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.
Unlike a normal cat burglar situation â 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 â 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.
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).
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 Richâs House is Actually the Biltmore Estate, Americaâs Largest Home The âFresh Prince of Bel-Airâ House Isnât Even in Bel-Air The Real-Life Homes from Modern Family â 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.
The death of aÂ loved oneÂ is hard to take and while aÂ life insuranceÂ payoutÂ 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 thatÂ life insurance policyÂ refuses toÂ payout, it can make the situation even worse, adding more stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration to an already emotional period.
But why would aÂ life insurance claimÂ be refused; what are theÂ causes of deathÂ that may cause yourÂ lifeÂ insurance coverageÂ to become null and void? If you or aÂ loved oneÂ has aÂ life policy, this article could provide some essential information as we look at the reasons aÂ death claimÂ may be refused.
WhatÂ Causes of DeathÂ are Not Covered?
The extent of yourÂ lifeÂ insurance coverageÂ will depend on your specific policy and this is something you should check when filing yourÂ life insurance application. Speak with yourÂ 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 policiesÂ have something known as aÂ contestability period, which typically lasts for 1 to 2 years and begins as soon as the policy starts. If theÂ policyholderÂ dies during this time, they will investigate and contest the death.Â
This is generally true whether her you die of aÂ 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 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.Â
On the other hand, theÂ lifeÂ insurance companiesÂ are concerned that allowing such coverage will encourage desperate people to kill themselves so theirÂ loved onesÂ 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 outÂ for suicide, but the majority have aÂ suicide clause, whereby they onlyÂ payoutÂ if the death occurs after a specificÂ 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 theÂ policyholderÂ 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 aÂ car accidentÂ and it is deemed that you were driving drunk, your policy may notÂ payout.Â Car accidentÂ deaths are common, and this is aÂ cause of deathÂ that policies do generally cover, but only when you weren’t doing something illegal or driving recklessly.
Deaths from extreme activities like bungee jumping orÂ skydivingÂ may be questioned, especially if these hobbies were not reported during the application.Â
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.Â
Smoking or Pre-existingÂ Health Issue
Honesty is key, and if you lie during the application or “forget” to tell them about your smoking status or pre-existingÂ medical conditions, they may refuse toÂ payout. It doesn’t matter if they performed aÂ medical examÂ 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 anÂ insurance contractÂ 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 willÂ payoutÂ without issue or $50 for a policy that will likely be refused and will cause endless stress for your beneficiaries.
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 notÂ payout.
Your life insurance policy likely won’t pay forÂ dismembermentÂ orÂ critical illness, but there are additional policies and add-ons that will provide cover. You can get these alongsideÂ permanent life insuranceÂ andÂ term life insuranceÂ to provide you with more cover and peace of mind.Â
They will come at a significant extra cost, but unlike traditional life insurance, they willÂ payoutÂ 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 theÂ amount of coverageÂ you need from a permanent orÂ termÂ life policy, and only then seeing if there is room in your budget for these additional options.
How Often DoÂ Life Insurance PoliciesÂ 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:
LifeÂ insurance companiesÂ rarelyÂ 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 theÂ death benefitÂ when theÂ policyholderÂ passes away. Sure, this accounts for some of those non-payments, but for the most part, it’s down to one of the following:
TheÂ PolicyholderÂ Survives the Term
The majority ofÂ life insurance policiesÂ are set to fixed terms, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. If anything happens during thisÂ period of time, yourÂ loved onesÂ collect yourÂ 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.
TheÂ PolicyholderÂ Accepts theÂ Cash Value
WholeÂ lifeÂ insuranceÂ policiesÂ are like investments crossed with life insurance. YourÂ loved onesÂ get aÂ death benefitÂ 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.
TheÂ PolicyholderÂ Stops Making Payments
As soon as you stop making yourÂ premium payments, you lose cover and you run the risk of your policy being canceled. This is true for pretty much anyÂ type of policyÂ and it happens regardless of theÂ policy term.Â
Unlike aÂ credit cardÂ company, which may chase you for payments, aÂ lifeÂ insurance companyÂ will place the burden of responsibility on you. After all, a creditor loses money when you don’t pay, whereas aÂ lifeÂ insurance companyÂ comes out on top.
This often happens when individuals take out substantialÂ life insurance policiesÂ 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 theÂ insurance companyÂ 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 byÂ lifeÂ 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 ofÂ family membersÂ who were refused aÂ death benefitÂ were let down by theÂ policyholderÂ and by the lies they told on their policy.
PolicyholdersÂ lie about their weight, smoking status, andÂ medicalÂ 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 theÂ policyholderÂ lied.Â
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 shouldnât have an issue when you collect, even if it’s still in theÂ contestability period. As discussed above,Â lifeÂ insurance companiesÂ stack the dice in their favor. They use statistics and probability to carefully set the premiums and benefits, and they rely onÂ policyholdersÂ 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.
So youâre at the point in your life where buying a home is not a question of if, but when. Youâre scrimping. Youâre saving. Youâre 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? Youâll want to take time to thoroughly review your personal financial situation and life goals. At the same time, youâll need to gain some understanding of the market dynamics that impact home costs.
This process will take some time, but itâs well worth the effort. With a firm grasp on your personal situation and some context on the housing market, youâll be able to confidently go forth knowing youâre 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 youâre trying to determine when youâre 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 youâre thinking of buying a house right now.
If you have any inkling that your position may be eliminated or that youâll 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 youâre considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home.
Do you have enough money saved?
After income stability, savings is the next-most-important financial factor youâll 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, itâs not necessaryâfar 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 doesnât stretch you too thinâexperts 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 andâif you donât have the savings to put down 20%âprimary 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.
Once you know your price range, you can determine how much savings you need in the bank to buy a house right now. Youâll 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 itâs a dishwasher on the fritz or a leaky roof, you donât 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 youâre offered. Given that, you should be checking your credit report and know your credit score before investing in a home. If youâre 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 lowerâin 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 youâre 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 youâre ready to buy a home and whether nowâs 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 youâre 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 inventoryâmeaning the fewer houses availableâthe higher prices will be, Tucker says.
