Open post

My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do?

When most parents offer to fund their child’s tuition, it’s with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child through to graduation.

Unfortunately, what these plans don’t tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.

Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.

So if you’re a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.

Contact the University

Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parent’s income has decreased.

Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, you’re out of luck.

Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if you’ve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.

Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.

Try to Graduate Early

Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.

Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.

Fill out the FAFSA

If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.

Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it won’t show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.

Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools won’t even provide merit-based scholarships to students who haven’t filled out the FAFSA.

Get a Job

If you don’t already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.

Try to think outside the box. If you’re a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If you’re a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while you’re working.

Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if you’re in a different city.

It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.

Take Out Private Loans

If you still need more money after you’ve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.

[embedded content]

Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.

Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.

Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and there’s little recourse if you graduate and can’t find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.

Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School

Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.

If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.

Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so it’s better to be conservative.

Learn more about security

Mint Google Play Mint iOS App Store

Source: mint.intuit.com

Open post

How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Open post

5 Tips for Building a Side Business

By

Laura Adams, MBA
September 2, 2020

Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers, you’ll learn practical strategies for building a solo business while keeping the security of a regular job.

Tips for building a business on the side

Becoming your own boss may seem glamorous from the outside, but it can have stressful pitfalls, such as little pay, no insurance benefits, and unpredictable clients. However, you can avoid or minimize some of the downsides by maintaining a reliable day job while you grow your solo business.

Having the security of a job and the excitement of becoming a solopreneur gives you lots of upside with much less risk. A steady paycheck may give you the confidence you need to take business risks—such as buying more advertising, equipment, or software—that will make your venture more profitable.

Having the security of a job and the excitement of becoming a solopreneur gives you lots of upside with much less risk.

Aside from maintaining a reliable income stream, being both an employee and an entrepreneur can make you a better worker. In my experience, growing a side business also builds skills and experiences that make you more effective at your regular job. You may even find your side hustle revives an appreciation for your day job. There’s a lot to like about having a salary, benefits, and other perks, after all.

Whether you decide to be both an employee and your own boss for weeks or years, it will take some juggling to manage successfully. Here are five tips to face your career fears responsibly and prepare for the future by adding entrepreneurship to your resume on the side.

Define your vision for success

Before changing your job or making the transition from employee to self-employed solopreneur, take the time to define what you truly want to achieve in your career. Sometimes your ideas about success come from other people, and they can cause you to follow a career path that never truly fulfills you.

Maybe your boss thinks you should regularly work late so you can climb the corporate ladder, or a parent says you should go to graduate school. You might take a lucrative job in a field you’re not crazy about because that’s what your friends are doing. But if that job requires frequent travel when all you truly want is to start a family, care for aging parents, or spend time enjoying where you live, you’ll never be happy.

Never let external markers of success, such as a big paycheck or a fancy job title, become more important than your heartfelt calling and goals for your life.

If you don’t pause periodically to reflect on what success means to you, it becomes easier to follow other people’s priorities when it comes to your work. If your decisions aren’t purposefully leading you toward a life that excites you, you’ll likely wander away from what you genuinely want.

Never let external markers of success, such as a big paycheck or a fancy job title, become more important than your heartfelt calling and goals for your life.

That said, getting in touch with your real desires isn’t always easy, and you might have to listen carefully to hear your inner voice. Try incorporating some quiet time into your daily routine. When you first wake up or when you’re settling down at bedtime, think about what you’re grateful for—but also what you’d like your life to be. Consider your definition of success and any changes you’d like to make to your life in the near and distant future.

Ask yourself the following questions to better understand your values and get clarity on your unique vision for success:

  • What type of work makes me happiest? 
  • Where do I want to live? 
  • What types of people do I want in my work life?
  • What does a good life mean to me?

This exercise isn’t something you do once to figure out the arc of your entire life. You need to come back to these fundamental questions during different seasons of your life and career, because the answers may change, sometimes repeatedly.

Over time, your working life is sure to change, in both good and bad ways. When you find yourself getting restless or feeling like you want more from your job, slow down and become more introspective. It can reveal a lot about what your next career or business move should be.

RELATED: How to Create Your Own Self-Employed Benefits Package 

Create a side gig

Even when you’re clear about what you want, one of the fastest ways to ruin your financial future is to take a flying leap from a steady paycheck. Jumping from a day job into an uncertain, full-time venture too early could mean trouble. You might face significant financial struggles and even get into debt. Many businesses take years of hard work before they’re profitable enough to support you.

If you slowly add entrepreneurial experience to your career, you’re likely to gain a variety of skills that will make you more valuable to employers.

Hanging on to your day job gives you the financial security you need to try out new business ideas, especially if you have a spouse, partner, or kids who depend on your income.

The best side gigs combine work that you’re excited about with something that you’re uniquely positioned to provide. These businesses may also come with a large existing customer base or appeal to customers who are willing to pay you well for the skills and experience you offer.

I was a part-time entrepreneur for a decade before I said goodbye to my employer. I enjoyed having a mix of job stability and entrepreneurial upside. Plus, I found that expanding my career by adding self-employment to a W-2 job made me much better at both.

If you slowly add entrepreneurial experience to your career, you’re likely to gain a variety of skills that will make you more valuable to employers. It may be easier to experiment with business-formation ideas when you have less financial stress or know a side gig could actually complement your existing career.

The bottom line is that creating a business on the side protects your income, diversifies your network, and improves your skills, instead of leaving you financially vulnerable. If you enjoy your entrepreneurial work and find that it pairs well with your day job, the benefits and personal growth can really pay off.

