Homeowners insurance is essential to protect what may be your most valuable asset â your home. But many people ask themselves, âhow much homeowners insurance do I need?â Itâs a valid question â buy too much and youâre wasting your hard-earned money. And if you donât get enough coverage, youâll be wishing you had more […]
The post How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need? appeared first on The Simple Dollar.
Not only are we living through a global pandemic, but we’re also living through what is one of the hottest summers in many states. Here’s how you can protect your home from the summer heat and other woes you may face this season.
The post 6 Ways to Summer-Proof Your Home appeared first on Homes.com.
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that home sales were up more than 17% in June 2020 from the month before, and up more than 13% compared to the year prior. Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt (or reorganize their current debt) in todayâs low interest environment.
Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt in todayâs low interest environment.
With low 30-year mortgage rates, owning a rental property that âpays for itselfâ through monthly rental income is especially lucrative with a significantly lower mortgage payment. If youâre curious about buying a second home and renting it out, keep reading to find out about the major issues you should be aware of, the hidden costs of becoming a landlord, and more.
Important Factors When Buying a Short-Term Rental
The issues involved in buying a rental home varies dramatically depending on where you plan to purchase. After all, buying a ski lodge in an area with seasonal tourism and attractions might require different considerations than buying a home in a major metropolitan area where tourists visit all year long.
But there are some factors every potential landlord should consider regardless of location. Here are a few of the most important considerations:
Location. Consumers rent vacation homes almost anywhere, but youâll want to make sure youâre looking at homes in an area where short-term rentals are popular and viable. You can do some basic research on AirDNA.co, a short-term rental data and analytics service, or check competing rentals in the area youâre considering.
Property Management Fees. If you plan to use a property management company to manage your short-term rental instead of managing it yourself, you should find out how much other owners pay for management. Also, compare listing fees for your second home with a platform like Airbnb or VRBO.
Taxes. Property taxes can be higher on second homes since you donât qualify for a homestead exemption. This means higher fixed costs each month, which could make it more difficult to cover your mortgage with rental income.
Competition. Check whether a rental area youâre considering is full of competing rentals that are never full. You can find this information on VRBO or Airbnb by looking at various rentals and checking their booking calendars.
Potential Rental Fees. Check rental sites to see how much you might be able to charge for your second home on a nightly, weekly, or monthly basis.
5 Steps to Rent Your Second Home
Before purchasing a second home, take time to run different scenarios using realistic numbers based on the rental market youâre targeting. From there, the following steps can guide you through preparing your property for the short-term rental market.
1. Research the Market
First, youâll want to have a general understanding of the rental market youâre entering. How much does the average short-term rental go for each night or each week? What is the average vacancy rate for rentals on an annual basis?
Research your local rental market, the average price of rentals in your area, various features offered by competing rentals, and more.
Action Item: Dig into these figures by using AirDNA.co. Just enter a zip code or town, and youâll find out the average nightly rate, occupancy rate, revenue, and more. Although some of the siteâs features require a monthly subscription, you can find out basic information about your rental market for free.
2. Know Your Numbers
You need to know an array of real numbers before renting your second home, including the following:
Average nightly rate
Average occupancy rate
Fixed costs, such as your mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance for the rental
Property management fees and costs for cleaning between tenants
Additional fixed costs for things like trash pickup, internet access, and cable television
Costs for marketing your space on a platform like VRBO or Airbnb, which could be a flat fee or 3% of your rental fee depending on the platform
Youâll use these numbers to figure out the average monthly operating cost for your second home, and the potential income you might be able to bring in. Without running these numbers first, you wind up in a situation where your short-term rental doesnât pay for itself, and where youâre having to supplement operating expenses every month.
Action Item: Gather every cost involved in operating your specific short-term rental, and then tally everything up with monthly and annual figures that you can plan for.
3. Buy the Right Insurance
If you plan on using your second home as a short-term rental, youâll need to buy vacation rental insurance. This type of homeowners insurance is different from the type youâd buy for your primary residence. Itâs even unique from landlord insurance coverage since you need to have insurance in place for your second home and its contents.
Some vacation rental policies let you pay per use, and they provide the benefits of homeowners insurance (like property coverage, liability, and more) plus special protection when your property is rented to a third party.
Action Item: Shop around for a homeowners insurance plan thatâs geared specifically to vacation rentals. See our top picks for the best homeowners insurance companies out there.
4. Create a Property Management Plan
If you live near your second home, you might want to manage it yourself. Thereâs nothing wrong with this option, but you should plan on receiving calls and dealing with problems at all hours of the day.
Many short-term rental owners pay a property management company to communicate with their tenants, manage each rental period, and handle any issues that pop up. Property managers can also set up cleanings between each rental and help with marketing your property.
Action Item: Create a property management plan and account for any costs. Most property managers charge 25% to 30% of the rental cost on an ongoing basis, so you canât ignore this component of owning a short-term rental.
5. Market Your Space
Make sure you appropriately market your space, which typically means paying for professional photos and creating an accurate, inviting listing on your chosen platforms. Your property manager might help you create a marketing plan for your vacation rental, but you can DIY this component of your side business if youâre tech- and media-savvy.
Action Item: Hire a photographer to take professional photos of your rental, and craft your rental description and listing.
Risks of Purchasing a Short-Term Rental
Becoming a landlord isnât for the faint of heart. Thereâs plenty that can go wrong, but here are the main risks to plan for:
Government roadblocks. In destinations from New York City to Barcelona, government officials have been cracking down on short-term rentals and trying to limit their ability to operate. New rules could make running your business more costly, difficult, or even impossible.
