7 Best Short-Term Bonds Funds to Buy in 2020

For investors with short-term saving goals, short-term bonds can be appropriate investments for your money.

They are stable and they certainly provide a higher return than a money market fund.

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However, even with the best short term bond funds, there’s also a risk of losing a percent or two in principal value if interest rates rise.

There are many options available to you, but your best option is to invest in taxable short-term bond funds, U.S. Treasury short-term bond funds and federally tax-free bond funds.

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What are short-term bonds?

Short-term bonds, or any bonds for that matter, are debts instruments that companies and the government issue. They typically mature in 1 to 3 years.

When you buy a bond, you are essentially lending money to the issuing company or government agency.

They are obligated  to pay back the full purchase price at a particular time, which is called the “maturity date.” 

Short-term bonds are low risk investments and you can have access to your money fairly quickly.

As with all bond funds, one of the risk of short term bond funds is that when interest rates rise, the prices of the bonds in the fund decrease.

But short term bond funds have a reduced risk of default, because the bond funds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

Moreover, because the term is short, you will earn less money on it than on an immediate-term or long term bond fund.

Nonetheless, they are still competitive and produce higher returns than money market funds, Certificate of Deposits (CDs), and banks savings accounts. And short-term bonds are more stable in value than stocks.

At a minimum, don’t buy a short-term bond fund if you’re saving for retirement or if you want to hold your money longer.

If you’re looking to invest your money for the long term and are still looking for safety, consider investing in Vanguard index funds. 

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Short-term bonds: why do you need to invest in them?

You should invest in short-bonds if you intend to use the money in a few years or so. However, don’t push your emergency cash into bonds. That is what a bank savings account is for.

Also, you should not put too much of your long term investment money into bonds, either. If you have a long term goal for your money, it’s best to invest in mutual funds such as Vanguard mutual funds, real estate, or your own business.

Here are some situations where you should invest in short term bonds.

  • You want to stabilize your investment portfolio. If you have other aggressive investments, you may need to balance it out with short term bond funds. The reason is because short term bonds are safer comparing to stocks.
  • Buying a house.
  • Retirement. If you’re thinking of retiring in a few years, short-term bonds are appropriate.
  • Purchasing a car.
  • You’re a conservative investor. Not all investors can stomach the risk of losing all of their money due to the market volatility. So instead of investing in stocks, which falls on the riskier end of the securities spectrum, you should invest in short term bond funds.

Best short-term bond funds to consider:

Most people prefer to buy bonds through a broker such as Vanguard or Fidelity.

If you’re looking for the best short-term bond funds to buy now, consider these options:

  • Vanguard Short-Term Treasury Index Fund Admiral Shares (VSBSX)
  • Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VMLTX)
  • The Fidelity Short Term Bond Fund (FSHBX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Share (VWSTX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX)
  • T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund (PRWBX)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (VBIRX)

Tax free short-term bonds

There are some short-term bond funds that are both state and federally tax free. But there are not too many out there.

However, the ones that are available are good investments. So, if you are in a low state bracket and in a high federal bracket, consider investing in these Vanguard bond funds.These are federally tax free bond funds:

Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VMLTX)

This Vanguard bond fund seeks to provide investors current income exempt from federal taxes. The fund invests in high-quality short-term municipal bonds.

This bond fund has a maturity of 2 years. So, if you are looking for a fund that provides modest income and is federal tax-exempt, the Vanguard Limited-Term Tax Exempt Fund is for you.

The fund has an expense ratio of 0.17% and a minimum investment of $3,000. This makes it one of the best short term bonds to buy.

Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Share (VWSTX)

Like the Vanguard Limited Short Term fund, this fund also provides investors with current income that is exempt from federal income taxes.

The majority of the fund invests in municipal bonds in the top three credit ratings categories. It also invests in medium grade quality bonds.

This fund too has an expense ratio of 0.17% and a minimum investment of $3,000, making it one of the best short term bond funds.

U.S Treasury Short-term Bond Funds: Vanguard Short-Term Treasury

If you’re interested in a bond fund that invests in U.S. Treasuries, then U.S.Treasury bond funds are a great choice for you. One of the best U.S.Treasury bond funds is the Vanguard Short-Term Treasury.

This bond fund seeks to track the performance of the Bloomberg Barclays US Treasury 1-3 Year Bond Index. The Vanguard Short-Term Treasury invests in fixed income securities with a maturity between 1 to 3 years.

This bond fund has an expense ratio of 0.07% and an initial minimum investment of $3,000. Currently, this short term bond fund has a 1-year yield of 4.51%, making it one of the best short term bond funds.

Of note, this fund is also available as an ETF, starting at the price of one share.

The Fidelity Short-Term Bond Fund (FSHBX)

The Fidelity Short Term Bond Fund is one of the best out there for those investors who want to preserve their capital. This fund was established in March of 1986 and seeks to provides investors with current income.

The fund managers invests in corporate bonds, U.S. Treasury bonds, and assets backed securities. Over the last 10 years, this bond fund has a yield of 1.98% and a 30-day yield of 1.98%. This Fidelity bond fund as an expense ratio of 0.45%. There is no minimum investment requirement.

Taxable short-term bond funds: Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX)

If you are not in a high tax bracket, then you should consider investing in a taxable short term bond fund. One of the best out there is the Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund.

This bond fund provides investors exposure to high and medium quality investment grade bonds, such as corporate bonds and US government bonds. This fund has an expense ratio of 0.20% and an initial minimum investment of $3,000, making it one of the best short term bond funds out there. 

T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund (PRWBX)

The T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund invests in diversified portfolio of short term investment-grade corporate, government, asset and mortgage-backed securities. This bond fund also invests in some bank mortgages and foreign securities. This fund produce a higher return than a money market fund, but less return than a long-term bond fund. The T. Rowe Price Short-Term Bond Fund has a minimum investment requirement of $2500, making it one the most favorite short term bond funds out there.

Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (VBIRX)

The Vanguard Short-Term bond is a good choice for the conservative investor. It offers a low cost, diversified exposure to U.S. investment-grade bonds. This has fund has a maturity date between 1 to 5 years. Moreover, the fund invests about 70% in US government bonds and 30% in corporate bonds. The bond fund as an expense ratio of 0.07% and a minimum investment requirement of $3,000.

How to Invest in Short-Term Bonds

If you’re considering in investing in these or any of Vanguard bond funds, you need to do your due diligence.

First, think about what you need the bond fund in the first place. Is it to diversify your investment portfolio?

Are you a conservative investor who need a minimize risk at all cost? Or, do you want to invest in a short term bond fund because you need the money to use in a few years for a vacation, buying a house, or planning for a wedding?

Once, you have come up with answers to this question, the next step is to do your research about the best bond fund available to you.