Negotiate your job flexibility

If you plan to start a business on the side, or you already have, you know you’ll be working more, perhaps a lot more. You might need to work early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends to fit it all in. That could stress your relationships or cause you to burn out if you don’t take some precautions.

Consider some different ways that you can tailor your business for your day job, and vice versa.

Once you’re confident about your business idea or begin seeing increasing revenues, you may find that you need more flexibility in your schedule. At that point, consider some different ways that you can tailor your business for your day job, and vice versa.

In 2008, my employer began feeling the financial pinch of the Great Recession. My podcasting and blogging career had started to take off by that point, so instead of allowing my position to get downsized, I proposed a solution that my boss liked. I’d work four days a week for a couple of months and then go down to three days a week for the rest of the year. Then we’d reevaluate where the company stood and discuss whether he could still afford to keep me on as an employee.

My employer would save money by paying me less, and I’d have more time to work on creating content, partnering with brands, and writing my first book, while still having a regular paycheck coming in. If I hadn’t suggested that solution, my company wouldn’t have known that I was willing to cut my hours. I didn’t offer to tell my boss what my plans were for my newfound free time, and he didn’t ask.

You may be able to negotiate with your employer for more schedule flexibility.

You too may be able to negotiate with your employer for more flexibility. You might ask to work fewer hours, to maintain the same total number of hours but work fewer days per week, or to work from home a day or two each week.

If you have a long commute or spend a significant amount of time getting ready, packing a lunch, and getting out the door in the morning, working remotely could save a lot more time than you think. Then you can invest that saved time in your side business.

Find more time in your day

If you can’t get more flexibility or you worry that even asking for it could put your day job in jeopardy, there are other options. One is to structure non-negotiable time for your business into your day. For instance, make a rule that you’ll step away from your desk for a solid hour (or longer if possible) during lunch to accomplish something meaningful for your business.

Find a nearby cafe or reserve a conference room in your office where you can work and eat undisturbed. I did that for many years, and it’s incredible how much you can accomplish in 45 minutes if you truly focus. If you can’t find enough quiet or privacy in your office, you could even work in your car.

It’s incredible how much you can accomplish in 45 minutes if you truly focus.

If working on your business during your lunch hour isn’t possible with your day job, consider coming to the office an hour earlier or staying later. You could also work on your business in a nearby coffee shop or a co-working space (where drop-in memberships can often be had for the same price as joining a gym) before or after your job. The idea is to create a routine that builds in regular time to focus entirely on your venture and to complete essential tasks.

Another option is to outsource a portion of your work. If you can afford to delegate tasks to freelancers, that can help you balance your to-do lists.

When your day job is so unpredictable that it prevents you from working on your side gig for long periods, consider getting a different job with a more reliable schedule. If you’re truly committed to getting your business off the ground, you may need a position with more flexibility so you can do both more easily.

Have a solid exit strategy

Having an exit strategy is a common concept in the business world. Partners and investors want to know what will happen after clearly defined milestones are reached, such as taking a company public or selling it after a certain profit margin is achieved.

But employees should create exit strategies, too. It’s a great way to force yourself to think about the future and what you would or should do next. With a W-2 job, you never know what’s around the corner.

It’s wise to start every professional relationship with an idea of how it could end.

Your company could suddenly downsize after a merger or an unexpected loss of market share. Your department could be reorganized after new leadership begins. All these scenarios have happened to me at some point in my career.

It’s wise to start every professional relationship with an idea of how it could end. This ensures that you’re never caught entirely off-guard. Knowing that you’ve thought about the end of a job or a business partnership can make you feel more secure about a potential split.

If you’re unprepared for an interruption in work or business income, it can be devastating to your emotional and financial life. So whether you’re laid off or you voluntarily quit, prepare for it now.

If you have a financial runway to find new opportunities or you’ve built an income from a side business, quitting or getting fired can be a positive experience. Having a good exit strategy can make the difference between feeling crushed by a job loss or becoming empowered by it.


About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Open post

How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits

Before the coronavirus reached the U.S., unemployment was low and few could have anticipated a global pandemic. However, as the pandemic and ensuing recession took hold, a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits to stay financially afloat.

“COVID-19 led to an incredible number of American workers being without work,” says Julia Simon-Mishel, an unemployment compensation attorney. “And it’s caused a huge need for individuals to file for unemployment insurance.”

Unemployment insurance, or unemployment benefits, can offer an essential lifeline. But if you’ve never accessed these benefits before, you may have questions about how they work. You might also be asking: What do I do when my unemployment benefits run out and I’m still unemployed?

This article1 offers tips about what you need to know about filing an unemployment claim. It also addresses the following questions:

  • How do you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits?
  • Can your unemployment benefits be extended?
  • What can you do when unemployment runs out?
  • Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?

A record number of people have filed for unemployment, and many are wondering what to do when unemployment runs out.

If you’re just getting ready to file or need a refresher on the basics of unemployment benefits, read on to have your questions answered.

If you’re already collecting benefits and want to know what happens once you reach the end of the benefit period, skip ahead to “Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out.”

Common questions about unemployment benefits

Experiencing a job loss is challenging no matter what. Keep in mind that you’re not alone, and remember that unemployment benefits were created to help you.

As you consider how to prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, remember that you're not alone.

