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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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Investing in the stock market can be intimidating and overwhelming. We recommend speaking with a financial advisor. The SmartAsset’s free matching tool will pair you with up to 3 financial advisors in your area.

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1. Answer these few easy questions about your current financial situation

2. In just under one minute, the tool will match you with up to three financial advisors based on your need.

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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



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



How to Break Through and Overcome Financial Hardships

Your life and personal finances don’t always go the way you hope. We all have struggles and no one achieves success without their share of hurdles and challenges. However, there are tools that can help you break through financial hardships and live the life you want.

I interviewed AJ Gibson, author of Flipping the Script: Bouncing Back from Life’s Rock Bottom Moments, an Amazon #1 new release. We talk about the personal, professional, and financial challenges that he’s overcome.

AJ is a Los-Angeles based TV host, public speaker, and coach who loves great people, food, fashion, entertainment, and travel. He’s been the host of the nationally syndicated daytime talk show, Hollywood Today Live, a co-host on Access Hollywood Live, and a frequent anchor on Good Day LA. You’ll see him on CBS’s The Talk and even on several episodes of The Wendy Williams Show.

His journey from being a closeted gay boy in Ohio to a host chatting with the some of the world’s most admired celebrities on Hollywood’s biggest red carpets is incredibly inspiring. He has a gift for busting through life’s roadblocks and persevering despite failure.

On the Money Girl podcast, AJ and I chatted about key lessons from his book. You’ll learn how to shift your perspective to find the beauty in life’s most challenging moments. We cover:

  • Overcoming the financial hurdles of becoming self-employed
  • Tips for reaching financial goals when you have big dreams
  • Why fear and shame may be causing you to ignore your financial situation
  • Leaning on professionals to help stay on top of your financial life
  • Tools for turning hopelessness into a positive, fresh outlook on your future
  • Using a focus wheel for daily motivation to achieve your dreams and goals

Listen to the interview using the audio player above, or check it out on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudStitcher, and Spotify

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a trusted and frequent source for the national media. Her book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show. Stay in the personal finance loop! Listen and subscribe to the Money Girl podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Join the Money Conversation
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Source: quickanddirtytips.com



Should I stay or should I go? Wrestling with the decision to quit a career

J.D.’s note: In the olden days at Get Rich Slowly, I shared reader stories every Sunday. I haven’t done that since I re-purchased the site because nobody sends them to me anymore. But earlier this year, Mike did. I love it. I hope you will too.

Earlier this year, I sent my wife a text message: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how freaked out would you be if I quit my job this afternoon?”

My wife and I had only been married a short while, but she’d known since our second date that I didn’t plan to work in my traditional job until normal retirement age. She also knew that I hadn’t been very happy at work in recent months.

We’re very compatible financially — both savers raised in working-class families that didn’t always have a lot. We make a point of having what we like to call “Fun Family Finance Day” from time to time. On Fun Family Finance Day, we do everything from competitively checking our credit scores to discussing questions that get at the root of our money mindsets to help us create our goals.

But this question wasn’t part of the plan. Not then.

And it was never on any of the lists of questions that we’d discussed with each other. It was like a pop quiz, a pothole in the smoothest relationship road I’d ever traveled…and I was the one putting it there.

Dreams Remain Dreams Without Doing

My wife and I rarely argue, but when we do it’s usually about food. It’s the kitchen and the grocery store that are our battleground. Our finances are fine. Thankfully, when you’re confident in the life you’ve created and the person you chose to build it with, it’s a lot easier to be honest about what’s on your mind.

That still doesn’t always mean you get the answer you want. Or the answer you were expecting. She responded: “Wait what. Kinda. What would you do?”

A completely reasonable and fair question. Not to mention one that I’d probably have to get comfortable answering from a lot more people.

I think my immediate reaction was: We talk about this stuff all the time, where is my, “No worries baby, YOLO!”? (I must have watched too many romcoms back before we cut cable from our lives.)

Being a grownup, it turns out, is actually really hard sometimes. I was about to learn that talking about something, and actually doing it, are a world apart.

Life is full of dreamers and doers. Sometimes those two personalities cross over. But there are plenty of people who go through life talking about so many things they’ll never have the courage to try — or the discipline and determination to follow through with.

Which person was I? The dreamer? The doer? Or that fortunate combination of both?

Standing on the Ledge

There’s a quote perched atop my bucket list of long-term goals:

“At some point, you will need to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself not just if this is something you wanted to do at one point, but if this is something you will want to have done.”

Words are meaningless without action. It was time for me to take that long look in the mirror. I thought back to one of the questions that my wife and I had previously discussed: What does money mean to you? To me, once I grew out of the “stuff accumulation” phase of my early- to mid-20s, my answer had always been freedom. Money meant freedom. To my wife, the answer was security. Money meant security.

You can probably see how freedom can conflict with security. That was the case here. Not only that, but I was asking to change the perfect plan, one that she was comfortable with and excited about.

That’s not one, but two shots against financial security. If I’d thought more about our financial blueprints and how they differ, I might have seen this coming from a mile away!

As I was standing on that ledge, about to quit my job, thoughts started to race through my mind. What did I actually have to lose if made the leap? Lots.

  • A happy relationship and marriage.
  • A secure job with solid income, not to mention a sixteen year investment in my career.
  • Great benefits, including lots of time off, health insurance, 401(k) — even a pension.
  • The ability to afford anything at any time without any real worry. (Our finances were already on autopilot.)
  • My work friends and work prestige.
  • The general day-to-day purpose of a job.
  • The opportunity to create generational wealth. If we worked until 65, the power of compounding would likely make us ridiculously wealthy.

Today at Get Rich Slowly, let’s perform a little exercise. Come stand in my shoes for a minute, won’t you? Join me on the ledge. Do you see the beautiful view? The endless opportunity? The excitement that’s felt only at the beginning of a grand adventure, an adventure where anything is possible?

