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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Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buying a house is a big decision, but it can feel especially overwhelming to place an offer on a home less than 24 hours after seeing it for the first time. Plus you’re under pressure to outbid several other buyers — or risk losing the house.

While these circumstances might sound extraordinary, they’re not. With housing inventory nationwide at an all time-low — down 22% from last year according to the National Association of Realtors — it’s no wonder buyers are competing for the same few houses.

I was in this exact position last fall. Here are seven key takeaways from my experience buying in a seller’s market.

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

In order to be competitive in a hot seller’s market, you will need to line up your financing in advance.

Besides all the usual suspects, like saving up for a down payment and improving your credit score, you’ll also want to get a pre-approval letter from your bank. It states that a bank would approve you for a mortgage of a certain amount, and acts as a guarantee to the seller that you can actually afford to buy their house.

This is where it helps to know your budget up front.

“It’s important to understand that the strength of financing is a key consideration a seller takes into account when selecting an offer,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel.

No seller wants to risk accepting an offer that might fall through. Aand since pre-approval letters can take some time to get, have one ready before you find your dream house.

Be Friendly With Neighbors

This might sound crazy, but making a good impression on your new neighbors can actually make a difference when it comes time for a seller to review offers.

Since you’ll likely be visiting the home at least once before making an offer, be prepared to talk to any neighbors you might run into. In close-knit neighborhoods, or ones where people share resources (like an HOA), sellers might care a bit more about the type of person they sell the house to.

If you happen to meet a neighbor when visiting the home, introduce yourself and make a good impression. You never know how much their opinion of you might factor into any final decisions.

Submit an Offer Quickly

After you’ve seen a house, and decided you love it, be prepared to submit an offer quickly— as in, ASAP.

Work with your real estate agent to determine how many other offers the seller already has (or expects to get) and then be prepared to draft something up that day. In our case, we toured our home for the very first time at 11 a.m. on a Monday — it came on the market the evening before — and made an offer by 4 p.m. that same day.

If that sounds fast, it is. But by the time we submitted our offer, the seller already had three others. This is where it helps to have a great real estate agent on your side.

“Having a realtor who can get your offer submitted quickly is crucial,” said Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers. “You want to get your offer in front of the seller first, and make it strong. Purchase price is the obvious factor and in a competitive market, houses often go for over asking price. However, a strong offer has several factors and it depends on what’s most important to the seller.”

Work with your real estate agent to find out what matters most to the seller — is it money, closing quickly, something else entirely? Then make sure your offer addresses their needs.

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

Another way to win over your seller (and prevail in any bidding wars) is by keeping your contingencies to a minimum.

Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. Unsurprisingly, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with. Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs, getting a home inspection, or even the fact that you’ll need to sell your old house before being able to buy the new one.

“In a really aggressive seller’s market, a home buyer who has to sell a current property should do so before placing an offer on another home,” said Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “Don’t always assume that the seller will take the highest price. Other conveniences can play a factor in gaining the seller’s attention, especially things like faster closing times and less restrictions.”

While my partner and I didn’t make the highest offer on our house, we did have the fewest contingencies — mainly, we didn’t ask too much of our seller in the way of repairs, or have another house to sell in order to afford the new one.

All that said, there are certain contingencies you should never forgo, and a home inspection is one of them. Getting your home inspected is hugely important, since inspectors will often find things even the sellers weren’t aware of. No matter how much you love a house, don’t be afraid of exercising your right to an inspection.

According to buyer protection laws in most states, sellers are required to report any findings in home inspections to subsequent buyers. In other words, if an inspector finds something wrong with the house, the seller will have to deal with it one way or another— either with you, or the next buyer should you choose to drop out of the deal.

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

When trying to woo your seller in a competitive market, it helps to make a generous earnest money deposit. An earnest money deposit is a good-faith deposit requested by the seller when you enter into a contract to buy the house and typically run anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.

When deciding how much of an earnest money deposit to include in your offer, keep in mind that whatever amount you give comes off the price of the home (and is returned to you if the deal falls through). In other words, there’s no reason to be cheap. If you can, go slightly above the seller’s requested deposit amount. Even if it’s just a little more than what they’re asking, that gesture of good faith might just be what gets you the house.

A row of houses on a cul de sac in a suburban neighborhood.

Offer Above Asking Price

Wait. Why would anyone make an offer that’s above asking price? Because the competition did it first, and in a hot seller’s market, offering above asking price is often what it takes to even be considered.

Upping your offer may not break the bank as much as you’re fearing. “With interest rates so low these days, offering more than what the seller is asking may not make a drastic difference in your overall monthly payments,” real estate agent Pavel Khaykin of Pavel Buys Houses said.

Let’s say the listing price on your dream home is $320,000 and you’re able to put down a 6% down payment. That leaves you with a mortgage of roughly $301,000. For a 30-year fixed mortgage at an interest rate of 3%, that translates into $1,269 monthly payments. Now let’s say you decide to bid a little higher on the home and offer $10,000 over asking price. This would only bump up your monthly payment (assuming you qualify for that low interest rate) by $42.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

In a hot seller’s market, you’ve got to be ready to move fast. Often this is more of a change in mindset than anything else. When my partner and I first started looking at homes, we considered ourselves casual buyers — that is, until our dream home came on the market late one Sunday night. From there, things moved quickly. We saw the home, made an offer, were under contract by morning, and spent the next month and a half going through the process of closing on the house.

