Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes

Buying a home, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, can be daunting and nerve racking.

But it does not have to be. LendingTree’s online loan marketplace has got you covered – at least when it comes to getting a mortgage.

A 2016 study by the Office of Research of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection reveals that prospective buyers who shop for a mortgage when buying a home for the first time report “increases consumers’ knowledge of the mortgage market and increases consumers’ self confidence in their ability to deal with mortgage related issues.”

The importance of shopping for a mortgage as a first-time home buyer is that it saves you money in the long term and “reduces the cost of consumers’ mortgages,” the study found.

The home-buying process can be intimidating. So being aware of these mistakes when buying a home for the first time can help you save thousands and thousands of dollars in the long term.

Tips for Buying a Home
To guide you through a major financial decision like the purchase of a home, you may want to talk to a financial advisor.

Luckily, SmartAsset’s advisor matching tool can help you find a suitable financial advisor in your area to work with.

Get started now.

10 Mistakes to avoid when buying a home for the first time.

1. Not knowing your credit score.

We are all aware that the higher your credit score, the better.
Yet, despite this fact, many people fail to check their credit score before
buying their first home.

And a low credit score can lead to a high interest mortgage loan, or even worse, a loan rejection. Given the fact that your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lender looks at, it pays off to know where you stand.

Credit Sesame will let you know what your credit score is for free and monitor it for you. It will also offer tips on how to raise your credit score and reduce your debt.

Just sign up for a free account – it only takes 90 seconds.

2. Not shopping and comparing mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates and fees vary across lenders. In other words, two applicants with the identical credentials can get different mortgage rates. Despite this, however, many fist-time homebuyers fail to shop and compare mortgage rates before buying their first home.

The study reveals that 30 percent first time homebuyers do not
compare and shop for their mortgages, and more than 75 percent reported
applying for a mortgage with only one mortgage lender.

The study further reveals that “failing to comparison shop for a
mortgage costs the average homebuyer approximately $300 per year and many thousands
of dollars over the life of the loan.”

An easy way to shop and compare for a mortgage is with LendingTree. Their simple and straightforward platform can help you find and apply for the right loan all in one place.

3. Sticking with the first mortgage lender you meet.

While it’s tempting to work with your local mortgage lender who’s
only a few blocks away from your home, this decision requires more time. Take
time to meet with at least three mortgage lenders before picking the best match
for you.

Fortunately, LendingTree free online platform, allows you to quickly browse several mortgage rates with several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

4. Not knowing what loans are available to you.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, one thing you need to address is what types of loans are available to me. Sometimes the answer to this can be quite simple: conventional loan. This is because most people know about this type of loan.

But conventional loan requires at least 20% down payment. And the credit score needs to be in the 700. *Note: You can put less than 20% down payment, but you will have to pay for a private insurance mortgage (PMI).

Sometimes it’s not feasible to come up with that type of money as a first time home buyer. So knowing if other loans are available to you is very important.

FHA loan

One type of loan that is popular among first time home buyers is FHA loan. It is so popular because it’s easier to get qualified for it. And the down payment is very little comparing to that of a conventional loan.

For example, FHA loans require a 580 credit score and a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price. This makes it easier to qualify for a home loan when you’re on a low income.

VA loans

VA loans are another great option for first-time homebuyers. However, you have to be a veteran. Unlike a FHA or a conventional loan, VA loans require no down payment and no mortgage insurance. This can save you thousands of dollars per year.

So if you’re in market for a loan to buy your first home, you need to educate yourself about the different available loans.


Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>


5. Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage

One of the first time home buying mistakes you should avoid making is not getting a pre-approval letter. You can simply contact a lender and request it. The mortgage lender will pull your credit report to make sure you have the minimum credit score requirement.

They will also need your bank statements, W2s, recent income tax returns, pay-stubs to verify your employment and ability to afford the loan.

Why this is important? A pre-approval letter means that you’re a serious buyer. It signals that you’re able to commit to the house once an offer has been accepted. It also makes you more desirable than the other potential buyers.

Get a Pre-Approval for a Mortgage Today

6. Not knowing how much you can afford

Buying a home is probably going to be the biggest expenses you’ve ever made. But buying a house you cannot afford can lead to financial trouble along the road. Paying an expensive mortgage for 15 to 30 years on a low income can be hard.

So it pays to know how much house you can afford before you start searching for your home.

The best way to know how much house you can afford is to look at your budget. Take into account your expenses and income and other costs associated with owning a home.

7. Not knowing other upfront costs

If you think that the only cost to buying a home is a down payment, then think again. There are several upfront costs associated with owning a house. These upfront costs include private mortgage insurance, inspection costs, loan application fees, repair costs, moving costs, appraisal costs, earnest money, home association dues.

As a first time home buyer, this may come to you as a surprise. So, be ready to have enough money to cover these costs.

