How to Copy Warren Buffet’s Biggest Investment of 2020

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Warren Buffett is notoriously a good investor. Sure, he’s made some mistakes along the way (who hasn’t?), but whatever move he makes, you can bet he’s thought it through, and it will pay off — big time.

Which is why when Mr. Buffett made his biggest stock purchase of the year into Apple, we thought, “Isn’t it too late to do that?” Apple is already trading at the highest price it ever has. It feels out of reach for us non-billionaires.

But it turns out, that’s not the case. While we don’t have the ability to own $111 billion (yes, billion with a B) in AAPL shares, we can still get our hands on some — and reap the rewards as the market goes up.

One of our favorite ways to get into the stock market and be a part of infamous big-tech returns, without risking billions is through a free app called Stash.

It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — on Stash you can buy pieces of other companies — including Buffett’s choices — for as little as $1.

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and more for as little as $1. The best part? If these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.1

It takes two minutes to sign up, and it’s totally secure. With Stash, all your investments are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — that’s industry talk for, “Your money’s safe.”2

Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.*

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

1Not all stocks pay out dividends, and there is no guarantee that dividends will be paid each year.

2To note, SIPC coverage does not insure against the potential loss of market value.

For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

*Offer is subject to Promotion Terms and Conditions. To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the bonus, you must successfully open an individual brokerage account in good standing, link a funding account to your Invest account AND deposit $5.00 into your Invest account.

The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. 

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk. 

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

How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House?

A blue and white house sits on a green lawn, surrounded by trees.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median sales price of new homes in May 2020 was around $317,000. Even if you’re purchasing a home that falls well below that average, chances are it’s one of the most expensive things you’ll ever buy. With such a big expense, you might be wondering—how much do you need to save for a house?

The good news? You don’t have to save for the entire purchase price. But the amount you might need on hand to buy a home can be significant. Get some idea of how much money you might need to buy a house below.

How Much Should You Save for a House Down Payment?

It all depends on the price of the home you want to buy and what type of loan program you qualify for. Down payments are usually a percentage of the home cost.

You might have heard that you need 20% down to buy a home. That’s actually not entirely true. Although the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau makes a case for the benefits of 20% down, it also notes that this number doesn’t work for everyone.

So, where does the 20% figure come from? It’s part of the guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government sponsored, mortgage guarantee companies. You either have to pay 20% down or pay private mortgage insurance, because analysis indicates that loans without 20% down are riskier for the lenders.

Here’s a look at some common mortgage options and how much you might need to have for a down payment:

  • The CFPB notes that conventional loans with PMI can require 5 to 15% down on average. If the home price is $300,000, that’s $15,000 to $45,000.
  • Loans through the Federal Housing Administration require down payments of at least 3.5%. That’s $10,500 on a $300,000 home.
  • Some loan programs, such as those for rural borrowers through the USDA, or those who qualify for loans through the VA, don’t require a down payment at all.

Other Expenses to Save for

Down payments aren’t the only thing you need to save for when buying a home. Closing costs can be thousands of dollars, and you may need to foot the bill for inspections, home repairs or even fun things, like new furniture. To make the home-buying process less stressful, it’s a good idea to save more than you expect to need for closing costs.

How Long Will It Take to Save for a House?

Saving 20% of your income could catapult you into purchasing a home in the next one to three years, depending on your market. For example, if you’re earning $96,000 per year, that’s $19,200 saved after one year. It’s $38,400 after two years and $57,600 after three. Even if you need 20% down, these amounts are roughly enough to help you buy homes worth between $100,000 and $300,000 within three years.

How Much of Your Savings Should You Spend on a House?

It’s tempting to empty out your savings or cash in your 401(k) to buy your dream home. Even if the house is just your first step into home ownership and isn’t perfect, it’s tempting to do what it takes to get those keys.

But spending 100% of your savings leaves no safety net if something happens. What if something breaks in your new home or there’s a medical emergency? Having some savings on hand to cover these issues helps protect your home, because you’re more likely to be able to continue to pay the mortgage.

Planning to Purchase a Home

If you’re planning on buying a home in the future, it’s important to start saving today. Every little bit you can do to save for a home helps make it happen.

If you want to buy a home for around $300,000 and you can’t qualify for a loan program that requires no down payment, you’ll need at least $10,500 to $15,000. You’ll also need closing costs and other fees, which typically run between 2 and 5% of the purchase price. Assuming $10,000 in closing costs, you need $25,000 minimum to position yourself for home ownership.

A Short-Term Plan

If you’re looking to buy a home within the next year or two, you’d need to save $12,500 to $25,000 a year. Saving 20% of your income can help you save the bulk of that in one or two years if you make more than $50,000 annually. To do that, though, you’ll need to set an aggressive personal budget and be willing to cut out some extras, such as cable or eating out.

A Long-Term Plan

By starting your journey to home ownership as early as possible, you can stretch your plan to five years or more. If you save over the course of five years, that’s only $5,000 a year. That’s $416 a month or just under $100 a week. You really could save for a house this way simply by cutting out a few expensive coffees, pizza nights, dinners, etc.

