Where’s the House from ‘Home Alone 3’?

Year in and year out, we know the holidays are almost upon us when TV networks start airing Home Alone, the iconic family movie that has by now become synonymous with Christmas cheer. And while the first two Home Alone movies starring Macaulay Culkin are the clear fan favorites, the third one (written and produced by the same John Hughes that gave us the first two festive flicks) was deemed the least successful in the series — by far — and failed to make a lasting impression.

And that’s not because of the plot, cast, or setting, but rather the result of the ultra-high expectations created by the first two Home Alone movies, and the fondness audiences had for Macaulay Culkin (which refused to return for a role in the third one, despite popular demand). In fact, the plot of the third Home Alone was quite an elaborate — and downright frightening — one, seeing Alex Pruitt, an 8-year-old boy living in Chicago, fending off international spies who were seeking a top-secret computer chip that was hidden in his toy car.

The poster for Home Alone 3, featuring the house in the background.
The poster for Home Alone 3, featuring the house in the background. Image credit: IMDB

Unlike a normal cat burglar situation — the first two movies featured petty thieves just trying to score a hit during the holidays, eyeing million-dollar-homes left unattended while the owners were celebrating elsewhere — Home Alone 3 is actually a matter of national security. With four thieves (said to be working for a North Korean terrorist organization) looking to retrieve the toy car/computer chip gifted to Alex by his unknowing neighbor, Mrs. Hess, the movie’s plot tackles a far more dangerous situation that the first two, despite the light way in which it is presented.

But there are two major things that all the Home Alone movies have in common: a clever, brave 8-year-old that will stop at nothing to protect himself and a beautiful Chicago-area home that acts as the ‘battleground’ of sorts where the bad guys get what’s coming to them. And since we’ve already covered the house in the first Home Alone movies, we thought I’d be the perfect time to do some scouting and find the one in the third movie too, especially since it’s no less beautiful.

The real-life house from Home Alone 3

While the movie’s storyline places it in Chicago, the house used in the third Home Alone is located in Evanston — a city 12 miles north of Downtown Chicago. According to ItsFilmedThere.com, the exact address is 3026 Normandy Place, Evanston, and a quick Google Maps search confirms that, showing us the exact same Pruitt family house we see in the movie.

house in home alone 3 in real life
House in Home Alone 3 – Google Maps

According to real estate website Zillow.com, the Pruitt family home is worth a little over $1,000,000, with neighboring properties all selling for about the same amount — though admittedly, none of the other houses that line the street had a high profile movie credit in their property history. Nor did they have Hollywood A-listers on their grounds (just in case you forgot, the most famous cast member in Home Alone 3 was none other than Avengers star Scarlett Johansson, who played Alex Pruitt’s sister in the 1997 movie).

scarlett johansson as the sister in home alone 3
Screen grab from Home Alone 3, featuring a young Scarlett Johansson as the older sister.

Just in case you were wondering, the house where Alex Pruitt’s neighbor — Mrs. Hess — supposedly lived is actually located next door, at 3025 Normandy Place.

More famous TV homes

Richie Rich’s House is Actually the Biltmore Estate, America’s Largest Home
The ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ House Isn’t Even in Bel-Air
The Real-Life Homes from Modern Family — and Where to Find Them
The Simpsons House Gets a Modern Day Makeover

The post Where’s the House from ‘Home Alone 3’? appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

What is a Payday Loan?

A payday loan is a short-term loan with a high annual percentage rate. Also known as cash advance and check advance loans, payday loans are designed to cover you until payday and there are very few issues if you repay the loan in full before the payment date. Fail to do so, however, and you could be hit with severe penalties.

Lenders may ask the borrower to write a postdated check for the date of their next paycheck, only to hit them with rollover fees if that check bounces or they request an extension. It’s this rollover that causes so many issues for borrowers and it’s the reason there have been some huge changes in this industry over the last decade or so. 

How Do Payday Loans Work?

Payday lending seems like a simple, easy, and problem free process, but that’s what the payday lender relies on. 

The idea is quite simple. Imagine, for instance, that your car suddenly breaks down, payday is 10 days away, and you don’t have a single cent to your name. The mechanic quotes you $300 for the fix, and because you’re already drowning in debt and have already sold everything valuable, your only option is payday lending.

The payday lender offers you the $300 for a small fee. They remind you that if you repay this small short-term cash sum on payday, you won’t incur many fees or any real issues. But a lot can happen in 10 days. 

More bills can land in your mailbox, more expenses can arrive out of nowhere, and before you know it, all of your paycheck has been allocated for other expenses. The payday lender offers to rollover your loan for another month (another “payday”) and because you don’t have much choice, you agree.

But in doing so, you’ve just been hit with more high fees, more compounding interest, and a sum that just seems to keep on growing. By the time your next payday arrives, you’re only able to afford a small repayment, and from that moment on you’re locked into a debt that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

Predatory Practices

Payday loans have been criticized for being predatory and it’s easy to see why. Banks and credit unions profit more from high-income individuals as they borrow and invest more money. A single high-income consumer can be worth more than a dozen consumers straddling the poverty line.

Payday lenders, however, target their services at low-income individuals. They offer small-dollar loans and seem to profit the most when payment dates are missed and interest rates compound, something that is infinitely more probable with low-income consumers.

Low-income consumers are also more likely to need a small cash boost every now and then and less likely to have the collateral needed for a low-interest title loan. According to official statistics, during the heyday of payday loans, most lenders were divorced renters struggling to make ends meet.