8. Failure to inspect your home.

Although some banks would prefer you inspect your home before they offer you a loan, it’s not mandatory. But that does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Not inspecting your home can cost you a lot. Inspection discovers defects that you may not know about. Inspection costs can be anywhere from $300 to $700.

Don’t be stingy with these costs. It’s better to find out about any hidden defects , like a faulty wiring and plumbing, than finding about them later. To avoid regretting your decision or having to spend thousand of dollars on repairs down the road, consider an inspector.

9. Failure to check out the neighborhood.

Just because the street or the neighborhood your potential house is located is quiet or is not run down doesn’t mean crime is not a problem. So before buying your home, you should check out the neighborhood. Take a trip at night to get a feeling of the environment. Talk to residents. Most importantly, check with the local police station – they can be a great resource when it comes to crime rates in a particular location. This is simply one of the first time home buying tips you shouldn’t ignore.

10. Searching for a mortgage on your own.

There are several mortgage lenders available to you. But choosing one that is right for you can be tough.

The LendingTree online platform makes it easy and simple for you to find the right home loan for you. Now you can get matched up to several mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time. And the whole process just takes a few minutes.

Follow these steps to get matched with the right mortgage:

  1. Go to www.lendingtree.com;
  2. Answer a few questions regarding the type pf loan yo need and you’ll use it. Within a few seconds, you’ll see multiple, competing offers from several lenders;
  3. You then shop and compare offers side by side.

Ready to get started? Find your best loan!

The bottom line is when it comes to buying a home for the first time, you should not take any shortcut. Doing so can cost a lot of money down the road. So before buying your first home, make sure you get the right mortgage loan, inspect the home, and have enough money to cover some of the upfront and ongoing costs associated with owning a house.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

Still looking for first time home buying tips? 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.

The post Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

How to Decide If Pet Insurance Is Worth the Cost

Woman deciding if pet insurance is worth the cost

Last fall, our greyhound Tivo refused his breakfast on a Friday morning. He didn’t eat or drink water all day, and we were worried. That night, we took him to the 24-hour emergency veterinarian and Tivo was diagnosed with a bacterial stomach bug and dehydration. We went home with antibiotics, a saline IV, and a $200 vet bill.

Thankfully, we could afford this bill for unexpected emergency care for Tivo. But if he were diagnosed with a chronic condition or needed a very costly intervention, we might find ourselves facing some heartbreaking financial decisions.

Pet insurance is often touted as a solution to these worries. With pet insurance covering some costs of veterinary care, you’re never forced to choose between your beloved pet and your finances. However, does this kind of coverage make sense for most pet-owners?

Here’s what you need to know about pet insurance so you can keep your fur babies bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for years to come.

Premium costs

As with human health insurance, pet insurance charges you a monthly premium for your pet’s coverage. According to Value Penguin, the average monthly cost for canine pet insurance is $47.20, and the average for feline insurance is $29.54 for accident and illness coverage.

Of course, this doesn’t tell the whole story of what to expect from premium costs. Many pet insurers increase premiums with the age of your pet. Which means the $47 per month you pay to keep your 4-year-old pup healthy could rise with his/her age, making the premiums harder to keep up with just as they’re more likely to need age-related medical intervention. In addition, different breeds can have different premium prices, since there are some hereditary conditions that various breeds may be more prone to.

However, even with these potential issues, there are some methods to keep premiums manageable. For instance, some tried and true insurance reduction strategies work just as well for your pet’s health insurance as they do for your own. These include increasing your deductible, reducing the percentage that the insurance reimburses, or limiting the annual payout rather than choosing unlimited coverage.

These strategies can keep your premiums affordable while still helping with big veterinary bills. But you need to be prepared to pay anything above and beyond the coverage limits you set up. (See also: 8 Ways to Lower Your Vet Bills) 

Coverage

It’s also important to note that pet insurance does not necessarily cover every kind of health cost for your pets. To start, unlike (some) human health insurance, most pet insurance will not cover preventive care and annual exams. So you will need to plan for these costs on top of your premiums.

Pet insurance policies generally come in two varieties: accident and illness policies, and accident-only policies. In general, accident-only policies do not raise their premiums as your pet ages, making this kind of insurance more affordable long-term. However, accident-only policies tend to be cheaper because your pet is less likely to get injured than fall ill. If you decide to invest in pet insurance, getting both accident and illness protection will likely offer you more protection.

That said, each insurer gets to decide which illnesses, conditions, and services it covers, and not all ailments are covered. Many insurers also do not cover the diagnostic exam for a particular illness, even if the treatments are covered. Make sure you pay attention to the details of what your potential insurer will cover before signing up for coverage.

As with many types of human health insurance, most pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions. Unfortunately, some insurers consider health problems to be "preexisting" if they crop up within a year of the purchase of your policy. Insuring your pet when they’re young is the best way to avert the preexisting condition coverage gap.

Finally, pet insurance coverage is usually handled via reimbursement. That means you’ll be on the hook to pay the vet bill at the time of service, and you’ll submit your receipts to your insurer to receive reimbursement. (See also: 7 Things You Need to Know About Pet Insurance)

Should you buy pet insurance?