Your home could be damaged beyond repair. If you read the Airbnb message boards and other landlord forums, youâll find an endless supply of nightmare rental stories of houses getting trashed and rentals enduring thousands of dollars in damage.
Housing market crash. If the housing market crashes again like it did in 2008, you might find you owe more than your second home is worth at a time when itâs increasingly difficult to find renters.
Reliance on tourism. As weâve seen during the pandemic, circumstances beyond our control can bring travel and tourism to a screeching halt. Since short-term rentals typically rely on tourism to stay afloat, decreases in travel can affect the viability of your business, quickly.
High ongoing costs and fees. Higher property taxes, property management fees, cleaning fees and maintenance costs can make operating a short-term rental costly in the long-term. If you donât account for all costs and fees involved, you might wind up losing money on your vacation home instead of having the property âpay for itselfâ.
The Bottom Line
A short-term rental can be a viable business opportunity, depending on where you want to buy and the specifics of the local rental market. But there are a lot of factors to consider before taking the leap.
Before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, think over all of the potential costs and risks involved. Youâll want to ensure that youâve done comprehensive research and have run the numbers for every possible scenario to make an informed decision.
Related: How to Invest in Real Estate
The post How to Buy a Second Home that Pays for Itself appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
If you’re a busy individual and have no time for the day-to-day management of your money, you may need to consult a financial consultant.
Beyond being busy, however, there are major turning points in your life where working with a financial consultant is absolutely necessary.
For instance, if you’re approaching retirement, you’ll have to figure out how much money you need to live during your non-working years.
So what is a financial consultant? And what do financial consultants do? In this article, we’ll run you through situations where financial consulting makes sense.
We’ll show you where you can get a financial consultant that is ethical and who will act in your best interest, etc.
Of note, hiring a financial consultant is not cheap. A fee-only financial advisor can charge you anywhere from $75 to $300 per hour. If your situation is simple, you may not need to hire one.
However, hiring a financial consultant in the situations discussed below is worth the cost.
Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor
What is a financial consultant?
A financial consultant is another name for financial advisor. They can advise you on a variety of money subjects.
They can help you make informed decisions about managing your investments and help you navigate complex money situations.
Moreover, a financial consultant can help you come up with financial goals such as saving for retirement, property investing and help you achieve those goals.
To get you started, here’s how to choose a financial advisor.
5 Reasons You Need To Hire A Financial Consultant:
1. You have a lot of credit card debt.
Having a lot of credit card debt not only can cause you severe emotional distress, it can also negatively impact your ability to get a loan (personal loan or home loan).
For instance, if you see 50 percent of your income is going towards paying your credit card debt, then you need professional help to manage debt. Your best option is to find a financial consultant.
Luckily, the SmartAsset’s matching tool is free and it helps you find a financial consultant in your area in just under 5 minutes. Get started now.
2. You are on the verge of bankruptcy.
If you have way too much debt and can’t seem to pay it off within a reasonable time, another option for you is to file for bankruptcy.
Although bankruptcy will free you from most of your debts, avoid that option if you can.
One reason is because it can have a long, negative impact on your credit file. Once you go bankrupt, the bankruptcy will be on your credit report for a long time.
Working with a financial consultant can help you come up with different strategies. They may advise you to consider debt consolidation, which can significantly lower interest rates.
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals. Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
3. You’re ready to invest in the stock market.
If you’re thinking about investing in the stock market, then the need for a financial consultant is greater. Investing in the stock market has the potential of making you wealthy.
But with great returns come great risks. The stock market is volatile. The price of stock can be $55 today, and drops to $5 the next day.
So, investing in the stock market can be very intimidating. And if you’re a beginner investor and unsure about the process, it is wise to chat with a financial advisor to see if they can benefit you.
A financial consultant can help build an investment portfolio and help manage your investments.
4. You’re starting a family.
If you’re just got married seeking a financial consultant is very important. A financial advisor can help you figure out whether you should combine your finances, file taxes jointly or separately.
You also need to think about life insurance as well, in case of death of one spouse. And if you’re thinking of having kids, you need to think about saving for college to ensure the kids’ future.
Turning the job over to a financial consultant can save you a lot of money in the long wrong and is worth the cost.
Related: Do I Need A Financial Advisor?
5. You’re just irresponsible with money.
If you make emotionally based financial decisions all of the time, you’re buying things without planning for them, you may be irresponsible financially and therefore need professional advice.
If you’re spending money on expensive items when you could be planning and saving for retirement, then you may need a financial consultant.
You may find yourself having trouble saving money. Then it may make sense to speak with a financial advisor.
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor For You
You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
The post 5 Reasons You Need To Hire A Financial Consultant appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
Working from home has its perks. Thereâs the money saved from skipping the commute, and just think about all of that time you get back by avoiding crowded freeways or public transit during rush hour. As far as workplace attire goes, few employees would trade âwork-from-home casualâ for dress slacks.
But while working from home affords some new freedoms, it also creates new challenges. One of your biggest tasks is to create a productive, ergonomically correct workplace in your home without breaking the bank. If this sounds familiar, youâre probably asking yourself, âHow can I set up a home office on a budget?â
Whether youâve always worked from home as a freelancer or started during the pandemic, these expert tips will help you get started as you design your home office on a budget:
Strive for an ergonomically correct home office
Being home all day creates an unexpected obstacle: pain. Many workers find that transitioning from a well-equipped office to a makeshift setup at home leads to discomfort. Thatâs because many of them go from having a spacious desk, comfortable chair, and monitor and keyboard in their office building to working from a laptop in their living room.
