Podcast #13: Commercial Lending and Real Estate

podcast 13 commercial lending and real estate
For this podcast about commercial lending I sat down with Angie Hoffman at U.S. Bank.  During the podcast we discussed investing in real estate, commercial lending, and how commerceial mortgages can help investors.  If you want to learn more about commercial loans this is a great pdocast for you.
I hope you enjoy the podcast and find it informative.  Please consider sharing with those who also may benefit. Listen via YouTube: You can connect with Angie on LinkedIn.  You can reach out to Angie for more information on their lending products by emailing her at angela.hoffman@usbank.com.
You can connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.
About the author: The above article “Podcast #12:  Hard Money Lending” was provided by Luxury Real Estate Specialist Paul Sian. Paul can be reached at paul@CinciNKYRealEstate.com or by phone at 513-560-8002. If you’re thinking of selling or buying your investment or commercial business property I would love to share my marketing knowledge and expertise to help you.  Contact me today!
I work in the following Greater Cincinnati, OH and Northern KY areas: Alexandria, Amberly, Amelia, Anderson Township, Cincinnati, Batavia, Blue Ash, Covington, Edgewood, Florence, Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas, Hebron, Hyde Park, Indian Hill, Kenwood, Madeira, Mariemont, Milford, Montgomery, Mt. Washington, Newport, Newtown, Norwood, Taylor Mill, Terrace Park, Union Township, and Villa Hills.
TRANSCRIPT
Commercial Lending Podcast
 