With all the caveats, coverage gaps, and reimbursement requirements, pet insurance is not necessarily a slam dunk for everyone. In fact, many consumer advocates recommend that pet owners put aside an amount equal to the annual premium into a savings account each year. This will give you the same peace of mind that you can cover any potential health care needs for your pet while also allowing you to keep the money if you never need to use it.

However, if you struggle with financial discipline, this strategy will leave you in a difficult situation if your furry friend needs an expensive procedure. Pet insurance can provide you with the protection your pet needs even if you struggle with money. 

Show your love with an emergency fund

Whether or not you decide to purchase pet insurance, remember that you’ll have to pay upfront for any veterinary procedures. With insurance, you will get reimbursed for covered care, but you will still need to have access to funds to pay for Mittens’ kidney stone removal or Rex’s arthritis care at the time of care.

This means that one of the best ways you can protect your furry friends and avoid heartbreaking financial choices is to have an emergency fund. With or without pet insurance, set some money aside for the unexpected so you can enjoy your four-legged family members for years to come. (See also: 7 Easy Ways to Build an Emergency Fund From $0)

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With pet insurance covering some costs of veterinary care, you're never forced to choose between your beloved pet and your finances. Here's what you need to know about pet insurance. | #pets #petcare #insurance


Source: feeds.killeraces.com

Is Investing During Coronavirus a Good Idea?

A man in a suit and tie works on his cellphone and laptop at the same time.

The coronavirus bear market might look appealing to some. But for many, the economic changes that come with COVID-19 cause anxiety and uncertainty. Investing during coronavirus, when you can buy stock or other assets for lower prices, might sound like mathematical sense, but is it right for you?

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Start with the information below—and the advice of your
financial planner—to make an educated decision for yourself.

A Look at the COVID-19 Stock Market

The stock market took a beating as the coronavirus
began to sweep across the US. On Feb. 20, 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial
Average was 29,219.98 points. By March 23, 2020, it had dropped to
18,591.93 in an extreme slide downward related to the pandemic.

But even as the Dow continued to drop, economic experts were warning people not to panic with their money. Peter Mallouk, a chief investment officer, said he was worried people would make irrecoverable mistakes by using emotion- and fear-based decisions in managing their portfolios.

And in fact, the Dow did start to climb again, reaching as high as 23,949.76 on April 14, 2020. While it’s likely to rise and fall throughout the pandemic, economic experts predict the stock market will eventually rally.

Some Reasons a Rally Is Likely

Nothing falls forever. Eventually, the economy will
begin to rise again. Consumers are eventually going to hit the market with enormous
demand.

According to MarketWatch, the economy in the US is about 70% driven by consumer culture—the buying and selling of goods and services. During the coronavirus quarantine, many people have been stuck in their homes or limited in how they can shop, dine or recreate. Once stay-at-home orders are lifted and people start to get back to a new normal, there’s likely to be a huge spike in spending.

MarketWatch also predicts that changes in supply chains
and money from various economic stimulus efforts will continue to stimulate the
stock market. While no economic future can be 100% predicted, historical trends
support some of these predictions.

Should I Invest During Coronavirus?

But an eventual rise in the stock market isn’t a free pass to go all in. Investment adviser Ric Edelman says knowing how to proceed according to your own situation and needs is important. Regardless of what the economy might be doing right now or in the future, understanding your own financial goals is the place to start.

First, consider how long you have to regain lost wealth or build new wealth. Someone who is on the verge of retirement or already retired may not have the time it takes to wait for bear market investments to increase in value. Older adults might want to stick with low-risk investments or savings accounts that maintain what wealth they already have.

Next, consider your current financial status. “Buy low, sell high” might be the prevailing wisdom among investors, but it only works if you have the money to buy with. Many families are facing loss of income or jobs right now, and it might not be the time for investing. Instead, it might be time to work on your personal budget and negotiate with creditors to reduce expenses, at least temporarily.

Finally, consider how risk adverse you are. No investment is a sure thing, but some
do come with more risk than others. Understanding what you can afford to lose
helps you determine which types of investments might be right for you.

Investing During Coronavirus: Where and How?

Ultimately, only you can decide if investing during
coronavirus is the right move for you. Once you make that decision, though, you
have many options to choose from. Here are just a few possible investments that
might be right for you.

  • Buy stocks that have dropped enough to make them affordable but are for companies that you feel will weather the storm and come out swinging after the pandemic.
  • Invest in companies that have enough cash. Most expert-level investors are still looking for opportunities, but they’re being picky and opting for companies that have strong cash flow and stable balance sheets. Now isn’t the time to make big gambles, especially if you’re not young enough to recover before retirement.
  • Consider investing in real estate, which historically has weathered recessions and global economic crisis better than many other options.

