Tuesday, April 7, 2020

4 Questions You Should Always Ask Your Auto Loan Lender

If you're looking to buy a new car, you are probably also looking to get an auto loan. You shouldn't just sign on the dotted line right away when you get an offer, though—you need to make sure you're working with the right auto company. Below are four of the questions you should definitely ask any prospective auto loan lender.

How Much Will I Pay?

First, you need to know how much you're going to pay for your vehicle in total, not just what you are going to pay on a monthly basis. Many people take out loans thinking that they're saving money by having a low monthly payment. 

The combination of the interest rate, servicing fees, and the length of the repayment term can actually cause them to spend far more than they assume. Take all those factors into account and ask your auto loan lender for the total price of the loan.

How Do I Pay?

Next, you'll want to find out your options for paying. Find out when your payment is going to be due and how you're going to be expected to pay. Learn whether or not the lender takes online payments and what other types of payment they might take or prefer. 

This is also a good time to figure out what happens if you make a payment early or if you make payments more than once a month.

What Happens in an Emergency?

You also need to know what happens in an emergency. Who do you contact if you are unable to make a payment? What happens if your car is totaled? What do you need to do if something radically changes your income? All of these are questions that you need to ask before you sign. That way, you’ll be prepared for any worst-case scenarios that might come up.

How Do I Access My Information?

Finally, figure out how you access your information. Some states might need you to present a letter from the lienholder to register your car, for example, while others might just need the contact information from the lender. 

You may also want to be able to access your payoff information to determine how to pay off your car more quickly. Most lenders will be able to direct you to a website that will give you all this information and more.

Don't be afraid to ask your lender questions. The more information you get now, the better prepared you will be for your loan. If you can do your research before you buy, you'll be able to get the car that's right for you at a price you can actually afford.

Monday, April 6, 2020

5 Ways It’s Not Too Late to Boost Your Retirement Savings

With all of the expert advice out there pushing us to start investing in our 20s and 30s, you might be tempted to think that, if you’re over the age of 50, your retirement savings are a lost cause.

You could not be more wrong about this.

There are plenty of strategic steps that you can take to boost your retirement savings and ensure a comfortable lifestyle. Here we highlight five simple ones available to everyone.

1. Check in with your plan.

Where are you at in your savings goals? Consider how much money you have, and from what sources you’ll draw income: any distributions, Social Security, and any other sources you may have. Estimate how much you’ll have to pay for taxes. Gauge how any investments are performing. Figure out what you can expect your monthly after-tax income to be.

Now is a great time to take the temperature of your retirement portfolio and then consider consulting with an expert to determine if there are any steps you should take to adjust course. There may be options available to you now that you either didn’t have before or don’t know about, and so some expert perspective tailored to your situation might come in handy.

2. Leverage catch-up contributions

Most retirement accounts offer some degree of catch-up contributions once accountholders reach the age of 50. The IRS is actually the main driver determining the limits behind catch-up contributions. These are actually specifically intended to help you ‘catch up’ on the contributions you couldn’t make when you were younger, for whatever reason.

Hand-in-hand with this is the idea of leaving your retirement accounts alone. Resist any temptation to take early withdrawals or otherwise tamper with the money you have already put away; unless, of course you are facing a major emergency, although even then you may want to consider first exhausting all other options.

3. Diversify your assets

Sticking to the usual blend of mutual funds and stocks might only get you so far. Consider diversifying the assets in your retirement accounts to help hedge against risk from any one asset performing poorly.

And if you’ve considered moving away from fiat currency into buying assets like gold or crypto, consider doing so within a self-directed IRA. Doing so can offer you significant tax benefits over a regular purchase, from tax-deferred contributions through tax-free growth.

4. Take on side gigs

Some money coming in is better than no money coming in, and diversifying your sources of income reduces the likelihood of your bringing in no money at any particular point in time. Maybe you start monetizing a hobby you enjoy, or find some part-time work helping people or a business that you love. In today’s gig economy, there are also a ton of work-from-home remote options, many of which could leverage any professional training or work experience that you have.

While many people want to stop working when they retire, it can also be good for your long-term mental health to continue doing something and staying connected.

5. De-bloat your lifestyle

This is applicable to any age, but it might be easier to implement now as your life will depend more closely on you and perhaps your partner, as opposed to children and other surprises that can pop up along the way. If you’re brutally honest with yourself, what do you actually need in order to live in a way that you find fulfilling? And, in parallel, what do you want to achieve in order to have lived a fulfilling life?

For example, many people want to travel, but many don’t know where to start. Instead, they are engulfed by fearfulness regarding how much it may cost, and they never get started in planning out a trip. They spend money somewhat mindlessly on items for their home that they don’t really need or really want, but the habit brings them some immediate novelty. 

