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Gardening Tips That Save You Green

If you’re a gardener, chances are you know how rewarding growing your own food can be. Whether you run an at-home farm, tend to a small patch of blueberry bushes, or have an apartment window herb garden, you know how satisfying that harvest of something you’ve grown is. Gardening has been linked to some serious health benefits, too—even significantly lowering levels of cortisol and feelings of stress.

Turns out, growing your own food at home offers much more than a chance to get outside and get your hands dirty. Growing your food can be an incredibly cost-effective hobby, with a 600 square-foot garden producing about 300 pounds of fresh produce worth around $600 annually. When packs of seeds cost around $3 each, the opportunity to grow your investment, literally and figuratively, is clear.  

Just by planting and tending to tomatoes, lettuce, or potatoes, you could save some serious money as a result. The average American spends close to $6,800 a year on food, which equals 12.6 percent of their total spending. Of that, $760 is spent on fruits and vegetables. By spending under $100 to build up your own plot of fruits and veggies, you could save around $800 a year—money that you could then save or invest in more seeds to save even more at the grocery store!

You don’t need a green thumb to see how that math adds up. If you’re worried about a black thumb ruining your chances of saving some serious green yearly, learn more about gardening tips that will turn even the smallest of garden plots into a bountiful harvest. Plus, read up on the many benefits of gardening on your health and overall happiness—you’ll be grabbing gardening gloves and mulch before you know it!

Sources: Country Living | An Oregon Cottage | Balcony Garden Web | The Penny Hoarder | Earth Easy | PSECU | Good Housekeeping | AARP | Money 

The post Gardening Tips That Save You Green appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com



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.
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The post What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com



How I Make Money On TikTok – How I Grew To 350,000 Followers and Made $60,000 In 6 Weeks

Do you want to learn how to make money on TikTok? Here’s how Tori grew from 0 to 350,000 TikTok followers and made $60,000 in just 6 weeks. 

how to make money on TikTokUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard something about TikTok. TikTok is one of the most popular social media networks currently, and it is growing like crazy.

There are already over 500 million active monthly users on TikTok around the world.

So, you may be wondering if you can learn how to make money on TikTok, and any TikTok tips so that you can see success too.

That completely makes sense!

Today, I want to introduce you to Tori Dunlap.

Tori Dunlap is a nationally-recognized millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K. She has helped over 200,000 women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

I met her a couple of years ago in person, and she has built an amazingly successful business. I’m in awe of what she has done, and I enjoy her creative ways of helping people improve their money situation.

I asked Tori to take part in an interview on Making Sense of Cents about her explosive TikTok growth. She went from 0 to over 350,000 TikTok followers, and made $60,000 in just 6 weeks on TikTok.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • About Tori’s background and why she decided to start on TikTok
  • How she grew her TikTok to over 350,000 followers in 6 weeks
  • How she has made $60,000 just from TikTok in 6 weeks and how to earn money from TikTok
  • The tools needed to create TikTok videos
  • The length of time it takes to make each TikTok video
  • Whether there is room for new TikTok accounts
  • Her top TikTok tips for a newbie

And more! This interview is packed full of valuable information on how to earn money on TikTok.

I know so many people have questions about TikTok, such as how to grow on TikTok, how to make money from TikTok (including, how much money do TikTokers make?), and more, so hopefully you will find this interview both interesting and informative!

You can find Tori on TikTok here.

Related content that you may be interested in:

  • How Sailing SV Delos Makes Money on Youtube
  • How This 34 Year Old Owns 7 Rental Homes
  • How Amanda Paid Off $133,763 In Debt in 43 Months
  • How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year

Here’s how to make money on TikTok.

 

1. Tell me your story. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m nationally-recognized millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, I quit my corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money.

I’ve helped over 350,000 women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest — and I firmly believe that a financial education is a woman’s best form of protest.

A Plutus award winner, my work has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, the New York Times, PEOPLE, TIME, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, and more.

