Tag: Investing

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

One of the lessons I’ve learned as I continue to work my way out of debt is that you need to treat yourself and celebrate your little successes along the way so you can avoid debt fatigue down the road. Celebrating small milestones, like getting another $1,000 knocked off your debt total, starting to put money aside for retirement or paying off a credit card balance, is important for both your sanity and your family’s sanity.

Find out now: How much money do I need to save for retirement?

I don’t have kids, but several of my personal finance blogger friends do, and they have talked about how kids don’t always understand how they can contribute to the family financial goals since they don’t earn any money. Plus, sometimes kids don’t understand why there is a sudden need to cut back on expenses they have come to know as normal- things like going out to eat or having a night out at the movies with friends. Allowing yourself and your family to celebrate your financial wins as you work your way out of debt will help them understand that while your family is now living on a different budget, it’s still okay to enjoy the present.

With that in mind, here are five frugal ways you can celebrate your financial successes, so you don’t erase all your progress!

1. Go out for Dessert

As a kid, whenever we’d go out for dessert after a home-cooked meal, it felt like a real fancy treat. Now I know that this was mom and dad’s way of having a celebration without spending a lot of money on paying for a whole meal.

2. Rent a Movie

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

This may not seem like a treat if you rent movies all the time, but if you are living on a very strict budget and don’t often rent movies, this could be a treat for you and your family. Make it the full experience – popcorn, candy, etc. Renting a movie and making popcorn at home is a fun way to celebrate, and it’s still a lot cheaper than going to the theater.

12 Affordable Ways to Have Fun on a Tight Budget

3. Hit a Matinee

Wait, didn’t I just say to avoid the theater to save money? Yes, but sometimes movie theaters offer cheaper matinee movies earlier in the day. Often showings before noon can be as little as half price. This is a more budget-friendly way to enjoy a new movie.

4. Buy a Book or Magazine

One of the first things that got cut from my budget when I started focusing on financial goals was my magazine subscription. Most of the time I don’t miss it as I have plenty of things to keep me busy, but sometimes it’s nice to somewhat mindlessly flip through a magazine in the evenings. Buying yourself a new book – maybe one of these investing books – or magazine is a fairly cheap way to entertain yourself and if it’s a rare occasion, it can serve as a reward too.

Frugal Summer Fun for Adults

5. Go on a Day Trip

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

If you aren’t traveling too far, the most expensive part of the trip is usually the overnight accommodations. By taking a day trip instead to the beach or somewhere else, you can get out of town and away from the norm without having to shell out for an expensive hotel room.

What other frugal ways can you think of to celebrate your debt successes?

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/andresr, Â©iStock.com/sdominick, Â©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

The post 5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

5 Savvy Money Moves to Make This Year

A young couple sits in bed on a laptop discussing savvy money moves.

The following is a guest post from The Savvy Couple.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, money is a very important tool that can be used to better our lives.

So why don’t we take better care of managing it?

Luckily, there are some savvy money moves that you can make this year to improve your finances and feel more financial peace. This year can be a great one, and you can use your money to help make it happen.

We have narrowed down our top five money moves that you can make this year that will have a huge impact on your overall finance. The best part is they are not complicated and they won’t take a lot of time to implement. In fact, you can start to put them in place right after reading to the end of this article.

1. Create a Money Plan and Stick to it

It’s really important to create a plan, or budget, for your money. If you don’t, then you could find your money just escaping and not having a clue where it’s gone.

A lot of people think that a budget is strict, and something that you use for just your bills. But a good budget will be a plan for your money for the month and how it is going to be spent. Your budget should reflect the direction that you want your life to take.

It should enable you to spend more money on the things you love and cut wasteful spending on the things you don’t.

It doesn’t have to be super strict either—we advise “paying yourself first.” Meaning put your money where it’s most important first (investing, savings, fun money), and then using the rest of the money to pay your bills.

Think about what your goals are for your life and base your budget around that. You have a set amount of income, and you can decide where you want that money to go.

2. Cut Your Monthly Expenses

One step toward creating the money plan that you want can be cutting your monthly expenses. This doesn’t mean that you need to be drastic with the expenses that you are cutting out.

When it comes to creating your money plan, it’s important to look at what you are currently spending money on.

If you have never tracked your expenses before, you will likely be surprised to see where your money is going. We like to think that we have a good idea of what we are spending, but if you are not tracking your spending then you are most likely vastly underestimating your spending.

Go back through your spending and highlight any problem areas. The important thing here is to not beat yourself up for anything that you’ve spent.

When you have created the plan for your money, you may find that you have been spending on things that don’t fit in with that plan. These could be the ones that you choose to cut down on.

Cut down on your expenses slowly. Otherwise, you could find that it’s too much of a change and you want to go back to how you were spending before. Try picking one thing to cut down on, and do a bit of trial and error.

3. Stay Away from Debt

We’ve been talking about creating a money plan for your life, but there are some things that can throw your plan off track—debt being one of them.

Sometimes, debt is unavoidable. There are situations that we find ourselves in such as medical emergencies, car repairs, or any kind of emergency really!

The best thing to do is to prepare for these kinds of situations. We can’t fully plan, of course, but we can set aside some money to prepare. These are usually referred to as emergency funds. We recommend saving a $1,000 emergency fund as soon as possible, then slowing building that up to 3–6 months of living expenses after your debt is paid off.

