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What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics

If you’re one of those investors with very little time to research and invest in individual stocks, it might be a good idea to look into investing in mutual funds.

Whether your goal is to save money for retirement, or for a down payment to buy a house, mutual funds are low-cost and effective way to invest your money.

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What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which investors, like you ad me, pool their money together. They use the money to invest in securities such as stocks and bonds. A professional manages the funds.

In addition, mutual funds are cost efficient. They offer diversification to your portfolio. They have low minimum investment requirements.

These factors make mutual funds among the best investment vehicles to use. If you’re a beginner investor, you should consider investing in mutual funds or index funds.

Investing in the stock market in general, can be intimidating. If you are just starting out and don’t feel confident in your investing knowledge, you may value the advice of a financial advisor.

Types of mutual funds

There are different types of mutual funds. They are stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds.

Which funds you choose depends on your risk tolerance. While mutual funds in general are less risky than investing in individual stocks, some funds are riskier than others.

However, you can choose a combination of these three types of funds to diversify your portfolio.

  • Stock funds: a stock fund is a fund that invests heavily in stocks. However, that does not mean stock funds do not have other securities, i.e., bonds. It’s just that the majority of the money invested is in stocks.
  • Bond funds: if you don’t want your portfolio to fluctuate in value as stocks do, then you should consider bond funds.
  • Money market funds: money market funds are funds that you invest in if you tend to tap into your investment in the short term.
  • Sector funds. As the name suggests, sector funds are funds that invests in one particular sector or industry. For example, a fund that invests only in the health care industry is a sector fund. These mutual funds lack diversification. Therefore, you should avoid them or use them in conjunction to another mutual fund.

Additional funds

  • Index funds. Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index. When you invest in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund, you’re essentially buying a piece of the 500 largest publicly traded US companies. Index funds don’t jump around. They stay invested in the market. 
  • Income funds: These funds focus invest primarily in corporate bonds. They also invest in some high-dividend stocks.
  • Balance funds: The portfolio of these funds have a mixed of stocks and bonds. Those funds enjoy capital growth and income dividend.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Protect Your Portfolio from the Volatile Stock Market

The advantages of mutual funds

Diversification. You’ve probably heard the popular saying “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Well, it applies to mutual funds. Mutual funds invest in stocks or bonds from dozens of companies in several industries.

Thus, your risk is spread. If a stock of a company is not doing well, a stock from another company can balance it out. While most funds are diversified, some are not.

For example, sector funds which invest in a specific industry such as real estate can be risky if that industry is not doing well.

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Professional Management.

Mutual funds are professionally managed. These fund managers are well educated and experienced. Their job is to analyze data, research companies and find the best investments for the fund.

Thus, investing in mutual funds can be a huge time saver for those who have very little time and those who lack expertise in the matter.

Cost Efficiency. The operating expenses and the cost that you pay to sell or buy a fund are cheaper than trading in individual securities on your own. For example, the best Vanguard mutual funds have operating expenses as low as 0.04%. So by keeping expenses low, these funds can help boost your returns.

Low or Reasonable Minimum Investment. The majority of mutual funds, Vanguard mutual funds, for example, have a reasonable minimum requirement. Some funds even have a minimum of $1,000 and provide a monthly investment plan where you can start with as little as $50 a month.

Related Article: 7 Secrets Smart Professionals Use to Choose Financial Advisors

The disadvantage of mutual funds.

While there are several benefits to investing in mutual funds, there are some disadvantages as well. 

Active Fund Management. Mutual funds are actively managed. That means fund mangers are always on the look out for the best securities to purchase. That also means they can easily make mistakes.

Cost/expenses. While cost and expenses of investing in individual stocks are significantly higher than mutual funds, cost of a mutual fund can nonetheless be significant.

High cost can have a negative effect on your investment return. These fees are deducted from your mutual fund’s balance every year. Other fees can apply as well. So always find a company with a low cost. 

How you make money with mutual funds.

You make money with mutual funds the same way you would with individual stocks: dividend, capital gain and appreciation.