Before becoming a full-time entrepreneur, I led organic marketing strategy for Fortune 500 companies—with clients like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Nike, the NFL, and the Academy Awards—and global financial technology start-ups. For almost five years, I specialized in social media, SEO, content, and influencer marketing to grow community and increase awareness.

I now travel the world writing, speaking, and coaching about personal finance, online businesses, side hustles, and confidence for millennial women.

 

2. How long have you been on TikTok? Why did you decide to start a TikTok account?

I only really started doing TikTok for my business in the last 6 weeks (and gained almost 350,000 followers in the process, which is wild.)

I knew that you could see accelerated growth on the platform — it’s the only main social platform that currently has more people consuming content than creating it — and it fit well with my brand.

I’m passionate about financial education as a form of protest, and making money conversations inclusive — meeting people where they are on TikTok seemed like a perfect way to do that.

To me, going viral and gaining 350,000 followers in such a short amount of time is proof that Gen Z is craving personal finance advice.

 

3. How did you get your TikTok account to explode?

I was shocked by the growth, and I’ve never seen a platform that is so creator-friendly (Facebook, for example, has become more and more business-focused.)

In terms of followers, it took me 3 days to do on TikTok what it took me 3 years to do on Instagram. But I was ready for it — I have an established, global business, credibility, and products to sell. As a former social media manager, it’s a reminder that consistency, credibility, and serving before selling are what grows your account — not paid ads or manufactured authenticity.

The big shift was a video that went viral (as of this writing, it has 3.5 million views and over 730K likes.) Having gone viral multiple times before, this was next level — I was getting 100 followers every 5 minutes.

It’s more than doubled my website traffic, increased my sales, and grown my credibility.

how to monetize tiktok

Tori’s TikTok

4. How do you make money on TikTok?

I make money through promoting my own products (like my resume template and side hustle courses) and my affiliate partners.

For example, I might talk about high yield savings accounts and send folks to the link to my affiliate bank partner.

In the last 6 weeks, I’ve made over $60,000 just from TikTok.

Now that I have a substantial following, I’m also monetizing my platform with brand partnerships, and showcasing products I believe in.

Related: 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income Free Guide

 

5. How do you decide on your TikTok video ideas?

Just like the rest of my content, I focus on creating actionable resources for my followers.

Most of the questions I answer in my videos or advice I give comes from someone asking me about it, which guarantees I’ll have consumers of that content because I know it’s valuable for them.

Your audience will tell you what they want to see!

One of the smart things I did was waiting to become a creator. I was a consumer on TikTok first, sharing and enjoying videos before I started creating my own. Doing so helped me understand trends, what content well, the way the videos were shot. I got to know the landscape and followed creators doing good work.

So much of TikTok is collaborative creation, so I’ll often duet with another creator and offer my two-sense, or will be inspired by a trend or sound I see elsewhere.

 

6. What tools do you need for your videos? Is it simply your phone?

Your phone is the biggest thing you need. I also invested in a ring light/tripod to make it easier to shoot content, and to make sure the lightning was decent.

If you want to do more advanced videos, you might need editing software, a more professional camera, or props.

There is a learning curve with understanding how to shoot videos, and I was too intimidated to start for a while.

Don’t let that scare you: just like anything, it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

 

How do you get paid on TikTok?

Some of Tori’s TikTok videos.

7. How long does it take you to make each TikTok video?

Batching content has helped me save time, so I make about 5-7 videos in one session.

Because we’re still in quarantine, I often shoot without camera-ready makeup, which I think adds to the spontaneity and authenticity of the video.

I’ve also made the decision to not change clothes for every single video, it just seems like overkill.

My 15-second, talk-to-camera videos take about 10 minutes — 3 to shoot, 7 to add text and a caption.

More in-depth videos — with green screen effects or lots of text that moves — can take about a half hour.

I try to intersperse content — not only for variety’s sake, but also to keep myself sane.

 

8. What do you like about making TikTok videos? What do you not like?

Instagram has started to feel more and more like work, while TikTok allows me to be more creative.

As a theatre major, it’s a perfect platform for me to make weird faces, perform, and showcase my personality in addition to my advice.

