Should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business?

The path to owning my own business started around 10 years ago. I graduated from high school and went on to college for business. I graduated, got a job as a financial analyst, and then around five years ago, completed my MBA with an emphasis in Finance.

Should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business? Is it a need? Or, can a person start a business without a college degree?It seemed like a logical path – graduate from high school, go to college, get a job in that field, and then get my MBA to further my career opportunities.

It was the path I fell into, and I never really gave it a second thought. For my MBA, I figured I needed it in order to be successful in the corporate finance world.

However, I’m now a full-time blogger.

One of the questions I’m often asked is if I regret going to school for so many college degrees (3). After all, it took a lot of time and led to a significant amount of debt.

I definitely did not learn a thing about blogging back in college, and an MBA isn’t 100% focused on the topic of starting your own specific business, especially a niche one. Plus, I did not get my MBA thinking that I would be starting my own business. I went for it to better my career opportunities.

Related content:

  • How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months
  • Cutting College Costs: Understanding The Cost And Value Of Your Degree
  • Learning How To Survive On A College Budget
  • How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 28.8 million small businesses in the United States, which make up 99.7% of all U.S. businesses. And, a huge number of the population are starting their own business and working for themselves.

But, does that mean they all need or have an MBA?

Remember, an MBA is not required when starting your own business. But, does that mean that those without an MBA do better or worse?

I researched to see what the value of an MBA is, and I was able to find a great chart from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment for 2016.

This data shows earnings for full-time wage and salary workers, but it doesn’t specify those who have started their own business. However, it does show that there is some value in a Master’s degree.

According to this chart, the unemployment rate is much lower for those with one or multiple college degrees. The median usual weekly earnings tends to increase as well.

However, according to a report released by the Harvard Business Review, most of the top business leaders in the world actually do NOT have MBAs. In fact, only 29 of the 100 best companies had executives with MBAs, and less than half of those received their MBA from an elite business school (think Harvard, Stanford, etc.).

Here’s a short list from Business Insider’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs Who Made Millions Without A College Degree:

  • Walt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company, dropped out of high school at 16.
  • Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and more. He also dropped out of high school at 16.
  • Rachael Ray, Food Network cooking show star, food industry entrepreneur, with no formal culinary arts training. She never attended college.
  • Michael Dell, billionaire founder of Dell Computers, started his business out of his college dorm room, but he later dropped out of college.
  • Larry Ellison, billionaire co-founder of Oracle software company. Ellison actually dropped out of two different colleges.

However, there are also many successful people who do have MBAs, such as Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Dr. Oz.

So, should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business?

 

MBAs can be expensive.

An MBA can cost anywhere from $5,000 to well over $100,000 depending on what college you attend.

And, according to Poetsandquants.com, the cost of obtaining your MBA continues to rise.

New York University’s Stern School of Business costs over $200,000, Harvard Business School has a total two-year cost to $204,640, and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business costs $210,838.

That is a TON of money in order to get your MBA.

I went to a moderately priced state university and received my MBA, and I think that it was a great value. However, if I had to pay over $200,000 to receive my MBA, I don’t know if it would be worthwhile. That’s a lot of money for not much real world experience that can be applied to a specific business idea.

And, let’s not forget about the amount of time it can take to receive your MBA.

For some students, they focus on their MBA full-time, which means that they aren’t bringing in an income, or they are bringing in significantly less than needed to sustain most living expenses. Some MBA students do work full-time, but they usually take a smaller course load.

I worked on my MBA full-time and worked full-time, which meant that I didn’t have time for pretty much anything else in life.

Plus, if you know that you want to start a business, the time it takes to get an MBA can make that goal that much farther away.

 

An MBA surrounds you with other determined people.

By earning your MBA, you’ll most likely be surrounded by a network full of people who are wanting to succeed in the business world.

This can help you build your future business idea, gain contacts that may help you and your business later on, and more.

I always say that networking is extremely important, and an MBA can definitely help you in that area.

 

An MBA won’t specifically teach you about the business you want to start.

An MBA will give you a pretty well rounded background on business in general. However, it won’t teach you everything you need to know about starting and sustaining your specific business plan.

This means that you will probably have to learn how to start your specific business elsewhere, such as researching your ideas and business plans outside of your MBA program.