Paul Sian: Hello everybody. This is Paul Sian, Realtor with United Real Estate Home Connections, licensed in the State of Ohio and Kentucky. With me today is Angie Hoffman with US Bank. Angie how are you today?
Angie Hoffman: I’m doing great Paul. How are you?
Paul Sian:  Great. Thank you for being on my podcast. We’re gonna start off. Today’s topic is ‘Commercial Lending’. Angie is a commercial lender with US Bank, as I mentioned. Angie, why don’t you tell us a little bit by your background. What you do with the US bank, and how did you get started in that field?
Angie Hoffman: Sure. So, I am a Cincinnati resident, have been my entire life. Was previously with a company called the ‘Conner group’, which is located out of Dayton, Ohio. They’re a private investment real estate firm. I was with him for about five plus years, just learned a ton of information, really loved the financing portion of their group. So, that turned me to the banking portion, which I ended up going with US Bank just because of the knowledge and the breadth of what they can do as well. Just the culture within US Bank has been phenomenal. I’ve actually been with us Bank now for five years; in the last three years I’ve been within the commercial real estate side as well as the business banking side.
Paul Sian: Okay. Your primary focus is commercial loans.
Angie Hoffman: Correct. Yes, both investment real estate as well as owner-occupied and small to medium businesses. 
Paul Sian:  Okay. The investment side, I represent a lot of buyers of multifamily. I know with the form below we do, the conventional space generally, and then when you’re in the five units and above. You go into the commercial space, which is your space. I have also heard it being covered with mixed-use buildings, industrial properties, is there something else that commercial loans would cover?
Angie Hoffman: Correct. I mean it can really be quite an array of properties, office is one that we see pretty often, and can tend to be either hot in certain areas, whether it’s office Class B or Office Class A. Retail strip centers, we’ll look at Triple Net properties, and absolute not properties. We are very popular, if you’re looking at diversifying a multi-family portfolio and adding in some triple net properties. We also do, obviously owner-occupied properties too. When you have that small business or medium business owner who wants to own their own real estate. We do that as well, and that’s again part of what my position entails, and then we will also look at portfolios will do single-family homes. 
I’m actually working with somebody now who has a portfolio of several single-family homes, that were looking to kind of restructure and refinance for him. We can even utilize current equity and properties to purchase additional properties to help you grow your portfolio. We do try to have a full understanding of your portfolio or a full understanding of what your strategy is. How partner with you, as you continue to grow that portfolio short- and long-term goals.
Paul Sian: For our listeners, who don’t know. What Triple Net means, do you mind explaining that.
Angie Hoffman:  Sure. So, Triple Net is gonna tend to be your properties that have the tenant itself is paying the taxes, the insurance, you may have some pretty minimal depending upon the property, responsibilities that are usually restricted to the exterior of the building. It may be like a roof or a parking lot. Type of maintenance but generally speaking the great thing about the triple net is that for some clients, it’s a property that you can basically own, and you have to do pretty much nothing with. So, you’re gaining that income without having to do a very minimal type of responsibility or maintenance. 
The downfall of that is that typically they’re gonna be somebody, who is gonna be a longer-term lease, which is great. However, you still have the issue that it’s a bigger square footage generally. So, five, ten, twenty thousand plus square feet. If you lose a tenant obviously, that can be very impactful. It just depends upon your, again your focus of your portfolio, and if you want to add in that. But it can be great opportunity, but tends to again be a little bit less of a return. Because of the minimal responsibilities.
Paul Sian: Going back to single family. That is similar, I am using the same term your bank use but to ‘wrap mortgage’. Is that what you use for single families?
Angie Hoffman:  We do have the ability, from the perspective of what you say wrap mortgage.  We’re typically calling that like an umbrella, if you’re grouping all, let’s call it, if there’s ten single family homes. You’re grouping this all into one, it lies together. We have the ability to do that depending again on the structure that the client is looking for. 
We also have the ability to separate out those facilities, and do a simultaneous closing for each one of them to have them separated out from each other. Obviously, there’s some contingencies but that the properties itself have to be able to cash flow by themselves, things along those lines that we would underwrite to. But we do have ability to look at it from both perspectives.
Paul Sian: Okay. The biggest advantage of that if someone has reached the maximum ten convention mortgage loanlimit. They can step into your space there and you could cover them, and they can either restart that or. With something like that, let’s say somebody does get ten properties, and are they able to finance in additional properties into that same loan or is that has to re-finance each time?
Angie Hoffman: No. We would be able to add in. I mean, if you’re asking like if they want to refinance these properties, and they’re also looking to maybe either use some of the equity in them or they’re also buying at the same time. We can do all of that together, so that’s not an issue at all.
Paul Sian: Let’s say to somebody new coming to investment. What is the typical down payment on commercial loans? That are looking to buy in the mixed-use space or multifamily space?
Angie Hoffman: So, generally speaking. We’ll go up to 80% loan-to-value. The biggest factor within that is gonna be how much the capability of the property to hold that debt. We’re gonna have, we have a pretty. I don’t want to say complex but we do have  multiple factors that go within our cash flow, and net operating, income calculation, that we’re gonna want to see. It balanced to a certain point for it to be able to hold the debt at an 80% loan to value. Again, we tend to partner with our clients. I have several clients who will send me properties on a daily basis, that they’re interested in. We will let them know what the debt capacity would be on that property.
Paul Sian: Okay. Income from the rents per sale, let’s say, something’s got a ten-unit building. Then you’re looking at the rents that are coming in. You’re also considering the buyers income level, income to debt ratio, all that as well.