Nearly a tenth of consumers earning less than $15.000 have used payday loans, compared to fewer than 1% for those earning more than $100,000. Close to 70% of all payday loans are used for recurring expenses, such as utility bills and other debts, while 16% are used for emergency purchases.

Pros and Cons of Taking Out a Payday Loan

Regardless of what the lender or the commercial tells you, all forms of credit carry risk, and payday loans are no exception. In fact, it is one of the riskiest forms of credit available, dragging you into a cycle of debt that you may struggle to escape from. Issues aside, however, there are some benefits to these loans, and we need to look at the cons as well as the pros.

Pros: You Don’t Need Good Credit

Payday loans don’t require impeccable credit scores and many lenders won’t even check an applicant’s credit report. They can afford to do this because they charge high interest and fees, and this allows them to offset many of the costs associated with the increased liability and risk.

If you’re struggling to cover your bills and have just been hit with an unexpected expense, this can be a godsend—it’s a last resort option that could buy you some time until payday.

Pros: It’s Quick

Payday loans give you money when you need it, something that many other loans and credit offers simply can’t provide. If you need money right now, a payday lender can help; whereas another lender may require a few days to transfer that money or provide you with a suitable line of credit.

Some lenders provide 24/7 access to money, with online applications offering instant decisions and promising a money transfer within 24 hours.

Pro: They Require Very Little

A payday loan lender has a very short list of criteria for its applicants to meet. A traditional lender may request your Social Security Number, proof of ID, and a credit check, but the average payday lender will ask for none of these things.

Generally, you will be asked to prove that you are in employment, have a bank account, and are at least 18 years old—that’s it. You may also be required to submit proof that you are a US citizen.

Cons: High Risk of Defaulting

A study by the Center for Responsible Lending found that nearly half of all payday loans go into default within just 2 years. That’s a staggering statistic when you consider that the average default rate for personal loans and credit cards is between 1% and 4%.

It proves the point that many payday lender critics have been making for years: Payday loans are predatory and high-risk. The average credit or loan account is only provided after the applicant has undergone a strict underwriting process. The lender takes its time to check that the applicant is suitable, looking at their credit history, credit score, and more, and only giving them the credit/loan when they are confident it will be repaid.

This may seem like an unnecessary and frustrating process, but as the above statistics prove, it’s not just for the benefit of the lender as it also protects the consumer from a disastrous default.

Con: High Fees

High interest rates aren’t the only reason payday lenders are considered predatory. Like all lenders, they charge fees for late payments. But unlike other lenders, these fees are astronomical and if you’re late by several weeks or months, those fees can be worth more than the initial balance.

A few years ago, a survey on payday lending discovered that the average borrower had accumulated $458 worth of fees, even though the median loan was nearly half that amount.

Cons: There are Better Options

If you have a respectable credit history or any kind of collateral, there are better options available. A bank or credit union can provide you with small short-term loans you can repay over many months without accumulating astronomical sums of interest. 

The interest rates are much lower, the fees are more manageable, and unless your credit score is really poor, you should be offered more favorable terms than what you can get from a payday lender.

Even a credit card can offer you better terms. Generally speaking, a credit card has some of the highest interest rates of any unsecured debt, but it can’t compare to a payday loan. It also has very little impact on your credit score and many credit card providers offer 0% on purchases for the first-few months.

What’s more, if things go wrong with a credit card, you have more options than you have with a payday loan, including a balance transfer credit card or a debt settlement program.

Why Do Payday Loans Charge So Much Interest?

If we were to take a cynical view, we could say that payday loans charge a lot simply because the lender can get away with charging a lot. After all, a payday loan lender targets the lowest-income individuals, the ones who need money the most and find themselves in desperate situations.

However, this doesn’t paint a complete picture. In actual fact, it all comes down to risk and reward. A lender increases its interest rate when an applicant is at a greater risk of default. 

The reason you can get low rates when you have a great credit score and high rates when you don’t, is because the former group is more likely to pay on time and in full, whereas the latter group is more likely to default.

Lending is all about balancing the probabilities, and because a short-term loan is at serious risk of defaulting, the costs are very high.

Payday Loans and Your Credit Score

Your credit will only be affected if the lender reports to the credit bureaus. This is something that many consumers overlook, incorrectly assuming that every payment will result in a positive report and every missed payment in a negative one. 

If the lender doesn’t report to the main credit bureaus, there will be no changes to your report and the account will not even show. This is how many payday lenders operate. They rarely run credit checks, so your report won’t be hit with an inquiry, and they tend not to report on-time payments.

However, it’s a different story if you miss those payments. A lender can report missed payments and defaults and may also sell your account to a debt collector, at which point your credit score will take a hit. 

If you’re concerned about how an application will impact your credit score, speak with the lender or read the terms and conditions before applying. And remember to always meet your payments on time to avoid any negative marks on your credit report and, more importantly, to ensure you’re not hit with additional fees.

Payday Loans vs Personal Loans

A personal loan is generally a much better option than a payday loan. These loans are designed to help you cover emergency expenses, pay for home improvements, launch businesses, and, in the case of debt consolidation loans, to clear your debt. 

The interest rates are around 6% to 10% for lenders with respectable credit scores, and while they often charge an origination fee and late fees, they are generally much cheaper options. You can repay the loan at a time that suits you and tailor the payments to fit your monthly expenses, ensuring that they don’t leave you short at the end of the month.

You can get a personal loan from a bank or a credit union; whenever you need the money, just compare, apply, and then wait for it to hit your account. The money paid by these loans is generally much higher than that offered by payday loans and you can stretch it out over a few years if needed.

What is an Unsecured Loan?