If you’re serious about finding your dream home in the next few months, the best thing you can do is know what you want from the outset, and get your ducks in a row to make a compelling offer when you find it. Maybe this means making a list of your must-haves in a house, and working to improve your credit score. It might also mean reaching out to a real estate agent before you need one, and getting that pre-approval letter in place.

Although inventory is low, new houses come on the market all the time.

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington Lists Bright and Beautiful Venice Beach Home

Reality TV star Ty Pennington, known for changing people’s lives with his energetic personality on the original version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, is now looking to cash in on his own home makeover. Pennington has just listed his house — a beautiful and bright 1927 Craftsman in Venice, Calif. — for $2,795,000.

Pennington put his home design expertise to good use and carefully restored the property earlier this year with the help of his trusted interior designer, Patrick Delanty. Delanty, also known to be Halle Berry’s designer, has long been working alongside Ty Pennington, serving as his design director for Extreme Makeover and running his on-air design segments, most notably his presence on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Rachel Ray Show, NBC’s Nightline and Good Morning America.

Just like its reality TV star owner, the home is bright, cheerful and quirky, with colorful interiors exuding creativity and style. The property is listed by Patrice Meepos of Compass.

inside ty pennington's bright home in venice, california
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

Tucked away on a one-way street near the beach, Venice Boardwalk, canals and Abbot Kinney’s hot spots, the original 1927 dwelling has 3 beds, 3 baths, and a sizable living room with decorative fireplace, along with a sunken family room with large windows overlooking a newly landscaped, private back yard with koi pond.

inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
living room in Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington bedroom
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
sunken living room in ty pennington's house
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA.
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

The ground level hosts the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom with direct backyard access, as well as a full bath. On the upper level, there’s a master retreat and a second bedroom. 

Ty Pennington added quite a few special touches to the 2,102-square-foot home, including bamboo flooring, baths adorned in vintage-inspired ceramic tile, a master bath sporting a standalone shower and an antique cast-iron freestanding tub, kitchen with concrete countertops and a wraparound, porcelain-tiled porch. There’s also a beautiful backyard that looks like a great place to entertain guests.

ty pennington kitchen
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington kitchen island
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard entertaining area
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

While Ty Pennington did not return to host HGTV’s 2020 version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which is hosted by Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson), you can catch the two time Emmy award winner in his other home improvement series, Trading Spaces — which recently restarted airing after a 10-year hiatus.

You can also get more tips from the home design expert from his latest book, Good Design Can Change Your Life, which is an intimate look at Ty’s design inspirations and is full of décor advice and tips. While we haven’t yet had the chance to pick up the book ourselves, according to his website the book is part reference, and part behind-the-scenes from Ty’s own home remodeling, which means the Venice home is already a bookshelf hit.

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Source: fancypantshomes.com

How to Make a Side Income Running a Vending Machine Business

While owning vending machines does not require any special skills, it is a business.
One of the first steps in starting a vending machine business is finding your niche and deciding what to sell. That takes a bit of research and knowing who your customer is.
To put yourself in the best position to be profitable means finding the right location.
As we continue to make our way through COVID-19, many people are still looking for ways to get items they need without physical contact with another person.

The Vending Machine Business During COVID-19

The startup costs are relatively low, sometimes around ,000. The work is flexible and often doesn’t require much day-to-day involvement. The risk is comparatively low and there is growth potential.
“Then you only work probably three days a month, basically on the whole gig,” said Ausmus. “Three four days a month can make somebody a good little extra income.”
Different types of machines have different capabilities. Some take only cash while others will process credit or debit cards. Some models have touch screens or voice capabilities.

  • Manufacturing areas
  • Offices
  • Retail spaces
  • Hotels/motels
  • Schools
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Universities/colleges
  • Correctional facilities
  • Military bases
  • Restaurants, bars and clubs

“If (your machine location has) a big break room and a lot of employees, you would have to be there once a day to fill your machines up because that’s how busy they are,” Ausmus said. Other machines like toys and candy don’t require as much restocking.
Think about where people need to wait. While waiting, they may get hungry or thirsty. Ausmus’ novelty machines need kids around.
Revenue for the vending machine industry was .2 billion in 2019, up 3% from the year before.
Many factors make owning a vending machine an attractive business venture.
Some machines have:
That data came from the Automatic Merchandiser’s Annual State of the Industry Survey — before the full impact of COVID-19 hit.
Owning and operating vending machines is big business, providing passive income without any specialized skills. It’s also called automatic merchandising.
“We’re in a tough, tough industry right now with COVID-19. A lot of stores don’t want the machines there, they don’t want the kids congregating, they don’t want people touching them,” said Scott Ausmus, director of manufacturing for National Entertainment Network, Inc. and president of the National Bulk Vendors Association.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Starting a Vending Machine Business

When looking for locations, be prepared to approach the owner or landlord with a business plan for the machine.
The more perishable the product and the busier the area, the more of your time the machine will take.
There are also machines for bulk vending like gumballs, stickers, toys, novelties and more. During COVID-19, machines popped up selling masks and hand sanitizer.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
There is the cost of the machine, the cost of inventory, personnel to keep it stocked, maintenance and more.
Cold beverages were the top-selling product category. A majority of vending machines involve food and beverage products including sodas, coffee, snacks and candy.
“You gotta buy the right product. If you buy the wrong product, it won’t move and you won’t make any money and you certainly don’t want to throw [product] away,” Ausmus said. “You’ve got to have the variety for people and find out which ones they want and that’s what you restock with, what sells.”