Angie Hoffman: Yes. When I talk about the capacity, the debt for the property is being the one of the first things we look at is. In order to get to that 80% LTV, if you’re looking at the actual depth, they’re wanting the property to take on. Compared to other rent they’re taking in and the expenses, as well as some vacancy factors, things like that. That’s what we’re looking at to have a certain ratio, then on top of that. When we get to the next step would be look at the client globally, and their personal debt to income, and that factor too.
Paul Sian: Looking at that commercial mortgages, can buyer use the mortgage to upgrade property, to build in some equity in the property. Does the building of the equity get taken into account, and do you have a loan that allows them to do that?
Angie Hoffman: That question is kind of twofold. If you have a property, let’s say, it’s multiple unit, and you’re continuing to kind of do some improvements and renovations. If the property has the equity, we can look at small lines of credit to help with that renovation cost. Then once everything’s complete to be able to wrap that together. If you’re looking at a property that’s completely distressed, and doesn’t have any type of income. Then that’s gonna be something that generally we’re gonna have a harder time with. Because it’s a speculative type of scenario, and we want to typically see the actual income.
Paul Sian: How about converting something, I am interested in buying warehouse, either in retail space or multifamily. Do you offer products for that, or is that a similar situation when you’re looking at the risk as being a little high?
Angie Hoffman: Yes. So, that is gonna be a similar situation. Once the actual project would be completed again from a speculative standpoint, it just it becomes a little bit more difficult from a risk perspective. However, we’ve been in scenarios where we’ve worked with clients and partnered clients, people we know who work in that space more than we do. We can look to, guide them to what we would look at if we wanted to refinance that once it was completed, and there were leases in place.
Paul Sian: Okay. So, that is one of the benefits working with a big bank like US bank, is you can reach across departments there, and tap other resources within your organization.
Angie Hoffman:  Even if it’s within the organization, we have other resources whether it’s our private wealth or wealth group, have some capabilities that are different than what we have as well as from a CUI or network basis. It may be somebody just within my network that I know works within that space to introduce that way and hopefully can get that client taken care of.
Paul Sian: Are you able to comment on the underwriting process of commercial loans compared to residential. Is there a big difference in that process? 
Angie Hoffman: So, yes and no. I know we touch on it already a little bit. One of the biggest differences is obviously we’re gonna look at the actual collateral in a very different way, especially on the investment real estate side. When you’re looking at investment real estate, the factors that the net operating income as well as the cash flow of the property become factors. Whereas, when you’re buying a home, obviously it’s a lot more about the loan to value of the property. However on the other side of that, if we are looking at a property that’s gonna be owner occupied by a small to medium business. It becomes a lot more about the loan-to-value as well. So, it can depend upon the situation.
Paul Sian: Okay. How important is the person’s experience when they come to loan, get a loan for you. If it’s a new first-time investor looking at multi families versus somebody who’s already got five to ten units and then either self-managing or running it for a couple years.
Angie Hoffman: I mean, generally speaking, if you have somebody brand new, one of the biggest things is if you’re not familiar in the scope. You don’t have experience, you gonna be partnering  potentially with a property management company or somebody else who is maybe a partnership within the LLC or the property that you’re buying that has the experience. Just being able to show you may not have previous experience in this but you are partnering with a property management company that has historical success in these properties. You’re partnering with somebody, for instance, who has historical success in the properties.
Paul Sian: So, yeah boils down to your team then. What you’re bringing to the team. What kind of document requirements are there to start a commercial loan process with US bank?
Angie Hoffman: Generally speaking, in every situation is different, every request is different, client is different. But it’s typically going to be two to three years of taxes, personal and business, personal financial statements pretty standard as well. If it’s a purchase, we’re gonna want to see a purchase agreement or understand the purchase agreement as well. As you’re gonna want to have financials whether it’s profit loss or the rent rolls preferably a Schedule E or 8852 from the client. Showing what the historical trends of that property of have been. That’s where we really try and partner with our clients of understanding their portfolios, understanding what purchase they’re trying to make. So, that, does it fit, and is there anything we see because we see them on a very regular basis that. Maybe we need to discuss or let the client know that we are suggesting maybe prying a little bit more information.
Paul Sian: How important is ones credit score when they come to apply for loan with you?
Angie Hoffman: It is a factor, I mean. In any type of just like the traditional mortgage, it is gonna be a factor. But there are so many different factors that, it’s only one of many.
Paul Sian: One of the important things when it comes to purchasing real estate is I always tell the buyers that have a pre-approval letter ready. Is there something similar in the commercial loans place? A pre-approval letter, pre-qualification letter. Just something that says, somebody sat down with you, they started the initial process. They’ve got access to certain amount that they can borrow to purchase this property. Do you have something like that?
Angie Hoffman: We do. So, on the commercial side it’s gonna be called a letter of interest, and it basically lays out that we are working with a client. We have a price range or up to a price range that we’re looking for with the client, and depending upon the collateral. We are looking to work with him on the financing, again depending upon what the collateral is, and then we also have once we’ve actually maybe gone through a more official process of underwriting and submitted an actual financial package. We do have, depending again on what the financing contingency is for that client. 
We do have a letter of commitment, which lays out that there is an approval but it goes through all of the conditions as well like your appraisal certain things like that, that we’re gonna have to clear.
Paul Sian: Okay. How long does that process take? If you are writing an offer today for a client, and then usually you have to write in how many days we’re gonna close in. 30 days, 40 to 45 days. I know conventional, it’s usually a little quicker, a little easier. So, we can do it in 30 days or so. I mean, what would you recommend for a commercial loan?