Personal and payday loans are both classed as unsecured loans, as the lender doesn’t secure them against money or assets. Secured loans are typically secured against your home (mortgage, home equity loan) or your car (auto loan, title loan). They can also be secured against a cash deposit, as is the case with secured credit cards.

Although this may seem like a negative, considering a lender can repossess your asset if you fail to meet the payment terms, it actually provides many positives. For instance, a secured loan gives the lender more recourse if anything goes wrong, which means the underwriters don’t need to account for a lot of risk. As a result, the lender is more likely to offer you a low interest rate. 

Where cash advance loans and other small loans are concerned, there is generally no option for securing the loan. The lender won’t be interested, and neither should you—what’s the point of securing a $30,000 car against a $1,000 loan!?

New Payday Loan Regulations

Payday lenders are subject to very strict rules and regulations and this industry has undergone some serious changes in recent years. In some states, limits are imposed to prevent high interest rates; in others, payday lenders are banned from operating altogether. 

The golden age of payday lending has passed, there’s no doubt about that. In fact, many lenders left the US markets and took their business to countries like the UK, only for the UK authorities to impose many of the same restrictions after a few years of pandemonium. In the US, the industry thrived during the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s, but it has since been losing ground and the practice is illegal or highly restricted in many states.

Are Payday Loans Still Legal?

Payday loans are legal in 27 states, but many states have imposed strict rules and regulations governing everything from loan amounts to fees. The states where payday lenders are not allowed to operate are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

It is still possible to apply for personal loans and title loans in these states, but high-interest, cash advance loans are out of the question, for the time being at least.

Debt Rollover Rules for Payday Lenders

One of the things that regulations cover is something known as Debt Rollover, whereby a consumer rolls their debt over into the next billing period, accruing fees and continuing to pay interest. The more rollovers there are, the greater the risk and the higher the detriment to the borrower.

Debt rollovers are at fault for many of the issues concerning payday loans. They create a cycle of persistent debt, as the borrower is forced to acquire additional debt to repay the payday loan debt. 

In the following states, payday loans are legal but restricted to between 0 and 1 rollovers:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Other states tend to limit debt rollovers to 2, but there are some notable exceptions. In South Dakota and Delaware, as many as 4 are allowed, while the state of Missouri allows for 6. However, the borrower must reduce the principal of the loan by at least 5% during each successive rollover.

Are These Changes for the Best?

If you’re a payday lender, the aforementioned rules and regulations are definitely not a good thing. Payday lenders rely on persistent debt. They make money from the poorest percentage of the population as they are the ones most likely to get trapped in that cycle.

For responsible borrowers, however, they turn something potentially disastrous into something that could serve a purpose. Payday loans still carry a huge risk, especially if there is any chance that you won’t repay the loan in time, but the limits imposed on interest rates and rollovers reduces the astronomical costs.

In that sense, they are definitely for the best, but there are still risks and potential pitfalls, so be sure to keep these in mind before you apply for any short-term loans.

What is a Payday Loan? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Can You Afford that New Car? Here's How to Decide

Are you in the market for a new or new-to-you car? If so, you’ve probably wondered “How much car can I afford?”

While your local car dealership might be happy to tell you the sky’s the limit regarding your car purchase, your personal budget might be telling you a different story. Spending more than you can afford on a car turns that car from a blessing into a burden.

How much should I spend on a car?

Deciding how much to spend on a car starts with knowing your current financial numbers. You'll need to know your current income, expenses, and savings amounts.

Know your numbers

There are several financial factors that can influence how much you should spend on a car. The amount of money you earn, of course, needs to be taken into account.

When determining how much you earn, always use your net take-home pay to start with. From there, factor in the other financial obligations you have.

In other words, look at your budget. If you don’t normally use one, now is a good time to start. Having a clear view of all other monthly financial obligations will help you better determine how much you can afford.

The 50-30-20 budget plan can be helpful. In short, the 50-30-20 budget plan works like this:

  • 50 percent of your budget goes toward must-have and must-do obligations, such as housing expenses and child care
  • 30 percent of your budget goes toward savings and debt obligations
  • 20 percent of your budget covers unnecessary expenses and “fun” money

There are many ways to design a budget, but the 50-30-20 budget gives you a good place to start. It will certainly point out of there are any areas that are totally out of whack.

What do you have in savings?

Having a healthy savings account balance is important when making a car purchase as well. If you don’t have an emergency fund with a balance equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses, building that emergency fund up should be a priority.

If you don’t have an emergency fund with a balance equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses, building that emergency fund up should be a priority.

With an added car payment, having a plush savings balance will help you ensure you can cover the new payment even if you hit a financial bump. Or, for instance, if the car needs repairs.

Determine the total cost of the car

Once you have looked at your budget and determined the amount of money per month you are comfortable spending on a car you'll want to be clear on the total car costs before you make your purchase. Affording a new car isn’t simply about the payment.

There are several other costs associated with car ownership, such as:

  • Insurance policy costs
  • Fuel and parking costs
  • Maintenance and repair costs

You can call your insurance company ahead of time and get a quote for the new vehicle you're considering. If you are still trying to narrow down what type of car you want, check out this list of the most and the least expensive cars to insure.

Call your insurance company ahead of time and get a quote for the new vehicle you're considering.

Fuel costs are fairly easy to determine. A Google search will give you the MPGs of any car you could think of. Compare that to your current car to see if your costs will change.

Maintenance and repair costs can be harder to determine but you can get an idea by using averages across a brand. Here's an article from Autowise that displays the cheapest and most expensive cars to maintain.

Be sure to factor in an accurate estimate of these additional car ownership costs as you determine a purchase price and payment amount you’re comfortable with.