Debt is so normalized in society, but debt doesn’t have to be! Making savvy money moves and trying to prepare for future emergencies will help tremendously in the long run.

4. Understand How Your Credit Score Works

Let’s be honest—a lot of us don’t pay much attention to our credit score. It’s one of those boring things that we don’t think about until we need it.

The last thing that you want to happen is to find that you need to take out credit but you can’t because of your credit score. Therefore, it’s a savvy money move to understand how your credit score works.

Credit scores are generally used by lenders when you want to take out a line of credit with them—for example, when you are getting a mortgage or car loan. If you have a high credit score then you will have access to better rates and terms for your loans.

Your credit score is largely determined by whether you pay your bills on time, as any missed payments will go against you. Your score is also determined by how much credit you have used compared to the amount that you have been lent.

It’s essential that you check your credit report as there can be errors on there which you can rectify—the sooner the better. The longer you wait to repair your credit, the harder it can become.

You can get your Experian VantageScore 3.0 for free from Credit.com when you sign up for the free Credit Report Card. And if you want more details on your credit score, sign up for ExtraCredit. You’ll get 28 FICO® scores and your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.

Try ExtraCredit Today

5. Start an Online Side Hustle

We are huge fans of starting side hustles because at the end of the day you can only cut your expenses so much. But your income has unlimited potential.

Side hustles are great because you can create an income stream for your goals, or even use it to leave your day job.

The benefit of starting an online side hustle is that there are so many possibilities, you pretty much only need to have access to the internet.

It’s worth brainstorming some side hustle ideas that you have an interest in doing. It’s also worth thinking about ideas that will be free or have a very low cost to start up. The last thing that you want to do is spend a lot of money on something that’s not going to take off.

You can determine how much time and effort you want to put into your side hustle—it doesn’t have to be a brand-new business, but can be getting an extra job or something small.

Some of our favorite side hustle ideas include:

  • Starting a blog
  • Proofreading
  • Facebook advertising for businesses
  • Teaching English online
  • Freelance writing

Savvy Money Moves throughout the Year

If you want to make some good money moves this year, this is a good place to start. These are some simple things that anyone can do to improve their finances greatly.

What are your best savvy money moves? Let us know in the comments!


Kelan and Brittany Kline are the creators and co-founders of The Savvy Couple. They write about personal finance, budgeting, making money online, entrepreneurship, and more.

The post 5 Savvy Money Moves to Make This Year appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What’s a Good Credit Score?

Whats a good credit score?

Your credit score is incredibly important. In fact, this number is so influential on various financial aspects of life that it can determine your eligibility to be approved for credit cards, car loans, home mortgages, apartment rentals, and even certain jobs. Knowing what your credit score is, and what range it falls under, is important so you can decide what loans you can to apply for, and if necessary, if steps need to be taken to improve your score.

So what constitutes a good credit score?

The Credit Score Range Scale

The most common credit score used by lenders and other business entities is the FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850. The bigger the number, the better. To create credit scores, FICO uses information from one of the three major credit bureau agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Knowing this range is important because it will help you understand where your specific number fits in.

Know what factors influence a good credit score to help improve your own credit health.

As far as lenders are concerned, the lower a consumer’s number on this scale, the higher the risk. Lenders will often deny a loan application for those with a lower credit score because of this risk. If they do approve a loan application, they’ll make consumers pay for such risk by means of a much higher interest rate.

Understand Your Credit Score

Within the credit score range are different categories, ranging from bad to excellent. Here is how credit score ranges are broken down:

Bad credit: 630 or Lower

Lenders generally consider a credit score of 630 or lower as bad credit. A number of past activities could have landed you in this category, including a string of late or missed credit card payments, maxed out credit cards, or even bankruptcy. Younger people who have no credit history will probably find themselves in this category until they have had time to develop their credit. If you’re in this bracket, you’ll be faced with higher interest rates and fees, and your selection of credit cards will be restricted.

Whats a good credit score?

Fair Credit: 630-689

This is considered an average score. Lingering within this range is most likely the result of having too much “bad” debt, such as high credit card debt that’s grazing the limit. Within this bracket, lenders will have a harder time trusting you with their loan.

Good Credit: 690-719

Having a credit score within this range will afford you more choices when it comes to credit cards, an easier time getting approved for various loans, and being charged much lower interest rates on such loans.

Excellent Credit: 720-850

Consider your credit score excellent if your number falls within this bracket. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the fringe benefits that come with credit cards, and will almost certainly be approved for loans at the lowest interest rates possible.

Understand the factors that make up a good credit score.

Whats a good credit score?

What’s Your Credit Score?

Federal law allows consumers to check their credit score for free once every 12 months. But if you want to check more often than this, a fee is typically charged. Luckily, there are other avenues to take to check your credit score.

Mint has recently launched an online tool that allows you to check your credit score for free without the need for a credit card. Here you’ll be able to learn the different components that affect your score, and how you can improve it.

You’ll be able to see your score with your other accounts to give you a complete picture of your finances. Knowing what your credit score is can help determine if you need to improve it to help you get the things you need or want. Visit Mint.com to find out more about how you can access your credit score – for free.

Lisa Simonelli Rennie is a freelance web content creator who enjoys writing on all sorts of topics, including personal finance, investing in stocks, mortgages, real estate investments, and anything else to do with the world of economics.