Use this list to start. If it’s not enough, do your own research.

Look into how much the initial minimum investment is to buy a bond fund. Most Vanguard short term bond funds require a $3,000 minimum deposit.

Some Fidelity bond funds, however, have a 0$ minimum deposit requirement.

Next compare expense rations, performance for different funds to see if they match your investment goals. But you have to remember that past performance is not an indication of future performance.

Your final step is to open an account to buy your bond funds. If you choose Vanguard, you can do so at their website.

How do you make money with short-term bonds?

You can make money with short-term bonds the same ways you make money with a mutual fund (i.e., dividends, capital gains, and appreciation). But most of your returns in a bond fund comes from dividends.

The bottom line

In brief, short-term bonds are great investment choices if you have short term saving goals. You may be interested in buying these bonds because you expect to tap into your investment within a few years or so. Or, you want a more conservative investment portfolio.

Short term bonds produce higher yields than money market funds.

The only problem is that the share prices can fluctuate. So, if you don’t mind market volatility, you may wish to consider short-term bonds.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond short-term bonds, 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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5 Best Hedges in the Face of Inflation

Inflation measures how much an economy rises over time, comparing the average price of a basket of goods from one point in time to another. Understanding inflation is an important element of investing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator shows that $5.00 in September 2000 has the purchasing power equal to $7.49 in September 2020. To continue to afford necessities, your income must pace or rise above the rate of inflation. If your income didn’t rise along with inflation, you couldn’t afford that same pizza in September 2020 — even if your income never changed.

Inflation represents a real risk for investors as it could erode the principal value of your investment.

For investors, inflation represents a real problem. If your investment isn’t growing faster than inflation you could technically end up losing money instead of growing your wealth. That’s why many investors look for stable and secure places to invest their wealth. Ideally, in investment vehicles that guarantee a return that’ll outpace inflation. 

These investments are commonly known as “inflation hedges”. 

5 Top Inflations Hedges to Know

Depending on your risk tolerance, you probably wouldn’t want to keep all of your wealth in inflation hedges. Although they might be secure, they also tend to earn minimal returns. You’ll unlikely get rich from these assets, but it’s also unlikely you’ll lose money. 

Many investors turn to these secure investments when they notice an inflationary environment is gaining momentum. Here’s what you should know about the most common inflation hedges.

1. Gold

Some say gold is over-hyped, because not only does it not pay interest or dividends, but it also does poorly when the economy is doing well. Central banks, who own most of the world’s gold, can also deflate its price by selling some of its stockpile. Gold’s popularity might be partially linked to the “gold standard”, which is the way countries used to value its currency. The U.S. hasn’t used the gold standard since 1933.

Still, gold’s stability in a crisis could be good for investors who need to diversify their assets or for someone who’s very risk-averse. 

If you want to buy physical gold, you can get gold bars or coins — but these can be risky to store and cumbersome to sell. It can also be hard to determine their value if they have a commemorative or artistic design or are gold-plated. Another option is to buy gold stocks or mutual funds. 

Is gold right for you? You’ll need to determine how much risk you’re willing to tolerate with your investments since gold offers a low risk but also a low reward. 

Pros

  • Physical asset: Gold is a physical asset in limited supply so it tends to hold its value. 
  • Low correlation: Creating a diversified portfolio means investing in asset classes that don’t move together. Gold has a relatively low correlation to many popular asset classes, helping you potentially hedge your risk.
  • Performs well in recessions: Since many investors see gold as a hedge against uncertainty, it is often in high demand during a recession.

Cons

  • No dividends: Gold doesn’t pay any dividends; the only way to make money on gold is to sell it. 
  • Speculative: Gold creates no value on its own. It’s not a business that builds products or employs workers, thereby growing the economy. Its price is merely driven by supply and demand.
  • Not good during low inflation: Since gold doesn’t have a huge upside, during periods of low inflation investors generally prefer taking larger risks and will thereby sell gold, driving down its price.

2. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Buying real estate can be messy — it takes a long time, there are many extra fees, and at the end of the process, you have a property you need to manage. Buying REITs, however, is simple.

REITs provide a hedge for investors who need to diversify their portfolio and want to do so by getting into real estate. They’re listed on major stock exchanges and you can buy shares in them like you would any other stock.

If you’re considering a REIT as an inflation hedge you’ll want to start your investment process by researching which REITs you’re interested in. There are REITs in many industries such as health care, mortgage or retail. 

Choose an industry that you feel most comfortable with, then assess the specific REITs in that industry. Look at their balance sheets and review how much debt they have. Since REITs must give 90% of their income to shareholders they often use debt to finance their growth. A REIT that carries a lot of debt is a red flag.

Pros

  • No corporate tax: No matter how profitable they become, REITs pay zero corporate tax.
  • High dividends: REITs must disperse at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders, most pay out 100%.
  • Diversified class: REITs give you a way to invest in real estate and diversify your assets if you’re primarily invested in equities.

Cons

  • Sensitive to interest rate: REITs can react strongly to interest rate increases.
  • Large tax consequences: The government treats REITs as ordinary income, so you won’t receive the reduced tax rate that the government uses to assess other dividends.
  • Based on property values: The value of your shares in a REIT will fall if property values decline.

3. Aggregate Bond Index

A bond is an investment security — basically an agreement that an investor will lend money for a specified time period. You earn a return when the entity to whom you loaned money pays you back, with interest. A bond index fund invests in a portfolio of bonds that hope to perform similarly to an identified index. Bonds are typically considered to be safe investments, but the bond market can be complicated.

If you’re just getting started with investing, or if you don’t have time to research the bond market, an aggregate bond index can be helpful because it has diversification built into its premise. 

Of course, with an aggregate bond index you run the risk that the value of your investment will decrease as interest rates increase. This is a common risk if you’re investing in bonds — as the interest rate rises, older issued bonds can’t compete with new bonds that earn a higher return for their investors. 

Be sure to weigh the credit risk to see how likely it is that the bond index will be downgraded. You can determine this by reviewing its credit rating. 

Pros

  • Diversification: You can invest in several bond types with varying durations, all within the same fund.
  • Good for passive investment: Bond index funds require less active management to maintain, simplifying the process of investing in bonds.
  • Consistency: Bond indexes pay a return that’s consistent with the market. You’re not going to win big, but you probably won’t lose big either.

Cons

  • Sensitive to interest rate fluctuations: Bond index funds invested in government securities (a common investment) are particularly sensitive to changes to the federal interest rate.
  • Low reward: Bond index funds are typically stable investments, but will likely generate smaller returns over time than a riskier investment.

4. 60/40 Portfolio

Financial advisors used to highly recommend a 60/40 stock-bond mix to create a diversified investment portfolio that hedged against inflation. However, in recent years that advice has come under scrutiny and many leading financial experts no longer recommend this approach. 

