How to Design a Life You Love

In the earliest days of my business, I wasn’t so much running toward a passion or purpose but running away from my disengaging full-time job. And that absence of purpose scared me. This was the next phase of my life, and I wanted it to be infused with intention.

And also… I had no idea how to achieve this.

Then one day, browsing aimlessly in a bookstore (a tactic I recommend anytime you’re struggling with literally anything) I stumbled on a book called Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

At first glance it sounded a little squishy. But I noticed the book is based on a course of the same name, authored by two professors who famously teach at Stanford University – an institution not known for its squishiness. So, I grabbed it.

Its purpose is to help you answer this question: Can we apply design thinking to the “wicked problem” of designing your job, your career, and even your life? Evans and Burnett believe we can.

Design thinking is a means of user-centered design. It’s about designing not the best outcome, but rather the best path for a particular user. In the case of this book, the user is you. Today I’ll introduce you to the five phases of the design thinking process, and how Burnett and Evans might encourage you to harness it in designing your ideal life.

Whether you’re on a quest for joy, change, or a fresh start, welcome to your new beginning.

Design thinking … is about designing not the best outcome, but rather the best path for a particular user – in this case, the user is you.

Step #1: Empathize

Design thinking begins with empathy because you can only design for a user you understand. And since you are the user, this phase is about self-awareness. So how can you get to know you a little bit better? There’s a process Burnett and Evans describe called wayfinding, which is a simple method of self-discovery that puts you in the direction of where you need to go.

Through wayfinding, you’ll discover which activities engage you (leaving you feeling inspired and “in the zone”) and which sap your energy. The process is simple: keep a journal (here's a good example of one). For the next few weeks, keep track of your work and home activities throughout each day. Whether it's writing a sales pitch, reorganizing your sock drawer, or anything else. For each activity, grab your journal and log how high or low your engagement was during the activity (did you enjoy your time spent?) and how you feel afterwards (energized or exhausted, positive or negative?).

This process will reveal some important information about you!

Step #2: Define

The next phase of design thinking is to define the needs or insights you’ve gained through empathy. So after a few weeks, take a closer look at your journal and do a bit of reflecting. What captures your attention? Any surprises? 

When I did this exercise, I validated some things I already knew – I love spending time with people and learning about topics of interest. But the news to me was that I was also enjoying writing copy for my website. This insight led me to start publishing an email newsletter which has since become critical to my business growth.

Now it’s your turn. What insights pop out for you? What assumptions can you validate, and what new things did you discover?

Step #3: Ideate

Now it’s time to develop a set of possible solutions. This phase is meant to be playful and exploratory, leveraging the insights you’ve collected.

Burnett and Evans call this Odyssey Planning. I love this phrase – it sounds more like an adventure in the wilderness than a planning process. How you craft your odysseys is up to you – you can draw, write stories, brainstorm or create a mind map.  But the goal is to generate possibilities using pen and paper.

“Each of us is many,” Evans and Burnett say. “The life you are living is one of many lives you will live.”

So start with three possible lives:

  • A better version of the present – what your life would look like if everything stayed the same, but you added in more of the engaging and stripped out some of what leaves you drained
  • An alternate version of the present – what your life would look like if suddenly your job went away
  • A what-if-money-were-no-object version – what your life would look like if finances weren’t a constraint

Let your creative brain take over here. None of these will be your final life design, so don’t be hampered by too many rules. This is only about possibilities.

Step #4: Prototype

This phase is about collecting data to inform how we turn ideas into action plans. Now that you’ve crafted three possible lives that sound great to you. What can you do to test and validate those assumptions?

Who in your life has lived pieces of your envisioned lives? If one Odyssey involves you opening a restaurant or becoming a stay-at-home parent or launching a side hustle, who do you know who has done these things?

Find and interview people who you trust to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experience. Arm yourself with as much information as you can, so you can ultimately make informed choices about how to proceed.

Find and interview people who you trust to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experience. Arm yourself with as much information as you can.

Step #5: Test

The most valuable thing I learned while going through this life design process was that change needn’t be wholesale. You don’t have to throw out one life and take on another. You can take just one step at a time. Here’s where you put your insights, your possibilities, and your data into a blender and take small sips of the smoothie that emerges.

Maybe in your current job you spend a lot of time in meetings that drain your energy. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or boycott meetings. But can you craft a small experiment in which you opt out of one meeting per week and replace it with something that really lights you up? (Go back and check your journal to find the things that make you happiest).

This was my approach. I didn’t throw out my business. Instead, I started turning up the dial on things I believed would make me happy – choosing different clients, saying no to certain projects and yes to others.

If I was right, I kept going. If I was wrong, everything was reversible because I was doing this in small steps, rather than giant leaps. This process can be fun and invigorating. The beauty of human-centered design is that there is no right answer. There’s only the outcome that lifts you up.

And now it’s your turn. Are you ready to build the life you love?