Get the right kind of car loan

Doing your due diligence as you shop for a car loan is important as well. You do not have to get financing through the dealership. You will likely do better getting a loan yourself through your bank. At the very least, have an understanding of what rate you would qualify for before heading into the dealership so you know if they are offering you a fair rate.

Continue reading on Wallet Hacks.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

What Causes of Death are not Covered by Life Insurance?

The death of a loved one is hard to take and while a life insurance payout can ease the burden and allow you to continue leaving comfortably, it won’t take the grief or the heartbreak away. What’s more, if that life insurance policy refuses to payout, it can make the situation even worse, adding more stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration to an already emotional period.

But why would a life insurance claim be refused; what are the causes of death that may cause your life insurance coverage to become null and void? If you or a loved one has a life policy, this article could provide some essential information as we look at the reasons a death claim may be refused.

What Causes of Death are Not Covered?

The extent of your life insurance coverage will depend on your specific policy and this is something you should check when filing your life insurance application. Speak with your insurance agent, ask questions, and always do your due diligence so that you know what you’re buying into and what sort of deaths it will provide cover for.

Life insurance policies have something known as a contestability period, which typically lasts for 1 to 2 years and begins as soon as the policy starts. If the policyholder dies during this time, they will investigate and contest the death. 

This is generally true whether her you die of a heart attack, cancer or suicide. However, if this period has passed, they may only contest the death if it results from one of the following.

Suicide

Suicide is a contentious issue where life insurance is concerned. On the one hand, it’s a very serious issue and one that’s often the result of mental health problems, so there are those who believe it is deserving of the same respect as any other illness. 

On the other hand, the life insurance companies are concerned that allowing such coverage will encourage desperate people to kill themselves so their loved ones will be financially secure.

It’s a touchy subject, and that’s why many companies refuse to go anywhere near it. Some will outright refuse to pay out for suicide, but the majority have a suicide clause, whereby they only payout if the death occurs after a specific period of time.

If it occurs before this time, they may return the premiums or pay nothing at all. And if they have reason to believe that the policyholder took their own life just for financial gain, they will almost certainly investigate and may refuse to pay.

Dangerous Hobbies and Driving

If you die in a car accident and it is deemed that you were driving drunk, your policy may not payout. Car accident deaths are common, and this is a cause of death that policies do generally cover, but only when you weren’t doing something illegal or driving recklessly.

Deaths from extreme activities like bungee jumping or skydiving may be questioned, especially if these hobbies were not reported during the application. 

Illegal Acts

Your claim can be denied if you are committing an illegal act at the time of your death. This can include everything from being chased by the police to trespassing. A benefit may also be refused if you die for an intentional drug overdose using non-prescription drugs. 

Smoking or Pre-existing Health Issue

Honesty is key, and if you lie during the application or “forget” to tell them about your smoking status or pre-existing medical conditions, they may refuse to payout. It doesn’t matter if they performed a medical exam or not; the onus is not on them to spot your lie, it’s on you not to tell it in the first place.

This is one of the most common reasons for an insurance contract to be declared void, as applicants go in search of the cheapest premiums they can get and do everything they can to bring those costs down. They may also believe they will get away with their lies, either because they will give up smoking in a few months or years or because they will die from something other than their preexisting condition.

But lying in this manner is risky. You have to ask yourself whether it’s worth paying $100 a month for a valid policy that will payout without issue or $50 for a policy that will likely be refused and will cause endless stress for your beneficiaries.

War

Life insurance benefits generally don’t extend to the battlefield. If you’re a solider on the front line, your risk of death increases significantly, and many insurance policies won’t cover you for this. This is true even if you’re not in active duty at the time you take out the policy. More importantly, it also applies to correspondents and journalists.

You don’t invalidate your policy by going to a war-torn country and reporting, but if you die resulting from that trip, your policy will not payout.

Dismemberment

Your life insurance policy likely won’t pay for dismemberment or critical illness, but there are additional policies and add-ons that will provide cover. You can get these alongside permanent life insurance and term life insurance to provide you with more cover and peace of mind. 

They will come at a significant extra cost, but unlike traditional life insurance, they will payout when you are still alive and may make life easier after experiencing a tragic accident or serious illness.

We recommend focusing on getting life insurance first, securing the amount of coverage you need from a permanent or term life policy, and only then seeing if there is room in your budget for these additional options.

How Often Do Life Insurance Policies Payout?

We have recommended life insurance many times at PocketYourDollars and will continue to do so. We often state that it is essential if you have dependents and want to ensure they’re cared for when you die. But as much as we recommend it and as simple as the process of applying often is, there is one simple fact that we often overlook:

Life insurance companies rarely payout.

It’s a stat you may have seen elsewhere and it’s 100% true. However, contrary to what you might have heard or assumed; this is not the result of a refusal to pay the death benefit when the policyholder passes away. Sure, this accounts for some of those non-payments, but for the most part, it’s down to one of the following:

The Policyholder Survives the Term

The majority of life insurance policies are set to fixed terms, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. If anything happens during this period of time, your loved ones collect your death benefit, but if you survive, the policy ends, no money is paid out, and if you want another policy you will need to pay a larger sum.

The Policyholder Accepts the Cash Value

Whole life insurance policies are like investments crossed with life insurance. Your loved ones get a death benefit if you die, but it also accrues interest and can be cashed out. When this happens, the insurer collects, you get a sum of money, and it feels like a win-win, but in reality, the insurer has just dodged a bullet.

The Policyholder Stops Making Payments

As soon as you stop making your premium payments, you lose cover and you run the risk of your policy being canceled. This is true for pretty much any type of policy and it happens regardless of the policy term. 