If you suffer from neck pain or eye strain when working from home, you may be feeling the effects of poor ergonomics. Ergonomics, commonly known as the science of work, aims to optimize productivity and health in a workspace.
As a physical therapist with more than 25 years of experience, Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert, knows this issue all too well. Loesingâs company performs ergonomic assessments for businesses and home offices. Over the years, she has seen countless clients suffering from neck, back or other health issues due to poorly designed workspaces. But it doesnât have to be that way, Loesing says.
âHaving an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work.â
There are relatively easy ways to transform an ergonomic nightmare into a well-functioning home office on a budgetâeven if youâre stationed at the kitchen table, she says. And the investment is worth it.
âHaving an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work,â Loesing says. âFor those who are able to designate a certain space in their home where they can work without distractionsâmaybe even a window with a view and the flexibility to work at your own paceâit has been proven this makes for a happier employee.â
Who doesnât want to boost their health, productivity and happiness in one fell swoop?
Find the optimal location for your at-home workspace
When setting up a home office for remote work, location should be your first decision, says design consultant Linda Varone, author of âThe Smarter Home Office.â Depending on your living situation, there may be an obvious answer, such as that spare room youâve always thought could become an office space.
If you donât have a dedicated office, donât despair. While you design your home office on a budget, think creatively about where it can be.
Varone once visited a clientâs home to help reconfigure her workspace. The client was running a business from a table in the hallway. âAt the end of each workday, she had to pack everything up and store it in the closet in the guest room,â Varone says.
But as Varone learned, guests only stayed over two weeks a year, leaving the room empty the rest of the time. It hadnât occurred to the business owner, but turning the guest room into a home office for most of the year was the perfect solution.
âThere are some simple, simple ways that people can rethink their home office without a big investment and make that space really work for them,â Varone says.
In addition to using a guest room, a dining or living room can also function as a home office on a budget.
Establish the ideal setup for your workstation
Once youâve decided on the room, determine the location for your workstation, Varone says. As you plan your home office, consider placing your desk or table near a window, allowing for natural light and an occasional glimpse of nature. Donât face directly outside; instead, aim for a line of sight thatâs perpendicular to the window, Varone says. Thatâs because, even on an overcast day, youâd be looking into too much bright light if youâre facing the window.
âWhatâs happening is your eyes are adjusting back and forth between the bright sunlight that youâre facing and the darker light of your computer screen,â Varone says. âAnd that ends up being really fatiguing for the eye.â
If you live with others, the biggest challenge will be privacy. Try to clearly define the boundaries of your âofficeâ if you can, such as with an area rug, she says. Then ask your roommates or family members not to enter your space while youâre working, apart from an emergency.
If you use a multipurpose space, be sure to tidy everything up at the end of the day, Varone says. Taking the 10 minutes or so to clean up your âofficeâ will reduce clutter. Ultimately, a clutter-free space can reduce your stress and boost your productivity.
âThat also has a benefit of becoming a little ritual and helping you say, âAll right, my workday is over,ââ Varone says. ââNow I can focus on my personal life.ââ
Choose your furniture wisely
Now that youâve found the perfect location for your home office on a budget, focus on finding the perfect work surface. Maybe itâs a traditional desk. Or it could be your dining room table or kitchen counter.
If you do need to buy a desk or chair, donât feel like you need to spend a fortune. Try looking for a used office furniture store or liquidator in your area, Varone recommends. You could even try searching online marketplaces for a gently used model.
When planning a home office and considering your work surface, what matters most is the height.
The average desk is 29 inches high, Loesing says. This will likely accommodate someone whoâs 5â8â, she acknowledges, but for everyone else? It will take some adjusting to make it fit for them.
Thatâs where your chair comes in. Most people donât need a high-end office swivel chair to work comfortably. As long as you can adjust the height of your chair to fit you and your desk, youâll have a comfortable setup.
Itâs important to adjust the height of your chair to achieve a neutral position, Loesing says. If you donât have the instructions from the manufacturer on how to adjust your model, try searching for videos online, she adds.
One more chair takeaway from Loesing?
âIf you canât spend a dime, at least get as comfortable as you can where youâre sitting, and sit all the way back in your chair,â Loesing says. âWhen you donât sit so your back is against the backrest, youâre using your back muscles all day long instead of them being at rest.â
Adjust your furniture and equipment
As you continue planning a home office, youâll likely find that your computer is your most important piece of equipment. But it can also lead to neck strain. Whether itâs a laptop or an external monitor, Loesing says screen placement is key. In fact, she says itâs the single most important feature to addressâas well as the most commonly disregarded one.
While you plan your home office, Loesing recommends keeping the following ergonomic guidelines in mind to help avoid neck strain:
Align your monitor so your eyes are level with the screen. (Thatâs typically about 4â from the top of the monitor.)
Place your feet flat on the floor and your knees at about a 90-degree angle with the ground.
Place your arms at about a 90-degree angle from the writing surface so your shoulders are relaxed.
If you only have a laptop, and no monitor, you still have options for raising your screen to eye-level. âThere are budget-friendly laptop risers on the market,â Loesing says. âIf you donât want to spend any money, you can place books or reams of paper to bring the screen up to eye level.â
When setting up a home office for remote work and thinking about your arm placement, note that Varone is a strong advocate for an external keyboard. If youâre working at a desk that has a keyboard tray built into it, thatâs a great way to keep your arms at about a 90-degree angle, she says. If you donât have a built-in tray, she says you can improvise by placing your keyboard on an inexpensive laptop table situated directly under your desk.