 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

The Average Salary of a Surgeon

The Average Salary of a Surgeon

Surgery is a prestigious field that requires a high degree of skill, dedication and hard work of its members. Not surprisingly, surgeons’ compensation reflects this fact, as the average salary of a surgeon was $255,110 in 2018. This figure can vary slightly depending on where you live and the type of institution at which you work. Moreover, the path to becoming a surgeon is long and involves a substantial amount of schooling, which might result in student loan debt.

Average Salary of a Surgeon: The Basics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a surgeon was $255,110 per year in 2018. That comes out to an hourly wage of $122.65 per hour assuming a 40-hour work week – though the typical surgeon works longer hours than that. Even the lowest-paid 10% of surgeons earn $94,960 per year, so the chances are high that becoming a surgeon will result in a six-figure salary. The average salary of a surgeon is higher than the average salary of other doctors, with the exception of anesthesiologists, who earn roughly as much as surgeons.

The top-paying state for surgeons is Nebraska, with a mean annual salary of $287,890. Following Nebraska is Maine, New Jersey, Maryland and Kansas. Top-paying metro area for surgeons include Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN; Winchester, WV-VA; Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY; New Orleans-Metairie, LA; and Bowling Green, KY.

Where Surgeons Work

The Average Salary of a Surgeon

According to BLS data, most of the surgeons in the U.S. work in physicians’ offices, where the mean annual wage for surgeons is $265,920. Second to physicians’ offices for the highest concentration of surgeons are General Medical and Surgical Hospitals, where the mean annual wage for surgeons is $225,700. Colleges, universities and professional schools are next up. There, surgeons earn an annual mean wage of $175,410. A smaller number of surgeons are employed in outpatient Care Centers, where the mean annual wage for surgeons is $277,670. Last up are special hospitals. There, the mean annual wage for surgeons is $235,770.

Becoming a Surgeon

You may have heard that the cost of becoming a doctor, including the cost of medical school and other expenses, has soared. Aspiring surgeons must first get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, preferably in a scientific field like biology.

Then comes the Medical College Acceptance Test (MCAT) and applications to medical schools. The application process can get expensive quickly, as many schools require in-person interviews without reimbursing applicants for travel expenses.

If accepted, you’ll then spend four years in medical school earning your M.D. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’ll almost certainly enter a residency program at a hospital. According to a 2018 survey by Medscape, the average medical resident earns a salary of $59,300, up $2,100 from the previous year. General surgery residents earned slightly less ($58,800), but more specialized residents like those practicing neurological surgery earned more ($61,800).

According to the American College of Surgeons, surgical residency programs last five years for general surgery. But some residency programs are longer than five years. For example, thoracic surgery and pediatric surgery both require residents to complete the five-year general surgery residency, plus two additional years of field-specific surgical residency.

Surgeons must also be licensed and certified. The fees for the licensing exam are the same regardless as specialty, but the application and exam fees for board certification vary by specialty. Maintenance of certification is also required. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it qualification. The American Board of Surgery requires continuing education, as well as an exam at 10-year intervals.

Bottom Line

The Average Salary of a Surgeon

Surgeons earn some of the highest salaries in the country. However, the costs associated with becoming a surgeon are high, and student debt may eat into surgeons’ high salaries for years. The costs of maintaining certification and professional insurance are significant ongoing costs associated with being a surgeon.

Tips for Forging a Career Path

  • Your salary dictates a lot of your financial life, such as how much you can afford to pay in rent and the slice of your paycheck that goes to taxes. However, there are some principles that apply no matter your income bracket, like the importance of an emergency fund and a well-funded retirement account.
  • Whether you’re earning a six-figure surgeon’s salary or living on a more modest income, it’s smart to work with a financial advisor to manage your money. 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.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/megaflopp, ©iStock.com/XiXinXing, ©iStock.com/shapecharge

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Source: smartasset.com

Most popular homes and their neighborhoods of July 2019

Summer is underway, and home buyers are dreaming big. Our most-viewed properties in July include several stunning homes that are asking eight or nine figures. But even the most palatial estate needs a top-quality neighborhood to seal the deal. So we took a look at July’s most popular homes to get the rundown on the neighborhood with an assist from What Locals Say, our guide to residents’ insights on their own communities.

Enjoy browsing these big summer dreams—and the very reasonable buys mixed in here, too.

Flatiron District, New York

$98,000,000

Flatiron District penthouse for sale in New York City on Trulia
How many fireplaces can fit in one home? This place tests the limits. See more photos here.

Named for one of New York City‘s early skyscrapers, the Flatiron District in Manhattan is home to lots of publishers and ad agencies and is also part of the city’s “Silicon Alley” tech business district. Major attractions range from the popular Italian food hall Eataly to Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace. But despite the bustle, the Flatiron District is also an in-demand residential area, as notable residents like Chelsea Clinton can testify. What Locals Say users describe the neighborhood is just an all-around nice place. “There are parks and schools in the immediate area as well as plenty of fun stores and galleries and movie theaters,” one resident says.1

Available now in the Flatiron District, this extravagant penthouse suite is 19,000 square feet. With 11 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, and truly grand views of the city from its 4,500 square feet of terrace, NYC living doesn’t get much more luxurious than this.


