Meet The Real Estate Tech Entrepreneur: Annelies Powell from DreamSpace

We kick off our 2021 real estate tech entrepreneur interview series with Annelies Powell from Dreamspace, a New Zealand based startup.

Let’s get to it!

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Annelies Powell, CEO and co-founder of DreamSpace, an accelerator of vertical housing through rapid, repeatable, permits.

Our startup is working on the crux of the supply and demand housing crisis. We focus on permits as these are the key to rapid scalability of what gets built and where, and ultimately the experience of the occupants.

What problem does your product/service solve?

The housing industry keeps giving us ‘solutions’, but the reality is we all need to recalibrate our expectations on a home. Downgrade, downsize or move out of the city you love. The future of housing won’t be better than the past.

Or, at least that is what we’ve all been told.

DreamSpace thinks differently.

Our B2B2C solution will not only fundamentally change the way we scale vertical housing in cities, but will also vastly improve the outcomes. Our repeatable design and permits give way to unparalleled efficiencies so that we can give all occupants an affordable, 2000ft², spacious, private, home in the sky. It’s the future you didn’t imagine possible.

What are you most excited about right now?

Right now I’m most excited about the sales leads coming in. New Zealand (our test market) has a property market which is booming right now. People want a more convenient life, which DreamSpace is all about. I talk directly to each lead which has been invaluable to hear what users want their dream homes to be all about, their pain points, and what has them looking in the first place.

What’s next for you?

Right now we’re focusing on an early-stage capital raise. This is for our first permit and partnership with a construction company to get things built. It’s a steep learning curve and of course insanely satisfying to work on something we’re so passionate about.

What’s a cause you’re passionate about and why?

Without a doubt the prosperity of humanity working in harmony with this planet. To me, there’s no priority. I try to read books that open up my world view of people who’ve implemented large scale change for both humanity and the environment. Education, technology and the climate are some obvious themes. Naturally, these themes slip into my work, which feels like a good way to have a practical channel in taking action on bigger causes for concern in the world too.

Meet The RE Tech EntrepreneurThanks to Annelies for sharing her story. If you’d like to connect, find her on LinkedIn here.

We’re constantly looking for great real estate tech entrepreneurs to feature. If that’s you, please read this post — then drop us a line (Community @ geekestatelabs dot com).

The post Meet The Real Estate Tech Entrepreneur: Annelies Powell from DreamSpace appeared first on GeekEstate Blog.

Source: geekestateblog.com

Money-Saving Hacks to Implement Now

Redo your monthly budget (and stick to it)

You can do plenty of things to improve your budget, and it's not all about pain and suffering, as many would have you believe. Everyone has a few things they overspend on. The challenge lies in identifying those particular items and weeding them out. A good place to begin is with restaurant spending, grocery bills, and impulse buying. A wise general philosophy is to assign a destination for every dollar you earn and place that category on your budget. Try cutting restaurant expenditures in half, reducing impulse buys at convenience stores, and shopping for groceries just once each week to regulate what goes toward food items.

Refinance your education debt

If you have any education debt still hanging around after all these years, refinancing student loans through a private lender is a way to lessen your monthly expenses. Not only can you get a longer repayment period, but have the chance to snag a favorable interest rate. But the clincher for money-saving enthusiasts is that your monthly payments can instantly go way down. That means extra cash for whatever you want. Use the excess to fatten savings or IRA accounts, or pay off high-interest credit card debt.

Install a programmable thermostat

For less than $20, it's possible to chop at least three percent off your utility bills and perhaps much more than that. 

Programmable thermostats are easy to install. You don't need special tools or advanced skills. Be sensible about summer and winter settings and you'll see a difference in your electric bill almost immediately, especially during the hottest months of the year. Don't forget to program the device to go into low-use mode while you're away for long weekends or longer vacations.

Join a shopping club

Although shopping clubs come with annual membership fees, the savings on groceries, household items, and gasoline usually offset them within a month or two of actively using the membership. That leaves the other months of the year for you to save money on household necessities. 

For people who drive a lot, shopping clubs with on-site gas stations offer one of the best deals going. Not only do the clubs offer gasoline for about 10 cents off the regular price, but some also offer free car washes and coupons for repair work at participating shops. Although shopping clubs are a win for most anyone, a family of three or more can log thousands per year in savings.

Refinance your home or car

If you have owned your home or car long enough to ride the interest rate waves, you likely qualify for a refinancing agreement. This strategy is excellent for consumers who have better credit now than when they made the original purchase. 

Young couples are perfectly positioned to refinance a home after several years of making payments on it. Likewise, anyone who still owes on a vehicle and can get a lower interest rate should look into a car or truck refi. Not only can you get additional months to pay off the obligation, but with a lower rate, you stand to save a nice chunk of money.

Take bagged lunches to work

One of the oldest, more reliable ways to instantly cut personal expenses is to prepare and take your own lunch to work each day. Not only do you save money by not eating out or buying lunch in the company cafeteria, but you also have added control over what you eat. That means you're doing a favor for your wallet and your health at the same time. 

Don't fall into the rut of eating at your desk. Consider taking your bagged meal outside and enjoying the scenery, taking a walk after eating, or joining friends in the cafeteria to socialize. 

Use public transportation as often as possible

If you live on or near a bus or light-rail route, do the logistical planning necessary to travel to work at least a few times each week by public transit instead of by car. 

Unless you reside in a small town, chances are you have access to buses and trains for commuting purposes. Once you get into a habit of using the public transit system, consider buying a one-month or annual pass, which can represent a major discount on one-time fare prices. Public transportation can take a bit longer to get you to your destination, but it's easy enough to make use of the time reading, catching up on work, or just relaxing.

Use credit cards wisely

If you use credit cards to make purchases you can't afford, you're headed for trouble. But if you use your plastic wisely, you can reap real benefits.