Dividend: Dividends are cash distributions from a company to its shareholders. Some companies offer dividends; others do not. And those who do pay out dividends are not obligated to do so. And the amount of dividends can vary from year to year.

As a mutual fund investor, you may receive dividend income on a regular basis.

Mutual funds offer dividend reinvestment plans. This means that instead of receiving a cash payment, you can reinvest your dividend income into buying more shares in the fund.

Capital gain distribution: in addition to receiving dividend income from the fund, you make money with mutual funds when you make a profit by selling a stock. This is called “capital gain.”

Capital gain occurs when the fund manager sells stocks for more he bought them for. The resulting profits can be paid out to the fund’s shareholders. Just as dividend income, you have the choice to reinvest your gains in the fund.

Appreciation: If stocks in your fund have appreciated in value, the price per share of the fund will increase as well. So whether you hold your shares for a short term or long term, you stand to make a profit when the shares rise. 

Best mutual funds.

Now that you know mutual funds make excellent investments, finding the best mutual funds can be overwhelming. 

Vanguard mutual funds.

Vanguard mutual funds are the best out there, because they are relatively cheaper; they are of high quality; a professional manage them; and their operating expenses are relative low. 

Here is a list of the best Vanguard mutual funds that you should invest in:

  • Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Funds
  • Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)
  • Total International Stock index Fund
  • Vanguard Health Care Investor

Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund 

If you’re looking for a diversified mutual fund, this Vanguard mutual fund is for you. The Vanguard’s VTSAX provides exposure to the entire U.S. stock market which includes stocks from large, medium and small U.S companies.

The top companies include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. In addition, the expenses are relatively (0.04%). It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000, making it one of the best vanguard stock funds out there.

Vanguard S&P 500 (VFIAX)

The Vanguard 500 Index fund may be appropriate for you if you prefer a mutual fund that focuses on U.S. equities. This fund tracks the performance of the S&P 500, which means it holds about 500 of the largest U.S. stocks.

The largest U.S. companies included in this fund are Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Apple, and Amazon. This index fund has an expense ration of 0.04% and a reasonable minimum initial investment of $3,000.

Vanguard Total International Stock Market

You should consider the Vanguard International Stock Market fund of you prefer a mutual fund that invests in foreign stocks.

This international stock fund exposes its shareholders to over 6,000 non-U.S. stocks from several countries in both developed markets and emerging markets. The minimum investment is also $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.11%.

Vanguard Health Care Investor

Sector funds are not usually a good idea, because the lack diversification. Sector funds are funds that invest in a specific industry like real estate or health care. However, if you want a fund to complement your portfolio, the Vanguard Health Care Investor is a good choice.

This Vanguard mutual fund offers investors exposure to U.S. and foreign equities focusing in the health care industry. The expense ration is a little bit higher, 0.34%. However, the minimum initial investment is $3,000, making it one of the cheapest Vanguard mutual funds.

Bottom Line

Mutual funds are great options for beginner investors or investors who have little time to research and invest in individual stocks. When you buy into these low cost investments, you’re essentially buying shares from companies.

Your money are pooled together with those of other investors. If you intend to invest in low cost investment funds, you must know which ones are the best. When it comes to saving money on fees and getting a good return on your investment, Vanguard mutual funds are among the best funds out there.

They provide professional management, diversity, low cost, income and price appreciation.

What’s Next: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard mutual funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
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CIT Bank Money Market 1.00% APY Review
CIT Bank Savings Builder 0.95% APY Review
CIT Bank CDs 0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term Review
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The post What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com



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



Don’t Let Your Current Lender Talk You Out of a Mortgage Refinance

What I’ve seen and heard through the years is certain lenders not being so forthcoming with existing customers wanting to refinance their mortgage. For example, when a homeowner goes to inquire about the “awesome low rates,” their first instinct may be to pick up the phone and call the lender who gave them their current [&hellip

The post Don’t Let Your Current Lender Talk You Out of a Mortgage Refinance first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

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Should I Refinance My Student Loans?