Hearthstone, Yonkers

$399,000

Wood beams on the ceiling are always a plus. See more photos here.

One resident of Yonkers’ Hearthstone neighborhood describes the place as “centrally located to all”—including Yonkers itself and the Big Apple, just 45 minutes away by train.2 Neighborhood restaurants are wildly diverse, featuring Filipino, Korean, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. Residents also enjoy a variety of local groceries, including the fish market and restaurant at Highridge Fishery Seafood, described by one Yelp reviewer as “Yonkers’ best-kept secret.” If you’re seeking entertainment, the Alamo Drafthouse is an upscale movie theater, and for the outdoorsy, nearby Sprain Ridge Park has 278 acres of natural beauty to explore.

Available now in Hearthstone, this charming Cape Cod is the epitome of cozy living. It packs a lot into its small footprint, including three bedrooms, a bathroom, plenty of storage space, and a finished basement. We also love the little deck for summertime relaxation.


Bel Air, Los Angeles

$195,000,000

The hedge maze will make you feel like you’re in a Jane Austen novel. See more photos here.

Bel Air is the stuff of pop-culture legend, thanks to the TV shows set or shot there and the stars, from Jennifer Aniston to Alfred Hitchcock, who’ve called it home. But if you look beyond the big names, big houses, and big reputation, you’ll find neighbors who enjoy a quiet area with abundant natural beauty. “We are surrounded by nature: trees, flowers, birds, butterflies,” says one resident on What Locals Say.3 Right in the neighborhood, Getty View Park is an ideal place to enjoy some of that beauty (and take in a great view of L.A.). And, as you would expect, there’s chic dining and shopping in the area if you don’t feel like venturing out into the rest of L.A.

Available now in Bel Air is the 10-acre Chartwell estate. All told, the property has 11 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms, as well as a 40-vehicle car gallery and a 12,000-bottle wine cellar. And the gardens and L.A. views are downright magical.


Beverly Glen, Los Angeles

$150,000,000

A barber chair comes in the bathroom, but it’s BYO barber. See more photos here.

One resident of L.A.‘s Beverly Glen neighborhood describes it as, “Beautiful, quiet and unique. Feels far away from the city but is close to everything.”4 The small community is tucked between two of the area’s most prestigious neighborhoods, Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills, and also has easy access to Westwood and Hollywood. Despite its exclusive address, Beverly Glen has a very close-knit community feel. There’s little retail in the area, but Glen Market is a beloved local grocery. And neighbors look forward to annual community events like the Garden Walk and Glen Fair, with music, dancing, food, and kids’ activities.

Available now in Beverly Glen, this luxury home is ideal for anyone who loves soaking up the sun and 270-degree views of L.A. And its 38,000-square-foot interior is worth a peek too, with gorgeously designed spaces including—get this—a candy room, a movie theater, and three gourmet kitchens.


Soundview, The Bronx

$649,999

Peek inside to see the reading nook under a window. See more photos here.

Just north of the confluence of the Bronx and East rivers, Soundview is a working-class community with culture to spare. According to AM New York, “Bronx residents frequent Soundview for two things: Food and music.” It’s easy to see why. The local dining scene has Mexican, Caribbean, and Spanish restaurants—although a single cuisine isn’t enough for local institution Joe’s Place, which proudly “offers three distinct dining atmospheres” under the same roof. Joe’s is also a neighborhood music venue, as is Soundview Park, which hosts summer concerts on the waterfront. “Just nice and calm. No drama,” says one local. “I love living in this area.”5

Available now in Soundview, this two-family home has been well maintained and beautifully renovated. The hardwood floors and stone shower walls lend a contemporary elegance, and the small back deck is a great place to relax outdoors even in the heart of the city.


Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

$695,000

A leaded glass door and wrought iron railings? Yes, please. See more photos here.

The Bensonhurst neighborhood is known as the biggest of Brooklyn‘s multiple “Little Italies” but also as one of the borough’s Chinatowns. The area bustles with sushi bars, innumerable local groceries, nightclubs, and cafes. And with plenty of subway stations in the neighborhood, Manhattan is just 45 minutes away. One lifetime Bensonhurst resident says she’s “seen many changes, but it’s still a safe place to live with great neighbors, shopping, and transportation.”6

Available now in Bensonhurst, this three-bedroom home has both new and old touches. The detailed iron banister, stained-glass windows, and flagstone patio all seem to hail from different eras—but they all work in this warm and welcoming space.

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1 Trulia user, Sept. 2018 “There are parks and schools in the immediate area as well as plenty of fun stores and galleries and movie theaters.”

2Mike P., Sept. 2018 “Neighbors are very friendly and area area is central located to all. wonderful neighborhood! Very quite, shopping is a mile away and Scarsdale train station is only about 1 1/2 miles away.”

