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8 Safe Investments for People Who Hate Risking Their Money

Think back to what the stock market looked like to you in March 2020, aka, the apocalypse. Did it look like:

A.) The biggest bargain sale you’ve ever seen in your lifetime? 

or

B.) A burning pit of money that was about to incinerate your life’s savings?

If you answered “B,” you probably have a low risk tolerance. You worry more about losing money than missing out on the opportunity to make more of it.

Being cautious about how you invest your money is a good thing. But if you’re so risk-averse that you avoid investing altogether, you’re putting your money at greater risk than you think.

Do Safe Investments Actually Exist?

When you think about the risks of investing, you probably think about losing principal, i.e., the original amount you invested. If you keep your money in a bank account, there’s virtually no chance of that happening because deposits of up to $250,000 are FDIC insured. 

But consider that the average savings account pays just 0.05% APY, while in 2019, inflation was about 2.3%.

So while you’re not at risk of losing principal, you still face purchasing power risk, which is the risk that your money loses value. Your money needs to earn enough to keep up with inflation to avoid losing purchasing power. If inflation continues at 2.3%, buying $100 worth of groceries will cost you $102.30 a year from now. If you’re saving over decades toward retirement, you’ll be able to buy a whole lot less groceries in your golden years.

There’s also the risk of missed opportunity. By playing it too safe, you’re unlikely to earn the returns you need to grow into a sufficient nest egg.

Though there’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, there are plenty of safe ways to invest your money.

8 Low-Risk Investments for People Who Hate Losing Money

Here are eight options that are good for conservative investors. (Spoiler: Gold, bitcoin and penny stocks did not make our list.

1. CDs

If you have cash you won’t need for a while, investing in a CD, or certificate of deposit, is a good way to earn more interest than you’d get with a regular bank account.

You get a fixed interest rate as long as you don’t withdraw your money before the maturity date. Typically, the longer the duration, the higher the interest rate. 

Since they’re FDIC insured, CDs are among the safest investments in existence. But low risk translates to low rewards. Those low interest rates for borrowers translate to lower APYs for money we save at a bank. Even for five-year CDs, the best APYs are just over 1%.

You also risk losing your interest and even some principal if you need to withdraw money early.

2. Money Market Funds

Not to be confused with money market accounts, money market funds are actually mutual funds that invest in low-risk, short-term debts, such as CDs and U.S. Treasurys. (More on those shortly.)

The returns are often on par with CD interest rates. One advantage: It’s a liquid investment, which means you can cash out at any time. But because they aren’t FDIC insured, they can technically lose principal, though they’re considered extraordinarily safe.

3. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)

The U.S. government finances its debt by issuing Treasurys. When you buy Treasurys, you’re investing in bonds backed by the “full faith and credit of the U.S. government.” Unless the federal government defaults on its debt for the first time in history, investors get paid.

The price of that safety: pathetically low yields that often don’t keep up with inflation.

TIPS offer built-in inflation protection — as the name “Treasury Inflation Protected Securities” implies. Available in five-, 10- and 30-year increments, their principal is adjusted based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. The twice-a-year interest payments are adjusted accordingly, as well.

If your principal is $1,000 and the CPI showed inflation of 3%, your new principal is $1,030, and your interest payment is based on the adjusted amount. 

On the flip side, if there’s deflation, your principal is adjusted downward.

4. Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds, or “munis,” are bonds issued by a state or local government. They’re popular with retirees because the income they generate is tax-free at the federal level. Sometimes when you buy muni bonds in your state, the state doesn’t tax them either.

There are two basic types of munis: General obligation bonds, which are issued for general public works projects, and revenue bonds, which are backed by specific projects, like a hospital or toll road.

General obligation bonds have the lowest risk because the issuing government pledges to raise taxes if necessary to make sure bondholders get paid. With revenue bonds, bondholders get paid from the income generated by the project, so there’s a higher risk of default.

5. Investment-Grade Bonds

Bonds issued by corporations are inherently riskier than bonds issued by governments, because even a stable corporation is at higher risk of defaulting on its debt. But you can mitigate the risks by choosing investment-grade bonds, which are issued by corporations with good to excellent credit ratings.

Because investment-grade bonds are low risk, the yields are low compared to higher-risk “junk bonds.” That’s because corporations with low credit ratings have to pay investors more to compensate them for the extra risk.

6. Target-Date Funds

When you compare bonds vs. stocks, bonds are generally safer, while stocks offer more growth. That’s why as a general rule, your retirement portfolio starts out mostly invested in stocks and then gradually allocates more to bonds.

Target-date funds make that reallocation automatic. They’re commonly found in 401(k)s, IRAs and 529 plans. You choose the date that’s closest to the year you plan to retire or send your child to college. Then the fund gradually shifts more toward safer investments, like bonds and money market funds as that date gets nearer.

7. Total Market ETFs

While having a small percentage of your money in super low-risk investments like CDs,

money market funds and Treasurys is OK, there really is no avoiding the stock market if

you want your money to grow.

If you’re playing day trader, the stock market is a risky place. But when you’re committed to investing in stocks for the long haul, you’re way less exposed to risk. While downturns can cause you to lose money in the short term, the stock market historically ticks upward over time.

A total stock market exchange-traded fund will invest you in hundreds or thousands of companies. Usually, they reflect the makeup of a major stock index, like the Wilshire 5000. If the stock market is up 5%, you’d expect your investment to be up by roughly the same amount. Same goes for if the market drops 5%.

By investing in a huge range of companies, you get an instantly diversified portfolio, which is far less risky than picking your own stocks.

8. Dividend Stocks

If you opt to invest in individual companies, sticking with dividend-paying stock is a smart move. When a company’s board of directors votes to approve a dividend, they’re redistributing part of the profit back to investors.

Dividends are commonly offered by companies that are stable and have a track record of earning a profit. Younger companies are less likely to offer a dividend because they need to reinvest their profits. They have more growth potential, but they’re also a higher risk because they’re less-established.

The best part: Many companies allow shareholders to automatically reinvest their dividends, which means even more compound returns.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement

Surprised retiree
cheapbooks / Shutterstock.com

Most of us spend decades working and dreaming of a day when we can retire. But when we finally arrive at our post-work destination, it’s not unusual to find ourselves in a world of surprises.