Should I refinance my student loans? It depends on your situation. But a common reason for people to refinance their student loans is that they want to pay less interest. Even a small decrease in the rate could save you a lot of money over the life of the loan and ultimately help you pay off your student loans faster.

Another reason could be that you want to change the loan type (i.e., switching from a fixed rate to a variable rate or vice versa).

Whatever your reasons for wanting to refinance your student loans may be, you should always compare your student loan rate with other rates on the market. Some lenders always update their rates to make sure they are competitive on the market. So the chance is high that you could get a better deal with another lender.

The best way to compare student loan rates is through LendKey. LendKey’s rate starts as low as at 1.9%. And they have 5, 7, 10, 15 & 20 year loan terms. The great thing about LendKey is that checking your rates will NOT affect your credit score.

CHECK YOUR RATE

What does refinancing your student loans mean?

In simple terms, when you refinance your student loans, you’re essentially taking out a brand new loan in order to pay off your existing student loan. This can get you a better deal and save you money in the long term. The trick is to figure out if it makes sense to refinance.

Should I refinance my student loans? Does it make sense to do so?

When it makes sense to refinance your student loans:

  • Lower interest rates are available.
  • You have other large debts, such as credit card debts and personal loans, and you want to consolidate all of your loans.
  • A major change in your life has happened recently.
  • You want to switch to a fixed rate.

When it doesn’t make sense to refinance your student loans

  • Your credit score is low and you are less likely to get a good rate.
  • You’re no longer have a stable job, and your income is not reliable.
  • Your current loan is at a fixed rate.

To decide whether you should refinance your student loans, you should have a reason why you want to refinance. Is it because you want to pay a lower interest rate? Do you want to consolidate all of your loans?

Wanting a lower interest rate on your student loans should not be your only consideration when wanting to refinance. The life of the loan should also be considered, and not just the interest rate. That means, will it be variable interest rate or fixed interest rate. This is important as it can impact your long term financial obligations.

You should also consider the cost of switching to another lender. There are fees, such as application fees and ongoing charges associated with switching to another lender.

Is now the right time to refinance your student loans?

A better interest rate is not the only factor to consider when thinking of refinancing your student loans.

The stability of your job should also be considered. How stable is your job? Can you manage to make monthly payments on your income? If you’ve recently gone part-time, or gone freelancing, now is probably not a good time to refinance your student loans.

Likewise, if you have just switched to a more stable, full time job, you may need to wait for like 6 months or even a year before a bank can consider your loan application.

This is where a financial advisor can be handy, as they can help you make the right financial decision.

It’s also a good idea to talk to existing student loans provider when considering refinancing. Some lenders, in order to keep your business, might try to lower your interest rates or waive some fees for you. They’d be very willing to do that especially if you always make your payments on time and have been with them for a long time.

If you decide to go with another lender, make sure your financial situation is in shape. That means that you don’t have that much outstanding debts such as credit card debts, and that you have always paid your bills on time. This is important not only to get qualified, but also to get a better rate.

When refinancing your student loans make sense

There can be several reasons to refinance your student loans. Perhaps you have a better job, making more money. Or perhaps your current student loan rate is not competitive anymore.

Even if you don’t have any specific reason, it’s always a good idea to know what’s available to you. There might be great deals out there.

Every once in a while, you might want to reassess your student loan rate and compare it to other student loan rate on the market.

One easy way to reassess your options is with LendKey. LendKey is an online platform that allows you to browse multiple low-interest loans from almost 300 community banks and credit unions, instead of big banks.

LendKey allows for more flexibility and lower interest rates. It can help you find the right student loan for you without visiting dozen bank branches.

Plus applying to a dozen of student loans will not HURT your credit score. LendKey does a soft check on you, so you can compare student loans from multiple lenders before you actually apply for one.

Click here to check your rates through LendKey.

Indeed, a lower interest rate and lower repayments are some of the more common reasons to refinance your student loans. Even a slight decrease on your interest rate might make a big difference on your monthly student loan payments.