While the exact adjustments will vary depending on your equipment, height and budget, the focus is on acquiring a neutral position or a position where thereâs no strain on anything, Loesing says.
âWith the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.â
Stand if it suits you
If youâre intrigued by the idea of a standing desk, youâre not alone. Standing desk sales have soared over the last decade, buoyed by reports of the dangers of too much sitting.
âStatic postures (e.g., sitting all day in front of a computer) present more fatigue than dynamic working,â Loesing says. âWith the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.â
You donât have to buy an official standing desk to reap the benefits when planning a home office. âThe least expensive way would be to take a laptop and place it up high on a built-in high counter using a compact wireless keyboard and mouse,â Loesing says.
Even if you donât have a standing deskâmakeshift or otherwiseâyou can still incorporate movement and circulation into your workday. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every 20 minutes, Loesing suggests.
For an even better boost, combine this with a popular guideline known as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a break by looking out a window at something at least 20 feet away, and do so for at least 20 seconds.
Donât forget the ambience and accessories
Your desk, chair and computer are the major players when youâre setting up a home office for remote work. But there are a few additional items to consider, like lighting, plants and sound.
Your overhead light fixture likely isnât enough, as it will create shadows and can be too weak by the time it reaches your workspace, Varone says. She recommends investing in a table lamp that creates a wider spread of light in your area. Pick one with a translucent shade that will softly diffuse the light and make it easier on your eyes.
As youâre planning your home office, Varone also recommends incorporating a potted plant or flower into your workspace. Not only can it help purify the air and boost your mood, a natural element can contribute to a restful atmosphere.
Working from home means working with home noisesâespecially if youâre in an environment with roommates, a partner or little ones. To keep the noise down, consider noise-canceling headphones for a quieter workspace and clearer meetings. Other budget-friendly options? Try placing a towel under the door to block out noise from other rooms, Loesing says. Consider curtains instead of blinds, since theyâre better at blocking out sound. Even pillows or large cushions can help reduce noise, she adds.
After youâve taken care of the essentials and if you have the space and money, think about adding a reading chair to your home office. You can use this as a space to review documents or do some deep thinking, Varone says. It can be a welcome respite from your desk while keeping you in the office area, she adds.
One last tip? Add a personal touch, whether itâs a framed family photo or a souvenir from your travels. Itâs your home office, after all. Let your personality shine.
Set up a home office for remote work that allows you to thrive
Now that you know how to create a home office on a budget, youâre ready to make a space that works well for you. Whether youâre an experienced remote worker or a newbie, you can apply these expert tips to set up an office thatâs functional and keeps you motivated day in and day out.
Ready to break in your new home office? Keep that motivation going by learning how to increase your earning potential this year.
The post Planning a Home Office? Check Out These Budget-Friendly Tips appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Love it or hate it, many Americans are spending more time at home. The coronavirus pandemic not only accelerated the work-from-home trend to warp speed, but it also shuttered schools and summer camps, scratched travel plans and canceled brunch and dinner reservations across the country.
Jen Dawson, a certified financial planner and managing director in Chicago, found that the uncertainty and stay-at-home lifestyle created by the pandemic prompted her clients to look at their financial situations in a new light.
âI think it just gives opportunities for people and families to reflect,â Dawson says. ââWhat do we want out of life? What do we want from our money?â Those conversations are really valuable.â
As Dawsonâs clients reflect on their goals, they (and many others) are also wondering, âHow should I adjust my household budget if weâre spending more time at home?â
How to optimize your budget for the stay-at-home economy in 4 steps
Ellen Rogin, a former wealth advisor and now a speaker, author and entrepreneur, notes that people across the country were affected by the pandemic in very different ways. While many workers were able to keep their jobs as they transitioned to working from home, many were not.
âThere are people who have lost their jobs and are being forced to make difficult decisions,â Rogin says. âAnd there are people who are still employed and earning the same income they did before, who have more options as they decide how they’re spending their money now.â
Even if youâve been spared serious financial challenges, you should still consider updating or creating a household budget or spending plan. This will allow you to determine how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin and Dawson encourage you to use this opportunity to ensure youâre at least staying on track to meet your savings goalsâand at best, shortening your savings timelines. Itâs also a chance to make sure that your spending habits, which have likely changed as youâve spent more time at home, are maximizing your happiness.
Below, we break down insights from Rogin and Dawson into four actionable steps you can take to save money in quarantine while living the best life possible. It all starts with taking an objective look at how your spending habits changed as you transitioned to a more domestic lifestyle.
Read on to see how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy by creating a new household budget:
1. Compare your spending trends before and during quarantine
As you set about creating a household budget for an at-home lifestyle and determining how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy, start by reviewing your spending.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad. But it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
Dawson encourages you to refer to your debit and credit card statements to analyze the differences between your spending before staying home became the norm, and after. âYou can compare it and contrast and have observations and discussions around what changed,â she says. âWhat do you like that you want to keep going, and what do you not like about it?”
All you need, Dawson says, is a spreadsheet to total up your major expenses, such as housing, utilities, transportation, food and dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Then, subtract the sum of those costs from the money you earned (aka income) over the same timeframe.