While they’re designed to provide financial relief, unemployment benefits are not always easy to navigate. Here’s what you need to know to understand how unemployment benefits work:

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance provides people who have lost their job with temporary income while they search for and land another job. The amount provided and time period the benefits last may vary by state. Generally, most states offer up to half of a person’s previous wages in unemployment benefits for 26 weeks or until you land another full-time job, whichever comes first. Requirements and eligibility may vary, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment agency for guidance.

How do you apply for unemployment benefits?

Depending on where you live, claims may be filed in person, by phone or online. Check your state government’s website for details.

Who can file an unemployment claim?

This also may vary from state to state, but eligibility typically requires that you lost your job or were furloughed through no fault of your own, in addition to meeting work and wage requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government loosened restrictions, extending unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.

When should you apply for unemployment benefits?

Short answer: As soon as possible after you lose your job. “If you are someone who has had steady W2 work, it’s important that you file for unemployment the moment you lose work,” Simon-Mishel says. The longer you wait to file, the longer you’re likely to wait to get paid.

When do you receive unemployment benefits?

Generally, if you are eligible, you can expect to receive your first benefit check two to three weeks after you file your claim. Of course, this may differ based on your state or if there’s a surge of people filing claims.

Can unemployment benefits be extended? Check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

2020 enhancements to unemployment benefits for freelance and contract workers

In early 2020, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. In addition to other benefits, the CARES Act created a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other workers who were typically ineligible. That means that if you don’t have steady W2 income—for instance, freelance and contract workers, those who file 1099s, farmers and the self-employed—you still may qualify for unemployment benefits.

“That program is a retroactive payout,” Simon-Mishel says. “If you’re just finding out about that program several months after losing your job, you should be able to file and get benefits going back to when you lost work.”

Because legislation affecting unemployment benefits continues to evolve, it’s important that you keep an eye out for any additional stimulus programs that can extend unemployment benefits. Be sure to regularly check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out

In a perfect world, your job leads would become offers long before you reached the end of your unemployment benefits. But in reality, that’s not always the case.

If you’re still unemployed but haven’t yet exhausted your benefits and extensions, you may want to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits as early as possible so you don’t become financially overwhelmed. Here are four tips to help you get through this time:

Talk to service providers

Reaching out to your utility service providers like your gas, electric or water company is one of the first steps John Schmoll, creator of personal finance blog Frugal Rules, suggests taking if you’re preparing for the end of unemployment benefits.

“A lot of times, either out of shame or just not knowing, people don’t contact service providers and let them know what their situation is,” Schmoll says. “[Contact them to] see what programs they have in place to help you reduce your spending, and basically save as much of that as possible to help stretch your budget even further.”

Save what you can

To help prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, a few months before your benefits end, Schmoll suggests cutting back spending as much as possible, focusing only on necessities.

“If you can try and save something out of the benefits that you’re receiving while you’re receiving them—it doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $20—that’s going to help provide some cushion,” Schmoll says. Keep those funds in a separate account if you can, so you’re not tempted to spend them. That way you’re more prepared in case of an emergency.

If you hunkered down during your period of unemployment and were able to save, try to resist the urge to splurge on things that aren’t necessary.

“There might be temptation to overspend, but curtail that and focus on true necessities,” Schmoll says. “That way when [or if] you receive an extension on your benefits, you now have that extra money saved.”

Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Seek additional financial aid

If you find that your savings and benefits aren’t covering your expenses, and you’re reaching a point where you no longer qualify for benefits, look into other new benefit programs or features designed to help during times of crisis.

For example, there are programs across the country to assist people with rent or mortgages, Simon-Mishel says. Those programs are generally designed to keep those facing financial hardship from losing their home or apartment. You may need to show that you are within the programs’ income limits to qualify, or demonstrate that your rent is more than 30 percent of your income. These programs vary widely at the state and even city level, so check your local government website to see what might be available to you.

As you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, explore which government benefits or government agency may be best suited for your needs.

Keep up with the news

During economic downturns, government programs and funds often change to keep up with evolving demand.

“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you,” says Simon-Mishel. “You should closely pay attention to the social media of your state unemployment agency and local news about other extension programs that might be added and that you might be eligible for.”

Pay attention to social media and local news as you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Options for extending your unemployment benefits

If you’re currently receiving benefits, but they’ll be ending soon, you’re likely wondering what to do when your unemployment runs out and asking if your unemployment benefits can be extended. Start by confirming when you first filed your claim because that will determine your benefit end date.

If you’re wondering, “Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?” the answer is yes, but you’ll have to wait until your current “benefit year” expires. Note that a benefit year is 12 months from when you file a claim. If you filed at the beginning of June, for example, you generally can’t file again until the beginning of the following June.

You may get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, depending on your state’s rules at the time. Most states extended the payout period to 39 weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Check your state’s website for the particulars on what to do when your unemployment runs out.

If your claim is still active but you’ll be in need of additional financial relief after your unemployment benefits run out, here are your options:

File for an unemployment extension

During extraordinary economic times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government may use legislation like the CARES Act to offer people more benefits for a longer period of time, helping many people concerned about whether unemployment benefits can be extended.

Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out? It can vary by state, so reach out to your unemployment office.

For example, in 2020, for most workers who exhaust, or receive all of, their unemployment benefits, a 13-week extension should automatically kick in, Simon-Mishel says. This would bring you up to 39 weeks total. However, if more than a year has passed since you originally filed and you need the extension, you will likely need to file a short application provided by the government. Details vary by state.

As you’re determining what to do when your unemployment runs out, reach out to your unemployment office. It’s important to do this before your benefits expire so you can avoid a missed payment. You can also confirm you’re eligible and that you can refile for unemployment after it runs out.

