Where’s the House from ‘Home Alone 3’?

Year in and year out, we know the holidays are almost upon us when TV networks start airing Home Alone, the iconic family movie that has by now become synonymous with Christmas cheer. And while the first two Home Alone movies starring Macaulay Culkin are the clear fan favorites, the third one (written and produced by the same John Hughes that gave us the first two festive flicks) was deemed the least successful in the series — by far — and failed to make a lasting impression.

And that’s not because of the plot, cast, or setting, but rather the result of the ultra-high expectations created by the first two Home Alone movies, and the fondness audiences had for Macaulay Culkin (which refused to return for a role in the third one, despite popular demand). In fact, the plot of the third Home Alone was quite an elaborate — and downright frightening — one, seeing Alex Pruitt, an 8-year-old boy living in Chicago, fending off international spies who were seeking a top-secret computer chip that was hidden in his toy car.

The poster for Home Alone 3, featuring the house in the background.
The poster for Home Alone 3, featuring the house in the background. Image credit: IMDB

Unlike a normal cat burglar situation — the first two movies featured petty thieves just trying to score a hit during the holidays, eyeing million-dollar-homes left unattended while the owners were celebrating elsewhere — Home Alone 3 is actually a matter of national security. With four thieves (said to be working for a North Korean terrorist organization) looking to retrieve the toy car/computer chip gifted to Alex by his unknowing neighbor, Mrs. Hess, the movie’s plot tackles a far more dangerous situation that the first two, despite the light way in which it is presented.

But there are two major things that all the Home Alone movies have in common: a clever, brave 8-year-old that will stop at nothing to protect himself and a beautiful Chicago-area home that acts as the ‘battleground’ of sorts where the bad guys get what’s coming to them. And since we’ve already covered the house in the first Home Alone movies, we thought I’d be the perfect time to do some scouting and find the one in the third movie too, especially since it’s no less beautiful.

The real-life house from Home Alone 3

While the movie’s storyline places it in Chicago, the house used in the third Home Alone is located in Evanston — a city 12 miles north of Downtown Chicago. According to ItsFilmedThere.com, the exact address is 3026 Normandy Place, Evanston, and a quick Google Maps search confirms that, showing us the exact same Pruitt family house we see in the movie.

house in home alone 3 in real life
House in Home Alone 3 – Google Maps

According to real estate website Zillow.com, the Pruitt family home is worth a little over $1,000,000, with neighboring properties all selling for about the same amount — though admittedly, none of the other houses that line the street had a high profile movie credit in their property history. Nor did they have Hollywood A-listers on their grounds (just in case you forgot, the most famous cast member in Home Alone 3 was none other than Avengers star Scarlett Johansson, who played Alex Pruitt’s sister in the 1997 movie).

scarlett johansson as the sister in home alone 3
Screen grab from Home Alone 3, featuring a young Scarlett Johansson as the older sister.

Just in case you were wondering, the house where Alex Pruitt’s neighbor — Mrs. Hess — supposedly lived is actually located next door, at 3025 Normandy Place.

More famous TV homes

Richie Rich’s House is Actually the Biltmore Estate, America’s Largest Home
The ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ House Isn’t Even in Bel-Air
The Real-Life Homes from Modern Family — and Where to Find Them
The Simpsons House Gets a Modern Day Makeover

The post Where’s the House from ‘Home Alone 3’? appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

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

What Causes of Death are not Covered by Life Insurance?

The death of a loved one is hard to take and while a life insurance payout can ease the burden and allow you to continue leaving comfortably, it won’t take the grief or the heartbreak away. What’s more, if that life insurance policy refuses to payout, it can make the situation even worse, adding more stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration to an already emotional period.

But why would a life insurance claim be refused; what are the causes of death that may cause your life insurance coverage to become null and void? If you or a loved one has a life policy, this article could provide some essential information as we look at the reasons a death claim may be refused.

What Causes of Death are Not Covered?

The extent of your life insurance coverage will depend on your specific policy and this is something you should check when filing your life insurance application. Speak with your insurance agent, ask questions, and always do your due diligence so that you know what you’re buying into and what sort of deaths it will provide cover for.

Life insurance policies have something known as a contestability period, which typically lasts for 1 to 2 years and begins as soon as the policy starts. If the policyholder dies during this time, they will investigate and contest the death. 

This is generally true whether her you die of a heart attack, cancer or suicide. However, if this period has passed, they may only contest the death if it results from one of the following.

Suicide

Suicide is a contentious issue where life insurance is concerned. On the one hand, it’s a very serious issue and one that’s often the result of mental health problems, so there are those who believe it is deserving of the same respect as any other illness. 

On the other hand, the life insurance companies are concerned that allowing such coverage will encourage desperate people to kill themselves so their loved ones will be financially secure.

It’s a touchy subject, and that’s why many companies refuse to go anywhere near it. Some will outright refuse to pay out for suicide, but the majority have a suicide clause, whereby they only payout if the death occurs after a specific period of time.