Location, Location, Location

At places like airports, vending machines often sell tech accessories and travel essentials like neck pillows, blankets and eye masks. Laundry rooms in residential buildings often have machines with detergent and fabric softener.
Basically, all you need to get started is some startup money to buy a machine, a good location and the right products.

“It’s really not a bad risk to put it in a location and find out that it’s not making enough money. … You can remove it and move it to the next one until you find that right location,” Ausmus said.
Automatic merchandising isn’t for everyone, but owning and operating a vending machine can be a good business. Being able to retrieve the money you make and restock your machines easily is the key.
With many offices, businesses and other public spaces closed or restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the vending industry is certainly taking a hit.
You will need inventory and someone to keep the machine stocked and maintained. This may require a van or truck.
Location can be about trial and error.
Then you will need an actual vending machine. There are several types, and prices vary depending on what is in the machine, whether it needs refrigeration or heating, and the interactivity.

  • Pay a percentage of sales or other fee for having your machine in their location.
  • Pay for the electricity the machine uses.
  • Ensure the security of the machine. There is money inside a machine as well as inventory. Theft and vandalism are always possible.
  • Research state and local laws and regulations.
  • Pay sales tax on the revenue the machine generates.

Key Purchase: Your Vending Machine

“One of the hardest things to do is to locate a location,” he said.
“Make sure that you have your phone number on the machine, and that the store location knows your phone number,” said Ausmus. “If somebody didn’t get what they wanted, make sure the store can give them a refund and you pay the refund back to that store. Then get out there as soon as you can to fix the machine so that you can continue to make money.”
Places with lots of foot traffic are good. Before COVID-19, that meant schools and universities, malls, office parks, etc.
Also be prepared to:

  • Remote monitoring software: This helps keep track of how the machine is working and notifies the operator if something is wrong.
  • Low stock alerts: Notify the operator when items needs replacing.
  • Vending management systems (VMS): Tracks sales and other data to help owners make better business decisions.

Running a Vending Machine Business

Vending machines serve that purpose — and make money for the machine’s owner.
Vending machine businesses are scalable, meaning it’s possible to start small and expand. You don’t have to wait for payments because customers pay when they purchase an item.
Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.
Perishables need to be stocked more often than other items. Learning some basic maintenance skills could keep you from having to hire someone if there is a problem with the machine.
Machines range from about ,500 for a used or refurbished machine to several thousands for a new, high-end machine with many technical features.
There were 2,175,756 vending machines in service in 2019 in a variety of locations including:
While the startup costs are low and the income is often passive, owning vending machines is not without risk. You must be able to understand your own financial situation and how much you can afford to invest.
He grew up in the vending business. The machines he sells and operates are the novelty kind, offering things like stuffed animals, toys and gumballs. Many are in restaurants and entertainment venues like bowling centers.
Buying directly from a manufacturer or supplier is one option, as is purchasing on a secondary market. Some companies also rent machines. Ausmus cautioned to make sure there are spare parts and support available for what you buy.
“There’s a higher profit in the gumball then there is anything else,” Ausmus said. “The cost of goods is low on the gumballs and everybody likes gum, so everybody still purchases a gumball and so that is a winner for a lot of people.”

What Items Should You Put in a Fire Safe Box

If a fire happens, will your important documents stay safe?

Apartment dwellers need to be proactive about protecting critical information in case of a fire. Plenty of us have gone digital when it comes to storage of personal information, but certain items still need to come in hard copies. And some things, other than papers, also need a tangible safe place.

The safety deposit box at the local bank is still an option. However, bank hours aren’t always aligned with yours. If you want to go the digital route, look for companies that specialize in the storage of critical data. You can access your info directly from your phone, tablet or Amazon’s Alexa device. But if you prefer to go more old school — you need to think about protecting your valuables that are difficult to replace.

What will you need easy access to when you’re in an emergency fire crisis? Your list will probably look like this: an original birth certificate, social security card, insurance papers and car titles and other original docs. You could also include spare keys, passports and irreplaceable items like heirloom jewelry. A fireproof safe box will give you peace of mind. And, it will act as a security measure should a fire occur.

Are all fire safe boxes the same?

Did you know that not all fire safe boxes are alike? For example, standard fireproof safes protect your valuables against intense heat and smoke damage for periods of up to 120 minutes, according to Western Safe, while others can withstand the heat for longer. So, what’s the best type of fireproof box? Experts say it all depends on what you intend to store.

You should look for a fire safe box that has emergency override keys so you can open it up even if you forget the passcode. The keys are also good if the batteries run out on the keypad.