If and how you invest is a very personal decision—and
always a big one. It’s a good idea to seek help from personal financial
advisers or other wealth management professionals even in good times. Consult
professionals for help understanding the best ways to support your
wealth-building goals if you decide to invest during coronavirus.

Other Coronavirus Support

Coronavirus has impacted more than just our investment opportunities. If you’re worried about other money or credit questions at this time, check out our COVID-19 finances guide. From keeping eyes on your credit to what to expect from stimulus packages, Credit.com has information to help you plan and manage your money during this time.

The post Is Investing During Coronavirus a Good Idea? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

8 Essential Rules for Surviving Financial Hardship

At some point, most people experience an unexpected crisis that shakes their financial world. It could be losing a job, receiving a huge medical bill, or having a car break down at the worst possible time. But surviving a pandemic is a situation you probably never thought you would face.

No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first.

Along with the public health toll, the COVID crisis has put millions of people out of work. For those struggling financially, here are eight critical rules to help you manage money wisely, stretch your resources, and bounce back from this unprecedented health and economic disaster.

8 rules for managing a financial hardship

Here are the details about each rule to manage a financial setback during the coronavirus crisis.

Rule #1: Accept your situation and use your resources to seek help

The key to successfully navigating a financial setback is to be realistic. If you’re in denial and don’t face money troubles head-on, you can quickly compound the damage.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions. Start talking about your challenges with people and professionals you trust, such as a money-savvy family member, financial advisor, legitimate credit counselor, or an attorney.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions.

The following financial associations have certified volunteers who can offer free help and advice:

  • National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
  • The Financial Planning Association
  • Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education

Rule #2: Get a bird’s eye view of your finances

To fully understand your situation, create a list of what you own and owe; this is called a net worth statement. Compiling your data in one place helps you evaluate your financial resources, make decisions more efficiently, and have essential information at your fingertips if creditors or advisors ask for it.

First, list your assets: 

  • Cash
  • Investments
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles 

Then list your liabilities:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt

Include the estimated values of your assets, the balances on your debts, and the interest rates you pay for each liability. You could jot down this information on paper, enter it in a computer spreadsheet, or create a report using money management software.

When you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets, you’ve calculated your net worth, which is an indicator of your financial health. It’s not uncommon to have a low or negative net worth when you’re in financial trouble.

RELATED: 10 Things Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Coronavirus Relief  

Rule #3: Understand your cash flow

An essential part of bouncing back from a financial crisis is keeping an eye on your monthly income and expenses. Create a cash flow statement that lists your expected income and typical expenses, such as rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, transportation, and insurance. Again, you can create this report manually or by using budgeting features in a financial program.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending. Making temporary sacrifices will help you recover as quickly as possible with less long-term damage to your finances.

Rule #4: Shop your essential expenses

As you review your spending, it’s an excellent time to comparison-shop your essential expenses. Evaluate your highest costs first, such as housing, vehicles, and insurance, since they offer the most significant potential savings.

For instance, you may be able to move into a less expensive home, purchase or lease a cheaper vehicle, and shop your auto insurance to find better deals. Ask your utility provider about assistance programs that offer energy-saving improvements at no charge.

Rule #5: Communicate with your creditors

If you haven’t been in contact with your creditors, start a dialog with each one immediately. You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles. Ask them for solutions, such as deferring payments for several months, setting up a reduced payment plan, or refinancing a loan to reduce your financial burden.

You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles.

Creditors are likely to ask about details regarding your financial situation, so have your net worth and cash flow statements on hand when you speak to them. Be ready to complete any required assistance applications quickly.

Rule #6: Prioritize your debts carefully

Based on guidance from creditors and finance professionals, prioritize your bills and debts carefully. Your goal should be to conserve as much cash as possible without skipping essential payments. Always pay for necessities first: food, prescription drugs, and auto insurance.

Debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized

Use your net worth statement to rank your liabilities from highest to lowest priority. For instance, debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized. Keeping up with an auto loan is a high priority if you rely on your vehicle for transportation. Federal student loans are in automatic forbearance through September 30, and the relief may get extended through 2020.

Your unsecured debts—medical bills, credit cards, and private student loans—are lower priorities. Never pay these debts ahead of rent, a mortgage, or utilities when you have a cash shortage.

Rule #7: Don’t let collectors force you to make bad decisions

Prioritizing your debts means some may be paid late or not at all. If a debt collector contacts you about a low-priority debt, such as a medical bill or credit card, don’t allow them to persuade you to pay it before your highest priority bills.

Collectors may try various aggressive tactics, such as threatening to sue you or ruin your credit. A lawsuit could take years, and a creditor is more likely to negotiate a settlement with you. Remember that a creditor or collector can’t send you to jail for civil debts.

If you are behind on bills, that fact is likely already reflected on your credit reports. By the time a collector contacts you, the damage is already done, and paying the bill won’t improve your credit in the short-term.

Rule #8: Take advantage of local and federal benefits

If your income and savings have entirely dried up, use these resources to learn more about local and federal benefits.