If it occurs before this time, they may return the premiums or pay nothing at all. And if they have reason to believe that the policyholder took their own life just for financial gain, they will almost certainly investigate and may refuse to pay.

Dangerous Hobbies and Driving

If you die in a car accident and it is deemed that you were driving drunk, your policy may not payout. Car accident deaths are common, and this is a cause of death that policies do generally cover, but only when you weren’t doing something illegal or driving recklessly.

Deaths from extreme activities like bungee jumping or skydiving may be questioned, especially if these hobbies were not reported during the application. 

Illegal Acts

Your claim can be denied if you are committing an illegal act at the time of your death. This can include everything from being chased by the police to trespassing. A benefit may also be refused if you die for an intentional drug overdose using non-prescription drugs. 

Smoking or Pre-existing Health Issue

Honesty is key, and if you lie during the application or “forget” to tell them about your smoking status or pre-existing medical conditions, they may refuse to payout. It doesn’t matter if they performed a medical exam or not; the onus is not on them to spot your lie, it’s on you not to tell it in the first place.

This is one of the most common reasons for an insurance contract to be declared void, as applicants go in search of the cheapest premiums they can get and do everything they can to bring those costs down. They may also believe they will get away with their lies, either because they will give up smoking in a few months or years or because they will die from something other than their preexisting condition.

But lying in this manner is risky. You have to ask yourself whether it’s worth paying $100 a month for a valid policy that will payout without issue or $50 for a policy that will likely be refused and will cause endless stress for your beneficiaries.

War

Life insurance benefits generally don’t extend to the battlefield. If you’re a solider on the front line, your risk of death increases significantly, and many insurance policies won’t cover you for this. This is true even if you’re not in active duty at the time you take out the policy. More importantly, it also applies to correspondents and journalists.

You don’t invalidate your policy by going to a war-torn country and reporting, but if you die resulting from that trip, your policy will not payout.

Dismemberment

Your life insurance policy likely won’t pay for dismemberment or critical illness, but there are additional policies and add-ons that will provide cover. You can get these alongside permanent life insurance and term life insurance to provide you with more cover and peace of mind. 

They will come at a significant extra cost, but unlike traditional life insurance, they will payout when you are still alive and may make life easier after experiencing a tragic accident or serious illness.

We recommend focusing on getting life insurance first, securing the amount of coverage you need from a permanent or term life policy, and only then seeing if there is room in your budget for these additional options.

How Often Do Life Insurance Policies Payout?

We have recommended life insurance many times at PocketYourDollars and will continue to do so. We often state that it is essential if you have dependents and want to ensure they’re cared for when you die. But as much as we recommend it and as simple as the process of applying often is, there is one simple fact that we often overlook:

Life insurance companies rarely payout.

It’s a stat you may have seen elsewhere and it’s 100% true. However, contrary to what you might have heard or assumed; this is not the result of a refusal to pay the death benefit when the policyholder passes away. Sure, this accounts for some of those non-payments, but for the most part, it’s down to one of the following:

The Policyholder Survives the Term

The majority of life insurance policies are set to fixed terms, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. If anything happens during this period of time, your loved ones collect your death benefit, but if you survive, the policy ends, no money is paid out, and if you want another policy you will need to pay a larger sum.

The Policyholder Accepts the Cash Value

Whole life insurance policies are like investments crossed with life insurance. Your loved ones get a death benefit if you die, but it also accrues interest and can be cashed out. When this happens, the insurer collects, you get a sum of money, and it feels like a win-win, but in reality, the insurer has just dodged a bullet.

The Policyholder Stops Making Payments

As soon as you stop making your premium payments, you lose cover and you run the risk of your policy being canceled. This is true for pretty much any type of policy and it happens regardless of the policy term. 

Unlike a credit card company, which may chase you for payments, a life insurance company will place the burden of responsibility on you. After all, a creditor loses money when you don’t pay, whereas a life insurance company comes out on top.

This often happens when individuals take out substantial life insurance policies at a young age, only to suffer drastically changing circumstances. Imagine, for instance, that you’re 20-years-old and you buy a house with your spouse-to-be, with a view to settling down and starting a family. You assume that you’ll need it for a long time, so you take out a 30-year-term.

But 10 years down the line, your spouse leaves you, the family you wanted didn’t happen, and you’re all alone with no dependents, and with growing debts, bills, and obligations. At that point, life insurance becomes a burden, so you may stop making payments, thus allowing the insurance company to profit from 10 years of insurance premiums.

Summary: It’s Not That Cut-Throat

You don’t have to look far to find consumers who feel they have been wronged by life insurance companies, consumers who will expend a great deal of time and effort into calling out these companies for their perceived wrongdoings. But they often exaggerate the situation due to their extreme anger and this creates unrealistic anxieties and expectations.

The truth is, while there are people who have been genuinely wronged, they are in the extreme minority. The vast majority of family members who were refused a death benefit were let down by the policyholder and by the lies they told on their policy.

