Why (and How) to Renew Your Passport Now, Even If You’re Not Traveling Soon

Like most Americans, you might not be traveling internationally anytime soon. After all, many countries are still closed to international tourists, making travel impossible. Even if your destination is open, you must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to return to the U.S., which might be a deterrent. Plus, the U.S. vaccination rate is among the highest of any country, so you might simply opt for domestic travel instead — perhaps by renting an RV for a national parks road trip.

Although an international trip is likely still a ways off, you should grab your passport and check when it expires. Now is one of the best times to renew your passport even if it doesn’t expire in 2021.

Why now is the best time to renew your passport

Application processing is slower than normal

The State Department issued a notice earlier this year that passport processing times are now 10 to 12 weeks. It also warned of delays in receiving passport applications due to unprecedented mail volume and other COVID-19 impacts on the Postal Service. Further, it has said that COVID-19 has forced its agencies and centers to offer extremely limited in-person services.

Add that all up, and it’s reasonable to start applying for your passport renewal now — even if it doesn’t expire this year. Since you likely don’t have any upcoming trips overseas anyway, the delayed processing time won’t be detrimental to travel plans.

It may not be valid for some travel — even if it hasn’t expired

Some countries require that passports be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip.

That means even if your passport doesn’t expire until 2022, you might not be able to travel internationally in late 2021 if it expires inside six months. In fact, some airlines won’t allow you to board with a passport that is near expiry (and hey, you probably don’t want to fly 20 hours to Dubai only to find the United Arab Emirates won’t let you into the country).

The State Department’s Country Information page provides details on which countries have such requirements.

Expedited processing fees will eat into your vacation budget

If you procrastinate, then not all is lost — except some of your vacation fund. You can pay extra to receive a passport in four to six weeks (rather than the current timeline of 10-12 weeks), but you’ll have to pay an additional $60 for expedited service. And even still, four to six weeks isn’t exactly speedy. Double or triple that cost if you have family members who need that service as well.

You could use a passport to fly domestically too (unless you have Real ID)

Even if you don’t plan to travel internationally anytime in the next few years, a passport could be necessary for domestic travel.

Beginning on Oct. 1, you’ll need Real ID-compliant identification to board domestic flights. Real ID is a state-issued driver’s license or identification card with a star. Alternatively, residents from Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont can use their Enhanced Driver’s License for Real ID purposes, according to the Department of Homeland Security. To obtain Real ID-compliant identification, you’ll typically have to visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency.

However, you can avoid a trip to the DMV for a new license by showing other acceptable identification at the airport, such as a passport or passport card. Depending on what your local DMV lines are like, it might be easier to just have a valid passport and use it for all domestic and international travel.

You actually have time and energy to deal with it now

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may not heartily recommend traveling right now, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming about it. Why not complement that anticipation by filling out passport paperwork?

As you trudge through it, let your mind escape to a dreamland full of the sticky toffee pudding you’ll inhale once you finally land in London. In fact, planning a trip is actually good for you. A 2010 study by social scientists in the Netherlands found that simply planning and dreaming up a trip incites as much happiness as actually going on it.

Apply for your passport and soak in the benefits of fantasizing about your trip. When the time comes to actually go on it, you won’t have to worry about the stress of renewing your passport.

How to renew your passport

Renew by mail

In general, the easiest way to renew your passport is by mail. You can do this if all of the following apply:

  1. You have your passport in your possession (and can submit it with your application).
  2. It is undamaged (aside from normal wear and tear).
  3. You received it when you were at least 16 years old.
  4. It was issued within the past 15 years.
  5. It was either issued to your current name or you can submit documentation of your name change.

To apply by mail, you’ll need the following:

  • A filled-out DS-82 form.
  • Your most recent passport.
  • Name change documents (such as a marriage certificate), if applicable.
  • A passport photo taken in the past six months.
  • Payment via personal check or money order to the U.S. Department of State of $110 for a Passport Book, $30 for a Passport Card or $140 for both.

Mail your application and documents to the National Passport Processing Center (addresses and renewal details can be found here).