I’ve also found TikTok a more welcoming environment. You’ll always have trolls and hateful comments, but I’ve found there’s more support and encouragement from people who aren’t following you on TikTok than on other platforms.

I really love and engage with Instagram Stories, and TikTok doesn’t have a feature like that (yet.) Stories are a good way for your audience to learn more about you and your business in a less polished way, so I think it’s harder for someone to get to know you on TikTok.

Captions are also WAY shorter, and you cannot post your hashtags in the first comment, so any explaining you need to do through text needs to be in the actual video.

 

9. Do you think there is room for new TikTokers?

YES!

More than any other social platform.

Instagram, for example, is very saturated. It’s almost impossible to discover a new account within the platform, unless a friend directly shares it with you. You’re really only seeing posts from people you already follow.

TikTok has a following tab, and also a “For You Page” tab, where they show videos they think you’ll like.

I’ve never seen an algorithm as responsive as TikTok’s, so you’ll find content that actually connects with you and your interests.

 

tiktok tips10. What tips do you have for someone wanting to start on TikTok?

Content that does well is at least one of the following: aspirational, educational, or entertaining.

You have travel vloggers showcasing their Airbnbs in Paris (aspirational), vegan chefs walking you through a recipe (educational), or a thrill-seeker trying a new stunt (entertaining.)

I found my niche between aspirational (talking about how I left my 9-5 job and built my business) and educational (how to pay off debt, invest, etc.)

Like any social platform, consistency is key. TikTok is like Twitter — you have the option of posting 7-10 times per day (and not being punished by the algorithm.) I usually try to put out 2-3 videos per day, some more complicated than others.

 

11. Are there any other TikTok tips you would like to share?

Don’t invest in TikTok unless you know your audience is there.

For example, if your potential customers are men in their 50s, they’re probably not on TikTok.

When I worked in marketing, it was easy to chase platforms or trends. It’s easy to feel like you need to be everywhere in order to make sure you’re relevant.

But if the audience you’re looking to target is largely not on a platform, don’t invest time and money in it.

Do you want to learn how to make money on TikTok and how to grow on TikTok?

The post How I Make Money On TikTok – How I Grew To 350,000 Followers and Made $60,000 In 6 Weeks appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com



How to Prepare Your House for Winter

With cold weather approaching, it’s time to take a couple days and get your home ready for the winter weather. To help you get started, here is a checklist with some of the most important tasks to get your house ready for the snow and cold.

Check for Leaks

In the winter, you want to make sure your home is a fortress. You don’t want any of your precious heat escaping, and you don’t want any of the winter weather getting in. To help you figure out your home’s leaky spots, you can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home. This is a great option if you don’t have the time, or the desire to climb on your roof.

Windows: Swap out your screen windows for storm windows. During that process, check around your windows to make sure they are well sealed. To help identify small gaps, carefully hold a lit match or lighter a couple inches from the frame of the window. Move the flame around, always making sure it’s a safe distance from surfaces and fabrics, and watch for the flame to “dance.” If the flame moves, there is air movement in that spot. Use caulk to seal around the frame, or use a plastic window insulation kit to cover an entire window.

Heavy curtains will help keep more heat from escaping through your windows.

Doors: Replace your screen doors with storm doors. Again, check the seals during that process. If you can see any light around your doors, you have a significant gap for warm air to escape. Even if you can’t see any light, you still want to check the rubbery weather stripping around the door. If it’s brittle or cracking, it’s not doing its job. Installing a new weather stripping kit from a hardware store is a quick fix to make sure your doors are sealed.

Ducts: As time goes by, seals on duct work can come loose. Check your duct work to make sure your ducts aren’t letting any heat out into your attic, which can cause snow to melt and refreeze as ice dams on your roof.

Roof: Before winter arrives is a great time to check your roof for the season. Climb up (or at least get on a high ladder) and examine the shingles. Replace any that are missing or broken.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's How to Prepare Your House for Winter

Make Sure Your Heating Systems Work

Furnace: Before it gets too cold, have your heating system checked out by a professional. The first really chilly day of winter is not the time to figure out your heater isn’t working. Have a heating and air company come out, check the systems, and change the filters, and you’ll be ready for Old Man Winter when he arrives.