To help you know what things to keep in a fire safe box in your apartment, we’ve organized a list. These items make good sense to safeguard against fire:

  • Critical documents: Store your checking and savings account bank books, birth certificates, social security cards, wills and passports in a fire safe box. If you need to get out at a moment’s notice, these important documents will be safe and accessible.
  • Digital media: Your digital must-haves include USB sticks, memory cards and CDs. These items are your physical back-up. And this is especially true if you don’t want your most private data to live on remote servers.
  • Insurance policies: Talk to your insurance company about your renters insurance following the fire. Having access right away to your policy will help you to take action post-fire.
  • Cash: Life today is debit and credit card-driven. But it’s also smart to keep a stash of small bills on hand. If an emergency calls for quick cash, you’ll be glad you thought ahead and put some aside.
  • Other valuables: Remember to organize a file with essential information. Include emergency numbers of family members. Have your prescriptions, who your family doctor is and contact info for your pet’s vet, too.

apartment fire

Do your homework

Before purchasing a fire safe box, be sure to research what’s on the market. You’ll be surprised to find a range of choices. You can even select from fireproof safes that you can bolt to the ground or wall. Is the fire safe box waterproof? If not, be sure to protect all contents by storing them in plastic.

An official fire rating from the Underwriters Laboratory comes with all safes, according to Haven Life. The rating lets you know what temperature the fire safe box will stay inside during a fire. It will also let you know how long it will stay at that temperature.

Look for fire safe boxes that are either 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 325-degrees safe. They typically come with up to three hours’ worth of protection. Spruce reports that some fire safe boxes can withstand fires with temperatures up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Does size matter?

Fire safe boxes are compact to mid-size and come in a range to meet your needs. You can find options with a capacity of 0.17 cubic feet and weighing in at just 14 pounds. Or, one that weighs a little less than 28 pounds and can store flat 8-1/2-by-11-inch, letter-sized documents.

Extra-large capacity fire boxes can hold much more. They can weigh more than 100 pounds and measure more than 1-1/2-feet on each side. But the size is worth it because it gives your stuff a greater chance of surviving a disaster, according to Wirecutter. The site recommends a fire safe box the size of a mini-fridge that weighs in at 56 pounds.

Choose a fire safe box that has all the protective features and benefits to keep your important documents safe. In the long run, the investment could prove to be a wise one.

The post What Items Should You Put in a Fire Safe Box appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Dear Penny: Will Social Security Be Broke by the Time I Retire?

Dear Penny,

I’m a 34-year-old man who just started saving for retirement last year after getting married. My husband is 39 and has been saving for some time. My question is about Social Security. Should someone in our age group expect to receive it at all? I’m always hearing about how Social Security is going broke. 

We’re both somewhat behind on where we should be on retirement. If we can’t rely on getting Social Security checks when we’re older, how much more should we be saving? We don’t want to live on rice and beans in retirement, but we also want to have enough money to enjoy life now.

-R.

Dear R.,

Of all the things that keep me up at night, Social Security’s solvency isn’t one of them. At 37, I’m just a tad older than you. I expect to get benefits someday, and you and your husband should, too.

There’s a kernel of truth to the stories you hear about Social Security running dry. It’s starting to pay out more than it takes in, thanks mostly to people living longer and having fewer children who eventually pay in. Widespread job losses due to the pandemic probably accelerated things a bit.

But we’re still funding Social Security with our payroll taxes. It’s just that if Social Security’s reserves were completely depleted, our payroll taxes would only fund about 79% of obligations through 2090. That’s in the event that Congress takes zero action to shore up more money, which is highly unlikely given that Social Security is the most sacred of all social programs.

My bigger worry for young-ish workers like us is that our benefits won’t go very far. Even for our parents and grandparents who currently receive benefits, Social Security by itself makes for a meager retirement. The average retiree benefit in January 2021 is just $1,543 per month, or $18,516 annually. Social Security estimates that current benefits cover about 40% of an average worker’s pre-retirement income.

Those benefits buy less and less every year. Health care costs, which eat up a huge chunk of retirees’ budgets, rise way faster than Social Security benefits.

The 2021 cost-of-living adjustment was just 1.3%. Ask any retiree whether that’s adequate to cover their rising living costs. The younger you are, the less of your income you should expect your benefits to replace.

So while I think you should expect to receive Social Security someday, I don’t think it should factor into how much you save today. Knowing nothing about your budget or spending, I’ll give you the standard recommendation: Aim to save 15% of your pre-tax income for retirement. If you get an employer 401(k) match, make sure you contribute to enough to get your company’s full contribution. Once you’ve done that, make sure you have at least three months’ worth of emergency savings before you invest more for retirement. That protects your retirement funds so you don’t have to tap them when times are tough.

If you can comfortably save more, great. If 15% isn’t doable right now, figure out what’s manageable and work your way up. For example, you could commit to putting half of your next raise toward your retirement account.

Unfortunately, there’s no level of savings that guarantees you won’t have a rice and beans retirement. The younger you are, the more guesswork goes into retirement planning.

My life plans, at least as told to my Roth IRA brokerage, are as follows: work until age 67, delay Social Security until 70, die at 92. If everything goes as planned, I’ll die with millions. But really all of the above is just wishful thinking on my part. The picture changes drastically if I’m forced to retire early, take Social Security sooner and stretch my savings over more years than I expected. Or if a prolonged bear market hits right as I’m starting to withdraw my retirement money.

