Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School

Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker—a dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.

While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”

To financially prepare for grad school it’s important to weigh the benefits and stressors that surround getting an advanced degree.

Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.

1. Decide if going back to school is right for you

Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?

According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of Wealthysinglemommy.com, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:

  • Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibility—for instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
  • Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.

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“Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field.”

– Deia Schlosberg, filmmaker
  • Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
  • Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.

2. Know how much you need to save

How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.

Understanding how to prepare your finances before grad school becomes more complicated if you’re also budgeting for a retirement plan or child’s education.

Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:

  • Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
  • Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
  • Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.

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“You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.”

– Emma Johnson, career consultant

3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline

One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:

  • Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
  • Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
  • Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or two—whatever you can afford—and continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
  • Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
If you’re wondering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, consider attending school part time and taking online classes.

4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits

So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:

  • Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
  • Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
  • Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
  • Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
When determining how to financially prepare for graduate school, consider scholarships, in-state tuition and tuition reimbursement.

Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start

Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.

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But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to “weigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.

The post Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Inspection vs. Appraisal for Home Buyers

In this article:

  • What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?
  • What happens during an appraisal?
  • What if the appraisal comes in low?
  • What to expect from a home inspection
  • How are home inspections and appraisals similar?

Inspections and appraisals are both important parts of the home buying process, and buyers should do both to protect their financial interest in a home – and give themselves peace of mind that they’re making a smart purchase. Inspections and appraisals serve different functions, but both give you the insights you need to avoid large financial missteps.

What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?

The main difference between an appraisal and an inspection is that an appraisal deals with the value of a home, while an inspection deals with the condition of the home.

Appraisal: An appraisal is a walk-through and a general assessment of a home, analyzed with the help of nearby comparable sales. The goal of an appraisal is to determine the fair market value of a property. It is conducted by a licensed professional appraiser. While an appraiser will visit a home in person, the majority of the work will be done in their office, as they compare the home’s features, location, and finishes with other comparable recent sales in the area. An appraisal usually costs around $400, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

Inspection: An inspection is a deeper dive into the condition of the specific home. A licensed home inspector will spend multiple hours doing a comprehensive review of the home’s condition, both visually and by testing functionality of major systems. After completing the inspection, they will provide recommendations to the buyer on items in the home that should be repaired or replaced before closing. A home inspection costs between $250 and $700, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

Do lenders require appraisals?

Yes, most lenders do require appraisals in order to approve financing. Lenders want to protect their investment by ensuring they’re not financing a loan for more than the property is worth.

Do lenders require home inspections?

Lenders providing conventional financing do not usually require home inspections, but they are still strongly recommended. FHA or VA loans usually do require inspections.

Do I need an appraisal and inspection when buying a home with cash?

Cash buyers often opt to do an appraisal and inspection, even though they’re not required. Some cash buyers, particularly home investors, may waive the inspection or appraisal if the home is being sold “as is” or if they are competing with other offers and want to close quickly.

Regardless of how you’re paying, an appraisal can give peace of mind that you’re not overpaying for a property, and an inspection can uncover potentially costly issues and necessary repairs.

What happens during an appraisal?

During an appraisal, a licensed appraiser evaluates the home you want to buy in person and gives you an estimate on how much it’s worth. Typically, the appraiser is chosen by the lender but paid for by the buyer as part of the closing costs.

Appraisals cost around $400, but can cost a bit more or a bit less depending on your home size and location. The appointment usually takes about an hour, and then the appraiser will complete the report back at their office.

1. Assessment of property

The appraiser will walk through the home, taking note of its condition, finishes and location – consider it somewhat like a light inspection.

2. Review of comparable sales

The appraiser will use the findings of their walk-through to identify similar homes that have sold recently in the neighborhood. This will help them decide upon a fair market value.

3. Final report

The appraiser will deliver a physical report on the fair market value of the home, including photos and descriptions of comparable sales. In most cases it’s just the lender and the buyer who will receive copies of the report. The seller may request a copy of the appraisal report, but in most cases you are not required to share it.

Ideally, the appraisal will come back higher than the agreed-upon sales price. That indicates that you’re paying less than the fair market value and your lender will approve the loan.

What if the appraisal comes in low?

Appraisals that come in below the agreed-upon sale price are commonly referred to as low appraisals. When an appraisal comes in low it can jeopardize your ability to acquire the loan you were pre-approved to get, causing a headache for buyers.