  • FeedingAmerica.org has a map showing local food banks
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal food program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov can help you find a housing counselor or see if your mortgage is backed by the federal government and qualifies for forbearance
  • Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that helps you discover the benefits you’re eligible for
  • Medicaid.gov is the federal health insurance program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • Healthcare.gov is the federal health insurance marketplace where you may find plans with substantial subsidies if you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid

Financial challenges can cause you and your family to experience a flood of emotions, including anger, fear, and embarrassment. As difficult as it might be to put a financial crisis into perspective, it’s critical. No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first. There are millions of people who are dealing with COVID-related financial hardships.

Face the fact that your recovery could take a while. Do everything in your power to manage your budget wisely by getting organized, seeking ways to earn more, and spending less. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from creditors, seek free advice from professionals, and take advantage of every local and federal benefit possible.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Healthy Food on a Budget

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mint opinions and text are all mine. 

While I love making healthy recipes, I often get messages from people who think that eating healthy is expensive. To some degree, I can agree with that because in my family of four I can spend over $300a week at the grocery store. It’s important to me to share nutritious and delicious recipes, but I also understand that affordable recipes are just as important so that budget can’t be an excuse to have a fast food diet and skip healthy eating.  It is possible to eat good foods at a low cost- I made this Spaghetti Squash Lasagna for only $15, but it did take some planning and research to be able to prioritize both health and savings in my home.  

To help get you on the right track, here are my top tips about how to eat healthy on a budget: 

1) Set a food budget…and stick to it!

Establishing a budget is usually one of the first steps when it comes to saving money.  You have to have a real sense of what you actually need and compare that to what you actually want to spend.  This is easily done through Mint, a free service that helps track all your finances, helps with budgets and financial goals. Since utilizing the Mint app, I’ve been so much more conscious of my spending- it’s been life-changing actually! I’ve set myself on a budget in groceries, clothing, entertainment and dining. I then made a separate goal with all the money I plan on saving for a family vacations and home improvements.  All I did was connect my accounts and cards, and my spending automatically gets categorized so I can see all that I spend on groceries- and everything else. I even received emails each week to show my spending categorized in a chart, which I can easily compare to the previous week. Once I saw how much I was spending, I knew I had to scale back and be smarter about eating healthy. All this money spent on food could be saved to spend in other categories like a trip to Hawaii!  

That was when I created my food budget.  My goal was to first reduce spending in my groceries category to $200 a week, so I set my amount to spend each month.  After that, each time I went to the grocery store, the transaction would post and automatically show how much of the grocery budget was already spent for that month.  It even lets me know if I’m getting close to my budget for the month and a notification when I go over. Seeing that budget has helped me so much in making sure that I’m not overspending. It’s a great tool and almost like having online partner helping me stick to my budget each month.  

2) Use Seasonal Produce 

There are so many reasons why eating seasonally is better- less impact on the environment, more nutrients, and better taste (to name a few)- but buying produce in season is actually a great way to save money and eat healthy.  You don’t have to spend on foods that are imported from different regions when it’s growing in season. I like to go to farmer’s markets because you can really see what’s growing at the moment, plus you support your local farmers.  I personally like the anticipation of waiting for foods to be in season- especially in the summer months when there are so many delicious fruits available. 

3) Buy in bulk 

Yes, this is the trip to the warehouse.  I know that this may seem like it’s not money-saving when you’re shelling out hundreds of dollars for a cart full of multi-pack foods, but if you play this right, you can save so much per month.  One trick is to see what you find yourself running out of each month. For instance, if you know you make pasta once a week, why buy individual boxes of pasta and sauce when you can buy everything ahead of time and be set for the month?  I would rather be fully stocked than having to take the time to go to the grocery store each week for items that are in my weekly meal plan. Time is money, but when you’re also buying in bulk, the price per ounce is usually a greater idea.  I also find that since I have twin girls who are in a growth spurt, having snacks and fruits readily available is best for them, and buying those ahead of time in bulk saves time, money, and my sanity! 

4) Have a meal plan and grocery list 

I suggest planning out your weekly meals and making a grocery list for it. This not only saves a lot of money, but will also help reduce food waste. Of course leave some wiggle room for those impulse buys and cravings we all have, but it’s still good to come to the grocery store with a plan. It also takes some stress away from the week knowing we have a menu plan for each meal. It is actually very motivating to set a challenge and meet it. When I saw I saved $100 last week I gave myself a mental high five! Setting a goal by putting myself on a budget was actually fun! Who doesn’t love a challenge?  

If you’re looking for recipes to cook at home, I have so many healthy recipes on my blog for all preferences, but I’m really excited to share my Spaghetti Squash Lasagna to help kick you off on your money-saving healthy recipes.  It’s only $15 for 4 servings, and it’s low-carb, gluten-free and keto-friendly so it can fit into many different diet plans.  What I love is that this recipe suits my husband since it’s gluten-free, it fits my diet since it’s low-carb, but it’s so delicious that it doesn’t even matter to my girls! Anything that looks or taste like a noodle and my kids will gobble it up. 