3Trulia User, 2013 “I love this area ! The people never want to leave. We are surrounded by nature: trees, flowers, birds, butterflies. The public elementary school is one of the top, if not the top, in the city. The neighbors are multi-generational.”

4 Jenny, Feb. 2019 “Beautiful, quiet and unique. Feels far away from the city but is close to everything. Nice parks. Please do t speed on the blvd, its very dangerous “

5 Dameen T., June 2019“Just nice and calm No drama I love living in this area Very clean and always busy always see the same faces “

6 Msgrace46, May, 2018 “I have lived here all my life have seen many changes but it’s still a safe place to live with great neighbors, shopping and transportation “

The post Most popular homes and their neighborhoods of July 2019 appeared first on Trulia's Blog.

Source: trulia.com

Home Buyer’s Guide: How to Purchase a Property, From Start to Finish [Free Download]

Purchasing a home is both exciting and a major milestone in your life, so you’ll want to be prepared for what to expect to avoid a stressful process. Having an in-depth look at the buyer’s journey can help you make informed and confident decisions.

From finding a real estate agent, negotiating offers to getting your keys on closing day, we’ve outlined all the steps of a home buyer’s journey in our free Buyer’s Guide, which you can download here.

The Buyer’s Guide will cover the buyer’s timeline from meeting an agent to preparing for closing day. We’ve outlined the 8 steps in a home buyer’s journey below.

1. Working With An Agent

Every city is filled with thousands of agents, but not all are equal. We believe it is important to choose an agent that you feel confident with. Before you commit to working with an agent, make sure you have a good understanding of the knowledge and experience they offer. It’s important that you ask your questions before making the decision to work with them.

2. Financing Your Purchase

Before you set a budget and start looking for a home, you’ll have to understand what costs to expect when purchasing a home. Here are some of the major costs involved:

  • Deposits
  • Down payments
  • Mortgage insurance
  • Closing costs

You’ll also want to calculate a rough estimate of the down payment that you will be expected to pay. Depending on the price of your home, your minimum down payment can range from 5% to 20%. If you’re interested in learning more about how to finance your home, you can get our free Financing Your Purchase guide here.

3. Searching For A Home

An important part of searching for a home is understanding how the home will fit with your needs and your lifestyle. You’ll want to consider home ownership as well as different types of properties and features. 

Types of Home Ownership

  • Freehold Ownership
    • You purchase the home and directly own the lot of land it sits on
  • Condominium Ownership
    • For condos, you own specific parts of one building: titled ownership of your unit, along with shared ownership in the condo corporation that owns the common spaces and amenities
  • Co-Op Ownership
    • You own an exact portion of the building as a whole and also have exclusive use of your unit

Types of Properties

  • Detached houses
  • Semi-detached houses
  • Attached houses
  • Condos and apartments
  • Multi-unit

Tip: Depending on your budget and desired location, you may need to be flexible to find a home that meets your needs. By being willing to trade some features for others, you’ll have more options to choose from.

4. Negotiating An Offer

When you are making an offer to purchase a home, the purchase agreement should include the essential components listed below. Your agent can help put together an offer that is compelling, while safeguarding your interests and puts you in a competitive position to secure your new home.

You’ll also have the opportunity to choose the conditions that you’ll want in your offer. Some of these may include a home inspection or a status certificate review.

5. Financial Due Diligence

Whenever you make an offer on a house, you need to provide a deposit to secure the offer. The deposit is in the form of a certified cheque, bank draft, or wire transfer; it’s held in trust by the selling brokerage and is applied towards your down payment if your offer is successful.

There are two types of deposits:

  • Upon acceptance
    • The deposit is provided within 24 hours of the seller choosing your offer
  • Herewith
    • The deposit is provided when the offer is made

6. Property Due Diligence

To firm up a deal or educate yourself more on the state of the property, you’ll likely want to have a home inspection if you’re purchasing a house. If you’re purchasing a condo, then your lawyer will review the building’s status certificate.

Home Inspection

A home inspector will assess elements of the home such as the walls, windows, plumbing, heating and roof to judge the condition of the home. This process is non-invasive and is essential to help provide buyers with a good idea of the home’s current condition and the confidence of putting in an offer. 

Tip: The home inspector will provide a summary of suggested work along with a minimum budget estimate for the repairs needed. 

Status Certificates

If you’re purchasing a condominium, you’ll need to obtain a status certificate from the condo board or management for your lawyer’s review. This document will include valuable information about the condo’s budget, legal issues, reserve fund, maintenance fees and future fees increases – and the lawyer can help identify potential red flags

7. Preparing For Closing

Before the big day, you’ll want to keep a checklist of what to do ahead of time. Some of these include:

  • Review your contract
  • Complete a final walkthrough of the home
  • Purchase home insurance
  • Meet with your lawyer
  • Know how much cash you’ll need
  • Secure cash required for closing

8. Closing Day

Closing Day is when you’ll finally get the keys to your new home! In addition to bringing the cash required for closing, you’ll have to sign a few more documents which will include:

  • Mortgage loan
  • Title transfer
  • Statement of adjustments
  • Tax certificates

For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Buyer’s Guide here.