The post What’s a Good Credit Score? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Compound Interest Calculator

Compound interest is one of the most important concepts to understand in investing. It’s something about investing that many people aren’t familiar with, but it plays an essential role in making investments profitable. 

If you’re curious about compound interest and how it works, good for you — you’re on the right track. In this post, you’ll find a compound interest calculator that can quickly and clearly show you how much money you might make by investing in an account that delivers compound interest. 

Use the calculator below to get a sense of your potential earnings, then read the sections below to gain more insight into how you can make money through compound interest. 

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Compound Interest Calculator
First, tell us about your investment plan by filling in the fields below.
Investment Plan:
Starting Amount:
Amount of initial investment: Total amount you will initially invest or currently have invested toward your investment goal.
Years to Accumulate:
Years to accumulate: The number of years you have to save.
Contribution Amount:
Periodic contribution: The amount you will contribute each period and the frequency at which you will make regular contributions to this investment.
Every WeekEvery Two WeeksPer MonthPer QuarterPer Year
Rate of Return:
Rate of return on investment: This is the rate of return an individual would expect from their investment. It is important to remember that these scenarios are hypothetical and that future rates of return can’t be predicted with certainty and actual rate of return can very widely over time.
Compound Frequency:
Compound frequency: Interest on an investment’s interest, plus previous interest. The more frequently this occurs, the sooner your accumulated interest will generate additional interest. You should check with your financial institution to find out how often interest is being compounded on your particular investment.
DailyMonthlySemiannuallyAnnually
Years to Accumulate:
Years to Accumulate: This is the amount of time until you withdraw or use your investments.
Your Investment Results:
Ending Amount: $0
$0
Total Investment
$0
Compound Interest Earned
$0
Simple Interest Earned
Investment Growth Over Time
Investment Breakdown
Total Investment
Compound Interest Earned
Simple Interest Earned

  • How to use a compound interest calculator
    • Investment definitions
  • How does compound interest work
    • Compound interest formula
  • Compound interest accounts
  • Compound interest FAQs

How to use a compound interest calculator

Using the compound interest calculator is simple. Follow these steps to see what you might earn through compound interest investing. 

  1. Enter your initial investment. It can be any value that you like, but it’s helpful to make it a realistic amount. For instance, if you’re saving up to invest right now, you can put the amount that you plan on investing once you’ve saved up enough. 
  2. Next, enter the amount you plan on adding to your investment portfolio each month. This can also be any value you like, but it’s most useful if you enter an amount that you can budget for. Even if that’s just an extra $10 a month, it makes a difference. 
  3. Choose whether you want your interest compounded annually, compounded monthly, or compounded daily. (If you don’t know what that means, stay tuned for the definitions below.) 
  4. Input the estimated rate of return. This can vary considerably, but index funds and similar investment vehicles can yield between 2% and 10% returns. 
  5. Input your time horizon — the amount of time until you withdraw or use your investments. 

Once you’ve filled out the calculator, you should see an estimate of the amount you’re likely to have when the period of compound investing is up. If you’re a little confused about how we got this number, or what you need to do to grow your money in this way, check out the definitions, guide, and FAQs below. 

Investment definitions

  • Compounding: This occurs when the money that is made from an investment is reinvested, increasing the total amount of interest yielded the next time your interest is compounded. 
  • Index fund: Index funds are bundled investments that roughly track the growth of a market index, which is a collection of publicly-traded companies. They are often considered lower-risk investments.
  • Interest: The money you make on your investments; essentially, the money you earn for investing in the success of a company, a government bond, or a fund.
  • Principal: The amount of money that you start out with when you begin investing.
  • Rate of returns: The rate at which you accrue interest — for example, 3% returns would mean that, for every $100 invested, you would earn $3. 
  • Returns: The money that you earn on your investments. 
  • Time horizon: The amount of time that you plan on investing.

Now that you have a few key compound interest definitions in mind, we can explain how it works. 

How does compound interest work

Having more money can help make you more money — that’s the principle behind compound interest. Here’s how that breaks down. Let’s say that you have $1000 to invest. You put it in an account (let’s say a money market account) that yields 2% interest, compounded monthly. At the end of the first month, you’d have $1020. So far, so good.

But here’s where it gets really interesting. That 2% rate of return now applies to the $1020 total, not just the principal investment of $1000. So, after the end of month 2, you’ll have $1040.40 — an added $0.40 compared to the previous month. 

That might not sound like a lot, but it starts to add up. Have you ever rolled a snowball down a hill? The same idea applies. As your money grows and adds to itself, the amount that it can add to itself the next time your interest compounds is more. It may not be a get-rich-quick scheme, but it’s a reasonably secure way to start building your net worth in the long term. 

Plus, you’re not limited to money market accounts with rates as low as 2%. If you’re willing to put a little more risk on the line, you can get returns as high as 10% in some cases. We’ll cover that more in a later section. But first, time for a little math homework (just for those who are curious!). 

  • Looking for a longer explanation? Check out our full-length guide to how to earn compound interest. 

Compound interest formula

Compound interest is really mathematically interesting. Here’s the formula: A = P(1 + r/n)(nt)

If you want to try to see what’s going on behind the scenes in our calculator, here’s how to do the math yourself using the compound interest formula. 