Water Heater: The end of fall is a great time to drain your water heater. This should get done once a year, so if you haven’t done it recently, make sure you do before you find you only have really cold water in your house.

Chimney: If you have a chimney, make sure you sweep it (or have it professionally swept) before lighting any fires for the season. Removing the excess soot, as well as the birds and animals that made their homes in chimneys throughout the year, will help prevent fires and smoke damage. Also, examine the damper to make sure it’s still looking good. If it’s bent or warped, warm air will be able to escape through the chimney.

Reverse Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, now is the time to reverse them. Putting them in reverse will help blow down warm air that would otherwise be stuck near the ceiling, which will likely mean you can turn your heat down a degree or two.

If your fan runs on a remote, there is likely a button on the remote to switch the direction. If your fan runs on a switch, look for a small toggle or switch on the fan motor to make the change.

Be Ready Outdoors

Gutters: Make sure your gutters are ready to handle the winter precipitation. Empty the fallen leaves and anything else that has gathered in the gutters. Make sure they are secure to the roof, and repair them as needed. Also, make sure the drain pipe from your gutters is long enough and directing winter rains and melting snow away from your home’s foundation.

Water Lines: Prevent burst pipes by turning off all exterior water lines or insulating the pipes. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, drain the lines to make sure no water is left to damage the underground lines.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Tools: Be ready to get yourself out of the house by making sure all your winter tools are in good working condition. Turn on the snow blower, visually check the shovels, and stock up on salt or deicers. Having everything in its place and ready to go will give you a good start on digging out from a big blizzard.

Prepare Your Safety Kits

Pantry: During the winter, it’s always a good idea to keep extra food supplies in your pantry in case a big storm prevents you from getting to the store. Boxed and canned foods are the best because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life. Stock your pantry with a week’s worth of pastas, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, and bottled water, and you’ll be ready if the big one hits your town.

Boxed and canned foods are the best food to keep in stock because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life.

Lights: If a winter storm takes out your electricity, make sure you are ready with flashlights and candles to light your home. Keep flashlights in every room, and teach your kids where they are in case they need to find them in the dark.

Heat: If you have a wood burning fireplace, keep a solid stash of wood ready in case your power goes out. If you are in an area prone to losing power, you may also want to invest in a generator to run your furnace a couple hours a day during power outages. A good stash of blankets and comforters will help you get through chilly days and cold nights.

Detectors: Winter means an increase of home fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you and your family are protected by replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and testing them before winter hits.

All the tasks on this list are important to get done before the snow starts falling. If you don’t have the time to do them all, hire a trusted professional to help you knock a few off tasks off your list. You’ll be thankful that you have everything done and ready as soon as the first big storm hits.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com



Why 2 Finance Experts Still Struggled To Buy This House

home buyerTony Matheson

Think two seasoned certified financial planners would have an easy time buying a house? Tony and Barbara Matheson would beg to differ.

In fall 2019, these empty nesters found themselves itching to downsize from their large rental in the uaexpensive San Francisco Bay Area. Hoping to buy a reasonably priced house within walking distance of restaurants and other amenities, they set their sights on Sacramento, CA. Armed with a healthy income, solid credit history, and a deep knowledge of personal finances—plus they’d owned property before—they figured they would sail through the home-buying process.

Six months and three lost bidding wars later, they realized that Sacramento’s real estate market was far more cutthroat than they’d imagined.

In March, the Mathesons finally purchased a three-bedroom, one-bathroom 1926 Tudor on a tree-lined street. With the closing papers signed, they figured they were home-free—but COVID-19 was about to throw another curveball into the picture.

Here Tony shares their story, and his hard-won lessons for aspiring first-time home buyers and others who want to learn what buying real estate is really like today.

Tony Matheson House
Tony and Barbara Matheson’s new home in Sacramento, CA

Tony Matheson

Location: Sacramento, CA
House specs: 1,225 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
List price: $550,000
Price paid: $580,000

Why did you decide to move?