The post Home Buyer’s Guide: How to Purchase a Property, From Start to Finish [Free Download] appeared first on Zoocasa Blog.

Source: zoocasa.com

Easy Ways to Increase Your Earning Potential Today

Are you sick of feeling as though you always have more bills than income? Every month, you work hard to bring home a decent wage to support your family. Yet, somehow, when you need funds, there never seems to be anything available in your bank account. Sometimes, the problem might be that you’re struggling to manage your budget. Not knowing how to properly look after your money could mean that you spend too much, too fast. In other circumstances, your issue might be that you’re not taking advantage of opportunities to increase your earning potential. If you’re already doing everything you can to reduce excess spending and improve your financial habits, but you’re still facing money worries, then the following earning boosters could be just what you need. Let’s look at some quick and easy ways to turn your life around.

Consider a new job

All jobs have their pros and cons to consider. However, some roles definitely pay more than others. If you feel as though you’ve already gotten everything you can out of your current position, and there’s no room left to grow, a new role might be the best option. If you don’t want to switch away from the current company that you’re with, you could ask about switching to a different department. If there’s nowhere else for you to go in your current business, then it might be a good idea to see what someone can offer you elsewhere. Many people who switch jobs can take advantage of looking to improve earning potential than those that stick with the same role. Remember, if you do decide to switch to somewhere new, take your time to find something that actually appeals to you. Don’t just jump at the first offer you get. Play the field first.

Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

Improve your reputation

Reputation can make a big difference in your earning potential these days. In a world where we’re constantly connected to the internet, your image online might help you to find a new or higher-paying job. For instance, if you’re connected to the right people on LinkedIn, then you might speak to someone who can give a good word for you in a higher-paying department in your company. Start by auditing your existing personal brand online. See what people will find if they look for your name. If you have any unprofessional social accounts that are set to public, make them private immediately. Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills. This could mean that you join some professional groups, comment on forums, or even visit local events from time to time.

Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills.

Develop your skills

Sometimes, jobs will pay you a higher wage for a reason. A career that requires a specialist skill will often pay more than a basic entry-level job. With that in mind, it might be worth building on the talents that you already have. Think about the kind of things that you enjoy doing. Maybe you could work on something like coding or improving your technical expertise. The best way to boost your chances of getting your new skills recognized is to check out some student loans and head back to school. There are tons of different courses that you can take to add new certifications to your resume. You could also look into building out your knowledge about other topics online, taking free courses in your spare time. Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

Ask for a promotion

When’s the last time you just asked your boss whether they could pay you more? If you know that you’ve been delivering excellent work for a good while now, then it might be a good time to ask for a raise. Most business leaders won’t want to take the risk of losing an employee that’s valuable to the team. Check websites that list job openings and find out if there are any higher-paying companies out there that provide a better wage for the role you do now. This will give you a good starting point when you start asking for a wage. If you’re nervous, remember that hiring new team members comes with its own costs. If you’re a great employee, your boss would prefer to keep you around most of the time—even if that means paying more.

If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential.

Start a side hustle

Finally, if you’ve already gone and built some new skills at school, but you haven’t found the perfect job to use them in yet, why not try creating your own career with a side hustle? This is basically a job that you can do on the side to add more income to your bank. Many people have discovered that they can put a few extra hours into their work online each day and make a hefty amount of additional income. Thanks to the gig economy, it’s easy to find opportunities to make cash with things like graphic design, content writing, website development, and more. Start by making a list of the kind of things you’d be interested in doing. You might even decide to create your own business and sell items online using a dropshipping company. Dropshipping services handle things like manufacturing and shipping products for you, so you just need to build a brand and find customers.

Increase your earning potential

Money might not make you happy, but it’s one of the most important things in many of our lives. If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential. Whether you’re developing new cash opportunities with your current employer or thinking about becoming your own boss with a side hustle, make the conscious effort to invest in yourself this year. The quicker you start working on your new earning opportunities, the more money you’ll make for your future.

Source: quickanddirtytips.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.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
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How to Balance Your Life and Budget: 12 Tips to Stay Organized

Life’s a juggling act. You could be building your career, spending time on hobbies, and making time for those you love all at once. Finding a healthy way to navigate all three can be a hard code to crack. Often, one aspect of your life ends up taking more resources than the rest. While hustling your way to the top is good for your career and earnings, you may find yourself out of balance with your health or family. Ultimately, an unbalanced schedule can result in exhaustion, stress, and even burnout.

Learn how to balance your life, career, and budget while reaching your biggest goals. You’ll be working smarter, not harder — here’s how.

make-your-money-work-for-you

How to Balance Your Budget

Balancing your budget is essential for financial success. When you’re free of financial burden, it’s easier to feel relaxed and in control of your life. There are a few tricks to finding a budgeting rhythm that works for you — using a budgeting app is a great place to start.