Ask about the Extended Benefits program in your state

Can unemployment benefits be extended beyond that? In periods of high unemployment, you may qualify for a second extension, depending on your state.

“After those [first] 13 weeks, many states have added a new program called Extended Benefits that can provide another 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment when a state is experiencing high unemployment,” Simon-Mishel adds. This means you may be able to receive a total of up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits, including extensions. The total number of weeks of unemployment you may receive varies based on your state and the economic climate.

It’s hard enough keeping up with everything as you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, so don’t worry if you don’t have your state’s benefits program memorized. Visit your state’s unemployment insurance program page to learn more about what benefits are available to you.

For anyone considering what to do when unemployment runs out, it's important to take things one day at a time.

Beyond unemployment benefits

While life and your finances may seem rocky now, know that you’re not alone. Remember that there are resources available to help support you, and try to take things one day at a time, Schmoll says.

“Realize that at some point your current situation will improve.”

If you find that your benefits aren’t covering all of your expenses, now may be the time to dip into your cash reserve. Explore these tips to determine when it’s time to use your emergency fund.

1 This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Eligibility for unemployment benefits may be impacted by variations in state programs, changes in programs, and your circumstances. If you have questions, you should consider consulting with your legal counsel, at your expense, or seek free assistance from your local legal aid organization.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

Source: discover.com

Open post

My home buying story: How VA loans helped this service member buy a home

Name: Chris V.

Year: 2004

City: Kapolei

Occupation: Army

Age: 21

Salary: $20,000 + $1,300 a month housing allowance

Home Price: $160,000

Chris and his wife, Nichole, had only been married for a couple of years when they bought their first home in 2004. Like most young couples, they didn’t have enough income for a giant mortgage or pile of cash for the down payment. To make matters worse, Chris and Nichole were house hunting in Hawaii, the most expensive housing market in the nation.

The median housing price in Hawaii then was $460,000, a big number for a couple of 21-year-olds living on an Army salary. But Chris and Nichole had an edge: a Veterans Administration loan, or VA Loan. This is a type of home financing guaranteed by the federal government that helps current and former military families buy a home or pay for home improvements.

Here’s how a VA loan helped them reach their homeownership goals.

It got them into the market with no down payment.

Chris and Nichole made a home-buying budget work for one reason: they didn’t have to pay a dime for a down payment. One of, if not the best thing about a VA home loan is that it allows veterans to buy without putting any money down. As anyone who has bought a home knows, you can spend half your life saving enough cash for some mortgages. Chris and Nichole would have needed $32,000 for a 20% down payment on a $160,000 mortgage—more than his entire salary for 18 months.

But with zero down, they were able to budget for a $160,000 home. Chris was stationed at Schofield Barracks outside Honolulu, so he looked at housing in nearby Kapolei, a planned community developed in the 1950s. They looked at condos because a single-family home was not in their budget. He and Nichole ended up buying a 660-square-foot condo home.

A couple stand outside of a condo near Honolulu

Chris and Nichole in front of their first home—a condo outside Honolulu.

It earned them great terms.

Plenty of young home buyers know they can be trusted with a mortgage, but lenders don’t take people’s word for it. You know whose word they do trust? The government’s. While many first-time home buyers end up paying extra fees and interest until they can prove themselves super credit-worthy, VA loans help veterans and active service members get into homeownership without those extra costs.

Since VA loans are backed by the government, lenders consider them to be less risky and grant favorable terms to buyers with a good credit score and the ability to repay the loan. Chris and Nichole got a competitive interest rate and didn’t have to pay closing costs or get PMI (private mortgage insurance). “We got cash back at closing,” Chris says. “And not having PMI knocked quite a bit off our monthly payment compared to a traditional loan.”

VA loans helped them grow—even during the recession.

Fast forward to 2009. Chris was a Bronze Star recipient back from a tour of duty in Iraq. He has left the Army and is working for a software firm in Hawaii. Nichole is pregnant with their first child, so it was time for them to look for a bigger place to live.

There was one problem. The Great Recession had hit two years earlier, and housing prices had collapsed. It wasn’t a great time to sell, so they wanted to hang on to their condo and rent it out, but they weren’t in a position to both keep it and make a down payment. Once again, a VA loan saved the day, even though Chris was now a civilian. Veterans can get VA loans after they leave the service. It’s a benefit they keep for the rest of their lives.

They bought a 1,400-square-foot house in Waipahu, an area of Honolulu, for $575,000, with no money down. And instead of selling the condo and taking a loss, they refinanced it with a traditional lender and turned it into a rental property. “We had to refinance with a regular lender to stay under the VA lending limit with the house,” he says.

Chris and Nichole celebrate their second home with their first child on the way.

Two years later, in 2011, his job took him to the East Coast, where they decided to rent. They also rented out their house in Hawaii, along with their condo because it still wasn’t a good market for sellers.

“We owed $25,000 more for the house than we could sell it for, and we would have agent fees on top of that,” Chris says. “We definitely didn’t have the cash at that point to make up the difference.”

A third VA loan allowed them to arrive at their ideal home.

In 2013, Chris took a job as a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area with Trulia. Nichole was pregnant with baby number three, and she sent Chris off to California with clear instructions. “She told me ‘Buy me a fricking house,’” Chris says. “She did not want to live in a hotel.”

It took him just three weeks. “I looked at thousands of places online, but only a dozen in person,” he says. He ended up buying a 2,336-square-foot house in Pleasant Hill for $700,000—a great deal in a town with a median sale price of $813,500. Again, he bought with a VA loan.