Instead, investors recommend even more diversification and what’s called an “environmentally balanced” portfolio which offers more consistency and does better in down markets. If you’re considering a 60/40 mix, do your research to compare how this performs against an environmentally balanced approach over time before making your final decision.

Pros

  • Simple rule of thumb: Learning how to diversify your portfolio can be hard, the 60/40 method simplifies the process.
  • Low risk: The bond portion of the diversified portfolio serves to mitigate the risk and hedge against inflation.
  • Low cost: You likely don’t have to pay an advisor to help you build a 60/40 portfolio, which can eliminate some of the cost associated with investing.

Cons

  • Not enough diversification: Financial managers are now suggesting even greater diversification with additional asset classes, beyond stocks and bonds.
  • Not a high enough return: New monetary policies and the growth of digital technology are just a few of the reasons why the 60/40 mix doesn’t perform in current times the same way it did during the peak of its popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.

5. Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS)

Since TIPS are indexed for inflation they’re one of the most reliable ways to guard yourself against high inflation. Also, every six months they pay interest, which could provide you with a small return. 

You can buy TIPS from the Treasury Direct system in maturities of five, 10 or 30 years. Keep in mind that there’s always the risk of deflation when it comes to TIPS. You’re always guaranteed a minimum of your original principal at maturity, but inflation could impact your interest earnings.

Pros

  • Low risk: Treasury bonds are backed by the federal government. 
  • Indexed for inflation: TIPS will automatically increase its principle to compensate for inflation. You’ll never receive less than your principal at maturity.
  • Interest payments keep pace with inflation: The interest rate is determined based on the inflation-adjusted principal. 

Cons

  • Low rate of return: The interest rate is typically very low, other secure investments that don’t adjust for inflation could be higher. 
  • Most desirable in times of high inflation: Since the rate of return for TIPS is so low, the only way to get a lot of value from this investment is to hold it during a time when inflation increases and you need protection. If inflation doesn’t increase, there could be a significant opportunity cost.

The Bottom Line 

Inflation represents a real risk for investors as it could erode the principal value of your investment. Make sure your investments are keeping pace with inflation, at a minimum. 

Inflation hedges can protect some of your assets from inflation. Although you don’t always have to put your money in inflation hedges, they can be helpful if you notice the market is heading into an inflationary period. 

The post 5 Best Hedges in the Face of Inflation appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Life Insurance Over 50

For individuals who are young and in good health, shopping for life insurance is often easy and stress-free. Most of the time, young people only need to decide how much coverage they want and apply for a free quote online. Some companies that market term life insurance coverage even let qualified applicants start their policies without a medical exam.

Once you have reached the age of 50, however, your options for life insurance may not be quite so robust. You may have to buy a lower amount of coverage in order to secure a monthly premium you can afford, and it’s more likely you’ll need to undergo a medical exam and face increased scrutiny over your life insurance application.

Fortunately, you can get life insurance in your 50’s and even in your 60’s. You’ll just need to adjust your expectations, and you should be willing to shop around to ensure you’re getting the most coverage for a price you can afford.

Unique Challenges for Individuals Over 50 Buying Life Insurance

As you start shopping for a life insurance policy, you’ll probably notice a few factors that are working against you. These factors aren’t your fault, but they still affect your ability to qualify for life insurance coverage or affordable monthly premiums.

  • Your Age: Where life insurance can be downright cheap when you’re young and healthy, policies only get more expensive as you age. Once you’ve surpassed the age of 50, the price you’ll pay for a meaningful amount of coverage can easily balloon. This is why it’s more important than ever to spend time shopping around and comparing life insurance quotes.
  • Your Health: The older you are, the more likely you will have acquired a chronic health condition that can make getting life insurance coverage a challenge. You’ll need to answer health questions when you apply for a life insurance policy, and the answers you provide could set off alarm bells with the life insurance provider or bar you from purchasing a policy at all.
  • Policy Length: Another issue when you’re older is the term of coverage you can qualify for and purchase. A 30-year term policy will likely be fairly expensive if you’re already 55, for example, whereas a 10-year term policy that only provides a decade of coverage will likely be more affordable. Many older individuals opt to buy permanent coverage that lasts a lifetime, yet permanent coverage like whole life or universal life can also be incredibly expensive.

How and Where to Find a Life Insurance Policy if You’re Over the Age of 50

Regardless of the challenges you’ll face while buying life insurance over the age of 50, you can still purchase this important coverage. With that being said, you’ll never know which insurance company is best unless you compare the best life insurance companies, such as Banner Life Rates.

When working with only one insurer, you are locked into just that insurance company’s underwriting requirements — as well as that insurer’s prices. And, while it may sound strange, not all life insurance coverage is underwritten or priced identically.

For example, an applicant who applies to one insurance company may be accepted as a “standard” policyholder and charged an average premium rate, while he or she may be accepted only as a “substandard” policyholder at another carrier and charged a higher rate of premium — even though they submitted the same answers to the questions on the application for coverage.

This is why it is essential to work with an expert in the insurance field that can submit your information to numerous insurance carriers. Just like when shopping for any other important item, it’s always best to compare prior to making your final determination.

This is where we come in. When shopping for insurance, we can help you compare dozens of plans and companies in a matter of minutes. This way, you can compare pricing and coverage amounts without having to apply with each individual insurer.

Regardless of your age or health, it’s important that you get the insurance coverage that your family will need. You can start comparing quotes from the best life insurance companies by clicking your state below.

No matter where exactly you are in your 50’s, we can definitely get a policy that meets your needs. We know that planning for your death is not a fun task, but it’s one of the most important things that you can do. You don’t want to leave your family struggling to cover your final expenses at a time when they should be grieving and celebrating your life.

Do People Over the Age of 50 Still Need Life Insurance?

You may be wondering if people still need life insurance coverage once they’re in their 50’s. After all, life insurance coverage is geared to people who need income replacement during their working years, as well as those with children and other dependents at home. By the age of 50, you should be winding down your working years, and it’s possible your kids have moved out to begin their adult lives. Why would you need life insurance at this point?

The thing is, consumers can easily need life insurance at any age, and this includes those who are over 50. Although your children may be grown and are no longer depending on your income for their living expenses and needs, there are numerous other reasons for having — or for keeping — this essential financial protection.