1. Simplify Your Budget

Make budgeting easy by investing in what you love and saving on what you don’t. Start by downloading our app and tracking your earnings and expenses. Then, see what unnecessary expenses you can cut out. You may love eating out with your friends, but to avoid racking up a hefty bill, limit eating out to once a week.

2. Budget for Extra Expenses

It’s not sustainable to only spend money on things you need. Being strict with your budget could send you into a shopping spiral. There are times when you want to buy a new pair of shoes or eat out with your friends. If you have the money to do so, treat yourself without going overboard by sticking to your budget. Once you find a budget that works for you, set aside a specific amount to spend on extras.

3. Automate What You Can

Make your money work for you without thinking about it. Set a budget and try it out for a few months — adjust as needed. For example, if you feel like you always go over your grocery budget but you never use all of your gas money, reallocate those funds. Once you have all the kinks worked out, set up automatic payments for recurring expenses such as savings account contributions, debt payments, and living expenses. You won’t have to worry about missing a payment or creating a new budget every month.

4. Follow Trusted Financial Gurus

Weed through your social media feeds. Do you follow people that have a bad influence on your spending habits? How about financial experts that help you manage your money? Every month, sift through who you follow and remove accounts that negatively impact your money habits. It’s always a good idea to follow accounts that have a positive effect. For example, Mint’s Instagram account could be the right influence for you!

work-smarter-not-harder

How to Balance Your Work and Personal Life

Working is what helps you pay your bills and live the life you want. But it can easily fill your schedule if you’re overly invested. Whether you work from home or an office, it’s important to make time for things you love — whether it be your family, friends, hobbies, or all three.

5. Set Boundaries In and Out of the Office

When you’re at work, stay focused on work. When you’re at home, stay focused on your loved ones, hobbies, or relaxing. If the lines get blurred, set rules for you and your loved ones. Turn off your work notifications after hours to avoid interference. When you’re working, silence your phone to steer clear of distractions and stay in your workflow. You may find yourself more productive and with extra time to take on more tasks — this could help you earn that promotion.

6. Prioritize Your Time

It’s hard to make time for everything you want to do. Lessen stress by prioritizing your time like you would your budget. List your most important tasks for the next day, followed by your lower priorities. Reference your list throughout the day to help you stay focused on what you need to do. This method saves you time and energy preparing for the day ahead.

7. Make Your Workplace Work for You

To set yourself up for success, start with your work environment. Get focused by creating different “zones” in your home or office. Section off places for working, eating, relaxing, and sleeping. Working in bed feels comfortable, but lacks balance. You could find yourself online shopping over focusing on your work task at hand.

8. Schedule Daily “You” Time

Having back-to-back meetings, tasks, or events can drain your energy, especially if the majority of your time is being spent on things you’re not passionate about. Create time for you by putting it on the calendar. Find a few times that work for your schedule and add in non-negotiable breaks. For example, block off your lunch break to check in on your budget.

 

health-is-wealth

How to Balance a Healthy Lifestyle

Having a balanced lifestyle is essential for your mental and physical health. No matter what, there’s always someone to respond to or something to do. If you’re the “yes” person, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin. Instead of taking on every burden thrown at you, here are some tips on how to hit pause and put yourself first.

9. Eliminate Negativity

Filter through your lifestyle stressors by having honest conversations with yourself and others. Do you have friends that don’t positively impact your life? Or do you have a job that doesn’t bring you joy? If so, it may be time to cut ties with negative people or situations. Having relationships that don’t make you happy could influence bad purchasing decisions or habits.

10. Make Time for What You Love

During your free time, what do you do for fun? Working out, going on long walks, curling up with a good book, or anything else that brings you joy. Instead of only enjoying your favorite activities only on the weekends, add them to your daily routine. Make room in your budget for your favorite things throughout the work week.

11. Listen to Your Body

Some days you feel happy and ready to take on tasks thrown your way; other days you’re overwhelmed when it comes to meeting expectations. Fluctuations in your mood are normal! It’s how you handle them that makes the biggest impact. If you’re feeling down, listen to your body and treat yourself to a relaxing self-care evening that’s easy on your budget.

12. Be Patient With Yourself

Know we all have our good and bad days. Instead of being hard on yourself for a day gone sour, list out things you can do to prepare for the future. For example, you may have had a bad day at work. Take some time, stay calm, and brainstorm what you could have done differently in the situation. As you learn from your mistakes, you’ll grow into your career and potentially earn a promotion.

 

are-you-living-life-unbalanced

This process may entail establishing new habits and breaking old ones. In most cases, updating your daily habits takes time. Be patient with yourself and your budget as you seek balance. It isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but could save you daily stress.