Low appraisals can happen for a couple reasons:

  • Bidding wars with multiple buyers drive the price up beyond market value.
  • There’s a lack of relevant comparables to use as a basis for the home value.
  • You’re buying in a high season (like late spring) and the only available comparables are from other points in the year.
  • The appraiser is inexperienced.

Buyers who are using financing have a few options to work around a low appraisal:

  1. Contest the appraisal: You can contact your lender and point out any glaring issues or errors in the appraisal report, then request a new appraisal.
  2. Pay the difference: To make up the difference between the amount your lender is willing to finance and the offer price, you can pay cash or ask the lender if you can restructure your financing.
  3. Ask the seller for a price reduction: If the appraisal was accurate and the home is indeed worth less than what you’re offering, you may not want to overpay. To avoid having to back out completely, consider asking the seller for a price reduction, using the appraisal report as proof the home is overpriced.

What to expect from a home inspection

Scheduling a home inspection is one of the first tasks you’ll want to do after the contract is signed between you and the seller. Although, in some low-inventory markets, buyers sometimes hire an inspector prior to making an offer. It’s up to you to pick a home inspector you trust, and most people ask their agent for a recommendation, get a referral from friends or family members or search online reviews.

Since the goal of a home inspection is to get a comprehensive report of the condition of the home you’re buying, a home inspection takes between three and four hours, sometimes more. Unlike an appraiser who does a visual check of the home, your inspector will both examine and test functionality of your home’s key systems, including:

  • Plumbing
  • Roof condition
  • HVAC
  • Foundation
  • Appliances
  • Drainage
  • Water damage and mold

However, a home inspection may not find every potential issue in the home, especially if they are hidden or seasonal, so buyers should discuss any exclusions with the licensed home inspector both before and after the inspection itself.

Who attends the inspection: Usually, the buyer and their agent will both attend the inspection. This allows you to have the inspector walk you through any red flags in real time, while also giving you the chance to familiarize yourself with how the home’s systems work ahead of moving.

What happens after the inspection: After completing the on-site inspection, your inspector will provide a written report that highlights their findings, including photos.

Specialized inspections for buyers to consider

While inspecting the home’s major systems and features is standard practice, your inspector may recommend a second, more specialized inspection if they notice issues including:

  • Radon
  • Pests
  • Septic
  • Lead paint

Why home inspections are important

The few hundred dollars you’ll spend for a home inspection is a small price to pay for the opportunity to confirm that the home you’re about to buy is free of major – and costly – issues. It’s no wonder 83% of buyers reported having an inspection done, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019.

Risk of not having an inspection: While some buyers opt to waive their inspection contingency to make their offer appear stronger, this means they’re essentially buying the home “as-is,” and any issues discovered after closing will fall 100% to the buyer to repair, even if they were present before closing.

Why disclosures aren’t enough: In most states, sellers are required to disclose underlying issues in the home that they know exist (specific disclosure requirements vary by state). While disclosures are an important protection, they only cover un-repaired issues that the seller knows about – there’s no guarantee that the home is free of other underlying issues or that the repairs were made correctly. A home inspection is simply the best way to find out about any potential problems in the home.

If you buy a Zillow-owned home, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the home went through a pre-listing home evaluation process and was renovated by local professionals to make it move-in ready. Of course, you’re always welcome to do your own inspection, too.

How are home inspections and appraisals similar?

Despite having two different processes and requiring the services of two different professionals, appraisals and inspections do share some similarities:

1. Appraisers and inspectors are licensed

Both roles require licenses and extensive training. Both appraisers and inspectors act as impartial third parties, paid to provide their professional opinion.

2. Buyers pay for both inspections and appraisals

Usually, the buyer selects the home inspector they want to work with and the lender selects the appraiser. The buyer pays for both the inspector and the appraiser, unless otherwise negotiated.

3. Appraisal and inspection both occur during escrow

The home inspection usually happens within the first week after your offer is accepted – the sooner the better, so there’s time to fix any issues flagged in the inspection report or renegotiate with the seller. The appraisal also happens during the escrow period, usually a week or two before closing.

4. Appraisal and inspection results allow for negotiations

Assuming you’ve structured your offer to include contingencies for both the appraisal and inspection, you’ll be allowed to renegotiate your offer based on the findings. If the appraisal comes back low, you’re allowed to renegotiate with the seller to figure out how to cover the difference between the appraised price and the offer price. Similarly, if the inspection report uncovers significant repairs, you’ll have a period of time where you can request repairs or credits, or back out of the deal without losing your earnest money.

