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Introducing Coverage Critic: Time to Kill the $80 Mobile Phone Bill Forever

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A Quick Foreword: Although the world is still in Pandemic mode, we are shifting gears back to personal finance mode here at MMM. Partly because we could all use a distraction right now, and even more important because forced time off like this is the ideal time to re-invest in optimizing parts of your life such as your fitness, food and finances.

Canadian Readers – we have also collected some recommendations for you at a new Canadian Mobile Phone recommendations page.

Every now and then, I learn to my horror that some people are still paying preposterous amounts for mobile phone service, so I write another article about it.

If we are lucky, a solid number of people make the switch and enjoy increased prosperity, but everyone who didn’t happen to read that article goes on paying and paying, and I see it in the case studies that people email me when looking for advice. Lines like this in their budget:

  • mobile phone service (2 people): $160

“NO!!!!”
is all I can say, when I see such unnecessary expenditure. These days, a great nationwide phone service plan costs between and $10-40 per month, depending on how many frills you need.

Why is this a big deal? Just because of this simple fact:

  • Cutting $100 per month from your budget becomes a $17,000 boost to your wealth every ten years.

And today’s $10-40 phone plans are just great. Anything more than that is just a plain old ripoff, end of story. Just as any phone more expensive than $200* (yes, that includes all new iPhones), is probably a waste of money too.

So today, we are going to take the next step: assigning a permanent inner-circle Mustachian expert to monitor the ever-improving cell phone market, and dispense the latest advice as appropriate. And I happen to know just the guy:

Christian Smith, along with colleagues at GiveWell in San Francisco, circa 2016

My first contact with Chris was in 2016 when he was working with GiveWell, a super-efficient charitable organization that often tops the list for people looking to maximize the impact of their giving.

But much to my surprise, he showed up in my own HQ coworking space in 2018, and I noticed he was a bit of a mobile phone research addict. He had started an intriguing website called Coverage Critic, and started methodically reviewing every phone plan (and even many handsets) he could get his hands on, and I liked the thorough and open way in which he did it.

This was ideal for me, because frankly I don’t have time to keep pace with ongoing changes in the marketplace. I may be an expert on construction and energy consumption, but I defer to my friend Ben when I have questions about fixing cars, Brandon when I need advice on credit cards, HQ member Dr. D for insider perspectives on the life of a doctor and the medical industry, and now Chris can take on the mobile phone world.

So we decided to team up: Chris will maintain his own list of the best cheap mobile phone plans on a new Coverage Critic page here on MMM. He gets the benefit of more people enjoying his work, and I get the benefit of more useful information on my site. And if it goes well, it will generate savings for you and eventual referral income for us (more on that at the bottom of this article).

So to complete this introduction, I will hand the keyboard over to the man himself.

Meet The Coverage Critic

Chris, engaged in some recent Coverage Criticicism at MMM-HQ

I started my professional life working on cost-effectiveness models for the charity evaluator GiveWell. (The organization is awesome; see MMM’s earlier post.) When I was ready for a career change, I figured I’d like to combine my analytical nature with my knack for cutting through bullshit. That quickly led me to the cell phone industry.

So about a year ago, I created a site called Coverage Critic in the hopes of meeting a need that was being overlooked: detailed mobile phone service reviews, without the common problem of bias due to undisclosed financial arrangements between the phone company and the reviewer.

What’s the Problem with the Cell Phone Industry?

Somehow, every mobile phone network in the U.S. claims to offer the best service. And each network can back up its claims by referencing third-party evaluations. 

How is that possible? Bad financial incentives.

Each network wants to claim it is great. Network operators are willing to pay to license reviewers’ “awards”. Consequently, money-hungry reviewers give awards to undeserving, mediocre networks.

On top of this, many phone companies have whipped up combinations of confusing plans, convoluted prices, and misleading claims. Just a few examples:

  • Coverage maps continue to be wildly inaccurate.
  • Many carriers offer “unlimited” plans that have limits.
  • All of the major U.S. network operators are overhyping next-generation, 5G technologies. AT&T has even started tricking its subscribers by renaming some of its 4G service “5GE.”

However, with enough research and shoveling, I believe it becomes clear which phone companies and plans offer the best bang for the buck.  So going forward, MMM and I will be collaborating to share recommended phone plans right here on his website, and adding an automated plan finder tool soon afterwards. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of great, budget-friendly options on the market.