Unlike a credit card company, which may chase you for payments, a life insurance company will place the burden of responsibility on you. After all, a creditor loses money when you don’t pay, whereas a life insurance company comes out on top.

This often happens when individuals take out substantial life insurance policies at a young age, only to suffer drastically changing circumstances. Imagine, for instance, that you’re 20-years-old and you buy a house with your spouse-to-be, with a view to settling down and starting a family. You assume that you’ll need it for a long time, so you take out a 30-year-term.

But 10 years down the line, your spouse leaves you, the family you wanted didn’t happen, and you’re all alone with no dependents, and with growing debts, bills, and obligations. At that point, life insurance becomes a burden, so you may stop making payments, thus allowing the insurance company to profit from 10 years of insurance premiums.

Summary: It’s Not That Cut-Throat

You don’t have to look far to find consumers who feel they have been wronged by life insurance companies, consumers who will expend a great deal of time and effort into calling out these companies for their perceived wrongdoings. But they often exaggerate the situation due to their extreme anger and this creates unrealistic anxieties and expectations.

The truth is, while there are people who have been genuinely wronged, they are in the extreme minority. The vast majority of family members who were refused a death benefit were let down by the policyholder and by the lies they told on their policy.

Policyholders lie about their weight, smoking status, and medical conditions, and when caught up in this lie, they often claim they made an honest mistake. But the truth is, most life insurance companies will overlook simple mistakes and only really care when it’s obvious that the policyholder lied. 

And let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how forgetful you are, you’re not going to forget that you’re a chain smoker, alcoholic, drug user, extreme sports fan or that you recently had a medical crisis!

If the policy was filed honestly, you shouldn’t have an issue when you collect, even if it’s still in the contestability period. As discussed above, life insurance companies stack the dice in their favor. They use statistics and probability to carefully set the premiums and benefits, and they rely on policyholders forgetting to pay and outliving the term. They don’t need to “rob” you in order to make a profit. So, be honest when applying and you won’t have anything to fear.

What Causes of Death are not Covered by Life Insurance? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Should You Keep Investing At All-Time Highs?

A note from a dedicated reader inspired today’s article. It’s a question about the stock market and investing at all-time highs. It reads:

Hey Jesse. So, back in March you said that you were going to keep on investing despite the major crash. Fair enough, good call!

Note: here and here are the two articles that likely inspired this comment

But now that the market has recovered and is in an obvious bubble (right?), are you still dumping money into the market?

Thanks for the note, and great questions. You might have heard “buy low, sell high.” That’s how you make money when investing. So, if the prices are at all-time highs, you aren’t exactly “buying low,” right?

I’m going to address this question in three different ways.

  1. General ideas about investing
  2. Back-testing historical data
  3. Identifying and timing a bubble

Long story short: yes, I am still “dumping” money into the stock market despite all-time highs. But no, I’m not 100% that I’m right.

General Ideas About Investing

We all know that that investing markets ebb and flow. They goes up and down. But, importantly, the stock market has historically gone up more than it has gone down.

Why does this matter? I’m implementing an investing plan that is going to take decades to fulfill. Over those decades, I have faith that the average—the trend—will present itself. That average goes up. I’m not betting on individual days, weeks, or months. I’m betting on decades.

It feels bad to invest right before the market crashes. I wouldn’t enjoy that. But I’m not worried about the value of my investments one month from now. I’m worried about where they’ll be in 20+ years.

Stock Market Crash GIFs | Tenor

Allowing short-term emotions—e.g. fear of an impending crash—to cloud long-term, math-based thinking is the nadir of result-oriented thinking. Don’t do it.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a fun idea. Google the term “should I invest at all-time highs?”

When I do that, I see articles written in 2016, 2017, 2018…you get it. People have been asking this question for quite a while. All-time highs have happened before, and they beg the question of whether it’s smart to invest. Here’s the S&P 500 data from 2016 to today.

S&P 500 – Past five years. Punctuation my own addition.

So should you have invested in 2016? In 2017? In 2018? While those markets were at or near all-time highs, the resounding answer is YES! Investing in those all-time high markets was a smart thing to do.

Let’s go further back. Here’s the Dow Jones going back to the early 1980s. Was investing at all-time highs back then a good idea?

I’ve cherry-picked some data, but the results would be convincing no matter what historic window I chose. Investing at all-time highs is still a smart thing to do if you have a long-term plan.

Investing at all-time highs isn’t that hard when you have a long outlook.

But let’s look at some hard data and see how the numbers fall out.

Historical Backtest for Investing at All-Time Highs

There’s a well-written article at Of Dollars and Data that models what I’m about to do: Even God Couldn’t Beat Dollar-Cost Averaging.

But if you don’t have the time to crunch all that data, I’m going to describe the results of a simple investing back-test below.

First, I looked at a dollar-cost averager. This is someone who contributes a steady investment at a steady frequency, regardless of whether the market is at an all-time high or not. This is how I invest! And it might be how you invest via your 401(k). The example I’m going to use is someone who invests $100 every week.

Then I looked at an “all-time high avoider.” This is someone who refuses to buy stocks at all-time highs, saving their cash for a time when the stock market dips. They’ll take $100 each week and make a decision: if the market is at an all-time high, they’ll save the money for later. If the market isn’t at an all-time high, they’ll invest all their saved money.

The article from Of Dollars and Data goes one step further, if you’re interested. It presents an omniscient investor who has perfect timing, only investing at the lowest points between two market highs. This person, author Nick Maggiulli comments, invests like God would—they have perfect knowledge of prior and future market values. If they realize that the market will be lower in the future, they save their money for that point in time.