If you have a good credit rating, you'll likely qualify for cashback cards that give a percentage of your money back on some or all of your purchases. You can use that cash to pay for a portion of your monthly credit card bill. You could also let your cashback savings accumulate and use it to pay for larger purchases in the future.

Just make sure not to outspend your monthly budget so you're able to pay your credit card balance off in full each month. Keeping a balance on your cards is counterproductive because you'll also be paying interest fees.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

What to Do With a Childhood Savings Bond

savings bond

A savings bond used to be a common gift, though not always a welcome one. Well-meaning relatives gifted savings bonds for your birthday or the holidays. The goal was often to help you pay for college in the future. But for us kids, all we knew was it wasn’t the Pound Puppy or Care Bear we really wanted!

Nowadays 529 plans and other higher-interest earning options have replaced the savings bond. But that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. In fact, they may be sitting at the back of your closet right now. But you are cleaning out your closet or your safe deposit box, and now this long-forgotten and unexpected savings bond can help you clean up your finances.

It’s Still Good

That savings bond is still worth something. That’s the good news. Savings bonds gain value over time by earning interest and keep earning interest for 30 years. They pay interest every six months until they mature. So depending on how long it’s been since you cleaned your closet, you may still be making money as you read this. Now there are some steps you have to take to get money in return.

What Type of Savings Bond

There are several kinds of savings bonds. So you much determine which kind you have in your possession. Savings bonds are a contract between you and the federal government. If it’s an old bond from your childhood it is probably either an EE or an I bond. It will be clearly specified in the title which one you have.

EE bonds are similar to savings accounts. Paper bonds used to be sold at half the face value (you paid $50 for a $100 bond) and the interest continued to increase even after the face value is reached, so your $100 savings bond is probably worth more than $100 now. Paper EE bonds are no longer available and digital EE bonds are purchased at face value.

I bonds are similar to EE bonds. The chief difference is that the interest earned on an I bond is determined by a combination of a fixed rate and an inflation rate.  So there is some cost-of-living protection for the bondholder.

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Find Out What It’s Worth

Before you decide to cash in the savings bond, you’ll probably want to know what it’s worth. The interest rates and even the way interest rates are determined have changed over the years so it matters when you got yours. The best way to determine the current value of your savings bond is to use the Treasury Direct website. Whether you want to cash in the bond or continue to let it mature is then up to you.

There are some penalties for cashing in the savings bond early. If you redeem the bond early, you will lose three months’ worth of interest during the first five years. There are no penalties after five years. The earliest you can cash in the bond is after one year. If the bond is more than 30 years old, it has stopped earning interest and you should cash it in.

While you will have to pay federal taxes on your bonds, you do not have to pay state or local income taxes. There are some exemptions – most notably when bonds issued after 1989 are cashed in to pay qualified higher education expenses at an eligible institution.

Visit the Bank

Most banks should be able to help you cash your paper bonds. If they aren’t, they should be able to direct you to a financial institution that can. You will have to prove your identity to cash in your old bonds. You will have to fill out an tax form either when you redeem the bonds or at the end of the year. Your tax preparer should be able to help you with this part of the process.

More Money-Saving Reads:

  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
  • What’s a Bad Credit Score?
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

Image: iStock

The post What to Do With a Childhood Savings Bond appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Options for Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness

Loan forgiveness is a trade-off. It’s about incentivizing graduates to work in low paying or otherwise undesirable positions in exchange for erasing or significantly reducing their student loan balance. Without these programs, important community institutions would be severely understaffed.

If you’re a teacher or education student reading this, those criteria probably sound familiar.

Many school districts struggle to fully staff their schools, especially when it comes to certain positions. Loan forgiveness programs are one of the best ways for them to attract job candidates and retain them for long enough to make an impact.

Teachers have several options when it comes to loan forgiveness. Here’s what you should know about each one.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is the only federal loan forgiveness program specifically designed for teachers. Math or science teachers who teach in secondary schools or special education teachers can have up to $17,500 worth of loans forgiven. Any other kind of teacher can only receive up to $5,000 worth of loan forgiveness.

The program has strict requirements. Teachers must hold a license or certification in their state and teach for five consecutive years in a school that primarily serves low-income students. A list of eligible schools is available here.

Teachers qualify even if they work at different schools for each of the five years, but each of those schools must be eligible.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness is only available for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, as well as Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. Perkins loans are not eligible.

If you have a Direct Consolidation Loan or a Federal Consolidation Loan that includes a Perkins loan, that portion won’t be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. PLUS or graduate school loans are also not eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) is arguably the best forgiveness option for teachers. Unlike the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, borrowers don’t have to work consecutive years to qualify. This is especially helpful for teachers who take a year or two off.

Teachers can work for an elementary or secondary school, in either a public or private school setting. They must work at least 30 hours a week to qualify. After 120 qualifying payments, they can apply to have their remaining loan balance forgiven. There is no limit on how much will be discharged, and teachers won’t owe taxes on the forgiven amount.

Only Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF. If you have FFEL or Perkins Loans, you’ll have to consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify.

Teachers should submit the PSLF employer certification form every year, which will verify the employer and calculate how many qualifying payments have been made.

PSLF can be used with Teacher Loan Forgiveness, but borrowers will only receive credit for one program at a time. If $5,000 of your loans is forgiven after five years through Teacher Loan Forgiveness, those five years’ worth of payments will not count toward PSLF.

While working toward PSLF, teachers will have to choose from one of the income-driven repayment plans. These options will lower your monthly payment.

Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation

Teachers with Perkins loans can have their loan balance entirely discharged. To be eligible, they must work full-time in a school with low-income children or as a special education teacher. Teachers can also become eligible by teaching a subject that has a shortage of teachers in their state.

Private school teachers and those who have two part-time teaching jobs also qualify. Preschool and kindergarten teachers may only be eligible if their state considers those grades to be part of elementary education.