  • The A in the formula is the amount you’ll end up with; this comes last. 
  • The P in the formula above stands for your principal, that’s the amount that you start with. 
  • Multiply P by 1 + your interest rate r (given in a decimal; so 4% would be 0.04) divided by n, the number of times your interest is compounded in a given period. 
  • Raise all of that to the power of n times t, where t is the number of time periods elapsed. 
  • For example, if you’re investing for 12 months, and your account interest is compounded daily, n would be roughly 30, and t would be 12 if you want to know how much you’ll have in a year. 

Try the formula out yourself, and see what result you get compared to the result in our calculator to check your work!

Compound interest accounts

Now that you understand the basics of compound interest, you’re probably wondering how you harness it to increase your net worth. The key is to use accounts that offer compound interest. Here are a few examples:

  • High yield savings and money markets. These are essentially savings accounts. They aren’t investment accounts (which we’ll discuss in a minute), but they do use a similar principle to grow your money. Rates on these can be fairly low compared to other options, but your money remains accessible, so you won’t have to worry if you need access to your cash fast in an emergency.
  • Retirement accounts. If you have a 401k or IRA opened right now, good news: you’re already accessing the power of compound interest. Most retirement accounts use a diversified and stable portfolio to grow your money over time, investing in index funds, government bonds, and dividend stocks to help you build your nest egg. 
  • Investments. Of course, one of the most aggressive and effective ways to utilize the power of compound interest is to start investing. There are a number of different ways you can invest — be sure to read our guide to investing for beginners for a more thorough explanation — but all can involve compound interest. For example:
    • Dividend stocks sometimes allow you to reinvest the payout from your dividends, increasing the amount of your dividend the next time there is a payout. 
    • Index funds, like mutual funds and ETFs, also often allow investors to reinvest their earnings, harnessing compound interest in their favor. 
    • If you invest directly in stocks, you can always use the money that you earn to reinvest or invest in another stock — be aware that this is a riskier option, however. 
    • Whether you choose an in-person brokerage or a trendy new robo-advisor, you’ll likely be able to use the power of compound interest to grow your capital. 

Compound interest is a mathematical force that can help you build your net worth over time. You can get started today by finding the right investing or saving vehicle for your personal finances. And don’t forget to download the Mint app, where you can conveniently track your investments all in one place. 

Compound interest FAQs

How do I calculate compound interest?

You can calculate compound interest in one of two ways: you can use the formula listed above to calculate it by hand, or you can use the compound interest calculator to figure out your total more quickly. Just be sure you know the necessary variables:

  • The principal amount
  • Your interest rate
  • How often it’s compounded
  • The number of compounding period that will occur

What will $10,000 be worth in 20 years?

That totally depends on how much interest your account produces and whether you invest more as time goes on. 

Let’s assume an average return rate of around 7%, and assume that you don’t add in any more money. In that case, your $10,000 could turn into $40,547 — still an impressive amount. That’s the power of compound interest. 

How do you calculate compound interest monthly?

To calculate compound interest monthly, simply set the “compounding frequency” setting on the calculator above to “monthly.” Alternatively, you can use the formula above and set n equal to 1 and t equal to 12 to find out how much money you’ll have if interest is compounded monthly for a year. 

Sources

Wealthsimple | Investor.gov

The post Compound Interest Calculator appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

A Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your First Car Loan

auto-loan-down-payment

Buying a car is almost a rite of passage. Making that first car purchase, negotiating with the seller, and arranging financing (if you need an auto loan) all require a certain amount of savvy.

And, once you successfully achieve the car-buying milestone, another signpost looms in the distance: Refinancing.

Whether you’re getting an auto loan for the first time, or you want to refinance your existing car debt, it’s important to be an informed consumer. Here’s what you need to know.

Get your finances in order

Before beginning your car search, you need your finances in order, according to Joe Pendergast, the vice president of consumer lending for Navy Federal Credit Union.

“Know your budget, check your credit score, and review your existing credit accounts to ensure they are reported accurately,” Pendergast said. Your credit situation can directly impact the interest you pay on your auto loan.

Emily Shutt, a certified financial coach who works closely with millennial women to help them manage a variety of money issues, suggested calling around to different dealers and banks or credit unions to see what credit bureau they use to check your score. Then you can check your report for errors and have them fixed before you talk to someone about financing your car purchase.

“Having errors on a credit report can negatively impact score, which can put you at a huge disadvantage when you’re negotiating for an auto loan interest rate,” Shutt said.

You should also know ahead of time where you stand with your budget. Use an online loan calculator to determine what you can afford in terms of a monthly payment. For example, if you think you can handle a $305 monthly payment, and you have the credit to get an interest rate of 2.9% for a five-year loan, you might feel you can afford to borrow up to $17,000 for a car.

Save up for a down payment

Just because you might be able to borrow so much for a car doesn’t mean you necessarily should. In fact, saving for a down payment makes a lot of sense, Shutt said. Not only does having a down payment help you to better negotiate your loan rate, but it also can allow you a shorter loan term and save you money in the long run.

Play around with the numbers a little with an online calculator. If you can put $7,000 down, so that you borrow only $10,000 of that $17,000 car, you could maybe get an interest rate of 2.5% and a loan term of three years. Even better, your monthly payment would only be $289 — and you’d save $1,494 in interest.

