How to Make the Most of Your Income.
Before you step into the world of travel nursing, do your research. Look into which travel nursing agencies have the best job market for your specialty. Figure out what health insurance expenses will be according to you and your family size. Know what goes into filing your taxes, so you know ahead of time what receipts to hold onto. Make the most of your income by opening one or two credit cards with worthwhile travel benefits that will be useful in the long run. Lastly, always budget ahead and put money in savings. These are some of my recommendations. I hope they are helpful!
Travel Nursing Agencies
The list of agencies for travel nurses just keeps expanding. There is American Mobile, Aya, Nomad, Flexcare, Fastaff, and Republic, just to name a few. During orientation, you will meet people from all over the country that were hired by an agency you may have never even heard of. It is okay to work with more than one agency at a time. I would actually encourage it! You never know when a great opportunity will present itself. To maintain a strong relationship with your agents, never submit for or accept more than one contract at the same time. It is okay to cancel a contract for medical and personal reasons, but it looks bad if its because you submitted with two different agencies at the same time. The last thing a travel nurse wants to do is to be black listed from an agency which has jobs available for them.
To me, not having health insurance is terrifying. I work in an emergency department and see patients and families come in with no health insurance on a daily basis. I’m sure you are aware, but a visit to the ED is not cheap. One of my biggest fears is that I will have appendicitis or something serious occur during one of these breaks between health insurance policies. It is good to plan ahead and figure out what agency you are going to use and the coverage they offer. Consider using health insurance under your spouse or finding a policy that will not change regardless of the agency you use for obtaining work contracts. The agency I have chosen to use thus far has the largest selection of jobs in my field. Therefore, I decided to get a health insurance plan through the agency itself, since I see myself staying with the agency throughout the year. If you feel like you might choose contracts through various agencies, I would recommend getting health insurance on your own through the Affordable Care Act or an insurance policy under United Healthcare or Blue Cross Blue Shield. That way there is no break between insurance plans when you switch contracts, especially if you are needing prescription drugs or more frequent medical assistance.
Filing Your Taxes
One of the biggest mistakes a new travel nurse can make is not figuring out your taxes ahead of time. Each state has different laws about filing taxes. As a travel nurse, we may live in multiple states a year. Some of these states have federal and state income tax. Also, if you are not declaring and paying monthly for a residency (ie rent, mortgage), the stipends you receive may be taxed at the end of the year, which could add up to be a lot of money that you owe back to the IRS. Also, by declaring a residency it is important to actually spend time there to qualify it as an actual residency. I have been told that the IRS prefers you spend at least thirty days a year in your residency city. Because I kept my PRN or Per Diem job at the hospital back home, I travel back every seven or eight weeks to work a few shifts and visit. This gives me a safety net job to always return to when I am without or between contracts as well as a place of residency which qualifies per the IRS.
Credit Cards with the Rewards
There are an endless amount of credit cards, but only two that I would recommend opening. At the beginning of the year, prior to starting travel nursing, I decided to open a credit card that would offer travel rewards. A card that I hoped would end up saving me money or offer help when traveling. Multiple people over the years have told me how great the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is, so I finally looked into it. Since opening earlier this year, it has already provided a few free hotels stays and money towards two rental cars. The card costs $495 a year, but returns $300 in travel credits, a TSA Precheck fee credit, special car rental discounts, no foreign transaction fees, an emergency medical and dental benefit reimbursable up to $2500 when traveling, and you earn 3X the points per $1 spent at restaurants along with 50,000 points after spending $4000 in the first four months of opening, equivalent to $750 towards travel. This is my go to card which I use towards traveling.
Southwest Airlines also a great rewards program. If you fly often, than I recommend opening this card also. After spending $1,000 in the first three months Southwest will give 40,000 points equivalent to $650 worth in flight travel. Benefits include 2 points per $1 spent in travel, 1 point per $1 spent on everything else, and no foreign transaction fees. With a $99 yearly cost, you will earn $6000 points every year, which pretty much covers the $99 annual fee in a travel credit.
Know Your Budget
Most people don't carry a checkbook with a balance sheet anymore, except for my mom. It is important to know your income vs expenses, especially when traveling. The money travel nurses bring in varies depending on contracts signed and the amount of time taken off between these contracts. If you aren’t working, you aren’t making money! In order to keep track of this, I maintain a document on my computer with the estimated monthly expenses and due dates. When preparing for a contract I can estimate ahead of time how much I will be saving vs spending. My short term goal is paying of the remainder of my student loans. My long term goal is increasing my savings. Without budgeting, I would not be able to do this so efficiently. I hope this article provided some useful information on what has helped me as a travel nurse so far. Good luck!