Unlike PSLF or the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, teachers can earn partial loan forgiveness. They’ll get 100% forgiveness after five years of service.

Here’s how much will be forgiven each year:

  • 15% forgiven after one year of work
  • 15% forgiven after two years of work
  • 20% forgiven after three years of work
  • 20% forgiven after four years of work
  • 30% forgiven after five years of work

State Forgiveness Programs

Your state may have its own teacher forgiveness program. Go here to see what options are available. You can also try Googling your state and “teacher forgiveness program” and see what comes up. You may have to teach in an underserved area or teach a specific subject to qualify.

Options for Private Student Loans

Teachers with private loans rarely have access to loan forgiveness. Here are some options available to them:

Refinance private loans

If you want to save money on private loans, your best option is to refinance to a lower interest rate.

Private lenders often require a credit score of 650 or higher to qualify for a refinance. Some lenders may also have an income requirement, but this depends on the specific lender. For example, LendKey accepts borrowers with low salaries.

When you refinance private loans, make sure you understand the term you’re signing up for. For example, if you have five years left on your private loans and refinance to a 10-year term, you may end up paying more interest over the life of the loan because the term is doubled.

If you can afford it, keep making the same payments as you were before. Assuming you haven’t significantly changed your budget or lost your source of income, this should be doable. Keeping the same payment rate will let you repay the loan faster and save on interest.

Take out a home equity loan

If you’re a homeowner, you can withdraw extra equity from your house and use it to repay your student loans. Generally, you’ll need to have 80% or more equity in the home to qualify.

Home equity loans may have lower interest rates and longer terms than private student loans. It may also be easier to qualify for a home equity loan because the bank has collateral behind it.

The downside to this strategy is that if you default on a home equity loan, the bank may repossess your house. Comparatively, refinancing your private student loans has much lower stakes.

The post Options for Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is a Stafford Loan and How Do You Qualify?

How do you qualify for a stafford loan?

If you’re in search of financial help for higher education, you may have explored different scholarships and grants to pay the way. Gifted money is a great way to pay for school without having to worry about paying it back after graduation. However, if you don’t have all your expenses covered through scholarships and grants, you might need to consider student loans to fill in the gaps. If you’re exploring federal aid, Stafford loans might be an option. Here’s what they are, how much they cost and how to know if you qualify.

What Is a Stafford Loan?

A Stafford loan is a federal student loan provided by the government to help pay for your education while you’re attending a university, community college, trade or technical school. 

Stafford loans are now referred to as direct subsidized loans or direct unsubsidized loans. The difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans is who pays for the accrued interest of the loan while you’re in school and how much you may be able to borrow.

A subsidized loan is only available to undergraduate students in financial need. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest that adds up on your behalf while you’re in school at least half-time, as well as during the six-month grace period after graduation and during deferment or forbearance periods. The limit on how much you can borrow is $3,500 for the first year, $4,500 for the second and $5,500 for the third and fourth years. The aggregate loan amount is capped at $23,000, which is lower than unsubsidized loans.

An unsubsidized loan is available for both graduate and undergraduate students and isn’t based on financial need. The student is responsible for the interest that builds up while in school. Payments could be more costly than those for a subsidized loan because of that accrued interest.

If a subsidized loan doesn’t cover all your college costs, you can take out an unsubsidized loan, too. The aggregate loan amount for unsubsidized loans is capped at $31,000 for undergraduate students considered dependents and whose parents don’t qualify for direct PLUS loans. Undergraduate independent students may be allowed to borrow up to $57,500, while graduate students may be allowed to borrow up to $138,500.

These types loans have fixed interest rates determined by the government, come with a fee and allow the student to borrow for up to 150% of the length of the program they’re enrolled in. For example, if you’re attending a four-year college, you would be able to borrow these loans for up to six years.

How to Qualify for a Stafford Loan How do you qualify for a stafford loan?

What you need to get a Stafford loan depends on your financial standing.

Students or parents of the student must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Next, you’ll receive an award letter that details if you qualify for a Stafford loan. Your financial need determines if you’ll get a direct subsidized loan. If you don’t qualify, then you may receive a direct unsubsidized loan.

If you do qualify for one of these loans and you’re ready to accept the federal aid, you’ll need to submit a Mastery Promissory Note (MPN). This is a legal document which states that you promise to pay back your loans in full, including any fees and accrued interest, to the U.S. Department of Education. The school of your choice will determine how much money you’re eligible to receive and the funds go straight to your school – not to you. Since you can receive money based on your need or school enrollment – not your credit score – only your application is required.

Stafford Loan Alternatives

If you’ve exhausted all of your financial aid options, it might be time to explore other means to pay for school.

Direct PLUS Loans

Direct Plus loans are federal loans that are available to graduate or professional students, or parents of undergraduate students. They require a credit check and you might be required to make payments while you or your child is in school. However, you could request deferment and make payments after you or your child graduates or drops below half-time.

Private Student Loans

If you can’t get any further federal aid, you may consider private student loans. Instead of coming from the U.S. Department of Education, these types of loans are issued from private issuers, such as banks, credit unions or online lenders.

If you’re not sure where else to look, contact your school’s financial aid office. It may have scholarships, grants or other small loans available that you might qualify for.

The Bottom Line

How do you qualify for a stafford loan?

College is expensive and not everyone can afford to pay for it out of pocket. Tapping into financial resources, including Stafford loans like subsidized and unsubsidized loans, as well as direct Plus loans and private student loans, may help. Don’t be afraid to contact your school’s financial aid office for even more resources to pay for school.

Tips for Student Loan Borrowers

  • If you’re not sure of the best strategy for securing student loans, consider working with a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Interest rates for private student loans are often higher than those for federal loans. If you or your child is struggling to pay private student loans, consider student loan refinance rates available now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/William_Potter, ©iStock.com/utah778, ©iStock.com/BrianAJackson

The post What Is a Stafford Loan and How Do You Qualify? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

5 Online Learning Platforms to Help Bolster your Resume

Being a lifelong learner is one of the best ways to stay engaged in your job, whatever field you’re in.

