Tag Archive Buying

ByCurtis Watts

Let the Roaring 2020s Begin

First some great news: because of your support in reading and sharing this blog, it has been able to earn quite a lot of income and give away over $300,000 so far.

The latest $100k of that happens at the end of this article. Please check it out if you want to feel good, learn more, and even join me in helping out the world a bit.

As I type this, there are only a few days left in the 2010s, and holy shit what a decade it has been.

Ten years ago, a 35 year old MMM and the former Mrs. MM were four years into retirement, but not feeling very retired yet. We stumbled out of 2009 with a precious but very high strung three-year-old, a house building business that was way more stressful than it should have been, and a much more rudimentary set of life skills. It was a time of great promise, but a lot of this promise was yet to be claimed.

Ten years later, despite the fact that I have one less marriage, one less surviving parent, and ten years less remaining youth, I am in an even better place in life right now, and would never want to trade places with the 2009 version of me. And on that measure alone, I can tell it has been a successful decade.

This is a great sign and it bodes well for early retirees everywhere. Compared to the start of the decade, I am healthier and stronger physically, wealthier financially, and (hopefully) at least a bit wiser emotionally. I’ve been through so much, learned so much in so many new interesting fields, and packed so much living into these 3653 days. A big part of that just flowed from the act of retiring from my career in 2005, which freed me up to do so many other things, including starting this blog.

It has not always been easy, in fact the hard times of this decade have been some of the hardest of my life. But by coming through it all I have learned that super difficult experiences only serve to enrich your life even more, by widening your range of feelings and allowing you to savor the normal moments and the great ones even more.

Ten Years of Learning in Three Points

I think the real meaning of “Wisdom” is just “I’ve seen a lot of shit go down in my lifetime and over time you start to notice everything just boils down to a few principles.

The books all say it, and the wise older people in real life all say it too. And for me, it’s probably the following few things that stand out the most:

1) This Too Shall Pass: nothing is as big a deal as you think it is at the time. Angry or sad emotions from life traumas will fade remarkably quickly, but so will the positive surprises from one-time life upgrades through the sometimes-bummer magic of Hedonic Adaptation. What’s left is just you – no matter where you go, there you are.

2) But You Are Really Just a Bundle of Habits: most of your day (and therefore your life) is comprised of repeating the same set of behaviors over and over. The way you get up, the things you focus your mind on. Your job. The way you interact with other people. The way you eat and exercise. Unless you give all of this a lot of mindful attention and work to tweak it, it stays the same, which means your life barely changes, which means your level of happiness barely changes.

3) Change Your Habits, Change your Life: Because of all this, the easiest and best way to have a happier and more satisfying life is to figure out what ingredients go into a good day, and start adding those things while subtracting the things that create bad days. For me (and quite possibly you, whether you realize it or not), the good things include positive social interactions, helping people, outdoor physical activity, creative expression and problem solving, and just good old-fashioned hard work. The bad things mostly revolve around stress due to over-scheduling one’s life, emotional negativity and interpersonal conflict – all things I am especially sensitive to.

So while I can’t control everything, I have found that the more I work to design those happiness creators into my life and step away from things that consistently cause bad days, the happier and richer life can become.

Speaking of Richer:

I recently read two very different books, which still ended up pointing me in the same direction:

This Could Be Our Future, by former Kickstarter cofounder and CEO Yancey Strickler, is a concise manifesto that makes a great case for running our lives, businesses, and even giant corporations, according to a much more generous and person-centric set of rules.

Instead of the narrow minded perspective of “Profit Maximization” that drives so many of the world’s shittier companies and gives capitalism a bad reputation, he points out that even small changes in the attitude of company (and world) leaders, can lead to huge changes in the way our economy runs.

The end result is more total wealth and happier lives for all of us – like Mustachianism itself, it really is a win/win proposition rather than any form of compromise or tradeoff. In fact, Strickler specifically mentions you and me in this book, using the FIRE movement as an example of a group of people who have adopted different values in order to lead better lives.

Die with Zero*, by former hedge fund manager and thrill seeking poker champion Bill Perkins sounds like a completely different book on the surface: Perkins’ point is that many people work too long and defer too much gratification for far too long in their lives.

Instead, he encourages you to map out your life decade by decade and make sure that you maximize your experiences in each stage, while you are still young enough to enjoy each phase. For example, do your time in the skate park and the black diamond ski slopes in your 20s and 30s, rather than saving every dollar in the hopes that you can do more snowboarding after you retire in your 60s.

Obviously, as Mr. Money Mustache I disagree on a few of the finer points: Life is not an experiences contest, you can get just as much joy from simpler local experiences as from exotic ones in foreign lands, and spending more money on yourself does not create more happiness, so if you die with millions in the bank you have not necessarily left anything on the table. But it does take skill to put these truths into practice, and for an untrained consumer with no imagination, buying experiences can still be an upgrade over sitting at home watching TV.

However, he does make one great point: one thing you can spend money on is helping other people – whether they are your own children, family, friends, or people with much more serious needs like famine and preventable disease.

And if you are going to give away this money, it’s better to do it now, while you are alive, rather than just leaving it behind in your estate, when your beneficiaries may be too old to benefit from your gift anyway.

So with this in mind, I made a point of making another round of donations to effective causes this year – a further $100,000 which was made possible by some unexpected successes with this blog this year, combined with finding that my own lifestyle continues to cost less than $20k to sustain, even in “luxury bachelor” mode.

And here’s where it all went!

$80,000 to GiveWell, who will automatically deliver it to their top recommended charities. This is always my top donation, because it is the most serious and research-backed choice. This means you are very likely doing the most good with each dollar, if your goal is the wellbeing of fellow human beings. GiveWell does constant research on effective charities and keeps an updated list on their results – which makes it a great shortcut for me. Further info in my The Life You Can Save post.

Strategic Note: I made this donation from my Betterment account where I keep a pretty big portion of my investments. This is because of tax advantages which multiply my giving/saving power – details here at Betterment and in my own article about the first time I used this trick.

$5000 to the Choose FI Foundation – this was an unexpected donation for me, based on my respect for the major work the ChooseFI gang are doing with their blog and podcast and meetups, and their hard-charging ally Edmund Tee who I met on a recent trip. They are creating a curriculum and teaching kids and young adults how to manage their money with valuable but free courses.