Whatâs going on with interest rates?
When youâre 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 youâre spending less on interest. When they are high, the opposite is true.
This is what compels people to buy when interest rates are lowâyou 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 headedâif prices will drop or rise soonâcheck 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 donât 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.
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.
âFor 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,â Ziegler says. âIf theyâre just not sure what the future holds, it may be better to have that flexibility.â
Itâs 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?
While youâre 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 itâs 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, youâll have a clearer sense of when you are ready to buy a home.
If youâve decided that buying a house right now is the best decision for you, itâs 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.
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.
General ideas about investing
Back-testing historical data
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.
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.
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.
Thearticle 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.”
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.
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?
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?
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.
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 theÂ Best Interest. If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, Iâd suggest checking out myÂ ArchiveÂ orÂ SubscribingÂ to get future articles emailed to your inbox.
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I love making things automatic. Whether it is bill-paying, direct deposit, prescription renewals, or investing, making things automatic makes life easier, and that is where our Betterment investing review comes in.
When it comes to retirement planning, an overwhelming number of online tools and websites promise to help you create a dynamic and profitable portfolio while minimizing fees.
This growing list of services includes robo-advisors, a class of financial websites that offer to manage your portfolio with minimal in-person interaction and a heavy reliance on the latest investing tools and software.
One of the most popular robo-advisors by far is Betterment. Conceptualized by its founders in 2008, Betterment has since grown to help its customers invest billions of dollars of their hard-earned dollars. This is an investment platform that puts your investing on cruise control, and even allows you to make money watching TV! You can open an account with no money at all, and get the benefit of professional, low-cost investment management that enables you to invest in thousands of securities with as little as a few hundred dollars.
It hasnât been easy. With other competitors like Wealthfront and Personal Capital always a few steps behind them, Betterment has struggled to find a way to stand out. Even with the competition, Betterment has emerged as one of the top online brokerage accounts and continues to grow its market share.
Open an account
0.25% to 0.40% annual management fee, depending on the plan
No trade, transfer or rebalancing fees
No minimum balance
Hands-off investing tailored to your goals and risk preference
Betterment is an online, automated investment manager that uses advanced algorithms and software to find the perfect investment strategy for your portfolio and individual needs.
The main difference between investing your money with a traditional financial advisor and Betterment is that there is minimal human interaction. Unless you email or call in, your communication with an individual advisor will be very minimal.
But, there is some good news to counteract the lack of individual service. Because of lower operating costs, Betterment is able to charge lower fees than traditional financial advisors. This can be huge for individuals who want to take a hands-off approach to their retirement accounts, yet donât want to pay top dollar for access to a top-tier financial advisor in their area.
Using complex investment software, Betterment allocates your investment portfolio based on your individual circumstances, investment time horizon, and thirst for risk.
In the meantime, they keep fees at a minimum by using ETFs (exchange-traded fund) that let you have a diversified portfolio, like mutual funds, but are tradeable much like stocks.
Since ETFs come with very low expense ratios, Betterment is able to pass those savings along to the consumer. Although the program already manages over $16 billion for their clients, they are still growing at a rapid pace.
Because the service is able and willing to deal with investors at all stages of wealth accumulation, it has become a go-to for both experienced and novice investors with various investing goals.
Further, Bettermentâs portfolio strategy isnât geared just for retirement savings; the service can also improve your returns on dollars you invest for short-term and medium-term goals like saving for college, taking an annual vacation, or building up a cash reserve.
How Betterment Works
Like post other robo-advisors, Betterment provides complete, automated investment management of your portfolio. When you sign up for the service, youâll complete a questionnaire that will determine your risk tolerance, investment goals, and time horizon. From that information, Betterment determines your portfolio will be designed as conservatives, aggressive, or some level in between.
Over time however, Betterment may adjust your portfolio to become gradually more conservative. For example, as you move closer to retirement, your asset allocation will be gradually shifted more heavily in favor of safe investments, like bonds.
Your portfolio will be constructed of exchange traded funds (ETFs), which are low-cost investment funds designed to track the performance of an underlying index. In this way, Betterment attempts to match the performance of the underlying indexes, rather than to outperform them. For this reason, investing with Betterment â and most other robo-advisors â is considered to be passive investing. (Active investing involves frequent trading of stocks and other securities in an attempt to outperform the market.)
Betterment also uses allocations based on broad investment categories. There are three in total:
Safety Net â These are funds allocated for near-term needs, such as an emergency fund.
Retirement â This will naturally be your long-term investment account and held in tax-sheltered IRAs.
General Investing â This allocation is dedicated to intermediate goals, maybe saving for the down payment on a house or even for your childrenâs education.
Given that each of the three broad goals has a different time horizon, the specific portfolio allocation in each will be a little bit different. For example, the Safety Net will be invested in cash type accounts for safety and liquidity.
Betterment Advantages And Disadvantages
Thereâs no minimum investment required.
The low annual fee of 0.25% on the Digital plan can allow you to have a $20,000 account managed for just $50 per year, or a $100,000 account for just $250.
Tax-loss harvesting is available at all taxable accounts.
Betterment Premium provides unlimited access to certified financial planners, providing a service similar to traditional investment advisors, but at a fraction of the cost.
The No-fee Checking and Cash Reserve give you cash management options to go with your investing activities.
Betterment offers several portfolio options, including Smart Beta, Socially Responsible Investing, and the BlackRock Targeted Income Portfolio.
The use of value funds also adds the potential for your investment accounts to outperform the general market, since value stocks tend to be underpriced relative to their competitors.
Flexible Portfolio will give you some control over your investment allocations, which is a feature absent from most robo-advisors.
Bettermentâs annual advisory fee is on the low end of the robo-advisor range. But there are some robo-advisors charging no fees at all.
Betterment doesnât offer alternative investments. These include natural resources and real estate, which are offered by some of their competitors.
External account syncing is available only with Betterment Premium.