What are the results?

The dollar-cost averager outperformed the all-time high avoider in 82% of all possible 30-year investing periods between 1928 and today. And the dollar-cost averager outperformed “God” in ~70% of the scenarios that Maggiulli analyzed.

How can the dollar-cost averager beat God, since God knows if there will be a better buying opportunity in the future? Simple answer: dividends and compounding returns. Unless you have impeccable—perhaps supernatural—timing, leaving your money on the sidelines is a poor choice.

Investing at all-time highs is where the smart money plays.

Identifying and Timing a Bubble

One of my favorite pieces of finance jargon is the “permabear.” It’s a portmanteau of permanent and bear, as in “this person is always claiming that the market is overvalued and that a bubble is coming.”

Being a permabear has one huge benefit. When a bubble bursts—and they always do, eventually—the permabear feels righteous justification. See?! I called it! Best Interest reader Craig Gingerich jokingly knows bears who have “predicted 16 of the last 3 recessions.”

Source: advisorperspectives.com

Suffice to say, it’s common to look at the financial tea leaves and see portents of calamity. But it’s a lot harder to be correct, and be correct right now. Timing the market is hard.

Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.

Peter Lynch

Predicting market recessions falls somewhere between the Farmers’ Almanac weather forecast and foreseeing the end of the world. It takes neither skill nor accuracy but instead requires a general sense of pattern recognition.

Note: The Farmers’ Almanac thinks that next April will be rainy. Nice work, guys. And I, too, think the world will end—at least at some point in the next few billions of years.

I have neither the skill nor the inclination to identify a market bubble or to predict when it’ll burst. And if someone convinces you they do have that skill, you have two options. They might be skilled. Or they are interested in your bank account. Use Occam’s Razor.

Just remember: some permabears were screaming “SELL!” in late March 2020. I’ve always heard “buy low, sell high.” But maybe selling your portfolio at the absolute market bottom is the new secret technique?

“But…just look at the market”

I get it. I hear you. And I feel it, too. If feels like something funny is going on.

The stock market is 12% higher than it was a year ago. It’s higher than it was before the COVID crash. How is this possible? How can we be in a better place mid-pandemic than before the pandemic?

Crazy Pills GIFs | Tenor

One explanation: the U.S. Federal Reserve has dropped their interest rates to, essentially, zero. Lower interest rates make it easier to borrow money, and borrowing money is what keeps businesses alive. It’s economic life support.

Of course, a side effect of cheap interest rates is that some investors will dump their cheap money into the stock market. The increasing demand for stocks will push the price higher. So, despite no increase (and perhaps even a decrease) in the intrinsic value of the underlying publicly-traded companies, the stock market rises.

Is that a bubble? Quite possibly. But I’m not smart enough to be sure.

The CAPE ratio—also called the Shiller P/E ratio—is another sign of a possible bubble. CAPE stands for cyclically-adjusted price-to-earnings. It measures a stock’s price against that company’s earnings over the previous 10-years (i.e. it’s adjusted for multiple business cycles).

Earnings help measure a company’s true value. When the CAPE is high, it’s because a stock’s price is much greater than its earnings. In other words, the price is too high compared to the company’s true value.

Buying when the CAPE is high is like paying $60K for a Honda Civic. It doesn’t mean that a Civic is a bad car. It’s just that you shoudn’t pay $60,000 for it.

Similarly, nobody is saying that Apple is a bad company, but its current CAPE is 52. Try to find a CAPE of 52 on the chart above. You won’t find it.

So does it make sense to buy total market index funds when the total market is at a CAPE of 31? That’s pretty high, and comparable to historical pre-bubble periods. Is a high CAPE representative of solid fundamentals? Probably not, but I’m not sure.

My Shoeshine Story

There’s an apocryphal tale of New York City shoeshines giving stock-picking advice to their customers…who happened to be stockbrokers. Those stockbrokers took this as a sign of an oncoming financial apocalypse.

The thought process was: if the market was so popular that shoe shines were giving advice, then the market was overbought. The smart money, therefore, should sell.

I recently heard a co-worker talking about his 12-year old son. The kid uses Robin Hood—a smartphone app that boasts free trades to its users. Access to the stock market has never been easier.

According to his dad, the kid bought about $100 worth of Advanced Micro Devices (ticker = AMD). When asked what AMD produces, the kid said, “I don’t know. I just know they’re up 60%!”

This, an expert might opine, is not indicative of market fundamentals.

But then I thought some more. Is this how I invest? What does your index fund hold, Jesse? Well…a lot of companies I’ve never heard of. I just know it averages ~10% gains every year! My answer is eerily similar.

I’d like to believe that I buy index funds based on fundamentals that have been justified by historical precedent. But, what if the entire market’s fundamentals are out of whack? I’m buying a little bit of everything, sure. But what if everything is F’d up?

Closing Thoughts

Have you ever seen a index zealot transmogrify into a permabear?

Not yet. Not today.

I do understand why some warn of a bubble. I see the same omens. But I don’t have the certainty or the confidence to act on omens. It’s like John Bogle said in the face of market volatility:

Don’t do something. Just stand there.

John Bogle

Markets go up and down. The U.S. stock market might crash tomorrow, next week, or next year. Amidst it all, my plan is to keep on investing. Steady amounts, steady frequency. I’ve got 20+ years to wait.

History says investing at all-time highs is still a smart thing. Current events seem crazy, but crazy has happened before. Stay the course, friends.

And, as always, thanks for reading the Best Interest. If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

Source: bestinterest.blog

9 Surprising Windex Uses (Aside From Cleaning Glass)

Vinegar isn’t the only super performer in your kitchen.