Knowing what to expect in advance can help you prepare for — and adjust to — life in your golden years. The following are some key things no one tells you about before you retire.

Housing will remain your biggest expense

Senior couple at home
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Many retirees dream of paying off their mortgage so they will be free to spend money on travel and other activities. But the reality is that housing likely will remain the biggest expense in your budget for as long as you live.

U.S. households led by someone age 65 or older spent an average of $17,472 on housing in 2019, as we detail in “Here’s How Much Retiree Households Spend in a Year.” That is easily more than these households spent in any other expense category.

Work will not end — it will simply change

older worker
michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

You will probably work in retirement — and not just because you have to. More than 70% of people say they want to work during retirement, according to the findings of “Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations,” a joint study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave.

As you age, chances are good that the nature of work will change, though. The study found that 3 in 5 retirees plan to launch a new line of work that differs from what they have done in the past. Working retirees also are three times more likely than pre-retirees to own their own business.

If you’ve never volunteered before, you won’t start in retirement

Senior volunteer
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

About 90% of Americans say they would like to do volunteer service for someone or some cause that needs their help, but just 25% actually do so, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity.

When asked why they don’t follow through on the wish to help, Americans most commonly cite a lack of free time. Yet, retirees — with plenty of time on their hands — do not volunteer at rates that are any higher than those of workers.

And among people who did not volunteer during their working years, just one-third finally begin volunteering during retirement.

Retirement can be especially lonely for single men

Sad senior man
YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock.com

In some ways, retirement is more challenging for women. Because they live longer than men, they will have to stretch the funds from their nest eggs over a longer period. To make matters worse, women generally start with less in retirement savings than men do.

But women who are single have one big advantage over their male counterparts: They are less likely to be lonely.

Just 48% of retired men who live alone say they are very satisfied with the number of friends they have, according to an analysis of Pew Research Center survey findings.

However, a robust 71% of women who live alone are satisfied with the number of friends they have.

Health issues likely will catch you by surprise

Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock.com

Slightly more than one-third of retirees say health problems have put a damper on their retirement years, according to a survey from the Nationwide Retirement Institute. And 75% of those folks say their health problems emerged sooner in life than they expected.

To make matters worse, about one-quarter say health-related expenses keep them from living the retirement of their dreams. Such sobering numbers underscore why many people planning for retirement would benefit from opening a health savings account and stashing as much cash as possible into that HSA.

As you grow older, you will feel younger

Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Everyone has heard the cliche: “You’re only as old as you feel.”

If that is true, here is some good news for retirees: Paradoxically, the older people get, the younger they are likely to feel, according to “Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality,” a paper from the Pew Research Center.

For example, among people ages 18-29, about half say they feel their age, one-quarter feel older than their age and another one-quarter feel younger.

However, among those 65 and older, 60% say they feel younger than their age and 32% say they feel exactly their age. Just a scant 3% say they feel older than their age.

Your early golden years might not gleam as you had hoped

Unhappy senior woman
Asier Romero / Shutterstock.com

Nearly one-third of recent retirees — 28% — say life is worse in retirement than it was during their working years, according to the Nationwide Retirement Institute survey.

What is the source of this gloom and doom? Money — or lack thereof.

Among those who lament post-work life, 78% cite a lack of income and 76% cite a high cost of living as the top factors in giving them the blues during their golden years.

The message to future retirees is obvious: Save early, save often and keep saving. For more tips, check out “9 Ways to Rescue Your Retirement in 2020.”

Initial disappointment will give way to later satisfaction

Happy senior couple
David Tadevosian / Shutterstock.com

If you are among those disappointed with retirement, take heart: As with so many things, retirement is what you make it. You can take steps to boost your overall satisfaction with life during your golden years.

For example, researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom found that people who volunteer are less likely to be depressed and more likely to be satisfied with life. There is even evidence that volunteers live longer.

So, if retirement has got you down, stop gazing at your navel and start looking outward at ways to help others.

A lot of other research has found that a happy marriage and spending time with close family and friends can greatly boost retirement satisfaction.

Even if you don’t take steps to make yourself happy, you might just end up feeling joyous anyway. The Pew Research Center found that 45% of adults 75 and older believe life has turned out better than they expected.

Just 5% say it has turned out worse.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

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Which Student Loan Should You Pay First?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

The financial camps are divided between paying off your smallest first vs. your highest interest student loan. So who’s right?

Finance people can agree on a few things. Some debts like payday loans and IRS back taxes are worse than others and ideally, you should get rid of all debt that keeps you from having a positive net worth.

But how do you decide what goes first? This is something I stressed over when we started out. I had a large high-interest student and a small low-interest car loan while my husband had a moderate student loan with moderate interest. A total conundrum.

Also read: Is Being Debt Free Worth it?

So if you’re struggling to figure out where to start here’s a look at my theoretical friend and her theoretical $60,000 of student loan debt. She took out federal and private loans and doesn’t have a career that qualifies her for any student loan forgiveness. (Or this could be a couple’s student loans combined, however you want to look at it.)

Her theoretical student loans are:

a. $20,000 @ 4% interest with minimum payment of $150 p/m
b. $40,000 @ 6.5% interest with minimum payment of $300 p/m

I wanted to keep monthly payments as similar as possible so I adjusted the number of months for payment of the first loan accordingly keeping the total repayment for both at 36 months.

Pay off the Smallest Loan First

a. $1574.60 per month for 13 months. Total interest paid= $469.77
+$300 p/m for the minimum payment of other loan= $1874.60 total monthly payment for first 13 months.

b. After 13 months of minimum payments, the balance is now $38,879.74 with $2,780.72 of interest paid during this time.
The new monthly payment becomes $1,802.44 for 23 months and we end with $2,577.18 more in interest paid.

Total interest paid over 36 months: $5,827.67

Pay off the Highest Interest Loan First

b. $1653.49 per month for 26 months. Total interest paid= $1,803.49
+$150 p/m for the minimum payment of other loan= $1,803.49 total monthly payment for first 26 months.

a. After 26 months of minimum payments, the balance is now $17,763.60 with $1,641.55 of interest paid during this time.
The new monthly payment becomes $1,809.03 for 10 months and we end with $327.28 more in interest paid.