There are a lot of ways to exemplify curiosity and a penchant for learning new skills: meeting regularly with your boss, attending professional development days and taking classes to hone a professional skill.

It has become more accessible and easier than ever to take courses to elevate your professional expertise. There are endless online resources to peruse, so it helps to be deliberate before diving in.

Julia Quirk, SPHR, a 10-year veteran of the HR industry and senior HR manager for TriSalus, recommends being practical and strategic about honing your professional talents.

“Look at the skills needed for your industry and the jobs you’re interested in,” said Quirk. “I recommend starting by first doing some research about what will actually be impressive to people in your career field, and then seeking out professional education opportunities from there.”

Quirk noted that digital classes and certifications are some of the best ways to boost your resume and grow in your current position. Here are some of her topic picks for online learning platforms.

1. Coursera

Coursera works with over 200 leading institutions and companies worldwide to provide courses on topics ranging from data science to personal improvement. Partners like Yale University, IBM and Google provide outlines for more than 3,900 courses.

Coursera is free to join and nearly all of its courses can be accessed at no cost. The catch here is that to take a course for free, you’ll be using the “audit” function, which means no grade and sometimes no official certificate is offered — but all the knowledge and coursework is. Some classes on Coursera are paid-only and will generally set you back about $50 per month.

Coursera also gives you the opportunity to see how a particular course benefited other students, breaking down what percentage of past students either started a new career after taking a course or got a tangible career benefit from it.

2. Google Skillshop

Google Skillshop is one of the classic online learning platforms. The technology behind Google Ads, Google Analytics and more is powerful, and mastering it can benefit nearly any line of work.

Google Skillshop provides learn-at-your-own-pace courses to help you become an expert in Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Marketing Platform, Google My Business, Google Ad Manager, Google AdMob, Authorized Buyers, and Waze. All courses in the skillshop are free.

Most options are videos, slides and quick quizzes that build into a final assessment. A certificate is awarded to passing students and is usually valid for 12 months.

3. LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) offers a free one-month trial before charging $30 a month as part of a larger LinkedIn Premium subscription.

LinkedIn Learning provides thousands of programs covering topics such as marketing tactics, mobile app development and how to use Photoshop. The courses are generally self-paced, with a LinkedIn Learning certificate awarded on completion that you can display on your LinkedIn profile.

And, with LinkedIn Learning, the classes are taught by top leaders from diverse backgrounds: Guy Kawasaki, Ben Long and David Rivers are just some of the highlights.

4. Online College Courses

One of the good things to come out of 2020 was the abundance of college courses made available for free online. While some universities have always offered a select few classes for no-cost online access, institutions like Yale and MIT expanded their libraries last year.

MIT offers free online programming not just on computer science, but also biology, race and ethics, accounting and more.

Yale also makes numerous introductory classes accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Last year, Yale made one of its most famous courses, the Science of Well-Being, available for free on Coursera. This class dives into the meaning of happiness.

Stanford is another university offering public access to many of its courses for free. The university breaks down its offerings into four main categories: Health and Medicine, Education, Engineering and Arts and Humanities.

It’s important to note that very few of these courses offer an official completion certificate or degree, but they’re still impressive to complete and are a strong addition to a resume. Other prestigious institutions like Harvard and Dartmouth also offer free online classes.

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5. Udemy

Udemy is an online learning platform specifically designed to help you bolster your professional skills. Although Udemy courses can range from $10 to $200, one resourceful way to access these classes is through your public library.

Hundreds of public libraries across the nation offer Udemy courses for no cost with just a library card. And if your public library doesn’t have a connection with Udemy, you may be able to get a digital library card elsewhere and still take part in all that Udemy has to offer.

Udemy offers more than 130,000 classes (boasting the world’s largest selection of courses) on topics like Python coding, piano playing and digital marketing.

When a course is complete, the student receives a digital badge and certificate they can affix to their LinkedIn profile (and that should be included on their hardcopy resume, too).

Shine a Spotlight on Your New Skills

Quirk offered some final advice about positioning these certificates and course completions on your resume: “Recruiters skim really fast,” she said. “Make it as easy as possible for recruiters to see the skills you have so they can line them up with the job description.”

Be sure to use keywords on your resume so screening software doesn’t pass you over.

Quirk advised putting the skills you gain from a course in the top part of your resume, but putting the actual course certifications lower down along with any other educational achievements.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

More money, less happiness: When money makes you miserable

More money, less happiness: When money makes you miserableMoney, the conventional wisdom says, doesn’t buy happiness. Modern psychology seems to back this up, with studies suggesting that beyond an income of $75,000, money doesn’t make you any happier.

This conclusion is simultaneously obvious and counter-intuitive.

As an abstract principle, most us acknowledge that money doesn’t buy happiness. But, at the same time, we all want more of something material — a nicer house, nicer vacations, the ability to live in a certain neighborhood or eat at fancier restaurants — that we think would make us happier. (If you’re J.D., you think maybe season tickets to your favorite team might make you happier.)

So, we’re left with a conundrum. Or, rather, a series of conundrums: Does income in excess of $75,000 make us happier? And if not, why not?

When Money Makes You Happier

In answer to the first question, I believe that all else equal — and as we’ll see below, this is a huge qualifier, as things are rarely equal — more money generally makes you happier.

To be clear, money won’t solve every problem. If you’re lonely or bitter or angry, for instance, more money won’t make you any happier. But just because money doesn’t solve every problem doesn’t mean that money won’t solve any problems.

Money can make many things easier, or better. With more money you can:

  • Build a nest-egg.
  • Pay off your house or car.
  • Go on more vacations.
  • Have more kids.
  • Be a stay at home parent.
  • Eat better food.
  • Retire early.