Angie Hoffman: I think 45 days is very practical. One of the biggest things that I always talk about with my clients is that 45 days really is incumbent of me having a full financial package, meaning those two years of tax returns. The financials, I spoke about from the client that you’re purchasing, and or if you’re refinancing. To me, having that full financial package is really the key and then, again from there it’s gonna be some of the factors of the appraisal as well as the title work that would go along with it. But generally speaking, 45 days to close is pretty.
Paul Sian: Reasonable.
Angie Hoffman: Yes.
Paul Sian: You mentioned the documents that was my blog article documents for the conventional mortgage process. You mentioned W2s, 1040, tax returns, that is pretty similar the document requirements for commercial loans that it is for residential space?
Angie Hoffman: Yes. It’s very similar. With the PFS is gonna be one of the biggest as well as the two years of tax returns. Potentially three years depending upon, again the request size. Like you said, I mean, if they’re a W2 income type of employee, then we may need additional pay stubs. like I said, for any client, it could be very different depending again on what their history is. If they’re a business owner, then we may mean some more details but generally speaking, again it would be two to three years of personal business has returns, personal financial statement, and potentially obviously purchase agreement or additional documentation from that side.
Paul Sian: Okay. When it comes to partnership, people coming together, those documents from everybody. Correct?
Angie Hoffman: Correct. So, depending on what the ownership structure is. Generally, if somebody’s over 20% ownership within the property, then we’re going to need that financial information from them as well.
Paul Sian: Okay. I know with the conventional space. Lending into an LLC is generally impossible. Most lenders will not allow conventional borrowers to use an LLC. How does that work on the commercial side?
Angie Hoffman: The vast majority of the lending that I do is going to be through an LLC in a holding company. The clients are still a personal guarantor but the lending itself in the title is all within the LLC.
Paul Sian: Is it a requirement in LLC or is it an option for the buyer?
Angie Hoffman: It’s an option. I mean, one that again depending from an attorney’s perspective, if you’re talking about liability. It may be a best-case scenario to have an LLC with that property. But we always reference stuff talk to your attorney about what makes sense for you.
Paul Sian: How much, do you have any minimum loan requirements and your maximum loan requirement?  
Angie Hoffman: Up to ten million on the investment real estate side, and then once it’s beyond that, we do have a commercial group that we would work with a real estate group as well as our middle marker group that would potentially be involved. As far as minimum typically, again if it’s under 2,50,000. It’s still something that we would do. It just, we pull in a different partner to work with us on that too, because it kind of goes into a little bit different of a space.
Paul Sian: Is there, under 250,000$ or is there a lower minimum. I know some conventional lenders won’t touch anything fifty thousand and under.
Angie Hoffman: It’s pretty common. Yes, under fifty thousand is gonna be a little bit more difficult. 
Paul Sian: 50,000 to 2,50,000, and above that.
Angie Hoffman: But keep in mind too. I mean, if you have properties itself. It may be again, you see this more with the single-family home portfolios. You may have multiple properties that are under fifty thousand. But we’re looking at the entirety of the portfolio, makes a little bit different of a scenario. I would caution that anything that somebody is looking at from the perspective of either total lending amount or even individual property. We’re happy to take a look at it, have an understanding of what you’re looking to do, and if for some reason it’s not something that is in our world necessarily. Again, from an internal and external standpoint. We typically have somebody who I can contact.
Paul Sian: Discussing interest rates from general perspective, everybody’s situation is different and unique. But in terms of paying more, having a lower LTV, 60% LTV rather than 80%. People get themselves a better interest rate or is it generally, can we same and more just depending on credit and history.
Angie Hoffman: So, from an interest rate standpoint, the commercial side is a little bit different. Then maybe the mortgage or lines of credit side, then you then you generally see. Ours is based off of what banks cost the funds are, and then there is a spread that is on top of that. That’s where you get the percent from. Right now, cost of funds are pretty minimal. So, interest rates are extremely competitive. But from that perspective, it doesn’t necessarily factor in the actual loan it saw or the guarantor itself or the property itself.
Paul Sian: So, there’s some risk-based consideration towards interest rates. I guess a little higher risk project is that something you would price a little higher in the interest rate or generally that it’s not considered as much?
Angie Hoffman: No. That’s not considered as much, generally.
Paul Sian: Okay. Great. That’s all the questions I have for you today Angie. Did you have any final thoughts to share with the group?
Angie Hoffman: Sure. One thing I would say is if anybody has any questions about property specific, cash flow, if this property may fit into their portfolio or something that we would look to land up to 80%.I’m happy to partner with anybody on that side as well, and be resource for them. On top of that, I did want to mention that obviously US Bank is across the country. That gives us the ability even, if I’m your contact in Cincinnati to lend out-of-state borrowers.
I’ve worked with quite a few clients obviously from California that are buying in Cincinnati as well Chicago. So, those are people that I’ve worked with quite frequently as well.
Paul Sian: That is perfect. I’ve got a number of out of state clients to. That is one of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced with some local lenders is that they don’t lend to out of state. That’s a great ability to have.
Angie Hoffman: So, the key with in that too is just as I want to mention too. I mean, anytime that scenario comes up. We are happy to discuss it. One of the biggest factors with out-of-state lenders is that we do look for them to be within US bank footprint. So, we are very much on the west coast and Portland, all of those areas. If they’re somewhere you’re not familiar, if we’re within that area, please reach out. Let me know, and I’m happy to take a look.
Paul Sian: Great. Thank you again. I will leave your contact information on my blog post once it gets published live. Thanks again for being on the podcast.
Angie Hoffman: Thanks for having me. 