Total interest paid over 36 months: $4,959.65

Difference= $868.02 saved by tackling higher interest loan first.

To compare, I calculated paying both at the same time.
Monthly Payment= $1,816.44 for 36 months
Total Interest Paid= $5,391.83 Less than option 1, more than option 2

I then further calculated to see what the difference would be if my friend paid off her loans in 5 or 10 years:

5 years= $9,058.59 in interest paid (There’s that car she just financed)

10 years= $18,801.86 in interest paid (There’s that down payment on a house she said she couldn’t afford!)

The moral of the story is that if $800 keeps you up at night you should pay off higher interest loans first, especially if they’re big behemoths.

But if $18,000 keeps you up at night you need to get out of bed and start hustling.

Paying $1800 a month on student loans looks like a big number but maybe your loan is smaller, maybe you have the means to move in with more roommates or cut the cable and eating out.

Also Read: How to Make Paying off Debt not Suck

If you have smaller loans within your student loan pay those off in order of smallest to largest or break it down into milestones. Rewarding yourself with attainable benchmarks will help keep you motivated.

Whatever it is it’s time to start looking into the future and think about what you want to be doing with your money instead of giving it to the bank. Because the one thing everyone in the world can agree on is that it’s not fun to give away your money to banks when you don’t have to.

<img data-attachment-id="1309" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/smallest-amount-or-highest-interest-student-loan/which-loan-first/" data-orig-file="https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=400%2C693&ssl=1" data-orig-size="400,693" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Which debt should I pay off first?" data-image-description="

Which debt should I pay off first?

” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=173%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=346%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” data-pin-description=”If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials” data-pin-title=”Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?” class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1309 jetpack-lazy-image” src=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.png” alt=”Choosing which debt to pay off first was so stressful! This article really put it into perspective.” width=”400″ height=”693″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ srcset=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7″>

<img data-attachment-id="1309" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/smallest-amount-or-highest-interest-student-loan/which-loan-first/" data-orig-file="https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=400%2C693&ssl=1" data-orig-size="400,693" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Which debt should I pay off first?" data-image-description="

Which debt should I pay off first?

” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=173%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=346%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” data-pin-description=”If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials” data-pin-title=”Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?” class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1309″ src=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.png” alt=”Choosing which debt to pay off first was so stressful! This article really put it into perspective.” width=”400″ height=”693″ data-recalc-dims=”1″>

<img data-attachment-id="4998" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/smallest-amount-or-highest-interest-student-loan/mf-which-student-loan-should-you-payoff-first_-highest-interest-rate-or-largest-balance__/" data-orig-file="https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MF-Which-Student-Loan-Should-You-Payoff-First_-Highest-Interest-Rate-or-Largest-Balance__.jpg?fit=735%2C1102&ssl=1" data-orig-size="735,1102" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?" data-image-description="

If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials

” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MF-Which-Student-Loan-Should-You-Payoff-First_-Highest-Interest-Rate-or-Largest-Balance__.jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MF-Which-Student-Loan-Should-You-Payoff-First_-Highest-Interest-Rate-or-Largest-Balance__.jpg?fit=400%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” width=”400″ height=”600″ data-pin-title=”Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?” data-pin-description=”If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials” src=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.jpg” alt class=”wp-image-4998″ srcset=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.jpg 400w, https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first-2.jpg 200w, https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first-3.jpg 735w” sizes=”(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.

Source: modernfrugality.com

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How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have

So, you want to stop spending money.  That might be easier said than done.  When it comes to managing your money, there are things you need to do.  You know you need to budget, try to get out of debt and control your spending.

stop spending money

stop spending money

The issue is not necessarily that you are spending money on things you don’t have; you just aren’t spending it in the right way.  The issue is not that you don’t make enough money, it is just not having a plan on how to use it once you get it.

That’s what happened to me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for my money.  That lead me down a path I did not like.

After years of working without a plan, I found myself on the steps of a courthouse declaring bankruptcy. And, because I did not learn how to make the right changes in managing my money, my husband and I found ourselves in debt a few years later.

The difference with the second time I had debt was that I took responsibility for it.  I owned what happened, and he and I worked together to make changes to not only pay off our debt but never go down that same road again.

If you find yourself in the same situation, you need to make big changes.  To start, you have to stop spending money you don’t have.  Plain and simple.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE OVERSPENDING?

You’ve maxed out your credit cards

When there is no room to charge anything on your cards, you might have a problem.  In most cases, maxed credit cards signals you are living beyond your means.  If you have to continue to charge because you don’t have money, then you are spending too much.

You can’t find a home for your latest purchase

Your temptation might be electronics or handbags. No matter what you love to buy, you might notice you are running out of room to store things.  When the stuff takes over your home and is causing clutter, it is time to take a long hard look at how you spend money.

Your budget never works

There may be months when you don’t have enough money in your budget to cover your mortgage or food.  When you continually spend money on the wrong things, your budget will not work.

That means if you have just $50 for entertainment, do not spend $75.  That other $25 has to come from another budget line.

You spend more than you earn

Take a look at your credit card balances. You might be paying only the minimum balance because you can’t pay it in full. When you spend more than you make and continue to add more debt, take a look at what you are buying.  It might be time to pull back and stay out of the stores.

HOW TO STOP SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY

Use a budget 

When many people hear the word budget, what they hear is “you don’t get to spend any money.”  That is the opposite of what a budget does.  Your budget is a roadmap.  It shows you where your money should go – including the fun money you want to spend!

Your budget helps you know what you need to do with your money when you get paid.  Look at every penny as an employee of yours.  You get to tell it where it needs to go.  Some of them will go to rent, others to your car payment and still others will go to the into your savings account.

The best part of a budget is that you can allow for fun.  Learn how to budget to have fun and even how to budget if your paychecks are never the same amount.

Related: How to Figure Out How Much to Budget for Groceries

Write down your financial goals

Successful people start planning by having the end in mind.  It may mean taking a backward approach to your finances.

Think about what you want.  Do you want to get that credit card paid off or maybe take that dream vacation?  No matter your goal, figure out what it will take to get there, and that will help you set your goal.

