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ByCurtis Watts

Escape your home for a safe holiday staycation

With the 2020 holidays upon us, it’s likely you’ve spent some time considering how you’ll have a COVID-safe celebration. Should you stay? Should you go? Is travel to your family even an option this year as some states impose new travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine periods?

Perhaps for safety’s sake, you’ve decided to stay put. But you also recognize that being “home for the holidays” doesn’t have the same cozy appeal as it used to when you’ve already been home working from home for months on end. What you might need is a staycation – the getaway for when you can’t get away.

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Get away for the holidays without going away

Traditionally, when we think about holiday travel, we’re most likely planning how to get ourselves to a faraway destination – whether that’s to see family across the country, or to flee from some combination of family, holiday hustles and winter weather.

This year, I’ve personally decided I won’t be among the holiday crowds attempting to fly on the busiest travel days of the year. Instead, I’ll be sticking closer to home, celebrating in my own city with a staycation – and testing a theory that there is no place like a Hyatt for the holidays.

If you’re planning to stay close to home like me, here’s some good news: Your credit card points work just as well for living it up in luxury in your hometown as they do when you’re on the road.

Some more good news: You’ll save lots of points and dollars by not flying anywhere this holiday – so go ahead and book the suite!

How to use your credit card points to book a staycation

If you live in or near a city, finding a hotel to tuck into for a few days over the holiday period should be pretty straightforward.

To plan a staycation, I normally start by checking what’s available near me by searching the website for each of the hotel groups in whose loyalty programs I participate.

Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I found plenty of options at varying price points when I looked up Marriott, IHG, Hilton and Hyatt – the four hotel programs in which I currently have points.

For example, a few weeks ago, I decided to take an early holiday staycation at the Hyatt Centric Downtown Portland. I chose the hotel because of its location right in the middle of the city, and because Hyatt has a 25% points-back offer on award stays and free parking for The World of Hyatt Credit Card holders through the end of the year.

I paid 30,000 World of Hyatt points for a two-night stay, got 7,500 points back, and got upgraded to a suite thanks to my World of Hyatt elite status. Without points, the suite would have cost $355 dollars a night – plus the free valet parking saved me another $47 a day. I was able to get a $804 value for 22,500 rewards points. Even though I was less than two miles from my actual house, I felt a world away.

How to use travel rewards to book a staycation

If you don’t already have a hotel-branded rewards credit card for earning points in a specific hotel program like World of Hyatt, or if you live in a location where there aren’t many chain hotels, you’ll likely have more luck booking a staycation using travel rewards points.

You can book directly through the respective program’s travel planning portal. Flexible bank programs include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points.

Once you find a hotel you want to visit, and before you make the booking, you’ll want to check to make sure the hotel amenities that excite you for your staycation are going to be open and accessible.

Other than being snuggled up in a warm bed that I didn’t make myself, the best part of my staycation weekend at the Hyatt Centric Portland was the food.

Masia, the hotel’s signature restaurant designed by Portland’s award-winning Spanish chef Jose Chesa, was finally open and serving after a long COVID closure. Since I live in a city where indoor dining still hasn’t made a full comeback (and is now taking a pause for the holiday season), it was a rather delightful experience to spend two mornings lingering over a long breakfast.

If you’re booking more than a week in advance, you should also make sure your reservation is flexible or cancelable should your own plans change, or the COVID regulations in your state or county change and require the hotel to amend their offerings.

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ByCurtis Watts

5 Ways to Look for a New Job

This post can be found en Español here.

The current coronavirus pandemic has caused a large upheaval across many different areas. In addition to the changes COVID-19 has made in the areas of health and safety (masks, social distancing and quarantines), it has also caused major changes to the economy across all walks to life. The United States has experienced record levels of unemployment, and even many of those who are still employed have experienced disruptions to their unemployment. 

If you are recently unemployed or are looking for new work due to changes in your work situation (being furloughed, having hours reduced or changes in the type or location of your work), there are several different ways that you can look for a new job. In this article, we’ll look through some of the best ways to look for a new job.