The post Inspection vs. Appraisal for Home Buyers appeared first on Home Buyers Guide.

Source: zillow.com

What Are Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS)?

What Are Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)?

Inflation, or a sustained period of rising consumer prices, can take a bite out of investor portfolios and reduce purchasing power as the prices of goods and services increase.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, are one way to hedge against inflation in a portfolio. These government-issued securities are inflation-protected bonds that adjust in tandem with shifts in consumer prices to maintain value.

Investing in TIPS bonds could make sense for investors who are seeking protection against inflation or who want to increase their conservative asset allocation. But what are TIPS and how exactly do they help to minimize inflationary impacts? This primer answers those questions and more.

Recommended: Smart Ways to Hedge Against Inflation

What Are TIPS?

Understanding Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities starts with understanding a little about how bonds work. When you invest in a bond, whether it’s issued by a government, corporation or municipality, you’re essentially lending the issuer your money. In return, the bond issuer agrees to pay that money back to you at a specified date, along with interest. For that reason, bonds are often a popular option for those seeking fixed income investments.

TIPS are inflation-protected bonds that pay interest out to investors twice annually, at a fixed rate applied to the adjusted principal of the bond. This principal can increase with inflation or decrease with deflation, which is a sustained period of falling prices. When the bond matures, you’re paid out the original principal or the adjusted principal—whichever is greater.

Here are some key TIPS basics to know:

•  TIPS bonds are issued in terms of 5, 10 and 30 years

•  Interest rates are determined at auction

•  Minimum investment is $100

•  TIPS are issued electronically

•  You can hold TIPS bonds until maturity or sell them ahead of the maturity date on the secondary market

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities are different from other types of government-issued bonds. With I Bonds, for example, interest accrues over the life of the bond and is paid out when the bond is redeemed. Interest earned is not based on any adjustments to the bond principal—hence, no inflationary protection.

How Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) Work

Understanding how TIPS work is really about understanding the relationship they have with inflation and deflation.

Inflation refers to an increase in the price of goods and services over time. The federal government measures inflation using price indexes, including the Consumer Price Index. The federal government measures inflation using the Consumer Price Index, which measures the average change in prices over time for a basket of consumer goods and services. That includes things like food, gas, and energy or utility services.

Deflation is essentially the opposite of inflation, in which consumer prices for goods and services drop over time. This can happen in a recession, but deflation can also be triggered when there’s a significant imbalance between supply and demand for goods and services. Both inflation and deflation can be detrimental to investors if they have trickle-down effects that impact the way consumers spend and borrow money.

When inflation or deflation occurs, inflation-protected bonds can provide a measure of stability with regard to investment returns. Here’s how it works:

•  You purchase one or more Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities

•  You then earn a fixed interest rate on the TIPS bond you own

•  When inflation increases, the bond principal increases

•  When deflation occurs, the bond principal decreases

•  Once the bond matures, you receive the greater of the adjusted principal or the original principal

This last part is what protects you from negative impacts associated with either inflation or deflation. You’ll never receive less than the face value of the bond, since the principal adjusts to counteract changes in consumer prices.

Are TIPS a Good Investment?

Investing in inflation-protected bonds could make sense if you’re interested in creating some insulation against the impacts of inflation in your portfolio. For example, say you invest $1,000 into a 10-year TIPS bond that offers a 2% coupon rate. The coupon rate represents the yield or income you can expect to receive from the bond while you hold it.

Now, assume that inflation rises to 3% over the next year. This would put the bond’s face value at $1,030, with an annual interest payment of $20.60. If you were looking at a period of deflation instead, then the bond’s face value and interest payments would decline. But the principal would adjust to reflect that to minimize the risk of a negative return.

Recommended: Understanding Deflation and How it Impacts Investors

Pros of Investing in TIPS

What TIPS offer that more traditional bonds don’t is a real rate of return versus a nominal rate of return. In other words, the interest you earn with Treasury Inflation Protected Securities reflects the bond’s actual return once inflation is factored in. As mentioned, I Bonds don’t offer that; you’re just getting whatever interest is earned on the bond over time.

Since these are government bonds, there’s virtually zero credit risk to worry about. (Credit risk means the possibility that a bond issuer might default and not pay anything back to investors.) With TIPS bonds, you’re going to at least get the face value of the bond back if nothing else. And compared to stocks, bonds are generally a far less risky investment.