$2000 to the True Potential Scholarship Fund, set up by my inspiring and badass Omaha lawyer friend Ross Pesek. Ross first inspired me years ago by going through law school using an extremely frugal combination of community and state colleges, then rising to the top of the pack and starting his own firm anyway. Then he immediately turned around and started using some of the profits to help often-exploited immigrant workers in his own community with both legal needs and education.

$1000 to plant one thousand trees, via the #teamtrees effort via the National Arbor Day Foundation. I credit some prominent YouTubers and Elon Musk for promoting this effort – so far it has resulted in over 20 million trees being funded, which is a lot (roughly equal to creating a dense forest as big as New York City)

$5000 to Bicycle Colorado – a force for change (and sometimes leading the entire United States) in encouraging Colorado leaders and lawmakers to shift our spending and our laws just slightly away from “all cars all the time” and towards the vastly more effective direction of accommodating bikes and feet as transportation options. Partly because of their work, I have seen incredible changes in Denver, which is rapidly becoming a bike utopia. Boulder is not far behind, and while Longmont is still partially stuck in the 1980s as we widen car roads and build even more empty parking lots, these changes slowly trickle down from leaders to followers, so I want to fund the leaders.

$5000 (tripled to $15,000 due to a matching program that runs until Dec. 31) to Planned Parenthood. Although US-centric, this is an incredibly useful medical resource for our people in the greatest need. Due to emotional manipulation by politicians who use religion as a wedge to divide public opinion, this general healthcare organization is under constant attack because they also support women’s reproductive rights. But if you have a loved one or family member who has ever been helped during a difficult time by Planned Parenthood, you know exactly why they are such an incredible force for good – affecting millions of lives for the better.

And finally, just for reasons of personal and local appreciation, $1000 to the orchestra program of little MM’s public middle school. I have been amazed at the transformation in my own son and the hundreds of other kids who have benefited from this program. They operate a world-class program on a shoestring (violin-string?) budget which they try to boost by painstakingly fundraising with poinsettia plants and chocolate bars. So I could see that even a little boost like this could make a difference. (He plays the upright bass.)

You could definitely argue that there are places that need money more than a successful school in a wealthy and peaceful area like Colorado, and I would agree with you. Because of this, I always encourage people not to do the bulk of their giving to local organizations. Sure, it may feel more gratifying and you may see the results personally, but you can make a much bigger difference by sending your dollars to where they are needed the most. So as a compromise, I try to split things up and send the lion’s share of my donations to GiveWell where they will make the biggest difference, and do a few smaller local things here as a reward mostly for myself.

So those are the donations that are complete – $99,000 of my own cash plus an additional $10,000 in matching funds for Planned Parenthood. But because environment and energy are such big things to me, I wanted to do one more fun thing:

$5000 to build or expand a local solar farm.

This one is more of an investment than a donation, but it still does a lot of good. Because if you recall, last year I built a solar array for the MMM Headquarters coworking space, which has been pumping out free energy ever since. My initial setup only cost me $3800 and it has already delivered about $1000 in free energy, more than the total amount used to run the HQ and charge a bunch of electric cars on the side.

So, I plan to invest another $5000, to expand the array at HQ if possible, or to build a similar one on the roof of my own house, possibly with the help of Tesla Energy, which is surprisingly one of the most cost-effective ways to get solar panels installed these days. These will generate decades of clean energy, displacing fossil fuels in my local area while paying me dividends the whole time, which I can reinvest into even more philanthropy in the future.

What a great way to begin the decade. Let’s get on it!

* Die With Zero is not yet released, but I read a pre-release copy that his publisher sent me. The real book comes out on May 5th

** Also, if you find the scientific pursuit of helping the world as fascinating as I do, you should definitely watch the new Bill Gates documentary called Inside Bill’s Brain, which is available on Netflix.

Source: mrmoneymustache.com

ByCurtis Watts

Why Would A Person Choose To Live A Frugal Life?

For some reason, there is a myth out there that living a frugal life means you are living a boring life. Some even believe that if you are frugal then you are a bad parent, a bad person, and a bad friend.

If you don’t believe that, I recommend you read the comments on the next frugal living-related article on a major website such as Forbes, YahooFinance, or something similar. One thing that will be in common with most of the comments is the negativeness from many of the commenters.

I’ve even overheard conversations myself where people think I’m missing out on life because they assume that all frugal people just sit at home all day and do nothing with their lives.

That is FAR from the truth. I know many who are taking part in frugal living and I think they are some of the best 🙂

Sadly, many aren’t interested in frugal living because they believe the myth above.

There are many reasons to live a frugal life, though. Continue reading below to see the reasons for why many choose to take part in frugal living.

 

1. You want to be comfortable in your financial situation.

Seeking financial freedom is something that many are aiming for by living frugally. Being frugal may give you a better chance at reaching this since you are most likely honest with yourself about how much money you earn, how much you spend, and how much you need in order to survive.

Knowing that you are in control of your financial situation is a great benefit of living a frugal life!

Not being comfortable may even lead to debt, which I discuss in the next reason…

 

2. You want to avoid debt.

No one actually wants debt, right? By choosing to live the frugal life, you may be able to avoid debt much more than the average person.

By avoiding debt, you will have less stress due to the fact that you won’t be worried about the next bill you have to pay and the amount of interest that is building up.

You will also be more likely to retire earlier, buy the things that you actually do want to buy, and more.

Related article: How To Live On One Income

 

3. You want a simpler life.

Bigger isn’t always better. More isn’t always better either.

By living a frugal life, you are most likely making do with what you have, buying and using quality items that will last, and so on.

By having less stuff and less clutter in your life, you will live a more simple life that you can truly enjoy. Material items do not always equal happiness. Sometimes they just add stress, debt, and more. Think about it – the more stuff you have, the more likely that something will break, something will get lost or tossed to the side, and so on.

 

4. You know that you can still have fun while being frugal.

Anyone who thinks you can’t have fun while being frugal is crazy. You don’t need to spend a ton of money or be rich in order to enjoy life.

Yes, you can still go on vacations, buy your dream home, have a family, spend time with friends and family, and more. Being frugal doesn’t mean that you are giving up fun things in life.

Side note: I recommend looking into Digit if you want to trick yourself into saving more money. Digit is a FREE service that looks at your spending and transfers money to a savings account for you. Digit makes everything easy so that you can start saving money with very little effort. Read Digit Review – A New Way To Save Money.