Start Saving Today

How much should you save before you try to buy a home? It depends on so many factors that there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. So, do your research early, make a plan and stick with it. And, as you get close to being ready to buy a home, don’t forget to shop around to find the best mortgage rates. Because those mortgage rates, along with your home price, determine how much you’ll pay for your home.

The post How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House?

So you’re at the point in your life where buying a home is not a question of if, but when. You’re scrimping. You’re saving. You’re dreaming of walking through the front door of your very own home.

But as the decision draws near, you start questioning everything. Is now a good time to buy a house? Or is this the worst time? Is it more financially responsible to buy a house right now or wait? And what if you mistime the market, buying too soon or too late, and miss out on lower home prices?

Ultimately, the experts say the answer is less about economies, markets and pandemics and more about you.

So, how do you think through this decision? You’ll want to take time to thoroughly review your personal financial situation and life goals. At the same time, you’ll need to gain some understanding of the market dynamics that impact home costs.

External factors can make buying a house right now intimidating, but your personal finances are an important factor.

This process will take some time, but it’s well worth the effort. With a firm grasp on your personal situation and some context on the housing market, you’ll be able to confidently go forth knowing you’re making a fiscally informed decision about whether to buy a house right now.

Honestly assess these aspects of your finances

Financial security is always important if you’re trying to determine when you’re ready to buy a home. To decide if now is a good time to buy a house, ask yourself the following questions about your finances:

How secure is your income?

Job or income stability is an important factor if you are buying a home in a rocky economy, such as the one triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, says real estate economist Gay Cororaton. Even in a robust economy, your income security should be top of mind when you’re thinking of buying a house right now.

If you have any inkling that your position may be eliminated or that you’ll be making a career change, you may want to delay buying a home. Even a recent break in employment that caused you to draw down some of your savings may raise a red flag with lenders, says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in the Boston area.

If you’re considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home.

– Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow

Do you have enough money saved?

After income stability, savings is the next-most-important financial factor you’ll want to consider to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, Ziegler says. The old rule of thumb was to save 20% of the price of the home for your down payment. While that is ideal, it’s not necessary—far from it, Ziegler says. In fact, it has become more common for first-time buyers to put down much less than 20%.

How much house can you afford?

The down payment is one side of the affordability coin. Your monthly mortgage payment is the other side. You need to know how much you can spend on both to determine if you can afford to buy a house right now, says Jeff Tucker, a senior economist at Zillow. Aim for a monthly mortgage payment that doesn’t stretch you too thin—experts typically put this at around 28% of your monthly gross income, according to Bankrate.

With those guidelines, you can determine what you can afford. For example, if you make $4,000 a month, you should typically spend no more than $1,120 on your monthly mortgage payment in total.

How much house that buys you depends on multiple factors: mortgage rates, property tax rates, homeowners insurance and—if you don’t have the savings to put down 20%—primary mortgage insurance, or PMI. To get a rough estimate, plug your income details into an online calculator. For a more specific figure, talk to a local lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage, Ziegler says.

If you're buying a house right now, aim for mortgage payments around 28% of your monthly gross income.

Once you know your price range, you can determine how much savings you need in the bank to buy a house right now. You’ll also need to have money saved for closing costs, which vary but typically run 2% to 5% of the loan amount, according to Bankrate.

Again, Ziegler recommends talking to a lender to really understand what your individual down payment and closing costs would be. Finally, be sure to add a line item in your budget for home maintenance that will inevitably pop up after you move in. Whether it’s a dishwasher on the fritz or a leaky roof, you don’t want to be caught off guard, so be sure to save money for emergency home repairs.

How is your credit?

Your credit profile is also important to lenders, and it will likely be a factor in what interest rate you’re offered. Given that, you should be checking your credit report and know your credit score before investing in a home. If you’re considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home, Tucker says.

What is your debt-to-income ratio?

Another factor lenders check is your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, Tucker says. This is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes to paying monthly debt payments, plus your new mortgage. Lenders typically require this ratio to be 45% or less but prefer it even lower—in the 33% to 36% range.

Have you considered the opportunity cost?

Another financial consideration when deciding if now is a good time to buy a house is the opportunity cost of delaying a home purchase, Ziegler says. If you’re renting in a market where the rent is higher than your would-be monthly mortgage payment, you may be spending a lot more money each month than if you were to purchase a home. And of course, with a mortgage, your monthly payment increases your equity.

After taking a clear-eyed look at your income, savings and these other financial factors, you will have a better sense of when you’re ready to buy a home and whether now’s the time for you to dip into the market.

Consider key market factors

Next, take a look at factors that are outside of your control, but still influence your purchase: prices, interest rates and national employment trends.

Where are housing prices?

As you’re looking at the market, one of the biggest considerations when you are ready to buy a home will be housing prices and availability. Research your local market by talking to real estate agents who work specifically in the area where you want to buy and asking them about market trends, Ziegler says.

Track current listings and recently sold prices to get a sense of how prices look today. Generally, the tighter the inventory—meaning the fewer houses available—the higher prices will be, Tucker says.

If you're trying to determine when you are ready to buy a home, track current listings to get a sense of how prices look today.

What’s going on with interest rates?

When you’re ready to buy a home could also depend on another major economic factor: interest rates. When interest rates are low, your housing budget is effectively supercharged, Tucker says, and you can afford a more expensive house because you’re spending less on interest. When they are high, the opposite is true.