Some of the most important reasons can include:

  • Burial Insurance: Regardless of your age, you’ll eventually need burial insurance to cover your final expenses. Today, the average cost of a funeral can easily exceed $10,000 when factoring in items such as the funeral service, burial plot, headstone, transportation, flowers, and a casket or urn. If there are final medical and hospice costs incurred, this could add significantly to the total.
  • Estate Taxes: Estate taxes are another potential area of concern for those who are over age 50. For those who are faced with having to pay estate tax upon death, this liability can erode up to 50% or more of a decedent’s assets. If there is no plan in place, such as life insurance proceeds, for paying these taxes, survivors could end up selling off other assets such as retirement investments or even precious family heirlooms in order to come up with the money. And unfortunately, when such assets are sold in this manner, they are often done so at far below market value.
  • Pension or Retirement Income Replacement: When a retiree dies, their pension may not continue on for their spouse. Buying a life insurance policy can ensure your spouse has some income to keep up with living expenses and enjoy life once you’re gone.
  • Business Succession: Life insurance can help business owners who are over age 50 to use as a business succession tool. Proceeds from a life insurance policy could be used to keep a company running while a replacement owner or partner is located, or while a suitable buyer for the business is found.

These are just a few of the reasons individuals over the age of 50 may want to purchase life insurance, but there are plenty of others. Just keep in mind that, no matter what age you are, it’s only natural to want to leave something behind. A life insurance policy can help you do exactly that, which is why consumers in nearly every age group purchase this important protection each year.

Which Type of Life Insurance is Best if You’re Over the Age of 50?

When shopping for a life insurance policy at any age, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the options you’ll find online. Before you commit to shopping for life insurance policies, you should know and understand how each type of coverage works.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is sold for a certain length of time or a “term,” which means that the policy will cover you for only a certain period before it expires. Most term policies are sold for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, or 30 years. With a term life insurance policy, you are purchasing basic “no frills” coverage. This means that you are obtaining pure death benefit coverage without any cash value or savings component.

Even though the coverage on a cheap term life insurance policy runs out after a given period, these policies can be beneficial in certain situations. For example, term policies are often considered for “temporary” needs such as providing protection during the length of a 15- or a 30-year mortgage balance. In other words, if an individual wanted to make sure that the balance of their home mortgage was paid off for his or her survivors in the event of death, they could purchase a term life policy for the same length of time in which they will have a remaining mortgage balance.

If a term life insurance policyholder wishes to continue their coverage upon the policy’s expiration, they will need to reapply at their current age and health condition. This will typically mean that the premium amount for the new coverage will be higher, and that’s true even if the face amount of the policy remains the same. For many people, this is no problem because the premiums on term policies are much lower than the alternative options.

Related: How Much Does a Million Dollar Term Life Insurance Policy Cost?

Permanent Life Insurance

If you don’t like the idea of your life insurance expiring, then go with a whole life insurance plan. Permanent life insurance plans never expire, but they are more expensive.

The money that accrues in a permanent life insurance policy’s cash value component can typically be borrowed or withdrawn by the policyholder for any need that he or she sees fit. This can provide the policyholder with additional funds for the down payment on a home, the purchase of a car, debt repayment, or even for supplemental retirement income in the future.

Although the premiums for permanent life insurance can be more expensive than premiums for a term policy, the amount of the premium on a permanent policy will typically be locked in for life. This means that the policyholder will not need to worry about his or her premiums increasing in the future — even if they get sick or wind up with a chronic health condition.

In addition to all of the other uses of life insurance for those who are over age 50, a permanent life insurance policy can also be used for the simple purpose of supplementing one’s savings.

For example, a whole life insurance policy can help you to build up cash on a tax-deferred basis that can be drawn upon in the future in a number of different ways. Unlike money that is invested in the unpredictable stock market, funds that are inside of the cash value of a whole life insurance are provided with a guaranteed rate of growth. In addition, because of their tax-deferred nature, funds are allowed to compound over time with no tax due on the gain until the time they are withdrawn in the future.

This can provide not just safety, but also peace of mind in knowing that the principal is protected regardless of what is happening in the market, as well as in the economy overall. In addition, the death benefit on these life insurance plans is also tax-free to the named beneficiary (or beneficiaries). This means the money can be used by survivors for their financial needs, and all without having to hand over a portion of it to Uncle Sam.

While whole life is the most popular type of permanent life insurance coverage, you can also look into universal life insurance, variable life insurance, or even variable universal life. These niche policies tend to work better for consumers who have a specific financial goal, but they could work well for your needs depending on your situation.

Life Insurance with No Medical Exam

Many who have severe health issues may have to look into the option of no medical exam life insurance. This is often the only option for those who have been declined for life insurance in the past.

Each time an individual applies for life insurance coverage, the underlying insurer is essentially taking a risk on whether or not it will be required to pay out a claim. If the insurance carrier feels that the risk is too great, it will either charge the insured a higher rate of premium or it will deny the applicant for coverage altogether.

The good news is that people over 50 in the market for life insurance still have plenty of options — you just need to know where to look. You may assume that you won’t be able to get affordable coverage, but that’s why we suggest that you look into a no medical exam plan from Haven Life to get your life insurance protection.

A healthy man who is 50-years-old can pay as little as less than $15 a month for $100,000 in term life insurance coverage, whereas a healthy 59-year-old can pay as little as $27 a month for the same policy. Even at the age of 59, a $400,000 policy can cost less than $100 a month. Note that these are non-smoker rates for a 10-year term policy.

If you have health conditions like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes while looking for life insurance, you can expect increased rates. Smoking will also increase the rates for life insurance for individuals who are ages 50 to 59.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, you’ll never know how much you might need to pay for life insurance unless you shop around. And really, that’s the main piece of advice I hope to impart on individuals ages 50 and older.

Purchasing life insurance coverage can be more challenging when you’re over the age

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Source: goodfinancialcents.com

What Is Gap Insurance, and What Does It Cover?

Woman about to drive off in a carWhen purchasing or leasing a new car, you have several insurance coverage options. When selecting coverage, you will likely know if you want to have collision coverage or not, but will you know what gap insurance and whether to select that option? If you are driving your owned vehicle or a leased one, and it is totaled, your collision coverage insurance will cover your vehicle’s cash value. The coverage will help you to purchase a another car. However, what if you owe more on your car than it’s worth? That is where gap insurance comes in. Here’s what you need to know about this type of coverage.

What is Gap Insurance?

Gap insurance protects you from not having enough money to pay off your car loan or lease if its value has depreciated, and you owe more on your car than it is worth. It is optional insurance coverage and is used in addition to collision or comprehensive coverage. It helps you pay off an auto loan if a car has been totaled or stolen, and you owe more than its worth. Gap insurance might also be known as loan or lease gap coverage, and it is only available if you are the first owner or leaseholder on a new vehicle.

Some lenders require individuals to have gap insurance. In addition to collision and comprehensive coverage, gap insurance helps prevent owners and leasers from owing money on a car that no longer exists and protects lenders from not getting paid by a person in financial distress.