If the adjusted principal is higher than the original principal, then you benefit from an increase in inflation. Since it’s typically more common for an economy to experience periods of inflation rather than deflation, TIPS can be an attractive diversification option if you’re looking for a more conservative investment.

Recommended: The Importance of Portfolio Diversification

Cons of Investing in TIPS

There are some potential downsides to keep in mind when investing with TIPS. For example, they’re more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations than other types of bonds. If you were to sell a Treasury Inflation-Protected Security before it matures, you could risk losing money, depending on the interest rate environment.

You may also find less value from holding TIPS in your portfolio if inflation doesn’t materialize. When you redeem your bonds at maturity you will get back the original principal and you’ll still benefit from interest earned. But the subsequent increases in principal that TIPS can offer during periods of inflation is a large part of their appeal.

It’s also important to consider where taxes fit in. Both interest payments and increases in principal from inflation are subject to federal tax, though they are exempt from state and local tax. The better your TIPS bonds perform, the more you might owe in taxes at the end of the year.

How to Invest in Treasury Inflation Protected Securities

If you’re interested in adding TIPS to your portfolio, there are three ways you can do it.

1.   Purchase TIPS bonds directly from the U.S. Treasury. You can do this online through the TreasuryDirect website. You’d need to open an account first but once you do so, you can submit a noncompetitive bid for inflation protected bonds. The TreasuryDirect system will prompt you on how to do this.

2.   Purchase TIPS through a banker, broker or dealer. With this type of arrangement, the banker, broker or dealer submits a bid for you. You can either specify what type of yield you’re looking for, which is a competitive bid, or accept whatever is available, which is a noncompetitive bid.

3.   Invest in securities that hold TIPS, i.e. exchange-traded funds or mutual funds. There’s no such thing as a TIP stock but you could purchase a TIPS ETF if you’d like to own a basket of Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities. You might choose this option if you don’t want to purchase individual bonds and hold them until maturity.

When comparing different types of investments that are available with ETFs or mutual funds, pay attention to:

•  Underlying holdings

•  Fund turnover ratio

•  Expense ratios

Also consider the fund’s overall performance, particularly during periods of inflation or deflation. Past history is not an exact predictor of future performance but it may shed some light on how a TIPS ETF has reacted to rising or falling prices previously.

The Takeaway

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities may help shield your portfolio against some of the negative impacts of inflation. Investors who are worried about their purchasing power shrinking over time may find TIPS appealing.
But don’t discount the value of investing in stocks and other securities as well. Building a diversified portfolio that takes into consideration an investor’s personal risk tolerance, as well as financial goals and time horizons, is a popular strategy.

With a SoFi Invest® online investing account, members can choose from stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency options in one place. You can start investing with as little as $1, and manage your account from the convenient mobile app.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


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Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents

Everyone knows that raising kids can put a serious squeeze on your budget. Beyond covering day-to-day living expenses, there are all of those extras to consider—sports, after-school activities, braces, a first car. Oh, and don’t forget about college.

Add caring for elderly parents to the mix, and balancing your financial and family obligations could become even more difficult.

“It can be an emotional and financial roller coaster, being pushed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time,” says financial life planner and author Michael F. Kay.

The “sandwich generation”—which describes people that are raising children and taking care of aging parents—is growing as Baby Boomers continue to age.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives. Aside from a time commitment, you may also be committing part of your budget to caregiving expenses like food, medications and doctor’s appointments.

Budgeting tips for the sandwich generation include communicating with parents.

When you’re caught in the caregiving crunch, you might be wondering: How do I take care of my parents and kids without going broke?

The answer lies in how you approach budgeting and saving. These money strategies for the sandwich generation and budgeting tips for the sandwich generation can help you balance your financial and family priorities:

Communicate with parents

Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner and founder of investment advisory service POWWOW, LLC, served as caregiver for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while also managing a career and starting a family. That experience taught her two very important budgeting tips for the sandwich generation.

First, communication is key, and a money strategy for the sandwich generation is to talk with your parents about what they need in terms of care. “It should all start with a frank discussion and plan, preferably prior to any significant health crisis,” Costa says.

Second, run the numbers so you have a realistic understanding of caregiving costs, including how much parents will cover financially and what you can afford to contribute.

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17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives.