Source: cincinkyrealestate.com

Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On

Check out this list of top pet products you should not skimp out on.I first adopted my dog Molly, I was so excited. She was the first dog in the first kennel at the SPCA, and the only dog in the group not barking. My fiance and I were instantly drawn to her.

We continued down the row of kennels, looking into the cages and seeing dogs of all different shapes, sizes and energy levels, but none of them got our attention like the little black and white dog in the first kennel.

After walking her around outside of her kennel for a few minutes, it became even more clear that this was the pup for us. She wasn’t spayed, and the shelter wouldn’t release her until she was, so we shut her back into her cage, and put our name down for her with the office staff. She’d be ready to pick up in a few days, but in the mean time, we were off to get her supplies.

That was six months ago, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about the huge industry that is pet products. For every genuinely useful or essential product, there are ten poorly constructed or downright pointless products sitting right next to it on your shelf or screen. So, today I’m going to go through some of the pet products I think are completely worth spending money on, and, just for fun, some that aren’t a good investment.

A Strong Collar

Our first stop when picking up Molly’s supplies was to Walmart, where I picked up a typical collar with a plastic buckle. Within one week, the flimsy buckle was snapping loose. So back we went, to replace the cheap-o collar with one with a strong metal clasp.

Tartar Busting Bones

Poor dental hygiene can lead to costly teeth cleanings and other nasty diseases if left untreated. To combat this, invest in some tartar busting bones. The rough surfaces naturally clean a dog’s teeth when chewed on, and keeping tartar at bay early on means cheaper long term dental care (better breath too).

High Quality Dog Food

Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and buy the $30 bag of organic, free range, human grade dog food. But in the arena of nutrition, dogs aren’t that different from people. Poor quality food contributes to poor quality health, and an unhealthy dog is an expensive dog. High quality food also contributes to better breath, a shinier and softer coat, and less…erm…waste.

A Dremel Nail Grinder

Unless you want your floors, couches and skin all scratched to hell, you need to clip your dog’s nails. With some care and positive training, nail clipping can easily be done at home, without any need for a trip to the groomer. I bought a pair of cheap nail clippers, and their dull edges means I have proceed with nail clipping very carefully in order not to hurt Molly’s little paws. To make the project easier yet still save hundreds at the groomer, consider investing in a Dremel Nail Grinder instead.

The Furminator

Pets shed. A ton. I have a long haired cat and a short haired dog in four hundred square feet of living space. To cut down on the crazy amount of hair that can accumulate ridiculously quickly, good quality brushes are a must. The furminator is great for that.

Things That Aren’t a Good Investment

This, this, this, oh and this (although that one is kinda cute).

Not everything that is put out by the pet industry is a worthwhile investment, or even remotely useful. In fact, most of it is probably crap just released because pet crazy people love to spoil their animals. To make your dollar go further, make sure to invest in high quality items that will keep your pet healthy, and help you save money over the long term.

What’s your number one indispensable pet item? I want to know!

The post Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How to Start Investing in Peer-to-Peer Loans

How to Start Investing in Peer-to-Peer Loans

Back in the day, if you needed a personal loan to start a business or finance a wedding you had to go through a bank. But in recent years, a new option has appeared and transformed the lending industry. Peer-to-peer lending makes it easy for consumers to secure financing and gives investors another type of asset to add to their portfolios. If you’re interested in investing in something other than stocks, bonds or real estate, check out our guide to becoming an investor in peer-to-peer loans.

Check out our personal loan calculator.

What Is Peer-to-Peer Lending?

Peer-to-peer lending is the borrowing and lending of money through a platform without the help of a bank or another financial institution. Typically, an online company brings together borrowers who need funding and investors who put up cash for loans in exchange for interest payments.

Thanks to peer-to-peer lending, individuals who need extra money can get access to personal loans in a matter of days (or within hours in some cases). Even if they have bad credit scores, they may qualify for interest rates that are lower than what traditional banks might offer them. In the meantime, investors can earn decent returns without having to actively manage their investments.

Who Can Invest in Peer-to-Peer Loans

How to Start Investing in Peer-to-Peer Loans

You don’t necessarily have to be a millionaire or an heiress to start investing in peer-to-peer loans. In some cases, you’ll need to have an annual gross salary of at least $70,000 or a net worth of at least $250,000. But the rules differ depending on where you live and the site you choose to invest through.