Or do you get a queasy feeling in your stomach? Do you feel like you’ve lost your balance, like you’re on the edge of some great catastrophe? Do you see a frightening fall from grace? Does it make you want to back away immediately?

Let’s go back to what it felt like to make this decision…

Sitting on the ledge

My Situation

I’m 38 years old. I’ve worked for the same company since I was 22. Corporate insurance is all I know. I’m well paid. I work from home for a solid company with good benefits, plenty of time off, and I really enjoy most of the people I work for and with.

It’s the definition of stability — a solid guardrail protecting me from what lies over the ledge. So what’s the problem?

A year ago, I took a new position that seemed like a great opportunity. Only it wasn’t. The first misstep of my career. A year in, that spot has killed my enthusiasm and engagement. For the first time at work, I’m struggling to get things done.

As an extrovert that derives meaning from helping others, this feels like a prison. My job isn’t hard because it’s stressful. It’s hard because it’s boring me to death! And what are any of us doing thinking about personal finance and early retirement if we aren’t trying to make better use of our limited time on this planet?

There’s a project looming that would require some weekend work once in a while for the foreseeable future, I’ve avoided it in the past, but my luck is running out. My team — and, more importantly, my position — need to take it on. I understand completely. I just don’t want to do it.

At this point in life, my time is way more important to me than money. The weekends and vacations are what I live for. Adventures in the mountains with my friends, quality time with my wife, our dog, and our families – that’s what makes me feel alive.

Insurance? Meh.

No little kid ever said they wanted to work for an insurance company and play with spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations when they grow up. I wanted to be a baseball player, a sports writer, even a professional forklift driver. (Because what’s more badass than a forklift when you’re a little kid and your dad works at a marina?)

A Glimpse of the Other Side

My wife and I just got back from a delayed honeymoon to Alaska. To say it was incredible would be an understatement. Denali. Kenai. Majestic train rides. Fjords. Glaciers. Bears. Bald eagles. Whales. Hikes.

Life slowed down.

I somehow managed to read five books while doing so many other amazing things. During our more than two weeks off, I got to see what my mind was capable of when it wasn’t drowning in useless information and mundane tasks that consume my braindwidth.

We talked to people who had ended up in this wild place through a history of taking risks. Parents that had hitchhiked cross-country and ended up there back in the 70s. Can you imagine? Where we live, a fair number of people never leave their town or state!

Before the trip, I had tried to apply for a few positions. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work out. I came home from an amazing glimpse into what life could be to a job that seemed like the polar opposite. (Isn’t that every vacation though?) I’ve felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole for a while now. Maybe normal life just isn’t for me anymore. Maybe I need something just a little less ordinary.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I’ve been practicing the classic tenets of personal finance since I was in my mid- to late-20s. I found an awesome woman in my mid-30s who just happens to be down with this lifestyle as well. We’re probably two to three years short of where we want to be based on our master plan of a fully-paid house and a really comfortable number in invested assets.

We’d likely fall somewhere between Agency and Security on the stages of financial freedom.

I know good jobs don’t grow on trees, especially where we live. The seasons of the economy are always shifting and there’s a chill in the air. Economic winter can’t be too far off. My wife still has a solid job, and we live a pretty simple life — albeit in an expensive part of the country. Our main splurge is travel, but otherwise we live well below our means.

All of this knowledge and preparation comes with a cost. Having options can be a burden too, because then you’re responsible for making hard decisions. And you’re responsible for the outcomes of those choices.

What other options are there?

  • Be a crappy employee/teammate, and still get paid? Plenty of people have played that game. Get a surgery or two, go out on leave, let performance management run its course for however long that takes, and keep cashing checks the whole time. I don’t think I have it in me to put people I respect through that. It’s just not who I am.
  • I work from home, and I still can’t bring myself to abandon my laptop. What if someone needs me?
  • Am I giving up too soon? The finish line seems just around the corner — somehow so close yet so far away.
  • Should I just suck it up and sell a little more of my soul? Slump my shoulders a little bit more as I trade another piece of myself for money I don’t need to buy things I don’t want?

As I go back and forth, sometimes I briefly wish I’d never found the personal-finance community. Like Neo in The Matrix, why’d I have to take the damn red pill? Being a mindless consumer wasn’t so bad. I would have invested 6-10% in my 401(k) with a traditional pension on top of it.

Forty years on autopilot would have produced a comfortable life of work, nice things — and maybe some time in old age to relax and travel.

Facing Freedom

The whole point of everything I’ve done since I started this journey was to be in control of my own life. To not be owned by things or circumstances. To have options. Freedom of choice. F-U money.

I have the corporate battle scars and survivor’s guilt to understand why that’s important.

I’ve sat on the phone while I heard that my old department was closing down. The sadness and tears in the room. Everyone that had taken me in, given me my chance, taught me the job…basically gone, casualties of a business decision.

I’ve seen people get laid off who are petrified because they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills in a couple of weeks. People will be okay eventually though, right?

What about my friend who was struggling last year and left the company? He committed suicide a few months later. Maybe everyone won’t be okay eventually. Depression runs in my family. Am I really built for this? That thought is haunting.

It’s been said that one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make in life is whether to walk away or try harder. Every bone in my body tells me it’s time to walk away, to bet on myself.

The End?

About six months after the text exchange that blindsided my wife, with her support, I hit send on the scariest, most exciting and important one-line email of my professional career. It would also signify the unofficial end of it: “I will be resigning from my position effective Wednesday, June 26th.”

To combine a few lines from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, some birds just weren’t meant to be caged. It’s time to get busy living, or get busy dying.

Source: getrichslowly.org



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




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