With more money, you can do any number of other things that people enjoy and that make them happier. And if you’re a victim of systemic poverty, more money can change your world.

As much as we pay lip-service to the idea of money not making us happy, it often does, and it’s okay to admit this. It doesn’t make us materialistic or greedy to want retirement savings, a nicer home, a paid-off car, or a trip to Europe.

When Money Makes You Miserable

Assuming that you buy the premise that (in theory) more money should (generally) make us happier, it raises the question of why (in practice) income beyond $75,000 annually doesn’t make us any happier.

I think the explanation for this seemingly irreconcilable conflict is that most people spend the extra income poorly. Most people use money ways that make them less happy.

Their Job Makes Them Miserable.

People who earn a lot of money often assume that they’re paid well because of their intelligence and skills. And that is undoubtedly often the case.

But often they’re paid well in whole (or in part) because they’ve accepted a very difficult, demanding job that pays well precisely because it makes people unhappy! A job with long hours, lots of stress, lots of travel and time away from family and friends will generally pay well, but also significantly impair happiness.

It shouldn’t then be surprising that people with high incomes are often unhappy. The high income and unhappiness have the exact same origins.

They Spend Money on Things That Bring Them No Happiness.

People are generally conformists. Drive through a rich neighborhood, and you’ll see people dressed similarly, driving similar cars, going on similar vacations.

This isn’t just a happy coincidence, that all these kindred spirits serendipitously found each other and formed a happy community. Rather, people succumb to keeping up with the Joneses and continually buy stuff — not because they enjoy it, but because they’d be embarrassed not to have it.

To a large extent, individuals let their peers dictate how they spend their time and money. Living on somebody else’s terms — living somebody else’s life — is not a recipe for happiness, and if you do it, extra money won’t make you any happier. You’ll be spending it how other people want you to, not how you want to.

They Take on More Debt.

When people begin to earn more money, they generally upgrade their lifestyle — buy a nicer home and buy a nicer car. The problem is, they don’t pay cash for these things. Rather, they use their new, higher income as a means to borrow more money. Far from providing financial security, the extra income often makes their financial position more precarious.

Instead of using the extra income to buy freedom and peace of mind — which would make them happier — they incur more debt, which makes them more anxious than ever, with the added fear that if they lose their job, they’ll be humiliated at having to ratchet back their newly lavish lifestyle.

Extra money won’t make you happy if it tethers you to a heavily indebted lifestyle.

The Bottom Line

The lesson here is simple: If you come into more money, it can make you happier — provided that you use it in a way that provides you security, freedom, and sincere pleasure, not merely conformist consumption.

Money, in short, is neutral. It’s a tool that can make you happier, or less happy, depending on how you choose to spend it.

Money will make you happier only if you choose to spend it in accordance with your values and your preferences. Nobody — not your parents, not your friends, not your neighbors, and certainly not a blogger! — knows what makes you happy better than you do. But, this doesn’t stop people from assuming that they know what is best for you: what neighborhood you should live in, what car to drive, what education you “owe” your kids. If you listen to them, more money won’t make you any happier; in fact, it may make you less happy, because you’re working hard and incurring debt to live out somebody else’s life.

Our family’s life is a microcosm of this.

In our twenties, my wife and I both had good jobs in a large city. We had it made by what society values, but we weren’t very happy; we worked long hours at demanding jobs. We did however live frugally relative to our incomes.

Burnt out on our jobs, we eventually moved to a smaller city and my wife quit her job so that we could have three kids that she stayed home with. Those were expensive decisions, both in terms of cash outlays and opportunity cost. But they were good decisions; we had less money, but far more joy.

This trade-off was only possible because we had spent many years saving our money, deferring gratification — ignoring a culture that told us to spend as a reward for our hard work — so that when we finally spent the money, we spent it on something that we valued, namely our family. It was the best decision that we’ve ever made (all the credit goes to my wife!), but it was only possible to live that way in our thirties because of how we had spent, or more accurately not spent, in our twenties.

The point isn’t that we’re so smart, and that you should have a bunch of kids too. It is in fact the opposite: I have no idea what your best life is.

But then again, neither does anybody else besides you. If you find the courage to decide for yourself what you value, and you use money wisely to pursue your goals and your dreams, you will find that, contrary to popular opinion, money will buy you happiness.

Source: getrichslowly.org

Best States for Veterans – 2020 Edition

Image shows an advisor sitting across from a member of military personnel; there are official papers and a computer on the desk between them. In this study, SmartAsset analyzed various data points to find the best states for veterans.

How easily veterans adjust to their lives after service depends on many factors, not the least of which is their ability to maintain adequate finances to cover their home payments and daily needs. There’s good news for vets on that front, though: While about 37,000 veterans still experienced homelessness in January 2019, the homelessness rate among veterans declined more than 2% in 2019 and had decreased 50% since 2010, according to a 2019 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Despite that marked improvement, not all places are equally suited to help veterans thrive. That’s why SmartAsset crunched the numbers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to find the best places for veterans.

To do so, we looked at data across nine metrics: veterans as a percentage of population, veteran unemployment rate, overall unemployment rate, percentage of veterans living below the poverty line, housing costs as a percentage of median income for veterans, percentage of a state’s businesses owned by veterans, number of VA health centers per 100,000 veterans, number of VA benefits administration facilities per 100,000 residents and taxes on military pensions. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Veterans are less likely than the general population to live below the poverty line. Nationally, 11.1% of the U.S. population is living in poverty, according to 2019 figures from the Census Bureau. The average for this metric across this study is 6.7%, possibly because military benefits help keep some veterans afloat when they might otherwise face financial challenges.
  • More populous states may not be as suitable to veterans. The bottom three states in the study are California, New York and Illinois, which have the largest, fourth-largest and sixth-largest state populations, respectively. These states struggle in two metrics: the unemployment rate for veterans and housing costs as a percentage of median income for veterans. This may be due, in part, to their high populations, which increase both competition for available jobs and demand for housing.
  • Pension taxes vary. Each state chooses how to tax military pensions. All in all, 30 states don’t tax military pensions at all, including eight out of the top 10 states (Nebraska and Montana are the exceptions). Military pensions are partially taxed in 13 states, along with the District of Columbia, and they are fully taxed in seven states.