The neighborhood, Gregory Gardens, is vibrant and full of trees. “You felt like you were in the forest, even though you were in a neighborhood,” Chris says. There’s a Bay Area Rapid Transit station nearby for easy commuting. His three kids have a big yard and plenty of neighborhood children to pal around with.

Between Chris’s career taking his family through some of the priciest housing markets in the country and the housing market crash nearly derailing their finances, VA loans truly came to the rescue for Chris and Nichole—an appropriate benefit for the veterans, active service members, and their families who come to their nation’s rescue all the time.

“(VA loans are) one of the best military benefits,” Chris says. “We couldn’t have bought our first home without it, and we wouldn’t be where we are now without them.”

Wondering what homes you might be able to buy with a VA loan? See what’s available now on Trulia.

Source: trulia.com

Open post

Investing With the Business Cycle

A “business cycle” refers to the periodic expansion and contraction of a nation’s economy. Also known as an “economic cycle,” it tracks the different stages of growth and decline in a country’s gross domestic product, or economic activity.

business cycles . Each business cycle is dated from peak to peak or trough to trough of economic activity.

During the expansion phase of the business cycle, GDP increases and the economy grows. This phase tends to be significantly longer than the contraction phase. Since 1945, the average expansion has been 65 months, while the average contraction has lasted 11 months, according to a congressional research report. Features of expansion periods include:

•  GDP growth rate of 2-3%
•  Inflation around 2%
•  Unemployment between 3.5-4.5%
•  Bullish stock market
•  Increased demand for goods and services
•  Interest rates move higher
•  Job creation
•  Stock prices usually increase
•  Increased wages
•  Increased real estate values

As economic growth slows down, an economic contraction begins as the nation enters a recession. GDP growth dips below 2% in this phase.

Companies that have taken out loans may struggle to repay them, so they have to lay off workers and slow down production. As workers lose jobs, they have to cut down on spending. This creates a cycle of economic decline. Features of contraction periods include:

•  GDP growth falls below 2%
•  Decreased demand for goods and services
•  Interest rates move lower, making it easier to borrow money
•  Loss of jobs, increased unemployment
•  Reduced wages because people need jobs so they’re willing to work for less, and companies can’t pay as much
•  Stock prices usually decline
•  Real estate values plateau or decline

Stage 1: Recession

One definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters with a decline in real GDP. A recession could actually be defined more broadly as a period where there is significant decline in economic activity throughout the entire economy.

During this stage, GDP, profits, sales, and economic activity decline. Credit is tight for both consumers and businesses due to the policies set during the last business cycle. This leads to shifts in monetary policy that lead to a recovery phase. It’s a vicious cycle of falling production, falling incomes, falling employment, and falling GDP.

The intensity of a recession is measured by looking at the three D’s:

•  Depth: The measure of peak to trough decline in sales, income, employment, and output. The trough is the lowest point the GDP reaches during a cycle. Before World War II, recessions used to be much deeper than they are now.
•  Diffusion: How far the recession spreads across industries, regions, and activities.
•  Duration: The amount of time between the peak and the trough.

A more severe recession is called a depression. Depressions have deeper troughs and last longer than recessions. The only depression that has happened thus far was the Great Depression, which lasted 3.5 years, beginning in 1929.

Stage 2: Early Cycle

Following a recession, there tends to be a sharp recovery as growth begins to accelerate. The stock market tends to rise the most during this stage, which generally lasts about one year. Interest rates are low, so businesses and consumers can borrow more money for growth and investment. GDP begins to increase.

Just as a recession is a vicious cycle, a recovery is a virtuous cycle of rising income, rising employment, rising GDP, and rising production. And similar to the three D’s, a recovery period, which includes Stages 2-4, is measured using three P’s: how pronounced, pervasive, and persistent the expansion is.

Stage 3: Mid-Cycle

This is generally the longest phase of the business cycle, with moderate growth throughout. On average the mid-cycle phase lasts three years. Monetary policies shift toward a neutral state: Interest rates are higher, credit is strong, and companies are profitable.

Stage 4: Late Cycle

At this stage, economic activity reaches its highest point, and while growth continues, its pace decelerates. Monetary policies become tight due to rising inflation and low unemployment, making it harder for people to borrow money. The GDP rate begins to plateau or slow.

Companies may be engaging in reckless expansions, and investors are overconfident, which increases the price of assets beyond their actual value. Late cycles last a year and a half on average.

What Industries Do Well During Each Stage?

Historically certain industries have prospered during each stage of the business cycle.

When money is tight and people are concerned about the economy, they cut back on certain types of purchases, such as vacations and fancy clothes. Also, when people anticipate a coming recession, they tend to sell stocks and move into safer assets, causing the market to decline.

Basically, industries do better or worse depending on supply and demand, and the demand for certain products shifts throughout the business cycle. In general, the following industries perform well during each stage of the business cycle:

Recession

•  Healthcare
•  Consumer staples
•  Utilities
•  Bonds

Early Cycle

•  Information technology
•  Financial sector
•  Industrial sector
•  Consumer sector
•  Stocks and bonds
•  Real Estate
•  Household durables

Mid-Cycle

•  Information technology
•  Stocks
•  Energy and materials
•  Media

Late Cycle

•  Commodities such as oil and gas
•  Bonds can be a safe haven
•  Index funds

Who Should Invest With the Business Cycle?