Policyholders lie about their weight, smoking status, and medical conditions, and when caught up in this lie, they often claim they made an honest mistake. But the truth is, most life insurance companies will overlook simple mistakes and only really care when it’s obvious that the policyholder lied. 

And let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how forgetful you are, you’re not going to forget that you’re a chain smoker, alcoholic, drug user, extreme sports fan or that you recently had a medical crisis!

If the policy was filed honestly, you shouldn’t have an issue when you collect, even if it’s still in the contestability period. As discussed above, life insurance companies stack the dice in their favor. They use statistics and probability to carefully set the premiums and benefits, and they rely on policyholders forgetting to pay and outliving the term. They don’t need to “rob” you in order to make a profit. So, be honest when applying and you won’t have anything to fear.

What Causes of Death are not Covered by Life Insurance? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Planning a Home Office? Check Out These Budget-Friendly Tips

Working from home has its perks. There’s the money saved from skipping the commute, and just think about all of that time you get back by avoiding crowded freeways or public transit during rush hour. As far as workplace attire goes, few employees would trade “work-from-home casual” for dress slacks.

But while working from home affords some new freedoms, it also creates new challenges. One of your biggest tasks is to create a productive, ergonomically correct workplace in your home without breaking the bank. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably asking yourself, “How can I set up a home office on a budget?”

Whether you’ve always worked from home as a freelancer or started during the pandemic, these expert tips will help you get started as you design your home office on a budget:

From finding the right location to choosing the ideal furniture, these tips will help you create your home office on a budget.

Strive for an ergonomically correct home office

Being home all day creates an unexpected obstacle: pain. Many workers find that transitioning from a well-equipped office to a makeshift setup at home leads to discomfort. That’s because many of them go from having a spacious desk, comfortable chair, and monitor and keyboard in their office building to working from a laptop in their living room.

If you suffer from neck pain or eye strain when working from home, you may be feeling the effects of poor ergonomics. Ergonomics, commonly known as the science of work, aims to optimize productivity and health in a workspace.

As a physical therapist with more than 25 years of experience, Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert, knows this issue all too well. Loesing’s company performs ergonomic assessments for businesses and home offices. Over the years, she has seen countless clients suffering from neck, back or other health issues due to poorly designed workspaces. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Loesing says.

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“Having an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work.”

– Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert

There are relatively easy ways to transform an ergonomic nightmare into a well-functioning home office on a budget—even if you’re stationed at the kitchen table, she says. And the investment is worth it.

“Having an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work,” Loesing says. “For those who are able to designate a certain space in their home where they can work without distractions—maybe even a window with a view and the flexibility to work at your own pace—it has been proven this makes for a happier employee.”

Who doesn’t want to boost their health, productivity and happiness in one fell swoop?

Find the optimal location for your at-home workspace

When setting up a home office for remote work, location should be your first decision, says design consultant Linda Varone, author of “The Smarter Home Office.” Depending on your living situation, there may be an obvious answer, such as that spare room you’ve always thought could become an office space.

If you don’t have a dedicated office, don’t despair. While you design your home office on a budget, think creatively about where it can be.

Varone once visited a client’s home to help reconfigure her workspace. The client was running a business from a table in the hallway. “At the end of each workday, she had to pack everything up and store it in the closet in the guest room,” Varone says.

But as Varone learned, guests only stayed over two weeks a year, leaving the room empty the rest of the time. It hadn’t occurred to the business owner, but turning the guest room into a home office for most of the year was the perfect solution.

If you’re setting up a home office for remote work, picking the optimal location for your workspace should be your first step.

“There are some simple, simple ways that people can rethink their home office without a big investment and make that space really work for them,” Varone says.

In addition to using a guest room, a dining or living room can also function as a home office on a budget.

Establish the ideal setup for your workstation

Once you’ve decided on the room, determine the location for your workstation, Varone says. As you plan your home office, consider placing your desk or table near a window, allowing for natural light and an occasional glimpse of nature. Don’t face directly outside; instead, aim for a line of sight that’s perpendicular to the window, Varone says. That’s because, even on an overcast day, you’d be looking into too much bright light if you’re facing the window.

“What’s happening is your eyes are adjusting back and forth between the bright sunlight that you’re facing and the darker light of your computer screen,” Varone says. “And that ends up being really fatiguing for the eye.”

If you live with others, the biggest challenge will be privacy. Try to clearly define the boundaries of your “office” if you can, such as with an area rug, she says. Then ask your roommates or family members not to enter your space while you’re working, apart from an emergency.

When you're planning a home office, try to clearly define the boundaries of your workspace if you live with others.

If you use a multipurpose space, be sure to tidy everything up at the end of the day, Varone says. Taking the 10 minutes or so to clean up your “office” will reduce clutter. Ultimately, a clutter-free space can reduce your stress and boost your productivity.

“That also has a benefit of becoming a little ritual and helping you say, ‘All right, my workday is over,’” Varone says. “‘Now I can focus on my personal life.’”