 

5. You want to appreciate everything and anything around you.

When we were spending more due to lifestyle inflation, we realized we weren’t really appreciating the things we were spending our money on.

We were buying things, not enjoying them, and just being a little lazy because we weren’t in the right mindset. I didn’t like feeling this way because I felt wasteful and even guilty of the way I was behaving.

Life is great and you don’t need to be rich in order to enjoy it. By living a frugal life, you are more likely to appreciate what you have.

Would you rather enjoy each meal you eat, each item you buy, and more? Life is a great thing and appreciating the little things can be a great feeling.

Are you interested in frugal living? Why or why not? Why do you believe some are so negative about frugality?

 

The post Why Would A Person Choose To Live A Frugal Life? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

ByCurtis Watts

Home Ownership vs Renting As A Minimalist Lifestyle Decision

When it comes to buying a home or renting, there are many things to consider. While there are tons of resources on the financial implications of both options, I’d like to share my thoughts on buying versus renting from an intentional living and minimalist perspective. The decision to buy or rent is just as much a lifestyle decision as it is a financial one. Ultimately, if the decision to buy is made, a home affordability calculator is a great resource to get started.

Longevity and Flexibility

It’s important to consider how long you’re planning to be in a certain area and how much location flexibility you need when you’re making the decision to buy or rent. When renting, the leases are typically 12 months or less and there may be options to work out a more flexible move-out date with the landlord or management company. If you end up needing to move to a different area, you have more flexibility to do so.

It becomes a lot more complicated if you need to move away from a home you own. You’ll likely need to sell the house or rent it out—options that require more time and resources than if you were renting an apartment. With the amount of investment and time that a house requires, it’s probably best to stay in a location for at least a few years if you’re going to buy.

Personal Values

Think about how you want to spend your time. Similarly, it’s also important to consider how much responsibility you’re willing to take on. During the time I lived in an apartment, I barely changed a light bulb. There were no repairs, no additional investment and no worries.

For the past five years I’ve owned a home, it’s a whole different experience. I spend time cleaning the gutters, mowing the lawn, buying and fixing appliances and other maintenance activities that you never have to think about when you’re renting.   Regular or unexpected repairs can quickly add up to large sums when you own a home. Part of the benefit of renting is that you don’t have to deal with or budget for anything like that.

Customization

Another thing to think about is how much customization and control you’d like to have. A home you own can be customized to your exact liking, a rental on the other hand has more limitations. From painting the wall a different color to making bigger changes to your living space, you’ll have greater control if it’s your home. With a rental, any customizations would need to be approved by the owner.

Amenities

Amenities are another lifestyle consideration when it comes to buying or renting.

Most likely, an apartment will have more amenities than a typical home, such as a workout room, pool, large party room or even a concierge service. Of course, you may have the option of building or adding similar amenities to a home you buy, but it can be pricey and impractical investment. If you want a pool without the cost and maintenance that owning one would require, then renting an apartment with a community pool is the way to go.

From my perspective, whether you buy or rent has a significant impact on your lifestyle, particularly over the long-term. Thinking about what’s important to you and how you want to spend your time will help you determine what best fits your desired lifestyle.

The post Home Ownership vs Renting As A Minimalist Lifestyle Decision appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

ByCurtis Watts

2021 VA Funding Fees, Loan Limits & Terms: Interview with Mason Buckles

MilitaryVALoan.com sat down with VA mortgage professional Mason Buckles (NMLS #176104) to talk about the ins and outs VA funding fees, loan limits, and allowable VA loan term lengths.

MVL: What exactly is a VA funding fee and why does VA require it?

Mason: The VA Funding Fee is paid directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs and is the vehicle by which they can guarantee this no-money-down loan program. This fee is paid so that VA eligible borrowers can enjoy loan benefits of VA Lending such as no monthly PMI payments and reduced VA to VA refinance charges.

MVL: Do borrowers have to pay the funding fee in cash?

2013 VA Funding Fee Q&A

Interview with Mason Buckles about the 2018 VA home loan funding fee.

Mason: No. Borrowers have the option of either paying the funding fee in full out of pocket or financing the total sum into their total loan amount or any portion thereof.

Request a free VA home loan quote here.

MVL: Can a seller help pay for the VA funding fee?

Mason: A seller can pay the entire funding fee through a seller concession or credit however the cost cannot be split via seller credit and financing. There are limits on the total percentage amount a seller can contribute or credit the borrower at closing.

Related article: Buying a home with a VA loan.

MVL: What are some of the most common factors for funding fees and what types of borrowers do they apply to?

Mason: Here are a couple charts that detail the various funding fee amounts. The percentage relates to the loan amount, not the home’s value or purchase price.

Purchase – First Time Use

Down Payment Active Duty/Retired Guard/Reserve
$0 Down 2.3% 2.3%
5-10% Down 1.65% 1.65%
10% or More 1.4% 1.4%

Check your VA home loan eligibility here.

Purchase – Additional Use

Down Payment Active Duty/Retired Guard/Reserve
$0 Down 3.6% 3.6%
5-10% Down 1.65% 1.65%
10% or More 1.4% 1.4%

Check your VA eligibility.

(Example: 15 yr VA transaction: $0 down, $204,300 loan amount including 2.3% Funding Fee, 3.25% interest rate, 3.697 APR)

Check your VA eligibility.

MVL: Is anyone exempt from the VA funding fee?

Mason: YES

You do not have to pay the VA funding fee if you are a:

  • Veteran receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability, OR
  • Veteran who would be entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability if you did not receive retirement or active duty pay, OR
  • Surviving spouse of a Veteran who died in service or from a service-connected disability.

MVL: What’s the best way for someone to find out what funding fee they have to pay?

Mason: The best way to find out your specific amount is to contact an experienced loan originator for details. Speak to a VA loan officer to check you funding fee amount.

MVL: What happens to the funding fee on a purchase loan for someone who has used their VA loan benefit in the past?

Mason: It is increased to the Additional Use Percentages as referenced in the table provided above.

MVL: Does the subsequent use rule apply for someone who refinances with a VA streamline refinance (IRRRL)?

Mason: No, the funding fee for an IRRRL Refinance loan is currently set at .50 percent.