Business cycle investing is an intermediate-term strategy, since it isn’t as short-term as day trading but not as long-term as buy and hold strategies. Each stage of the business cycle can last for a few months to a few years.

the best strategy for beginner investors.

However, more experienced investors might choose to shift at least a portion of their portfolio along with the business cycle. Business cycle investing can also be a good option for younger investors because they will have more opportunities to take advantage of the ups and downs of future cycles.

Understanding the business cycle can also help people make decisions such as when to buy a home or search for a job. It’s usually best to purchase a home, start a business, or look for a job in the early to mid-stages of the cycle.

The Takeaway

No business cycle is identical but history shows there can be a rough pattern to which industries do better as the economy expands and contracts. Investors can take cues from which stage of the business cycle the economy is in in order to allocate money to different sectors.

One great way to invest and keep track of the market is using an online investing app like SoFi Invest®. The investing platform features both active and automated investing.

For help getting started, SoFi has a team of professional financial advisors available to answer questions and offer guidance.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOIN20172

Source: sofi.com

Open post

9 Ways to Support Small Businesses Without Breaking the Bank

We all have our favorite small businesses, including our go-to date night restaurant and favorite thrift store. These places serve more than great food and looks — they build jobs in the community, put children through school, and are the realization of your neighbor’s dream. 

These stores are built on hard work and love, and supply some of the best quality products you can find. Small businesses are a great sign of a thriving economy, but they’re also the first to suffer from economic downturns, like 2020’s COVID-19 recession. This is why it’s more important than ever to find ways to support your community’s businesses.

There are many reasons why small business success is vital. Not just for the economy but for our communities. That’s why Small Business Saturday (November 28) is one of our favorite times of the year, and why we collected these ways you can support small businesses without breaking the bank (or leaving the house!).

Shop Small Businesses

Shopping small is the easiest way to support community businesses and clear your holiday list. Shopping locally doesn’t have to drain your wallet, either.

Small businesses generate 44% of U.S. economic activity.

1. Skip the Hallmark Card and Support a Local Artist

Cards are a classic gift for any and all celebrations. They’re small, affordable, and easy to personalize. This year skip the grocery store and see what artists you can support while still getting beautiful and unique gifts for your family and friends. 

Most cities will have galleries, boutiques, and even tourist shops that display locally printed and designed cards to choose from. If you don’t have a shop near you, you can browse thousands of creators on Etsy to find the perfect design for each of your loved ones. 

2. Send Gift Cards

Gift cards are perfect for acquaintances, long-distance giving, and little acts of kindness every now and then. Instead of collecting Amazon and Starbucks cards, see what your local spots have to offer. 

Most restaurants and stores offer a gift card option, and you don’t have to waste the plastic! Send your gift via email to anyone, anywhere. So go ahead and thank your first mentor for their glowing reference with a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. 

3. Shop Throughout the Year

It’s true that handmade products can get pricey, but you’re ultimately paying for quality. If you’re already pinching pennies for the holiday season, start thinking about next year. Buying gifts for loved ones as you find them throughout the year is the best way to collect beautiful gifts without using credit. Plus, small businesses can use the boost year-round. 

Show Support From Home

Mockup showing someone fill in an instagram story template with favorite shops.

Download button for instagram story template.

Most of us have a budget that prevents us from buying a new wardrobe every month and eating out every weekday, so it just isn’t feasible to buy from all of our favorite local artisans all of the time. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them, you’ll just have to get creative to show your support from home. 

4. Share Your Favorite Products

When you do buy something new, take a photo! Sharing your favorite finds online and tagging the store is a great way to promote their products and quality to your friends and family. Even if you’re not buying, sharing a wishlist or their newest product could earn them another sale or new followers. 

I think people forget that their voice has influence, whether they are a huge celebrity or a humble stay at home mom. It’s amazing just what one post can do for small business.” — Autumn Grant, The Kind Poppy

5. Write a Review

You should let the world know when you find a shop you love. From Google and Yelp to a company Facebook page, leave a review to let others know they’re in good hands. Positive reviews are some of the best tools businesses have to convert sales. 

These types [local] of businesses live and die by word of mouth. Their reviews are everything to them. Now that everyone can look up the average rating of a business or service, it’s vital for businesses to collect positive, honest reviews.” — Dan Bailey, WikiLawn Lawn Care

If you do leave reviews, detailed thoughts and photos perform the best. These give the consumer plenty of information and help your review seem authentic. Plus, reviews can help platforms like Etsy and Google know the business is valued. 

6. Refer a Friend

Tell your friends when you find a new shop or service and share the love. Your friends trust you and likely have a lot of shared interests, so this word of mouth is a great way for businesses to earn customers. 

A referral is the single best compliment to a business owner. Trust me.” — Brian Robben, Robben Media

If you have friends and family from out of town you may also want to keep your favorite businesses in mind for when they visit. Keep a list of local restaurants, cafes, services, and shops that they can’t get anywhere else and take your friends on a local tour. 

Keep in Touch

Businesses have more ways than ever to keep you in the know, so make sure you’re subscribed to keep in touch! Newsletters and social media are a good way to keep your local faves and their promotional offers top of mind. 

Mockup showing someone filling in their wishlist on instagram.

Download button for holiday wishlist instagram template.

7. Sign-up For Newsletters

Most businesses send regular emails to notify you and other customers of their store details and deals. Newsletters are great ways to find coupons, sales, and new items you’ll adore. Just subscribing isn’t enough, though. Make sure you actually read their news and whitelist the email so you never miss a thing. 