Choose your furniture wisely

Now that you’ve found the perfect location for your home office on a budget, focus on finding the perfect work surface. Maybe it’s a traditional desk. Or it could be your dining room table or kitchen counter.

If you do need to buy a desk or chair, don’t feel like you need to spend a fortune. Try looking for a used office furniture store or liquidator in your area, Varone recommends. You could even try searching online marketplaces for a gently used model.

When planning a home office and considering your work surface, what matters most is the height.

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The average desk is 29 inches high, Loesing says. This will likely accommodate someone who’s 5’8”, she acknowledges, but for everyone else? It will take some adjusting to make it fit for them.

That’s where your chair comes in. Most people don’t need a high-end office swivel chair to work comfortably. As long as you can adjust the height of your chair to fit you and your desk, you’ll have a comfortable setup.

It’s important to adjust the height of your chair to achieve a neutral position, Loesing says. If you don’t have the instructions from the manufacturer on how to adjust your model, try searching for videos online, she adds.

One more chair takeaway from Loesing?

“If you can’t spend a dime, at least get as comfortable as you can where you’re sitting, and sit all the way back in your chair,” Loesing says. “When you don’t sit so your back is against the backrest, you’re using your back muscles all day long instead of them being at rest.”

When you design your home office on a budget, make sure your chair and work surface allow you to get into a comfortable sitting position.

Adjust your furniture and equipment

As you continue planning a home office, you’ll likely find that your computer is your most important piece of equipment. But it can also lead to neck strain. Whether it’s a laptop or an external monitor, Loesing says screen placement is key. In fact, she says it’s the single most important feature to address—as well as the most commonly disregarded one.

While you plan your home office, Loesing recommends keeping the following ergonomic guidelines in mind to help avoid neck strain:

  • Align your monitor so your eyes are level with the screen. (That’s typically about 4” from the top of the monitor.)
  • Place your feet flat on the floor and your knees at about a 90-degree angle with the ground.
  • Place your arms at about a 90-degree angle from the writing surface so your shoulders are relaxed.

If you only have a laptop, and no monitor, you still have options for raising your screen to eye-level. “There are budget-friendly laptop risers on the market,” Loesing says. “If you don’t want to spend any money, you can place books or reams of paper to bring the screen up to eye level.”

When setting up a home office for remote work and thinking about your arm placement, note that Varone is a strong advocate for an external keyboard. If you’re working at a desk that has a keyboard tray built into it, that’s a great way to keep your arms at about a 90-degree angle, she says. If you don’t have a built-in tray, she says you can improvise by placing your keyboard on an inexpensive laptop table situated directly under your desk.

While the exact adjustments will vary depending on your equipment, height and budget, the focus is on acquiring a neutral position or a position where there’s no strain on anything, Loesing says.

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“With the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.”

– Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert

Stand if it suits you

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a standing desk, you’re not alone. Standing desk sales have soared over the last decade, buoyed by reports of the dangers of too much sitting.

“Static postures (e.g., sitting all day in front of a computer) present more fatigue than dynamic working,” Loesing says. “With the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.”

You don’t have to buy an official standing desk to reap the benefits when planning a home office. “The least expensive way would be to take a laptop and place it up high on a built-in high counter using a compact wireless keyboard and mouse,” Loesing says.

Even if you don’t have a standing desk—makeshift or otherwise—you can still incorporate movement and circulation into your workday. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every 20 minutes, Loesing suggests.

For an even better boost, combine this with a popular guideline known as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a break by looking out a window at something at least 20 feet away, and do so for at least 20 seconds.

Don’t forget the ambience and accessories

Your desk, chair and computer are the major players when you’re setting up a home office for remote work. But there are a few additional items to consider, like lighting, plants and sound.

Setting up a home office for remote work should include some thinking around ambiance, like lighting, plants and sound.

Your overhead light fixture likely isn’t enough, as it will create shadows and can be too weak by the time it reaches your workspace, Varone says. She recommends investing in a table lamp that creates a wider spread of light in your area. Pick one with a translucent shade that will softly diffuse the light and make it easier on your eyes.

As you’re planning your home office, Varone also recommends incorporating a potted plant or flower into your workspace. Not only can it help purify the air and boost your mood, a natural element can contribute to a restful atmosphere.

Working from home means working with home noises—especially if you’re in an environment with roommates, a partner or little ones. To keep the noise down, consider noise-canceling headphones for a quieter workspace and clearer meetings. Other budget-friendly options? Try placing a towel under the door to block out noise from other rooms, Loesing says. Consider curtains instead of blinds, since they’re better at blocking out sound. Even pillows or large cushions can help reduce noise, she adds.

After you’ve taken care of the essentials and if you have the space and money, think about adding a reading chair to your home office. You can use this as a space to review documents or do some deep thinking, Varone says. It can be a welcome respite from your desk while keeping you in the office area, she adds.

When planning a home office, think about adding a reading chair to your space.

One last tip? Add a personal touch, whether it’s a framed family photo or a souvenir from your travels. It’s your home office, after all. Let your personality shine.