A Few Quick Examples:

Mint Mobile: unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 8GB of data for as low as $20 per month (runs over T-Mobile’s network).

T-Mobile Connect: unlimited minutes and texts with 2GB of data for $15 per month.

Xfinity Mobile: 5 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 10GB of shared data over Verizon’s network for about $12 per line each month (heads up: only Xfinity Internet customers are eligible, and the bring-your-own-device program is somewhat restrictive).

Total Wireless: 4 lines in a combined family plan with unlimited calling, texting, and 100GB of shared data(!) for $100 per month (runs on Verizon’s extensive network).

Ting: Limited use family plans for under $15 per line each month.

[MMM note – even as a frequent traveler, serious techie and a “professional blogger”, I rarely use more than 1GB each month on my own Google Fi plan ($20 base cost plus data, then $15 for each additional family member). So some of these are indeed generous plans]

Okay, What About Phones?

With the above carriers, you may be able to bring your existing phone. But if you need a new one, there are some damn good, low-cost options these days. The Moto G7 Play is only $130 and offers outstanding performance despite the low price point. I use it as my personal phone and love it.

If you really want something fancy, consider the Google Pixel 3a or the recently released, second-generation iPhone SE. Both of these are amazing phones and about half as expensive as an iPhone 11.

——————————————-

Mobile Phone Service 101

If you’re looking to save on cell phone service, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the industry. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip over a lot of nuances in the rest of this post. If you’re a nerd like me and want more technical details, check out my longer, drier article that goes into more depth.

The Wireless Market

There are only four nationwide networks in the U.S. (soon to be three thanks to a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint). They vary in the extent of their coverage:

  • Verizon (most coverage)
  • AT&T (2nd best coverage)
  • T-Mobile (3rd best coverage)
  • Sprint (worst coverage)

Not everyone needs the most coverage. All four nationwide networks typically offer solid coverage in densely populated areas. Coverage should be a bigger concern for people who regularly find themselves deep in the mountains or cornfields.

While there are only four nationwide networks, there are dozens of carriers offering cell phone service to consumers – offering vastly different pricing and customer service experiences.

Expensive services running over a given network will tend to offer better customer service, more roaming coverage, and better priority during periods of congestion than low-cost carriers using the same network. That said, many people won’t even notice a difference between low-cost and high-cost carriers using the same network.

For most people, the easiest way to figure out whether a low-cost carrier will provide a good experience is to just try one. You can typically sign up for these services without a long-term commitment. If you have a good initial experience with a budget-friendly carrier, you can stick with it and save substantially month after month.

With a good carrier, a budget-friendly phone, and a bit of effort to limit data use, most people can have a great cellular experience while saving a bunch of money.

MMM’s Conclusion

From now on, you can check in on the Coverage Critic’s recommendations at mrmoneymustache.com/coveragecritic, and he will also be issuing occasional clever or wry commentary on Twitter at @Coverage_Critic.

Thanks for joining the team, Chris!

*okay, special exception if you use it for work in video or photography. I paid $299 a year ago for my stupendously fancy Google Pixel 3a phone.. but only because I run this blog and the extra spending is justified by the better camera.

The Full Disclosure: whenever possible, we have signed this blog up for referral programs with any recommended companies that offer them, so we may receive a commission if you sign up for a plan using our research. We aim to avoid letting income (or lack thereof) affect our recommendations, but we still want to be upfront about everything so you can judge for yourself. Specific details about these referral programs is shared on the CC transparency page. MMM explains more about how he handles affiliate arrangements here.



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Finance

7 Things to Do in the Summer for College Students With No Job

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Are you in college and feeling like you’re stuck in limbo because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Hiring freezes, canceled internships and stay-at-home orders have thrown a lot of summer 2020 plans out the window.

But you can still make the most of your summer break to further your education, work experience and skill-building — it’ll just take a little flexibility and creativity.

Here are seven productive things to do in the summer for college kids.

7 Ways to Make the Most of Summer Without a Job

Here are some creative ways to make good use of your summer break if a regular job or internship is off the table.

1. Take Free Online Classes

Going to class might not be your first choice for summer break, but this is a smart time to develop valuable career skills.