The Betterment Investment Methodology
Like most other robo-advisors, Betterment manages your investment account using Modern Portfolio Theory, or MPT. The theory emphasizes proper allocations into various asset classes over individual security selection.
Your portfolio is divided between six stock asset allocations and eight bond asset allocations. Each allocation is represented by a single ETF thatâs tied to an index specific to that asset class. The single ETF will provide exposure to scores or even hundreds of securities in each asset class. That means collectively your investment will be spread across thousands of securities in the US and internationally.
The six stock asset allocations are as follows:
US Total Stock Market
US Value Stocks â Large Cap
US Value Stocks â Mid Cap
US Value Stocks â Small Cap
International Developed Market Stocks
International Emerging Markets Stocks
The eight bond asset allocations are as follows:
US High Quality Bonds
US Municipal Bonds (will be held in taxable investment accounts only)
US Inflation-Protected Bonds
US High-Yield Corporate Bonds
US Short-Term Treasury Bonds
US Short-Term Investment Grade Bonds
International Developed Market Bonds
International Emerging Markets Bonds
Since Betterment offers tax-loss harvesting with taxable investment accounts, most asset classes will have two or three very similar ETFs. This will enable Betterment to sell a losing position in one ETF to reduce capital gains in winning asset classes. Alternative ETFs are then purchased to replace the sold funds to maintain the target asset allocations in your account.
Tax-loss harvesting is becoming an increasingly popular investment strategy because it effectively defers capital gains taxes into future years. Itâs available only for taxable accounts, since tax-sheltered accounts have no immediate tax consequences.
How Betterment Compares
Here’s how Betterment compares to the previously mentioned companies, Wealthfront and Personal Capital.
Minimum Initial Investment
0.25% on Digital; 0.40% on Premium (account balance over $100k)
0.25% on all account balances
0.89% on most account balances; reduced fee on balances > $1 million
On Premium Plan only
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on Premium Plan only
Betterment Accounts and Options
For the first few years of Bettermentâs existence they offered a single investment account serving as a one-size-fits-all plan. But thatâs all changed. They still offer basic investment accounts, but they now give you a choice of multiple investment options.
This is Bettermentâs basic investment plan. There is no minimum initial investment required, nor is there a minimum ongoing balance requirement. Betterment charges a single fee of 0.25% on all account balances.
You can also add any other portfolio variations, except the Goldman Sachs Smart Beta portfolio, which has a $100,000 minimum account balance requirement.
Betterment Premium works similar to the Digital plan, but it delivers a higher level of service. The plan provides external account synching, giving Betterment a high altitude view of you your entire financial situation. External investment accounts can help in enabling Betterment to better coordinate your portfolio allocations with assets held in outside accounts. They can also make recommendations out to better manage those external accounts.
And perhaps the biggest advantage of the Premium plan is that it comes with unlimited access to Bettermentâs certified financial planners. In this way, Betterment is competing more directly with traditional investment advisors, but doing it with a robo-advisor component.
Youâll need a minimum of $100,000 to invest in the Premium plan, and the annual advisory fee is 0.40%. Thatâs just a fraction of the usual 1% to 2% typically charged by traditional investment advisory services.
Betterment Cash Reserve
The account pays a variable interest rate, currently set at 0.40% APY. Betterment doesnât actually hold these funds directly, but rather invest them through participating program banks.
Thereâs no fee for this account, and you can move money as often as you want. And for those with very high cash balances, the account is FDIC insured for up to $1 million through the program banks.
Betterment Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
SRI portfolios are becoming increasingly popular in the robo-advisor space. It involves investing in companies that meet certain standards for social, environmental, and governance guidelines. Betterment indicates that the ETFs they use in their SRI portfolio have produced a 42% increase in their social responsibility scores.
SRI portfolios work with both the Digital and Premium plans, using a similar investment methodology. But they make certain modifications, holding ETFs based on SRI in place of the ETFs used in non-SRI portfolios.
SRI portfolios do not require a minimum balance and charge no additional fees. And like their Digital and Premium plans, taxable SRI investment accounts take advantage of tax-loss harvesting.
Betterment Flexible Portfolios
The key word in the name is âflexibleâ because the main feature is adding personal options to your portfolio allocations.
This is done by adjusting the individual asset class weights in your portfolio. For example, if you have a 7% allocation in emerging markets, you may choose to increase it to 10% if you believe that sector is likely to outperform others. But you can also decrease the allocation if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Betterment Tax-Coordinated Portfolio
This is less of a formal portfolio and more of an investment strategy. It must be used in combination with a taxable investment account and a tax-sheltered retirement account. Betterment will then allocate investments based on their tax impact.
For example, income generating assets â that produce high dividend and interest income â are held in a tax-sheltered account. Investments likely to generate long-term capital gains are held in a taxable investment account, since you will be able to take advantage of lower long-term capital gains tax rates.
Goldman Sachs Smart Beta
This option is for more sophisticated investors, and requires a minimum account balance of $100,000. And since it is a high risk/high reward type of investing, it also requires a higher risk tolerance.
Betterment uses the same basic investment strategy as they do in other portfolios. But itâs an actively managed portfolio that will be adjusted in an attempt to outperform the general market. Securities will be bought and sold within the portfolio and can include either individual securities or Smart Beta ETFs.
The portfolio has many variations, including a wide range of allocations. Stocks are chosen based on four qualities: good value, strong momentum, high quality, and low volatility.
And like other portfolio variations Betterment offers, there is no additional fee for this option.
BlackRock Target Income Portfolio
Betterment recognizes that some investors are more interested in income than growth. This will particularly apply to retirees. The BlackRock Target Income Portfolio invests in portfolios based on your risk tolerance. This can mean low, moderate, high, or even aggressive.
Those categories may seem unusual for an income generating portfolio. But while the portfolio attempts to minimize risk of principal, it also recognizes that some investors are willing to add risk to their portfolio in exchange for higher returns.
A low-risk portfolio may have a higher allocation in US Treasury securities. An aggressive portfolio may center primarily on high-yield corporate bonds or even emerging-market bonds that have higher interest rates due to greater risk.