Set up a home office for remote work that allows you to thrive

Now that you know how to create a home office on a budget, you’re ready to make a space that works well for you. Whether you’re an experienced remote worker or a newbie, you can apply these expert tips to set up an office that’s functional and keeps you motivated day in and day out.

Ready to break in your new home office? Keep that motivation going by learning how to increase your earning potential this year.

The post Planning a Home Office? Check Out These Budget-Friendly Tips appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

A Beginner's Guide to Investing in Stocks

To new investors, the stock market can seem mysterious and intimidating. Many people hear that buying stocks is risky, but they like the potentially high investment returns. Fortunately, there are some ways to make money investing in stocks that significantly limit your risk.

Just about every investor should own some amount of stocks, even during times of market volatility.

Just about every investor should own some amount of stocks, even during times of market volatility. I'll explain how to invest in stocks when you have little experience or money. You’ll learn the pros and cons of stocks and the best ways to own them to build wealth safely.

What are stocks?

Stocks are intangible assets that give you ownership in a company. That’s why they’re also known as equities or equity investments. Owning stock entitles you to part of a company’s earnings and assets.

Let's say a company needs to fund groundbreaking research, open a division in a foreign country, or hire a crew of talented engineers. Companies issue stock to raise money from investors for these types of ventures—it’s that simple.

Publicly traded stocks are bought and sold on exchanges such as the NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). However, you can trade them only through a broker or investment firm.

When a stock increases in value, it’s called "capital appreciation." That’s a fancy way of saying that the price goes up. As I'm writing this episode, Facebook and Apple stock are selling on the NASDAQ exchange for $266.12 and $469.51 per share. Visa and Walt Disney stock are selling on the New York Stock Exchange for $202.41 and $127.92.

If you buy Visa at $202.41 per share and the price goes up to $210, you can sell it for a gain of $7.59 ($210 – $202.41). You can easily find current stock price quotes on sites like Google Finance and Yahoo Finance.

In addition to capital appreciation, some stocks also pay a portion of company profits. If so, it’s called a dividend stock and distributes dividend payments to stockholders. For instance, right now, Discover pays a dividend of $0.44 a share. If you own 1,000 shares of Discover, you'd be paid $440 in dividends over a year.

Dividend stocks pay you even when the share price goes down, so owning them is smart to hedge against potential market losses. You can find a list of dividend stocks on a site like Morningstar.

The pros and cons of investing in stocks

There are many advantages to investing in stocks. One is that you don't need much money to buy them compared to other assets such as real estate. Buying just one stock share makes you an instant business owner without investing your life savings or taking on significant risk.

Buying just one stock share makes you an instant business owner without investing your life savings or taking on significant risk.

Another advantage of making stock investments is that they offer the most significant potential for growth. Although there's no guarantee that every stock will increase in value, since 1926, the average large stock has returned close to 10% a year.

If you're investing for a long-term goal, such as retirement or a child's education, stocks turbocharge your portfolio with enough growth to achieve it. Over the long term, no other type of common investment performs better than stocks.

The main disadvantage of investing in stocks is that prices can be volatile and spike up or plummet quickly as trading volume fluctuates from minute to minute. News, earnings forecasts, and quarterly financial statements are just a few triggers that cause investors to buy or sell shares, and that activity influences a stock's price throughout the day.

Price volatility is why stocks are one of the riskiest investments to own in the short term.

Price volatility is why stocks are one of the riskiest investments to own in the short term. Investing at the wrong time could wipe out your portfolio or cause you to lose money if you need to sell shares on a day when the price is below what you originally paid.

But as I mentioned, you can minimize this risk (but never eliminate it) by adopting a long-term investing strategy.

What is diversification in stock investing?

In addition to taking a long-term approach, another key strategy for making money investing in stocks is diversification. Having a diversified stock portfolio means you own many stocks.  

People are often surprised to learn that it's better to own more investments than less. Diversification allows you to earn higher average returns while reducing risk because it's not likely that all your investments could drop in value at the same time.

Diversification allows you to earn higher average returns while reducing risk because it's not likely that all your investments could drop in value at the same time.

For instance, if you put your life’s savings into one technology stock that tanks, you’re in trouble. But if that stock only makes up a fraction of your portfolio, the loss is negligible. Having a mix of investments that responds to market conditions in different ways is the key to smoothing out risk.

Diversification isn’t a guarantee that you’ll make a killing with your investments, but the idea is that as some investments go up in value, others may decline and vice versa. It prevents you from “putting all your eggs in one basket,” financially speaking. 

RELATED: How to Invest in the Perfect Portfolio

How to create a diversified stock portfolio

If you think creating a diversified stock portfolio sounds difficult or time-consuming, I want to put you at ease. Buying one or more stock funds is a simple and inexpensive way to achieve instant diversification. 

Funds bundle investments of stocks, bonds, assets, and other securities into packages convenient for investors to buy. They’re made up of many underlying investments. Some funds may focus on one asset class only, such as international stocks, others may have a mix of asset types, such as stock and bonds.