8. Follow and Interact With Their Social Channels

Social media is another easy way to stay in the know; it can also organically promote a business. When you follow a business, platforms learn more about who else may be interested in their offers. Stay active and like and comment on their posts, too, to increase their visibility and trust with other shoppers. 

9. Swing By the Shop

Ultimately, the best way to support a business is to stop by and visit. You never know when something will catch your eye, and it’s a great way to share your find with friends. You may also get the chance to talk with the owner and learn more about the business while sharing your support. 

Drop a note to them of encouragement. Tell them why you love them and what they mean to you and the community…We’ve been absolutely floored when people have taken time out of their day to write us a note, telling us how much they like us/our product.” — Meaghan Tomas, Pinch Spice Market

No matter the product or service, small business owners will appreciate hearing that you love their shop and can benefit from your support. Tag a friend, buy a gift card, or write a review to help your favorite stores without busting your budget
Infographic of tips on how to support small businesses.

Sources: Small Business Administration | G1ve 

Learn more about security

Mint Google Play Mint iOS App Store

Source: mint.intuit.com

Open post

How to Handle a Pay Cut: Budgeting in Uncertain Times

Are you stressed by an income reduction? Try these budgeting tips to survive a pay cut and thrive during this challenging time.

A pay cut, whether big or small, can catch you off guard—and throw your finances into disarray. While a salary cut is different than a layoff, it can leave you feeling just as uncertain.

How do you deal with a pay cut and deal with this uncertainty?

There are strategies to help you navigate both the emotional and financial challenges of this situation. One key element? A budget. Whether you need to create a budget from scratch or adjust the budget you already have, doing so can help you get back on your feet and set yourself up for success.

Here’s a rundown of budgeting tips to survive a pay cut to keep your finances intact:

Ask your employer for the parameters of the income reduction or salary cut

First, keep in mind that a pay cut typically isn’t personal. According to Scott Bishop, an executive vice president of financial planning at a wealth management firm, businesses often cut salaries to preserve their cash reserves while they stabilize their cash flow or weather some larger economic impact, like the coronavirus pandemic.

A salary cut can leave you feeling just as uncertain as a layoff. Fortunately, you can get through it with the right strategy.

Secondly, make sure you understand the full scope of the salary cut. Bishop suggests you ask your employer questions like:

  • What is the amount of pay being cut?
  • Why is pay being cut?
  • When will the reduction begin, and how long will it last?
  • Will any of the following be affected?
  • What are the long-term plans to improve the company’s financial situation?

Once you’ve painted the full scope of what and why, you can determine how to handle the pay cut.

“For some people who are big savers, it might not be a big deal,” Bishop says. “But for some people who live paycheck to paycheck, it’s going to be significant.”

It's easier to determine how to handle a pay cut if you understand the full scope of the cut.

Settle any anxieties that might come with a salary cut

If you are dealing with financial stress, try settling your mind and emotions so you can make decisions with a clear head.

“The emotional and mental toll can be one of the hardest parts,” says Lindsay Dell Cook, president and founder of Budget Babble LLC, which provides personal finance and small business financial counseling. “It gets even harder if there are others depending on your income who are also financially stressed.”

When sharing the news with family members who may also be impacted, Cook suggests the following:

  • Find the right time. Pick a time of day during which everyone will have the highest mental capacity for the conversation. “For instance, I am a morning person, so if my husband told me at bedtime about a pay cut, I would have a much harder time processing that information,” Cook says.
  • Frame it as a brainstorming session. Bring ideas of what you can do to handle the pay cut, such as a list of expenses you can cut or a plan for how you can make extra income.
  • Empathize with the other person. “Reduced income is not easy for anyone. Everyone responds to financial anxiety differently,” Cook says.

“If you’re unable to maintain your previous level of saving after a pay cut, try to save at a smaller scale for goals like retirement and your emergency fund.”

– Scott Bishop, executive vice president of financial planning at a wealth management firm

Create or adjust your budget to handle a pay cut

Once you understand the salary cut and have informed your family or roommates, it’s time to crunch the numbers. That’s the first step to figuring out how to save money after a pay cut.

If you don’t have a budget, find a budgeting system that fits your needs. Learning how to effectively budget takes time and practice, so be patient with yourself if you’re new to this. Cook suggests reading up on how to create a budget.

One system to consider is the 50-20-30 budget rule, which has you break your spending into three simple categories. If you prefer the aid of technology when determining how to handle a pay cut, there are many budgeting and spending apps that can help you manage your money.

If you're wondering how to save money after a pay cut, start by creating a new plan or modifying your existing budget.

Whether you’re handling a pay cut by creating a new plan or modifying an existing budget, Bishop suggests taking the following steps:

  1. Add up your income. Combine your new salary with your partner’s pay, and factor in any additional income streams like from dividends or savings account interest. Tally up the total.
  2. List your expenses. Be sure to include essential expenses (e.g., housing, food, clothing, transportation) and nonessential expenses (e.g., entertainment, takeout, hobbies).
    • Look through your bank statement online and your past receipts so all expenses are included.
    • Account for infrequent expenses such as gifts, car maintenance or home repairs.
  3. Track the amount you save. Note any regular savings contributions you make, such as to an emergency fund or retirement account.
  4. Get your partner’s buy-in. What needs do they have, and what is nonnegotiable in the budget for each of you? 