It may mean fewer dinners out or putting in some overtime at work.  Whatever your goal, make sure it is clearly defined and you keep it front and center.  Put it on your refrigerator.  Keep a photo of it in your wallet.  Make sure you see that budget staring you back in the face every time you even think about spending money.  That will usually stop you right in your tracks.

Related:  The Secret Trick I Use to Stick to My Budget

Cash is a Must so that you never overspend

If you are someone who is always saying “I can’t stop spending money,” then you need to use cash.  I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again. Using cash is one of the simplest tricks to help you stop spending money you don’t have.

It works because it gives you defined money.  If you have $100 to spend at the grocery store, there is no way you can even spend $101.  You don’t have it.  You are forced to spend wisely and think more about every purchase you make.

I know some of you are reading this saying “but if I have cash I just spend it so fast.”  That is because you are not tracking it and taking responsibility for your spending.

You need to use the cash envelope method.

If you have an envelope for groceries with $50 left in it, sure, you can dip into that and grab $20 to spend on lunch.  But, what happens when you need food for your family?  That means you’ve just $30 to buy food – which may not get you much.

Cash forces you to think about every purchase you make.

Related:  How You Can Become Accountable With Your Money

Stop paying for convenience

There is a quick fix for nearly everything.  You can find dinners in boxes, small pre-packaged snacks, etc.  Rather than purchase convenience items, buy the larger size snacks and then re-package yourself into smaller baggies.  You will not only get more out of a box, but you can even control how much you put into each baggie.

There are other ways we pay for convenience.  We pay for someone to iron our shirts, wash our cars and even mow our lawns.  By doing these things ourselves, we can keep much more money and easily stop overspending.

Read more:  How You are Killing Your Grocery Budget

Put away the credit cards to halt spending money

One of the simplest ways to stop spending money is to get out the scissors and cut up those credit cards!!  Or, if you aren’t ready to cut them up, put them on ice.  Literally.  Freeze your credit card in a block of ice.

If you keep spending, you have to cut off the source at its knees.  While I don’t think credit cards are a good fit for everyone, I know they work for some.

If you must use credit cards, never charge more than you have in the bank to pay it off.  That means you can’t charge the amount you believe you will get on your paycheck.  There is never a guarantee that your check will arrive.  Spend only the amount you have, not what you will receive.

Related:  How to Pay off Your Credit Card Debt

Pay your bills on time

We all have bills.  We know when they are due.  When you miss the payment due date, you get assessed a late charge.   Pay them on time, so you don’t pay more than you need to.

In addition to late fees, not paying your bills on time can have an adverse effect on your credit score. Learn how to organize your bills, so you never pay them late again.

Do not live above your means

Few of us would not love new clothes or a new car. We all would like to make more money or get the hottest new device.  The thing is, can you afford it?  Is it a want or is it a need?

If you are using credit or loans to get items that you can not afford, then you are living beyond your means and spending money you don’t have.  Scale back and make sure that you can honestly afford the house or the car and that it doesn’t ruin your budget and cost you too much.

Read more: Defining Your Wants vs. Your Needs

Don’t fall for impulse buys

Stores are sneaky about making us spend money.  They use signs, layout and even scents to lure you into wanting to buy more.  The thing is, if you purchase something you did not intend to, then you are already blowing your budget and probably overspending.

Another way that you are spending too much is when you plan dinner but then decide at the last minute to go out to dinner instead.  Why do that when you have food waiting for you at home (which you’ve already paid for)?

The final reason you may impulse buy is that of emotion.  If you feel a rush because of that new item, you may purchase out of impulse and emotion instead of need.

Read more:  Stopping Impulse Shopping

Plan your meals

One of the most significant changes we made was to menu plan.  It took me some time to put it all together, but now, I can plan our meals in no time at all.  I use the simple menu planning system that I’ve taken time to build over the years.

While this works for me, I remember when I was learning how to menu plan.  It was quite a process, and I relied upon the help of some experts in the field.   One of them I have used is Erin Chases’s $5 Meal Plan.  I loved how simple it was to create our meals each week.

Even the best menu plan won’t work if you aren’t eating what you buy.  Make sure you are not making mistakes with your grocery budget and eat what you buy.  After all, throwing food away is just money in the trash.

Related:  Money Saving Secrets Stores Won’t Tell You

Challenge yourself to spend less 

There is something fun about trying to beat yourself at your own game.  By this I mean, if you have $150 to spend on groceries for the week, try to spend only $130.  That gives you $20 more to spend on something else — or put towards your goal.

Related:  The Yearly Savings Challenge for Kids and Adults

Stay out of the stores so you don’t shop

If you can’t control your spending and continue spending money you don’t have, you have to remove the temptation.  Even something that seems harmless can result in spending money.

Related:  Fun and Frugal Date Night Ideas

Track the money you are spending

Keep track of your spending by adding up the amounts on your phone.  That way, you’ll have no surprises when you get to the checkout lane. You can try Shopping Calculator for Android or Total-Plus Shopping Calculator on iTunes.

When you start to see that total creep up, you realize how much you are spending. That may help you think twice about that extra box of treats you are tempted to toss into the shopping cart.

Use the three-day rule before you spend a dime

The three-day rule is pretty simple.  If you see something you want, wait for three days before you buy it.  Once the third day is up, ask yourself if you still feel it is something you need.

If it is, look at your budget to ensure it works with this month’s spending.  Then, double check the cash to make sure you have enough to pay for it.  If both of these work, you can consider buying it.

The funny thing is that most purchases are impulse buys and the three day waiting period helps you realize you don’t need it.  And had you purchased it, you may even have buyer’s remorse at the three-day mark.

Related:  The Trick To Make Sure You Never Overspend

Don’t use coupons and skip the sales

Sales are very tempting.  They lure you in and often result in making purchases you would not do otherwise.  That is why you nee your list. Stick to it and don’t fall for the sales.

You also need to put away the coupons.  Well, you can use them, but responsibly.  If you would not purchase an item at full price, you should never buy it only because there is a coupon.  A coupon is not a golden ticket to shop.