MVL: Is the funding fee refundable if the buyer refinances or sells the property later on?

Mason: No. The funding fee is non-refundable.

MVL: What is a VA loan limit? Can a buyer open a VA loan for greater than the VA loan limit?

Mason: As of January 1, 2020, VA-eligible borrowers can get any size loan with no down payment. There are no official limits.

But remember, you’ll still have to qualify for the mortgage.

Read more about home buying with a VA loan here.

MVL:  How often do VA loan limits change? Are there any changes coming up?

Mason: The VA loan limits are typically reviewed annually. The most recent changes went into effect January 1, 2020.

MVL: Most people realize they can get a 30 year VA loan, but can someone obtain a loan for a 15 year term? What about a 40 year VA loan?

Mason: VA does offer a 15 year term, however, a 40 year term is not offered at this time.

(Example 15 yr VA transaction: $0 down, $204,300 loan amount including 2.3% Funding Fee, 3.25% interest rate, 3.697 APR)

MVL: Any additional words of wisdom for someone trying to understand funding fees, loan limits, or loan term lengths?

Mason: The best advice is to identify and work with an experienced VA lender. VA loans, while simple in execution, do require a higher level of scrutiny by both your loan originator and the lender’s underwriter themselves. An experienced loan originator should be able to thoroughly explain all facets of VA Lending including the funding fees, underwriting and appraisal requirements, and non-allowable loan costs as well as efficiently close your loan in a timely fashion.

Mason Buckles (WA MLO 176104 and NMLS #176104) is a licensed loan originator with Cobalt Mortgage (WA CL 35653, NMLS 35653) in Kirkland, WA. He has been in the mortgage industry since 2001 and a recipient of Seattle Magazine’s Five Star Mortgage Professional award. Outside of the office, Mason enjoys coaching his son’s basketball team, boating, and traveling.

(To check licensing status of a mortgage loan originator, visit the NMLS website.)

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Source: militaryvaloan.com

ByCurtis Watts

Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What Not to Buy or Bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What Can You Buy, Then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a Reality Check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

More from Nerdwallet

  • Budgeting for College Students
  • How to Build Credit at 18
  • How to Choose a Student Credit Card

The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Source: getrichslowly.org

ByCurtis Watts

Luxury Real Estate Trends to Watch in 2020 

What will 2020 bring?  These four trends are expected to impact luxury buying and selling in the new year and decade ahead. 

1. Luxury Housing Holds Steady

This year, expect “guarded optimism” to replace last year’s uncertainty over fears about a global economic slowdown, a U.S.-China trade war and a potential U.S. recession, according to Mansion Global. This is encouraging news for luxury real estate, which has traditionally been tied to global economic growth, yet is generally more insulated from market fluctuations. Many U.S. luxury housing meccas are generally stable, while some high-end hotspots like Los Angeles and Miami could be poised to rise or make a comeback in 2020. 

2. The Rise of the Mid-Sized Luxury Market 

When realtor.com released its annual list of the hottest markets last December, surprise cities like Boise, McAllen, Texas and Tucson topped the list. “The cities that we expect to do best in 2020 are not necessarily big, fancy, coastal cities, but secondary markets where the job market is still pretty good but housing is affordable,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist of realtor.com. Affluent buyers from high-cost cities want a good deal as much as anyone — so we expect to see midsized cities with stable and solid economies and more affordable housing as the top performers in 2020. 

3. Less Square Footage

“Less” is becoming “more” — even in the highest price segments. Consistent with NAHB data that found the average new single-family home size has been trending lower since 2015, realtors in some luxury markets are reporting that a growing number of affluent buyers are willing to “trade space for place.” This is especially true in the luxury condo segment, where buyers are increasingly getting flexible on square footage if a building has amenities or hospitality programs attached to it. 

4. Urbanization of the ‘Burbs, Emergence of ‘Hipsturbias’

People are moving back to the cities, it’s true — but as millennials start families another phenomenon has emerged, according to Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2020, a report released by Urban Land Institute and PwC: “hipsturbias.” Hipsturbias are suburban markets with hip or cool live/work/play environments offering walkability and/or transit access. Brooklyn is a prototype, but hipsturbia examples are beginning to crop up across the U.S. — from New Jersey communities such as Hoboken, Maplewood, and Summit, to New York’s Yonkers and New Rochelle, to Evanston, Illinois and further out west — Santa Clara, California, and Tempe, Arizona. 

Which trend do you see impacting your community?

The post Luxury Real Estate Trends to Watch in 2020  first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

ByCurtis Watts

FHA Loan Requirements – Guideline & Limits

FHA loan requirements are simple; they’re different than conventional loan requirements. For a conventional loan, for example, you will need a good credit score. However a FHA loan credit score is only 580.

If you’re a first time home buyer and need a first time home buyer loan to purchase your dream home, then keep reading to find out how an FHA loan is right for you.

Click here to compare the rates if you’re thinking of applying for an FHA loan. It’s totally FREE.

In this article, we will cover several topics around the FHA loan requirements. As a first time home buyer, you will need to be aware of these requirements so that your home-buying process can go as smoothly as possible.

Here’s what we will cover: FHA loan limits, FHA loan rates, FHA loan credit score, FHA lenders, and so many others. In addition, we will address the difference between conventional loan requirements versus FHA loan requirements.

Click here to apply for a FHA loan.

FHA Loan Requirements – Guideline & Limits:

Buying a house through an FHA loan, while exciting, can be daunting, especially as a first time home buyer. Taking a few moments to familiarize yourself with the FHA loan requirements can save you from costly mistakes during the home buying process. Below is an overview of FHA loan process

FHA loan definition

What is an FHA loan? Simply stated, an FHA loan is a loan that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration. These type of loan are popular among first time home buyers because they allow them to put as low as 3.5% down payment and require a very low credit score.

So if you’re a first time home buyer with a bad credit, then an FHA loan makes more sense.


Feeling Overwhelmed With Your Finances?, You have options and there are steps you can take yourself. But if you feel you need a bit more guidance, simply speak with a financial advisorSmartAsset’s free tool matches you with fiduciary advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you are ready to meet your goals, get started with Smart Asset today.


FHA loan limits

FHA loan limits refers to the maximum amount of loan the FHA will give you. For 2019, for example, in low cost areas, FHA loan requirements have been set in place allowing the maximum amount for a single family home to be $314, 827. Whereas for a four-plex, the maximum amount is $605,525.