Indeed any student loan refinance calculator out there can tell you how much you can save.

Another common reason to refinance your student loans might be to consolidate all of your debts and have one monthly repayment. Debt consolidation is when you combine all of your debts so you have one big repayment, instead of several.

If you have other debts such as personal loans, car loan, credit card debts, home loan, then it makes sense to roll these debts together with your student loan. The advantage is that your student loan rate is typically lower.

When refinancing your student loans doesn’t make sense.

There are times when refinancing doesn’t make sense.

For example, if you have built a good relationship with your lender, it might not be a good idea to switch to another lender simply to get a lower interest rate. The new lender might raise your rate once you switch, but you’ve just ruined your good relationship with your old lender.

Another reason you should not refinance your student loans is if you you have been paying for a long time already. Refinancing to a longer term might reduce your monthly payments, but will cost you many more years and more money. So if your current balance is already low, it’s not very beneficial to refinance.

You should also not refinance your student loans if your interest rate on your current student loan is low. There is no real benefit to be had from refinancing an already low interest rate. In fact, you may end up incurring more costs and fees when switching.

Your credit score is low

Refinancing your student loans may not be a good idea if your credit score is low.

While you can apply with a co-signer if you have a low credit score, but it can be hard to find someone to co-sign for you.

So, at a minimum, make sure your credit score is at least 650. If it’s not where is supposed to be, take steps to raise your credit score.

Don’t know your credit score, get a free credit score with Credit Sesame.

Bottom line

If you’re asking yourself: “should I refinance my student loans?” The answer is: it depends on your unique situation. But there are great benefits to refinancing your student loans. To reiterate, it can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan; it can reduce your loan payments significantly. However, before deciding to take the plunge you have to make sure you’re getting a better deal.

After you have checked your rates, you should definitely refinance your student loans. Not only will you get a reduced interest rate, you will also get a lower monthly payment and pay less over the life of your loan.

Plus when you’re approved for a loan you applied through Lendkey, you’ll get a $100 bonus after the loan is disbursed.

Read More:

  • 5 Tips To Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster
  • How Much Should You Save A Month?
  • Buying A Home For The First Time? Avoid These Mistakes

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). So, find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post Should I Refinance My Student Loans? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com



What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

If you’re planning to buy or sell a house or a rental investment property, you might consider hiring a real estate attorney.

A real estate lawyer can provide legal protection. They can help you navigate the home-buying process, which can be complex.

In fact, many states require a real estate lawyer to be present at closing. 

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Even if you live in a state that doesn’t require you to have a real estate attorney, it’s important to have one by your side.

But it’s also important to know who you’re dealing with, what they can do for you, and what’s in it for them.

Real estate attorneys can help structure transactions and closing. They will review documents well in advance before the closing to make sure there are no errors.

Real estate lawyers, however, can only represent one of the parties. The buyer and the seller’s interests can often be in conflict. Therefore, the attorney should never represent both parties. 

Besides representing you in sales transactions, real estate attorneys can represent you in a courtroom as well.

During the home-buying process, disputes between the buyer and the seller may arise that will have to settle in court.

The real estate attorney’s qualifications

A real estate attorney, just as any lawyer, has attended 3 years of law school. In law school, they take courses in law in general, including real property and other real estate classes.

During law school, they may do internships at law firms which specialize in real estate law.

Once they graduate law school, they take to bar exam in the state they want to practice in.

Once they become licensed to practice, they can work in a law firm specializing in real estate law.

The real estate lawyer’s fees

A real estate attorney can charge by the hour or a fixed fee. How much their charge for their services depends on their reputation, their level experience, the level of complexity.

Regardless of the fee, your attorney will discuss it with you. Their hourly fee is typically between $150 to $350.

They’ll draft a retainer agreement and make the necessary disclosures before you can retain them.

The attorney’s role in real estate transaction

Real estate attorneys can have many roles. Their roles will vary depending on whether it is a simple transaction or a complex one, and whether a real estate broker is involved.