 

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna | MyHealthDish | Mint Blog

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna 

2 spaghetti squash  

1 jar marinara sauce 

4oz mozzarella cheese 

1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese 

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese 

1 pound lean ground turkey 

1 tbsp. minced garlic 

1 tsp. of salt 

1 tsp. black pepper 

1 tbsp. olive oil 

 

Instructions: 

With a sharp knife poke a few holes around spaghetti squash.  

In a large pot bring water to a boil and submerge both squashes simmering for 20 minutes. 

Drain and cool for 15 minutes before cutting in half and scooping out seeds. 

With a fork shred squash strings and place in a large bowl. 

In skillet pan heat up oil to medium heat and add garlic and ground turkey. Cook and stir for 7-9 minutes or until turkey is completely cooked. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2. tsp. black pepper.  

Add ground turkey with squash, then marinara, Parmesan cheese, ricotta and remaining salt and pepper. Gently fold and mix.  

Scoop back into halved squash shells and add slice thin mozzarella on top. 

Bake in oven at 350F Degrees for 15 minutes for all the cheese to melt 

 

The post Healthy Food on a Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is Apartment Debt on a Credit Report

Plans can change unexpectedly. Changes in employment, relationship status, or finances may prompt you to rethink your living situation. Some changes may even lead you to move out of your apartment without paying rent for the final month or two on the lease. And just like that, apartment debt is created. Like all forms of […]

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Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

7 Money Steps to Take Before 2021

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s a good time to take stock of your financial situation as you head into 2021. 2020 has been a strange year, and a difficult year for many people. With many people’s health and/or economic livelihoods affected by COVID-19, many people’s situation looks very different than it did back in January. As we head into a new year, here are a few things that you can do to improve your finances before the end of 2020.

#1 Put at least $1000 into an emergency fund

If you don’t have an emergency fund set up to handle unexpected expenses, that is a good first step to putting yourself on a solid financial footing. $1000 may not be enough to handle every possible thing that could go wrong, but it can be enough to handle your car breaking down or an unexpected home expense. If you don’t have at least a minimal emergency fund in place, make a plan for how you can start one before the end of the year.

#2 Fully fund your retirement accounts

401k, IRAs, and other retirement accounts have an annual contribution limit that caps the amount that you’re able to contribute each year. Before the end of the year, set aside some time to go through each of your accounts that have an annual contribution limit. Decide for which of those accounts it makes sense to fund before the end of the year.

#3 Consider donating to charity

With the increased standard deduction available in recent tax years, not as many people itemize their deductions. But if you do itemize your deductions, then remember that your charitable contribution may be tax-deductible. If you make that charitable contribution before the end of the year, you may be able to deduct it in this tax year — otherwise, you’ll have to wait an entire year before you’re able to deduct it.

READ MORE: 5 Best Credit Cards When You Make Charitable Donations

If you’ve already made charitable contributions in 2020, make sure that you have them documented and ready to include on your tax return.

#4 Make sure you have a financial security plan in place

Still, using the same username and password on every internet site? It may be time to get a financial security plan in place. With data breaches always a possibility now’s as good a time as any to take some steps to minimize your risk in case of a data breach or a hacker accessing your financial information. One thing that you can do before the end of the year is to set up a password manager to put some variety into your passwords. Another thing is to set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your important financial accounts.

#5 Review your credit report

Each year you are entitled to a free three-bureau credit report once a year from annualcreditreport.com, and the end of the year can be a good time to do that. If you already have a Mint account, you have access to your credit score at any time, but reviewing your actual credit report can make a big difference to your credit report. Between 10 and 21 percent of people have errors on their credit report, and clearing up incorrect or inaccurate information can raise your credit score.

#6 Use up any money in your FSA

Flexible spending accounts can be a great way to save money on health expenses. An FSA is typically set up through your employer and allows you to make pre-tax contributions. Any money that you contribute to your FSA is not subject to tax, and you can use that money to get reimbursed for many different types of health expenses. The only downside is that most FSA plans are use-it or lose-it plans. So any money that is left in the FSA at the end of the year is forfeited. Check the details of your plan, and make sure that you use all the money in your FSA before the end of the year.

#7 Set your financial goals for 2021

Finally, the end of the year can be a great time to set up your financial goals for 2021. You don’t have to wait until January to start up a new resolution. Meet and talk with your spouse, family, or trusted friends and advisors. Decide where you want to be in one year, in five years and beyond, and start taking the steps to get yourself there.

The post 7 Money Steps to Take Before 2021 appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Money Audit: Should We Hold on to Our Rental Properties?

This week’s Mint audit helps out a couple, Pasquale, 46, and Jillian, 39, who are starting a new life together after each experiencing divorce. Both work in software sales earning roughly the same income. When combined, their earnings average $450,000 a year.