Depending on the investment firm you use, you may see the following types of funds:

  • Mutual funds are collections of assets that are managed by a fund professional. They give you a simple way to own a portfolio of many stocks. Shares can be bought or sold only at the end of the trading day when the fund’s net asset value gets calculated.
     
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are similar to mutual funds because they’re baskets of assets. However, they trade like an individual stock on an exchange and experience price changes throughout the day.
     
  • Index funds are a mutual fund that aims to match or outperform a particular index, such as the S&P 500. They typically come with low fees and may be comprised of thousands of underlying investments.
     
  • Target date funds are a type of mutual fund that automatically resets the mix of stocks, bonds, and cash in its portfolio according to a selected time frame, such as your estimated retirement date.

How much stock should you own?

Stocks or stock funds should be an essential part of every investor's long-term portfolio. If you're young and have a long way to go before retirement, consider owning a large percentage of stocks. Though prices will go up and down in the short term, you're likely to see prices trend up and give you an impressive return over time.

But if you're nearing or already in retirement, take a more conservative approach to preserve your wealth. That doesn't mean eliminating stocks from your portfolio entirely but instead, owning a lower percentage.

There's a rough rule of thumb that says you should subtract your age from 100 or 110 to find the percentage of stocks to own.

There's a rough rule of thumb that says you should subtract your age from 100 or 110 to find the percentage of stocks to own. For instance, a 40-year-old should consider holding 60% to 70% of their investment portfolio in stocks. The remainder would be in other asset types such as bonds, real estate, and cash.

These investment allocation targets are not hard rules because everyone is different. To design your ideal allocation strategy, you can use an online resource, such as Bankrate's Asset Allocation Calculator.

What's important to remember about making money with stocks is that the amount you own should change over time. When you have decades to go before retirement, take advantage of as much growth as possible by investing mostly in stocks. As you get closer to retirement, devote more of your portfolio to bonds and cash, which preserve the wealth you worked hard to accumulate.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

401k Early Withdrawal: What to Know Before You Cash Out

When it comes to making a 401k early withdrawal, there are a number of reasons why it might be tempting. With millions still unemployed due to the pandemic, unexpected expenses are taking a particularly hard toll. One reason why early withdrawal isn’t uncommon in the U.S. might be because it’s easy to assume you’ll have time to rebuild your 401k nest egg.

However, is the benefit of withdrawing your retirement savings early truly worth the cost? For many people, their 401k is their primary method of investing in their financial future. Before making a decision about early withdrawal, it’s important to consider the penalties and fees that could impact you. Read on to learn exactly what happens when you decide to dip into your 401k so you won’t be surprised by the repercussions.

How Much Are You Penalized for a 401k Early Withdrawal?

On the surface, withdrawing funds from your 401k might not seem like a bad option under extenuating circumstances, but you could face penalties. Young adults are especially prone to early withdrawals because they figure they have plenty of time to replace lost funds.

 

401k early withdrawal penalties

 

If you’re not experiencing a significant hardship, 401k early withdrawal probably isn’t the right choice for you. Ultimately, you could lose a substantial portion of your retirement savings if you choose to withdraw your 401k early to use the money to make other risky financial moves. Below, let’s delve further into the penalties that usually apply when you withdraw early.

1) Your Taxes Are Withheld

When you prematurely withdraw from your retirement account, your first consideration should be that you’ll have to pay normal income taxes on that money first. This means you’re losing at least roughly 30 percent of your savings to federal and state taxes before additional penalties.

Even if you only have $10,000 you want to withdraw, consider that you’re automatically giving $3,000 of your cash to the government. In the best case scenario, you might receive some money back in the form of a tax refund if your withholding exceeds your actual tax liability.

2) You Are Penalized by the IRS

If you withdraw money from your 401k before you’re 59 ½ , the IRS penalizes you with an extra 10 percent on those funds when you file your tax return. If we use the example above, an additional $1,000 would be taken by the government from your $10,000 — leaving you with just $6,000. If you’re 55 or older, you could try to get this penalty lifted by the IRS through the Rule of 55, which is designed for people retiring early.

Also, there are exceptions under the CARES Act, which is designed to help people affected by the pandemic. There are provisions under the act that state individuals under the age of 59 ½ can take up to $100,000 in Coronavirus-related early distributions from their retirement plans without facing the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty under certain conditions.

3) You Lose Thousands in Potential Growth

Even if you’re not deterred by tax penalties, think twice before you sabotage your long-term retirement savings goals. When you withdraw money early, you’ll miss out on potential future savings growth because you won’t gain the perks of compound interest. Compounding is the snowball effect resulting from your savings generating more earnings — not only on your principal investment but also on your accrued interest.

Also, if you make a 401k early withdrawal while the market is down, you’re doing yourself a disservice because you’ll be leaving thousands on the table. It’s unlikely you’ll fully recover the lost years of compound interest you would have benefited from. You might need to get creative with a passive income stream to help support you later in life.