Renew in person

If one of the above five scenarios doesn’t apply to you, then you’ll need to apply in person. To apply in person, you’ll need the following:

  • A filled-out DS-11 form.
  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship, such as a U.S. birth certificate or Certificate of Naturalization, plus a photocopy of that document.
  • Valid identification, such as a driver’s license or in-state learner’s permit with photo, plus a photocopy of it.
  • A passport photo taken in the past six months.
  • Payment (typically an $110 application fee and a $35 acceptance fee).

You may need to provide additional documents for certain circumstances, such as if you’re younger than 16.

You’ll need to apply at a passport acceptance facility, which are typically post offices or city clerk offices — and most are by appointment only.

If your passport was lost or stolen

Maybe you moved during the pandemic and your passport got lost in the shuffle. Or you tossed it in a box after a year of uncertainty of when you’d ever use it again — and now you can’t fathom finding it.

You’ll need to report your lost or stolen passport to the State Department. From there, you must apply for a replacement passport, and standard fees apply.

If you’re getting a passport for the first time

If you’ve never traveled internationally before, that could change in the coming years. After all, the pandemic has inspired many travelers to cross off their bucket list trips once and for all.

If you’ve always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and have been holding out for the right moment, apply for your first passport now. You’ll have to apply in person, provide proper documentation and pay the application fee.

Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: sfrench@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SAFmedia.

The article Why (and How) to Renew Your Passport Now, Even If You’re Not Traveling Soon originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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5 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle by Year-End

A task without a deadline is just wishful thinking.

Sometimes, you can get away with procrastinating. If you never get around to alphabetizing your spices, no one’s life will change. But putting off some tasks could have a huge impact on loved ones.

The close of the year is a good time to set some firm deadlines to make sure you won’t leave a financial mess for people you love if you unexpectedly die or become incapacitated. Consider putting these items on your to-do list with a Dec. 31 due date:

1. Check your beneficiaries

If you need convincing that updating beneficiaries is important, consider the case of David Egelhoff, a Washington state man who died two months after his divorce was final in 1994. Because he had not changed his beneficiaries, his life insurance proceeds and pension plan were paid to his ex-wife rather than his children from a previous marriage. The children sued, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2001 that the beneficiary designations had to be honored.

You’re typically prompted to name beneficiaries when you sign up for a 401(k) or other retirement account. Beneficiaries also are usually required when you buy annuities or life insurance. You often can check and change beneficiaries online, or you may need to call the company to request the appropriate form.

2. Review pay-on-death resignations

You may not have been required to name beneficiaries when you opened your checking account or a non-retirement investment account. Instead, financial institutions may offer a “pay on death” option. This allows you to name a beneficiary who can receive the money directly. Otherwise, the account typically has to go through probate, the legal procedure to distribute your property after you die.

Some states also have “transfer on death” options for vehicles and even real estate. Like pay-on-death accounts, these options allow you to pass property directly to heirs without the potential delays and costs of probate.

Beneficiaries can be added to vehicle registrations in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont and Virginia, according to self-help legal site Nolo. To add or change a beneficiary, you apply for a certificate of car ownership with the beneficiary form.

Transfer-on-death deeds for real estate are available in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to legal site RocketLawyer. To add or change a beneficiary, the deed must be submitted to the appropriate county recorder.

3. Update insurers — and your heirs

Insurers usually don’t pay out life insurance proceeds until someone files a claim. But far too often, heirs are unaware that the money exists. A Consumer Reports investigation in 2013 found about $1 billion in life insurance proceeds waiting to be claimed.

Updating your contact information with your insurer also may help prevent policies from lapsing. I just heard from a reader who lost her long-term care coverage because she’d moved, forgotten to tell her insurer and failed to notice she hadn’t been billed. Many insurers will allow you to name someone who can be notified if a payment is overdue or they can’t find you. You’ll want to keep the contact information for those back-up people updated with the company, as well.