In addition to this, avoid the clearance aisles and end caps.  These are money spending traps!  You walk by, and your eye is drawn the end cap with the big SALE sign in front of it.  If you don’t need that item, don’t grab it.  Also, don’t walk by the clearance section.  It is very easy to pick up items you don’t really need.  That makes you again spend money you had not planned on.

Instead, shop the sections you need.  If you need detergent, go to that section and grab your item and then go to the next on your list.  Don’t wander through the store as you will be more likely to do “cart tossing.”   This is when you put items in your cart without noticing what you are spending.

I’m not saying not to buy anything on sale.  Just get the things you need that are on sale this week, or that you will need in the next weeks.  You probably need spaghetti noodles, but you don’t need a new pair of shoes.

Related: The Money Traps You Will Fall For

Never shop without a list

Never shop without a grocery list. Ever. Then, force yourself to stick to it.

Some simple ideas include using a timer to limit how long you can be in the store.  If you have only 20 minutes to shop, you will be less likely to grab the items you don’t need and stick with those that are on your list.

Another is to challenge yourself to see how fast you can finish your shopping.  If you have the list and stick to it, you’ll find you spend less time shopping and more time enjoying the things you love.

The best reason to use a list is that you don’t have to worry about forgetting that “one item” you know you need.  When you force yourself to make a shopping list and stick to it, you’ll always have everything you need on hand for dinner.

Keep emotion out of shopping

One tip is never to shop hungry.  When you do, your stomach controls what you buy.  The added benefit is buying the healthy foods you need.

If I am feeling bad about myself, buying something I have been wanting may end up making its way home with me. Spending money to make myself feel better never works.

There are many emotions attached to spending.  You have to identify which one(s) apply to you and find a way to fulfill that need through another method – other than spending money.

Define Needs vs. Wants

There are items we need.  You need food, but do you need the extra box of cookies?  Yes, the sweater is really cute but is it something you need or just something you want.  Ask yourself  “is this a need or a want” with each item you buy.  You’ll soon be on your way to less overspending.

Clean and declutter

When you declutter, you find all of those items you’ve spent money on and no longer need.  It makes you realize where you are spending.  You will also recall how clean your closet now is. Do you really want to fill it back up with more stuff?

The added benefit of decluttering is that it keeps your house clean and organized!  You can find what you need more easily and don’t have so much “stuff” cluttering the house.

Save first, spend later

It is important always to pay yourself first.  Remember that the amount you have to spend is what is left over after you pay your bills and pay yourself.

You should always tell your money where to go instead of it deciding for you.  So many do that the opposite and save after they spend.  If you still save a little, you will quickly build a nice emergency fund and can have less guilt about your spending.

Learn from your mistakes

The most important thing you must do is figure out where you’ve gone wrong in the past.  Your mistakes will be different from everyone else’s.  You may shop out of emotion while someone else does out of boredom.

You also need to keep in mind that you will make mistakes.  There will be months when you fall off the wagon.  Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Use it is a chance to learn from them and do what you can to not repeat them again.

Related:  The Mistakes You Will Make When Getting Out of Debt

Gaining control of your spending is possible.  You just need to have the desire – and the tools – to make it happen.

stop spending

stop spending

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

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Mortgage Rates vs. the Coronavirus: We Might Test New All-Time Lows

Posted on February 24th, 2020

Mortgage rates can be pretty volatile. Just like stocks, they can change daily depending on what’s happening in the economy.

Beyond that, mortgage rates can move based on news that doesn’t involve a report on the economic calendar, such as a jobs report, GDP, housing starts, inflation, etc.

Even if there isn’t a direct financial implication to a news story, mortgage rates can go up or down.

Just consider the recent conflict with Iran, which may have pushed mortgage rates down a little lower, even though it was unclear what the outcome would be.

It turned out to be a short-lived situation, despite any obvious conclusion or resolution, but that’s just one of many recent examples.

How the Coronavirus Could Affect Mortgage Rates

  • Fear of a global economic slowdown has hit financial markets
  • Dow Jones off nearly 1,000 points, Nasdaq down 350 points
  • Investors fleeing market for safety of alternatives like bonds
  • This has pushed the 10-year bond yield down near its all-time low

Now we’re dealing with what could be seen as a global pandemic in the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

It may or may not have originated in Wuhan, China, but it has rapidly made its way across the globe, with Italy just confirming a fifth death from the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t yet declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, but did say it has “pandemic potential.”

In other words, there’s a lot to fear due to the unknown and the very real loss of life, and that explains the recent pullback in the stock market.

At the time of this writing, the Dow Jones was off nearly 1,000 points and the Nasdaq was down over 350 points. And that’s after a bad Friday as well.

Part of that has to do with the fact that large companies like Apple have already warned of profit hits due to global supply chain issues, which may affect sales.

The trillion-dollar company acts as a bellwether to other large corporations and the economy at large.

In short, when bad news happens, stocks go down. This is the market’s natural tendency to flee the volatility of the stock market for the relative safety of the bond market.

Some investors may also seek out “safe haven assets” such as gold, which tend to perform well in times of fear and despair.

There is typically a negative correlation between stocks and bond prices, and so today we’re seeing a big drop in the 10-year bond yield.

Long story short, when bond yields drop, so too do mortgage rates.

The Coronavirus Has the Ability to Push Mortgage Rates to All-Time Lows

  • 30-year fixed rates are only about .25% above all-time lows
  • Won’t take much for mortgage rates to test new records
  • Impact will depend on whether coronavirus spreads or slows
  • Watch out for a quick reversal if any good news surfaces

We know investors are quick to ditch risk when there’s uncertainty in the air. But the bigger question is will this pullback be meaningful?

Will it actually matter in a few months (or even a few weeks), or will it turn out to be just another headline that goes away once things settle down?

Hopefully it does get resolved soon for the sake of anyone affected.

But because we don’t have those answers yet, there’s a good chance stocks will continue to fall, at least in the short term.

As such, expect increased downward pressure to apply to mortgage rates too, which might be good news for those looking to refinance a mortgage or purchase a home.

Of course, mortgage rates are already pretty rock-bottom, and not necessarily holding anyone back. It’s the sky-high home prices that are causing affordability issues.