 

tips to minimize 401k withdrawal penalties

 

When Does a 401k Early Withdrawal Make Sense?

In certain cases, it actually might be strategic to move forward with 401k early withdrawal. For example, it could be smart to cash out some of your 401k to pay off a loan with a high-interest rate, like 18–20 percent. You might be better off using alternative methods to pay off debt such as acquiring a 401k loan rather than actually withdrawing the money.

Always weigh the cost of interest against tax penalties before making your decision. Some 401k plans do allow for penalty-free early withdrawals due to a layoff, major medical expenses, home-related costs, college tuition, and more. Regardless of your strategy to withdraw with the least penalties, your retirement savings are still taking a significant hit.

401k Early Withdrawal, Hardship, or Loan: What’s the Difference?

Knowing the differences between a 401k early withdrawal, a hardship withdrawal, and a 401k loan is crucial. Due to the many obstacles to make a 401k early withdrawal, you may find you want to keep it untouched. If you’re convinced you still need to use your 401k for financial assistance, consult with a trusted financial advisor to figure out the best option.

When Does This Apply?

Taxes and
Penalties

Early Withdrawal

Your funds are withdrawn to pay off large debts or finance large projects. Your 401k fund is typically subject to taxes and penalties.

Hardship Withdrawal

You’re only eligible for this type of withdrawal under circumstances such as a pandemic or natural disasters. Withdrawals can’t exceed the amount of the need and the funds are still subject to taxes and penalties.

401k Loan

The loan must be paid back to the borrower’s retirement account under the plan. The money isn’t taxed if the loan meets the rules and the repayment schedule is followed.

Additional Considerations

If you’ve left a job and don’t know what to do with your Roth IRA, a 401k transfer is a good option. Most likely, you will save money and have a wider range of investment options when you transfer your funds. 401k fees can be high, and rolling over your funds to a Roth IRA account could be wise in the long run. Also, be aware that the process is more complicated for indirect rollovers. 

In Summary:

  • If you’re one of the millions of Americans who rely on workplace retirement savings, early 401k withdrawal may jeopardize your future financial stability.
  • There are very few instances when cashing out a portion of your 401k is a smart move.
  • In most cases, any kind of early 401k withdrawal is detrimental to your retirement plans.
  • Stick to your budget and bulk up your emergency fund to stay one step ahead.

In short, 401k early withdrawals are usually counterproductive. Prevent compromising your hard-earned savings by using a free budgeting tool that will set you up for success. After all, being prepared and informed are two of the most important parts of maintaining financial health.

Source: SEC

The post 401k Early Withdrawal: What to Know Before You Cash Out appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Are the Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance?

Before I started writing in the personal finance space, I spent nearly 8 years working alongside my husband in a funeral home. My husband Greg worked as a mortician, and I was the Director of Family Services. I learned so much about living and dying during my years in the mortuary business, but there’s one that stuck with me — the real-life consequences of not having life insurance. 

I clearly remember speaking with dumbfounded families who couldn’t believe their husband or father (or wife or mother) never had life insurance in place. Some didn’t have enough money to cover final expenses like the funeral bill, and others confided in me they had no idea how they would pay their bills.

This saddened me greatly since I know first-hand how inexpensive life insurance can be — especially if you’re young and healthy. After all, I’m a 40-year-old woman and I currently have two term policies worth $1 million dollars that set me back a grand total of $53 per month. 

Why People Don’t Buy Life Insurance

The main reason consumers don’t buy this important coverage is simple — they get busy and forget. Most of us know we need life insurance in place during our working years, and that’s especially true for those of us with kids. But it’s easy to let life get in the way, and for the purchase of life insurance to wind up on a list of other to-dos that we never get to. 

Not only that, but people don’t want to think about dying. I specifically remember a family I met in the funeral home who just lost a husband and father who wasn’t even 40-years-old. In tears, his wife explained that he had told her he was going to buy life insurance dozens of times, but that he hated even dealing with death. He had a $20,000 life insurance policy through work, and he knew he needed more, but he didn’t want to face his mortality in his free time. Unfortunately, his family paid dearly for that decision.

A final reason people don’t buy life insurance is cost. The thing is, term coverage is so cheap that almost anyone can afford it. People just think it’s expensive, so they shy away from taking the next steps. Life insurance is also just another bill to pay, and many can barely keep up with the bills they have.

That’s probably why so few people have enough coverage. Here are some statistics that should scare you:

  • Only around 60 percent of Americans had life insurance in 2018, according to LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer Study
  • Among those with life insurance, 1 in 5 people know they do not have enough
  • Consumers surveyed tend to overprice life insurance; millennials in particular believe that life insurance costs 5x the actual amount for a policy

Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance

Based on those statistics, not enough people have life insurance and those who do may not have enough coverage to last. But, what can this mean for your family? Here are the main downsides you’ll face when you don’t buy life insurance now, before it’s too late:

Your Income Disappears

Income replacement is one of the most compelling reasons to buy life insurance, and that’s especially true if you have kids. You don’t want your income to suddenly disappear, leaving your family in the lurch. However, this is exactly what happens when you die without life insurance. All of a sudden, your family is left trying to cover regular bills and living expenses without your income.