Windex — that simple $3 spray you keep under your sink — can be used to clean the interior of your car, to detail jewelry and even to unstick zippers.

Your store shelves probably carry several varieties of Windex, so if you’re cleaning fabric, stick with the clear version, and if you’re using it for a car, use the Windex Ammonia-free Glass Cleaner.

Aside from those suggestions, any of the Windex variations will do the job.

Here are 9 surprisingly effective uses for that familiar blue (or sometimes clear) bottle.

1. Moving Large Pieces of Furniture

Los Angeles-based interior designer John Linden uses Windex to slide large items that are stuck or too heavy to move.

“All we need to do is to spritz some in front of the objects we want to move before pushing the item,” Linden says. He’s then able to easily move that piece of furniture to its place.

As long as you use the ammonia-free version of Windex, you can use it on any type of flooring, including hardwood.

2. Cleaning Carpets and Upholstered Furniture

You thought Windex only worked on glass? Linden says he’ll often spray Windex onto small stains, leaving it for 20 minutes to soak. Then he wipes right off the furniture.

Make sure to use the clear formula for this, as the blue formula may leave its own stains.

3. Insect Repellant

The smell of ammonia is strongly disliked by many insects, says Andrew Barker, founder of Homeowner Costs. As a result, Barker suggests spraying Windex by open windows and doors to keep bugs at bay.

4. Clean Your Car

Windex is also a great cleanser for cars, says Deidre Fisher, owner of Simply Bliss Cleaning in Salt Lake City, Utah. Use it on window and mirror smudges, on dashboards, the steering wheel and any plastic and leather surface.

It’s also great for cleaning the screens and dials. “I just recommend spraying the cloth first and not the electronics directly,” Fisher says.

5. Washing Makeup Brushes

Makeup artist and lifestyle blogger Kerrin Jackson has been using Windex to clean her brushes and airbrush parts for more than a decade.

“They make light work of breaking down the alcohol-based makeups and heavy-duty body makeup products that can sometimes be stubborn and difficult to clean from the inner workings of the airbrush parts,” Jackson says.

6. De-greasing Your Kitchen

Use Windex on your exhaust fans and range hoods in your kitchen, suggests Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, a cleaning company in Chicago.

Rodriguez-Zaba suggests spraying Windex on the surfaces and letting it stand for 5-10 minutes, then wiping it clean and rinsing with water to remove any remaining chemical residue.

7. Cleaning Your TV Screen

Got a dusty TV? Dust is usually very prevalent on televisions because everyone is scared to clean them. But spray some Windex on a soft cloth and you’re good to go, says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily’s Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas.

8. Removing Stains From Clothing

It works well for red wine, tomato sauce, ketchup and more, says Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home, a gardening and home improvement blog.

“You can lightly spray the stain with Windex and let it sit for 15 minutes, as long as the clothing item isn’t a delicate silk,” Stark said. “Get a clean cloth and blot at the stain before rinsing it in cold water.”

Follow this by washing the clothing as recommended. Make sure you use clear Windex for this task.

9. Cleaning Patio Furniture and Outdoor Surfaces

Benjamin Nguyen, owner of Full Color Cleaners, says he uses Windex to clean his patio furniture, making it look as good as new. It will clean everything from the furniture to outdoor surfaces, including brick.

For this task, go the extra mile and snag the Windex Outdoor Concentrated Cleaner, which is a 32 oz. spray bottle that attaches onto a hose ($27.66). Spray onto your aluminum siding, your brick, your windows — and with this tool, you won’t even need a ladder to do it.

Danielle Braff 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

Things Break. How to Make Sure Your Emergency Fund Can Cover Them

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Your washing machine. Your car. Your front tooth.

If any of those broke right now, would you be able to get it fixed immediately? Or would you have to walk around with a gap in your smile for months until you could get the money together?

If you can’t afford to pay to fix it today, you’re not alone. Most people don’t have $400 saved in case of an emergency either. So before your car breaks down on the side of the road on your way to an interview, make sure you have a solid emergency fund of at least $500.

Don’t know how to get there? Having a budget (that you actually stick to) can help you get there. Here’s one budgeting strategy we recommend, and four other tips that can help you keep your expenses in line.

1. The 50/30/20 Budgeting Rule

The 50/30/20 rule is one of the simplest budgeting methods out there, which is why you’ve probably heard us talk about it before if you’re a regular TPH reader. There are no fancy spreadsheets or pricy apps to download (unless you want to), and it’s very straightforward.

Here’s how it shakes out: 50% of your monthly take home income goes to your essentials — your rent, your groceries, your minimum debt payments, and other necessities. 30% of your cash goes to the fun stuff, and 20% is dedicated to your financial goals. That could be paying more than the minimum on your debts or adding to your investments. And it definitely includes building up your emergency fund!

If you take a look at your budget and realized you don’t have enough leftover to contribute to your emergency fund, here are a few ways to help balance your budget:

2. Cut More Than $500 From One Of Your Must-Have Bills

You’re probably overpaying the bills you have to pay each month. But you can cut those expenses down, without sacrificing anything. Maybe even enough to cover that window your kid just smashed with a ball. Definitely enough to grow your emergency fund a meaningful amount.

So, when’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

3. Earn Up to $225 in Easy, Extra Cash

If we told you you could get free money just for watching videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh. It’s too good to be true, right? But we’re serious. You can really add up to a few hundred bucks to your emergency savings with some mindless entertainment.

A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.

All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward. Brands pay InboxDollars to get these videos in front of viewers, and it passes a cut onto you.