Betterment No-fee Checking
Provided by Betterment Financial LLC in partnership with NBKC Bank, this is a true no-fee checking account. Not only are there no monthly maintenance fees, but there are also no overdraft or other fees. Theyâll even reimburse all ATM fees and foreign transaction fees you incur. And thereâs not even a minimum balance requirement.
Youâll be provided with a Betterment Visa Debit Card with tap-to-pay technology, that you can use anywhere Visa is accepted. All account balances are FDIC insured for up to $250,000. And as you might expect from a company on the technological cutting edge, you can deposit checks into the account using your smartphone.
Check out our full Betterment checking review.
Betterment Key Features
Minimum initial investment: Betterment requires no funds to open an account. But you can begin funding your account with monthly deposits, like $100 per month. This method will make it easier to use dollar-cost averaging to gradually move into your portfolio positions.
Available account types: Joint and individual taxable investment accounts, as well as traditional, Roth, rollover and SEP IRAs. Betterment can also accommodate trusts and nonprofit accounts.
Portfolio rebalancing: Comes with all account types. Your portfolio will be rebalanced when your asset allocations significantly depart from their targets.
Automatic dividend reinvestment: Betterment will reinvest dividends received in your portfolio according to your target asset allocations.
Betterment Mobile App: You can access your Betterment account on your smartphone. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Customer contact: Available by phone and email, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern time.
Account protection: All Betterment accounts are protected by SIPC insurance for up to $500,000 in cash and securities, including up to $250,000 in cash. SIPC covers losses due to broker failure, not those caused by market value declines.
Financial Advice packages: Betterment offers one-hour phone conferences with live financial advisors on various personal financial topics. Five topics are covered:
Getting Started package: This package gives new users the professional vote of confidence they need as a professional will assess their account setup. $199
Financial Checkup package: This package takes it a step further, providing the customer with a professional opinion on their portfolio and financial circumstances. $299
College Planning package: As its name implies, this package helps parents who are investing with the goal of paying for their childrenâs college education in the next 5-18 years. $299
Marriage Planning package: Merging finances can be tricky, so Betterment created this plan to help engaged couples and newlyweds to succeed as they unite their lives and assets. $299
Retirement Planning package: Your investment goals and strategies change as you near retirement. This particular package helps keep you on target to meet them. $299
Retirement Savings Calculator: Robo-advisors are popular choices for retirement accounts. For this reason, Betterment offers the Calculator to help you project your retirement needs. By entering basic information in the calculator (it will sync external accounts if you have a Premium account â including employer-sponsored retirement plans) it will let you know if you are on track to meet your goals or if you need to make adjustments.
How To Sign Up For A Betterment Account
The Betterment sign up process is one of the most user-friendly out there for any brokerage. It comes with easy-to-follow instructions and as streamlined registration process which users can navigate through in a matter of minutes.
First get the process started by clicking the button below.
Sign up for a Betterment Account
After the initial sign up process, users can expect a simple transaction as they transfer funds into the account, much like moving money from a checking to savings account.
When you begin the sign-up process, youâll be given a choice of four different investment goals:
I chose âInvest for retirementâ. It will ask your current age, your annual income, then give you a choice of accounts to use. That includes a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA, or even an individual taxable account. I selected a traditional IRA.
Based on a 30-year-old with a $100,000 income, Betterment return the following recommendation:
You even have the option to have the specific asset allocations listed. After clicking âContinueâ, youâll be asked to provide your email address and create a password. Youâll then be taken to the application, which will ask for general information, including your name, address, phone number, and how you heard about Betterment.
Once your account has been set up, you can fund it immediately, by connecting your bank account, or by setting up recurring deposits.
You can also set up other accounts, such as âManage spending with Checkingâ or âInvest for a long-term goalâ.
Why You Should Open An Account With Betterment
While nearly anyone who invests could benefit from the online portfolio management and advising, this service is definitely geared to certain types of investors. In most cases, Betterment will work best for:
Hands-off investors who have some investing knowledge â Since it takes care of the heavy lifting for you, it works best for investors who want to take a hands-off approach to their investment portfolio. Passive investors can let Betterment handle the logistics while using online account management to keep a close eye on their accounts.
Novice investors who need help â Beginning investors who are just learning the ropes can turn to Betterment for online portfolio management with low fees. The many online tools and user-friendly interface make it easy for beginners to get a grasp on basic financial concepts and investing strategies.
Robo-advisors are growing in popularity and could easily replace in-person advisors in the near future. With lower fees and advanced software that can maximize results, online investing is certainly gaining an edge.
Whether Betterment is right for you depends on your individual needs and investing goals. If youâre a hands-off investor who wants to grow your retirement funds without paying a lot of fees, then Betterment might be ideal. Additionally, beginning investors can benefit handsomely from the online tools and investing education offered through the Betterment website.
If you think Betterment investing might be exactly what your portfolio needs, sign up for a new account today.
However, if you determine that you would be better served by a more hands-on approach, check out the other online brokerage account options. Being a certified financial planner, I have had a chance to work with several of these platforms and have done the following reviews:
Motif Investing Review
Lending Club Review
Ally Invest Review
The post Betterment Investing Review: Make Investing Automatic appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
When you're ready to buy a home, choosing the best lender and type of mortgage can seem daunting because there are many choices. Since no two real estate transactions or home buyers are alike, it's essential to get familiar with different mortgage products and programs.
Let's take a look at the two main types of mortgages and several popular home loan programs. Choosing the right one for your situation is the key to buying a home you can afford.
What is a mortgage?
First, here's a quick mortgage explainer. A mortgage is a loan used to buy real estate, such as a new or existing primary residence or vacation home. It states that your property is collateral for the debt, and if you don't make timely payments, the lender can take back the property to recover their losses.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price. You typically must make a down payment, which could range from 3% to 10% or more, depending on the type of loan you qualify for.
For example, if you agree to pay $300,000 for a home and have $15,000 to put down, you need a mortgage for the difference, or $285,000 ($300,000 – $15,000). In addition to a down payment, lenders charge a variety of processing fees that you either pay upfront or roll into your loan, which increases your debt.