For example, if you want to start a blogging business, you most likely won’t learn anything about a blogging while earning your MBA. The same goes for many other business ideas as most MBAs aren’t really focused on specific markets.

What they do offer is a good background on the actual “business” side of starting your own business, as discussed below.

 

You do learn about business, though.

While earning an MBA is more about business theory, it still offers you a lot of background information that can help you create your own business.

Through my MBA and the career I had as an analyst, I learned about business accounting, business law, managing a business, economics, business finances, marketing, advertising, and more. These are all things you should know about when running your own business. Sure, you can outsource a lot of these tasks, but for most start-ups, you may personally have to take on many of these tasks, especially in the beginning.

My analyst position also taught me a lot about running a profitable business, since I dealt with successful business owners every day.

There are a lot of times that my education and work experience have helped me run my own business. And, I am extremely grateful because it has helped me run my business extremely well.

According to Investopedia, around 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years, and 66% during the first 10 years.

Some of the reasons for failure that are cited in the above article include:

  • Business owners not investigating the market.
  • Business owners have problems with their business plan.
  • A bad location, bad internet presence, and bad marketing for the business.

These are all things that are taught, in general, when working on your MBA, which can be great background knowledge for someone wanting to start their own business.

 

What about real experience?

I believe that real experience is the best. However, with an MBA, you can receive a well rounded education that can help you to launch a successful business.

You can learn how to manage a team, understand business specific finances, research the best business plan, and more.

When put together with real experience, I think that an MBA can be a great learning tool.

Does that mean that everyone should get their MBA?

No. Everyone is different, but I do believe that my MBA has helped me manage my own business.

What do you think? Should a person who wants to start a business get their MBA? If you’re already a business owner, do you have one? Why or why not?

The post Should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How I Earned Up to $4,000 Per Month Baking Dog Treats (With Zero Baking Experience!)

Hello! Are you interested in starting a dog treat bakery business? Well, good news, this article will tell you what you need to know. Plus, you can sign up for this free training workshop that will teach you how to start your own side hustle baking and selling dog treats.

Hi! My name is Kristin Larsen, and I run Believe in a Budget, a blog about personal finance and my experience with various side hustles. (It feels like I’ve tried them all over the years!)dog treat bakery business

As I’ve written about before here on Making Sense of Cents, my favorite online side hustle is working as a Pinterest virtual assistant. Managing Pinterest accounts is a great way to earn an income entirely online.

But today, I’m here to talk about a completely different side hustle, one that can be run entirely offline if you want (or entirely online, or a combination!).

While I love being able to work from home (or anywhere) on my computer, there is something to be said about stepping away from the computer and doing work that doesn’t involve the ‘virtual world’ – work that requires you to move around a little instead of being planted in front of a screen all day long!

In the case of this side hustle, it involves moving around the kitchen baking up beautiful and delicious dog treats.

Yes, dog treats!

The side hustle I’m speaking of is starting a dog treat bakery and I’m so excited to share it with you today. As a successful dog treat baker myself, I know first-hand how in-demand and lucrative this business can be.

How do you start a dog bakery?

 

How I Took My Dog Treat Bakery from Passion to Side Hustle to Full-Time Job

My dog treat bakery story started over ten years ago when I was an interior architect and designer at my 9-5 job.

At the time, I was the proud dog mom of Bella, a sweet-but-very-high-maintenance pup. Her birthday was coming up and I wanted to give her a birthday treat that fit her ‘diva dog’ personality.

I went to the local pet store and perused the aisles, but all I could find were treats filled with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce that looked like they had been sitting on the shelves for years. After a disappointing visit, I walked out the door and decided that I was going to bake Bella a treat.

This was kind of laughable since baking was not something I had done much of in my life, but I was going to figure out a way to make it work.

I decided to do some research by going to a local bakery and spending a lot of time staring at the baked goods (awkward!), trying to figure out which one I could recreate for Bella. I finally decided on a pretty cupcake adorned with white icing.

I went home, researched dog-safe ingredients and got to work planning Bella’s birthday treat. After a quick trip to Target to buy a mini cupcake tin, I started baking.