FHA loan limits – low cost areas
Single Duplex Triplex Fourplex
$314,827 $403,125 $487,250 $605,525

 

For high cost areas, the FHA loan limits for a single family home is $726, 525 and for a duplex, the FHA limit is $930, 300. Those limits, of course vary depending on your states and they are update annually. So visit your state to determine what the FHA mortgage lending limits are.

FHA loan limits – high cost areas
Single Duplex Triplex Fourplex
$726,525 $930,300 $1,124,475 $1,397,400

Click here to compare current FHA loan mortgage rates

FHA loan vs conventional

When it comes to get a home loan for presumably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make in your life, you certainly have to know the key differences between an FHA loan and a conventional loan. While it’s easier to get approved for an FHA loan, it’s important so that you can make the best decisions.

FHA loan requirements

fha loan requirements
FHA credit score loan requirement

The FHA loan requirements are fairly simple and straightforward. Here’s what they require: 1) You must have a credit score of at least 580.

2) A 3.5% down payment is required. (*note, if your FICO score is between 500 and 579, then you will have to put 10% down payment). 3) You will have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI);

4) Your debt to income ratio must be < 43%. Your debt to income ratio is the percentage of your income that you spend on debt, including mortgage, car loan, student debt, etc..

5) The home you intend to purchase must be your primary residence. You must also occupy the property within 60 days of closing.

Click here to shop for FHA mortgage rates in your area

It can’t be an investment property. However, you can buy a duplex or triplex, live in one unit and rent the other units. As long as you reside in the property, you will satisfy that requirement. Also, the house must meet FHA loan limits (see above).

6) Finally, and of course, you must have a steady income and proof of employment. I will discuss later whether a FHA loan is better than a conventional loan. For more information about FHA loan requirements in general, visit the FHA website.

Conventional loan requirements

The requirements for a conventional loan, however, are much stricter. By the way a conventional loan or traditional loan is not insured by the Federal Housing Administration. But instead it is guaranteed by a private lender such as a bank, credit union, mortgage companies, etc…

Of course whether you will qualify for a conventional loan vary from lenders to lenders, but the following are required:

1) A credit score of at least 680 (of course the higher the score is, the more likely you will get qualified, and the lower your interest rate on the loan will be.

2) A down payment of at least 20% of the house purchase price. If you have less than 20%, you still can get the loan. But the problem is, you will have to take out private mortgage insurance, pay its premiums until you achieve at least 20% equity in the house.

3) Your debt to income ratio needs to be around 36% and no more than 43%.

Should you apply for an FHA loan or conventional loan?

As you can see above, the FHA loan requirements are less strict than the conventional loan requirements. However, which one you choose to apply to depends on your personal circumstances.

But if you are a first time home buyer, there are a lot of good reasons why an FHA loan would seem more appealing to you. For one, the down payment is only 3.5% (compare that with a 20% down payment a conventional loan requires). A down payment is the upfront money you need to to make when buying a home.

As a first time home buyer, saving for a 20% down payment on a house can be a big burden. Homes are expensive. For example, saving for $450,000 home can take you years to accomplish, especially if you have other debt like student debt, credit card debt, car loan, etc… So a 3.5% down payment makes it easier for you to buy your own home.

Second, the FHA loan credit score is only 580. Although, you should always take steps to raise your credit score, sometimes certain changes in your life may leave you with a low credit score. Perhaps, you had to file for bankruptcy which resulted in a low credit score.

Or maybe you never had a credit card, which means that you don’t have an established credit history. Or maybe you’re a victim of identity theft which lowered your credit score. So there are several reasons why you could have a low credit score.

However, that shouldn’t mean you can’t buy a house. That’s why the FHA loan requirements make it easier for folks who otherwise would not have been qualified for a conventional loan.

Related Articles:

5 Signs You’re Not Ready To Buy A House

The Biggest Mistakes Millennials Make When Buying a House

How Much House Can I afford

Buy a home with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals. Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post FHA Loan Requirements – Guideline & Limits appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

ByCurtis Watts

The 10 Best Vanguard Index Funds to Buy

If you don’t have the time, the money or the expertise to buy individual stocks or bonds to build your investment portfolio, then consider the best Vanguard index funds.

Index funds are a good way to start saving and investing for retirement.

One reason is because the chance of making more money investing in index funds is far higher than it is investing in individual stocks, especially if you are a beginner investor.

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As the master of value investing, Warren Buffett, once said “a low-cost index fund is the most sensible equity investment for the great majority of investors.” “By periodically investing in an index fund, the know-nothing investor can actually out-perform most investment professionals.”

But how do you find and choose among the best Vanguard index funds? Don’t worry, GrowthRapidly can help make your choice easier.

On this page:

Index funds vs mutual funds

Index funds are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to invest in the stock market. As opposed to a mutual fund, which is actively managed by a fund manager, index funds are passive.

This means that index funds attempt to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index.

So, when you invest in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund (which we’ll discuss in more detail below), you’re essentially buying a piece of the 500 largest publicly traded US companies.

Index funds don’t jump around; they stayed invested in the market. Again, they simply track the performance of the stock index.

Related: What is a mutual fund?

Whereas with a mutual fund, fund managers might make mistake by not being invested when the market goes up or by being too aggressive when the market goes down.

That doesn’t mean mutual funds are not good investments. In fact, they are great investment vehicles. But when it comes to long term investments, index funds are the best. However, these 8 mutual funds are great for long term investing.

Like a mutual fund, you can buy an index fund through a fund company like Vanguard.

The main advantage of a Vanguard index fund is its low-cost, which is usually less than 1% annually. Another benefit of Vanguard index funds is that they are diversified. Like mutual funds, they invest to multiple companies, thus spreading out the risk.

One of the downside with index funds, however, is that they won’t outperform the market they track.

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Why choosing the best Vanguard index funds to invest your money?

There are thousands of fund companies (such as Fidelity, Schwab, JP Morgan) where you can buy index funds. Different companies have different experiences and expertise with different type of funds. So, it can be difficult to know which one is the best. 