This is what compels people to buy when interest rates are low—you get more for your money. If you get a 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, you lock in that rate for the entire life of the loan, which could save you money now and into the future, Tucker says.

How does employment look nationally?

Finally, if you want to get a general idea of where the housing market may be headed—if prices will drop or rise soon—check out the national employment trends, Cororaton says. Low unemployment means prices will generally trend upward because more people can afford houses, boosting competition and prices, she says.

But if unemployment is inching up, then people are losing jobs and will be more likely to remain in their current homes. As a result, there tends to be less competition for them, lowering prices.

You don’t need to be an expert in the market to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, but a baseline understanding of these big-picture forces can give you the confidence you need to embark on your home-buying journey.

So when are you ready to buy a home? Paying attention to big-picture economic forces can help you decide.

Think about your future plans

After reviewing your savings and income and assessing the market conditions, take a step back and think about your life plans over the next few years. Your lifestyle and goals will help determine whether now is a good time to buy a house.

“For buyers who are not certain whether they will still be living in the same place in three or five years, I would caution against locking themselves into a certain location,” Ziegler says. “If they’re just not sure what the future holds, it may be better to have that flexibility.”

It’s unlikely in many markets that you will see substantial financial gain from homeownership if you move within five years, Ziegler says. Your equity gains will likely be offset by the transaction costs of buying and selling your home.

That goes for remote workers, too. Are you working from a home office these days? While widespread remote work may allow buyers to consider homes farther from their offices, ask yourself: Is my company going to permanently allow employees to work from home? Do I think there will be other remote opportunities in the future?

Is now a good time to buy a house? That depends on your lifestyle and long-term goals.

While you’re thinking about the next three to five years of your career, also consider the next three to five years of your personal life. Will you have a family? Will that family grow?

These can be weighty topics, so be sure to think them through on your own schedule. Buying a house is a big decision, and it’s not one to be rushed. By taking the time to assess your life, from your job security to your financial health to your lifestyle, and considering the impact of market factors, you’ll have a clearer sense of when you are ready to buy a home.

If you’ve decided that buying a house right now is the best decision for you, it’s time to learn more about how it will impact your budget. Get started by reading up on these eight unexpected expenses when buying a home.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift

If you have a special child in your life, you may be wondering what to put under the tree this year. One long-lasting and truly meaningful way to show the child in your life that you care is by taking a few minutes to set up a UGMA/UTMA account and give them a leg up in life.

The earlier you open a UGMA or UTMA account for a child, the longer your initial gift has to grow, thanks to the magic of compound interest. For example, investing just $5 a day from birth at an 8% return could make that child a millionaire by the age of 50. By setting up a UGMA/UTMA account, you’re really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, that’s a gift they’re sure to remember!

What is a UGMA/UTMA account?

UGMA is an abbreviation for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. And UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Both UGMA and UTMA accounts are custodial accounts created for the benefit of a minor (or beneficiary).

The money in a UGMA/UTMA account can be used for educational expenses (like college tuition), along with anything that benefits the child – including housing, transportation, technology, and more. On the other hand, 529 plans can only be used for qualified educational expenses, like summer camps, school uniforms, or private school tuition and fees.

 

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use UGMA/UTMA funds to provide the child with items that parents or guardians would be reasonably expected to provide, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Another important point is that when you set up a UGMA/UTMA account, the money is irrevocably transferred to the child, meaning it cannot be returned to the donor.

 

Tax advantages of a UGMA/UTMA account

The contributions you make to a UGMA/UTMA account are not tax-deductible in the year that you make the contribution, and they are subject to gift tax limits. The income that you receive each year from the UGMA/UTMA account does have special tax advantages when compared to income that you would get in a traditional investment account, making it a great tax-advantaged option for you to invest in the child you love.

 

Here’s how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodian’s’ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the child’s (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodian’s regular tax rate.

A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts

While there’s no doubt that UGMA/UTMA accounts have several advantages and a place in your overall financial portfolio, there are a few things to consider before you open up a UGMA/UTMA account:

 

  • When the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21, depending on the specifics of the plan), the money is theirs, without restriction.
  • When the UGMA/UTMA funds are released, they are factored into the minor’s assets.
  • The value of these assets will factor into the minor’s financial aid calculations, and may play a big role in determining if they qualify for certain programs, such as SSDI and Medicaid.

Where you can open a UGMA/UTMA account

Many financial services companies and brokerages offer UGMA or UTMA accounts. One option is the Acorns Early program from Acorns. Acorns Early is a UGMA/UTMA account that is included with the Acorns Family plan, which costs $5 / month. Acorns Early takes 5 minutes to set up, and you can add multiple kids at no extra charge. The Acorns Family plan also includes  Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the family’s finances, from one easy app.

 

During a time where many of us are laying low this holiday season due to COVID-19, remember that presents don’t just need to be a material possession your loved one unwraps, and then often forgets about. Give the gift of lasting impact through a UGMA/UTMA account.

The post Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

15-Year vs. 30-Year Mortgages: Which is Better?