The New Jersey couple shares a new mortgage and a savings account. They recently purchased a home together and pool a fraction of their incomes together into a joint account to pay for shared expenses such as the home loan, property taxes and utilities.

Pasquale and Jillian also arrived at the relationship owning their own properties. Pasquale has held onto his townhome in a nearby town that he bought after his divorce. He rents it out, earning a nice $500 monthly profit. Jillian also has a home in Florida, which she rents out. She more or less breaks even every month.

They would like advice related to managing their rental properties (should they sell them?), possibly buying a vacation home in the $250,000 to $350,000 range and, for Pasquale, saving up to help send his two daughters (ages 13 and 17) to college. They’re also wondering if they’re saving “enough” for retirement.

They had lots of good questions, and after an hour on the phone and a review of their finances, I was able to fit together some of their puzzle pieces.

First, here’s a break down of some their finances:

Retirement Savings

  • Pasquale: Contributes 5% to 401(k) and has about $500,000 in it. He also invests 15% in company’s ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plan)
  • Jillian: Contributes 5% to a 401(k) plus employer’s match, totaling 10%. She has about $200,000 saved. She also invests 11% in her company’s ESPP.
  • If they were to both cash out their ESPPs today, they’d have about $250,000 in gains, which are subject to income tax.

Child Support Payments

  • Pasquale: $4,000 per month

Debt (Credit Cards and Student Loans)

  • Pasquale: $18,000 in student loans
  • Jillian: $40,000 in student loans

Real Estate Holdings

  • Each of their individual properties has about $80,000 in equity.

 

Here are my top 3 recommendations:

Max Out the 401(k)s

The couple is doing fairly well with their retirement savings, but I think they are too exposed to their ESPPs. They contribute more to their ESPPs than their 401(k)s, which is very risky, considering an ESPP puts all your money in a single stock. A 401(k) is far more diversified.

They may benefit from reallocating some of those dollars back into their company 401(k). In doing so, I recommend they both aim to max out their 401(k)s, which also means a bigger tax deduction. This year’s maximum contribution is $18,500.

Transfer Some ESPP Earnings to College Savings

Every six months, each receives the chance to cash out some or all of the money in their ESPP. I recommend striking at the next opportunity to reduce their exposure to a market downfall and help pay for future college expenses. Taking 20 or 30 percent off the table and placing the dollars into a safer haven like a CD creates less risk.

For Pasquale, specifically, I’d look into selling some of his shares at the next opportunity and placing it into a plain vanilla savings account to cover at least the first two years of his daughter’s education. His daughter will choose a school soon and expects to receive some grants and scholarships to reduce the cost. At that point Pasquale can better estimate how much to withdraw from the stock plan.

For his youngest daughter, it’s not too late for Pasquale to open a 529-college savings account. That money can later be used for higher education costs without being subject to taxes. Investing $500 a month in a 529 starting today could help to afford at least the first year or two of school, depending on where she lands. Pasquale may even consider using some of the ESPP gains to fund the new 529 for daughter #2, if his eldest doesn’t need it.

Sell Rentals to Purchase a New Second Home

How emotionally tied are they to their individual properties? Pasquale said he could take it or leave it. The $500 cash flow is nice, but he’s open to selling it. Jillian, however, would be sad to part ways with the Florida home. While its rental income is just enough to cover the carrying costs, she likes the idea of keeping it. She’s always wanted to have a house by the water.

But I propose a scenario: What if they sold both rental properties and pooled the equity ($160,000) to afford a new second home that they’d both own? They’re eyeing a cabin near the Poconos in Pennsylvania. The estimated cost for a home that suits them is between $250,000 and $300,000. A 50% down payment on a $300,000 home would mean that their monthly mortgage would be roughly $700 per month, given today’s average interest rate of about 4.50% (or possibly higher for second homes.)

From selling the two properties they achieve their goal of affording a second home. Located in a popular resort area, they can also rent it out from time to time for more than $700 a week. Renting the place for just 8 or 10 weeks out of the year would probably cover the annual mortgage.

From there, any extra cash flow could be used to save more for retirement, travel, college, or whatever they wish.

 

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.

The post Money Audit: Should We Hold on to Our Rental Properties? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How To Retire At 50: 10 Easy Steps To Consider

Can you retire at 50? On average, people usually retire at 65. But what if you want to retire 15 years earlier than that like  at 50? Is it doable? Below are 10 easy steps to take to retire at 50.  Retiring early can be challenging. Therefore, SmartAsset’s free tool can match you with  a financial advisor who can help to work out and implement a retirement income strategy for you to maximize your money.

10 Easy & Simple Steps to Retire at 50:

1. How much you will need in retirement.

The first thing to consider is to determine how much you will need to retire at 50. This will vary depending on the lifestyle you want to have during retirement. If you desire a lavish one, you will certainly need a lot.

But according to a study by SmartAsset, 500k was found to be enough money to retire comfortably. But again that will depends on several factor.