At your real estate closing, the lender wires funds to the closing agent or attorney. After you sign a stack of mortgage and closing documents, your down payment and mortgage money go to the seller and various parties, such as a real estate broker, title company, inspector, surveyor, and insurance company. You leave the closing as a proud new homeowner and begin making mortgage payments the next month.
What is a fixed-rate mortgage?
The structure of your loan and payments depends on whether your interest rate is fixed or adjustable. So, understanding how these two main types of mortgage products work is essential.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy. The most common fixed-rate mortgage terms are 15- and 30-years. But you can also find 10-, 20-, 40-, and even 50-year fixed-rate mortgages.
Getting a shorter mortgage means you pay it off faster and at a lower interest rate than with a longer-term option. For example, as of December 2020, the going rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage is 2.4%, and a 30-year is 2.8% APR.
The downside is that shorter loans come with higher monthly payments. Many people opt for longer mortgages to pay as little as possible each month and make their home more affordable.
Here are some situations when getting a fixed-rate mortgage makes sense:
You see low or rising interest rates. Locking in a low rate for the life of your mortgage protects you against inflation.
You want financial stability. Having the same mortgage payment for decades allows you to easily budget and avoid financial surprises.
You don't plan to move for a while. Keeping a fixed-rate mortgage over the long term gives you the potential to save the most in interest, especially if interest rates go up.
What is an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)?
The second primary type of home loan is an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM. Your interest rate and monthly payment can go up or down according to predetermined terms based on a financial index, such as the T-bill rate or LIBOR.
Most ARMs are a hybrid of a fixed and adjustable product. They begin with a fixed-rate period and convert to an adjustable rate later on. The first number in the name of an ARM product is how many years are fixed for the introductory rate, and the second number is how often the rate could change after that.
For instance, a 5/1 ARM gives you five years with a fixed rate and then can adjust, or reset, every year starting in the sixth year. A 3/1 ARM has a fixed rate for three years with a potential rate adjustment every year, beginning in the fourth year.
When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go.
ARMs are typically 30-year products, but they can be shorter. With a 5/6 ARM, you pay the same rate for the first five years. Then the rate could change every six months for the remaining 25 years.
ARMs come with built-in caps for how much the interest rate can climb from one adjustment period to the next and the potential increase over the loan's life. When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go. In other words, you should be comfortable with the worst-case ARM scenario before getting one.
In general, the introductory interest rate for a 30-year ARM is lower than a 30-year fixed mortgage. But that hasn't been the case recently because rates are at historic lows. The idea is that rates are so low they likely have nowhere to go but up, making an ARM less attractive.
I mentioned that the going rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is 2.8%. Compare that to a 30-year 5/6 ARM, which is also 2.8% APR. When ARM rates are the same or higher than fixed rates, they don't give borrowers any upsides for taking a risk that their payment could increase.
ARM lenders aren't making them attractive because they know once your introductory rate ends, you could refinance to a lower-rate fixed mortgage and they'd lose your business after just a few years. They could end up losing money if you haven't paid enough in fees and interest to offset their cost of issuing the loan.
Unless you believe that rates can drop further (or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings), they aren't a wise choice in the near term.
So, unless you believe that rates can drop further or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings, they aren't a wise choice in the near term. However, always discuss your mortgage options with potential lenders, so you evaluate them in light of current economic conditions.
RELATED: How to Prepare Your Credit for a Mortgage Approval
5 types of home loan programs
Now that you understand the fundamental differences between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, here are five loan programs you may qualify for.
1. Conventional loans
Conventional loans are the most common type of mortgage. They're also known as a "conforming loan" when they conform to standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These federally-backed companies buy and guarantee mortgages issued through lenders in the secondary mortgage market. Lenders sell mortgages to Fannie and Freddie so they can continuously supply new borrowers with mortgage funds.
Conventional loans are popular because most lenders—including mortgage companies, banks, and credit unions—offer them. Borrowers can pay as little as 3% down; however, paying 20% eliminates the requirement to pay an additional monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI) premium.
2. FHA loans
FHA or Federal Housing Administration loans come with lenient underwriting standards, making homeownership a reality for more Americans. Borrowers need a 3.5% down payment and can have lower credit scores and income than with a conventional loan.
3. VA loans
VA or Veterans Administration loans give those with eligible military service a zero-down loan with no monthly private mortgage insurance required.
4. USDA loans
The USDA or U.S. Department of Agriculture gives loans to buyers who plan to live in rural and suburban areas. Borrowers who meet certain income limits can get zero-down payments and low-rate mortgage insurance premiums.
5. Jumbo loans
Jumbo loans are higher mortgage amounts than what's allowed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so they're also known as non-conforming loans. In general, they exceed approximately $500,000 in most areas.
Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
This isn't a complete list of all the loan programs you may qualify for, so be sure to ask potential lenders for recommendations. Remember that just because you're eligible for a program, such as a VA loan, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best option. Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
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, youâre really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, thatâs a gift theyâre 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.
Itâs 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.
Hereâs how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodianâsâ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the childâs (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodianâs regular tax rate.
A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts
While thereâs 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 minorâs assets.
The value of these assets will factor into the minorâs 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 includesÂ Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the familyâs 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 donât 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.
The time has finally come: youâre ready to retire. For many, this means living off savings or social security, but in reality, now that youâre unemployed itâs time you started making real money. Investing after retirement is a great way to continue making income, cover expenses in lieu of a regular paycheck, and stay plugged into the booming American economy.
Social security is drying up
If you plan on retiring any time after the next 20 years, you shouldnât count on social security funds. A 2014 report estimates that social security will no longer be able to pay full benefits after 2033. This means that those that retire after this demarcation point should expect to supplement federal aid with individual income â such as investments.
Life expectancy is increasing
Clean living, improved healthcare resources, increased social awareness, and many other factors have all contributed to a steady increase in life expectancy over the years. Today, being young at heart means more than ever â retirees can expect to live an additional 15 – 20 years into their twilight years. The average life expectancy today is 80, which is almost a decade older than the to 71 year life expectancy of 1960.