Here are four main factors to consider when looking to buy the best index funds for long term investments: 

  • The company: Is it a reputable and well-known company with a great track record?
  • Fees: Another major factor to consider in picking a fund company is its cost. Excessive fees have a negative effect on your investment return. These fees are deducted from your index fund’s balance every year. Other fees can apply as well. So always find a company with a low fee. 
  • Reasonable minimum investment: Will you be able to invest with as little as $1000?
  • Performance: Although past performance does not guarantee future performance, look for a fund company with a strong record of performing well against its competitors over the short and long term as well.

If you are an intelligent investor who has done his or her research, you will conclude that among the various fund companies out there, Vanguard comes out on top.

Jack Bogle, who recently died and who founded the firm Vanguard Group, invented the index fund in 1976.

Today, Vanguard is one of the World’s biggest and the best investment funds with approximately $5.6 trillion in assets.

Moreover, Vanguard has the best index funds because of their ability to keep their operating fees so low. Vanguard has all types of stock and bond index funds and their fees are the lowest.

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The advantages and disadvantages of Vanguard Index funds. 

Pros of the best vanguard index funds

By now, you know that an index fund is well diversified. But you might know these two other pros that make Vanguard index funds the best:

  • Good return: Vanguard index funds generally delivers a good return because their expenses are relatively low. The average Vanguard Index fund has an expense ratio of 0.2% per year (compare that to the average index fund operating expenses of 1.4% per year.) A 1.2% difference can be a significant difference on your return. Operating expenses are also lower because ongoing research is not needed to identify companies to invest in.
  • Tax-friendly: not only Vanguard index funds have lower operating expenses, which help increase your returns, they are also tax-friendlier when you invest outside of retirement accounts. Because a mutual fund is actively managed, they tend to jump around by selling and buying stocks more frequently. By doing that, it increases a fund’s taxable capital gains distribution. Whereas an index fund stays invested and not trying to jump around.

Cons of the best Vanguard index funds

Despite their low costs and tax-friendliness, their minimum investment while seem reasonable, might not be for the beginner investor with little money to invest.

Most Vanguard index funds requires a $3,000 minimum initial investment. Retirement account investors who plan on starting with less might be at a disadvantage.

Moreover, Vanguard has an overwhelming number of index funds to choose from. That can make it tedious for an investor to decide which ones are the best. But that’s why we have compiled the top Vanguard index funds for you.

The 10 Best Vanguard Index Funds to Buy in August 2020: 

Now that you know what an index fund is and why investing Vanguard index funds makes good sense, in no particular order, below are 10 of the best Vanguard index funds to add to your investment portfolio.

Vanguard S&P 500 Index Admiral (VFIAX)

Of all the Vanguard index funds in this list, the Vanguard S&P index fund, which tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500, is perhaps the best Vanguard index fund. One reason is that the fund invest in 500 of largest U.S. companies with a few a midsize stocks.

Some of the big name stocks in this index fund includes Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Google/Alphabet (GOOGL). Another reason to select this fund is that the cost is pretty low, (0.04%) if not the lowest of all the index funds.

Index fund cost is an important factor in choosing an index fund to invest in, because fees are deducted from your balance and thus reduced your rate of returns. The last reason to invest in the VFIAX is because the initial minimum investment is also low ($3,000).

So if you’re looking for an index fund that maintains low operating expenses while enjoying a good rate of return, the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Admiral is for you.

Vanguard Developed Market Stock Index Admiral

For diversification, you should consider in your investment portfolio some index funds that invests in foreign countries. International funds are diversified because they invest in countries around the world. If so, the Vanguard Developed Market Stock Index Admiral fund (VTMGX) is a fine choice.

This Vanguard index fund tracks the performance of the FTSE Developed All Cap ex US Index. It invests in large cap stocks in 24 developed countries. Some of its several blue-chip multinational companies include the Toyota Motor Corp (7203), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A.), Nestle SA (NESN), making it one of the best Vanguard index funds.

This index fund has a minimum investment of $3,000 and an expense ratio of 0.07%.

Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Admiral 

While Vanguard index funds invested in U.S. stocks tend to perform better than Vanguard index funds invested in emerging markets, emerging markets in Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe should not be overlooked.

If you don’t mind investing in emerging economies, consider checking out the Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Admiral (VEMAX), which is currently one of the best Vanguard index funds to buy now.

In fact, some of the big name foreign companies included in this index fund are Alibaba Group Holding Ltd ADR (BABA), Tencent Holdings Ltd (TCEHY), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (2330.TW), and China Construction Bank Corp Class H (00939).

This investment attempts to track the performance of the FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap China Inclusion Index.

One of the downside of this index fund is that it has an expense ratio of 0.14%, but it still has a low minimum initial investment of $3,000.

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSAX)

The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSAX) is one of the best Vanguard index funds. It captures the total market.

That means it gives investors broad exposure to the entire U.S. equity market including large cap, mid cap and small cap growth and value stocks.

Some of the big name companies included in this Vanguard fund are: Facebook, Alphabet, JPMorgan Chase, Apple, and Microsoft.

This Vanguard index fund has an expense ratio of 0.04% and a minimum initial investment of $3,000.

So, if you’re looking for a well diversified Vanguard fund and don’t mind a little volatility, this index fund is for you.

Note that you can purchase this index fund as an ETF as well. It start at the price of one share.

Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Admiral

The Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Admiral fund (VIMAX), which tracks the CRSP U.S. Midcap Index, may be appropriate for you if you have a long term perspective.

That is because the index fund, which consists of midsize and smaller stocks, performs better in the long term rather than the short term, making it one of the best Vanguard index funds to include in your investment portfolio.

The fund targets midsize companies. The minimum investment is $3,000 with an operating expense of 0.05%.

So if you’re looking for a Vanguard index fund to use for retirement investing and you don’t expect to tap into your investment money for 10 years or more, the Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Admiral fund is for you.

Vanguard Small-Cap Index Admiral

The Vanguard Small-Cap Index Admiral (VSMAX), as the name suggests invests in stocks of smaller companies.

This index fund tracks the CRSP U.S. Small Cap Index. Some of its holdings include DocuSign, Inc (DOCU), Leidos Holdings Inc (LDOS), Tyler Technologies, Inc (TDY), Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc (ELS), etc…

This index fund, just like the Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Admiral fund, tends to perform better in the long term. Therefore, invest in this Vanguard fund if you don’t plan to use your money within the next five years.