All that certainly supports the argument that you should save as much as you can muster as early as possible. But too often in personal finance, we only focus on the retirement years, assuming that they’re guaranteed. The truth is, life can be snatched from us at any moment. So I also want you to have enough room to spend so that you can enjoy life now.

That doesn’t mean you get free rein to spend. But if you focus on what really matters to you, I think you can strike that balance.

You’re 34. You don’t have to figure out your entire retirement plan right now. Focus on making saving a regular habit, and you can figure out the specific pieces as retirement gets closer.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Is a Mortgage Refinance? 5 Ways to Know If It’s a Good Idea

Jason says:

Hi, Money Girl. I’m interested in refinancing and getting a lower interest rate on my mortgage; however, I may need to sell my home and relocate in a year or so. In that case, does a refinance still make sense? If so, what factors should I consider?

Jason, thanks for your question! It’s a perfect time for homeowners to consider refinancing because interest rates are at historic lows.

If you’re a homeowner, your mortgage payment is probably your largest monthly expense, so it’s wise to stay alert for opportunities to reduce it by refinancing. Plus, your financial circumstances and needs today may be very different than they were when you originally got your mortgage.

It’s a perfect time for homeowners to consider refinancing because interest rates are at historic lows.

I'll answer Jason’s question by reviewing what a mortgage refinance is, explaining common reasons to consider doing one, and covering five ways to know if it’s a good idea for your situation.

What is a mortgage refinance?

Refinancing is when you apply for a new loan to pay off an existing loan balance. The new loan could be with your same institution or with a different lender. The idea is to swap out a higher-interest loan for a lower-interest one, which decreases the amount of interest you have to pay and may also reduce your monthly payments.

When you take out a mortgage to buy a home, various factors determine the interest rate you get offered. While your credit, down payment, and income history are critical, lenders base mortgages on the prevailing interest rates. 

An interest rate is simply the cost of money for borrowers. Rates in the U.S. fluctuate according to the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve or Fed, which is our central bank. 

A good rule of thumb is to consider refinancing when the current rate dips at least one percentage point below what you’re paying for your mortgage.

When interest rates are low, it’s like money’s on sale, as strange as that sounds! Banks should display a big banner on their front door or website that reads “bargain basement prices on dollars” or “we sell money cheap” because that’s what happens when interest rates go down. Low rates are great for borrowers, but not so good for lenders. 

The Freddie Mac website shows historical data for interest rates on 30-year mortgages since 1971. In August 2020, the average for a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage was 2.94%. A year earlier, the same loan was 3.62%, and ten years before, it was 4.43%. 

Since interest rates change periodically, the rate you’re currently paying on a mortgage may be significantly different than the going rate. A good rule of thumb is to consider refinancing when the current rate dips at least one percentage point below what you’re paying for your mortgage.

What’s the cost to refinance a mortgage?

You need at least one percentage point between the going rate and yours because there’s a cost to do a refinance. Closing a loan means you must pay fees to various companies, including your lender or mortgage broker, property appraiser, closing agent or attorney, and surveyor. Plus, there are fees required by the local government for recording the mortgage, and maybe more costs, depending on where you live. 

The total upfront cost of a refinance depends on the lender and property location. It could be as high as 3% to 6% of your outstanding loan balance. The trick to knowing if it’s worth it is to figure out when you’d break even on those costs. In other words, when do you go from the red to black on the deal? 

If you pay for a refinance but don’t keep your home long enough to recoup the cost, you’ll lose money. But if you do keep the property beyond the financial break-even point (BEP), you’ll feel like a genius because you saved money in the long run!

If you pay for a refinance but don’t keep your home long enough to recoup the cost, you’ll lose money.

You may be able to roll closing costs for a refinance into the new loan, which means you would have nothing or little to pay out-of-pocket. But adding them increases the amount you borrow and may also increase the interest rate you pay for the life of the loan. For that reason, it’s essential to ask the lender for a side-by-side comparison of all the terms for each loan option so you can carefully evaluate them. 

So, how do you figure the BEP to know if doing a refinance is wise? Here’s a simple BEP formula: Refinance break-even point = Total closing costs / Monthly savings.

For instance, if your closing costs are $5,000 and you save $150 a month on your mortgage payment by refinancing, it would take 34 months or almost three years to recoup the cost. The calculation is $5,000 total costs / $150 savings per month = 33.3 months to break even.

For help crunching your numbers, check out the Refinance Breakeven Calculator at dinkytown.com.

Since how long you own your home after a refinance is critical for making it worthwhile, I’m glad that Jason brought it up in his question. For instance, if he finds out that he’d need to own his home for five years to break-even, but he only plans on staying in it for two years, that should be a deal-breaker.

How to get approved for a mortgage refinance

If you believe that doing a refinance could be wise, you’ll also need to consider if you qualify. Lenders have different underwriting requirements, but most require you to have a minimum amount of equity in your property.

Equity is the difference between your home’s market value today and what you owe on it. A critical ratio for refinancing is known as the loan-to-value or LTV.

For example, if your home value is $300,000 and you have a $150,000 mortgage outstanding, you have $150,000 in equity, an LTV ratio of 50%. But if you owed $250,000, that would be an LTV of 83%. 