For example, if you’re investing through the website Prosper, you can’t invest at all if you reside in Arizona or New Jersey. In total, only people in 30 states can invest through Prosper and only folks in 45 states can invest through its competitor, Lending Club.

Certain sites, like Upstart and Funding Circle, are only open to accredited investors. To be an accredited investor, the SEC says you need to have a net worth above $1 million or an annual salary above $200,000 (unless you’re a company director, an executive officer or you’re part of a general partnership). Other websites that work with personal loan investors include SoFi, Peerform and CircleBack Lending.

Keep in mind that there may be limitations regarding the degree to which you can invest. According to Prosper’s site, if you live in California and you’re spending $2,500 (or less) on Prosper notes, that investment cannot be more than 10% of your net worth. Lending Club has the same restrictions, except that the 10% cap applies to all states.

Choose your risk profile.

Becoming an Investor

If you meet the requirements set by the website you want to invest through (along with any other state or local guidelines), setting up your online profile is a piece of cake. You can invest through a traditional account or an account for your retirement savings, if the site you’re visiting gives you that option.

After you create your account, you’ll be able to fill your investment portfolio with different kinds of notes. These notes are parts of loans that you’ll have to buy to begin investing. The loans themselves may be whole loans or fractional loans (portions of loans). As borrowers pay off their personal loans, investors get paid a certain amount of money each month.

If you don’t want to manually choose notes, you can set up your account so that it automatically picks them for you based on the risk level you’re most comfortable with. Note that there will likely be a minimum threshold that you’ll have to meet. With Lending Club and Prosper, you can invest with just $25. With a site like Upstart, you have to be willing to spend at least $100 on a note.

Should I Invest in Peer-to-Peer Loans?

How to Start Investing in Peer-to-Peer Loans

Investing in personal loans may seem like a foreign concept. If you’re eligible to become an investor, however, it might be worth trying.

For one, investing in personal loans isn’t that difficult. Online lenders screen potential borrowers and ensure that the loans on their sites abide by their rules. Investors can browse through notes and purchase them.

Thanks to the automatic investing feature that many sites offer, you can sit back and let an online platform manage your investment account for you. That can be a plus if you don’t have a lot of free time. Also, by investing through a retirement account, you can prepare for the future and enjoy the tax advantages that come with putting your money into a traditional or Roth IRA.

As investments, personal loans are less risky than stocks. The stock market dips from time to time and there’s no guarantee that you’ll see a return on your investments. By investing in a peer-to-peer loan, you won’t have to deal with so much volatility and you’re more likely to see a positive return. Lending Club investors, for example, have historically had returns between 5.26% and 8.69%.

Related Article: Is Using a Personal Loan to Invest a Smart Move?

But investing in peer-to-peer loans isn’t for everyone. The online company you’re investing through might go bankrupt. The folks who take out the loans you invest in might make late payments or stop paying altogether.

All of that means you could lose money. And since these loans are unsecured, you can’t repossess anything or do much to recoup your losses.

You can lower your investment risk by investing in different loans. That way, if someone defaults, you can still profit from the loan payments that the other borrowers make. But if you don’t have enough loans in your portfolio you’re putting yourself in a riskier predicament.

Final Word

If you’re looking for a way to add some diversity to your portfolio, investing in peer-to-peer loans might be something to think about. There are plenty of benefits that you can reap with this kind of investment. Before setting up an account, however, it’s important to be aware of the risks you’ll be taking on.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/bymuratdeniz, ©iStock.com/M_a_y_a, ©iStock.com/sirius_r

The post How to Start Investing in Peer-to-Peer Loans appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Chase Credit Journey: Check Your Credit Score For Free

Chase Credit Journey is one of the many credit monitoring services that gives you a credit score for free. Launched by Chase, Credit Journey also monitors your score and gives you advice on to improve it.

One of the best ways to get approved for a loan or a credit card is to have a good credit score. Think of this 3-digit number as a representation of your credit worthiness and credibility.

In fact, lenders use your credit score to see how risky it is for them to let you borrow.  The higher your score, the better.

So,  it is very important to use a free tool like Chase Credit Journey, to know your credit score before applying for a loan, a credit card, or an apartment.

Doing so will give you an idea whether or not you will be approved or denied.

One way to get a credit score for free and monitor it is through Chase Credit Journey. If your credit score is excellent, then you are all good.

All you have to do is maintaining it. If it’s bad, then you can take steps to raise your credit score.