For example, you will need to take into account where you want to live, the cost of living, how long you expect to live, etc.

Read: Can I Retire at 60 With 500k? Is It Enough?

A good way to know if 500k is possible to retire on is to consider the 4% rule. This rule is used to figure out how much a retiree should withdraw from his or her retirement account.

The 4% rule states that the money in your retirement savings account should last you through 30 years of retirement if you take out 4% of your retirement portfolio annually and then adjust each year thereafter for inflation.

So, if you plan on retiring at 50 with 500k for 30 years, using the 4% rule you will need to live on $20,000 a year. 

Again, this is just an estimation out there. You may need less or more depending on the factors mentioned above. For example, if you’re in good health and expect to live 40+ years after retiring at 50, $500,000 may not be enough to retire on. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a financial advisor.

Get Matched With 3 Fiduciary Financial Advisors
Managing your finances can be overwhelming. We recommend speaking with a financial advisor. The SmartAsset’s free matching tool will pair you with up to 3 financial advisors in your area.

Here’s how it works:

1. Answer these few easy questions about your current financial situation

2. In just under one minute, the tool will match you with up to three financial advisors based on your need.

3. Review the financial advisors profiles, interview them either by phone or in person, and choose the one that suits your’ needs.

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2. Maximize your tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Once you have an idea of how much you need in order to retire at 50, your next step is to save as much as possible at a faster rate. If you are employed and you have a 401k plan available to you, you should definitely participate in it. Nothing can grow your retirement savings account faster than a 401k account.

See: How to Become a 401k Millionaire.

That means, you will need to maximize your 401k contributions, for example. In 2020, and for people under 50, the 401k contribution limit is $19,500.  Also, take advantage of your company match if your employee offers a match.

In addition to the maximum contribution of $19,500, your employer also contributes. Sometimes, they match dollar for dollar or 50 cents for each dollar the worker pays in.

In addition to a 401k plan, open or maximize your Roth or traditional IRA. For an IRA, it is $6,000. So, by maximizing your retirement accounts every year, your money will grow faster.

3. Invest in mutual or index funds. Apart from your retirement accounts (401k, Roth or Traditional IRA, SEP IRA, etc), you should invest in individual stocks or preferably in mutual funds. 

4. Cut out unnecessary expenses.

Someone with the goal of retiring at 50 needs to keep an eye on their spending and keep them as low as possible. We all know the phrase, “the best way to save money is to spend less.”

Well, this is true when it comes to retiring 15 years early than the average.  So, if you don’t watch TV, cancel Netflix or cable TV. If your cell phone bill is high, change plans or switch to another carrier. Don’t go to lavish vacations.

5. Keep an eye on taxes.

Taxes can eat away your profit. The more you can save from taxes, the more money you will have. Retirement accounts are a good way to save on taxes. Besides your company 401k plan, open a Roth or Traditional IRA.

6. Make more money.

Spending less is a great way to save money. But increasing your income is even better. If you need to retire at 50, you’ll need to be more aggressive. And the more money you earn, the more you will be able to save. And the faster you can reach your early retirement goal.

7. Speak with a financial advisor

Consulting with a financial advisor can help you create a plan to. More specifically, a financial advisor specializing in retirement planning can help you achieve your goals of retiring at 50. They can help put in a place an investment strategy to put you in the right track to retire at 50. You can easily find one in your local area by using SmartAsset’s free tool. It matches users with financial advisors in just under 5 minutes.  

8. Decide how you will spend your time in retirement.

If you will spend a lot of time travelling during retirement, then make sure you do research. Some countries like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, and so many others are good places to travel to in retirement because the cost of living is relatively cheap.

While other countries in Europe can be very expensive to travel to, which can eat away your retirement money.  If you decide to downsize or sell your home, you can free up more money to spend.

9. Financing the first 10 years.

There is a penalty of 10% if you cash out your retirement accounts before you reach the age of 59 1/2. Therefore, if you retire at 50, you’ll need to use money in other accounts like traditional savings or brokerage accounts. 

10. Put your Bonus, Raise, & Tax Refunds towards your retirement savings. 

If retiring at 50 years old is really your goal, then you should put all extra money towards your retirement savings. That means, if you receive a raise at work, put some of it towards your savings account.

If you get a tax refund or a bonus, use some of that money towards your retirement savings account. They can add up quickly and make retiring at 50 more of a reality than a dream.

Retiring at 50: The Bottom Line: 

So can I retire at 50? Retiring at 50 is possible. However, it’s not easy. After all, you’re trying to grow more money in less time. So, it will be challenging and will involve years of sacrifices, years living below your means and making tough financial decisions. However, it will be worth it in the long run. 

Read More:

  • How Much Is Enough For Retirement
  • How to Grow Your 401k Account
  • People Who Retire Comfortably Avoid These Financial Advisor Mistakes
  • 5 Simple Warning Signs You’re Definitely Not Ready for Retirement

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

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 to retire at 50, 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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Source: growthrapidly.com