We’d been living in the Bay Area and were looking to downsize since both of our kids had moved out. We wanted to be near downtown Sacramento, close to restaurants, bars, museums, and coffee shops.

I’d think home buying would be a breeze for two finance pros. How did it go?

I was really surprised by how tough the market was. After five months touring homes, we made an offer on our first house. This house went into a bidding war; we had to raise our bid five times before tapping out.

Next, we fell in love with a second home. This time, we offered the sellers $30,000 over the asking price. The sellers had so many other bids, they never even bothered to counter our offer.

We found a third home, and once again bid over the asking price. But after five tries, we lost out again. It was heartbreaking.

How awful! Why do you think these homes sold to other buyers?

We came prepared with what most consider strong financials for making an offer on a single-family home: great credit scores, a significant down payment, pre-approval for a mortgage. We offered good earnest money and 15-day escrow, didn’t include an appraisal contingency, and probably had a few other bonuses to the seller that I’ve forgotten. So we were doing everything “right.”

What we were finding is that we were up against some other buyers who were making all-cash offers, sometimes $50,000 above the asking price. How does anyone compete with that?

So how did you finally get an offer accepted?

We were extremely fortunate that we had a great real estate agent who was able to find a home that hadn’t been listed yet. We could negotiate one on one with the seller without having to compete against multiple offers.

The sellers had planned to invest $30,000 to $40,000 on home improvements before putting it on the market. We offered to buy the house as is, without the improvements. After going back and forth a few times, the sellers took our offer.  

What did you like about this house?

We knew within 5 seconds of walking into the house that this was the one. It was the perfect neighborhood. We were close to everything, within walking distance to plenty of bars and restaurants. The outdoor area is gorgeous. Beautiful trees surround our house, and the house is the perfect size for us.

Living Room
The living room of Tony and Barbara’s Sacramento home

Tony Matheson

So once your offer was accepted, what happened next?

The sellers weren’t prepared to move immediately. They needed time to prepare. So we rented the house back to the sellers for a month after closing. We closed on Valentine’s Day, but we didn’t move in until mid-March.

Little did we know what was about to happen.

Tony's home
Tony and Barbara love this window in their Sacramento home.

Tony Matheson

March is when the coronavirus really hit. What was it like moving during that time?

It was difficult and terrifying in the beginning. We moved in ourselves without hiring movers. Then, after we moved in, it was quite an adjustment. Simple things like calling an electrician or completing other minor home projects were enormously difficult.

Did you make any renovations to your home?

We put $10,000 to $12,000 into the house so far. The major issue after moving in was electricity—it needed to be completely reconfigured. For example, the second bedroom, which became my office, only had two plugs. Between my monitors for work, computers, Peloton, cellphones, and other devices, I needed 12 plugs. We also wanted to put in a tankless water heater for more space, and install a security system.  

Tony working on the house
During the COVID-19 shutdown, Tony and Barbara painted their new home.

Tony Matheson

How did quarantine affect these repairs?

It was horrible. We couldn’t get anyone to come out to do any work for at least three months. For the first month, no one was booking. Then, when we could finally get through, the businesses were overwhelmed with requests.

Tony celebrating new home
Tony and Barbara celebrate finally closing on their dream home in Sacramento.

Tony Matheson

What was it like when you finally settled in?

It was exhilarating, exciting, and weird. Exhilarating because we got the house we wanted. Exciting because we were beginning a new phase in our lives. And weird because we moved in at the beginning of the pandemic. We wanted to have a housewarming party, but of course, we couldn’t.

What is your advice for aspiring home buyers?

Even if your finances are completely buttoned up, be prepared that buying a house may be a difficult and even painful process.

first time home buyer
Tony and his daughter on game night in their new home

Tony Matheson

Emotionally it does get hard. As much as you try not to get attached to a house during the negotiation process, you can’t help it. And there is a competitive drive that kicks in when you are in a bidding war with others. It’s draining.