About an hour later, her birthday cupcake was baked, iced and ready to serve. Despite its small size, it was a huge success she loved it!

As soon as I saw how much she loved her treat, you could say I became a little obsessed with making wholesome, healthy treats for her. Soon, I started gifting them to friends and family.

I went from developing a single cupcake recipe to developing over 20 different dog treat recipes everything from treat bones to cookies to brownies to cakes!

Pretty soon, the friends and family who were on the receiving end of my gifts were saying: ‘Kristin, our dog(s) LOVED your treats. Can we buy some to gift? Can my friends/family/co-workers/neighbors buy some?’

With those questions, Diva Dog Bakery™ was born!

My little ‘obsession’ quickly became a side hustle, first bringing in $100 to $200 a month, then over $500 a month, just selling through word-of-mouth. It was the easiest money I had ever made!

In a serendipitous turn of events, I ended up losing my 9-5 job a few months after I started Diva Dog Bakery™. It was during the Great Recession, so I couldn’t find a job in my industry anywhere. My unemployment checks weren’t enough and I was quickly going through my savings.

I was initially stuck in a ‘dog treat bakery = side hustle’ mindset,  so it didn’t immediately occur to me to try to turn my side hustle into a full-time business. But when my money was drying up, it finally clicked: I can turn this into a full-time business!

I went all-in on my bakery and hustled hard. I sold at multiple farmers markets every Saturday (shout-out to my parents who helped me ‘be’ in multiple locations at once!), started a successful Etsy shop and also sold products wholesale.

Pretty soon, I went from going broke to making a solid $3,000 to $4,000 per month… despite the economy being in the biggest downturn since the Great Depression. 

Needless to say, I was ecstatic!

The especially exciting thing about my earnings is this was nearly ten years ago when the dog treat industry wasn’t nearly as hot. These days, my efforts could easily bring in double that!

 

The Opportunities in the Dog Treat Industry (Why You Should Start a Dog Treat Bakery)

When I first started my dog treat bakery, the idea of buying homemade cupcakes or brownies or cookies for your dog was still considered a little ‘out there.’

These days, dog owners are much more tuned in to the idea of pampering their pooches and they’re willing to spend money to make it happen.

Here are a few interesting stats for you:

  • The dog treat market is incredibly hot right now and getting even hotter… to the tune of almost 7 BILLION dollars in sales in just 2020 alone! (source)
  • Over six out of ten dog owners are concerned about the safety of the dog treats they purchase. (source)
  • Dog owners are especially interested in purchasing dog treats with wholesome, easy-to-pronounce ingredients. (source)

It’s never been a better time to get started with a homemade dog treat bakery!

 

How Much You Can Earn Baking Dog Treats at Home

If you just want to run a fun-but-profitable hobby, you can easily earn $500 to $1,000 a month with a dog treat bakery as a side hustle.

At this level, you can do all of the work yourself in just a few hours a week. If you have kids, you can also have them pitch in. A dog treat bakery is a great family business!

If you want to turn your dog treat bakery into a full-time business, you can scale it into four figures a month, or even five figures a month.

If you want to scale your dog treat bakery into a full-time business, expect to work 30 to 35 hours a week yourself. If you want to have a heavy farmers market presence, you will probably need to bring on some help for a few hours each week so you can have a presence at multiple farmers markets at the same time. (The best ones are usually on Saturday mornings.)

If things get really busy, you can bring on baking help, marketing help, shipping help and more! You can make this business as big (or as small) as you’d like.

 

Where to Sell Your Dog Treats

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you can run your dog treat baking business in a way that suits your lifestyle. You can run it offline, online, or both!

There are so many ways and places to sell your treats, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Offline:

  • Word-of-mouth sales (e.g., friends, family, co-workers, church)
  • Farmers markets
  • Wholesale to local businesses (e.g., pet stores, veterinarian offices, gift shops) 

Online:

  • Etsy shop
  • Social media for local sales
  • Social media for nationwide sales

 

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Dog Treat Bakery?

Like nearly all businesses, starting a dog treat bakery comes with a few start-up costs, but you will easily earn these back when sales start coming in, or you can even take pre-sale orders! (Have I mentioned that the profit margin on dog treats is amazing?!)