Do this exercise for three months of spending before quarantine and then again for three months of spending during quarantine. Youâll be able to compare the data to see whether you have more or less disposable income as a member of the stay-at-home economy.
Rogin notes that it can be a little scary to examine your finances like this, but thereâs no reason to feel anxious.
âMost people donât really know how much money theyâre spending, whether times are good or bad,â she says. âBut it can really make you feel calmer to know what it takes to run your lifestyle.â
If you see that your disposable income decreased while in quarantine (or that you no longer have disposable income at all), then youâll need to find ways to cut back on spending if you want to keep your savings goals on track. If your extra cash increased and youâre actually saving more money in quarantine, then you can start to consider how you might hit some or all of your savings goals more quickly.
Either way, you still have work to do as you consider how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. Rather than focusing on external factors that are out of your control, Rogin and Dawson recommend that, as a next step, you ask yourself what matters most to you.
2. Ask yourself how your spending habits impact your happiness
Rogin considers the distanced, more remote way of life as a chance to reflect on whatâs really important in order to create your household budget. One example she points to is how many people have been cooking at home far more often than they once did.
âMaybe youâre spending more on groceries, but thatâs less than you were spending on eating outâand you enjoy it,â she says. âYouâre spending more time with your family. Youâre eating more healthily. So it gives you the opportunity to really assess your budget in a different way.â
Another example is travel. Rogin says that some people have told her that they really miss it, but others have been surprised to find how happy they are to pump the brakes on their jet-setting ways. In addition to saving money in quarantine from reimbursed travel and no more expensive trips, itâs allowed them to slow down and enjoy their time at home with family.
For her part, Rogin found that she wore the same two pairs of shoes during quarantine because theyâre comfortable, and no one can see them when sheâs video conferencing during work. As a result, Rogin cut this expense from her stay-at-home budget.
Whether youâre facing a cash shortage or surplus from more time spent at home, Rogin says that extending this line of thinking into a âvalues-based spending planâ for the stay-at-home economy will allow you to direct your money to what matters most to you, while diverting funds away from what doesnât.
Once you add up the expenses that are no longer necessary in your stay-at-home budget, itâs time to put that money to work.
Tip: When looking at quarantine spending, donât get too granular
Dawson underscores that evaluating spending patterns can be an emotional exercise. If youâre reviewing your finances with a family member, partner or spouse, try to resist the urge to nitpick every purchase. The trends should be easy enough to spot from a birdâs-eye view.
3. Put your stay-at-home savings toward your financial goals
Dawson and Rogin recommend having a plan when youâre trying to figure out how to save more money in the stay-at-home economy. That plan should include what youâre saving for, as well as where youâll keep the funds as they add up.
Rogin recommends framing your financial goals from a positive angle. For example, when you create a household budget, instead of focusing on cutting spending, you can set a goal for how much extra money you want to save.
If you have children or live with a partner or spouse, Dawson notes that this goal-oriented approach can help get them involved. The objective might be to start an emergency fund to ride out unexpected headwinds. Or, the focus could be on saving up for a big vacation to look forward to when travel restrictions ease.
When deciding where to keep your savings, a standard checking account wonât allow your money to grow like a high-yield online savings account will. Rather than pooling the money youâve saved in quarantine into one account, Dawson suggests opening multiple savings accounts, one for each of your savings goals.
âBe really clear about what each savings account is for,â she says. âThen youâre more likely to fund it.â
Of course, luxury savings goals like a vacation should not take priority over your long-term savings goals, such as retirement or college funds.
4. When saving money in quarantine, remember to support those in need if you can
If you are saving money in quarantine, Rogin suggests considering all the benefits of earmarking extra cash for philanthropic causes. It could go directly to the local small businesses you love that are hurting for revenue. Or it could go to any number of nonprofit organizations that are doing good in the world.
âSo many people are in need now,â Rogin says. âThere are so many beautiful ways that can help you feel like youâre making a difference for people by reallocating some of that money towards causes and people that you want to support.â
How will you start saving money in quarantine?
The stay-at home lifestyle may not have been in your plans, but you have the opportunity to gain control of your finances inside your home by creating a household budget that works for you in this new reality.
When you analyze, assess and optimize your spending and consider how to save money in quarantine, youâll be in as strong a financial position as possible when life gets back to normal.
If youâve been fortunate enough to save money in quarantine, consider starting or adding to your emergency fund. Not sure where to store your savings? Check out the four best places to keep your emergency fund.
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 How to Save More Money in the Stay-at-Home Economy by Focusing on What Matters Most appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Your utility bills likely make up a significant part of your monthly budget, so itâs important to keep a close eye on them. But while your rent or mortgage stays the same month to month, your utilities donât.
Sweltering summer days and icy winter nights can lead to budget-blowing spikes in your utility bills, and no matter how hard you try to budget and plan, you canât predict the total each month. Or can you?
Budget billing may offer the consistency you crave. Here, personal finance experts describe how budget billing works and explain who may benefit from it, empowering you to answer this question for yourself: Does budget billing save money?
What is budget billing and how does it work?
As you consider this option, your first question might be: What is budget billing? Budget billing is a service offered by some utility companies that provides a set monthly bill for services like gas or electricity.
How does budget billing work? To calculate your monthly budget billing amount, a utility company will look at your past usage, typically over the last year, and average it to determine your monthly charge, says Sara Rathner, financial author and credit cards expert at NerdWallet. This will give you a predictable bill to pay each month, rather than one that fluctuates.