Once you decide to become a homeowner, it’s likely that you will need to take out a mortgage to purchase your new home. While the conclusion that you need a mortgage to finance your home is usually easy to arrive at, deciding which one is right for you can be overwhelming. One of the many decisions a prospective homebuyer must make is choosing between a 15-year versus 30-year mortgage.

From the names alone, it’s hard to tell which one is the better option. Under ideal circumstances, a 15-year mortgage mathematically makes sense as the better option. However, the path to homeownership is often far from ideal (and who are we kidding, under ideal circumstances we’d all have large sums of money to purchase a house in cash). So the better question for homebuyers to ask is which one is best for you?

To help you make the most informed financial decisions, we detail the differences between the 15-year and 30-year mortgage, the pros and cons of each, and options for which one is better based on your financial priorities.

The Difference Between 15-Year Vs. 30-Year Mortgages

The main difference between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage is the amount of time in which you promise to repay your loan, also known as the loan term.

The loan term of a mortgage has the ability to affect other aspects of your mortgage like interest rates and monthly payments. Loan terms come in a variety of lengths such as 10, 15, 20, and 30 years, but we’re discussing the two most common options here.

The Difference Between 15-Year Vs. 30-Year Mortgages

What Is a 15-Year Mortgage?

A 15-year mortgage is a mortgage that’s meant to be paid in 15 years. This shorter loan term means that amortization, otherwise known as the gradual repayment of your loan, happens more quickly than other loan terms.

What Is a 30-Year Mortgage?

On the other hand, a 30-year mortgage is repaid in 30 years. This longer loan term means that amortization happens more slowly.

Pros and Cons of a 15-Year Mortgage

The shorter loan term of a 15-year mortgage means more money saved over time, but sacrifices affordability with higher monthly payments.

Pros

  • Lower interest rates (often by a full percentage point!)
  • Less money paid in interest over time

Cons

  • Higher monthly payments
  • Less affordability and flexibility

Pros and Cons of a 30-Year Mortgage

As the mortgage term chosen by the majority of American homebuyers, the longer 30-year loan term has the advantage of affordable monthly payments, but comes at the cost of more money paid over time in interest.

Pros

  • Lower monthly payments
  • More affordable and flexible

Cons

  • Higher interest rates
  • More money paid in interest over time

15-Year Mortgage

30-Year Mortgage

Pros

• Lower interest rates
• Less money paid in interest over time
• Lower monthly payments
• More affordable and flexible

Cons

• Higher monthly payments
• Less affordability and flexibility
• Higher interest rates
• More money paid in interest over time

Which Is Better For You?

Now with what you know about the pros and cons of each loan term, use that knowledge to match your financial priorities with the mortgage that is best for you.

Best to Save Money Over Time: 15-Year Mortgage

The 15-year mortgage may be best for those who wish to spend less on interest, have a generous income, and also have a reliable amount in savings. With a 15-year mortgage, your income would need to be enough to cover higher monthly mortgage payments among other living expenses, and ample savings are important to serve as a buffer in case of emergency.

Best for Monthly Affordability: 30-Year Mortgage

A 30-year mortgage may be best if you’re seeking stable and affordable monthly payments or wish for more flexibility in saving and spending your money over time. The longer loan term may also be the better option if you plan on purchasing property you couldn’t normally afford to repay in just 15 years.

Best of Both: 30-Year Mortgage with Extra Payments

Want the best of both worlds? A good option to save on interest and have affordable monthly payments is to opt for a 30-year mortgage but make extra payments. You can still have the goal of paying off your mortgage in 15 or 20 years time on a 30-year mortgage, but this option can be more forgiving if life happens and you don’t meet that goal. Before going this route, make sure to ask your lender about any prepayment penalties that may make interest savings from early payments obsolete.

Best of Both- 30-Year Mortgage with Extra Payments

As a prospective homebuyer, it’s important that you set yourself up for financial success. Fine-tuning your personal budget and diligently saving and paying off debt help prepare you to take the next steps toward buying a new home. Doing your research and learning about mortgages also helps you make decisions in your best interest.

When picking a mortgage, always keep in mind what is financially realistic for you. If that means forgoing better savings on interest in the name of affordability, then remember that path still leads to homeownership. Try out these budget templates for your home or monthly expenses to help keep you on a good path to achieving your goals.

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The post 15-Year vs. 30-Year Mortgages: Which is Better? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Popular Housing Markets During the Pandemic

There’s something weird happening with the real estate markets today. Normally in a recession, demand for rentals goes up while demand for houses goes down. But if there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that everything is turned on its head right now. 

Instead, we’re seeing an interesting trend: despite the ongoing pandemic, home-buying is experiencing higher demand now than they have been since 1999, according to the National Association of RealtorsⓇ (NAR). If you’ve been hoping to buy a home soon, you’re probably already aware of this weird trend, and excited. But is it the same story everywhere? And is a pandemic really the right time to buy? 

How the Pandemic is Changing Homeownership

This pandemic is different from any other in history in that many people — especially some of the highest-paid workers — aren’t being hit as hard as people who rely on their manual labor for income. This, coupled with an ultra-low mortgage rate environment and a new lifestyle that’s not fit for a cramped apartment, is creating the perfect storm of high-dollar homebuyers. 