Typical start-up costs for homemade dog treat bakeries in the U.S.* include:

  • $20 to $50 for the initial ingredients, plus a few inexpensive baking tools if you don’t already have them in your kitchen
  • $0 to $75 for treat packaging costs
  • $25 to $50 for a business license
  • Between a $25 one-off fee to up to a $50 per-treat fee to register your treats with your state – this will depend on your state’s regulations

*Costs and laws outside of the U.S. will vary from what is listed here.

 

Are Dog Treat Bakeries Regulated?

Yes, but not nearly as much as ‘people food’ bakeries. (Good for would-be dog treat bakers, but a little sad for our furry friends!)

In the U.S., the exact regulations you will need to follow are decided by your state and sometimes your local area (e.g., county, city). This is easy information to find out by contacting the following agencies:

  • State department of agriculture or feed control office
  • State and local health departments

You can also contact your state’s business agency and tell them you want to start a pet treat bakery. Many states have information on file about pet treat bakeries that tell you everything you need to do.

Don’t be intimidated by this process – in most cases, all you have to do is fill out a few forms and pay a few small registration fees!

 

How to Get Started as a Dog Treat Baker

When I first started Diva Dog Bakery™, I honestly had no idea what I was doing.

Although I saw success pretty quickly, there was a lot of trial-and-error because I had no one to guide me. I didn’t know anyone who owned a bakery, let alone a dog treat bakery.

The one thing I definitely did right at the beginning – and what I recommend to you if you want to become a homemade dog treat baker – was to spend some time in the kitchen learning how to make treats.

Because I wasn’t much of a baker (and maybe you aren’t either), getting a little baking experience under my belt was very helpful.

I also tested out my treats on my dogs and the dogs of some of my friends and family. Dogs may not be able to talk, but you can tell pretty easily which treats they love eating and which treats they’ll turn their nose up at!

With this data, you can start to package up and sell the most-liked treats. You can scale it from there and start to build up your business.

If the idea of going it alone on a dog treat bakery business sounds a little intimidating, I’d like to welcome you to join the Diva Dog Bakery™ course where I’ll teach you exactly how to build a thriving dog treat bakery business!

Here’s what the course covers:

  • How to best make and store dog treats (this is where you’ll practice your baking techniques)
  • How to turn your hobby into a legal dog treat business 
  • How to package your treats beautifully without hours of effort (beautifully packaged treats command premium prices!)
  • How to price your dog treats so you maximize your revenue
  • Where to sell your dog treats: offline, online or both
  • The best methods for accepting payment
  • How to most efficiently and inexpensively ship and deliver your treats
  • The best ways to promote your business so you build up a following of raving fans and repeat customers!

You’ll also receive valuable bonuses, including:

  • My full dog treat recipe book, which includes the most popular and profitable recipes I used in my bakery
  • Guaranteed analysis/nutrition labels to use on your treats (required by certain states)
  • 30 days of free access to the Diva Dog Bakery™ Community so you can get all of your questions answered while you grow your business, including live training

It has been so exciting to help new dog treat bakers launch their businesses! Cheering on every baking success and every business success is truly the best part of my day.

 

Lessons Learned from a Cupcake… and a Phone Call

I like to say that Diva Dog Bakery™ started with a cupcake.

But it really, truly started when, after gifting treats to friends, one of those friends called me and said: ‘Kristin, can I buy a bag of your dog treats?’

Until that moment, I had no idea that anyone would actually want to pay for the treats I had been making as a labor of love.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: there is a market out there for so many different products and services. Whether it’s a product or service that we dream up on our own or that we learn from a course, there is probably someone who wants to buy it from us.

We just have to figure out a way to make that sale happen… and then make it happen again and again!

 

Dog Treat Bakeries are a Great Business to Start

If you’re interested in starting a business that’s ‘outside the box’ of the typical online businesses, then I highly recommend starting a dog treat bakery. 

The industry is booming, the work is enjoyable, the profit margin is fantastic and (maybe the best reason of all) you have the cutest customers!

To get started on your dog treat bakery journey, I’m offering a free dog treat bakery workshop! Check out the sales page here and sign up for the free workshop.

If you have any other questions about starting a dog treat bakery after watching the workshop, just email me and I’d be happy to answer them.