– The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Involve kids in financial discussions

While you’re talking over expectations with your parents, take time to do the same with your kids. Caregiving for your parents may be part of the discussion, but these talks can also be an opportunity for you and your children to talk about your family’s bigger financial picture.

With younger kids, for example, that might involve talking about how an allowance can be earned and used. You could teach kids about money using a savings account and discuss the difference between needs and wants. These lessons can help lay a solid money foundation as they as move into their tween and teen years when discussions might become more complex.

When figuring out how to budget for the sandwich generation, try including your kids in financial decisions.

If your teen is on the verge of getting their driver’s license, for example, their expectation might be that you’ll help them buy a car or help with insurance and registration costs. Communicating about who will be contributing to these types of large expenses is a good money strategy for the sandwich generation.

The same goes for college, which can easily be one of the biggest expenses for parents and important when learning how to budget for the sandwich generation. If your budget as a caregiver can’t also accommodate full college tuition, your kids need to know that early on to help with their educational choices.

Talking over expectations—yours and theirs—can help you determine which schools are within reach financially, what scholarship or grant options may be available and whether your student is able to contribute to their education costs through work-study or a part-time job.

Consider the impact of caregiving on your income

When thinking about how to budget for the sandwich generation, consider that caring for aging parents can directly affect your earning potential if you have to cut back on the number of hours you work. The impact to your income will be more significant if you are the primary caregiver and not leveraging other care options, such as an in-home nurse, senior care facility or help from another adult child.

Costa says taking time away from work can be difficult if you’re the primary breadwinner or if your family is dual-income dependent. Losing some or all of your income, even temporarily, could make it challenging to meet your everyday expenses.

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“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement.”

– Quentara Costa, certified financial planner

When you’re facing a reduced income, how to budget for the sandwich generation is really about getting clear on needs versus wants. Start with a thorough spending review.

Are there expenses you might be able to reduce or eliminate while you’re providing care? How much do you need to earn each month to maintain your family’s standard of living? Keeping your family’s needs in focus and shaping your budget around them is a money strategy for the sandwich generation that can keep you from overextending yourself financially.

“Protect your capital from poor decisions made from emotions,” financial life planner Kay says. “It’s too easy when you’re stretched beyond reason to make in-the-heat-of-the-moment decisions that ultimately are not in anyone’s best interest.”

Keep saving in sight

One of the most important money strategies for the sandwich generation is continuing to save for short- and long-term financial goals.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement,” financial planner Costa says. “While the intention to put others before ourselves is noble, you may actually be pulling the next generation backwards due to your lack of self-planning.”

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Making regular contributions to your 401(k), an individual retirement account or an IRA CD should still be a priority. Adding to your emergency savings each month—even if you have to reduce the amount you normally save to fit new caregiving expenses into your budget—can help prepare you for unexpected expenses or the occasional cash flow shortfall. Contributing to a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell ESA is a budgeting tip for the sandwich generation that can help you build a cushion for your children once they’re ready for college life.

When you are learning how to budget for the sandwich generation, don’t forget about your children’s savings goals. If there’s something specific they want to save for, help them figure out how much they need to save and a timeline for reaching their goal.

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Ask for help if you need it

A big part of learning how to budget for the sandwich generation is finding resources you can leverage to help balance your family commitments. In the case of aging parents, there may be state or federal programs that can help with the cost of care.

Remember to also loop in your siblings or other family members when researching budgeting tips for the sandwich generation. If you have siblings or relatives, engage them in an open discussion about what they can contribute, financially or in terms of caregiving assistance, to your parents. Getting them involved and asking them to share some of the load can help you balance caregiving for parents while still making sure that you and your family’s financial outlook remains bright.

The post Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

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Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS)

What is the AAMS certification?New financial advisors need something to help them stand out. Consequently, the AAMS does just that. Designed for newcomers to the financial advice business, the AAMS trains advisors to identify investment opportunities as well as help clients with other financial goals. It also gives more experienced advisors a fast and simple way to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. Here’s how it works.

AAMS Defined

An Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) can advise clients on college savings, taxes, and retirement savings. The course and tests for this certification are designed to ensure advisors can assist clients with their complete financial needs. It emphasizes evaluating the client’s assets and making appropriate recommendations.

The AAMS certification is granted by the College for Financial Planning, a unit of the Kaplan Company. The college oversees a large number of financial certification programs, including the Certified Financial Planner designation, one of the most valued certifications in the field.