That’s why many experts suggest buying at least 10x your income in term life insurance coverage. This way, your family will have some cash they can use to replace your income while they mourn and get back on their feet.

Your Debts Don’t 

Your income may disappear when you die, but your debts certainly don’t. With that in mind, you should buy life insurance coverage that will cover major debts you have like your home mortgage, your family car loans, and any credit card debt you have.

If you don’t buy life insurance and you die before your time, your family will be left trying to cover all your debts without your help. It’s shameful to leave them in this position — especially when term life insurance coverage can easily be purchased for the price of a dinner out per month. 

Your Family Could Need a GoFundMe to Pay for Your Funeral

During my final years in the funeral industry, GoFundMe came about. I cannot tell you how many families came in to plan their services without any money only to find that, no, the funeral home wouldn’t let them make payments. After that, they’d set up a GoFundMe and solicit donations from family and friends to pay for a service. 

This always made me sad, mostly because families shouldn’t have to struggle or fundraise to pay for final expenses. I always thought that, if only their loved one had a small term life insurance policy, they would have been able to grieve without the added stress.

You Will Not Leave a Legacy

Finally, life insurance offers you the chance to leave a legacy behind. This could mean leaving enough money to pay for college tuition for your children, or having a broad enough policy so your spouse or partner never needs to work again, paving the way for them to stay home and nurture your kids. When you have enough life insurance so your family is taken care of, they will never forget it.

The opposite is also true. Many whose loved ones die without life insurance wind up angry and resentful at their partner for leaving them in such a position. I know because I saw it with my own eyes, and I felt their exasperation as they tried to figure out what to do.

Purchase Life Insurance the Painless Way

Here’s the thing: Buying life insurance doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. I know because I have purchased $1 million in life insurance coverage, and because the second policy I bought online didn’t even require a medical exam. 

The purchase of life insurance can be painless and fast if you plan to buy basic term coverage, and it can also be significantly cheaper than you think it would be. These tips can help you get the coverage you need without any added hassle or stress.

1. Shop Around and Compare Quotes Online

First, you should absolutely shop around and compare life insurance quotes online, mostly because this is such an easy task. A range of online life insurance providers including Haven Life and Bestow make it easy to price out a policy in a matter of minutes online. 

To get a quote from Bestow or Haven Life, for example, all you need to supply is your birth date, your height, your weight, and your zip code. You don’t even need to enter your contact information or your email to get a free quote with either company.

You can also check out our guide to the Best Life Insurance Companies of 2021, which lets you read reviews of all the top providers and compare rates from multiple providers in one place. 

Whatever you do, don’t go with the first life insurance company you come across. Make sure you compare policies in terms of their monthly cost, the amount of coverage, and how long it lasts. Then, and only then, can you know you’re getting the best deal.

2. Play Around with Coverage Amounts

You also need to have a general idea of how much coverage you want and need. We mentioned that most experts suggest buying at least 10x your income in life insurance coverage, but it may be prudent to buy more term coverage than you need. After all, there’s no such thing as having too much life insurance in place, but you can definitely not have enough.

You’ll also want to decide how long you want your policy to last. Most term life insurance policies last for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, letting you tailor your policy to your needs.

If you’re young and you have young kids, you may want a 30-year policy that will provide income replacement for your entire working life. If you’re in your 40’s and you plan to retire at 55, on the other hand, you may feel comfortable with a policy that lasts for 15 or 20 years. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer, but these are factors you should consider.

3. Look for Providers that Don’t Require a Medical Exam

According to LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer Study, half of all consumers say they are “more likely to purchase life insurance if priced without a physical examination.” And, can you blame them? Medical exams require a blood draw, and you have to set aside time in your schedule for them to boot. It’s easy to procrastinate and never buy a policy when a medical exam is required.

Fortunately, many life insurance providers don’t require a medical exam. Instead, they rely on algorithms to determine who is the greatest risk, and who can purchase coverage that begins right away. The second policy I purchased for myself came from Haven Life, and it did not require a medical exam. 

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I was in my late 30’s when I purchased this policy for $750,000, and I only pay around $27 per month. I applied for this policy online and had coverage the next day, and all without seeing a nurse or facing the dreaded needle prick.

The Bottom Line

Since you took the time to read this piece, you are probably on the verge of buying life insurance. You already know you need it, so don’t let another day go buy without coverage. You may not think something could happen to you in the next week or the next few months, but life doesn’t always go as planned. If you’re unlucky, your untimely death may be no exception.

Take the time to get a quote for life insurance, and you’ll never have to wonder what your family would do if you died. Life insurance lets you continue providing for them even after you’ve left this Earth, and there’s nothing more thoughtful and loving than that. 

The post What Are the Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com