Keep in mind that if you recently moved into your home, the charges used to calculate your budget billing amount may be based on the previous ownersâ or rentersâ usage, says Rathner. Your actual usage may end up being more or less than theirs.
Another point to remember on how budget billing works: While budget billing gives you a steady amount to pay each month, this amount can, and likely will, change over time. Some providers update bill amounts quarterly, some annually. Thereâs no universal timeline for these updates, so be sure to ask your utility provider about its specific process, says Lance Cothern, CPA and founder of personal finance blog Money Manifesto.
These changes are made to capture your actual usage, whether that usage has decreased (a mild summer allowed you to keep the AC off more often) or increased (a brutally cold winter forced you to blast the heat). Typically, you will be notified in advance of the change.
Now that you know how budget billing works, you may be wondering: Could it save me cash?
Does budget billing save money?
âBudget billing won’t save you money; it just evens your bill out over time,â Cothern says.
How does budget billing work if you end up using less energy and overpay? You may be reimbursed for the amount you paid above your actual energy usage, or the amount overpaid will be applied to next year.
âAnyone who sticks to a strict, detailed monthly budget may prefer the predictability of budget billing.â
How does budget billing work if you underpay? Youâll have to pay the extra amount to make up the difference. These payments or credits happen in addition to any adjustments your provider makes to your monthly bill if your usage changes over time, Cothern says.
What are the benefits of budget billing?
Overall, thereâs a fairly straightforward answer to what budget billing is, and the benefits are clear, too. While it doesnât save you money per se, it may allow you to more easily manage your monthly budget.
For example, if you know your monthly electricity bill will be $100, you can account for this expense in your budget and more precisely allocate funds into other expenses or savings.
âAnyone who sticks to a strict, detailed monthly budget may prefer the predictability of budget billing,â Rathner says. âYou know exactly how much your utility bill will be each month and can plan your other spending around it.â
Combine budget billing with autopay and you can set and forget your utility bills, ensuring theyâre paid on time and in full, making money management a lot simpler. This could also help you deal with financial stress.
What are the downsides of budget billing?
While budget billing has its pros, it also comes with cons. Does budget billing save you money? To help answer that question, consider the following:
You may face extra fees. Some utility companies charge a fee for budget billing. In Cothernâs view, this negates the benefit since thereâs no reason to pay tacked-on fees for this service. Itâs important to find out whether there are fees before signing up when youâre researching how budget billing works.
You may ignore your utility usage. Budget billing puts your monthly utility charges, as well as your actual usage, out of sight and out of mind. Without the threat of a higher bill or the reward of a lower one based on your energy habits, some people get complacent, Rathner says. They leave lights on or turn up the heat instead of grabbing a blanket. If this sounds like you, budget billing may actually cost you money in the long run.
âAlways keep an eye on your monthly bill even though you pay a level amount for months at a time,â Cothern says. Most utility companies provide your usage information right on your bill.
If you can financially handle the seasonal swings of each bill, budget billing may not be much of a benefit for you, Cothern says. Paying the full amount also means youâre paying attention to the full amount, he says, which may motivate you to reduce your energy consumption. And thatâs where the real opportunity to save money lies.
By considering potential fees and the impact on your energy usage, youâll have a good sense of whether budget billing saves you money in the long run.
Make the most of how budget billing works with this hack
After scrutinizing how budget billing works, the potential downsides have led some financial pros, Cothern among them, to develop a new hack for paying utility bills.
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Instead of signing up for budget billing, open a savings account online specifically for utilities, Cothern suggests. Youâll also want to sign up for a rewards credit card, if you donât have one already.
Next, grab your last 12 months of utility bills, total them up and divide by 12 to get your monthly average. Youâll then want to set up an automatic transfer of that amount from your checking account into the utility savings account each month.
When the utility bill comes, pay it with your rewards credit card and then pay that bill with the money in your savings. You reap the benefits of maintaining a consistent amount coming out of your budget, as well as credit card rewards and any interest earned on that money from your savings account.
Do your homework before signing up for budget billing
After weighing your options and considering your personal budgeting style, you may decide that budget billing is right for you.
If thatâs the case, itâs important to read your utilityâs program rules in detail. Yes, that means digging into the fine print to understand how budget billing works at the specific company, Cothern says, because budget billing is a general term for a wide variety of utility company programs. Budget billing may be called something else, like flat billing or balanced billing, and it may carry different nuances and terms.
Before signing up for budget billing, Rathner suggests calling your provider and asking the following questions:
Are there startup or maintenance fees?
How is the monthly amount calculated? How often is it updated?
What happens if you overpay or underpay?
What happens when you move or end service?
With the answers to these questions, youâll have a better idea of how budget billing works for your provider. Armed with that info, you can determine whether budget billing saves you money and make the call on whether enrolling is right for you.
Whether you opt for budget billing or not, small adjustments to your home can result in major savings on your energy bills. For starters, check out these four ways to save energy by going green.
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 What Is Budget Billing and Is It Right for You? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Thereâs something weird happening with the real estate markets today. Normally in a recession, demand for rentals goes up while demand for houses goes down. But if thereâs anything 2020 has taught us, itâs that everything is turned on its head right now.
Instead, weâre seeing an interesting trend: despite the ongoing pandemic, home-buying is experiencing higher demand now than they have been since 1999, according to the National Association of Realtorsâ (NAR). If youâve been hoping to buy a home soon, youâre probably already aware of this weird trend, and excited. But is it the same story everywhere? And is a pandemic really the right time to buy?
