Even though we're led to believe that internships are the key to successful careers, we're also wary of companies that take advantage of the free labor, relegating interns to coffee runs or leftover tasks that don't enhance professional development. Students, new graduates, or even professionals looking to change careers and gain experience in an unfamiliar field can avoid being taken advantage of if they know their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). For example, unpaid internships are legal under federal law, but only if it meets specific criteria, and too often companies play fast and loose with the details of an internship in attempts to qualify. Here's the best advice from employers and labor activists about what to look for in a company's internship program.
1. Be clear if the position is paid or unpaid
The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for their work, but what defines an "employee" from an "intern?" Officially, courts impose the "primary beneficiary test," which is a loose set of criteria that only defines the difference in terms of how the employer and the intern understand the position. Namely, if the internship provides more benefits to the employer in terms of labor, cost, and company services, then the intern must be regarded as an employee. Conversely, if the position provides professional training comparable to an educational environment, enhances (rather than inhibits) the intern's coursework, and both the employer and intern clearly understand that no paid job is promised at the end of the program, then (and only then) is it legal to not pay an intern. Additionally, if the company is a non-profit, then they're granted an exception and may count unpaid interns as volunteers
2. Look for positions relevant to your field
The point of an internship is to gain professional experience and training. Look for opportunities that have built-in support systems to provide hands-on experience in the field of your choice. Be clear about what duties will be expected of you in the position.
3. Ask about mentors
In addition to gaining experience, the goals of an internship include meeting mentors who are invested in your progress. Particularly strong programs allow interns to access higher level executives. This will not only help you network in your professional future, it will enhance your understanding of the field.
4. Be aware of time commitment and living costs
Since unpaid internships can't guarantee a paid position at the end of the program, pay attention to how long the internship lasts and if the time investment will be worth it. Be careful to consider if your lifestyle can be maintained for that duration of time. Even if the position is a paid opportunity of your dreams, like the Disney College Program, be clear if the internship is limited to one-semester or longer. For example, the Disney internship is only available to enrolled students, lasts one-semester, and requires an application fee as well as a housing fee.
The last point is especially crucial if an internship requires relocation. Ideal opportunities are worth the sacrifices of time and even creature comforts, but they need to be feasible. If you're required to relocate, don't jump to apply unless you're reasonably certain you have the means and willingness to change your environment. Does the internship offer housing? Is there's a fee, how much is it? Does the program compensate transportation costs? Be certain you know the answers before you apply.
Internships are strong enhancements on resumes and can introduce you to a network of professionals to begin your new career. However, legalities and logistics are vital to work out before you apply to a program that could take advantage of your time, energy, and skills.
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.