How Gap Insurance Works

Car crushed by a fallen tree

If you buy or lease a new car, you may owe more on the vehicle than it is worth because of depreciation. For example, let’s say you purchase a new car for $35,000. However, a year later, the car has depreciated and is only worth $25,000, and you owe $30,000 on it. Then, you total the car. Comprehensive insurance coverage would give you $25,000, but you would still owe $5,000 on the vehicle. Gap insurance would cover the $5,000 still owed.

Without gap insurance, you would have had to pay $5,000 out-of-pocket to settle the auto loan. With gap insurance, you did not have to pay anything out of pocket and were likely to purchase a new car with financing.

What Gap Insurance Covers

Gap insurance covers several things and is meant to complement collision or comprehensive insurance. Gap insurance covers:

  • Theft. If a car is stolen and unrecovered, gap insurance may cover theft.
  • Negative equity. If there is a gap between a car’s value and the amount a person owes, gap insurance will cover the difference if a car is totaled.

Gap insurance also covers leased cars. When you drive a new, leased car off the lot, it depreciates. Therefore, the amount you owe on the lease is always more than the car is worth. If you total a leased car, you’re responsible for the fair market value of the vehicle. If you lease, you can purchase gap coverage part way through your lease term, although many dealerships require both comprehensive and collision coverage and strongly recommend gap coverage.

What Gap Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Gap insurance is designed to be complementary, which means that it does not cover everything. Gap insurance does not cover:

  • Repairs. If a car needs repairs, gap insurance will not cover them.
  • Carry-over balance. If a person had a balance on a previous car loan rolled into a new car loan, gap insurance would not cover the rolled-over portion.
  • Rental cars. If a totaled car is in the shop, gap insurance will not cover a rental car’s cost.
  • Extended warranties. If a person chose to add an extended warranty to an auto loan, gap insurance would not cover any extended warranty payments.
  • Deductibles. If someone leases a car, their insurance deductibles are not usually covered by gap insurance. Some policies have a deductible option, so it is wise to check with a provider before signing a gap insurance policy.

Reasons to Consider Gap Insurance

There are several situations you should consider gap insurance. The first is if you made less than a 20% down payment on a vehicle. If you make less than a 20% down payment, it is likely that you do not have cash reserves to cover them in case of an emergency and that they will be “upside down” on the car payments.

Additionally, if an auto loan term is 60 months or longer, a person should consider gap insurance to ensure that he or she is not stuck with car payments if the vehicle is totaled.

Finally, if you’re leasing a car, you should consider gap insurance. Although many contracts require it, the vehicle costs more than it’s worth in almost every situation when you lease.

Is a Gap Insurance Worth It?

Gap insurance keeps the amount that a person owes after buying a car from increasing in case of an emergency. Therefore, if someone does not have debt on his car, there’s no need for gap insurance. Additionally, if a person owes less on his car than it is worth, there’s also no need for gap insurance. Finally, if a person does owe more on a vehicle than it is worth, he may still choose to put the money that would be spent on gap insurance every month toward the principal of his auto loan.

If a person owes more on his car than it is worth and would be financially debilitated by having to pay the remainder of his car payments if his vehicle was totaled or stolen, then gap insurance might be a saving grace.

If the extra cost of gap insurance strains your budget then consider ways to keep your vehicle insurance costs down without skipping gap insurance.

The Takeaway

"ARE YOU COVERED" written on a highway

Gap insurance covers the amount that a person would still owe on a vehicle after it is stolen or totaled, and after comprehensive insurance pays out. It prevents people from continuing to owe on a car that no longer exists. While it doesn’t make sense for everyone to purchase gap insurance, it is often smart for people who have expensive vehicles that are worth far more than a person owes. It is also something to consider when you are leasing a vehicle.

Tips for Reducing Insurance Costs

  • If you need a little additional help weighing your insurance options, you might want to consider working with an expert. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs can be simple. SmartAsset’s free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to learn about local advisors to help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • You may want to consider all the insurance options available that are suitable for your unique situation. By doing so, you save money. A free comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is best.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ljubaphoto, ©iStock.com/Kileman, ©iStock.com/gustavofrazao

The post What Is Gap Insurance, and What Does It Cover? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

How Much Should You Spend on Rent?

One of the most exciting parts of becoming an adult is moving out of your old place and starting your own life. However, as is the case with most major life events, moving out comes with a lot of added responsibility. Part of this duty is knowing and understanding your budget when shopping for the perfect apartment, condo, duplex, or rental house. So how much should you really spend on rent?

The 30 Percent Threshold

The first step in deciding how much you should spend on rent is calculating how much rent you can afford. This is done by finding your fixed income-to-rent ratio. Simply put, this is the percentage of your income that is budgeted towards rent.

As a general rule of thumb, allocating 30 percent of your net income towards rent is a good place to start. Government studies consider people who spend more than 30 percent on living expenses to be “cost-burdened,” and those who spend 50 percent or more to be “severely cost-burdened.”

When calculating your income-to-rent ratio, keep in mind that you should be using your total household income. If you live with a roommate or partner, be sure to factor in their income as well to ensure you’re finding a rent range that’s appropriate for your income level.

If you’re still unsure as to how much rent you can afford, consider an affordability calculator. Remember to consult a financial advisor before entering into a lease if you’re unsure if you’ll be able to make rent.

Consider the 50/30/20 Rule

Consider the 50:30:20 Rule

After you’ve set a fixed income-to-rent ratio, consider the 50/20/30 rule to round out your budget. This rule suggests that 50 percent of your income goes to essentials, 20 percent goes to savings, and the remaining 30 percent goes to non-essential, personal expenses. In this case, rent falls under “essentials.” Also included in this category are any expenses that are absolutely necessary, such as utilities, food, and transportation.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation in which you make $4,000 per month. Under the 50/20/30 rule with a fixed income-to-rent ratio of 30 percent, you have $2,000 (50 percent) per month to spend on essential living expenses. $1,200 (30 percent) goes to rent, leaving you with $800 per month for other necessary expenses such as utilities and food.

Remember to Budget for Additional Expenses

Now that you’ve budgeted for rent and essential utilities, it’s time to make a plan for how you’re going to furnish your apartment. One of the biggest shocks of moving out on your own is how expensive filling a home can be. From kitchen utensils to lightbulbs and everything in between, it can be pricey to make your space perfect.

For the most part, furniture falls under the 30 percent of personal, non-essential expenses. Consider planning ahead before a move and saving for home goods so that you don’t go into major debt when it comes time to move out.

Be on the Lookout for Savings

If your budget is slightly out of reach for your dream apartment, try to nix unnecessary costs to see if you can make it work. Look for ways to cut down on utilities, insurance, groceries, and rent.

Utilities: Water, heat, and electricity are all necessities, but your TV service isn’t. Cut the cord on TV and mobile services that may not serve you and your budget anymore. Consider swapping out your light bulbs for eco-friendly and energy-efficient light bulbs to cut down your electric bill.