1. South Dakota

South Dakota, home of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, is the best state in the U.S. for veterans. South Dakota has 21.04 Veterans Administration health facilities per 100,000 veterans, which is the second-highest rate for this metric overall, meaning veterans in South Dakota should have relatively good access to health services. There are also 3.51 VA benefits administration facilities per 100,000 residents, ranking 10th. In addition, South Dakota does not tax military pensions.

2. Wyoming

Wyoming takes the runner-up spot. Wyoming has the highest number of VA health facilities in the country, at 28.99 per 100,000 veterans. It also does not tax military pensions. Wyoming finishes in the bottom half of the study in terms of the percentage of veterans who are living below the poverty line (coming in at 38th, with a percentage of 7.1%). However, the veteran unemployment rate in the state is 1.0% – second-lowest in the study – so veterans looking for work could do worse than thinking about the Cowboy State.

3. North Dakota

North Dakota is one of the least populous states in the nation, but it does well by its veterans. The Rough Rider State has the lowest unemployment rate for veterans in the nation, at 0.9%. Its overall September 2020 unemployment rate is also low, coming in at 4.4% – fourth-lowest in the nation. Housing costs make up 19.90% of the median income for a veteran, the second-best rate for this metric in the study.

4. West Virginia

West Virginia has housing costs that make up just 18.95% of the median veteran income, the best rate for this metric in the study. The Mountain State has the sixth-highest concentration of VA health facilities in the study, at 12.39 per 100,000 veterans, and the third-highest number of VA benefits administration facilities, at 5.78 per 100,000 residents. Military pensions are not taxed in this state. See more about retirement tax friendliness in West Virginia here.

5. Maine

Maine is one of two Northeastern states to be ranked in the top 10, and it gets there partially on the strength of its 1.3% veteran unemployment rate, ranking fourth-lowest in the country. Maine’s population is made up of 8.89% veterans, the eighth-highest percentage for this metric. Maine also has 5.13 VA benefits administration centers per 100,000 residents, ranking sixth-best. There are no taxes on military pensions in the Pine Tree State.

6. Alaska

Also known as The Last Frontier State, Alaska has a relatively small population, but one that is 10.74% veterans, the highest percentage for this metric across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Alaska also comes in first for the metric measuring the percentage of businesses owned by veterans, at 11.60%. The state doesn’t do nearly as well, though, when it comes to employing veterans, as the unemployment rate among veterans is 6.3%, near the very bottom of the study. On the plus side, the state does not tax military retirement pay.

7. Nebraska

Nebraska had an overall unemployment rate of just 3.5% in September 2020, the lowest in the country, and that rate is particularly impressive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Nebraska also has the fifth-best unemployment rate for veterans, at just 1.4%. Nebraska taxes some portion of military pensions, making it one of two states in the top 10 of the study where military pensions are not completely tax-free.

8. New Hampshire

Veterans in New Hampshire own 9.42% of the state’s businesses, placing the Granite State at 12th overall for this metric. The entire population of the state is 8.52% veterans, the 14th-highest rate for this metric across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. New Hampshire performs relatively poorly in terms of housing affordability: The average housing cost represents 36.25% of the median veteran income, sixth-highest in the study. However, Military pensions are tax-free in the state. Those who are seeking assistance with balancing all of these financial factors may wish to consult our roundup of the top 10 financial advisors in New Hampshire.

9. Montana

Veterans will find a built-in community in Big Sky Country, where the population is 10.28% veterans, second-highest in the study. That said, Montana taxes military pensions fully – the only state in our top 10 to do so and one of just seven to do so nationwide. Still, Montana ranks ninth for both of the unemployment metrics we measured, with a veteran unemployment rate of 2.3% and an overall September 2020 unemployment rate of 5.3%.

10. Hawaii

Hawaii places first in this study in terms of number of VA benefits administration facilities, at 6.64 per 100,000 veterans. It is important to note, though, that the Aloha State had an unemployment rate of 15.1% in September 2020, ranking last for this metric in the study. Furthermore, housing costs make up 39.41% of median veteran income, second-worst overall. However, only 5.8% of veterans are living below the poverty line, good for 12th overall. The state also has top-20 rankings for veterans as a percentage of the population, veteran-owned businesses as a percentage of all businesses and VA health facilities per 100,000 veterans.

Data and Methodology

To conduct the 2020 version of our study on the best states for veterans, we compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across the following metrics:

  • Veterans as a percentage of the population. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Veteran unemployment rate. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for September 2020.
  • Percentage of veterans living below the poverty line. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of median income for veterans. This is annual median housing costs divided by median income for veterans. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-Year American Community Survey.
  • Share of veteran-owned businesses. This is the percentage of all businesses in a state that are owned by veterans. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 Annual Business Survey.
  • VA health facilities per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • VA benefits administration facilities per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Taxes on military pension. States were assigned a 1 if the state does not tax military retirement pay, a 2 if there are special provisions or other considerations for military pension taxes and a 3 if the state fully taxes military retirement pay. Data comes from militarybenefits.info.

First we ranked each state in each metric. From there, we found the average ranking for each state, giving all metrics a full weight except for the two metrics measuring unemployment, which each received a half weight. We used this average ranking to create our final score. The state with the best average ranking received a score of 100, and the state with the worst average ranking received score of 0.