How the Pandemic is Changing Homeownership
This pandemic is different from any other in history in that many people â especially some of the highest-paid workers â arenât being hit as hard as people who rely on their manual labor for income. This, coupled with an ultra-low mortgage rate environment and a new lifestyle thatâs not fit for a cramped apartment, is creating the perfect storm of high-dollar homebuyers.
âI didnât want to pay someone elseâs mortgage to have three roommates,â says Amy Klegarth, a genomics specialist who recently purchased a home in White Center, a suburb of Seattle where she was formerly renting. âI moved because I could afford to get a house with a large yard here for my goats, Taco and Piper.â
Whether you have goat kids or human kids (or even no kids), youâre not the only one looking for a new home in a roomier locale. According to the NAR report, home sales in suburban areas went up 7% compared to just before the pandemic started. In some markets, itâs not hard to understand why people are moving out.
Where Are People Going?
Apartments are small everywhere, but theyâre not all the same price. For example, homes in cities tend to be 300 square feet smaller than their suburban counterparts. Some of the hottest home-buying markets right now are in areas where nearby rents are already too high, often clustered around tech and finance hubs that attract high-paid workers. After all, if you canât go into the office and all of the normal city attractions are shut down, whatâs the point of paying those high rental costs?
According to a December 2020 Zumper report, the top five most expensive rental markets in the U.S. are San Francisco, New York City, Boston, San Jose, and Oakland. But if youâre ready to buy a home during the pandemic, there are nearby cheaper markets to consider.
If You Rent in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, CA
Alternative home-buying market:San Diego, Sacramento
Average rent: San Francisco, $2,700, San Jose, $2,090; Oakland; $2,000
Average home value (as of writing): San Diego ($675,496) and Sacramento ($370,271)
Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: San Diego ($2,255) and Sacramento ($1,236)
Big California cities are the quintessential meccas for tech workers, and thatâs often exactly whoâs booking it out of these high-priced areas right now. Gay Cororaton, Director of Housing and Commercial Research for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), offers two suggestions for San Francisco and other similar cities in California.
First, is the San Diego-metro area, which has a lot to offer people who are used to big-city living but donât want the big-city prices. An added bonus: your odds of staying employed as a tech worker might be even higher in this city.
âProfessional tech services jobs make up 18% of the total payroll employment, which is actually a higher fraction than San Jose (15.5%) and San Francisco (9.3%),â says Cororaton.
If youâre willing to go inland, you can find even cheaper prices yet in Sacramento. âTech jobs have been growing, and account for 7% of the workforce,â says Cororaton. âStill not as techie as San Jose, San Francisco, or San Diego, but tech jobs are moving there where housing is more affordable. Itâs also just 2 hours away from Lake Tahoe.â
If You Rent in New York, NY
Alternative home-buying market: New Rochelle, Yonkers, Nassau, Newark, Jersey City
Average rent: $2,470
Average home value (as of writing): New Rochelle ($652,995), Yonkers ($549,387), Nassau ($585,741), Newark ($320,303), or Jersey City ($541,271)
Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: New Rochelle ($2,180), Yonkers ($1,834), Nassau ($1,955), Newark ($1,069), or Jersey City ($1,807)
Living in New York City, it might seem like you donât have any good options. But the good news is you do â lots of them, in fact. They still might be more expensive than the average home price across the U.S., but these alternative markets are still a lot more affordable than within, say, Manhattan.
New Rochelle and Yonkers
Both New Rochelle and Yonkers are about an hourâs drive from the heart of New York City, says Corcoran. If you ride by train, itâs a half hour. Both New Rochelle and Yonkers have been stepping up their appeal in recent years to attract millennials who canât afford city-living anymore (or donât want to be âhouse poorâ), so youâll be in good company.
âNAR ranked Nassau as one of the top places to work from home in the state of New York because it has already a large population of workers in professional and business services and has good broadband access,â says Cororaton. If you have ideas about moving to Nassau youâll need to move quickly. Home sales are up by 60% this year compared to pre-pandemic times.
Newark or Jersey City
If you donât mind moving to a different state (even if it is a neighbor), you can find even lower real estate prices in New Jersey. This might be a good option if you only need to ride back into the city on occasion because while the PATH train is well-developed, itâs a bit longer of a ride, especially if you live further out in New Jersey.
If You Rent in Boston, MA
Alternative home-buying market: Quincy, Framingham, Worcester
Average rent: $2,150
Average home value (as of writing): Quincy ($517,135), Framingham ($460,584), or Worcester ($284,936)
Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: Quincy ($1,726), Framingham ($1,538), or Worcester ($951)
Boston is another elite coastal market, but unlike New York, thereâs still plenty of space if you head south or even inland. In particular, Quincy and Framingam still offer plenty of deals for new buyers.
If you like your suburbs a bit more on the urban side, consider Quincy. Although itâs technically outside of the city, itâs also not so isolated that youâll feel like youâre missing out on the best parts of Boston-living. Youâll be in good company too, as there are plenty of other folks living here who want to avoid the high real estate prices within Boston itself.
Framingham is undergoing an active revitalization right now in an effort to attract more people to its community. As such, youâll be welcome in this town thatâs only a 30-minute drive from Boston.
âNow, if you can work from home, consider Worcester,â says Cororaton. âItâs an hour away from Boston which is not too bad if you only have to go to the Boston office, say, twice a week.â Worcester (pronounced âwuh-sterâ) is also a great place for a midday break if you work from home, with over 60 city parks to choose from for a stroll.