In this article, we will address what Chase Credit Journey is, why you should use it, and some of its limitations.

What is Chase Credit Journey?

Chase Credit Journey is a free online service offered by Chase that gives consumers a credit score and credit report for free. You don’t have to be a Chase customer to use the service.

You’ll need to register by entering personal information, including your credit cards information, existing loans, etc.

Checking your credit on Chase Credit Journey does not hurt your credit score, because it counts as a soft credit inquiry. Soft inquiries, as opposed to hard inquiries, leave your credit score untouched.

In addition to getting a credit score from Chase Credit Journey, you can get one from the following credit monitoring services all for free:

  • Credit Karma
  • Credit Sesame
  • Credit.com
  • Lendingtree
  • NerdWallet
  • WalletHub
  • Creditcards.com

How Does Credit Journey Work?

Chase Credit Journey uses Experian, one of the three credit bureaus, to give you a credit score and report.

Chase Credit Journey uses the VantageScore 3.0 model, which is a collaboration from the three credit bureaus.

Your score is updated weekly but you can access it as much as you can and anytime you want.

Get Matched With 3 Fiduciary Financial Advisors
Answer a quick question to start your matching process with advisors in your area.
When would you like to retire?
Select an answer

Also, you can sign up for credit alerts through Credit Journey which can notify you if your score changes or if something suspicious is happening on your credit file.

If there are errors, Chase Credit Journey will guide you on how to file a dispute with the credit bureaus. You can’t get your FICO score via Chase Credit Journey.

In addition to getting a free credit score, you also get an analysis of your score and advice on how to raise it and other free resources. This way you can take steps to improve your credit score. 

If you’re ready to give Chase Credit Journey a shot, go online to the homepage to see how Credit Journey works.

You can also access the Chase Credit Journey through the Chase mobile app as well.  If you’re not convinced yet, keep reading.

Chase Credit Journey helps you understand the 6 factors to come up with your VantageScore credit score. They are:

1) Payment history (or late payments): payment history accounts for 35% of your total credit score. In fact, it is the most important factor in your total credit score. Late or missed payments can negatively affect your credit score.

2) Credit utilization ratio (or credit usage): Credit utilization is how much of your credit limit you’re using versus your balance. Credit card utilization accounts for 30% of your total credit score. So keeping it low is ideal. Keeping your credit card balance under 30% is the way to go. For example, let’s suppose your credit card has a credit limit of $5000. You have used $2500 of that credit. Then your credit utilization is 50%. To keep it below 30%, you should only use $1500 of that credit.

3) Credit age: The third most important factor of your total credit score is your credit age. That means how long you have had credit. Lenders like to see a longer credit age. In your credit report, you’ll be able to see your average credit age.

4) Hard Inquiry: The higher your credit inquiries, the lower your credit score can become. Anytime you apply for a loan or a credit card or when a landlord checks your credit, it can cause a small dip in your credit score. So multiple credit inquiries can hurt your credit score rather than improving it.

5) Total Balances: total balances refer to the amount owed over all of your credits, including your mortgage, student loans, credit cards, personal loans, etc.

6) Available credit: This factor represents the current amount of unused credit you have over your accounts.

Chase Credit Journey best feature: the score simulator

In addition to providing you a free credit score and report, a credit alert, and credit resources, Chase Credit Journey has an invaluable feature called the score simulator.

The score simulator gives you an estimate of how certain changes in your credit behavior can affect your credit score. Those changes include missing a payment, card balance transfer, and closing an old account, etc.

The importance of checking your score via a free credit service like Chase Credit Journey

Your credit score is perhaps the first thing lenders look at to decide whether to approve you for a loan or credit card. The better your score, the higher is your chance of getting that loan.

On the other hand, if you have a bad credit score, getting a loan or a credit card not only can prove very difficult, but applying for it puts a hard inquiry that can actually lower your already bad credit score.

So knowing your score before you actually apply will give you an idea whether lenders will approve you. It will also allows you to apply for credit with confidence. That’s why is important to use a free credit service.

Additionally, checking your credit score and credit report on a regular basis will help you identify what is on your credit report. Outstanding debts and a history of late payments can directly impact your credit score.

You can get your credit report for free by logging on AnnualCreditReport.com from each of the three credit bureaus. But these credit reports do not give you a credit score. Moreover, you get these reports only once every year.

While there are several options, Chase Credit Journey is just another option. It’s never a bad idea to have several options to choose from.

In other words, it’s better to get your score from more than one source. However, there are some limitations to using Chase Credit Journey.