Still, in the end, knowing that you’ve overcome challenges along the way just makes you more appreciative of the reward at the end. We have a place to call home amidst all this craziness. It’s all worth it.

first time home buyer
Their parrot Kiwi also enjoys the new home’s view.

Tony Matheson

The post Why 2 Finance Experts Still Struggled To Buy This House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com



10 Things to Know About Living in Las Vegas

When we think of Las Vegas, it often has a connotation of big parties, gambling and expensive fun. Most people who go to the Entertainment Capital of the World are there for a good time and want to experience the food, shows and casinos. But what’s it like for the locals who are working and living in Las Vegas?

It’s a fairly big city, and residents have access to all of the fun and excitement as other out-of-town visitors. But every day isn’t a party when you’re living there — people have homes, families and careers to think about.

There are lots of surprising aspects of living in Sin City, and it just might be the kind of scene you’re looking for.

1. Get ready for discounts

In the Entertainment Capital of the World, many hotels, casinos and even restaurants give discounts to those who live locally. That means you’ll get discounts on Las Vegas attractions, spas and even shows, such as Cirque du Soleil, so you can enjoy the perks of the city without draining your bank account.

2. There are lots of pools — and you’ll be grateful for them

pool

Since it can get pretty hot and be fairly warm for eight or nine months out of the year, many residents in Las Vegas have pools. Most apartment complexes have pools, but if yours doesn’t have one, you’ll inevitably have friends with access to a pool. Or, you can head to one of the hotels with a luxury pool for a little weekend staycation.

Whatever pools you can access, you’ll be glad you have them. There are plenty of days when it’s too hot to do much else outdoors and slipping into the cool water might be the only thing that keeps you sane.

3. The heat is extreme

Most people haven’t experienced Vegas-style heat — we’re talking 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more on some days during the summer. That might sound bearable when you can hang out in the pool all day, but at temperatures climb that high, even a pool will feel like a hot tub.

When it gets unbearably hot, you can plan on hanging out inside with the air conditioner cranked up and eating popsicles all day long to stay cool.

4. Grocery stores are extra convenient

Being known as one of the cities that never sleeps, most Las Vegas grocery and convenience stores are open 24/7, so you can head out and get what you need without checking the time and worrying that stores will be closed. Plus, wine, beer and spirits are sold in the majority of grocery stores.

5. It’s surprisingly affordable

Most larger, well-known cities are quite expensive when you take housing, transportation and food into account. But living in Las Vegas is surprisingly affordable — it’s actually one of the most inexpensive places to live in Nevada. The cost of living in most categories is quite close to the national average, which is surprising for a larger city.

It has a thriving housing market, where there are plenty of homes available for fairly reasonable prices, and rent isn’t sky-high. The average rent in 2020 for a one-bedroom apartment is a little more than $1,200 a month — well below the national average of $1,600. And because there are plenty of quiet suburbs outside of the Strip and downtown areas, there are lots of supermarkets, restaurants and shopping malls readily available.

Most of the expensive places, whether they’re high-end stores or five-star restaurants, are located on the Strip or in downtown Vegas. Outside of that, most stores and restaurants in the valley are affordable and easily accessible to the locals.

You’ll rarely have to pay for parking, which is uncommon in a big city. Since hotels often have stores and attractions within them and casinos want people to come inside and play, they often will have free parking garages to attract potential customers.

6. There’s unique outdoor recreation

valley of fire

Las Vegas isn’t usually known for its camping and hiking scene, but there are some fun and different places to explore in the area. Some of the best spots are Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon. You can even go skiing during the winter months at Mt. Charleston, which is a reasonably short drive from the city.

And if that’s not enough for you, you’ll only be a few hours away from the state and national parks of Utah and California.

7. It’s best to have a car

In many bigger cities, there’s great public transportation, and it’s often preferred by the locals because of high parking costs and traffic congestion. But most Las Vegas residents don’t rely on public transportation to get around, and many people own cars.

Although there’s some public transportation, it’s mostly buses — the city is quite sprawling, making public transportation an extremely time-consuming option, especially if you’re going from one end to the other.