Insurance: Instead of paying monthly renters insurance rates, save a fraction of the cost by paying your yearly cost in full. If you have a roommate, ask to share a policy together at a premium rate.

Groceries: Swap your nights out for a homemade meal. You can save up to $832 a year with this simple habit change. When grocery shopping, add up costs as you shop to ensure your budget stays on track.

Rent: One of the best ways to save on rent is to split the bill. Consider getting roommates to save 50 percent or more on your monthly rent.

A lease is not something to be entered into lightly. Biting off more rent than you can chew can lead to unpaid rent, which can damage your credit score and make it harder to find an apartment or buy a home in the future. By implementing these best practices, you’ll hopefully find a balance between finding a place you love and still having room in your budget for a little bit of fun.

Sources: US Census Bureau

The post How Much Should You Spend on Rent? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Is LendingTree Legit, Safe or Scams?

If you’re asking yourself whether LendingTree is legit, you have every right to do so. After all, you’re about to take on a big financial obligation (whether it is a mortgage loan or a personal loan).

Your objective is to save money, so you want to find a lender with the best mortgage rate. But if you aren’t familiar with LendingTree, how do you know if it’s legit?

There are resources available to check, such as reading LendingTree reviews, to make sure if they are trustworthy.

When you’re looking for a mortgage lender you can trust, LendingTree is the right place for you. Just enter your information and get multiple free and free mortgage rates within minutes.

What is LendingTree?

Before answering the question of “is LendingTree Legit?,” you need to have an understanding of what LendingTree is.

Launched in 1998, LendingTree has built a reputation by matching borrowers to lenders. (For more information about the company, visit its website.

Instead of filling out several applications and talk to several lenders, with LendingTree you can shop around for the best mortgage loans on one website. It’s an all-in-one platform.

It just connects you with multiple lenders all at one time so you can compare and choose the best mortgage rates.

So in case you were wondering if LendingTree is a legitimate and trustworthy company, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

LendingTree is legit.

Related: LendingTree Review: Get a Loan in 10 minutes

Five Ways You Know LendingTree is a Legit and Trustworthy Company.

1. Read LendingTree reviews by their customers to see if it’s legit.

Part of your search “is LendingTree legit” should include reading customer reviews about their experiences with the company. Performing a simple Google search for “LendingTree Reviews,” then you will find a lot sites like consumeraffairs.com or trustpilot.com.

These reviews can help you determine if LendingTree is indeed legit. These reviews can give you the inside story on everything about LendingTree from customer service to interest rates.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that happy customers are less likely to submit a review than unhappy ones.

So read these reviews with an open mind. Indeed, it’s important to look for reviews that are based on facts rather than opinions.

For example, a review that says “I like the lenders provided by LendingTree because their rates are low” is based on facts. A review that says “their service sucks” is based on opinion.

Shop and Compare Loan Offers in Rates in Minutes

2. Check LendingTree’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating.

Another way to know for sure if LendingTree is legit is to check its BBB rating. The BBB assigns business ratings from A+ to F.

A search for LendingTree’s BBB rating shows that not only it is an accredited company, but also has an A+ BBB rating. A BBB rating of A+ is the highest rating you can get. So if LendingTree has an A+ rating, you know it’s legit.

One thing to keep in mind is that BBB ratings and customer reviews can differ significantly. While a company like LendingTree may have negative reviews from customers (every company does), their BBB rating might be an A+.

3. Check LendingTree’s website.

Another way to know if LendingTree is legit is to thoroughly review its website. A company may seem genuine, but there are a few things that can throw up a red flag. Things to look for to see if LendingTree is a legit are:

  • How long have they been in business. According to both its website and the BBB website, LendingTree has been in business for 23 years.
  • Does it offer customer service? If there is no contact support, no address, no phone number to reach the company, this may be a red flag that the company is not legitimate. Fortunately, LendingTree’s homepage is full with that information. So there is no need to worry on that point.
  • See if LendingTree has a policy page: A legit company will have terms of use and conditions pages such as privacy policy pages. Again LendingTree does have this information, which can lead you to conclude it is legit.

Compare mortgage rates with LendingTree

4. Talk to family and friends about their experience with LendingTree.

Just like reading consumer reviews about LendingTree, friends, family members, colleagues are a great source to determine if LendingTree is legit. Ask them if their experience was satisfactory or not.

5. Visit a local office or a main office.

If you’re still not convincing that LendingTree is legit, visit a local office or their main office. Their main office is located at 11115 Rushmore Dr., Charlotte, NC 28277.

In conclusion, LendingTree is legit. But if you want to do your own research to determine if they are legitimate and trustworthy, do the following: check LendingTree’s reviews, their BBB rating, their website, and ask colleagues and friends about their experience with the platform.

All of these should lead you to believe that LendingTree is in fact a legit company.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Today

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you save 100k (whether you need it to pay off debt, to invest, to buy a house, or plan 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.

The post Is LendingTree Legit, Safe or Scams? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Student Loan Administrative Forbearance Extends Until October

If you have federally held student loans, you’re getting a break on making payments — again.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Education Department to extend its freeze on interest rates and payments for federally held student loans through Sept. 30, 2021.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Student Loan Administrative Forbearance?

The pause on payments and interest accrual is an extension of the administrative forbearance that originated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — aka the CARES Act — passed in March 2020 to address economic issues due to COVID-19.

Directed by emergency legislation designed, the Department of Education announced that all federally held student loans would be placed in administrative forbearance through Sept. 30, 2020. Interest rates were automatically set to 0% and all payments were suspended.

Then-President Donald Trump later signed an executive order to extend the administrative forbearance period until December 31, 2020, and the Secretary of Education extended those measures until Jan. 31, 2021.

Biden directed the extension yesterday amid a flurry of executive orders he signed on his first day in office.

What Loans Does This Legislation Cover?

The interest waiver covers all loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education, which includes Direct Loans, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, Parent and Graduate Plus loans and consolidation loans.

If you happen to have Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins loans held by the federal government, they’re covered, too. But the vast majority of those loans are commercially held, which makes them ineligible for the benefit.

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What Does This Legislation Mean for My Student Loans?

There are four things to know about how administrative forbearance affects student loans through Sept. 30, 2021:

  • It suspends loan payments.
  • It stops collections on defaulted loans.
  • It sets the interest rates to 0%.
  • Each month of the suspension will count as a payment for the purpose of a loan forgiveness program.

Note that the suspension does not mean that the federal government is making your student loan payments for you — you’ll just be free of making loan payments for eight months without accruing interest or incurring late fees during that period.

Biden did not, despite some hopes, forgive thousands of dollars in student loans in his initial executive orders. That request will need to go through Congress and faces opposition — which means if student loan balances are wiped out permanently, it won’t be for a while.