And really, lower rates may just exacerbate an already hot housing market, which is ushering in a return to bidding wars.

With regard to how much rates might move, it’s not totally clear since the coronavirus outlook can change in an instant.

As it stands now, the 30-year fixed is averaging 3.49%, which is just 18 basis points (0.18%) above its all-time low, per Freddie Mac data.

It wouldn’t take a whole lot for rates to test new historic lows given the fear and uncertainty at the moment.

Conversely, mortgage lenders will be quick to adjust their rate sheets higher if there’s any glimmer of good news on the topic.

Remember, with rates already so low, it’s harder for them to move even lower than it is for lenders to stand put or simply increase them.

Read more: Why It Might Be Better to Apply for a Mortgage When Things Are Slow

Don't let today's rates get away.
About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

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How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to Save Money For Your First Home

It’s often said you’ll never forget your first home — and we couldn’t agree more! For most, a home is one of the biggest financial investments you’ll make. While this can seem scary, there are plenty of tips and helpful hints to help you save money for your first home. Our first-time buyer’s guide has everything you need to know from choosing the right down payment option, to how COVID-19 has changed the real estate market. Besides taking your home buying journey through Homes.com, here are a few key things you can be doing to save:

A budget is your best friend

There’s no such thing as “saving too early” — every home buying journey should begin by determining your target price range that pairs with all the must-haves and nice-to-haves you’re looking for. Then, decide what your down payment estimate will be. Your down payment depends on the type of mortgage you decide on and its lender. And if you need private mortgage insurance, your down payment will be smaller. Some loan options will require as little as 3% — but it’s better to go ahead and pay the largest amount possible. The more you pay in the beginning, the less you’ll need to borrow and the less you’ll have to pay over time. This will also lower your interest rate! You’ll also want to factor in closing costs, agent fees and taxes into this budget plan. States also offer first-time buyer assistance programs — check out a complete list here.

(Read More: 5 Things Homeowners Should Know About Creating A Budget)

Make extra debt payments

Lenders look at your debt amount vs. your monthly income to determine if you’re able to afford your dream home. While it seems overwhelming to spend more money while you’re trying to save, this investment will continue to help you down the road. Even if you’re only tackling a small amount, you’re decreasing the amount of overall payments and timeline of your debt. 

woman budgeting for her first homewoman budgeting for her first home

Start “paying” your mortgage now

Think of this as a practice round — every month, after paying your current rent, put the difference between your assumed future mortgage into your savings. The key here is to do this before your other monthly expenses add up. If this is your “last” priority at the end of the month, you’ll constantly make excuses and put your money elsewhere. Don’t get trapped by this idea; save money for your first home before you have to!

(Read More: So You Want to Start Saving for a Down Payment? – Now What?)

Reduce your monthly expenses

This seems like a “no-brainer” and a “no way” all at once. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there are still ways to save money for your first home! Examine your monthly expenses and find small ways to cut costs. Whether that’s limiting your eating out expenses or cutting down your grocery bill, setting a small amount into your savings will continue to add up. 

Put your retirement on hold

This seems scary, especially if you’re already contributing to your retirement plan. It’s important to note this isn’t meant to be a permanent fix, but can make a huge difference while you’re saving. An easy way to contribute, but only if you’re not anticipating your retirement any time soon!

Ready to put these tips into practice? We’ll be waiting for you at Homes.com to guide you through your first home buying process. 


Andrea is a recent college graduate who loves writing, social media and coffee! She loves covering celebrity home listings, keeping up with the latest style trends and working with the Homes.com team!

Source: homes.com

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How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!)

One question I see time and again is “How much should I spend on groceries for my family of four ?” — or three, five, etc.

When you’re making a household budget, it’s easy to know how much you need to include for most of your living expenses, like utilities, student loans, and even fuel. But when it comes to your average grocery bill, how much should you expect?

As much as I wish there were a simple answer, a family’s grocery budget will be different for every household. There’s no right or wrong number, but finding yours is key to keeping your grocery spending in check.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out how much you should spend on food each month.

Calculator and receipt in shopping cart for grocery budget

Calculator and receipt in shopping cart for grocery budget

WHY YOU NEED A GROCERY BUDGET

It may sound like it should go without saying, but you need a food budget because it will force you to think about money when you’re grocery shopping. After all, your income is a certain amount, and that means you only have a certain amount of money you can spend on food for your family.

The other reason you need a frugal food budget is to make sure you don’t spend too much money for the food your family needs (and to save money by not buying food you don’t need). You become smarter about your spending and think twice before adding impulse purchases to your shopping cart.

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET FOR FOOD

It can be tough to figure out how much you *should* budget for food vs. what you’re currently spending on your meals. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount so you don’t overspend.

Here are some tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much to spend on food per month.

Budgeting Hack 1: Use the National Average

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average household spends about 6% of its income on groceries each month. However, the study also shows that the average American also spends 5% of his or her disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income — a significant expense!

If you want to keep things simple and use the national average to calculate your monthly grocery budget, then plan on spending 6% for groceries and an additional 5% for dining out.

Here is an example: If your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, then you need to commit to a more thrifty plan: Scale back on eating out and use any additional money toward your grocery needs.

Budgeting Hack 2: Use Your Actual Spending

A more realistic way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to look at your current grocery spending. An easy way to do this is by completing a spending form.

Here’s how it works. Review all your purchases over several pay periods. You should include food spending, fuel, dining out, entertainment — everything. Having all the numbers in front of you will help you calculate the average of how much you’re spending on groceries (and all your other budget categories!) every week.

If you think your expenses for food add up to too much money, you can try to reduce your spending. Just keep in mind that your family will have to adjust the way you eat.

Budgeting Hack 3: Use a Grocery Calculator

Sometimes, you want to get specific help when figuring out how much to budget for food. There is a simple to use, online grocery budget calculator; you can use it for free.

Fill out the information for all of your family members, then hit calculate. It will return an average you should plan on budgeting for your family.

I ran this report for my family, and the result said we should plan on $219.35 for an average grocery budget for our family of five. That is more than we spend. On average, I spend $125 – $150 per week on everything our family needs.