In some cases, a real estate broker can handle many aspects of real estate transactions. If that case, the real estate attorney’s role is often limited.

In other instances, the real estate lawyer plays a crucial role in all phases of the real estate transaction.

Nonetheless, a real estate attorney’s roles include acting as a legal counselor, negotiator, advisor and coordinator.

Real estate attorney as a legal counselor

A real estate attorney acting as a legal counselor can handle drafting the proposed contract. If there is a broker involved, the broker will prepare the contract.

But, your attorney will review it for any proposed changes. Your lawyer can also draft the deed and examine title documents.

If you retain a real estate agent or broker, your attorney may also review the broker’s agreement before you sign it.

Real estate attorney as a negotiator

If you hire a real estate lawyer before you sign a contract or before engaging in any contract negotiations, your attorney will assume that role. All communications from the other party or his or her attorney will be directed to your lawyer.

Your attorney will negotiate proposed changes to the contract, including the price of the house. They will review any mortgage contingency clauses.

In addition, your real estate attorney can negotiate the following matters:

  • Personal property to be included;
  • Repairs before closing;
  • The closing date;
  • You may not get a mortgage commitment within the stipulated date in the contract. So, your attorney may negotiate an extension of time to obtain the mortgage;
  • You may need an early possession of the house. Your lawyer can negotiate that.

Real estate attorney as an advisor

You, as a client, may not need strict legal advice. You may just want your lawyer to be present for general advice. If you’re a first time home buyer or an elderly buyer, your attorney can also act as an advisor.

Real estate attorney as a coordinator

Your attorney can also act as your coordinator. Residential closings involve a lot of steps. And not everyone involved will follow them.

So, one of your real estate lawyer’s role is to contact the brokers, the title insurers, the mortgagees. They will also monitor the progress of obtaining financing, title policy, etc.

They will also contact the other attorney to make sure all parties are ready for the closing.

Your attorney’s responsibilities before closing

If you hire a real estate lawyer to represent you either as a seller or buyer, his or her responsibility before closing include the following:

  • Make sure you, as a buyer or seller, can fulfill the requirements imposed by the real estate sale contract
  • Review the title insurance;
  • Check the mortgage commitment;
  • Monitor status of the contract contingencies;
  • Examine closing documents for accuracy;
  • Coordinate closing date and time with the mortgage lender, seller and buyer’s broker;
  • If buyers will not attend the closing, obtain power of attorney for property to cover documents to be signed at closing;
  • Get wire instructions for payment of balance due at closing

In case a dispute arises between the parties, the real estate attorney can represent you in court.

Issues that might arise include damages and earnest money forfeiture, specific performance, misrepresentation, etc.

Do I need a real estate attorney?

Some states require a real estate attorney to be present during closing. They include Massachusetts, Maine, Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, North Dakota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and New Jersey.

If you don’t live in any of these states and the District of Columbia, it’s really up to you if you want to hire a real estate attorney. If you’re just trying to save money and can barely afford to buy a house, you’re probably don’t need a real estate lawyer.

But if your real estate transaction is complex, a good real estate attorney can be an asset.

The bottom line…

Some states do not require you to have a real estate attorney during closing. However, it’s worth the cost hiring one especially if you’re buying a house in foreclosure.

Work With A Financial Advisor Near You

If you have questions beyond hiring a real estate attorney, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals. Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goalsget started now.

*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
PROMOTIONAL LINK OFFER REVIEW
CIT Bank Money Market 1.00% APY Review
CIT Bank Savings Builder 0.95% APY Review
CIT Bank CDs 0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term Review
CIT Bank No Penalty CD 0.75% APY Review

The post What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com



How to Make Better Financial Decisions

Woman learning how to make better financial decisions

A key financial decision people struggle to make is how to allocate savings for multiple financial goals. Do you save for several goals at the same time or fund them one-by-one in a series of steps? Basically, there are two ways to approach financial goal-setting:

Concurrently: Saving for two or more financial goals at the same time.

Sequentially: Saving for one financial goal at a time in a series of steps.