What if, instead, they confronted the thing they actually want to do–travel–and mapped out a plan of action to make it happen? What if they moved into an RV and spent their days traveling around the country?

At the end of the day, the single best thing you can do for your retirement is to get clarity on what you want, and to be deliberate about your actions—and where you place the money you have. This will help you reach not just your financial goals, but also your retirement and life goals.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Money Tight? Here’s 4 Tips for Saving and Making Do During a Crisis

When money’s tight, people are forced to make tough choices about spending and saving whatever cash they have. If you have a plan in place beforehand, though, you can navigate even the worst financial crises in the best possible way. Here are four tips that will help you and your family manage in tough times.

Establish an Auxiliary Stream of Income

One of the best things you can do to ensure you come through hard financial times well is to start a secondary stream of income that isn’t tied to your main job. Whether you’re going to offer freelance services online, mow lawns or just get a part-time job on the side. 

Finding a secondary way to make money can make all the difference between disaster and mild belt-tightening. This second income stream can help to insulate you from losing your job or make it easier for you to deal with unexpected expenses.

Cook All Your Meals at Home

You’d be surprised how much money you waste by eating out every year. Even a $30 dinner out once a week adds up to $1,560 each year, and most people spend considerably more than that on restaurant meals. By cooking all of your meals at home and opting for budget-friendly dishes, you can radically reduce your eating expenses.

Cut Back on Recurring Bills

Most people think of their bills as fixed expenses, but this isn’t always the case. Switching internet providers or revisiting your mobile phone plan can help you save money on essentials. 

You can also cut nonessential bills, such as entertainment subscriptions and gym memberships. It’s even possible to save money on your basic financial services by exploring free checking account options or looking for banks that charge lower fees.

Drive Less, Walk More

If you’re really in a tight spot, even finding money for gas can be a problem. Grocery store trips and getting back and forth to work are obviously essential. You’d be amazed at how much driving you can save yourself by walking to the things nearest to your home. 

If your destination is within a couple of miles, walk instead of drive. You’ll not only save money but also give yourself a dose of healthy exercise.

These are just a handful of the hundreds of creative ways to save money when your finances are tight. If you put these principles into practice, you can reduce your expenses and get through the hard times with flying colors.

Friday, April 3, 2020

4 Times When It's Financially Smart to Downsize Your Home

Many people who are going through a financial struggle, don't tend to think about their living arrangements. They think that because they have a house loan that they're unable to switch. The truth is that downsizing to a smaller home is a great financial move in these types of situations.

You Get A Job With Lower Pay

Whether you've been let go of an old job or simply have decided that your passion is in another field, taking a job with a lower pay maybe something you've decided to do. Along with a lower paycheck comes a smaller budget. Downsizing to a home that has a monthly payment that you can afford is a necessary option to keep your finances in order.

You've Gone Through A Divorce

If you've been through the long-drawn-out process of divorce proceedings, you may fret at the thought of undergoing more paperwork for a mortgage. However, the reality is that without two paychecks supporting the mortgage, you may not be able to do so on your own. 

Even if you can, you may find that you don't want to commit that big of a portion of your paycheck to your monthly mortgage payment. Downsizing to a smaller home with a smaller mortgage payment may be the best financial option for you.

Your Housing Expenses Have Surpassed 30 Percent Of Your Income

The U.S. Government has been utilizing 30 percent as the magic number of what a person's housing expenses should be. If you noticed that your housing expenses exceed this threshold, then it's a good time to consider downsizing. 

According to government standards, anyone paying over 30 percent for housing expenses is financially burdened. Consider moving to a luxury apartment community instead to decrease your housing cost, but still, enjoy living in a fun environment.

You Can't Afford Regular Maintenance

If you find yourself struggling to afford those costs associated with household maintenance, then it's time to consider downgrading. You don't want to live in a home that you're unable to maintain as your home will begin to deteriorate and more costly issues will inevitably crop up. Instead, move into a smaller home that allows you to afford the regular costs associated with maintenance.

Downsizing to a smaller home can be a very strategic financial move for many. The above are just four common scenarios that scream it's time to downsize. The truth is that downsizing can be so beneficial for people on a financial and mental level. It's best to take downsizing into consideration instead of pretending that it's not a possibility to enhance your financial state.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

4 Unexpected Home Mishaps You Need to Be Financially Prepared For

If there’s one thing that’s true about owning a home, it’s that you can be sure that unexpected events will occur at some point that will negatively impact your home. While most of these events are fairly minor and are fairly easy to recover from, there are plenty of major home mishaps that can cause major damage and are quite expensive to fix.