Sources: The U.S. Sun | World Population Review | Stress | U.S. Travel

The post How to Balance Your Life and Budget: 12 Tips to Stay Organized appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

4 Ways To Use Credit Card Rewards To Help Pay For A Wedding

Your wedding can be one of your biggest life expenses, depending on what you include in your ceremony and reception. The average expense for a wedding has consistently risen over time, to a point that now the average wedding costs in the range of $30,000. If you’re looking to get married soon, Mint can actually help you create a separate wedding budget to help you manage those costs. 

In this article, we’ll talk about how you can use credit card rewards to help pay for a wedding. And while you’re unlikely to be able to pay for your entire wedding with credit card rewards, every little bit saved helps.

Planning a wedding

If you have a wedding coming up, the first thing that you’ll want to do is create a budget. Just like with your regular expenses, having a budget is an important step in keeping your costs down. Without a written budget, your costs have a tendency to go up and up without end. 

One important thing to keep in mind is that a budget can be as strict or as loose as you want it. Some people prefer to handle cost overruns by reducing the budget in other categories to compensate. Others choose to just increase the budget if costs are higher than expected. No matter how you decide to handle it, having a written budget means that you’ll make a conscious decision about it rather than just having expenses rise without you realizing it.

Paying for your wedding with credit cards

One way that you can help offset some of the costs of a wedding is via credit cards and credit card rewards. If you average a 2% return in credit card rewards on a $30,000 wedding, that’s $600 back. Of course, the easiest way to save money paying for your wedding is to have a smaller wedding, but that may not be an option for you, depending on your specific situation.

There are a few things that you’ll want to consider if you are talking about paying for your wedding with credit cards. The first is that paying for everything with credit cards does make it much easier to lose control of your spending. Just like with anything else, you should only spend money on credit cards that you have in the bank. That way you can always make your credit card payment in full, each and every month.

The other thing to consider when paying for a wedding with credit cards is that not every vendor might accept credit cards as a form of payment. This is especially true for individuals or smaller businesses. And those that do take credit cards may charge a processing fee. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to pay a 2.9% credit card processing fee to get 2% back in rewards. In those cases, it’s better to pay with cash, a check, or a payment service. You might also ask if there would be a discount for paying in cash — again, that could be more lucrative than any rewards you get from paying with a credit card.

Getting signup bonuses with all that spending

One option for making the most out of your credit card rewards that you might want to take advantage of is signing up for new credit cards that offer attractive welcome offers. Many credit cards offer signup bonuses for new applicants with a value of hundreds of dollars or more. These offers usually have a spending requirement associated with them, which isn’t a problem if you’ve got all those wedding expenses. Just remember to watch out for the many overpriced wedding items that you might want to avoid.

Using credit card rewards to pay for your honeymoon

Another way that you can use credit card rewards is to help pay for your honeymoon. Many credit cards offer rewards such as airline miles, hotel points or other types of travel rewards and benefits. Signing up for a few key credit cards can be a great way to splurge on a honeymoon to remember at a fraction of the cost. Flying in first class or staying in luxury resorts is something that may be much more in reach by using miles and points than if you were to try to pay for it with cash.

The Bottom Line

Smart usage of credit card rewards can be a great way to help pay for a wedding or, at the very least, get a rebate on all of the spending you’re doing. Make sure to set a budget to help stay out of wedding debt and use credit cards as part of your spending strategy. Following these simple steps can help you maximize your credit card rewards without hurting your overall credit score. Watch out for vendors that charge credit card processing fees and don’t use your credit card as an excuse to spend money that you don’t have.

The post 4 Ways To Use Credit Card Rewards To Help Pay For A Wedding appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Auto Insurance Coverage

Recent data suggests that the average driver will spend close to $100,000 on car insurance over their lifetime. That’s a staggering sum of money, especially when you consider estimates that suggest Americans will pay over $500,000 in that time just to own, operate, and maintain a car.

$100,000 is a lot of money to spend on something that you may never benefit from, something that you’re only buying because your state authorities told you too. But while car insurance policies are essential, the amount that the average consumer spends on them is not.

In this guide, we’ll look at the ways you can save money on auto insurance premiums and get the most value out of this necessary expense.

Build Your Credit Report

Never underestimate the value of a high credit score and a clean credit report. Not only can it help when applying for a car loan, increasing the value of the car you can purchase and decreasing the interest rates you’re charged, but it will also reduce your car insurance rates.

There is no easy and quick way to turn a bad credit report into a good credit report, but there are a few simple changes you can make that could increase your score enough to make a difference. These include:

  • Stop applying for new lines of credit.
  • Become an authorized user on a respectable user’s credit card.
  • Increase credit limits on your active credit cards.
  • Pay off as much debt as you can, focusing on credit cards and personal loans first.
  • Don’t close your credit card accounts after clearing them.

If you don’t have any credit at all, which is true for many teen drivers getting behind the wheel for the first time, try the following options:

  • Credit builder loans
  • Secured credit cards
  • Lending circles

Choose Your Car Carefully

A new car is a great way to get a high-tech, customized vehicle, but it’s not ideal if you’re looking to save on insurance costs.