Money Tips for Veterans

  • Financial help from someone who’s always got your six. Veterans, like everybody else, sometimes need help with financial matters. A financial advisor can provide that help and bring in reinforcements to set you on the right path. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool connects you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.
  • Don’t sacrifice continuing education because of costs. If you want to go to college after you serve, the GI Bill will help — but you may still end up with student loans. To discover how much you’ll need to pay, use SmartAsset’s student loan calculator.
  • Create a strong strategy for your budget. Use SmartAsset’s budget calculator to figure out how much you should be spending on different areas and you’ll make sure you have enough money for everything.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SDI Productions

The post Best States for Veterans – 2020 Edition appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

I Dropped Out of College: My Student Loan Repayment Options

No one intends to drop out of college. If you show up to campus for your freshman year, chances are you plan to graduate in four years and use your degree to land a job. Maybe you even have the whole thing mapped out, step-by-step.

But then life happens. Whether it’s a family emergency, deteriorating health, stress burnout, or just the realization that college isn’t the right choice, plenty of people choose to drop out of their university every year. The problem is, your student loans don’t go away just because you never ended up with a degree.

So how should someone in this position approach student loan repayment? Are there any unique considerations to take into account? Here’s what you need to know.

Choose an Income-Based Repayment Plan

If you have federal student loans, you’re eligible for the same repayment options available to borrowers with a degree.

You may currently be on the standard 10-year repayment plan, which will have the highest monthly payments and the lowest total interest. You have the option of switching to a less expensive option if you’re struggling with those payments. Use the official repayment calculator to see which plan lets you pay the least.

When you choose an extended, income-based, or graduated repayment plan, you’ll pay more interest overall than if you stuck with the standard plan. If you’re not working toward a specific forgiveness program, then it’s best to switch back to the standard plan as soon as you can afford it to minimize the interest.

Refinance Private Loans

Private student loans have fewer income-based repayment options than federal loans, and they rarely offer deferment or forbearance options. But you can refinance private loans for a lower interest rate, even if you dropped out.

There are a few lenders that service borrowers with uncompleted degrees.

These may include:

  • MEF
  • RISLA Student Loan Refinance
  • EDvestinU
  • PNC
  • Wells Fargo
  • Purefy
  • Discover Bank
  • Advance Education Loan
  • Citizens Bank

To be a good candidate for a student loan refinance, you must have a high credit score and no recent bankruptcies or defaults on your credit report. You also need a low debt-to-income ratio, and some lenders may have income requirements.

Financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz of SavingforCollege.com said borrowers are unlikely to be good refinance candidates immediately after college because lenders usually require a minimum amount of full-time employment.

If you dropped out recently, you may want to wait a year before trying to refinance private loans. During that time, check your credit score through Mint, pay all your bills on time, avoid opening new loans or lines of credit, and pay your credit card bill in full every month.

Explore Deferment and Forbearance

Once you leave school, you’re eligible for a six-month grace period where federal student loan payments are put on hold. You won’t accrue interest during this time if you have subsidized loans, but you will if you have unsubsidized loans.

If you still need more time after the grace period has expired, you can apply for deferment or forbearance. Borrowers have to apply for deferment and forbearance manually and wait to be approved.

Deferment and forbearance are both federal programs that let borrowers avoid paying their student loans while still remaining current. The main difference between the two options is that interest will not accrue on your loan balance during deferment, but it will accrue during forbearance. For that reason, it’s harder to qualify for deferment.

Be careful about putting your loans in deferment or forbearance for a long time. The interest that accrues will capitalize, meaning it will be added to your loan’s principal. This will increase your total monthly payments and could delay your debt payoff timeline.

Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program that encourages borrowers to choose a non-profit or government job. In exchange, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after 10 year’s worth of payments, which do not have to be consecutive. It’s even available to borrowers who dropped out and never finished a degree.

“PSLF is always an option because it’s employer-dependent,” said student loan lawyer Joshua R. I. Cohen.

PSLF is only available for federal loans, and only those loans that are part of the Direct Loan Program. If you have FFEL or Perkins loans, you’ll have to consolidate them as part of the Direct Consolidation Program. This process will render them eligible for PSLF.

Be sure not to consolidate loans that are already part of the Direct Loan Program. If you’ve already been making payments, consolidating loans will restart the clock on PSLF, and you could lose credit for eligible payments you’ve already made.

The employer you work for must also be an eligible non-profit or government entity. Only full-time employees qualify for PSLF, which excludes part-time workers and independent contractors.

To be eligible for PSLF, you should fill out the employment certification form every year. This form asks for your employer’s contact information, your employment status, and more.

Once you submit the form, you should receive a notice verifying your employer and how many eligible payments you’ve made. Doing this every year will make it easier when you apply for forgiveness after your 120 payments have been made.

“It also gives borrowers an opportunity to dispute any errors or undercounts well before they reach eligibility for loan forgiveness, giving them plenty of time to address disputes,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.

Borrowers can save money while working toward PSLF by choosing an income-based repayment plan instead of the standard 10-year plan. They also won’t owe taxes on the forgiven amount, so it’s best to choose the least expensive monthly option.

Try to Discharge Your Loans

If you couldn’t complete college because the department you were studying in closed, or your school committed fraud, you may be a good candidate for discharging your student loans completely. If this happened to you, contact a student loan lawyer who can help you file a case.

 

The post I Dropped Out of College: My Student Loan Repayment Options appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is a Parent PLUS Loan?

Parent PLUS Loans

Paying for college is a challenge, and rising tuition costs certainly don’t help. According to College Board, the average cost of a four-year private college has increased by more than $3,000 over the last five years. Scholarships, grants and work-study programs can help bridge the gap, but it’s best to have a robust savings to back you up. Since some parents don’t want their child to take on too many loans themselves, the federal government created Parent PLUS loans. They stand out from other programs thanks to a fixed interest rate and flexible repayment options. Here we discuss what exactly a Parent PLUS loan is, how it works and whether you should get one.