AAMS Certification Requirements

What is the AAMS certification?

To receive an AAMS, students first have to complete a 10-module education program provided by the College for Financial Planning. Then they have to pass an examination. Finally, they must agree to abide by a code of ethics and promise to continue their education.

The courses are online and can be delivered in self-study or instructor-led formats. Courses are open-enrollment, therefore students can begin at any time without waiting for the next session.  The 10 modules cover the following material:

1.:The Asset Management Process

2. Risk, Return & Investment Performance

3. Asset Allocation & Selection

4. Investment Strategies

5. Taxation of Investments

6. Investing for Retirement

7. Deferred Compensation and Other Benefit Plans

8. Insurance Products for Investment Clients

9. Estate Planning for Investment Clients

10. Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisors

The College of Financial Planning provides everything necessary to study for and complete the modules and take the test. Students have access to the study materials and tests through an online portal.

Streaming video lectures, audio files, and interactive quizzes also can be found through the college’s site. Meanwhile, students can access live classes online and contact professors with questions and issues.

The AAMS Test

To get the AAMS certification, students have to pass just one test. However, they have to make their first attempt at the test within six months of enrollment and pass it within a year.

The fee for the first attempt at taking the test is included in the course tuition. There are no prerequisites for signing up to take the AAMS course.

Time and Money Requirement

Tuition for the AAMS courses is $1,300. This includes the fee for the first attempt at passing the certification exam. It also includes all needed course materials. Each additional attempt costs $100.

Students employed with certain financial services firms may be able to get tuition discounts. The college may also provide scholarships.

The College for Financial Planning recommends students plan to spend 80 hours to 100 hours on the course. Since the course is self-study, this amount of time is flexible.

To maintain AAMS certification students have to commit to completing 16 continuing education credits every two years. Also, continuing education has to cover one or more of the topics covered in the AAMS coursework.

AAMS certificate holders also have to agree to follow a professional standard of conduct. As a result, they have to maintain integrity, objectivity, competency, confidentiality and professionalism in providing financial services.

AAMS Certificate Holder Jobs

AAMS certificates are generally earned by entry-level workers in the financial advice business. Consequently, AAMS holders are typically trainees. In some cases, they may provide support services to more experienced and highly credentialed advisors.

The AAMS designation does not confer any special powers or privileges. Instead, it’s an optional credential that students may obtain to advance their careers and enhance their knowledge of financial advice.

Comparable Certifications

What is the AAMS certification?

In addition to the AAMS, the College for Financial Planning offers an Accredited Wealth Manager Advisor (AWMA) certificate. This is a somewhat more advanced designation. As a result, it requires a course equivalent to three graduate level college credits and requires 90 hours to 135 hours to complete.

Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) is sponsored by the Investment Company Institute along with the College of Financial Planning. It is similar to the AAMS certificate except it focuses on mutual fund assets.

Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) is a general personal finance advice certificate from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. First, it requires 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience. Secondly, it demands three letters of reference. Finally, applicants must both complete coursework and pass an exam.

Bottom Line

The AAMS designation is usually for newly minted financial advisors, but even experienced pros can use it to bulk up their credentials. The courses and tests associated with the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations.

While this certification doesn’t give an advisor any real powers, it’s a sign that they can identify investment opportunities specific to their clients. Above all else, it can be a great relief to a client who has a child going to college or a retirement house on their wish list. As a result of obtaining an AAMS, and advisor can point them toward the right investments for their goals.

Investing Tips

  • If you’re looking to identify investment opportunities, consider using an AAMS as your advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • An AAMS can help you with college savings, taxes, and retirement savings if you know what your goals are. However, if you are unsure how much you want to invest, what your risk tolerance is, or how inflation and capital gains tax will affect your investment, SmartAsset’s investing guide can help you take the first steps.

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Second Home vs. Investment Property: What’s the Difference?

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You hear these terms thrown around all the time: Second home, investment property, vacation home, rental property. But is there any real difference among them? And does it even matter what you call it?

As it turns out, there are some very big differences between second homes and investment properties, especially if you are financing it.

“Both are fantastic ways to build wealth over time by capturing the appreciation of a real asset,” says Tony Julianelle, CEO of Atlas Real Estate in Denver. However, “both come with inherent risks and expenses that should be carefully considered when making a purchase.”

As with any real estate transaction, you’ll want to do your homework and make a smart choice for your wallet, no matter which path you go down. We chatted with experts to get the scoop.