Here are five ways to know if you can benefit from the forbearance period.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

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

What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home

If you’ve been keeping your eye on real estate home listings, you might’ve seen more foreclosed properties for sale at a reduced price. 

With record levels of unemployment and underemployment, many homeowners are falling further behind on their mortgages. Currently, there’s a federal moratorium on the most common mortgage programs through December 31, 2020. Unless further homeowner protections are in place, the foreclosure market will see an unfortunate rise.

In fact, according to mortgage and real estate analytics company Black Knight, 2.3 million homeowners are already seriously past-due on their mortgages. 

As devastating as it is to have more homes undergoing foreclosure, it also means that prospective home buyers, who were otherwise priced out of buying a home, might have greater access to homeownership. Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about buying a foreclosed home.

Buying a Foreclosed Home 

There are many ways you can buy a foreclosed home, depending on what stage of the process the foreclosure is in:

  • Pre-foreclosure. Many homeowners are willing to sell before they’ve officially been foreclosed on. Depending on how much equity they have, they might need to do a short sale. 
  • Short sale. Homeowners can seek approval from their lenders to sell you the home for less than they owe on the mortgage. The bank will get less than it’s owed, but it still often approves short sales since they usually cost less than a foreclosure. 
  • Auction. Once a home is foreclosed it’ll often be auctioned off by the bank. But you’ll need cash on hand for this, and that’s not an option for most folks who need mortgage financing. 
  • Real-estate owned (REO) properties. Alternatively, banks can simply sell the foreclosed home through more traditional markets, just like a normal home.

It’s usually easiest to buy the foreclosed home once the bank takes over and it becomes an REO property. That’s because you can take your time and go through the mortgage underwriting process. You can also work with a realtor, and — importantly — write contingency clauses in the contract that let you pull out of the deal if a home inspection reveals more repairs than you expected. 

7 Caveats to Buying a Foreclosed Home

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t exactly the same as buying one directly from the homeowner. You’re potentially buying a home from a bank who took over after the previous homeowners were unable to afford the home anymore. This introduces a few twists into the home-buying process for you. 

1. You’ll Need a Realtor Who Specializes in Foreclosed Homes

The world is full of realtors, even including your Uncle Bob and Cousin Carolyn. But not everyone is equipped to handle the nuances of buying a foreclosed home. There are a lot of issues that can crop up — unplanned property damage, squatters, homeowners who settle the bill and try to reclaim ownership, etc.

If you’re serious about buying a foreclosed home, seek out a realtor with extra experience in this area. There are even special designations that some realtors can get, such as Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) or Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE).

2. Houses Are Sold “As-Is”

With a typical home sale, you have the change to get the property professionally inspected before signing on the dotted line. It’s not uncommon for new issues to arise, and in a normal home buying transaction, you can often negotiate with the sellers to either fix the damage or discount the price. 

That’s not the case when you buy a foreclosed home. If a home inspection reveals unexpected damage — like the need for a full roof or a septic system replacement — banks often aren’t willing to negotiate. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it sale. 

3. Expect to Put In Some Work

The above point is especially important considering that most foreclosed homes do, in fact, need a lot of fixing up. 

Think about it: the previous homeowners lost the house because they couldn’t afford the mortgage. There’s a good chance they also weren’t able to keep up with routine maintenance either. From their perspective, even if they did have the cash, what’s the point of spending money on repairs, if they know they’ll lose the home in a few months?

You can save money by putting in some sweat equity (HGTV, anyone?), but even then you’ll need the cash to pay for materials. This also means that the home might not be move-in ready. If you do move in, you might need to put up with construction debris for a little while. On the bright side, though, this does give you a chance to upgrade the home to your own aesthetics. 

4. You Might Need Creative Financing

This brings up another issue: how do you pay for those renovations? Generally, you can’t just ask for a bigger mortgage to cover the necessary repairs. Most lenders will only lend you as much as the current home appraisal is worth, minus your down payment. 

You have a few options, though. You can hold some money back from your savings to pay for it in cash, but this means you’ll have a smaller down payment. An alternative is getting a loan from a different lender, like a personal loan, a 0% APR credit card, or even a home equity loan or line of credit if you’re lucky enough to start from a position with equity. 

Finally, there are some special “renovation mortgages” available through Fannie Mae and other lenders. These mortgages actually do allow you to take out a bigger mortgage so you can pay for renovations. You might need to provide a higher down payment or have a higher credit score to qualify, however. 

5. Watch for Liens on Foreclosed Homes at Auctions

If you have a big pot of cash and can pay for a home on the same day, an auction might be your best bet. But then you have to worry about a new factor: liens. 

If the property had any liens attached to it (such as from the previous homeowners not paying their taxes, or a judgement from unpaid debt), you’ll inherit that bill, too. 

This is usually only the case for auctioned homes. If you buy a foreclosed home as an REO sale, the bank generally pays off any liens attached to the property. Still, it may be worth double-checking if you have interest in a specific property. 

6. Be Prepared to Act Fast

You’re not the only one with the bright idea to get a low-priced, foreclosed home. Chances are good that there are a few other buyers interested in the property, which increases competition. Even though the home is listed at a big discount, this competition can still drive prices up. You might need to be ready to act fast, just the same as in any hot real estate market. 

7. Be Prepared to Wait

On the flip side, there’s a lot of extra bureaucracy involved in buying a foreclosed home once the seller accepts your offer. There’s often extra paperwork to fill out or other complications. 

For example, the home appraisal might come back lower than expected, which might make it harder to get enough financing for the agreed-on purchase price. If it’s a short sale, it might also take longer for the bank to approve the lower sale price for the home, based on what the homeowner’s mortgage is currently worth. 

Pros and Cons of Foreclosed Homes 

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t necessarily a good or bad idea on its own. It all depends on your own goals — for example, are you willing to figure out financing for repairs to get a deal on the home purchase price? Also consider how important it is for you to have a “move-in ready” home with no hassle. 

Weigh these pros and cons carefully, and what’s most important to you when buying a home. 

Pros Cons
Can get a deal that’s lower than market price Property is sold “as-is” and might not be move-in ready
Can customize the home to your specifications with repairs and upgrades Likely needs a lot of repairs and upgrades 
Requires creative financing for repairs and upgrades
Foreclosure process is long and might fall through 

The Bottom Line

Buying a foreclosed home can be a win-win situation. You get a home at a good price, and (usually) you can bring the property back to good, working order by fixing it up. As long as you go into the deal knowing that it’s not the same experience as a typical home purchase, buying a foreclosed home is a great way to launch into homeownership or real estate investing.   

The post What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to Save Money When You Buy a Home in Idaho

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions a person can make. It’s the culmination of years of intense saving and budgeting, months of open houses, and weeks of late-night strategizing and offer planning.