4. Visit your safe deposit box

If you forget to pay your annual fee and your bank can’t find you, after a few years your safe deposit box will be drilled and the contents turned over to the state. Photos and documents could be destroyed and family heirlooms sold at auction. Visit your box once a year to make sure your payments and contact details are current. Leave clear instructions with your executor or your heirs about where to find the box and its keys.

5. Create or revise powers of attorney

Powers of attorney allow others to make financial and health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. If you don’t have these documents, or the designated people have died or are otherwise unavailable, your loved ones may have to go to court to take over. The expense and delay can add trauma at an already difficult time. Spare everyone that pain by naming a backup person or two and reviewing the documents every year to make sure the people named can still serve.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article 5 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle by Year-End originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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What’s Up Next?

Imagine: You’re about to transition from high school to college. You’re secretly not sure what you’re going to do now that mom or dad won’t wake you up for school or force you to do your homework, but you refuse to admit that out loud…

Imagine: You’re leaving college – no more studying! But that means you now owe $20k+ in student loans, you just moved to a new city for your new gig, and you have to pay your own rent. Your planner isn’t big enough to fill in all your due dates for bills and work deadlines. And you thought college was hard…

NOW Imagine: You get a text to remind you of everything that might not be right in the front of your brain – like reminders to fill out the FAFSA, or to sign up for college entrance exams, or to pay back your student loans. You know, kind of like that one friend who actually remembers to remind you about stuff. Okay, now stop imagining – these reminder texts really do exist!

Up Next is a free texting service, provided by the nonprofit Civic Nation, that sends you text reminders to help navigate college admissions, financial aid, and student loan repayment. It’s pretty cool. And did we mention that it’s free? Yeah – learn more about it here.

What Financial Education Looks Like for This College Student

When I was 17, I had a unique opportunity to take on some adult responsibilities. As a business owner and single mother of three, my mom needed some help, and I was eager to get some real world experience under my belt before college. So together we agreed that I would take over various business and household tasks for the summer, which included one especially important duty: paying the bills.

I want to be clear: at first, I didn’t know much at all about money management. In fact, I hadn’t yet held a job more official than babysitting. Though I had my own checking account, I never had a steady income, let alone any regular expenses to plan for. Because of this, my learning curve felt pretty steep. My mom gave me her account information, walked me through the first round of bills, and just like that I suddenly had a brand new perspective when it comes to money. Not to mention a whole new appreciation for how complex it can be to juggle finances to keep a family of four afloat.

Expenses Add Up

Most of our bills were paid online, and I remember thinking to myself how fast it just “disappeared.” One click. Boom. There went $215 for one month’s use of our cell phones. $215? Suddenly all that texting and downloading became real. Physically writing a check didn’t feel any better. Writing out the words was sobering: one thousand one hundred dollars and eighty-three cents, all to live in a house I had taken for granted for over eleven years. It was shocking. Are we really paying that much just to live here?

I found myself feeling guilty as I quickly realized how much it all cost. Our phones, electricity, heat, car payments, mortgage, credit cards – all of it added up so fast, but I hadn’t thought about it until I was the one filling out the checks and clicking the “submit payment” button.

My new appreciation for everyday expenses and how hard my mom worked to cover them triggered in me a desire to adjust my own lifestyle to help keep costs down.  I started using the Pandora app for free music, packing sack lunches, and hand-washing the dishes – all thrifty alternatives to just a few of our daily expenditures.  I had been contributing to my family’s collective bills for a long time; it just took this experience to help me understand I could positively impact our finances as well. That realization was actually kind of empowering!