Each method has its pros and cons. Here’s how to decide which method is best for you.

Sequential goal-setting

Pros

You can focus intensely on one goal at a time and feel a sense of completion when each goal is achieved. It’s also simpler to set up and manage single-goal savings than plans for multiple goals. You only need to set up and manage one account.

Cons

Compound interest is not retroactive. If it takes up to a decade to get around to long-term savings goals (e.g., funding a retirement savings plan), that’s time that interest is not earned.

Concurrent goal-setting

Pros

Compound interest is not delayed on savings for goals that come later in life. The earlier money is set aside, the longer it can grow. Based on the Rule of 72, you can double a sum of money in nine years with an 8 percent average return. The earliest years of savings toward long-term goals are the most powerful ones.

Cons

Funding multiple financial goals is more complex than single-tasking. Income needs to be earmarked separately for each goal and often placed in different accounts. In addition, it will probably take longer to complete any one goal because savings is being placed in multiple locations.

Research findings

Working with Wise Bread to recruit respondents, I conducted a study of financial goal-setting decisions with four colleagues that was recently published in the Journal of Personal Finance. The target audience was young adults with 69 percent of the sample under age 45. Four key financial decisions were explored: financial goals, homeownership, retirement planning, and student loans.

Results indicated that many respondents were sequencing financial priorities, instead of funding them simultaneously, and delaying homeownership and retirement savings. Three-word phrases like “once I have…,", “after I [action],” and “as soon as…,” were noted frequently, indicating a hesitancy to fund certain financial goals until achieving others.

The top three financial goals reported by 1,538 respondents were saving for something, buying something, and reducing debt. About a third (32 percent) of the sample had outstanding student loan balances at the time of data collection and student loan debt had a major impact on respondents’ financial decisions. About three-quarters of the sample said loan debt affected both housing choices and retirement savings.

Actionable steps

Based on the findings from the study mentioned above, here are five ways to make better financial decisions.

1. Consider concurrent financial planning

Rethink the practice of completing financial goals one at a time. Concurrent goal-setting will maximize the awesome power of compound interest and prevent the frequently-reported survey result of having the completion date for one goal determine the start date to save for others.

2. Increase positive financial actions

Do more of anything positive that you’re already doing to better your personal finances. For example, if you’re saving 3 percent of your income in a SEP-IRA (if self-employed) or 401(k) or 403(b) employer retirement savings plan, decide to increase savings to 4 percent or 5 percent.

3. Decrease negative financial habits

Decide to stop (or at least reduce) costly actions that are counterproductive to building financial security. Everyone has their own culprits. Key criteria for consideration are potential cost savings, health impacts, and personal enjoyment.

4. Save something for retirement

Almost 40 percent of the respondents were saving nothing for retirement, which is sobering. The actions that people take (or do not take) today affect their future selves. Any savings is better than no savings and even modest amounts like $100 a month add up over time.

5. Run some financial calculations

Use an online calculator to set financial goals and make plans to achieve them. Planning increases people’s sense of control over their finances and motivation to save. Useful tools are available from FINRA and Practical Money Skills.

What’s the best way to save money for financial goals? It depends. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re taking positive action. Weigh the pros and cons of concurrent and sequential goal-setting strategies and personal preferences, and follow a regular savings strategy that works for you. Every small step matters!

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7 Money Steps to Take Before 2021

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

#1 Put at least $1000 into an emergency fund

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

#2 Fully fund your retirement accounts

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

#3 Consider donating to charity

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

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

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

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

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

#5 Review your credit report

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

#6 Use up any money in your FSA

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

#7 Set your financial goals for 2021

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

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

Source: mint.intuit.com



Why Are Refinance Rates Higher?

Mortgage Q&A: “Why are refinance rates higher?” If you’ve been comparing mortgage rates lately in an effort to save some money on your home loan, you may have noticed that refinance rates are higher than purchase loan rates. This seems to be the case for a lot of big banks out there, including Chase, Citi, [&hellip

The post Why Are Refinance Rates Higher? first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com




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