What is a second home?

A second home is just that: a second property where you and your family spend time, away from your primary home. You might also hear a second home referred to as a vacation property. You may rent it out for a few days each year on Airbnb or VRBO, but you primarily use it yourself.

Buying a second home makes financial sense if there’s one particular vacation spot you visit regularly. Why spend a fortune on hotels or Airbnb when you can own your own piece of paradise that will hopefully appreciate in value over time?

“Let’s say you live in San Francisco, but you are an avid skier in the winter and like to hike in the summer,” says Rachel Olsen, a real estate agent in California. “If you spend many weekends and vacations in Lake Tahoe, it may make sense to purchase a second home there.”

What is an investment property?

An investment property, on the other hand, is one that you purchase with the explicit intention of generating income. The investment property could be right next door to your own home, or it could be in another state—it doesn’t really matter. You’ll be playing the role of landlord, with long-term or short-term renters paying cash to stay in the home.

“Never forget that an investment property is all about the Benjamins,” says Lamar Brabham, CEO and founder of financial services firm Noel Taylor Agency. “The entire point is to turn a profit. No emotions, no affection.”

Before making an offer on an investment property, you’ll want to crunch the numbers to make sure it’s a solid investment. Similarly, consider what factors will be important to prospective tenants (e.g., access to public transportation, good schools, parking, and low crime rates).

How to finance a second home or investment property

If you’re paying cash, you can skip this section. But if you need a mortgage for your new property, you should know that financing a second home or investment property is very different from financing a primary residence. And, while mortgages on second homes and investment properties have some similarities, there are also some key differences.

  • Interest rate: You can expect to see a higher interest rate for both second homes or investment properties than for primary homes. Why? Because lenders view those transactions as riskier. If you get into a tight spot with money, you’re far more likely to stop paying the mortgage for your second/investment property than for your primary home.
  • Qualifying: Whether you’re buying a second home or an investment property, you might need to do some extra legwork in order to qualify for that second loan. Your bank may require you to prove that you have healthy cash reserves (so it knows you can afford both mortgages). It’ll take a long, hard look at your overall financial situation, so be sure everything is on the up and up before you apply.
  • Down payment: Depending on your situation and the lender, you might also need to bring a larger down payment to the table for an investment property or second home, typically 15% to 25%. Again, this is because the bank wants a bigger cushion to fall back on in case you default.
  • Rental income: If you’re buying an investment property, your lender might allow you to show that anticipated rental income will help cover the mortgage payments. However, proving how much rental income the home will generate can be complicated. Prepare to pay for a specialized appraisal that takes into account comparable rents in your area.
  • Location: Your lender may require a second home to be 50 to 100 miles away from your primary home. An investment property, however, can be anywhere in comparison to your primary home, even next door.
  • Taxes: Federal income tax rules are different for vacation homes and investment properties. Generally, you’ll treat your second home just as you would your first home when it comes to taxes—if you itemize, you can deduct the mortgage interest you paid up to a certain limit. (The rules vary if you rent out your second home for part of the year.) If you own an investment property, you get to deduct the mortgage interest, plus many of the expenses that come with operating a rental business, but you also have to report your rental income, too.

Why it’s important to not confuse the two

It’s important that you’re totally clear about the difference and not use the terms “second home” and “investment property” interchangeably. Some people try to pass off their investment property as a second home to get more favorable financing, but you should never do this.

If you lie on your loan application, you could be committing mortgage fraud, which is a federal offense.

Your lender’s underwriting team is aware of this possibility, so don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes. They’ll take the big picture into account when deciding what loan terms to offer you, says real estate attorney David Reischer.

“A single-family residence by a lake that is located in a completely different state from the borrower’s primary residence is much more acceptable to be categorized as a second home by a bank underwriter,” he says. “A multifamily-unit property with rental income in an urban area is likely to be treated as an investment property.”

Bottom line: Keep everything aboveboard, and you won’t have to worry about a thing.

The post Second Home vs. Investment Property: What’s the Difference? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

As Markets Wobble, Will We See a Wave of Reverse Mortgages?

Reverse Mortgages -- Are we Seeing a Boom?Kameleon007/Getty Images

Over the past three months, the stock market has been on a roller coaster. Investment portfolios have followed suit, which could be particularly concerning for those who are counting on those funds for retirement.