The less you borrow, the more money you have in the end. And that’s money you can put toward investing in your future, rather than paying interest to someone else.

Know what you want — and what it costs

Once your finances are in order and maybe you have a down payment saved up, it’s time to figure out what you can actually buy. Avoid over-borrowing by knowing what you want in a car and having an idea of what it costs, Shutt suggested.

“Everything should already be online so you can get a sense of what all the options are,” said Shutt. A little research can go a long way toward helping you get a sense for which cars will fit into your budget.

Shutt pointed out that the job of salespeople is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The more you spend, the more you have to borrow — and the more you’ll pay in interest. “Confidently stand your ground when a salesperson tries to upsell you or steer you in another direction,” she said.

Pendergast agreed on the need to research your car choices ahead of time. “Know the price other dealerships in the area are offering so you can make an informed purchase,” he said.

It’s even okay to play one seller’s price off another’s to get the best deal. Don’t be afraid to let the other dealerships know you’re shopping around. They’ll be more inclined to negotiate with you, potentially resulting in a better deal.

Get an auto loan quote from a bank or credit union

Before you ask for dealer financing, suggested Pendergast, talk to a bank or credit union.

“You should see what type of loans your financial institution has to offer,” said Pendergast. “This will give you guidance for your budget, but will also increase your purchasing power to help you in negotiations, regardless of the dealer’s proposition being on par with the lender’s.”

Donald E. Peterson, a consumer lawyer with almost 30 years of experience, warned that dealer financing still often requires the involvement of a bank or credit union. Dealers submit your information to lenders and get interest rates quotes back.

“Sometimes dealers mark up the interest rate above the rate banks would buy the loan at,” Peterson said. “The bank and the car dealer split the excess interest, usually 50-50.”

This practice isn’t just limited to banks, either. “Some credit unions have entered into interest-rate kickback agreements with car dealerships,” Peterson said. “You must apply to the credit union yourself to get the best rate.”

Starting with a financial institution allows you to get an idea of what’s available to you. Then, you’re in a position where a dealer who wants to finance you has to match the rate you’ve already been offered, rather than steer you toward an alternative arrangement.

Consider a cosigner

With my own first auto loan experience, I had to deal with the fact that I had a thin credit file. I didn’t have enough credit established to get a car loan without an unacceptably high interest rate.

I went through the steps of creating a budget and deciding how much I could afford, including factoring in my car insurance costs. However, after checking my credit report, I realized that having a credit card for six months wasn’t enough for me to establish much of a credit history.

After compiling research about the types of used cars I could afford, and how my earnings from my job were enough to cover an auto loan payment, I approached my parents. My dad was willing to cosign on a modest car loan through his credit union.

My interest rate — and my monthly payment — were lower because I had cosigner with good credit. I made all my payments on time, helping build my credit history so that the next time I bought a car, I was able to get a good interest rate without the need for a cosigner.

As you research your options, don’t forget about the possibility of using a cosigner. If you don’t have the credit history to get a good auto loan rate on your own, borrowing someone else’s good name can help you save money — while at the same time allowing you a way to establish your own credit for the future.

Don’t fall for the monthly payment scheme

While you do want to figure out what monthly payment you’re comfortable with, you don’t want to get caught up in it at the dealership, cautioned Shutt.

“Focus on the all-in price of the car,” said Shutt. “If the salesperson can get you to verbalize a monthly payment target, they’ll just manipulate other factors like the duration of the loan.”

When that happens, Shutt pointed out, you might end up hitting your targeted monthly payment, but long-term interest charges and other factors could mean that your car ends up being a lot more expensive. She said you should figure out about how much you’ll pay each month over a loan term you’re comfortable with, and then buy a car with a final price that fits those parameters.

“Take your time, and don’t be manipulated,” Shutt said. “If you’re not comfortable negotiating, bring a friend or family member who can support you in sticking to your budget.”

What about refinancing?

In some cases, you might discover that you qualify for a lower auto loan interest rate than you currently pay.

“Maybe you’ve been making timely payments for a year or two and your credit score has gone up,” said Shutt. “Now you can consider refinancing the loan.”

However, it’s important to be careful moving forward. Just as you shop around for the best auto loan rates on a new loan, it makes sense to shop for refinancing rates. Check with a few banks and credit unions to see if you can get a few quotes for refinancing.

When you refinance, watch out for lengthening the loan term. If you only have three years on your term, it might not make sense to refinance to a five year loan. Instead, only refinance what you have left. You could save on interest charges and still get rid of your car debt in the original time frame.

Shutt also recommended looking online for car loans. Compare the rates you find with online auto loan refinancing platforms to what your local financial institutions offer. By playing different lenders off each other, you could strike a better bargain — especially if you have good credit.

Know your finances and be ready to negotiate

Auto loans are a massive industry, with more than $1 trillion owed to U.S. lenders. Rather than being just another statistic, consider how you can come out on top.

Know your finances and understand what you can expect, Pendergast said. When you know where you stand, and when you research ahead of time, you can call dealers and lenders out. Shop around for the best auto loan rates and terms, and let dealers know you’ve done your homework, so that negotiations will go much better, saving you time and, importantly, money.

 

If you want to be sure your credit is good enough to purchase a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

Image: iStock

The post A Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your First Car Loan appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough

Anna’s email requesting help with her finances began with a unique confession.