You typically need an LTV less than 80% to qualify for a mortgage refinance.

You typically need an LTV less than 80% to qualify for a mortgage refinance. So, Jason should do some quick math to make sure he doesn’t owe more for his home than this threshold based on the current market value. Lenders may still work with you if you have a high LTV and good credit, but they may charge a higher interest rate.

If you have an existing FHA or VA mortgage, you may qualify for a “streamlined” refinance program that requires less paperwork and less equity than a conventional refinance. Check out the FHA Refinance program and the VA Refinance program to learn more.

Reasons to consider refinancing your mortgage

There are a variety of reasons why it may make sense for you to refinance a mortgage. Here are some situations when doing a refinance may be a good solution.

  • Rate-and-term refinance. This is when you get a new loan with a lower interest rate, a different term (length of the loan), or both. It’s probably the most common reason why homeowners refinance their mortgages. 

    Example: If you have a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 5%, you could refinance with a 30-year mortgage at 3%. That would reduce your monthly payments and the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan.
     

  • Cash-out refinance. This is when you get a larger loan than your existing mortgage, so you walk away from the closing with cash. 

    Example: Let’s say your home’s market value is $200,000, and your mortgage balance is $100,000. If you need $25,000 to pay for college or renovate your home, you could do a cash-out refinance for $125,000. After paying off the original mortgage of $100,000, you’d have $25,000 left over to spend any way you like.  
     

  • Cash-in refinance. This is when you pay cash at the closing to pay off an existing mortgage balance. That could be necessary if you don’t have enough equity to qualify for a refinance, or you owe more than your home is worth. 

    Example: You might do a cash-in refinance if having a lower LTV qualifies you for a lower mortgage rate or allows you to get rid of private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments. Read or listen to How to Avoid PMI on Your Home Loan for more information.

You may also need to refinance a mortgage if you want to remove a co-borrower, such as an ex-spouse, from your loan. But if one spouse doesn’t have sufficient income and credit to qualify for a refinance on his or her own, your best option may be to sell the property instead of refinancing the mortgage.

5 ways to know if it’s the right time to refinance

Here are five ways to know if doing a rate-and-term refinance is a good idea.

1. You have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)

Buying a home with an adjustable-rate mortgage comes with lots of advantages like a lower rate, a lower monthly payment, and being able to qualify for a larger loan compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. With an ARM, when interest rates go down, your monthly payments get smaller. 

Instead of worrying about how high your adjustable-rate payment could go, you might refinance to a fixed-rate loan.

But when ARM rates go up, you can feel panicked as your mortgage payment increases month after month. There are caps on annual increases, but your rate could double within just a few years if rates have a significant spike.

Instead of worrying about how high your adjustable-rate payment could go, you might refinance to a fixed-rate loan. That move would lock in a reasonable rate that will never change and make it easier to manage money and stick to a spending plan.

2. You could get a lower interest rate

If you bought a home when mortgage rates were higher than they are now, you’re in a great position to consider refinancing. As I mentioned, you need to do your homework to understand the cost and BEP fully. 

I recommend shopping for a refinance with the lender who holds your current mortgage, plus one or two different companies. Let your mortgage company know that you’re shopping for the best offer. They may be willing to waive specific fees if some of the necessary work, such as a title search, survey, or appraisal, is still current for your home.

3. You don’t plan on moving for several years

Once you know what a refinance will cost, make sure you’ll own your home long enough to pass the BEP, or you’ll end up losing money. For most homeowners, it typically takes owning your home for at least three years after a refinance to make it worthwhile.

4. You have enough home equity

As I mentioned, you typically need at least 20% equity to qualify for a refinance. If you have less, you may still find lenders that will work with you. However, unless your credit is excellent, you’ll typically pay a higher interest rate when you have low equity.

Also, if you don’t have 20% equity, lenders charge PMI. Adding that to your new loan could cut your savings and give you a much longer break-even point. 

5. Your finances are in good shape.

The higher your income and credit, and the lower your debt, the better your refinancing terms will be. If you’re unemployed or your credit took a dive due to a hardship, wait until your overall financial situation has improved before making a mortgage application. Good credit can save thousands in mortgage interest.

Good credit can save thousands in mortgage interest.

If you investigate doing a refinance and decide that it’s not worth the cost, another strategy to save money is to ask your lender for a mortgage modification on your existing loan. You may be able to negotiate modified terms, such as a lower interest rate, without having to pay for a full-blown refinance.

If you’re unsure how much home equity you have or know that you have very little, don’t let that stop you from inquiring about your refinancing options and saving money. Getting advice and refinancing quotes from your lender is free and will help you understand your range of financial options.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Ask the Readers: How Do You Fight the Winter Blues?

Woman fighting the winter blues

Many of us experience the winter blues as the days get colder and darker, some of us may experience it more severely as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Fortunately, there are steps you can take if you’re feeling usually gloomy or lethargic, such as getting natural light whenever you can or doing moderate exercise.

How do you fight the winter blues? What works as a quick pick-me-up when you’re feeling down?