Another added bonus to my experience? By learning to effectively manage my family’s finances at 17, I was also preparing myself for managing my own money when I left for college a short year later. Here are four key lessons that I was fortunate to take with me onto campus:

  1. The importance of small spending choices. It’s easy to pass up Starbucks every day when you realize that the tradeoff is keeping your lights on, or being able to turn on your oven. Missing one bill could mean a mess, so the money has to be there when the bill is due – period. Small choices really do add up and can make all the difference.
  2. The importance of saving. Especially for an emergency fund. One example: our family’s water heater broke, but instead of dipping into our vacation money we were able to pay for it with our emergency fund. Though our vacation fund didn’t grow as fast while we worked to replenish our emergency fund, what was the alternative without those emergency dollars? Take freezing cold showers for months so we could go on a one week vacation? Yeah, we chose the hot showers.
  3. The responsibility of living on your own. Before my summer stint, I couldn’t have imagined the amount of time and organization needed to stay on top of the finances. What worked best for me was to retrieve and sort the mail immediately, so nothing was misplaced or overlooked. I created a list of all the bills expected each month and organized it chronologically by due date. By the time I made it to college, I already had a working system so that was part of my normal routine. Some of my new college friends weren’t quite so lucky, and their disorganization meant they had to eat a few late fees early on that hindered some of their weekend fun.
  4. I became much more aware…of how long my showers were, of how often we left lights on in unoccupied rooms, and how quickly all this waste could easily outpace our living expenses. Again, it all adds up. It’s actually not that difficult to save money by being mindful of daily routines. Just a few little tweaks can quickly improve our bottom line. I hadn’t thought about any of those tricks until I saw money leaving the bank account; now, I can’t stop looking for ways to save money around the house.

The lessons I learned from that one summer of bill paying has served me well in so many ways, and not just when it comes to money (although that’s a big part of it). I’d also like to think that being knowledgeable about finances has allowed me to take advantage of opportunities that I otherwise may not have been able to, like becoming the treasurer for my sorority, or my position as the financial education intern for Inceptia, where my money savvy helped me stand out during the interview process.

With each of these opportunities, I gain more experience and make more professional connections, both of which are key to my future success after college. When I reflect on how just one summer has affected my journey already, and how it will continue to provide me with the savvy to handle financial challenges in the future…all I can say is, thank you mom. It was you who did me the favor.

Student Tips for Success: Budgeting Your Time


Time is precious, especially for us college students. It takes keen time management and organizational skills to be able to do all of the exciting things we want to do while in college, while at the same time maintaining a decent GPA. Plus, trying to sneak in that afternoon nap between class, or enjoying a fun and stress-free weekend can be a chore in itself. Unfortunately, time management skills don’t necessarily come naturally to everyone; it can be a struggle for some. But, there’s an easy way to juggle all the different aspects of college and find success: create a time budget.


Start by gathering all of your schedules you have available; class/test schedule, work schedule, intramural sports schedule, volunteer schedule, sorority/fraternity schedule, club event dates, and so on. Instead of having a million different pieces of paper on your hands, the best way to stay organized is to compile all schedules into one big master calendar.


I like to use Blank Calendars and Calendarpedia, or you can create a template by hand. When filing out your weekly calendar, use a color system to fill in the appropriate times you have something to do. Assign a specific color to represent your multiple activities. For example, blue = work, orange = practice, specific colors for each class, etc. Labeling the time blocks will make it easier for you to see what you have going at certain times of the day. To see an example of a calendar, click here.


Once you have all your mandatory activities and events scheduled (class, work, and extracurricular activities), take a look at where you have open spaces on your calendar. This is where you can determine weekly study times and leisure breaks, like hanging out with friends, going for a walk, or diving into a Netflix series at the end of the day. And don’t forget to add in time for meals, errands, and chores. It can be surprising how often our hectic schedules leave us forgetting to make time for our basic needs.


By creating your master agenda, you’ll learn how to budget your time more effectively, which will help you tenfold during the school year. Referring to your agenda everyday will reduce that stressful feeling of impending doom around your school, work and personal demands – and hopefully clear your brain of unwanted clutter at the same time.


The biggest challenge here is making sure you have your priorities straight. College is a busy and rigorous time for most students, and our future is riding on this pivotal point in our lives. But creating a master agenda is a great method of organization and time management that isn’t only useful to students. After college, life promises to only get busier as we take on more responsibilities. Juggling doesn’t stop after the diploma, so be sure you continue to use this helpful method as you transition out of college, to minimize your stress and maximize your success.