes. 

  1. They offer too much money

If a survey is offering you $100 for a 20-question survey that shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to complete, you can be sure you’re looking at a scam. No legitimate survey company is that desperate. The pay for authentic survey-taking is generally on a much more modest scale. 

  1. You’re directed to download attachments 

Any time an unknown contact asks you to download attachments to your device, be super-suspicious. More often than not, these are scams and the attachments are loaded with malware. Don’t respond to the offer, and if it was made via email, be sure to report the email address as spam. 

  1. They advertise aggressively

If the same solicitation for survey participation keeps popping up across your screen, you may be looking at a scam. Scammers tend to flood their targets with ads in the hopes that one of them will actually work. Similarly, if the survey offer is full of unbelievable testimonials of past

participants, you’re likely looking at a scam. Legitimate survey companies don’t need to try so desperately hard to get people to take their surveys. 

  1. They give you an hour to pre-qualify for the survey

Often, a survey company will want you to answer a few pre-qualifying questions to see if you fit their desired demographic. Scammers exploit the prequalification by having the target answer dozens of questions and then informing them they’ve run out of time and cannot participate in the actual survey. This is false, of course, and the questions the scammer just answered actually were the survey questions, only now they won’t be getting paid for it. Check to see if a survey has a time limit on the prequalification before you start answering questions. 

  1. They require an outrageous minimum before payment

Most legitimate survey companies require the survey taker to complete a minimum number of surveys before the first payment. However, scammers require their targets to take an unrealistic number of surveys before they receive their first paycheck. Often, the victim will just quit before they qualify for a payment and the scammers now have these completed surveys without paying anything for them. 

Survey-taking can be a great way to earn some pocket money, but survey scams are rampant. Follow these tips to stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a survey scam? Share your experience in the comments. 

Ten Signs it’s Time to Leave a Job

Making it work at work isn’t always easy, but sometimes the environment, working conditions, lack of growth and other factors can mean it’s time to call it quits. Here are 10 signs it’s time to leave a job: 

  1.  You aren’t challenged.

If you feel like your skills and strengths aren’t being used on the job, you are likely limiting your growth potential. This is especially true if you’ve been at the position for a while and have been denied opportunities to really use your skills. 

  1. You aren’t passionate about your work.

If you took a job that seemed to speak to your passions, but you are growing increasingly disinterested in your work, you may want to look for another job. 

  1. The work environment is unpleasant.

You may love the actual work you do at your job, but if the environment is unpleasant, 

or worse, toxic, it can be time to hand in your resignation. This includes colleagues who don’t get along, an overly critical or controlling boss or supervisor, an atmosphere of dishonesty and 

distrust, and the like. 

  1. You’ve maxed out your growth at this company.

If you know you’ve hit your ceiling and there’s no or limited room for growth at this firm, consider moving on to new ventures

  1. Your values are being compromised.

Compromising your values on a regular basis can leave you feeling miserable. If you’re being forced into this position in the workplace, it may be time to leave your job. 

  1. The company’s future is unstable.

If the ship is sinking, get off while you can. You can review the company’s annual financial reports for insight into its stability and future. 

  1. You aren’t earning your true worth.

If you know you aren’t being adequately compensated at your current job, consider seeking a new one elsewhere. You can look up average salaries for similar positions on sites, like Glassdoor, to determine if you are earning your true worth. 

  1. You dread returning to work after a break.

It’s normal to look forward to the weekends and to count down until your next vacation, but if you feel physically ill at the thought of returning to work after the weekend or break, or work stress keeps you up at night, it can be a sign that it’s time to leave your job. 

  1. Your job can no longer provide you with the work-life balance you need.

Whether it’s due to changing circumstances in your personal life or to an increase in hours at your position, your job requirements may no longer be in sync with your home life. If this is the case, it may be worthwhile to seek new employment. 

  1. There are better opportunities available elsewhere.

If you know that another company has job openings that may be better than what you have currently, it can be a good time to switch jobs. When considering new options, don’t forget to look at the entire package, including room for growth, benefits the job offers, paid time off and the general schedule and more, in addition to the actual salary.

Your Turn: How do you know when it’s time to leave a job? Share your own tip with us in the comments.