Tell us how you fight the winter blues and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We’re doing three giveaways — here’s how you can win:

  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Tweet about our giveaway for an entry.
  • Visit our Facebook page for an entry.
  • Follow @janetonthemoney on Twitter.

Use our Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, December 2nd at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Winners will be announced after December 2nd on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
     
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook or Twitter.
     
  • You must be 18 and U.S. resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Good Luck!

Tell us how you fight the winter blues and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!


Source: feeds.killeraces.com

How I Invest

One of the most common questions I receive from readers like you—especially since Grow (Acorns + CNBC) published my story last week—asks me how I invest.

All this theoretical investing information is fine, Jesse. But can you please just tell me what you do with your money.

That’s what I’ll do today. Here’s a complete breakdown of how I invest, how the numbers line up, and why I make the choices I make.

Disclaimer

Of course, please take my advice with a grain of salt. Why?

My strategy is based upon my financial situation. It is not intended to be prescriptive of your financial situation.

I’ve hesitated writing this before because it feels one step removed from “How I Vote” and “How I Pray.” It’s personal. I don’t want to lead you down a path that’s wrong for you. And I don’t want to “show off” my own choices.

I’m an engineer and a writer, not a Wall Street professional. And even if I was a Wall Street pro, I hope my prior articles on stock picking and luck vs. skill in the stock market have convinced you that they aren’t as skilled as you might think.

All I can promise you today is transparency. I’ll be clear with you. I’ll answer any follow-up questions you have. And then you can decide for yourself what to do with that information.

Mitte Mystery Clearing For Dual Address Shop - Eatler

Are we clear? Let’s get to the good stuff.

How I Invest, and In What Accounts…?

In this section, I’ll detail how much I save for investing. Then the next two sections will describe why I use the investing accounts I use (e.g. 401(k), Roth IRA) and which investment choices I make (e.g. stocks, bonds).

Stock Market Forecasters See Modest Gains at Best This Fall | Barron's

How much I save, and in what accounts:

  • 401(k)—The U.S. government has placed a limit of $19,500 on employee-deferred contributions in 2020 (for my age group). I aim to hit the full $19,500 limit.
  • 401(k) matching—My employer will match 100% of my 401(k) contributions until they’ve contributed 6% of my total salary. For the sake of round numbers, that equates to about $6,000.
  • Roth IRA—The U.S. government has placed a limit of $6,000 on Roth IRA contributions (for my earnings range) in 2020. I am aiming to hit the full $6,000 limit.
  • Health Savings Account—The U.S. government gives tremendous tax benefits for saving in Health Savings Accounts. And if you don’t use that money for medical reasons, you can use it like an investment account later in life. I aim to hit the full $3,500 limit in 2020.
  • Taxable brokerage account—After I achieved my emergency fund goal (about 6 months’ of living expenses saved in a high-yield savings account), I started putting some extra money towards my taxable brokerage account. My goal is to set aside about $500 per month in that brokerage account.

That’s $41,000 of investing per year. But a lot of that money is actually “free.” I’ll explain that below.

Why Those Accounts?

The 401(k) Account

First, let’s talk about why and how I invest using a 401(k) account. There are three huge reasons.

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First, I pay less tax—and so can you. Based on federal tax brackets and state tax brackets, my marginal tax rate is about 30%. For each additional dollar I earn, about 30 cents go directly to various government bodies. But by contributing to my 401(k), I get to save those dollars before taxes are removed. So I save about 30% of $19,500 = $5,850 off my tax bill.

Editor’s Note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that 401(k) contributions are taken out prior to OASDI (a.k.a. social security) taxes. That claim was incorrect. 401(k) contributions occur only after OASDI taxes are assessed.

Many thanks to regular reader Nick for catching that error.

Second, the 401(k) contributions are removed before I ever see them. I’m never tempted to spend that money because I never see it in my bank account. This simple psychological trick makes saving easy to adhere to.

Third, I get 401(k) matching. This is free money from my employer. As I mentioned above, this equates to about $6,000 of free money for me.

Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

Why do I also use a Roth IRA?

Unlike a 401(k), a Roth IRA is funded using post-tax dollars. I’ve already paid my 30% plus OASDI taxes, and then I put money into my Roth. But the Roth money grows tax-free.

Let’s fast-forward 30 years to when I want to access those Roth IRA savings and profits. I won’t pay any income tax (~30%) on any dividends. I won’t pay capital gains tax (~15%) if I sell the investments at a profit.

Tax GIFs | Tenor

I’m hoping my 30-year investment might grow by 8x (that’s based on historical market returns). That would grow this year’s $6000 contribution up to $48000—or about $42000 in profit. And what’s ~15% of $42000? About $6,300 in future tax savings.

Health Savings Account (H.S.A.)

The H.S.A. account has tax-breaks on the front (36.7%, for me) and on the back (15%, for me). I’m netting about $1300 up-front via an H.S.A, and $4,200 in the future (similar logic to the Roth IRA).

Taxable Brokerage Account

And finally, there’s the brokerage account, or taxable account. This is a “normal” investing account (mine is with Fidelity). There are no tax incentives, no matching funds from my employer. I pay normal taxes up front, and I’ll pay taxes on all the profits way out in the future. But I’d rather have money grow and be taxed than not grow at all.