“Farnoosh, my money problem garners little sympathy,” the 32-year-old wrote. “My issue is that I make too much of it.”

Now, THIS is interesting, I thought. I immediately followed up with many questions.

Here’s what I learned through our conversation:

The Denver-based Mint user earns $220,000 per year as an engineer. Anna’s also benefited from years of big bonuses and her net worth, not including her home equity, is close to a million dollars.

After paying taxes and health benefits and maxing out her 401(k), Anna takes home between $8,000 and $10,000 each month. Her expenses mainly consist of a $1,200 mortgage payment, car insurance, gas, food and utilities, amounting to maybe a few thousand dollars per month.

The rest either goes into savings where she stashes about $5,000 to $10,000 for unexpected expenses or into a brokerage account where she has roughly $800,000 invested. A wealth management firm manages that portfolio and charges, she says, an annual 1% fee.

Anna has no consumer debt, besides her mortgage, which amounts to about $338,000. It’s a 30-year fixed rate loan with a 2.85% interest rate. The home has appreciated in recent years with about $100,000 in equity (including Anna’s initial 20% down payment).

So, what is the problem, exactly?

“My big worry is that I don’t have the habits to manage money well,” Anna told me. Her sizeable bank balance has her feeling financially free, although she worries about getting carried away with spending sometimes.

“When I see money in my bank account I rationalize that ‘yea, that vacation is doable. I don’t hold back on the things that may seem frivolous,’” she says. But It seems she wants more financial grounding and to be able to evaluate expenditures and price tags more critically.

Anna’s situation may be unique, but I think relatable in the sense that we all would like to feel more thoughtful with how we spend, save and invest. And while some may do well with earning money, it should not be assumed that they can also manage that money well.

I applaud Anna for wanting to be sure that, even with an impressive net worth, she is actually making wise financial decisions.

Here’s my advice.

Take a Deep Breath

No need to panic when spending on things and experiences that you enjoy. From what I can tell Anna’s prioritizing the serious financial stuff first like contributing the max to her 401(k) and saving all of her annual bonuses in a brokerage account. She has no credit card debt and pays all her bills on time. That’s terrific.

Sometimes we just want to hear that we’re on the right track with our money and I have a very simple way to measure this:

If you manage each paycheck by saving, investing and paying all your bills first, then by all means, you’re entitled to have fun with whatever is left without any fear or regret. Am I right?

If you’ve done the good work of taking care of your future with your money, then don’t hesitate treating yourself and others with the remaining funds today. Splurge away and enjoy your hard-earned money. And remember to enjoy the moment.

Ditch Your Money Managers

I do think Anna could find a better home for her investments.

Paying one percent of her managed assets to this firm may not seem that high of an annual fee. But when you think about Anna’s balance of $800,000, that’s $8,000 this year. What about next year and the decades after that as she contributes more to the account? That fee, compounded over the next 30 years, will amount to – conservatively – over one million dollars. Ouch.

That doesn’t even factor in the expense ratios for each mutual fund that’s in her portfolio.

If all Anna seeks is investment assistance, she may be better suited stationing her money with an automated wealth platform or robo-advisor where her money is largely invested in low-fee index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETF) and the portfolio management fee is typically 0.50% or less.

Of course, breaking up with your financial advisor is not always so simple. It’s especially hard for Anna, as she equated her money managers to “father figures.”

If I were Anna, I would just explain to my advisors over email something like, “I want be more conservative with my money and that includes being extra mindful of the various fees that I’m paying. To that end, I’ve decided to manage my money more independently. I’m sure you can understand. I appreciate your help over the years. Please let me know next steps.”

Planners know the drill and are used to having clients end relationships.  Stay strong. Nobody can really argue with the fact that saving money is a good thing!

Establish Short and Long Term Goals

Anna wants to spend and save with more conviction. I think having some concrete, tangible goals can help.

For example, she shared that she’d like to get married, have a family and own two homes – one near her office downtown and another in the mountains as a getaway.

So, the next step is to understand what these goals cost. What are, say, the going prices on a vacation home in her state? How much might she want to stash in a separate account for the future down payment on this property? Knowing the underlying costs of her goals can better direct how much to spend elsewhere.

Next time she’s planning a vacation, she may be more inclined to price compare or hunt down better deals, as opposed to just judge whether the trip is financially “doable” by the amount of money in her bank account. Now she’ll have the image of that second home and its costs and will make a more informed choice.

Contribute to a Cause

Last but not least, when you feel you make more than enough, like Anna does, this is a great opportunity to be extra charitable. If she’s seeking a way to give her money more meaning and feel purposeful in her financial life, this is a truly wonderful way to go about it. Discover a cause that you’re passionate about and make an impact as a volunteer and donor.

Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

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

The post Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider

The ultimate question: Could you and your friend make the perfect business duo? The answer may be more complicated than you think. You love spending time with your friend and the idea of becoming entrepreneurs together. Why not fulfill your dreams with each other? Companies like Airbnb and Ben & Jerry’s had success in this area — they all started from friendships.

But much more goes into starting a business with a friend. You may make great business partners, or you could wish you had taken your venture solo. Before making any financial decisions, analyze the pros and cons and ask hard questions. For example, will you equally invest? Who will take on which tasks and responsibilities? Sift through the easy and hard questions to see where your business friendship lies.