Are you interested in starting a dog treat bakery?

The post How I Earned Up to $4,000 Per Month Baking Dog Treats (With Zero Baking Experience!) appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Should You Make Payments During Coronavirus Student Loan Deferment?

As Americans grappled with the financial consequences of the pandemic in March of this year, the federal government took several actions to help cash-strapped consumers. For starters, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March of 2020, which included a temporary suspension of payments and interest for government-owned student loans through the end of September 2020.

Beyond just suspending payments and interest, the act also halted all collections activities on federal student loans. Americans pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) would see these non-payment months counted toward the 120 months of payments needed to have their loans forgiven. 

You can continue making payments on your federal student loans during the deferment period if you want to. Whether you should, depends on your goals and your situation.

This announcement was a huge relief for Americans with student debt since it meant they could pause federal student loan payments without accruing interest or facing penalties for several months. And recently, this assistance was extended for the remainder of 2020.

About the Student Loan Deferment Order

According to a memorandum from the White House, this extension intends to “provide such deferments to borrowers as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020.”

What does this mean for borrowers? The extension of this order means that those with federally owned student loans (not private student loans) can continue skipping payments for the duration of 2020. Interest won’t accrue on federal student loans during this time, and penalties won’t come into effect for those who choose to defer loan payments.

How Does This Help Student Loan Borrowers?

Although unemployment numbers have improved since the summer, the initial pause on federal student loan payments was of massive help for borrowers struggling with job loss or a loss in pay. After all, getting a break from student loan payments made room for funds to go toward other household needs and bills. Keep in mind that the average student loan payment is approximately $393 for all borrowers, but that many with advanced degrees pay significantly more than that every month.

When the Presidential action was released, it was unclear whether borrowers pursuing PSLF will still receive credit for non-payment months. However, a U.S. Department of Education press release clarified that PSLF borrowers would, in fact, receive credit toward loan forgiveness as if they’d made on-time payments.

Just keep in mind that this order does not apply to consumers with private student loans. Only federal student loans qualify for this protection, although some private student loan companies are offering their own separate deferment options to consumers who can show financial hardship.

Pros and Cons of Making Payments During Automatic Deferment

One interesting detail from this order is buried in the fine print:

“All persons who wish to continue making student loan payments shall be allowed to do so, notwithstanding the deferments provided pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.”

In summary, you can continue making payments on your federal student loans during the deferment period if you want to. Whether you should, depends on your goals and your situation.

Benefits of Making Loan Payments 

If you haven’t faced a loss in income, then you might be tempted to continue making payments on your student loans. The benefits of doing so include:

  • Paying down your student loan debt faster. The Department of Education says that, through the end of 2020, “the full amount of your payments will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.” This means that every cent thrown toward your loans right now applies to your loan balance, quickly reducing your student debt on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
  • Saving money on interest. Because of the way interest accrues on student loans and other debts, reducing your balance will automatically save you money on interest over the long haul. The more you pay toward your student loans now, the more money you save.

Disadvantages of Making Loan Payments

There are a few potential downsides to making student loan payments when they’re not required. Plus, borrowers with certain types of student loans should not be making payments right now. 

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

  • You may need the money later on. Even if your income is fine right now, the financial fallout from the pandemic is far from over. If you choose to make student loan payments through the end of the year and lose your job in a few months, you might wish you had saved that extra cash instead. 
  • Those pursuing PSLF shouldn’t make payments. If you’re pursuing PSLF, then this deferment period is counted toward the 120 on-time payments you need for loan forgiveness. If you continued making payments through the end of the year, you would be throwing money down the drain.
  • Most borrowers on income-driven repayment plans have little incentive to make payments. If you’re on an income-driven repayment plan like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR), then your loan payment is only a percentage of your discretionary income, and your loans will be forgiven after 20-25 years of on-time payments. Borrowers who aim to have their loans forgiven after 20-25 years anyway should skip payments through the end of the year and set aside their cash for a rainy day instead.

The Bottom Line

Individuals who want to pay off their loans quickly would be smart to pay as much as they can, but only if they can afford it. It also makes sense to be cautious about any extra income you have for the time being. After all, more economic pain may be on the way, and it’s possible you could face a loss in income later in the year.