MOOCs, massive open online courses, let you take classes from real universities — even heavy hitters like MIT and Harvard — online for free.

Here are five important soft skills you can learn through free online courses this summer:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Multicultural literacy
  • Storytelling and communication
  • Personal branding and social media literacy
  • A new language

Pick them up through these free MOOCs.

You can bone up on hard skills through online tutorials, too. These skills will come in handy in any field:

  • How to use a spreadsheet
  • How to use G-Suite apps
  • How to use WordPress
  • How to use social media
  • How to edit video and audio
  • How to edit photos and graphics
  • How to administer first aid
  • How to analyze data

Study up through these free tutorials.

2. Earn Credits for Free

The College Level Examination Program lets you earn college credit in basic subjects like math and history by taking an exam.

CLEP exams cost $89 to take, but you can get fees covered through Modern States’ Freshman Year for Free program. Enroll for free online courses and tutoring through the program, and it covers your CLEP exam fee (for the first 10,000 students).

Test centers live on college campuses and other locations around the country, and you have to show up in person for an exam. You can generally schedule your exam any time the campus is open for classes (including summer semesters).

Test centers will be closed if their host campuses are closed, but keep an eye out for the CLEP coronavirus updates for the possibility of remote testing, and contact your preferred test center for information about availability.

3. Apply for a Project Grant

Use the summer to work on your own creative project! It could make good resume fodder — especially if you win a grant to fund it.

Check out these resources to find grants for artists:

If you need emergency funding because of lost work due to the coronavirus, peruse our lists of emergency grants for artists and financial aid for writers.

Even if you don’t win a grant, completing a project that will impress a prospective employer could pay off big time in the future.

4. Volunteer Virtually

If a lost internship or job opportunity leaves a hole in your summer schedule, consider filling it with volunteer work. The experience looks good on your resume, and volunteering can be just as valuable as job experience for building useful career skills and networking.

The same way companies are shifting to remote work in response to the pandemic, lots of nonprofit organizations are moving volunteer work online, too. With increased social need and a presidential election this year, service, advocacy and political organizations need help all over the country.

Find volunteer opportunities online and in your area through Idealist.

5. Freelance in a Related Field

Tons of work that might be relevant to your future career could be available online as freelance gigs.

Freelance writing is especially in demand and it provides the opportunity to start working without a degree, experience or particular expertise (though each of these could earn you more money down the line).

Start by looking for freelance blogging jobs, which usually have a lower barrier to entry. Once you get a few published pieces under your belt, try pitching a story to a higher-paying outlet.

Not a writer? Try your hand at being a virtual assistant, graphic designer or one of these more unusual freelance jobs:

  • Virtual recruiter
  • PowerPoint presentation designer
  • Children’s book illustrator
  • Genealogist
  • Greeting card writer

If you graduated this month without work or internship experience, freelancing could be a way to earn money while beefing up your resume before applying for full-time jobs.

“Employers don’t really hire for potential — you’ve got to be able to show how you’ve applied that potential in some way,” says Alison Green at Ask a Manager. “Even with entry-level jobs, you’re going to be up against other entry-level candidates who have some amount of experience.”

6. Find Online Jobs

Were you counting on a summer job in the now-unpredictable service industry to pay rent or save up for next semester’s tuition? Take your job search online.

Search for full-time and part-time work-from-home jobs through The Penny Hoarder’s vetted WFH jobs portal.

Or, put your talents to work toward creative side gigs. Here are some side gigs you can do online while social distancing:

  • Join video game tournaments
  • Work for a political or advocacy campaign
  • Perform music, comedy, magic or anything else online
  • Be a bookkeeper
  • Do online research through Wonder
  • Be a transcriptionist
  • Be an online tutor

Check out these online jobs for college students that pay at least $15 an hour.

7. Apply for College Scholarships

A man does coursework on his laptop at home.

Another option for covering next semester’s tuition: Apply for scholarships.

Several scholarships require you to submit an essay with your application, so summer break — when you don’t have other schoolwork — is a great time to focus on them.

Search for scholarships from your college, county, municipality or state; from organizations that support people of your race, ethnicity, gender or other demographics; or from organizations that support your field or interests.

You can also peruse our list of 100 wacky scholarships for things you never would have thought of.