“I didn’t want to pay someone else’s mortgage to have three roommates,” says Amy Klegarth, a genomics specialist who recently purchased a home in White Center, a suburb of Seattle where she was formerly renting. “I moved because I could afford to get a house with a large yard here for my goats, Taco and Piper.” 

Whether you have goat kids or human kids (or even no kids), you’re not the only one looking for a new home in a roomier locale. According to the NAR report, home sales in suburban areas went up 7% compared to just before the pandemic started. In some markets, it’s not hard to understand why people are moving out. 

Where Are People Going?

Apartments are small everywhere, but they’re not all the same price. For example, homes in cities tend to be 300 square feet smaller than their suburban counterparts. Some of the hottest home-buying markets right now are in areas where nearby rents are already too high, often clustered around tech and finance hubs that attract high-paid workers. After all, if you can’t go into the office and all of the normal city attractions are shut down, what’s the point of paying those high rental costs?

According to a December 2020 Zumper report, the top five most expensive rental markets in the U.S. are San Francisco, New York City, Boston, San Jose, and Oakland. But if you’re ready to buy a home during the pandemic, there are nearby cheaper markets to consider.

If You Rent in San Francisco,  San Jose, and Oakland, CA

Alternative home-buying market: San Diego, Sacramento 

  • Average rent: San Francisco, $2,700, San Jose, $2,090; Oakland; $2,000
  • Average home value (as of writing): San Diego ($675,496) and Sacramento ($370,271)
  • Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: San Diego ($2,255) and Sacramento ($1,236)

Big California cities are the quintessential meccas for tech workers, and that’s often exactly who’s booking it out of these high-priced areas right now. Gay Cororaton, Director of Housing and Commercial Research for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), offers two suggestions for San Francisco and other similar cities in California. 

San Diego

First, is the San Diego-metro area, which has a lot to offer people who are used to big-city living but don’t want the big-city prices. An added bonus: your odds of staying employed as a tech worker might be even higher in this city. 

“Professional tech services jobs make up 18% of the total payroll employment, which is actually a higher fraction than San Jose (15.5%) and San Francisco (9.3%),” says Cororaton.

Sacramento

If you’re willing to go inland, you can find even cheaper prices yet in Sacramento. “Tech jobs have been growing, and account for 7% of the workforce,” says Cororaton. “Still not as techie as San Jose, San Francisco, or San Diego, but tech jobs are moving there where housing is more affordable. It’s also just 2 hours away from Lake Tahoe.”

If You Rent in New York, NY

Alternative home-buying market: New Rochelle, Yonkers, Nassau, Newark, Jersey City

  • Average rent: $2,470
  • Average home value (as of writing): New Rochelle ($652,995), Yonkers ($549,387), Nassau ($585,741), Newark ($320,303), or Jersey City ($541,271)
  • Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: New Rochelle ($2,180), Yonkers ($1,834), Nassau ($1,955), Newark ($1,069), or Jersey City ($1,807)

Living in New York City, it might seem like you don’t have any good options. But the good news is you do — lots of them, in fact. They still might be more expensive than the average home price across the U.S., but these alternative markets are still a lot more affordable than within, say, Manhattan. 

New Rochelle and Yonkers

Both New Rochelle and Yonkers are about an hour’s drive from the heart of New York City, says Corcoran. If you ride by train, it’s a half hour. Both New Rochelle and Yonkers have been stepping up their appeal in recent years to attract millennials who can’t afford city-living anymore (or don’t want to be “house poor”), so you’ll be in good company. 

Nassau

“NAR ranked Nassau as one of the top places to work from home in the state of New York because it has already a large population of workers in professional and business services and has good broadband access,” says Cororaton. If you have ideas about moving to Nassau you’ll need to move quickly. Home sales are up by 60% this year compared to pre-pandemic times. 

Newark or Jersey City

If you don’t mind moving to a different state (even if it is a neighbor), you can find even lower real estate prices in New Jersey. This might be a good option if you only need to ride back into the city on occasion because while the PATH train is well-developed, it’s a bit longer of a ride, especially if you live further out in New Jersey. 

If You Rent in Boston, MA

Alternative home-buying market: Quincy, Framingham, Worcester

  • Average rent: $2,150
  • Average home value (as of writing): Quincy ($517,135), Framingham ($460,584), or Worcester ($284,936)
  • Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: Quincy ($1,726), Framingham ($1,538), or Worcester ($951)

Boston is another elite coastal market, but unlike New York, there’s still plenty of space if you head south or even inland. In particular, Quincy and Framingam still offer plenty of deals for new buyers.

Quincy

If you like your suburbs a bit more on the urban side, consider Quincy. Although it’s technically outside of the city, it’s also not so isolated that you’ll feel like you’re missing out on the best parts of Boston-living. You’ll be in good company too, as there are plenty of other folks living here who want to avoid the high real estate prices within Boston itself.

Framingham

Framingham is undergoing an active revitalization right now in an effort to attract more people to its community. As such, you’ll be welcome in this town that’s only a 30-minute drive from Boston.

Worcester

“Now, if you can work from home, consider Worcester,” says Cororaton. “It’s an hour away from Boston which is not too bad if you only have to go to the Boston office, say, twice a week.” Worcester (pronounced “wuh-ster”) is also a great place for a midday break if you work from home, with over 60 city parks to choose from for a stroll.