So if you’re looking for a broadly diversified index of stocks of small U.S. companies, the Vanguard Small-Cap Index Admiral is a good choice. This index fund has a minimum initial investment of $3,000 and an expense ratio of 0.05%. 

Vanguard Short-Term Corporate Index Admiral

If you want to invest in short term bonds to use your money in the next five years to buy a house, or if you plan to withdraw the money from your retirement account, then the Vanguard Short-Term Corporate Index Admiral fund (VSCSX) is for you.

This bond index fund tracks the performance of the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. 1-5 Year Corporate Bond Index.

While you shouldn’t expect a return of no more than 2 to 3% annually on this bond index fund, corporate bonds in general are safe, and this fund is pretty stable.

Because of this stability, this short-term bond index fund makes it an appropriate investment. The Vanguard Short-Term Corporate Index Admiral has an expense ratio of 0.07% expense and a minimum initial investment of $3000, making it one of the best Vanguard index funds around.

Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF

The Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM), as the name suggests, is a “dividend” fund. It attempts to track the performance of the FTSE High Dividend Yield Index.

This index ETF allows investors to earn dividend through growth companies. Some of the big companies with a strong record of paying dividends are AT&T, Intel, and Exxon Mobil.

As of 2/27/2020, this ETF has an expense ratio of 0.06%, making it one of the best Vanguard index funds for income. It starts at the price of one share.

So, if you’re looking for an index fund with the best long term investments growth potential, and you don’t mind the stock market volatility, this income-focused fund is appropriate for you.

Note that the Vanguard High Dividend Yield is also available as an Admiral share with a minimum investment of $3,000.

Vanguard Information Technology

Vanguard Information Technology Index Fund Admiral Shares (VITAX) is a sector fund. This investment attempts to track the performance of the MSCI US Investable Market/Information Technology 25/50.

Sector funds invest in stocks and/or bonds in specific industries. And the Vanguard Information Technology Index Fund, as the name suggests, focuses only on technology.

Generally, you should avoid sector funds mainly because they lack diversification. However, there is an exception with this Vanguard index fund. It focuses on technology, which makes it one of the best Vanguard funds.

In addition, this index is made up of stocks of large, mid-size, and small U.S. companies within the technology sector.

Nowadays, technology has shaped our daily lives. From computers, TVs, tablets, etc, everything is connected to the internet. Therefore, this means that there is and there will be continued growth in the years ahead.

The top companies included in this Vanguard fund are Apple, Microsoft, Visa, Adobe, PayPal, etc.

This index fund has an expense ratio of 0.10 %, but a minimum investment of $100,000. This can be high for the beginner investor.

However, this Vanguard index fund is available as an ETF, starting at the price of one share. 

Vanguard Real Estate

The Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund Admiral Shares (VGSLX) is another sector fund. It focuses on real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are companies that buy office buildings, hotels and other real estate properties.

This Vanguard fund seeks to track the performance of the MSCI US Investable Market Real Estate 25/50 index.

Just as any other sector funds, this Vanguard real estate index fund may lack diversification. So, it makes sense to have this index fund in conjunction with another a more broadly diversified Vanguard fund.

Despite the lack of diversification, however, this fund distributes higher dividend income than other funds, allowing it to be among the best Vanguard index funds for income.

This Vanguard fund has an expense ratio of 0.12%. It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000.

Note that this Vanguard fund is also available as an ETF, starting at the price of one share.

Final tips for buying the best Vanguard index funds

In general, index funds are a good investment vehicle to use. So whether you’re looking to invest money for retirement, or you’re looking to add diversification to your investment portfolio, these Vanguard index funds are a great choice for you. They are great quality funds. They produce superior returns comparing to other similar funds.

Indeed, the best Vanguard Index funds will not only save you money in fees throughout the years. But also, these low-cost index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) will give you a wide exposure to different asset classes.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard index funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
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The post The 10 Best Vanguard Index Funds to Buy appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

ByCurtis Watts

How to Invest in Stocks: A Guide to Getting Started

A tablet shows the trajectory of a stock.

In 2020, around 55% of American adults invest in the stock market. That’s down from a peak of 65% in 2007 but around the average over the past 10 years. Do you want to get a piece of the action? Before you jump all in, make sure you know the basics of how to invest in stocks. 

A quick note before we dive in: we’re not investment experts or advisors. So if you’re seriously considering investing, you should work with professional brokers, financial advisors or other knowledgeable experts when you invest. That’s especially true if you plan on investing a lot. 

1. Decide on a Budget for Investing

Start by deciding how much you want to use to invest in stocks. Here’s a good starting place—make the potential stocks you’d invest in a percentage of your portfolio. A rule of thumb that many advisors go by is to take 110 or 120 and subtract your age. That’s how much of your investment portfolio you should keep in stocks.

For example, if you’re 30, then you’d keep between 80 and 90% of your portfolio in stocks. If that feels a little aggressive for your financial goals, start with 100 and subtract your age from that.

You also need to decide how much you can invest overall. That depends on your own income, what financial obligations you have and your overall budget. While investing is important, you shouldn’t invest money at the sake of paying your bills, for example.

2. Open an Account for Making Your Investments.

Stocks aren’t like retail goods. You can’t just buy them here and there when you see one you like on display on an ecommerce site. You typically need an account to purchase your stocks through. Some options you can choose include:

  • Opening a brokerage account. This lets you buy and sell stocks through a professional service. You can opt for a brokerage where you do your own research and push the buttons on buying and selling, or you can choose a managed option where someone provides advice or handles these things on your behalf.
  • Using a robo-advisor. This is an app or software program that lets you set goals for your investments and uses machine learning, AI and algorithms to handle your investments. One popular robo-advisor is Acorns, which is an app that lets you round up your purchases with connected debit cards and put the change into investments. While you’re making many micro investments, the total can add up over time.

3. Get Help Creating an Investment Plan

An investment plan is a comprehensive approach to wealth building. Stocks may play an important part in that, but you typically want to ensure you’re well diversified. A diversified portfolio just means you have various types of investments. This way if one isn’t performing well, the others might offer some protection.

One option for getting investment advice is by signing up for an Ellevest account. You pay a monthly membership for this robo investment app, but you gain access to investment and other financial coaching and educational materials.

4. Learn More About Stocks

You don’t have to be a stock expert or financial advisor to have success investing in stocks. But you do have to know a bit about what you’re investing in, especially if you’re going to make very specific stock choices.