For those close to retirement, a lack of savings may mean monthly expenses go unpaid. As a result, retirees may be considering a reverse mortgage to bring in much-needed cash.

“Retirement accounts have been suffering under the macroeconomic conditions that we see out there today. People are looking at the use of home equity to absorb some of those shocks in their retirement plans,” says Steve Irwin, president of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

Because there’s a long lead time for a reverse mortgage, Irwin says it’s too early to tell if the numbers are up. However, a leading indicator shows we might be on the edge of a wave of reverse mortgages.

NRMLA data shows an uptick in consumers who’ve taken the initial step and completed the financial counseling needed to proceed with a reverse mortgage. Irwin says counseling sessions in the month of March were up 25% compared with the year before.

Before homeowners can apply for a reverse mortgage or complete a final application, they must complete independent third-party counseling, he notes, adding that those counseling sessions are up significantly in the first quarter.

Historically, those counseling sessions had to be done in-person, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have allowed online sessions.

Reverse mortgage basics

Since the first reverse mortgage in 1990, over a million have been issued and currently about 550,000 are outstanding, according to the NRMLA. Unlike a forward mortgage, in which you pay down a loan to live in your home, a reverse mortgage draws from the equity you’ve built up in your home.

To qualify for a reverse mortgage you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be aged 62 or older
  • Own your property outright or owe a small amount on a traditional mortgage
  • Live in the home as your primary residence
  • Not be delinquent on any federal debt
  • Meet with an approved counselor

Most reverse mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Administration as part of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program. Once approved, a borrower can withdraw funds as a lump sum, a fixed monthly amount, a line of credit, or a combination of these options. The loan comes due when the borrower either moves out or dies.

And although the instant hit of cash may be a welcome development, the homeowner is still responsible for other monthly payments.

“Keep in mind with reverse mortgages … you still have to have the financial resources to live in the house,” says Mary Bell Carlson, the accredited financial counselor behind the Chief Financial Mom. “You’re going to be living in the house, you still owe the property taxes, you still owe the insurance, the HOA, and all the maintenance on the home while you’re living there.”

One other note: As with a traditional mortgage, there are fees and upfront costs.

Is now a good time for a reverse mortgage?

Keep in mind, a reverse mortgage will hand you money, but the lender uses the equity in your home to give you that money.

“The amount of funds available through a reverse mortgage are calculated based on the age of the borrower, or in the case of a couple, the youngest person’s age, the home’s value, and the interest rates in effect at the time,” Irwin explains. “The lower the interest rate, the greater percentage of equity that can be made available.”

Currently, interest rates are at historic lows.

“We understand a lot of people have been looking at the reverse mortgage and just haven’t decided whether or not to move forward. But they understand that responsible use of home equity can absorb different shocks to people’s income streams,” Irwin says.

Another pandemic-related factor in play? Nursing homes and assisted-care facilities aren’t exactly an appealing option in the current climate. This may partly be why some seniors are opting to stay put in their own homes.

“We know that people want to age in place, and I think many senior homeowners who may have been considering moving or moving to a care facility are almost hesitant and reluctant to go anywhere right now,” says Irwin.

Before contemplating a reverse mortgage in the current environment, you must consider if you can still pay the expenses that come with owning a home. Lower interest rates will mean more cash in your hand, but if you don’t have funds set aside to cover needed repairs, maintenance, and other expenses of homeownership, pause for a moment to suss out your best option.

“A [reverse mortgage] doesn’t mean that [borrowers] just live scot-free in the home. They still have to have some kind of cash flow to keep up the home, and they can’t let the home fall into complete disrepair. That is a violation of the contract, and they could lose the house for that,” Carlson says.

Irwin says the answer depends on each homeowner’s situation.

“This is an individual case-by-case decision, and we want to ensure that it is a decision that’s carefully considered and discussed with trusted advisers and family members. But from strictly the available amount of proceeds given the current interest rate, yes, it is a good time.”

The future of reverse mortgages

Irwin says he expects more seniors to look at reverse mortgages as the pandemic-fueled financial crisis continues.

“It’s a needs-based transaction. They need to augment their financial stability,” Irwin explains. “They need to augment whatever retirement funding they have in place, or they need to relieve themselves of the burden of monthly principal and interest payments of a regular mortgage. I think that we will see more and more the use of the reverse mortgage as part of a more comprehensive financial plan in retirement.”

The post As Markets Wobble, Will We See a Wave of Reverse Mortgages? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com