Don’t Let Coronavirus Cancel Your Summer

A lot of big things have been canceled because of the COVID-19, and that’s a major bummer.

But you don’t have to accept the setback to your career preparation. Get creative to make the most of your summer break and keep your education and development moving forward — even if you can’t leave home.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.



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Free Social Security Tool for Optimal Benefit Claiming Strategy

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Update: The free Open Social Security tool has been updated to include a new “heat map” visualization that illustrates the relative values of claiming Social Security at different ages. Details here. Here is a sample graph for a couple with similar income histories and the same age:

For this situation, we see that the worst expected outcomes would occur if both individuals claimed really early. The best expected outcomes occur when one claims relatively early and the other claims relatively late.

Original post:

socialsecuritycardWhen to start claiming Social Security to maximize your potential benefit can be a complicated question, especially for couples. There are multiple paid services that will run the numbers for you, including Social Security Solutions (aka SS Analyzer) and Maximize My Social Security, which cost between $20 and $250 depending on included features.

Mike Piper of Oblivious Investor has created a free, open-source calculator called Open Social Security. To use the calculator, you will need to your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). This amount depends on your future income, so I would first consult this other free Social Security benefit estimator tool to more easily estimate your PIA. I believe the value you see at SSA.gov assumes that you will keep working at your historical average income until your claiming age (which won’t be the case for us).

Here are our results as a couple, assuming we were the same age (we are close) and with my expected benefit being slightly higher than hers:

The strategy that maximizes the total dollars you can be expected to spend over your lifetimes is as follows:

You file for your retirement benefit to begin 12/2047, at age 70 and 0 months.
Your spouse files for his/her retirement benefit to begin 4/2040, at age 62 and 4 months.

The present value of this proposed solution would be $657,749.

Basically, the tool says that my wife should apply as soon as possible, while I should claim as late as possible. I believe this is because this scenario allows us claim at least some income starting from 62, and if I die first after that, my wife would still be able to “upgrade” to my higher benefit.

The tool might take some time to run the calculations, depending on your browser. You can learn more and provide feedback at Bogleheads and Github.

I am not a Social Security expert, and am not qualified to speak to the accuracy of the results. However, Mr. Piper is the author of the highly-rated book Social Security Made Simple, has a history of doing thorough work, and the tool has been around a while now. If I were close to 62, I would probably also use the paid services for a second and third opinion. Why? Spending $100 now could save you many thousands in the future.

The best thing about this free tool is that it can introduce a lot of people to ideas that they would have not otherwise considered. Even if it lacks every bell or whistle, being free means it can help more people. Many spouses wouldn’t think of having one claim as early as possible (age 62), and then have the other claim as late as possible (age 70). It’s not common sense unless you understand the inner workings of Social Security.



“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

Free Social Security Tool for Optimal Benefit Claiming Strategy from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2019 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.



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How to Update Address in Aadhaar without Documents

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Have you recently shifted to a new city or got married, but you don’t have any proof of address?  Do you want to update your address in Aadhaar but do not have documents? Don’t worry, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) provides you with the facility of updating your address in Aadhaar online even without submitting the documents. It can be done in simple steps as all you need is to take help from an Address Verifier and by raising a request online for an ‘Address Validation Letter’. An ‘Address Verifier’ can be a family member, relative, friend, or landlord who is willing to let you use his/her address as proof.
Read on to know how you can do the same in detail below.

Who can Update the Address in Aadhaar without Documents?

If you are someone who has recently shifted your residence to a new city or got married and shifted to your husband’s home, you can now easily update your address in Aadhaar even without submitting any documents using this online facility of Aadhaar Validation Letter.

Steps to Update Address in Aadhaar Card without Documents

 To update the address in Aadhaar Card without documents, you need to follow the steps mentioned below:

Step 1: Visit the official website of UIDAI  i.e.  https://uidai.gov.in/

 Step 2: You need to click on the ‘Address Validation Letter’ under ‘My Aadhaar’ menu

Step 3: You will be redirected to a new page  ‘Request for Address Validation Letter’

Step 4: Now,  you have to enter your valid 12-digit Aadhaar number or 16-digit Virtual ID


Step 5:
Enter the ‘Captcha Code’ for verification and click on ‘Send OTP’ button

Step 6: Enter the 6-digit OTP sent to your registered number or 8-digit TOTP and then click on the ‘Login’ button