Investing is fun
Many retirees will take up new hobbies to fill the time previously occupied by professional obligations. Why not make your daytime hobby making money? Day trading stocks is the perfect retiree activity because itâs just as complicated as you want it to be. You can trade casually, and pick up some minor gains here or there. Or, go in full bore and make it your new job. After all, investments provide extra money, so have some fun with it.
Delaying social security payments boosts your benefits
Letâs say your investments are performing exceptionally well, and maybe you donât necessarily need social security yet. Your social security payout increases by 8 percent for every year you delay payments. So if youâve held off on social security, and it has come time to cash out investments, your federal retirement benefits will be worth far more than usual.
Want to spend the next chapter of your life in Myrtle Beach? Naples, Florida? Now that youâre retired, youâre free to live anywhere you want â unfettered by professional constraints, the world is your oyster. But thereâs one problem: how will you afford it? Your savings account should be preserved for medical expenses, and you already checked the couch cushions for loose change. Well, investments with high yield interest rates or dividend payments are a good way to boost your income and gain a little extra cash.
You earned it
What has decades of penny pinching amounted to if you canât spend your savings during retirement? Part of the reason you budgeted so carefully in your professional years is to ensure security as you grow old. Well, here you are, and itâs time to tap that sacred savings account. As you assess your finances in old age, consider how much savings youâre willing to gamble on the market â what do you have to lose?
Thereâs no better time to invest than now
This is not to say that the market is particularly ripe for new investors right now â although 2017 saw record high economic numbers â but more so that anytime is a good time to invest. You can guarantee the market will fluctuate in your 15+ years of retirement, but thatâs not the point. As long as you build a portfolio that can bear a bear market, you will be in good shape to weather market slumps. As they say, âdonât play with scared money.â
Your kids are all grown up, but that doesnât mean youâre off the hook. As a retired grandparent, youâre in charge of vacations, dinners out, movie nights, and other fun activities with the grandkids. And, you guessed it, one of the best ways to bankroll fun money is through thriving investments. In fact, while it might not be the most exciting prospect for the kid, a safe, slow-maturing investment is a great grandkid birthday gift.
Jumpstart a startup
Are you passionate about the future of tech? Small philanthropies? Artisan dog treats? Whatever your calling may be, there is likely a startup that you can help get off the ground. One study found that 100 million startups try to get off the ground every year, and they need your help. Invest in a cause you care about, and in the process make someoneâs entrepreneurial dreams come true.
Broaden your horizons
Now that youâre retired itâs time to read those books you never got around to, learn a new skill, travel the world, and, most importantly, diversify your portfolio. Financial experts suggest that retirees pursue many different types of assets to help offsite potential market volatility.
For most, vacation tops the list of most anticipated retirement activities. Itâs easy to get swept up in fantasies of cold beer and catching rays on the beach, but you you need a way to pay for it. Investments are a good way to compound your savings, and make a little extra vacation money.
Studies show that retirees require upwards of $260,000 to cover medical expenses as they age. Maybe, thanks to years of frugality, you have this kind of money in savings, but it never hurts to stash away a little extra cash. The population nearing retirement needs to be able to expect the unexpected, so use the stock market as an opportunity to compound your emergency fund in case of expensive medical bills.
Just because youâre retired doesnât mean you can avoid the taxman â after all, according to Benjamin Franklin, alongside death, taxes are one of the two certainties in life. While you no longer have to pay payroll taxes, you will still pay taxes on social security benefits. Plus, you are required to pay taxes on IRA withdrawals. Tax season can feel extra overwhelming if you are without a reliable source of income, so avoid the April financial crunch and tap investment gains to pay taxes during retirement.
Support a company you care about
If youâre on the verge of retirement you probably had a long, prosperous career. Maybe you jumped around to different positions, or maybe you logged a couple decades at one company. Either way, chances are there is a company you want to be involved with that you never got a chance to work at. Investing in a company is a good way to gain a sense of belonging, and do your part to support a company dear to your heart â even if you never actually worked there.
Stay sharp on market trends
All of the financial benefits of investments aside, investing in the market gives you a reason to care. One of the scariest prospects of retirement is the threat of complacency, so fend off apathy by giving yourself a reason to stay up-to-date. You are far more likely to take a keen interest in economic trends when you have a little skin in the game.
If youâre concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.comâs free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter gradesâplus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.
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The post 15 Reasons to Invest After Retirement appeared first on Credit.com.
Coronavirus hasnât entirely ended life as we knew it, but itâs certainly caused changes, some of which are likely to be with us for a very long time.
For some the coronavirus is literally a matter of life and death, and it raises an important question: how does coronavirus affect life insurance?
No one likes to think about the possibility of losing their life, or that of a loved one to this virus, but for over 150,000 families here in the US, it has turned out to be a reality.
Letâs examine the impact it may have on your existing policies, and perhaps more importantly, how it may affect applications for new life insurance coverage.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You Already Have?
Thereâs good news if you already have a life insurance policy in place. Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay a death benefit even if you die from the coronavirus. With few exceptions, life insurance policies will pay for any cause of death once the policy is in force. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as acts of war or terrorism. Pandemics are not a known exception.
If youâre feeling at all uncomfortable about how the coronavirus might impact your existing life insurance policies, contact the company for clarification. Alternatively, review your life insurance policy paying particular attention to the exclusions. If thereâs nothing that looks like death due to a pandemic, you should be good to go.
But once the policy is in place, there are only a few reasons why the insurance company can deny a claim:
Non-payment of premiums â if you exceed the grace period for the payment, which is generally 30 or 31 days, your policy will lapse. But even if it does, you may still be able to apply for reinstatement. However, after a lapse, you wonât be covered until payment is made.
Providing false information on an application â if you fail to disclose certain health conditions that result in your death, the company can deny payment for insurance fraud. For example, if youâre a smoker, but check non-smoker on the application, payment of the death benefit can be denied if smoking is determined to be a contributing cause of death.