Average Rent for 1-Bedroom Apartment
Housing Market Options & Avg. Monthly Mortgage*
San Francisco, CASan Jose, CAOakland, CA
San Diego ($2,255) Sacramento ($1,236)
New York, NY
New Rochelle ($2,180) Yonkers ($1,834)Nassau ($1,955)Newark ($1,069)Jersey City ($1,807)
*Average home mortgage estimates based on a 20% down payment.
Should You Buy a House During a Pandemic?
Thereâs no right or wrong answer here, but itâs a good idea to consider your long-term housing needs versus just whatâll get you through the next few months.
For example, just about everyone would enjoy some more room in their homes to stretch right now. But if youâre the type of person who prefers a night on the town, you might be miserable in a rural area by the time things get back to normal. But if youâve always dreamed of a big vegetable garden or yard for the family dog, now could be the right time to launch those plans.
Another factor to consider is job security. And remember that even if youâre permanently working from home today â and not everyone has this ability â living further from the city could limit your future opportunities if a job requires you to be on-site in the city.
Finally, consider this: most homes in outlying areas werenât built with the pandemic in mind. For example, â… open floor plans were popular, pre-pandemic,â says Cororaton. âIf the home for sale has an open floor plan, youâd have to imagine how to reconfigure the space and do some remodeling to create that work or school area.â
Here are some other things to look for:
Area for homeschooling
Broadband internet access
Proximity to transport routes
Office for working from home
Is It More Affordable to Buy or Rent?
There arenât any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to whether itâs cheaper to rent or buy. Each of these choices has associated costs. To rent, youâll need to pay for your base rent, pet fees and rent, parking permits, deposits, renters insurance, and more. To buy, youâll have an even bigger list, including property taxes, maintenance and upgrades, HOA fees, homeowners insurance, closing costs, higher utility bills, and on.
Each of these factors has the potential to tip the balance in favor of buying or renting. Thatâs why it makes sense to use a buy vs. rent calculator that can track all of these moving targets and estimate which one is better based on your financial situation and the choices available to you.
In general, though, most experts advise keeping your housing costs to below 30 percent of your take-home pay when setting up your budget. The lower, the better â then, youâll have even more money left over to save for retirement, your kidâs college education, and even to pay your mortgage off early.
The post Popular Housing Markets During the Pandemic appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
One of the good things of working for a company is that they create a retirement plan for you. As an employee, you don’t have to do anything else but to participate in the plan. However, when you’re self-employed or a small business owner, you’re responsible of setting up your own retirement plan.
When it comes to operating your own business, time is of the essence. However, even if you’re crazy busy, saving for retirement should be a priority. Indeed, a retirement account allows you to contribute pre-tax money, which lowers your taxable income.
Luckily, a financial advisor can help you save time and help you choose the right plan that is best for you. Below are four retirement saving options you can create as a self-employer individual.
1. Solo 401k
A solo 401k is for small businesses or sole proprietors who don’t have any employees other than a spouse working for the business. The solo 401k mirrors a typical 401k plan that most companies offer. The main difference is that you can contribute as an employee and employer.
In other words, because you’re both the boss and the worker, you get to contribute in each capacity. That in turn allows you to contribute a higher amount each year. However, your total yearly contributions cannot exceed $58,000 or $64,000 for individuals age 50 or older as of 2021. To set up a solo 401k, you have to get in touch with a financial institution.
2. SEP IRA
If you’re an independent contractor, self-employed, or has a small business with 25 employees or less you can set up a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension). It’s very easy to establish and don’t even require you to incorporate your business to qualify.
In a SEP IRA, the employer alone contributes to the fund, not the employees. You can contribute up to 25% of your annual salary or $58,000 in 2021, whichever is less.
3. Keogh Plan
Keogh plans are available to self-employed people, including sole proprietors who file Schedule C or a partnership whose members file Schedule E. This type of plan is preferable among those who have a high and stable income.
But the main advantage the Keogh has is the high maximum contribution you can make. In 2021, you can contribute up to $58,000. To set up, you will need to work with a financial institution such as Charles Schwab.Â
4. Simple IRA
The Simple IRA was created by the Small Business Protection Act to help those who work at small companies to save for retirement. The small business can offer the plan if it has 100 or fewer employees.
Both the employer and the employee can contribute up to $13,000 in 2021, plus an additional catch-up amount of $3,000 if you’re 50 or older. If a company offers a Simple IRA, it must match an employee’s contribution dollar for dollar, up to 3% of each participant’s annual salary or make a nonelective 2% contribution to all employees.
Where to Invest Your Keogh, SEP IRA, Solo 401k, Simple IRA
As a small business owner, there is always an investment program that suits your needs for your IRA, SEP, Keogh and solo 401k. Places such as banks, brokerage firms and mutual funds institutions such as Vanguard, Fidelity, Charles Schwab are great options. But before opening account, make sure you consider how much money you have, your appetite for risks, the annual fee, etc.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a small business owner or self employed, you should take advantage of the tax benefits offered by these plans mentioned above. Creating a retirement plan is important, because not only will you be able to grow your retirement savings faster but also no one is going to do it for you.Â
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Retirement planning can be a major challenge, but you don’t have to go in it alone. Speak with a financial advisor who can help you come up with a unique plan based on your circumstances and situations. Use SmartAsset advisor matching toolÂ to get matched with fiduciary financial advisors in just 5 minutes.
The post How to Create Your Own Retirement Plan appeared first on GrowthRapidly.