Networking with friends, family and former colleagues

There’s a reason the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is so popular – it’s quite true. As it has in most industries, the Internet has disrupted the way that recruiters and HR departments source their open job positions. Since most job applications are available at no cost and with the click of a button, the volume of resumes received for each open position is staggering. You truly have to make sure that your resume stands out.

One way to do this is to have a referral from a friend, family member or former colleague. Talk to your circle of influence and see what jobs are available where they work. A referral from someone who already works where you’re looking to hire on is a great first step. In many cases, a referral from an existing employee can help to short-circuit the HR department and get you directly in front of the hiring manager.

Make sure that your Linkedin profile is up-to-date

Going along with the power of networking and referrals is making sure that your Linkedin profile is accurate and current. Linkedin can be more useful in certain professions and in certain areas, so you’ll have to take a look to see how it might work for you. Generally, you’ll find more people and companies active on Linkedin in more white-collar trades. 

Linkedin also has a setting where you can state that you are actively looking for jobs. That setting will bring your Linkedin profile to the attention of recruiters who are looking to hire in your industry. This can be both positive and negative. Most recruiters also cast a wide net, so you may find it to be distracting having to answer calls and emails from recruiters who are hiring for jobs that may be not quite what you’re looking for.

Don’t forget about a solid resume

A traditional (paper) resume is less important than it was 10-20 years ago but still is useful to keep current. Depending on where you’re looking and in what industry, you might find a resume more or less important. The big reason resumes are not nearly as important anymore is that most job applications online are done electronically. So you may fill out an online form rather than uploading a Word document or PDF. Even if you do upload your resume online, it’s likely that it is getting parsed and converted into a different format, so all the time you spent carefully formatting your resume doesn’t tend to matter.

Another great resume tip is to make sure and target your resume and cover letter to the individual company and position you’re applying for. Each job is different, and showing that you took the time to emphasize skills and experience that was directly solicited in the job posting will only help.

Scour the big job boards

All of the traditional job “boards” have also moved online, with big job sites like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder and Linkedin posting millions of jobs per month. With so many jobs posted, it can be challenging to wade through all of them and find ones that make sense for what you’re looking for. Some good advice is to make sure to narrow down your search as much as possible. 

You may be tempted to cast a wide net in the hopes of finding something, but unless you have a ton of time, you may find it more beneficial to focus more narrowly. Most job sites will also let you set up ongoing searches that will immediately alert you if a new job is posted that matches your criteria.

Explore the gig economy

Depending on your household’s financial situation, you may also be looking to pick up some extra income while you’re looking for a new job. Joining the gig economy may make sense as a short-term option while you’re looking for a more stable job. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash or Instacart are generally always hiring people to work through their platforms and offer flexibility that could make it an easier fit on your schedule. 

Most of these companies also offer signup bonuses from $200-$500 to incentivize new people to join with them. Taking advantage of these gigs might be a good way to stabilize your budget while looking for that perfect job.

What to do if they say no

Even in high-demand professions, you’re likely to encounter a pretty significant level of rejection. If you’re not getting rejected a lot, you’re probably not applying to enough places! Unfortunately, many companies or HR departments do not typically let you know if you are rejected. If you don’t get the job, one strategy can be to ask when would a good time to follow up. Their answer to the question can help give you an idea for possible next steps with that company. 

Again, this is where the power of having a friend or former colleague on the inside – most HR departments are historically tight-lipped because they’re afraid of getting sued. But if you have a connection on the inside, you may be able to get more and better information to help guide your path going forward.

The post 5 Ways to Look for a New Job 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

Why Is There No Inflation Adjustment With My Social Security?

Welcome to our “Social Security Q&A” series. You ask a question about Social Security, and a guest expert answers it. You can learn how to ask a question of your own below. And if you would like a personalized report detailing your optimal Social Security claiming strategy, click here. Check it out: It could result in receiving thousands of dollars more in benefits over your lifetime!

Source: moneytalksnews.com