Without any interest accruing on federally owned student loans during this historic forbearance, however, you could always put your student loan payments into a high-yield savings account until the end of the year. At that point, you can assess your financial situation and make a large, lump sum payment toward your loans if you want.

This strategy creates a greater safety net for the remainder of 2020 while also paying down debt faster with a large payment before the end of December. Run the numbers and make sure you have a plan (and a back-up plan) in place.

The post Should You Make Payments During Coronavirus Student Loan Deferment? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

What Is Austerity?

What Is Austerity?

Austerity policies are nothing new. But talk about them in the news has recently escalated. In response to its ongoing debt crisis, the Greek government is preparing to implement austerity measures aimed at helping the country regain its financial footing. If you didn’t major in economics or you have no clue what austerity means, read on to find out how this fiscal program works.

Check out our personal loans calculator.

Austerity: A Definition

Trust us, austerity isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Austerity is a type of economic policy that governments use to deal with budget deficits. A country faces a deficit whenever it’s using more money than it’s earning from tax dollars.

By taking on an austerity package, a government hopes to reign in its spending, improve the status of its economy and avoid defaulting on its unpaid debt. Governments usually take on austerity measures in order to appease their creditors. In exchange, these lenders agree to bail out countries and allow them to borrow more money.

If you look up the word austere in the dictionary, you’ll see that it means severe, grave, hard, solemn and serious. Indeed, austerity is nothing to joke about.

Austerity Measures

What Is Austerity?

Austerity plans normally involve increases in different taxes, (property taxes, income taxes, etc.) budget cuts or a push to incorporate both. Government workers could lose their jobs or see their wages and benefits either decline or become stagnant. Hiking up interest rates, adding travel bans and keeping prices at a fixed level could be other strategies put in place to reduce spending.

Naturally, austerity measures typically aren’t viewed in the best light because they mean that there might be fewer government programs available to the public. Aid for veterans and low-income families, healthcare coverage and pensions are some of the benefits that normally take a hit when a country’s using an austerity package. Government services that aren’t eliminated might not be as comprehensive or as beneficial as they once were.

As you can see, in an austere environment, conditions are tighter overall. Historically, austerity has been implemented in the US during tough times including World War I, World War II and the Great Recession of 2008.

Greece’s new austerity package – which government lawmakers finally accepted in July 2015 – will feature less government funding, higher taxes and cuts to pension plans. As a result of this deal, the country was allowed to begin talks with its creditors about a third bailout.

Related Article: All About the Greek Debt Crisis

The Problems With Government Austerity 

Experts on the economy tend to go back and forth about how effective austerity can be. Some believe that instead of turning to austerity, the government should pump out more money and borrow as much as possible if an economy is on the rocks.

From a political standpoint, austerity is often controversial and results in riots and demonstrations. Anti-austerity protests erupted in Greece, where quite a few folks say that past austerity programs have only made social and economic conditions worse.

Beyond slowing down the economy, an austerity bill can cause a country to remain in its debt crisis, particularly if it’s in the midst of a recession. As fiscal austerity decreases spending, GDP can go down while unemployment goes up. Consumers can get nervous and stop spending and investing their own money.

In short, austerity policies can make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling. That’s why governments tend to turn to them as a last resort if other strategies aren’t working.

Why Austerity Might Not Be So Bad

What Is Austerity?

Notable European creditors have argued that austerity can be beneficial to a country’s long-term economic state. For instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has previously reported that austerity has done more damage than anticipated. But the European Central Bank released a paper saying that austerity has been helpful, at least for some of the weaker eurozone countries.

In fact, austerity has helped strengthen the economies in European countries like Latvia and Iceland. Although Spain’s unemployment remains high, its economy is in better shape overall. Ireland has made considerable progress as well toward rebuilding its economy.

Proponents of austerity policies say that they can make investors feel more optimistic when a country is being run more responsibly. Austerity has the potential to bring a shrinking economy back to life as everyday citizens invest in the private sector instead of relying on support from the federal government.

Try out our free investment calculator. 

The US used austerity measures between 2010 and 2014. Not only were our policies harsher than those employed by the governments in the UK and other European nations, but our economy fared better than theirs.