Renting Market(s) Average Rent for 1-Bedroom Apartment Housing Market Options & Avg. Monthly Mortgage*
San Francisco, CASan Jose, CAOakland, CA $2,700 San Diego ($2,255) Sacramento ($1,236)
New York, NY $2,470 New Rochelle ($2,180) Yonkers ($1,834)Nassau ($1,955)Newark ($1,069)Jersey City ($1,807)
Boston, MA $2,150 Quincy ($1,726)Framingham ($1,538)Worcester ($951)

*Average home mortgage estimates based on a 20% down payment.

Should You Buy a House During a Pandemic?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but it’s a good idea to consider your long-term housing needs versus just what’ll get you through the next few months. 

For example, just about everyone would enjoy some more room in their homes to stretch right now. But if you’re the type of person who prefers a night on the town, you might be miserable in a rural area by the time things get back to normal. But if you’ve always dreamed of a big vegetable garden or yard for the family dog, now could be the right time to launch those plans. 

Another factor to consider is job security. And remember that even if you’re permanently working from home today — and not everyone has this ability — living further from the city could limit your future opportunities if a job requires you to be on-site in the city.

Finally, consider this: most homes in outlying areas weren’t built with the pandemic in mind. For example, “… open floor plans were popular, pre-pandemic,” says Cororaton. “If the home for sale has an open floor plan, you’d have to imagine how to reconfigure the space and do some remodeling to create that work or school area.” 

Here are some other things to look for:

  • Outdoor space
  • Area for homeschooling
  • Broadband internet access
  • Proximity to transport routes
  • Office for working from home

Is It More Affordable to Buy or Rent?

There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to whether it’s cheaper to rent or buy. Each of these choices has associated costs. To rent, you’ll need to pay for your base rent, pet fees and rent, parking permits, deposits, renters insurance, and more. To buy, you’ll have an even bigger list, including property taxes, maintenance and upgrades, HOA fees, homeowners insurance, closing costs, higher utility bills, and on.

Each of these factors has the potential to tip the balance in favor of buying or renting. That’s why it makes sense to use a buy vs. rent calculator that can track all of these moving targets and estimate which one is better based on your financial situation and the choices available to you. 

In general, though, most experts advise keeping your housing costs to below 30 percent of your take-home pay when setting up your budget. The lower, the better — then, you’ll have even more money left over to save for retirement, your kid’s college education, and even to pay your mortgage off early. 

The post Popular Housing Markets During the Pandemic appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Questions to Ask When Shopping for Health Insurance

Whether you are acquiring it through your employer or on your own, shopping for health insurance coverage is a task that many adults will be faced with at some point. Health coverage is not a one-size-fits all amenity, and it comes in many forms such as Point of Service (POS), Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) and more. 

Buying health insurance is a big commitment, so do the research and look over all your options before making any hasty decisions. Technical information about different health insurance policies can be overwhelming, which is why seeking the help of a licensed insurance agent or a health insurance broker might be your best bet. In the following sections we will discuss ways you can prepare to meet with a health insurance agent as well as what questions to ask. 

How to prepare to meet with a health insurance agent 

Health insurance exists to protect us financially when we get sick or injured, which is why it’s so important for you to look at plans that fit the unique needs of you and your family. Whether you are an employer shopping for insurance plans for your employees, or just an individual browsing your options, choosing a caring agent who takes their job seriously is key to finding the right plan. To start, you will want to work with an insurance agent who is experienced, knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Finding the right agent to work with isn’t the only important piece of the puzzle, you’ll also want to do your part as well. Coming prepared to the appointment will help things run more smoothly and will ensure that you to ask the right questions. 

Before meeting with the insurance agent, make sure that you:

  • Know how much you are willing to pay: Before your appointment with an insurance agency, you should consider how much risk you want to assume for yourself versus how much risk you want the insurance company to assume for you. In other words, would you rather make higher monthly insurance payments and have a lower deductible or would you rather pay a lower monthly insurance payment and have a higher deductible? If you’re okay with paying a hefty deductible during a medical crisis, then you might consider choosing a plan with a lower monthly payment. On the other hand, someone who needs more consistent medical care might opt for a plan with a lower deductible. 
  • Research the insurance agency that you will be doing business with: Ask friends and loved ones for feedback on the agencies they’ve worked with and find out how their experience was. If you are an employer, do some research to see what agencies other companies do business with. The important thing is that you choose an agency that you trust. 
  • Know what to bring with you: In order for the agent to help you the best they can, they will need to know as much information as possible about yours and your family’s medical history. The agent will want to know about any of yours or your family’s medical conditions and personal habits such as drinking, smoking, diet, etc. Call in advance and find out exactly what you need to bring. Be truthful and thorough so that your agent can find the best health insurance policy for you. 
  • Make a list of the questions that you will want to ask: It’s easy to get overwhelmed during these appointments. Writing down your questions will not only help you to be more organized, but it will also lower your chances of forgetting to bring up important topics.  