Parent PLUS Loans Defined

Let’s start with the basics. A Parent PLUS loan is a federal student loan offered by the U.S. Department of Education Direct Loan program. Unlike other Direct Loans and most student loans in general, Parent PLUS loans are issued to parents rather than students. Also eligible for issue are stepparents, dependent graduate students and other relatives.

Whoever takes out the loan holds the sole legal responsibility for repayments, regardless of personal arrangements. This is very different than a parent cosigning his or her child’s student loan. The maximum PLUS loan amount is the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received, which could equal tens of thousands of dollars per year. For PLUS loans distributed between July 2018 and July 2019, the interest rate is 7.60%. As such, the decision to get a Parent PLUS loan should not be taken lightly.

Who Should Get a Parent PLUS Loan?

Parent PLUS Loans

According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, about 3.5 million parents and students have borrowed a collective $83.9 billion using Parent PLUS Loans from the federal government. To qualify for a Parent PLUS loan, you must be the parent of a dependent undergraduate student, dependent graduate student or professional student enrolled at least half-time in a participating college or university.

You and your child must also meet the general eligibility rules for federal student aid, such as proving U.S. citizenship and demonstrating need. Male students must be registered with the Selective Service. As with other Direct PLUS loans, you usually can’t secure a Parent PLUS loan if you have an adverse credit history. The Department of Education won’t approve a borrower with charged-off accounts, accounts in collections or a 90-day delinquent account with a balance of $2,085 or more.

You shouldn’t apply for a Parent PLUS loan just because you qualify. In fact, it’s usually best if a student gets all of the Direct Loans he or she is eligible for first. These loans tend to have lower interest rates and fees. A parent could always help his or her child with student loan repayments, anyway.

You should really only apply for a Parent PLUS loan if your child needs more financial aid than he or she has received from other sources. It’s also important that both students and parents are on the same page about expectations and repayment plans.

Pros of Parent PLUS Loans

Flexible Loan Limits

Identified generally as “cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received,” Parent PLUS loans can be used toward tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, equipment, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses. They do not have the same limits imposed on them as other federal student loans do. This makes Parent PLUS loans a great supplement if you have a mediocre financial aid package. Of course, you should still be cautious not to take on debt you won’t be able to pay back. Our student loan calculator can help you decide how much you should borrow.

Fixed Interest Rate

As with other federal student loans, the interest rate on a Parent PLUS loan stays the same throughout the life of the loan. It won’t alter based on national interest rates, the prime rate or other factors. Every July, the Department of Education sets the Parent PLUS loan interest rate based on that year’s 10-year treasury note. The fixed interest rate makes it easy for borrowers to predict expenses, make both short- and long-term financial goals and set a budget.

Multiple Repayment Options

Parent PLUS loans are eligible for several different repayment plans, one of which should work for you. This flexibility makes them one of the most accommodating programs for funding a college education. Check out your choices below:

  • Standard Repayment Plan: The most common option, which allows for fixed monthly payments for 10 years.
  • Graduated Repayment Plan: This starts with small payments that gradually increase over 10 years. In theory, this should coincide with growing income levels.
  • Extended Repayment Plan: This provides fixed or graduated payments over 25 years, as opposed to 10.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment: Borrowers pay 20% of their discretionary income or what they’d pay on a 12-year plan, whichever is lower. They also qualify for student loan forgiveness if they still have a balance after 25 years.

Cons of Parent PLUS Loans

Parent PLUS Loans

Loan Origination Fee

Interest isn’t the only expense you’ll encounter with Parent PLUS loans. There’s also a loan origination fee. The fee amount is a percentage of the loan, and it varies depending on the disbursement date of the loan. For loans after October 1, 2018 but before October 1, 2019, the fee is 4.248% of the loan amount. That means that if you borrow $30,000 using a Parent PLUS loan, you’d pay a fee of $1,274.40.

This fee is proportionately deducted from each loan disbursement, which essentially reduces the amount of money borrowers have to cover education-related costs. Since many private student loans don’t have a fee, it’s worth looking into private options to determine which loan has the lowest borrowing costs.

Relatively High Interest Rate

Currently set at 7.60%, Parent PLUS loans certainly don’t have the lowest rate out there. If you have strong credit and qualify for a better rate, you might consider a different loan that will cost less in the long run. Direct Subsidized Loans currently carry a 5.05% interest rate, while Direct Unsubsidized Loans are at 6.60%. On the other hand, some private lenders have interest rates as low as 2.795%.

Limited Grace Period

Parent PLUS loan repayment normally begins within 60 days of loan disbursement, but borrowers have the option to defer repayment. This will last while their child is still in school and for six months after he or she graduates or if the student drops below a half-time enrollment status. Not only is this much less time than borrowers of other loan programs receive, but interest will also continue to accrue during the deferment period.

How to Apply for a Parent PLUS Loan

If a Parent PLUS loan seems right for you, file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at FASFA.ed.gov. Depending on the school’s application process, you will request the loan from StudentLoans.gov or the school’s financial aid office.

If you receive approval for a Parent PLUS loan, you will get a Direct PLUS Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN). You’ll have to review and sign the MPN before sending back. Funds are typically sent straight to the school, but you or your child may receive a check. All of the money must be used for educational and college-related purposes.

Tips for Your College Finances

  • Every state in the country offers one of more higher education tuition assistance programs called 529 plans. For many prospective college students and their families, this may be one of the best ways to overcome the incredibly high costs of a university degree. What’s better yet is that you can get a plan from any state, not just the one you reside in.
  • It’s extremely common for financial advisors to have some level of background knowledge in funding for higher education. The SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool can pair you up with as many as three such advisors in your area.

Photocredit: Â©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, Â©iStock.com/zimmytws, Â©iStock.com/thodonal

The post What Is a Parent PLUS Loan? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com