You might be familiar with the concept of buying and selling stocks as seen in television and movies. While you canbuy and sell specific stocks because you want to invest in a specific company, you don’t have to invest like that. You can also invest in groups of stocks via stock mutual funds. When you invest in a stock mutual fund, you’re actually buying many different stocks or pieces of stocks. That spreads your risk out over a wider range of assets.

You should also understand the trends associated with the stock market, at least in general. For example, stocks do tend to rise over time barring big economic downturns. On any particular day, the chance that stocks will rise is around 53%. The chance that they will fall is around 47%. But if you look at the long-term, such as a 12-month period, stocks typically have a chance of rising of 75%. 

5. Use Other Tools to Make Investing Easy as You Get Started

Start by getting your immediate financial house in order. Understand what your budget is, and check your credit to ensure there are no surprises looming. You can sign up for ExtraCredit to get a comprehensive understanding of where your credit score is. Once you know where you stand, you can start creating an investment plan with confidence. You can even rely on ExtraCredit’s Reward It feature for cashback offers when signing up for Credit.com partners that provide investment apps and other financial services.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

Start Investing in Stocks Today 

So, should you invest? Honestly, that’s up to you. Take a good look at your finances and, if you need guidance, try working with a professional. If you do decide to start investing, start easy and slow. There’s no need to jump all in right at once. Hopefully, if investing works out, you’ll reap some serious rewards. 

The post How to Invest in Stocks: A Guide to Getting Started appeared first on Credit.com.

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ByCurtis Watts

How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards and Earn Cash and Perks

If you’re looking for ways to put some extra cash in your pocket, make sure to take advantage of credit card rewards programs.

Credit card companies and banks make some of their money from the merchant interchange fees that are charged when you use your card.

As an incentive for you to use their cards, many credit card issuers pass some of those funds on to the consumer in the form of credit card rewards.

If you have good credit and the ability and discipline to pay off your credit cards in full each month, you should try to maximize your credit card rewards. Otherwise you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.

But it can be challenging to navigate the world of credit card rewards. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different credit cards exist, and the type and amount of rewards vary with each card.

There are three main kinds of rewards card offers available:

  • Bank and credit card points: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, etc.
  • Airline miles and hotel points: Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors points, etc.
  • Cash back: Straight cash that can be redeemed either as statement credits or checks mailed to you.

How to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

You have three different ways to maximize any credit card rewards program:

  • The sign-up bonus or welcome offer: Many cards offer a large number of miles or points as a welcome bonus for signing up and using the card to make purchases totaling a specific amount within a specified time period.
  • Rewards for spending: Most rewards credit cards offer between one and five points for every dollar you spend on the card. Some cards offer the same rewards on every purchase, while others offer a greater reward for buying certain products.
  • Perks: Simply having certain credit cards can get you perks like free checked bags on certain airlines, hotel elite status or membership with airline lounge clubs and other retail partners.

Usually, the rewards for signing up are much higher than the rewards you get from ongoing spending, so you may want to pursue sign-up bonuses on multiple credit cards as a way of racking up rewards.

Consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you can get 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first three months of having the card. That means that while you’re meeting that minimum spending requirement, you’re earning 15 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Compare that to the one or two points you’ll earn with each dollar of spending after meeting the minimum spending. You can see the difference.

Other than getting the welcome bonus offers for signing up for new credit cards, another great way to maximize your rewards is by paying attention to bonus categories on your cards. Some cards offer a flat 1 or 2 points for every dollar you spend.

How Applying for Credit Cards Affects Your Credit Score

It’s important to be aware of how applying for new credit cards affects your credit score.

Your credit score consists of five factors, and one of the largest factors is your credit utilization.

Credit utilization is the percentage of your total available credit that you’re currently using. If you have one credit card with a $10,000 credit limit and you charge $2,000 to that card, then your utilization percentage is 20%. But if you have 10 different cards, each with $10,000 credit limits, then that your credit utilization percentage is only 2%.

Since a lower credit utilization is better, having multiple credit cards can actually help this part of your credit score.

New credit — how recently you’ve applied for new credit cards — accounts for about 10% of your credit score. When you apply for a new credit card, your credit score usually will dip 3-5 points. However, if you’re conscientious with your credit card usage, your score will come back up in a few months.

What to Watch Out for When Using Credit Card Rewards

While it’s true that careful use of credit cards can be a boon, you should watch out for pitfalls.

The first thing is to make sure that you have the financial ability, discipline and organization to manage all of your credit cards. Missing payments and paying credit card interest and fees will quickly sap up any rewards you might earn.

Another thing to be aware of is the psychology of credit card rewards. It can be easy to justify additional spending because you’re getting rewards or cash back, but remember that buying something that you don’t need in order to get 2% cash back is a waste of 98% of your money.

Pro Tip

Credit card rewards are alluring, but what do they really cost? Here’s what you should know about the dark side of credit card rewards.

The Best Credit Cards to Get Started

Before signing up for a new credit card, it’s best to pay off your existing cards first — otherwise the fees and interest will quickly outweigh any rewards you earn.

If you’re ready to start shopping rewards offers, here are five credit cards to consider. Note that these introductory offers are subject to change:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – The Sapphire Preferred card earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards and currently offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. It comes with a $95 annual fee.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards – The Capital One Venture Rewards is offering 100,000 Venture miles, which can be used on any airline or at any hotel. It also comes with a $95 annual fee.
  • Barclays American AAdvantage Aviator Red – With the AAdvantage Aviator Red card, you’ll get 50,000 American Airlines miles after paying the $99 annual fee and making only one purchase.
  • American Express Hilton Honors – If you’re looking for a hotel card, consider the no-fee Hilton Honors card, which comes with a signup bonus of 80,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in three months. There is no annual fee.
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards – The Bank of America Premium Rewards card comes with a bonus of 50,000 Preferred Rewards points (worth $500) after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card has a $95 annual fee.
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The Bottom Line

The best credit card is the one that gets you the rewards that help you do what is most important to you.

If you’re looking to maximize travel credit, then pick an upcoming trip and figure out what airline miles and hotel chain points you’ll need. Then pick the credit cards that give those miles and points. If you want to maximize your cash back, look for a card with a good signup bonus that either offers cash back or bank points that can be converted into cash.

Dan Miller is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com