Questions to ask your health insurance agents

Before meeting with a licensed insurance agent, you should write down a list of questions that you want to have answered during your appointment. Here are some questions you should be asking your agent about your insurance before buying:

    • How much will it cost? This is probably the most dreaded part of the conversation, but it has to be discussed! The overall cost of your health insurance policy will depend on your premium, deductible and out-of-pocket-max. When browsing through plans, you’ll want to take notes on how much these three items will cost up front, because each plan varies in rates.
      • Premium: Health insurance premiums are rates that you will pay every month in order to secure your coverage. The initial payment you receive will be a premium, and will continue monthly. 
      • Deductible: If your plan has a deductible of $2,000, then that means you will be responsible for paying the first $2,000 of health care before your plan begins covering certain costs. Once you pay your deductible, you’ll pay significantly less for your health care. 
  • Out-of-pocket max: This is basically the maximum amount of money that you will ever have to be responsible for paying while covered—as long as you stay in-network, that is. Let’s say your out-of-pocket max is $5,000, but you end up needing surgery that costs $30,000. You would only have to worry about paying $5,000. Additionally, if you’ve already reached your $2,000 deductible, then you would only have to pay $3,000. The purpose of an out-of-pocket max is to protect you from having to pay extremely expensive bills, but remember—the surgery would need to happen at a medical facility that is in-network.  
  • Is my current doctor covered? If you’re already receiving health care, you’ll want to know if your current doctor is a part of any prospective insurance company’s network of health providers. This information should be fairly simple to find out but could be an important factor in your decision. If you are currently taking any medications, you’ll also want to ask your agent to check the formulary to see if your prescriptions are covered.
  • Who do I contact when I have questions? It’s important to find out if your prospective health insurance company has a customer service team you can call or message when you need to inquire about bills, claims, copays or anything else insurance-related. Does the company have a separate phone number to call when you want help finding a health care provider? Is this customer service line automated or will you be speaking to an actual insurance representative? These questions are important to determine what kind of support is available long after you’ve signed a contract. 

What happens during an emergency? When going to see a doctor for a normal visit, you have time to plan and make sure that the doctor is in-network. However, during an emergency, we may not have the same luxury. It’s possible that in a case where you need dire medical attention, the closest health care provider may not be in-network. You should ask about your prospective company’s policy on emergencies and what the standard routine consists of.

Questions to Ask When Shopping for Health Insurance is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

3 Financial Self-Care Habits You Can Start Today

If you’re someone who struggles with financial anxiety and stress, practicing a financial self-care routine could help. Just like other areas of your life, the more consistent you are about financial self-care, the better. This is why I am emphasizing the idea of building habits. The reality is that anxiety and stress are life’s constants. We ourselves don’t have the luxury of removing those factors from our environment, but what we do have are tools to help manage and reduce them. 

Before I get into it, I want to note that there’s a pretty extensive list of financial-self care options available, but what I’ve realized is that when we are struggling, we often overcommit ourselves to perfectionism instead of trying to be a little less imperfect. I’m the first to admit that it’s really tough not to go all-in when reading advice that sounds life-changing. Often, we find ourselves trying out anything and everything to feel in control, and it is for this reason that I won’t offer you the extensive list today. Instead, I hope to help you focus on taking things slow for once so that you don’t set yourself up for failure (and ultimately right back in the anxiety-ridden state you first found yourself in). You can view these three foundational habits as a starting point for a long-term financial self-care routine that you will work to enhance over the course of your life. With this in mind, let’s dive in.

HABIT # 1: REVIEW & CATEGORIZE YOUR TRANSACTIONS DAILY

Building awareness of what and how much you’ve spent can be a game-changer. This habit not only takes the dreaded guessing game out of your end-of-month leftover income and total spending, but it can help you course-correct throughout the month to ensure you hit budgeting goals, cut back in areas you may find yourself regretting, or even upping your spend in areas that bring you joy. A few added bonuses of this habit include saving time at the end of the month if you’re someone that typically sits down for 4-5 hours to get yourself organized, in addition to helping you catch fraudulent transactions faster! 

Pro tips for building this habit: 

  • Make it easy: If you don’t already use Mint, download the app today to have all of your transactions organized and easily viewable in one place. 
  • Make it obvious: Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check Mint each day at the same time. I’d recommend early morning before your day gets busy.
  • Make it attractive: Check your spending after a ritual or habit you enjoy doing. For example, after you sit down to drink your coffee, open up Mint to review your transactions.    
  • Make it satisfying: After reviewing your transactions, do something rewarding. For example, after categorizing and reviewing, consider checking it off your to-do list for the day to feel progress.

HABIT # 2: CHECK YOUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT(S) DAILY

Checking your savings accounts is a great way to flood your brain with positivity about your financial situation. Having savings is a rewarding feeling, and even more rewarding, is seeing your savings progress over time. Getting in this habit will also be a good reminder to actively save for each of your financial goals. 

Pro tips for building this habit: 

  • Make it easy: Connect your savings accounts to Mint and use the goal-setting feature that allows you to customize your savings goals and connect your savings account to easily track your progress. 
  • Make it obvious: Consider setting your phone’s background to a photo of something you’re saving for so that everytime you check your phone, you’ll be reminded of saving. Mint also allows you to add photos of your goals in the web version and in the app. 
  • Make it attractive: In addition to checking your savings right after reviewing your transactions in Mint, consider starting a savings group with your friends and family. No need to talk about how much you’ve saved, but you can talk about your goals and turn to the group for motivation when you’re tempted to spend what you would normally save. 
  • Make it satisfying: Make sure to give yourself credit for doing this habit by also crossing it off as a separate to-do list item. Try to also make it a rule to never miss checking your savings twice in a row. Skipping a day here and there because life gets in the way is totally normal, just make sure to commit yourself to doing it the next day. 