While using a budget calculator can be helpful, it might end up doing the same thing for you: Suggest an amount that is higher than what you know you spend — or is higher than what you can afford. Use this calculator as a guide, but not the only factor when determining your budget.

Budgeting Hack 4: Look at the U.S. Average

Another way to reach a grocery budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans are on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the numbers listed for the people in your family.

For example, the average grocery budget for a family of four is about $871, per this report. The amounts will be lower, of course for a family of three or higher if you need to budget for a family of five.

Once again, these numbers should be a guide. Once you start grocery shopping for your family, you may find that you spend much less – or even more – than what the average family spends on groceries.

Don’t Forget Special Dietary Needs

If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods or require trips to a specialty grocery store.

TRICKS TO MAKING A MONTHLY FOOD BUDGET

There is no magic formula or grocery budget app that will pull the numbers together for you. The key is to make sure that you put forth the effort in the right manner to make it work for you. Keep the following in mind when figuring your monthly food budget:

1. Consider Your Current Spending

Before you can make any changes, you have to know where you are starting. That way, you can see what you currently spend on your groceries so you can start cutting back.

Need help figuring our your average grocery bill?

You can use the Spending Worksheet and go back to find your spending on food over the past 8 weeks. Look at every transaction in your bank statement and total it. Then, divide that amount by two. You know have an average your family spends on food every month.

The next step is going to be finding a way to not only spend that amount going forward but try to find ways to spend even less if you can.

2. Put It in Writing

The next things you need to when creating your budget for food is to put it in writing. Once written down, you are more willing to commit to the process. Make sure your spouse or partner is also on board so you can work together to ensure you don’t overspend.

3. Start Using Cash

If you really want to stick to a tight budget, you need to use cash. Each payday, get cash from your bank for the amount you’ll need at the grocery store. That is all you have to spend until the next payday. No cheating! That means you can’t whip out your debit card if you run out of money.

You’ll quickly learn better ways to be smart and strategic when figuring your budget and sticking to it. (Read more about how to start using a cash envelope budget ).

4. Commit to Using Your Budget

You can have the greatest intent to use a budget, but if you aren’t ready to do so, it will never work. It is just like dieting. You may know you want to shed pounds, but if you are not willing to put in the effort, the weight will never come off.

Once you know the amount you have to spend at the grocery store, you need to stick to it (this is another reason to use cash). You have to make the conscious decision that you want to budget and then do all you can to make it work.

Your spouse or partner needs to be on board, too. It will never work if one of you is committed to making your grocery budget work and the other is not. Have a long heart to heart talk and make sure you are on the same page.

Read more: How to talk to your spouse about money

GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET

If you’ve tried all these ideas and still need to save money on groceries, here are some simple tricks you can try.

Reduce Your Dining Out Budget

Stop eating as many restaurant meals. That’s an easy way to find money to add to your grocery shopping budget, especially if this means you’re cutting back on alcohol spending at restaurants.

Use Coupons

While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if coupons aren’t available for the grocery items you need, you can find them for household products you use, like toilet paper and laundry detergent, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.

Stick to Your List

Never shop without a list and only purchase the items on your list. Put in writing or use a grocery list app and don’t be tempted to add extra items to the cart.

Make a Meal Plan

Create a meal plan before you grocery shop. That way, you have a plan for the week not only to know what you will eat but also to make sure the ingredients will be on hand when it’s time for meal prep (reducing those frequent drive-thru meals). Meal planning saves you time, money, and the stress of figuring out “Mom, what’s for dinner?” without resorting to frozen pizza.

Keep a Price Book

Start watching the sales cycles at your grocery store and you’ll learn when it is time to stock up on your pantry staples, so you always pay the lowest price. Keep track of the prices in a price book for every item your family needs. (Bonus: When you get good at identifying your store’s food cost cycles, you can plan a meal or two around the fresh foods on sale in any given week.)

Add a Meatless Meal

One item that can quickly increase your grocery bill is meat. Try having a meal without meat every week (like Meatless Mondays), and you’ll find that you spend less.

Vegetables are cheaper than meat and can be just as filling. Having vegetables for your main course at dinner is not only healthy but can also help with saving money. Try loaded sweet potatoes, pasta with veggie sauce, or cheese and vegetable pizza for a delicious meal.

If veggies are a hard sell for your family, try fruit salads or breakfast for dinner — pancakes and French toast are cheap and fast!

Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in-season can help you save even more on your monthly grocery bill. And frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper (and tastier) than “fresh” produce that’s not in-season.

There’s an App for That

There are many grocery savings apps that can help you keep tabs on food prices and create a smarter shopping list. What is great about an app is that you always have it with you on your phone, so no worry that you left a coupon at home or in your car.

Steer Clear of Mistakes at the Grocery Store

When you grocery shop, there are temptations around every corner (and I don’t just mean the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies). There are sales on the end caps, fancy signs and different tricks stores use to make you spend more money. Learn about the ways grocery stores get you to spend more money so you can avoid them.

Avoid Haste and Waste

One of the biggest ways people waste money when it comes to food is through waste. People often buy food that goes bad before they get around to eating it.

You might also waste money buying convenience foods. (That frozen meal might seem like a deal when you’re running low on time, but you’ll save more if you prepare big batches of homemade, healthy food and freeze some leftover portions for later.)

These are two ways you are killing your grocery budget. Study your habits and find ways to make changes so you aren’t wasting money on food.

  • Pro tip: One convenience food I occasionally give into is a rotisserie chicken. It’s ready to eat when I get home from the store, and you can use it in a few other meals during the week.

NOW GO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR GROCERIES!

Take the time to create a grocery budget that is both frugal and feasible for your family. Don’t try to make the dollar amount so low that it is unrealistic, or it will fail month after month. But if you pay attention while you’re shopping and keep an eye on how long the food lasts your family, you’ll soon discover that having a realistic grocery budget is the tastiest way to save money!

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

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What Is a Good APR?

Sifting through credit card offers can be daunting. There are so many numbers and lengthy explanations that it can be easy to miss the most important details.

Though it’s always a good idea to read over every contract you sign, when it comes to picking a new credit card, there is one detail consumers should try not to miss: the card’s annual percentage rate, or APR.