To help you and your friend make a confident and informed decision, skip to our flowchart or keep reading.

karen-gordon-quote

Questions to Ask Before Going Into Business With a Friend

Before jumping into your business plan, ask the hard questions. These can be tough to ask and answer, but they could save your friendship from a business relationship gone sour.

Question 1: Do You Share the Same Values?

Depending on your life stage and goals, your values could differ greatly from those of your potential business partner. You may appreciate living a relaxed lifestyle that gives you the financial freedom to do what you love, while others may value a fast-paced lifestyle filled with activities and long workdays. Differences in values could spark tension in your business relationship.

Ask yourself: Do you and your potential business friend have the same values? If so, great! If not, note your differences and if they’re worth working through.

Question 2: Do You Share the Same Business Goal?

To make sure you’re on the same page, schedule a brainstorming session with your friend. Map out your one-month, six-month, one-year, and five-year goals for your startup. Is your goal to make a certain amount of revenue? To hire a certain number of full-time employees? Or to take your business idea global?

If you have the same intentions, move on to question three. If any of your goals contrast, there may be trouble in paradise. See if you can work through your differences before investing your time and money.

Question 3: Do Your Skills Complement Each Other?

You and your friend each have your own strengths For example, you may be good at time management while your friend is better at sales. For skills you’re both lacking, think about how you’ll fill in the gaps. If you and your friend’s startup plan has a budget for hiring freelancers, or one of you has the dedication to learn something new, this may not be a concern. No matter what, especially if you’re bootstrapping your business idea, it’s essential to talk through it.

If you don’t compliment each other’s needed skills, who will step up and learn them?

Question 4: Do Your Career and Lifestyle Habits Align?

Depending on your business goals, this could be a make or break question for a professional partnership. For instance, one friend may be a morning person while the other’s a night owl. One can take over morning meetings and emails while the other’s responsible for evening website development and customer service.

If one friend’s lifestyle habits don’t suit the other, it may be best to opt for other business opportunities. While starting a business could adjust your habits, it’s easy to fall back into old ones from time to time.

baylie-carlson-quote

The Pros and Cons of Doing Business With Friends

Before entering any business arrangement, it’s reassuring to weigh the pros and cons. Could your new business idea benefit or hinder your future relationship and career?

Pros: You Have a Friend Through the Ups and Downs

Starting a business with a friend is similar to marriage — you’re there for each other through the good and bad. Whenever you’re having trouble, you know who you can go to for help. And you’ll be able to do most tasks together. For example, approaching investors as a team vs. going solo could put your nerves at ease.

Cons: You Know the Same People

Instead of getting together for your weekly catch-ups, you could spend all day together! While this can be exciting, it can also be hard to leave work at work. When you both hang out with the same people, there may be little room to disconnect from each other and your business.

Pros: You Understand Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses

You likely already know how each other operates and your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of learning the way a new business partner functions, you already have the upper hand. On day one, you and your partner could delegate tasks that fit everyone’s strengths best.

Cons: Your Friendship Could Turn Strictly Business

Your current friendship can be hard to separate from your new work partnership. Taking your work too seriously could stiffen your current relationship. Even after your work’s done, “friend” time may slow down. To have the best of both worlds, over-communicate throughout your entrepreneurial adventures.

mike-falahee-quote

Pros: You Feel Comfortable Communicating

You may have been friends for months, years, or even decades. Having a strong friendship foundation helps bolster your communication in the workplace. Plus, you most likely know how your friend may react to a situation gone wrong. Take note of your friends’ communication habits and foster them throughout your business relationship.

Cons: It’s Easy to Let Emotions Get the Best of You

Be careful not to let your emotions dictate your business decisions. A situation could happen in your friend group that makes its way into the office. To avoid any personal matters in the workplace, come to an agreement — no drama. If situations arise, take some time off to clear your mind, rest, and come back more motivated and inspired.

Pros: You Get to Spend More Time With Each Other

You get to spend countless hours talking and doing business activities together. You could spend all day tackling business tasks and wrap up the workday chit-chatting about your lives. It’s an amazing opportunity to spend more time with your friend without letting other responsibilities slip through the cracks.

Cons: Friendship Failure Could End in Financial and Business Failure

When tension builds in the workplace, it could damage your business outcomes. Not wanting to attend a meeting with your partner could halt business productivity, or worse, end it. To avoid losing profits on your friendship and investments, you should both outline an exit plan if things go wrong.

Tips for Starting a Business With Your Friend

Before toasting to your other half and investing in your passions, properly prepare yourself. Show up to your new business like you would a new job. Have your plan documented before building your business empire.

1. Nit-Pick Your Business Plan

Small issues could grow months or years after starting your business. To avoid future problems, talk through small and large inconsistencies with your partner. Having different lifestyle habits may not be an issue now, but could be difficult after a year of working together.

2. Communicate Often

About one third of projects lack proper communication. Avoid project or business failure by finding a communication method that works for you and your partner. Daily catch-up meetings or weekly email updates are a few examples. Make it enjoyable by sipping your favorite coffee or eating your lunch while playing catch up.

3. Establish and Honor Boundaries

Eliminate tension in the workplace by setting a rubric for working hours. Avoid talking about personal matters until you step away from your work tasks. If you and your partner need to establish additional boundaries, clearly outline them as they come up.