HABIT # 3: REWARD YOURSELF 1X PER WEEK

I saved the best for last. Rewarding yourself is a critical step that most skip when trying to become more disciplined. Self-control can be a draining experience, especially at first. Make sure to set aside “free time” each week to do something for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Think of it as a way of telling yourself good job for working hard and trying to improve. 

Pro tips for building this habit*: 

  • Make it easy: Consider making your reward something that takes less than 2 minutes to start doing. Perhaps it’s turning on a Netflix show, making an easy dessert, grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks you just walked by, or even dancing in your living room to your favorite song. 
  • Make it obvious: As I write this, it sounds weird, but for some of us, setting aside time for ourselves isn’t something we’re good at, so commit yourself to a consistent day and time that’s for you to do what you want.

*Making it attractive and satisfying isn’t necessary here because the reward in and of itself will reinforce the habit. 

 

With that, you now have 3 habits to start building a financial self-care routine. Give this a shot, and let me know how it goes in the comments below. 

The post 3 Financial Self-Care Habits You Can Start Today appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Mint Money Audit: Affording Life After Grad School

With a brand new PhD under her belt, our latest Mint audit recruit, Renee, is ready to take on the real world with gusto. The 34-year-old is eager to buy a home and ramp up her retirement savings. She currently lives in San Francisco and has just started a full-time earning $87,000 a year (before taxes).

Renee also received a sizeable inheritance, totaling about $200,000 of which she used $30,000 to pay off her student loans.

So, why does Renee want an audit, exactly? Her finances seem perfectly in order, it seems.

As Renee explains, she wants advice around the best ways to plan for big goals like home ownership and retirement. “I’m especially eager to buy my own apartment, but it is extremely daunting (and expensive) in the Bay area,” she says. As a result, she’s leaning to move to New York City (Brooklyn, specifically, where she thinks may offer more bang for her buck in some neighborhoods.)

She wants to know how much of a down payment she can reasonably afford and how to budget for monthly housing costs.

First, though, I wanted to learn more about Renee’s finances. Here’s what the quick audit revealed:

  • Retirement savings: $40,000 in a 403(b) and Roth IRA. She allocates $200 month from her paycheck to the 403(b).
  • Rent: $1,850 per month
  • Groceries: $400 per month
  • Where is all that savings parked? $100,000 in index and mutual funds, another $50,000 in an 11-month CD earning 1.5%, and remaining $20,000 in checking.

My Advice…

Play Retirement Catch-Up

For a 35-year-old worker, one rule of thumb is that you should have an amount equal to your salary in retirement savings. For Renee, who is nearing age 35, that means $80,000 to $90,000. She’s only about halfway there, so my recommendation is to play some retirement catch up. While it’s not realistic to think that she can invest another $40,000 this year, she can do better.

For starters, what about taking advantage of her company’s 403(b) match? She believes her company offers one, but wasn’t sure about the details. I suggested she learn the specifics and try to capitalize on that offer by contributing at least enough to earn the full match. Allocating closer to 10% of her salary would be ideal. (And PS. that contribution is tax deductible!)

Worried that this would stretch her paycheck too thin, I reminded Renee that she can always adjust her retirement contributions each month, but urged her to give it a try. (My bet is that it won’t be as painful as she suspects.)

Pad the Rainy Day Account?

I wasn’t sure how far her $20,000 in checking would last her. She said it would be about a 6-month reserve, which I feel is adequate. No need to make adjustments there. One thought: She may want to move that $20,000 to a savings account that’s a little less accessible (like an online account without a debit card), so that she isn’t tempted to cash it out on a whim.

Protect Your Down Payment

Renee has $100,000 in a brokerage account, which she plans to use towards a down payment in the near future. But here’s something to consider: What if the market plunges six months before you want to make a bid for a home? And you suddenly lose 15 or 20% of your investments? It would take time to recover, more time than you want.

I would personally never risk money in the stock market if I anticipated needing that money in the next five years. And according to Renee, she hopes to buy a home in the next two years. My advice: Protect the down payment from market fluctuations by moving 50% of that money over to a short-term CD and with the other $50,000 she’s got saved in an 11-month CD, use all that savings towards a future down payment.

Know How Much House You Can Really Afford

To buy in NYC or San Francisco, a 20% down payment is standard. With $100,000 to put down, that means that she’s looking at homes valued at around $500,000. With today’s current mortgage rates nearing 4% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, she’s looking at close to $2,000 a month in payments. But we’ve yet to get to taxes, maintenance and home insurance.

Instead, consider a starter apartment, a studio or junior one-bedroom closer to $400,000. A 20% down payment would be $80,000, leaving her with another $20,000 for closing costs. Her monthly payments would come to around $1,500 per month, close to 30% of her take-home pay, which is a smart cap for housing payments.

 

Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.

The post Mint Money Audit: Affording Life After Grad School appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com