The Takeaway

The point of austerity is to tighten the government’s belt, bring a country’s debt back down to a more manageable level and stimulate an economy that has stopped growing. Countries generally try to meet these goals by cutting spending and raising taxes.

The debate over whether austerity works continues but one common theme has emerged. Timing matters. Some critics suggest that cutting too much too quickly during a recession can be painful. When introduced more slowly, however, (or when the economy is doing very well,) austerity measures can turn things around.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eltoddo, ©iStock.com/DNY59, ©iStock.com/Peter Booth

The post What Is Austerity? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

What Is the FICO Resilience Index?

Three young colleagues wearing aprons look at FICO Resilience Index scores on a laptop

By the end of May 2020, more than 40 million people had filed unemployment claims due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic shutdowns. Governments, charities, and even creditors scrambled to put programs in place to support people during this time while also mitigating future economic fallout.

And this isn’t the first time creditors have found themselves working to support borrowers while worrying about their own bottom lines. It’s an issue that occurred during the 2008 recession and one that occurs regionally during national disasters. The new FICO Resilience Index is a tool that creditors might use to help better prepare for times of economic crisis. Find out more about this Index and how it might impact you below.

What Is the FICO Resilience Index?

The FICO Resilience Index is a numeric score each
person is given. The score is supposed to tell creditors how likely a person is
to continue paying their bills as agreed during an economic downturn.

The Index, which is brought to you by the makers of the
popular FICO Score for creditworthiness, ranges from 1 to 99. In contrast to
credit scores, where a higher number is better, a lower FICO Resilience Index score
is better. Here’s how the range breaks down:

  • 1–44: More resilient to changes in economic
    conditions
  • 45–59: Moderately resilient to changes in
    economic conditions
  • 60–69: Sensitive to changes in economic
    conditions
  • 70–99: Very sensitive to changes in economic
    conditions

So, if you have a FICO Resilience Index of 10, it indicates that there’s a good chance that during economic upheaval such as a pandemic or recession, you’re still going to pay your bills on time. If you score a 90, that’s considered much less likely.

How Is the Resilience Index Different from a Credit Score?

A credit score is meant to indicate the likelihood that you will pay your bills on time and as agreed at any time. The Resilience Index rates how sensitive you might be to economic changes and the likelihood that you may be unable to pay bills during a downturn or crisis.

For example, the top factor in your credit score is
whether or not you pay your bills in a timely manner. Your FICO Resilience
Index score is more concerned by your total balance and number of open
accounts. If you balance is high and you have a lot of open accounts, you may
be less able to pay these off during times of crisis.

Here’s what the FICO Resilience Index looks for:

  • Low total balance on revolving credit in comparison to limits
  • A lower number of open, active credit accounts
  • Fewer hard inquiries within the past 12 months
  • A longer credit age, which indicates more experience managing credit

You can improve your FICO Resilience Index by reducing hard inquiries and not opening new credit accounts unless they’re necessary. But the index relies heaviest on credit utilization. Keeping your credit card and other revolving account balances as low as possible can improve your index score.

Does the FICO Resilience Index Matter to You?

As of mid-2020, the FICO Resilience Index is new, and
not a lot of organizations have integrated it into their lending processes yet.
In the beginning, it might not be especially relevant to consumers. However, as
organizations start to integrate it, there’s a good chance creditors may
consider both your credit score and your resilience number when approving—or
denying—your application.

Where Can You See Your FICO Resilience Index?

To have a FICO Resilience Index score, you must have at least one account that was reported to the credit bureau in question in the past 6 months. You must also have at least one account that is at least six months old.

As of July 2020, the FICO Resilience Index is being
provided in pilot testing to lenders. FICO is partnering with Equifax and
Experian to include the index alongside credit scores when lenders conduct a
hard credit inquiry. As of July 2020, the index scores were not yet made
available to consumers.

Does This New Number Make Credit Scores Less Important?

The FICO Resilience Index doesn’t reduce the importance
of your credit score. Lenders are still concerned with whether or not someone
is a “good risk.” Even with a strong resilience number, you may find yourself
getting turned down for loans or credit cards if you have a poor credit score.