The best thing you can do to prepare for these mishaps, beyond knowing what they are, is to have the financial means to recover from them should they occur. To help you prepare your budget and your mind for the future, here are four unexpected home mishaps you need to be financially prepared for.

Broken HVAC System

Though it hums along largely unnoticed, your HVAC system is one of the single-most expensive items in your home. Therefore, if your system fails, you’ve got a major expense on your hands. Typically, to purchase a new HVAC system and have it installed will cost you several thousands of dollars, an amount which most people don’t have just hidden in their couch cushions.

The biggest problem with a faulty HVAC system, of course, is that it can quickly lead to an uncomfortable home. To ensure your long-term comfort, then, it’s best to save up to be able to replace your HVAC system if it fails.

Flooded Basement

Leaks in your basement, both large and small, are no laughing matter. Even small leaks can lead to the growth of mold and mildew that can cause serious respiratory issues for your family.

Even worse is if a large backup occurs due to a broken sump pump or a major flood. This type of sudden damage can require the replacement of just about everything in your basement. To help protect against this issue, heavy-duty basement waterproofing is a great investment to make.

Damaged Roof

In many cases, a roof replacement will be something you’re able to prepare for slowly, allowing you to save money over time. However, if there is a major storm in your area, you could find yourself with an urgent need to replace your roof due to storm damage.

In some cases, your homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost of a new roof. If it doesn’t provide coverage for some reason, though, you’ll be on the hook for several thousands of dollars in repairs.

Electrical Fire

If your home has faulty wiring, you’re constantly putting yourself at risk of an electrical fire. Though many electrical fires can be caught in time to put them out, they certainly have the potential to get out of control and cause significant damage to your home.

Even small fires can cause expensive damage depending on where they occur. That’s why it’s crucial to have an electrician inspect your home’s wiring to ensure it is safe and up-to-code.

Saving doesn’t seem that important until you’re in need of a sudden cash infusion. When those times come, you can only wish that you had had the wisdom to save money when you had the chance.

That’s why it’s important to make saving a part of your lifestyle, challenging yourself to find as many ways as possible to save money while still maintaining your desired quality of life. While it’s a tough balance to strike, it’s worth it when you face an unexpected home mishap.

The Pros and Cons of Using IPOs

An IPO, or initial public offering, occurs when a company makes shares of their stocks available to the public. Essentially, it allows companies to trade some stake of ownership of the company to public stockholders. 

While this does mean that the owners of the company relinquish some control, it can open the door to exciting possibilities of growth and prosperity. There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages of a company deciding to go the route of using IPOs. Here are some examples below...


Opens Up Capital for Additional Ventures

Usually, when a company launches an IPO it means they are in a period of sustained success (or else there would be no incentive to sell). However, it also functions as a way for the company to launch into a more aggressive period of growth that can lead to long-termed stability. 

By selling off shares of the company, it creates a massive cash influx that can do a variety of things, whether that is launching new expansions of the business, purchasing new acquisitions, or paying off old debt that opens the company for future endeavors.

Opens Up Higher Potential for Talent

Another way that IPOs can help companies grow is by using the shares as a means of attracting higher talent to the business, both on an operational and executive level. A company undergoing an IPO can offer stock as an incentive to attract personnel that might normally be beyond their price range at the current moment. 

This helps companies punch higher than their weight class while they grow. This is appealing to potential employees because the payout when they sell their shares later might be far more valuable than the initial higher salary they would have received.

Allows for a Major Payoff for Owners

The money that is used to buy shares goes to two different places: back into the company or into the pockets of people who own the company. These owners might be managers, founders, high-level employees, or private investors who have equity in the company. 

While salaries and dividends have provided a financial benefit to the investors for years, the IPO is the major payday for many businesses. An owner of a company that is going public can make millions of dollars during an IPO.


IPOs Take Valuable Resources

Launching an IPO is a major stepping stone for a company, but it isn’t without its share of hard work. The IPO process takes a ton of time, during which the executives and high-level decision-makers of a company are highly involved. 

This takes away time that could be spent on other business ventures and building additional revenue. Third-party investment firms are also brought on during this time, to help undergo the complex IPO process. These companies cost valuable time and money, so there is a major initial cost of capital upfront to launch an IPO.

Potential Roadblocks with Owner Shares

If an owner wants to retain control by taking shares of their company for themselves, there may be potential roadblocks. Oftentimes, there are stipulations against this. And owners who do get shares of the company must sit on them for a long period of time since an owner selling shares of the company can have a negative impact on the value of the stock, which hurts other investors.

It’s also worth noting that even if an owner is still running the company after an IPO, their control isn’t always secure because they are answerable to a Board of Directors, who can fire them at any time. For all its benefits, it must be understood that there is a significant loss of control that comes with an IPO.

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