Step 7: Once done, you need to share the ‘Verifier Details’ i.e, enter your ‘Address Verifier’s Aadhaar number’

 

Step 8: An SMS will be sent to your verifier with a link on his/her registered mobile number to give consent for the update

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Step 9: Once the verifier clicks on the link and he/she receives another SMS for the verification of OTP

Step 10: Enter the OTP sent on the registered mobile number and captcha code for verification
width=Step 11: Once it is verified, you will now get a Service Request Number (SRN)  through an SMS

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Step 12: Now, log in with ‘SRN’, preview address, edit local language (if required).  Tick mark the declaration and then click on the ‘Submit’ button
Edit the address in the local language and click on the ‘Save’ button

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Step 13: Now tick against the declaration and ‘Submit’ your request

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Step 14: You will now receive the ‘Address Validation Letter‘ with the ‘Secret Code’ sent to the verifier’s address via post

Step 15: You will have to revisit the ‘SSUP’ (UIDAI) website and click on the ‘Proceed to Update Address’ link

Step 16: Once again login with Aadhaar and select ‘Update Address via Secret Code’ option

Step 16: You have to enter the ‘Secret Code’. Once done, preview the new address and click on the ‘Submit’ button

For your better understanding, let us try to understand the entire process with the help of an example:

Consider you (Person X) are someone who recently shifted from Mumbai to Delhi. You urgently want to update your current address on your Aadhaar card, but you don’t have any valid documents.

In such a case you can contact your friend/relative/employer (Person Y) or anyone who has a valid Aadhaar Card to become your Address Verifier. Now, Person B has to only provide his Aadhaar number and only his address will be automatically collected from UIDAI’s database.

Please take a look at the image below to know the process that Person B can help Person A to get his/er address updated:

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Note: In the above-mentioned image step 2 is all about verifier and steps 1, 3, and 4 are about the resident who wants to get his/her address updated.

How to Check Aadhaar Address Update Status without Documents?

 You can check Aadhaar Address Update Status without documents by following the steps mentioned below:

Step 1: Go to https://ssup.uidai.gov.in/checkSSUPStatus/checkupdatestatus

Step 2: Enter your 12-digit Aadhaar Number
width=
 Step 3: Enter URN or SRN

Step 4: Enter the ‘Captcha Verification’ Code

Step 5: Click on the ‘Check Status’ button

Step 6: You Aadhaar Update status will now reflect on your screen

Things to Keep in Mind while Updating Address without Documents

  • The process involves an application by the applicant, approval/consent by the verifier, final submission by the applicant and use of secret code to complete the process
  • You can update your address multiple times in Aadhaar Card, but your address must be the same in which you are currently residing in
  • Service Request Number (SRN) is generated when you initiate an Aadhaar Address Update request through the validation letter and Update Request Number (URN) is a 14-digit number which you get once you successfully complete the process of online address update and the same is sent via SMS to your number
  • The validation letter with secret code is sent to you at the verifier’s address
  • You will receive your updated Aadhaar letter on the updated address or you can also download from https://eaadhaar.uidai.gov.in/#/ 
  • Your mobile number and your verifier’s mobile number must be registered with Aadhaar Card
  • You will not be able to edit the verifier’s name as it is pre-filled under the c/o field
  • You will receive the letter within 30 working days from the date of raising the request

Security Concerns for the Aadhaar Address Verifier

In case you are an Aadhaar Address Verifier, it is quite obvious that you would be concerned about your demographic and biometric details. UIDAI has taken care about it and none of your details would be shared with the resident apart from the address. All your demographic and biometric details would be safe and secure. Under this process, no other data of any verifier would be used and updated into the resident’s Aadhaar. So, if a trusted person in your knowledge is in need of an address update, you can provide it easier to that person. In case you fail to give consent within the set time frame then you will have to start the process once again.

Conclusion

An Aadhaar card is considered as one of the important documents that act as a proof of identity (POI) as well as Proof of Address (POA). It contains all your demographic details including your residential address which makes it mandatory for you to have an updated address in your Aadhaar card. It can be done with the convenience of your home through the online process and now even with the option of not submitting your documents.

The post How to Update Address in Aadhaar without Documents appeared first on Compare & Apply Loans & Credit Cards in India- Paisabazaar.com.



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