In 2020, buying a home has gotten even harder as the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the United States. Shopping for real estate during a crisis has always been difficult, but necessary safety measures taken to stop the spread of the virus have had a noticeable impact on how most people shop for homes.

One silver lining of this unfortunate situation is that many people in the real estate industry are finally seeing how technology makes the home buying process easier on both buyers and sellers. At Homie, we understand how technology like ours can help buyers and sellers save time and money. Let’s explore how you can leverage technology and other strategies to save money when you buy a home.

Get Your Finances in Order

If you’re thinking of buying a home, the first thing you should do is take a long, hard look at your finances. The two most important financial factors are the amount you have saved for a down payment and your debt-to-income ratio.

The down payment amount is simple. Most of us grew up thinking that 20% was standard, but that isn’t the case anymore. According to a 2017 industry survey, most homeowners only pay 7% down. Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief! With the average home value in Idaho rising every year, it’s a huge relief to know that you don’t have to save the full 20% down payment.

While you’re saving for the down payment, you also need to think about your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). This value compares what you make each month to what you owe. You can still buy a house if you have debt from student loans or another source, but you need to ensure your DTI is as low as possible, preferably at or below the 28% standard.

Get a Great Deal on a Loan

Once you’ve gotten your finances in order, you can start exploring mortgage rates and loans. Most people start with their bank. That’s a good start. However, they often make a critical mistake: they don’t shop around for a good rate. If you only check at your bank, you’re missing great deals from companies like Homie Loans™. They’re so confident no one else can beat their locked loan rate that they’ll give you $500 cash if you find a better deal.

Homie Loans doesn’t just give you a good rate, the entire application online, so you don’t even have to leave the house to get approved.

Explore Federal Loan Programs

In addition to shopping around for a great mortgage rate at private companies and commercial banks, you can save tons of money by checking out your options for federal home buyer programs.

These programs are designed by the government and government agencies to ease the burden of homeownership. Each program is different: some require applicants to fall into certain income thresholds, while others are designed to assist veterans or individuals looking to buy homes in rural areas.

Idaho-Specific Programs for Down Payment and Cost Assistance

In addition to exploring federal home loan programs, many state agencies in Idaho have these programs available to residents. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has state-by-state guides for homeownership assistance programs, and lists many area-specific programs throughout Idaho.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to find specific assistance for homeowners in your region. These programs may be smaller, but since they’re regional, it’s usually easier to talk to a person on the phone and get practical advice for getting started on your journey to homeownership.

Look Outside Your Area

If you’ve started your search and all of the suitable homes in your area are out of your price range, you may want to expand your search. The switch to remote work has affected many of us, making cities and other centers of work less reliably desirable. If you’re currently working remotely or have the opportunity to do so in the future, you may be able to expand your search to include larger homes in less urban areas.

Buying in a more urban location like Boise might also get easier with the rise of remote work. Since Boise is such a student-heavy town, classes and work going virtual have opened up real estate in the city. If you’re looking for a good deal on a smaller urban home or condo, this may be a good time to invest.

Leverage Technology by Buying a Home With Homie

Another great way to save money when you’re buying a home in Idaho is to use a service like Homie. Instead of paying a high percentage of the final costs, you’ll pay your Homie agent a low flat fee.

Homie also leverages technology to make the home buying process easier. The Homie family of companies makes everything that much smoother. We’ve brought everything from the mortgage to insurance under one roof, ensuring you don’t have to run all over town to get papers signed and contracts approved. It all happens through Homie.

The best part of working with a Homie agent while buying a house is the refund of up to $2,500 we send you at the end of the process. The Homie team is always here to help buyers in Idaho save money. Get in touch with us today to start your journey towards homeownership.

Get more homebuying tips!

4 Ways to Outsmart the Competition When Buying a Home
5 Tips to Help You Afford Your First Home
Common Home Buying Fears and How To Overcome Them

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The post How to Save Money When You Buy a Home in Idaho appeared first on Homie Blog.

Source: homie.com

Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright

When I first connected with Julia and John, the Queens, NY couple was expecting their first child and grappling with some debt, a lack of savings and income prior to the baby’s arrival. The couple was basically living paycheck to paycheck and in need of some advice to break through that cycle.

We reconnected this month to see how they’ve been doing. Julia is now nearing the end of her third trimester. The baby is due to arrive in two months.

I was hoping that with a baby on the way the couple would have found some ways to chisel away their debt or bulk up savings. Unfortunately, fie months later, they’re more or less still in the same money boat.

But they did act upon a couple of my tips and are benefiting from the goodness of New York and their parents, which has their futures looking brighter.

First, John, who lacks a college degree and was struggling to find full-time work, is going back to school. Not to a college or university, but to a 9-month software boot camp in New York that’s going to give him the skills and network to become a software developer. His potential earnings in the first year in the market could be as much as $75,000 (based on some people I know who’ve gone through similar programs in New York.)

The program will be about $15,000, a fraction of what it would cost to earn a bachelor’s degree. John’s parents have agreed to loan him the money. The couple’s decided to place that $15,000 family loan in savings and, instead, take out a small student loan to pay for John’s school. I agree with that strategy, given that their family is about to increase in size and having some cash on hand will be very important.

Once John completes school and finds work, I’d recommend the couple prioritize the credit card debt by paying at least double the minimums each month. Be most aggressive with the highest interest credit card debt first. Their student loan will likely have a smaller interest rate and can be paid over a 10-year period, making the monthly minimums relatively manageable. Automate those payments as soon as possible and benefit from a 0.25% interest rate reduction when they do.

While they’re taking on more debt, I’m okay with it. Investing in John’s education is one of the best ways this couple can get ahead and better secure their finances in the future – so long as they commit to earning more and paying it down.

Ahead of that program starting, John’s also taken on a side hustle (per my advice). He’s been working a few shifts here and there at Julia’s company, working with special needs patients as a social aide, taking them to community and outdoor events.

Some other good news that’s developed since we last spoke is that New York State has enhanced its Family and Medical Leave Act by implementing Paid Family Leave. In the past, certain employers were only required to provide workers with their jobs back after taking a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks. Now, qualifying private employers must provide paid time off and a continuation of health insurance for 8 weeks in 2018.

This came as a surprise bonus for Julia, who was preparing for zero paid time off from her employer.

It would be my recommendation to use part or all of that extra money to pay down their high-interest credit card debt.

Once Julia returns to work after her maternity leave, her mother-in-law will be the go-to caretaker during the day, another huge help.

They’re fortunate to have free childcare from a trusted, loved one. With that very big expense covered and John’s schooling about to start, I feel confident that the couple’s future is a financially bright one.

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Source: mint.intuit.com