Cut expenses with budgeting tips to survive a pay cut

If you’ve crunched the numbers and found that your expenses add up to more than your new income, you’ll need to find ways to cut back. Here are some tips on trimming your spending to survive a salary cut:

  • Cut back on takeout meals and stick to a strict grocery list or food budget, Cook suggests.
  • Avoid large discretionary purchases like a car during the duration of your pay cut, Bishop says.
  • Negotiate with your utility companies or ask if they’re providing forbearance options, Bankrate suggests. You can also ask your car insurance provider if it has additional savings for customers who are driving less, according to Bankrate.

If you think you might fall behind on rent or mortgage payments as you’re handling a pay cut, both Cook and Bishop agree that early, proactive communication is key. Be honest with your landlord or mortgage company. “Don’t wait until you’re past due,” Bishop says.

The same applies for other financial obligations, such as your credit card bill. You’ll likely find those companies are willing to work with you through the rough patch.

One budgeting tip to survive a pay cut is to look into municipal assistance programs in your area.

Cook also suggests you look into municipal assistance programs as a budgeting tip to survive a pay cut. “Many cities have established rental assistance funds to help taxpayers meet their obligations during the pandemic,” she says.

Continue to save money after a pay cut

As you consider how to cut costs, take time to think about your long-term savings goals and how to save money after a pay cut. By cutting discretionary spending through your new budget—what Bishop calls “cutting the fat”—you may have freed up income to maintain your good saving habits during this time. He says it’s important to do that before slowing down on savings.

If you’re unable to maintain your previous level of saving after a pay cut, Bishop suggests you try to save at a smaller scale for goals like retirement and your emergency fund.

As you work to save money after a pay cut, Cook recommends setting up automatic transfers to your savings account every payday based on the amount you’re able to put towards savings in your new budget.

“If your savings account is at the same bank as your checking account, you can transfer those funds fairly easily,” she says. “So the worst-case scenario is that you put too much money in savings and have to bring some back to checking. The hope, however, is that some or all of those funds transferred to savings remain there since that money is no longer in your checking account just waiting to be spent.”

Seek extra income sources after a salary cut

You should explore additional sources of income if you need more cash to cover essential expenses or if you’re looking for ways to save money after a pay cut.

Determine if you’re eligible for benefits based on the reason for your pay cut. Cook recommends applying for unemployment if you think you may qualify. For example, some workers who experienced pay cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic were eligible for unemployment benefits. The details vary by state, so visit your state’s unemployment insurance program website to learn what benefits may apply to you.

If you or your partner have some extra time on your hands, you can consider bringing in income through a side hustle to help you handle your pay cut. Bishop suggests using free or low-cost online video tutorials to boost your existing skills to make your side hustle more effective.

Cook also recommends getting creative. “Are there things you could sell to make some extra cash?” she says.

If you are unable to find additional sources of income, but you have an emergency fund, consider whether you should dip into that. “Your savings are there for a reason, and sometimes you need to use it,” Cook says. “That is okay.”

Stick to your updated budget to navigate how to handle a pay cut

Making your budget part of your daily routine is a budgeting tip to survive a pay cut, and it will help you save money after a pay cut.

“Build rewards into your budget, such as ordering out every other week if you successfully saved money after your pay cut.”

– Scott Bishop, executive vice president of financial planning at a wealth management firm

“If you’re checking it daily, there are no surprises,” Cook says. You can do this by logging into your bank account and making sure your spending and expenses align with your digital or written budget document.

“If you see that your spending is high, your mind will typically start thinking through [future] transactions more thoroughly to vet if those expenses are really necessary,” Cook says.

Don’t forget the fun side of accountability: rewards for meeting your goals. Build rewards into your budget, Bishop says, such as ordering out every other week if you successfully saved money after your pay cut.

Lastly, don’t try to go it alone. Enlist others in your budgeting journey, Cook suggests. Make up a monthly challenge to cut spending from a specific category in your new budget and ask your partner or a friend to do it with you. For example, see if you and the other participants can go a full month without buying clothes or ordering takeout. Compare notes at the end of the month and see how much you’ve saved.

Another idea? Try connecting with a budget-minded community on social media to get inspired.

You're likely not the only person wondering how to save money after a pay cut, so try to enlist the help of others as you work through it.

Take these steps after the salary cut is over

Once you’ve handled the pay cut and your regular pay is restored, don’t give up on your newfound budgeting discipline. Instead, focus on building up emergency savings before you go back to your normal spending.

Bishop recommends starting with enough savings to cover three to six months of expenses. “If you spend $3,000 a month, that means you need to have $9,000 to $18,000 saved.”

This might also be the time to revisit your budget and build a more extensive financial plan with a CPA or financial advisor to account for all of your future goals. Bishop says that these can include a target retirement date and lifestyle; your estate planning, such as a will, trust and power of attorney; saving for a child’s college; and purchasing a home.

If your salary cut comes to an end, don't give up on your newfound budgeting discipline.

Bishop says reminding yourself why you’re budgeting and focusing on your financial goals can be similar to motivating yourself to stay physically fit. Goal-based motivation can keep you accountable.

Remember: You can survive a salary cut

Handling a pay cut is never easy, but you can get through this time. While you’re in the thick of it, focus on budgeting tips to survive a pay cut and staying positive. Seek help from others and follow up with your employer to make sure you are aware of any changing details regarding the pay cut.

Most of all, try to keep a long-term outlook. “Remember that it will not always be this way,” Cook says.

If you’re considering whether or not to tap into your savings to handle a pay cut, read on to determine when to use your emergency fund.

Discover Bank, Member FDIC

Was this article helpful?

Source: discover.com

Scroll to top