As far as driving goes, the most traffic-heavy places in the city are downtown and the Strip, and most other places aren’t too bad. Just beware of the Spaghetti Bowl, which is where multiple freeways merge together near downtown — traffic can get pretty congested there during rush hour.

8. No more state income tax

Unless you’re moving to Las Vegas from one of the other few states that doesn’t have an income tax, this will be a happy surprise. Nevada doesn’t have a personal income tax or corporate income tax.

9. Major league sports are coming in hot

In just the last few years, Sin City has become home to two major-league sports teams. The Raiders football team relocated there from Oakland earlier this year, giving residents something to be happy about, despite the other events of 2020.

But perhaps the most exciting thing was the creation of the Golden Knights, an NHL team that now plays in Vegas. When the team was first created, many people had low expectations — but the team ended up getting within only a few games of winning the Stanley Cup in its very first season. So, even if you’re not a hockey fan now, you’ll definitely become one when you move to Vegas.

10. Watch out for desert critters

scorpion

Most of us have had spiders or ants get in the house — that’s going to happen no matter where you live in the U.S. But have you dealt with cockroaches, lizards and scorpions?

While scorpions aren’t an everyday thing, you should still be aware of them and know that they could show up in your yard. And although most of the lizards are harmless, it can still be unsettling to see them basking in the sun all over the rocks around your home. But the cockroaches are something else. You’ll want to invest in good pest control because they’ll find a way to sneak into your bathroom and kitchen, even if you live on the fifth floor of a building.

If you have a pet, keep in mind that their food will attract more roaches, so keep their bowl in a high-traffic area of your house to ward off the pesky little critters. And make sure you seal the excess food in a container or bag so you don’t reach in and scoop up a handful of cockroaches when your pet is hungry.

Living in Las Vegas is full of surprises

In spite of its nickname being “Sin City,” living in Las Vegas can be a great experience. It’s a diverse place and contains all of the perks of a big city without the cost and without feeling like such a busy, overcrowded place all the time. The longer you live in Vegas, the more the city will surprise you.

The post 10 Things to Know About Living in Las Vegas appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com



How to Avoid the Financial Blunders People Make in Their 20s

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Nobody is perfect when it comes to their finances — even millionaires slip up sometimes.

So when you start to think you’re worse off than your parents, or your nephew, or your friends, remember that all 20-somethings have made mistakes that can cost them big time.

But if you’re guilty of making some of these blunders, don’t fret. You can still redeem yourself! Here are some of the worst blunders you can make, and tips to help dig you out of the hole.

Blunder No. 1: Not Getting Free Gift Cards When You Shop

What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.

But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Chipotle and dozens of other retailers.

And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store!

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

Blunder No. 2: Not Earning Anything On Your Savings

You’ve probably heard the best way to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. That’s bad advice.

But maybe you’re just looking for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.05% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 20 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

Blunder No. 3: Paying Too Much Interest To Credit Card Companies

If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape…

And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

Blunder No. 4: Paying Too Much For Car Insurance

When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

Blunder No. 5: Thinking You Don’t Have Enough Money To Invest

Take a look at the Forbes Richest People list, and you’ll notice almost all the billionaires have one thing in common — they own another company.

But if you work for a living and don’t happen to have millions of dollars lying around, that can sound totally out of reach.

But with an app called Stash, it doesn’t have to be. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — on Stash you can buy pieces of other companies for as little as $1.

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and more for as little as $1. The best part? If these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.1

It takes two minutes to sign up, and it’s totally secure. With Stash, all your investments are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — that’s industry talk for, “Your money’s safe.”2

Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.*

Blunder No. 6: Assuming Life Insurance Is Expensive And Time Consuming

Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

1Not all stocks pay out dividends, and there is no guarantee that dividends will be paid each year.

2To note, SIPC coverage does not insure against the potential loss of market value.

For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

*Offer is subject to Promotion Terms and Conditions. To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the bonus, you must successfully open an individual brokerage account in good standing, link a funding account to your Invest account AND deposit $5.00 into your Invest account.

The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. 

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk. 

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com




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