Death within the first two years the policy is in force â often referred to as the period of contestability, the insurance company can investigate the specific causes of death for any reason within the first two years. If itâs determined that death was caused by a pre-existing condition, the claim can be denied.
None of these are a serious factor when it comes to the coronavirus, unless you tested positive for the virus prior to application, and didnât disclose it. But since the coronavirus can strike suddenly, it shouldnât interfere with your death benefits if it occurs once your policy is already in force.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance Youâre Applying For?
This is just a guess on my part, but I think people may be giving more thought to buying life insurance now they may have at any time in the past. The coronavirus has turned out to be a real threat to both life and health, which makes it natural to consider the worst.
But whatever you do, donât let your fear of the unknown keep you from applying for coverage. Though you may be wishing you bought a policy, or taken additional coverage, before the virus hit, now is still the very best time to apply. And thatâs not a sales pitch!
No matter whatâs going on in the world, the best time to apply for life insurance is always now. Thatâs because youâre younger and likely healthier right now than youâll ever be again. Both conditions are major advantages when it comes to buying life insurance. If you delay applying, youâll pay a higher premium by applying later when youâre a little bit older. But if you develop a serious health condition between now and then, not only will your premium be higher, but you may even be denied for coverage completely.
Donât let fears of the coronavirus get in your way. If you believe you need life insurance, or more of it, apply now.
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That said, the impact of the coronavirus on new applications for life insurance is more significant than it is for existing policies.
The deaths of more than 100,000 people in the US is naturally having an effect on claims being paid by life insurance companies. While thereâs been no significant across-the-board change in how most life insurance companies evaluate new applications, the situation is evolving rapidly. Exactly how that will play out going forward is anyoneâs guess at the moment.
What to Expect When Applying for Life Insurance in the Age of the Coronavirus
If youâre under 60 and in good or excellent health, and not currently showing signs of the virus, the likelihood of being approved for life insurance is as good as itâs ever been. You can make an application, and not concern yourself with the virus.
That said, it may be more difficult to get life insurance if you have any conditions determined to put you at risk for the coronavirus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Ages 65 and older.
Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40 or greater.
Certain health conditions, including asthma, chronic kidney disease and being treated by dialysis, lung disease, diabetes, hemoglobin disorders, immunocompromised, liver disease, and serious heart conditions.
People in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
Now to be fair, each of the above conditions would require special consideration even apart from the coronavirus. But since theyâre known coronavirus risk factors, the impact of each has become more important in the life insurance application process.
If any of these conditions apply to you, the best strategy is to work with insurance companies that already specialize in those categories.
There are insurance companies that take a more favorable view of people with any of the following conditions:
Certain lung diseases, including Asthma
Certain heart conditions
More Specific Application Factors
But even with insurance companies that specialize in providing coverage for people with certain health conditions, some have introduced new restrictions in light of the coronavirus.
For example, if you have a significant health condition and youâre over 65, you may find fewer companies willing to provide coverage.
The insurance company may also check your records for previous coronavirus episodes or exposures. Expect additional testing to determine if youâre currently infected. Most likely, the application process will be delayed until the condition clears, unless it has resulted in long-term complications.
Travel is another factor being closely examined. The CDC maintains an updated list of travel recommendations by country. If youâve recently traveled to a high-risk country, or you plan to do so in the near future, you may be considered at higher risk for the coronavirus. How each insurance company handles this situation will vary. But your application may be delayed until youâve completed a recommended quarantine period.
Other Financial Areas to Consider that May be Affected
Since the coronavirus is still very much active in the US and around the world, financial considerations are in a constant state of flux. If youâre concerned at all about the impact of the virus on other insurance types, you should contact your providers for more information.
Other insurance policies that my warrant special consideration are:
Employer-sponsored life insurance. Thereâs not much to worry about here, since these are group plans. Your acceptance is guaranteed upon employment. The policy will almost certainly pay the death benefit, even if your cause of death is related to the virus.
Health insurance. Thereâs been no media coverage of health insurance companies refusing to pay medical claims resulting from the coronavirus. But if youâre concerned, contact your health insurance company for clarification.
Action Steps to Take in the Age of the Coronavirus
Many have been gripped by fear in the face of the coronavirus, which is mostly a fear of the unknown. But the best way to overcome fear is through positive action.
I recommend the following:
1. Be proactive about your health.
Since there is a connection between poor health and the virus, commit to improving your health. Maintain a proper diet, get regular exercise, and follow the CDC coronavirus guidelines on how to protect yourself.
2. If you need life insurance, buy it now.
Donât wait for a bout with the virus to take this step. It’s important for a number of reasons and the consequences of not having it can be severe. Compare the best life insurance companies to get started.
3. Consider no medical exam life insurance.
If you donât have the virus, and you want to do a policy as quickly as possible, no medical exam life insurance will be a way to get coverage almost immediately.
4. Look for the lowest cost life insurance providers.
Low cost means you can buy a larger policy. With the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, having enough life insurance is almost as important as having a policy at all. Look into cheap term life insurance to learn more about what you can afford.
5. Keep a healthy credit score.
Did you know that your credit score is a factor in setting the premium on your life insurance policy? If so, you have one more reason to maintain a healthy credit score. One of the best ways to do it is by regularly monitoring your credit and credit score. There are plenty of services available to help you monitor your credit.
6. Make paying your life insurance premiums a priority
This action step rates a special discussion. When times get tough, and money is in short supply, people often cancel or reduce their insurance coverage. That includes life insurance. But that can be a major mistake in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus means that maintaining your current life insurance policies must be a high priority.
The virus and the uncertainty itâs generating in the economy and the job market are making finances less stable than theyâve been in years. Youâll need to be intentional about maintaining financial buffers.
7. Start an emergency fund.
If you donât already have one place, start building one today. If you already have one up and running, make a plan to increase it regularly.
You should also do what you can to maximize the interest youâre earning on your emergency fund. You should park your fund in a high-interest savings account, some of which are paying interest thatâs more than 20 times the national bank average.