4. Make it Official With Contracts

Once you’ve worked through any complications, put it all in writing. If things were to go wrong, documents and written statements can be referenced in court. To do this, contact a lawyer and draft up a business plan. Any business promises you make should be in writing for any miscommunications. Compensation rates, profit shares, investment contributions, and business accounts are a few things that should be listed on this document.

Before investing your time, energy, or money into your startup dreams, make sure you’re fully prepared. Could you and your friend be great business partners? Take our quiz below to find out. Don’t forget to keep track of your budget and investments throughout the startup process.

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

7 Insider Secrets About House Flipping To Put You on the Path to Profitability

Ridofranz/Getty Images

Is 2021 the year you’re going to buy a real estate investment property? If you have your sights set on flipping a house for a big profit, you likely know how much work is involved. Sure, popular real estate reality shows like “Flip or Flop” and “Flipping Across America” make fix-and-flip investing look like a feasible endeavor, but you’re wise to the magic of TV, right?

The truth is that flipping a house is rife with challenges, from financial setbacks to breakdowns in communication with your construction crew. Plus, low interest rates mean properties are flying off the market, especially in up-and-coming neighborhoods.

So how can house-flipping newbies compete today? By learning from those with more experience. We spoke to successful home flippers about what they wish they had known when starting out. Hopefully their tips below will help you minimize pain and maximize profits.

1. Stick to your maximum allowable offer

Our experts all agree that buying a fix-and-flip investment should not be an emotional decision. There are certain formulas that every house flipper needs to calculate in order to make a profit.

“Real estate investing is a numbers business, and if the deal doesn’t make sense when you crunch the numbers, you should be able to walk away,” says Hayden Lyon of Cowtown Home Buyers, a real estate investment firm in Fort Worth, TX.

“Stick to your maximum allowable offer. Going above your MAO is just asking for trouble,” says Ryne Lambert, co-founder of Sell My House, a real estate investment firm in Green Bay, WI.

The general rule when determining your MAO is not to pay more than 70% of the property’s after-repair value, or ARV, minus repair estimates. For example, if the property’s ARV will be $150,000, you would subtract the costs to flip (including the cost of a loan, repairs, and other fees) and then multiply that number by 70%. That will give you the MAO you should make on the property.

However, Lambert recommends a more exact formula: “We calculate MAO as ARV minus rehab estimates, selling costs, and minimum gross profit,” he says. “Our detailed formula makes our offer more competitive for sellers while still providing us a nice profit.”

2. Build a buffer into your renovation budget

Anyone who’s undertaken repairs on their house or an investment property knows things rarely go as planned. Permit delays, bad weather, and unforeseen expenses can all throw a wrench in the works—and revise your bottom line.

That’s why Lambert advises new investors to build a buffer of up to 25% into their rehab estimate.

3. Don’t always go with the cheapest contractor

Finding the right contractor can help keep renovation costs in check—but right does not always mean the least expensive.

“When I was new, I thought in order to keep as much profit margin in the flip as I could, I needed to choose the lowest contractor bid,” says Jonathan Faccone of Halo Homebuyers, a real estate consultant in Bridgewater Township, NJ.

“You do have to manage costs prudently, but going with the lowest contractor bids usually end up costing you more in the long run,” says Faccone. “Be cautious about choosing the cheap price and, instead, go with the contractor who offers the best quality and most professional work for your money.”

4. Make sure the contractors have a clear scope of work

You may be able to head off issues with contractors—including plumbers, electricians, and general contractors—by ensuring they present a clear scope of work for the project, experts advise.

“The scope of work usually includes working with the city to obtain permits, ordering materials and equipment, and confirming the house plans. This section will save you a lot of time and money on the back end of the project,” says Shawn Breyer of Breyer Home Buyers, a real estate investing firm in Atlanta.

Most importantly, start building relationships with contractors in the areas where you invest, so you know whom you can trust for any project.

5. Provide a quality product

As fast as homes are selling today, the market is filled with many discerning buyers.

“Often, the ultimate buyer of a flip expects the home to compare with existing homes—or even new construction—in quality and value,” says Greg Kurzner, a Realtor ® for ERA Atlantic Reality in Alpharetta, GA.

Lyon agrees: “Focus on value-add renovations and amenities. Research shows buyers want a nice kitchen and bathrooms. Of course, everything should be functional and up to code, but you want to create an instant emotional connection for potential buyers.”

6. Get your own finances in order before you start

Several investors pointed out the importance of running your blossoming home-flipping company as a business—because it is. That means tracking all of your expenses so you can make better decisions for greater profits. Be extremely organized, and document every purchase order, utility bill, and closing fee that’s involved in the project.

It’s also important to have your own financial house in order before you start.

“If all goes well, you’re about to start making money in large chunks. If you lack proper discipline, you’ll wind up worse than when you started,” says Billy Ross, CEO at RFTA Properties, a residential real estate investment company in Winter Park, FL.

7. Expect to put time and money into marketing

James Fitzgibbons of Ledge Real Estate Solutions, in Windermere, FL, says he wishes he had spent more time in his early years learning how to market homes efficiently.

“We have a wrapped car that we drive around town,” he says. “We’ve driven for dollars, and we’ve used direct mail marketing. Today, we advertise online through Google and Facebook. All of these methods have potential if done right.”

The post 7 Insider Secrets About House Flipping To Put You on the Path to Profitability appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com