Summary of How I Invest—Money Invested = Money Saved

In summary, I use 401(k) plus employer matching, Roth IRA, and H.S.A. accounts to save:

  • About $7,100 in tax dollars today
  • About $6,000 of free money today
  • And about $10,500 in future tax dollars, using reasonable investment growth assumptions

Don’t forget, I still get to access the investing principal of $41,000 and whatever returns those investments produce! That’s on top of the roughly $25,000 of savings mentioned above.

I choose to invest a lot today because I know it saves me money both today and tomorrow. That’s a high-level thought-process behind how I invest.

How I Invest: Which Investment Choices Do I Make?

We’ve now discussed 401(k) accounts, Roth IRAs, H.S.A. accounts, and taxable brokerage accounts. These accounts differ in their tax rules and withdrawal rules.

But within any of these accounts, one usually has different choices of investment assets. Typical assets include:

  • Stocks, like shares of Apple or General Electric.
  • Bonds, which are where someone else borrows your money and you earn interest on their debt. Common bonds give you access to Federal debt, state or municipality debt, or corporate debt.
  • Real estate, typically via real estate investment trusts (REITs)
  • Commodities, like gold, beef, oil or orange juice
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Here are the asset choices that I have access to in my various accounts:

  • 401(k)—my employer works with Fidelity to provide me with about 20 different mutual funds and index funds to invest in.
  • Roth IRA—this account is something that I set up. I can invest in just about anything I want to. Individual stocks, index funds, pork belly futures etc.
  • H.S.A.—this is through my employer, too. As such, I have limited options. But thankfully I have low-cost index fund options.
  • Taxable brokerage account—I set this account up. As such, I can invest in just about any asset I want to.

My Choice—Diversity2

How I invest and my personal choices involve two layers of diversification. A diverse investing portfolio aims to decrease risk while maintaining long-term investing profits.

The first level of diversification is that I utilize index funds. Regular readers will be intimately familiar with my feelings for index funds (here 28 unique articles where I’ve mentioned them).

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By nature, an index fund reduces the investor’s exposure to “too many eggs in one basket.” For example, my S&P 500 index fund invests in all S&P 500 companies, whether they have been performing well or not. One stellar or terrible company won’t have a drastic impact on my portfolio.

But, investing only in an S&P 500 index fund still carries risk. Namely, it’s the risk that that S&P 500 is full of “large” companies’ stocks—and history has proven that “large” companies tend to rise and fall together. They’re correlated to one another. That’s not diverse!

Lazy Portfolio

To battle this anti-diversity, how I invest is to choose a few different index funds. Specifically, my investments are split between:

  • Large U.S. stock index fund—about 40% of my portfolio
  • Mid and small U.S. stock index fund—about 20% of my portfolio
  • Bond index fund—about 20%
  • International stocks fund—about 20%

This is my “lazy portfolio.” I spread my money around four different asset class index funds, and let the economy take care of the rest.

Each year will likely see some asset classes doing great. Others doing poorly. Overall, the goal is to create a steady net increase.

Updating My Favorite Performance Chart For 2019
An asset class “quilt” chart from 2010-2019, showing how various asset classes perform each year.

Twice a year, I “re-balance” my portfolio. I adjust my assets’ percentages back to 40/20/20/20. This negates the potential for one “egg” in my basket growing too large. Re-balancing also acts as a natural mechanism to “sell high” and “buy low,” since I sell some of my “hottest” asset classes in order to purchase some of the “coldest” asset classes.

Any Other Investments?

In June 2019, I wrote a quick piece with some thoughts on cryptocurrency. As I stated then, I hold about $1000 worth of cryptocurrency, as a holdover from some—ahem—experimentation in 2016. I don’t include this in my long-term investing plans.

I am paying off a mortgage on my house. But I don’t consider my house to be an investment. I didn’t buy it to make money and won’t sell it in order to retire.

On the side, I own about $2000 worth of collectible cards. I am not planning my retirement around this. I do not include it in my portfolio. In my opinion, it’s like owning a classic car, old coins, or stamps. It’s fun. I like it. And if I can sell them in the future for profit, that’s just gravy on top.

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Summary of How I Invest

Let’s summarize some of the numbers from above.

Each year, I aim to save and invest about $41,000. But of that $41K, about $15K is completely free—that’s due to tax benefits and employer matching. And using reasonable investment growth, I think these investments can save me $15,000 per year in future tax dollars.

Plus, I eventually get access to the $41K itself and any investment profits that accrue.

I take that money and invest in index funds, via the following allocations:

  • 40% into a large-cap U.S. stock index fund
  • 20% into a medium- and small-cap U.S. stock index fund
  • 20% into an international stock index fund
  • And 20% into a bond index fund

The goal is to achieve long-term growth while spreading my eggs across a few different baskets.

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And that’s it! That’s how I invest. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or drop me an email.

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Source: bestinterest.blog

5 Best Hedges in the Face of Inflation

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

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

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

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

These investments are commonly known as “inflation hedges”. 

5 Top Inflations Hedges to Know

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

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

1. Gold

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

2. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

3. Aggregate Bond Index

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

4. 60/40 Portfolio

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

5. Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS)

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

The Bottom Line 

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

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

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Source: goodfinancialcents.com