8. Get Better Control of Your Debts
In another direction, be purposeful about paying down your debt. Lower debt levels translate into lower monthly payments, and that improves your cash flow.
If you donât have the funds to pay down your debts, there are ways you can make them more manageable.
For example, if you have high-interest credit card debt, there are balance transfer credit cards that provide a 0% introductory APR for up to 21 months. By eliminating the interest for that length of time, youâll be able to dedicate more of each payment toward principal reduction.
Still another strategy for lowering your debts is to do a debt consolidation using a low interest personal loan. Personal loans are unsecured loans that have a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, as well as a specific loan term. You can consolidate several loans and credit cards into a single personal loan for up to $40,000, with interest rates starting as low as 5.99%.
Related: The Best Life Insurance Companies
Weâve covered a lot of ground in this article. But thatâs because the coronavirus comes close to being an all-encompassing crisis. Itâs been said the coronavirus is both a health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. It requires strategies on multiple fronts, including protecting your health, your finances, and your familyâs finances when youâre no longer around to provide for them.
Thatâs where life insurance comes into the picture. The basic process hasnât changed much from the coronavirus, at least not up to this point. But thatâs why itâs so important to apply for coverage now, before major changes are put into effect.
The post How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
A 2015 study found that older adults lose more than $36 billion every year to financial scams. Unfortunately, con artists see the elderly population as an easy and vulnerable target.
The American Securities Administrators Associationâs President, Mike Rothman, explains that scammers take this approach because the current elderly population is one of the wealthiest weâve seen with such hefty retirement savings. Where the money goes, the con artists follow.
With so many scams targeting older adults, itâs essential to make yourself and your loved ones aware of the different types of cons. Here is a list of common financial scams that specifically target the elderly and how you can prevent them:
The Grandparent Scam
The grandparent scam is common because it appeals to older adultsâ emotions. Scammers get the phone number of a senior and they call pretending to be a grandchild. Making their lie seem more believable, the con artist will playfully ask the older adult to guess what grandchild is calling. Of course, the first reaction will most likely be for the senior to name a grandchild and then the scammer can easily play along, acting like they guessed right. Now the grandparent thinks they are talking to their grandchild.
The scam artist will then begin to confide in the grandparent, saying they are in a tough financial position and they need the grandparentâs help. Asking them to send money to a Western Union or MoneyGram, they plead for the grandparent not to tell anyone. If the grandparent complies and sends the money, the scammer will likely contact the senior again and ask for more money.
Avoid this scam:
Never send money to anyone unless you have 100 percent proof that it is who you think it is. Scammers can find out quite a bit of information from social media and other methods, so donât think that just because they know a couple pieces of information about you and your family that it is legit.
Verify that it is actually your grandchild on the phone by texting or calling the grandchildâs real phone number and verifying if it is him or her.
Call the parent of the supposed grandchild and find out if the grandchild really is in trouble.
Talk to your family members now and compile a list of questions only you and your family know the answers to. If a family emergency really does happen, you can ask the questions and know if it is your family member based on the answers.
âClaim Your Prize Now!â Sweepstakes Scam
The sweepstakes scam is when con artists contact the elderly either by phone or email and tell them they have won something, whether that be a sum of money or another type of prize. To claim the prize, scammers tell them they have to pay a fee. Once the senior agrees, scammers send a fake check in the mail. Before the check doesnât clear and seniors can realize it is a scam, they have already paid the âfee.â
Avoid this scam:
Do not give out any financial information over the phone or email.
Practice Internet safety by protecting your passwords, shopping on encrypted websites, and avoiding phony emails.
Be skeptical of any message that says you have randomly won a prize and you must do something before you can claim it. Unless you specifically enter a contest, you most likely arenât going to randomly win a monetary prize.
Because of the Affordable Care Act that allows seniors over the age of 65 to qualify for Medicare, scam artists donât have to do much research about seniorsâ healthcare providers. This makes it simple for scammers to call, email, or even visit seniorsâ homes personally and claim to be a Medicare representative.
There are a variety of ways these con artists use this Medicare scam to target the elderly. One way is telling seniors they need a new Medicare card and to do so, they need to tell the âMedicare representativeâ what their Social Security number is. An additional way is they can tell seniors there is a fee they need to pay to continue their benefits.
Avoid this scam:
Do not give out any information to someone you have not verified is from Medicare. Real Medicare employees should have your information on file so if you are skeptical, ask the person some questions to verify it is legitimate.
The âWoodchuckâ Scam
A common scam to target seniors who live alone is the âwoodchuckâ scam. Scam artists will claim to be contractors and will complete house projects if seniors agree to let them.
The scammers will gain seniorsâ trust and eventually come up with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as a roof repair. This often results in seniors giving the fake contractors thousands of dollars.
Â Avoid this scam:
Make sure the person doing your home repairs is a professional. Find out what company they work for and call and verify they are indeed a legitimate contractor.
Con artists are using senior homeownership to their benefit. The mortgage scam is when scammers offer a property assessment to seniors, telling them they can determine the value of their home. This scam has become increasing popular as housing confidence is hitting record highs and people are putting a large chunk of their income towards saving for new homes.
The scam artists make the process look legitimate by finding the homeâs information on the Internet and sending seniors an official letter detailing all of the found information. The scammers do this because it is an easy way to con seniors into paying a fee for the requested information.
Â Avoid this scam:
Ensure the property assessment is legitimate by asking what company they work for and following up with the real company to verify.
Talk to Your Loved Ones
Older adults are often too embarrassed to tell authorities or a family member they have been scammed. Talk to the seniors in your life and let them know they can confide in you and let you know if they have been scammed. You can also have them read through this article and make themselves aware of the scams that could potentially target them in the future.
Check Your Credit Regularly
Check your credit regularly so you are aware of any suspicious activity with your accounts. You can check your credit for free on Credit.com and receive a free credit score updated every 14 days along with a credit report card, which is a summary of what is on your credit reports.
The post Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them appeared first on Credit.com.