New vehicles cost more to insure because they are a greater liability, with more expensive parts and greater overall value. If you want to save on your auto insurance coverage, look for a car that is at least a few years old, has a number of safety features and a high safety rating.

The cheaper, the better, but only to a point. You want something that won’t leave you in complete financial ruin if it’s wrecked in a car accident and you don’t have the insurance to cover it, but something that won’t breakdown every few miles and leave you stranded and broke every other week.

Drive Safely and Prove Your Worth

Your driving record is just as important as your credit report, if not more so. The more at-fault accidents, traffic tickets, and insurance claims you have, the higher your car insurance rates will be.

A single conviction won’t last forever and the impact will eventually dissipate, so even if you have a few blemishes on your record now, just keep driving safely and you’ll be able to reap the benefits before long.

It takes time to prove your worth to insurance companies, but there are a few things you can do to expedite this process. The first is to take a defensive driving course. In some states and for some demographics (mostly seniors and young drivers), you’ll be offered a discount for completing one of these courses.

The next step is to consider a usage-based program. These are offered by most major insurance companies and can track your driving habits to determine what kind of driver you are. If you’re driving safe and doing very low mileage, you could start seeing some noticeable changes in just a few months. The majority of providers will even give you a discount just for signing up.

Pay Everything Upfront

Most policyholders pay their premiums monthly and it may seem like that’s the best thing to do. $100 a month seems infinitely more manageable than $1,200 a year. 

It is an attitude that many people have, and it’s one that often leads to debt and poor decisions.

Millions of Americans have credit card debt because a $200 monthly payment seems more achievable than a $5,000 payoff, even though the former carries a phenomenal interest rate. It’s also why countless first-time buyers rush into getting mortgages with small down payments and high-interest rates, even though doing so could mean they are paying twice as much money over the term.

Whenever you can benefit from making an upfront payment, do it. This is true for your loan debt and credit card debt, and it’s also true for your car insurance premiums.

Many insurance providers offer you an upfront payment discount of up to 5%. It doesn’t sound like much, but every little helps. If you have a $3,000 car insurance policy, that 5% adds up to $150. Add a few more discounts and you can save even more money and make an even bigger dent in your insurance rates.

Combine Policies and Vehicles

Insurance companies that offer multiple types of insurance tend to offer discounts when you purchase several products from them.

Known as multi-policy discounts or “bundling”, these offers are common with homeowners insurance and auto insurance, but they are also offered with renters insurance and life insurance.

You can combine several vehicles onto the same auto insurance policy, as well, saving much more than if you were to purchase separate policies.

These discounts are essential for multi-car households, but they are not limited to cars. Many insurers will also let you add boats, ATVs, motorcycles, and other vehicles onto the same policy.

Shop Around

Before you settle on a single policy, shop around, compare as many car insurance quotes as you can, try multiple different insurance options (uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, comprehensive coverage, collision coverage) and make sure you’re getting the lowest rates for the best cover.

Too many drivers make the mistake of going with the same provider their friends or parents have; the same provider they have used for a number of years. In doing so, they could be missing out on huge savings. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that all providers offer similar rates and that the difference between them is minor. But regardless of your age, gender, and state, the difference between one provider and the next could be up to 200%!

Check if You’re Covered Elsewhere

Car insurance companies offer a number of add-ons and optional coverage options. These are enticing, as they cover you for numerous eventualities and some of them cost just a few dollars extra a month. But all of those dollars add up and could result in you paying much more than you need for cover you already have.

Roadside assistance is a great example of this. It will help you if you are stranded by the side of the road, assisting with services such as tire changes, fuel delivery, towing, and more. But if you have a premium credit card or are a member of an automobile club, you may already have that cover.

The same goes for rental car coverage, which is often purchased at the rental car counter. Although it has its uses, if you have an auto insurance policy, travel insurance, and a premium credit card, you’re probably already covered. In fact, many Visa credit cards offer this service completely free of charge when you use your Visa to pay the bill, but only if you reject the waivers sold by the rental car company.

Bottom Line: Best Auto Insurance Companies

​Car insurance coverage varies from state to state and provider to provider. There is no “best” company, as even the ones with consistently affordable rates will not be the best option in all states or for all demographics.

In our research, we found that GEICO was consistently one of the cheapest providers for good drivers, bad credit drivers, and even high risk drivers. GEICO also offers personal injury protection, collision insurance, medical payments, uninsured motorist coverage, and more, making them the most complete provider for the majority of drivers.

However, in some states, local farm bureaus come out on top, offering very cheap bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage, and giving policyholders a level of care and attention that they might not find with the bigger, national providers. USAA, which offers cheap car insurance to members of the military, also leads the way in the majority of states, but only for those who meet the criteria.

Simply put, there is no right insurance provider for you, just like there is no right coverage. That’s why it’s important to shop around, chop and change your coverage options, and don’t assume that any type of coverage or provider is right for you until you’ve looked at the numbers.

 

 

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Auto Insurance Coverage is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com