InboxDollars won’t make you rich, but it’s possible to get up to $225 per month watching these videos. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately earn a $5 bonus to get you started.

4. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

Just by paying the minimum amount on your credit cards, you are extending the life of your debt exponentially — not to mention the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars you’re wasting on interest payments. You could be using that money to beef up your emergency savings, instead.

The truth is, your credit card company is happy to let you pay just the minimum every month. It’s getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates — some up to nearly 30%. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

5. Get a Side Gig And Make More Money

Let’s face it — if your monthly income is less than what your monthly expenses are (and you’ve run out of things to cut), you need more money.

Well, we all could use more money. And by earning a little bit extra each month, we could make sure we’re never taken by surprise when an ER visit tries to drain our savings.

Luckily, earning money has never been easier with the rise of the “Gig Economy”. Here are 31 simple ways to make money online. Which one could you do to pad your emergency savings?

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

The Best Pay-Per-Mile Car Insurance Companies

Wouldn’t it be nice to pay for a service only when you used it? That’s exactly what usage-based auto insurance is. Getting low mileage insurance lets you pay less by only paying for the miles you use. It’s the perfect way to cut costs without getting rid of coverage.  Choosing the right car insurance can […]

The post The Best Pay-Per-Mile Car Insurance Companies appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

The Top Financial Resolutions for 2021

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Have you made your resolutions yet? It can feel a little daunting trying to figure out what you need to focus on, so we made it easy: These are the resolutions everyone else is taking on in 2021, according to a survey by Wallethub, and you should, too. Plus — how to accomplish them.

1. Make A Realistic Budget And Stick To It

This one sounds familiar, right? Oft-regarded as Old Faithful when it comes to New Years’ resolutions, it holds that title for good reason. Having a budget you can actually stick to will set you up for financial success, no matter what your goals are.

It’s easy to slip away from our good financial habits as the year goes on, so it’s particularly important to find a budgeting system that works for your lifestyle and won’t be hard to maintain.

We recommend the 50/30/20 method. It’s simple, yet effective, and has a bit of a cult following, too! Here’s how it shakes out:

50% of your take-home income every month covers your fixed expenses — rent, utilities, groceries, minimum debt payments, etc. 30% goes towards the things you can live without, but don’t want to (like food delivery, a Netflix subscription and travel). Finally, the last 20% of your monthly income is dedicated to your financial goals.

2. Look For A Better Job: Make up to $69/Hour

The most surefire way to achieve your financial resolutions and stay within that budget you made is to earn more money.

2020 made that really hard for most people. Which is why finding a better job, that you actually enjoy — and will pay you more — is a top resolution for 2021.

But what if you could create that higher-paying and more rewarding job? There’s an idea…

Can you open an excel spreadsheet? Does earning $69 an hour sound appealing? How about the freedom to work remotely while helping others succeed?

Those are the perks of working as a bookkeeper, says Ben Robinson, a CPA and business owner who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers through online courses called Bookkeepers.com.

You don’t have to be an accountant or even really good at math to be successful in this business. In fact, all you need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems. The ability to stay moderately organized is helpful, too.

You can make up to $69 an hour, according to data from Intuit, the creator of QuickBooks, and you have no commute. It’s a great opportunity for parents who want a part-time job, recent college grads or anyone who wants to bring in real money working from home.

Robinson shares what it takes to be a virtual bookkeeper, plus tips for making this career work for you in his free class at Bookkeepers.com. If you stick with the classes, you could be running your own business in just a few months.

3. Pay Off Credit Card Debt: Wipe Out All Your Debt by Tomorrow

2020 was actually a good year for paying down credit card debt — Americans did more of it this year than they ever have.

But there’s still work to be done, which is why paying off credit card debt is one of the top financial resolutions this year.  Because if you still have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape…

And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne won’t make you stand in line or call your bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could help you pay off your debt years faster.

4. Monitor Your Credit Report

Did your credit score take a dive this year? Or is still stuck at a “fair” grade? Then monitoring any changes on your credit reporting and working to improve your score should be one of your financial resolutions for this year, too.

When it comes to your credit score, it’s important to stay organized and keep tabs on it. After all, it’ll play an essential role in any big purchase you want to make — whether that’s a home or a car.

So if you’re looking to get your credit score back on track — or even if it is on track and you want to bump it up — try using a free website called Credit Sesame.

Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.*** “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said.

Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.

5. Get Insured In Case Of A Catastrophe. You Could Give Your Family up to $1 Million

Talk about a scary year. If a global pandemic didn’t have you thinking about your own mortality, what else could? With that thought in mind, people are adding “buy life insurance” to their list of 2021 to-dos.

Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income if something happened to you? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

6. Add A Month To Your Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund is important; you know that. But it’s easy to deprioritize it when things are going fine. And as 2020 showed us, you can lose your job at the drop of a hat, meaning a full emergency fund can be what keeps your lights on.

So prioritize your emergency fund this year. If you don’t have one yet, start by opening an account that will help you grow your money.

One way to do that is with a company called Aspiration. It lets you earn up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

7. Pay Bills Right After Payday

It’s easy to get swept up in the joy that is payday and immediately start buying things you don’t need. But as the final financial resolution on this list, paying your bills right away can help keep the rest of your goals on track.

It means you can avoid late fees on your utilities, which can really add up and destroy your budget. You can pay off your credit card debt without mounting interest charges. And you can prevent any hiccups that would dock your credit score a few points.

Whatever your financial goals are this year, we know you can achieve them! Here’s to making 2021 your best financial year yet.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

***Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

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

Credit Card Balance Transfers

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score. 

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Credit Card Balance Transfers is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com