You can’t check your FICO Resilience Index number at this time. But you can check your credit report and scores and make good financial decisions. In many cases, what’s good for your credit score is also good for your Resilience Index. Start today by signing up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card or ExtraCredit. ExtraCredit offers 28 of your FICO scores for review, and they’re updated regularly—helping you stay on top of your credit trends.

Sign Up Now

The post What Is the FICO Resilience Index? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honestly assess these aspects of your finances

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

How secure is your income?

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

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

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

– Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow

Do you have enough money saved?

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

How much house can you afford?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is your credit?

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

What is your debt-to-income ratio?

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

Have you considered the opportunity cost?

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

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

Consider key market factors

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

Where are housing prices?

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

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

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

What’s going on with interest rates?

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

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

How does employment look nationally?

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

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

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

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

Think about your future plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: discover.com

What to Do When You Lose Your Health Insurance

A young woman looks at health insurance paperwork with frustration and confusion

Losing your job is stressful. Losing your health insurance on top of that is even worse. And whether you have health concerns now or want to safeguard yourself and family for the future, you might be worried about how to cover medical expenses if you’re out of work. Find out what to do when you lose your health insurance because you lost your job.

Ask About COBRA

COBRA is a health insurance continuation option that many employers offer. It allows you to voluntarily extend the health coverage you have under your former employer’s plan. If you qualify for COBRA, you must be given the option to extend your coverage up to 18 or 36 months, depending on what event qualified you for COBRA.

However, your employer does not have to continue
contributing to cover the premiums of this plan as they did when you were
employed. If they elect to not offer contributions to the premium, COBRA
coverage can be fairly expensive.

Check the Health Care Marketplace

Job loss that causes you to lose employer-sponsored or provided health insurance counts as a qualifying event. That means you’re eligible for a special enrollment period.

Normally, you can only sign up for insurance plans through
the health care marketplaces during open enrollment periods, which typically run
from November to January. Exact dates for enrollment depend on the state.

Special enrollment periods occur for people who have a
qualifying event, such as a change in marriage status, a death in the family or
job loss. You qualify for this special period whether you were fired, laid off
or quit your job.

You must apply within 60 days of losing your insurance coverage. If your employee gives you notice and you know you’ll be losing your insurance, you can apply proactively up to 60 days before that happens.

Purchase Short-Term Coverage

Short-term insurance policies are meant to bridge the gap when you’re between jobs. Not all states allow for short-term insurance—eleven states currently prohibit their sale. But, depending on your state, short-term insurance could cover you for up to 364 days. These aren’t qualified plans under the ACA, which means they don’t offer all the benefits that the ACA requires by law. Typically, these are major medical plans meant to help cover the costs of a catastrophic illness or accident and not routine health care.

Make
sure you understand what benefits are included and how the plan works if you
opt for short-term coverage.

See If You
Qualify for Medicaid

A man holds the hand of a young child while they walk down the street.

If you have lost your job, that probably means your income has been reduced. That could mean that you’re eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The income requirements vary by state, but you can find out more about eligibility from the Department of Health and Human Services.

You
can apply for Medicaid and CHIP at any time, but remember that you can lose
your Medicaid benefits if your income changes. Have a plan in place to budget
for health insurance if you get a job that doesn’t offer benefits or has a
waiting period before benefits start.

Go Without Health Insurance

You can choose to go without health insurance until you find another job or until open enrollment happens again. This can be a risky move because a health emergency or accident could lead to mounting medical expenses that leave you in serious debt.

But if you’re healthy and think there’s a good chance you’ll get a new job with coverage soon, you might decide to take the gamble. If you do, it’s a good idea to set aside some money in savings to help cover the cost of doctor’s visits or other necessary medical care should the need arise. For example, during COVD-19, you might use your stimulus check for this purpose.

You Have Options

Losing your job and your health insurance is scary, but you’re not alone. Credit.com has resources to help you through. Check out our additional resources below—and if you need more help, you can reach out to tipswithtiff@credit.com for help from Credit Tips with Tiff.

  • How to Find an Affordable Health Insurance Plan
  • Job Opportunities During COVID-19
  • Credit Options to Help Manage Health Care Costs

The post What to Do When You Lose Your Health Insurance appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com