Taking the time to find out what an APR is and how it might affect the monthly payment is a wise step before comparing credit card offers.

What Is an Annual Percentage Rate?

Is it the same as an interest rate? Not quite. An APR is the total cost of the loan expressed in annual terms—a small, but important, distinction. A credit card’s APR might include the interest rate as well as fees for late payments, foreign transactions, or returned payments.

Federal Reserve, the US national average credit card APR was 15.09% in February 2020. It’s reasonable to assume that an APR at or below the national average is considered “good.” That said, qualifying for a “good” APR may hinge on a consumer’s credit score.

APR and interest rates also change alongside federal interest rates changes, so it’s important for consumers to not only rely on an average that may be out of date, but rather, look at the offer presented to them at the time.

It’s a good idea for consumers to attempt to seek out the lowest rate possible for their financial situation.

Low vs. High APR Cards

Some credit cards tend to have higher APRs than others. For example, rewards credit cards tend to have higher APRs, but provide value via perks, discounts, points, or other benefits.

On the other hand, many low-interest cards come with fewer perks, but again, can save someone money in the long run if they need to carry a balance.

Low-interest cards also tend to be reserved for those with higher than average credit scores, so they may be harder to qualify for with lower credit.

How to Avoid Paying APR

There is one way to avoid paying an APR altogether, at least with credit cards, and that is by paying off the balance each and every month. By paying off the balance a consumer will never have to pay interest or any APR-related fees.

However, it’s still a good idea to seek out a good APR offer just in case a large purchase means carrying a balance for some time.

Tips for Qualifying for a Better APR

The APR a person qualifies for typically depends on his or her individual credit score. This means, those with credit scores on the higher end of the scale might qualify for lower APRs. If a consumer has a lower credit score, that doesn’t mean they are totally out of luck, but might be offered the same card at a higher APR.

improve their credit score.

One step is to check their credit report regularly for accuracy. US federal law allows consumers to get one free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies.

Consumers can also improve their personal credit scores by making debt payments on time and trying to use only 30% of their available credit at any given time. Payment history accounts for 35% of the total credit score, and credit utilization—how much of a person’s total credit is being used at a given time—accounts for 30% of the total credit score.

Reparing a poor credit score can take some time, but it’s worth the work.

Personal Loans and Credit Card Debt

If you’re currently carrying credit card debt on multiple cards and feel as though you may be paying too much in interest and APR-related fees, it may be time to look into consolidating that debt with a personal loan.

Consolidating credit card debt essentially allows a person to pay off their existing debt with a personal loan. Only one monthly payment instead of several could mean less to worry about.

Consolidating debt may mean qualifying for more favorable terms, such as a lower APR, which could help you pay less over the life of the debt. When considering consolidating debt, it’s a good idea to look at the fine print on any loan application to find out what fees a lender might be charging.

SoFi personal loans come with no hidden fees, such as those pesky origination fees, making it clearer to understand just what you’re paying for with a loan.

Learn more about consolidating credit card debt with a SoFi personal loan.



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Mortgage Rates vs. a Potential War with Iran

Last updated on February 5th, 2020

Well, it’s a new year and it certainly didn’t begin quietly. Might as well address the elephant in the room when it comes to your mortgage.

This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed the possibility of war and its impact on mortgage rates, with the last discussion centered on the Syrian conflict back in 2013.

At that time, the 30-year fixed mortgage was roughly 4.50% on average. As the drama unfolded, rates fell about 30 basis points in a matter of months before climbing back to where they started.

That’s the most recent example, though it might not be the best indicator of things to come because the adversaries are different, as is the scenario.

How an Iranian Conflict Would Affect Mortgage Rates

First off, we aren’t at war with Iran, at least not formally. Some argue that we’ve been at war with Iran for decades, via a cold war involving its proxies.

Secondly, that may not change as a result of the strike that took out their leading general, Qasem Soleimani.

While the rhetoric has certainly ratcheted up in recent days, nothing has materialized yet other than more threats.

There is a good chance Iran will take retaliatory action, but what action it takes will likely be the driving force behind any changes to mortgage rates.

Simply put, fear leads to lower interest rates as investors flee the stock market, which is traditionally riskier, to the bond market, which is known as a safe haven in times of turmoil.

When that happens, bond prices rise and their yields drop, and with them mortgage rates. At least, that’s the long-held theory.

It tends to work out that way, though it doesn’t all happen in a vacuum. It depends what else is going with the economy too.

Still, geopolitical events can take center stage and make a big impact in a short amount of time. The question is whether they have enough staying power to dent longer-term trends.

As I noted in my 2020 mortgage rate predictions post, opportunities were likely to present themselves, thanks to the ongoing Trump impeachment, trade war with China, and Brexit.

There Was Already Downward Pressure on Mortgage Rates Before Iran

Now we’ve been thrown another serious curveball in the way of a potential war with what many view as a much fiercer foe than Syria or Iraq.

As a result, mortgage rates have already dropped about an eighth of a point, with most pundits expecting even lower rates as this all unfolds.

Again, nothing has happened yet, in terms of retaliation, so we’re in a bit of a holding pattern, but rates were under pressure to stay or move lower before this materialized.

We already had a long list of catalysts with the potential to move rates lower, and now we’ve got an even bigger one.

Mortgage rates are pretty darn low as it stands, averaging around 3.75% for the 30-year fixed.

The all-time low is 3.31%, achieved back in late 2012 per Freddie Mac data. If this Iran situation gets particularly ugly, we could certainly revisit or even surpass those lows.

But it really depends what transpires. When we invaded Iraq in early 2003, mortgage rates bounced all over the place.

They were as low as 5.23% and as high as 6.26% in just a matter of months.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see similar volatility in 2020, which again, will present opportunities to those in a position to pick and choose their mortgage closing date.

Longer term, a real (hot) war could actually lead to inflation and higher interest rates, though that outcome is hopefully a lot less likely.

In summary, the fear of what is to come will probably drive mortgage rates lower in the short term. But once reality sets in, rates may return to prior levels.

Iran aside, there’s still plenty of other stuff that has the ability to make a big splash in 2020, so be sure to keep a close eye on the news if you’re in the market to get a new mortgage.

Don't let today's rates get away.
About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

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