Chase Credit Journey Limitations

One of the limitations Chase Credit Journey has is that it only uses one of the three major credit bureaus, which is Experian. When you get your score from only one credit bureau, you might not see the whole picture.

So, your credit score might not be entirely accurate.

For example, let’s say you transfer a credit card balance to a new credit card. If Transunion and Equifax are the only credit bureaus that recorded the card was closed during the transfer, you credit score might drop, because Experian recorded you opened a new card.

Another disadvantage of Chase Credit Journey is that the VantageScore’s scoring model is not the industry standard. Most companies use FICO scores to decide whether to approve or decline you for a loan or credit.

And while VantageScore and FICO scores range from 300 to 850, the two models use different criteria in coming up with your credit score. In other words, each model weighs the factors differently in calculating your credit score.

So your Chase Credit Journey credit score might be different than a FICO score. So, if you are ready to apply for a loan, find out which actual credit score your lender will use to improve your chance of approval.

The Bottom Line

Chase Credit Journey provides free credit scores and reports from Experian. The scores are updated weekly. The free credit score is based on the VantageScore 3.0 model.

However, while VantageScore’s system is accurate, it is not what most companies use. But one important thing about Chase Credit Journey is that it one other free tool that allows you stay proactive and monitor your credit on a regular basis. In turn, it allows you to know your score before applying for credit.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

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 SmartAsset’s 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 Chase Credit Journey: Check Your Credit Score For Free appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

7 Pros and Cons of Investing in a 401(k) Retirement Plan at Work

A 401(k) retirement plan is one of the most powerful savings vehicles on the planet. If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that offers one (or its sister for non-profits, a 403(b)), it’s a valuable benefit that you should take advantage of.

But many people ignore their retirement plan at work because they don’t understand the rules, which may seem confusing at first. Or they worry about what happens to their account after they leave the company or mistakenly believe you must be an investing expert to use a retirement plan.

Let's talk about seven primary pros and cons of using a 401(k). You’ll learn some lesser-known benefits and get tips to save quickly so you have plenty of money when you’re ready to kick back and enjoy retirement.

What is a 401(k) retirement plan?

Traditional retirement accounts give you an immediate benefit by making contributions on a pre-tax basis.

A 401(k) is a type of retirement plan that can be offered by an employer. And if you’re self-employed with no employees, you can have a similar account called a solo 401(k). These accounts allow you to contribute a portion of your paycheck or self-employment income and choose various savings and investment options such as CDs, stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds, to accelerate your account growth.

Traditional retirement accounts give you an immediate benefit by making contributions on a pre-tax basis, which reduces your annual taxable income and your tax liability. You defer paying income tax on contributions and account earnings until you take withdrawals in the future.

Roth retirement accounts require you to pay tax upfront on your contributions. However, your future withdrawals of contributions and investment earnings are entirely tax-free. A Roth 401(k) or 403(b) is similar to a Roth IRA; however, unlike a Roth IRA there isn’t an income limit to qualify. That means even high earners can participate in a Roth at work and reap the benefits.

RELATED: How the COVID-19 CARES Act Affects Your Retirement

Pros of investing in a 401(k) retirement plan at work

When I was in my 20s and started my first job that offered a 401(k), I didn’t enroll in it. I was nervous about having investments with an employer because I didn’t understand what would happen if I left the company, or it went out of business.

I want to put your mind at ease about using a 401(k) because there are many more advantages than disadvantages.

I want to put your mind at ease about using a 401(k) because there are many more advantages than disadvantages. Here are four primary pros for using a retirement plan at work.

1. Having federal legal protection

Qualified workplace retirement plans are protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), a federal law. It sets minimum standards for employers that offer retirement plans, and the administrators who manage them.

ERISA offers workplace retirement plans a powerful but lesser-known benefit—protection from creditors.

ERISA was enacted to protect your and your beneficiaries’ interests in workplace retirement plans. Here are some of the protections they give you:

  • Disclosure of important facts about your plan features and funding 
  • A claims and appeals process to get your benefits from a plan 
  • Right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty if the plan is mismanaged 
  • Payment of certain benefits if you lose your job or a plan gets terminated

Additionally, ERISA offers workplace retirement plans a powerful but lesser-known benefit—protection from creditors. Let’s say you have money in a qualified account but lose your job and can’t pay your car loan. If the car lender gets a judgment against you, they can attempt to get repayment from you in various ways, but not by tapping your 401(k) or 403(b). There are exceptions when an ERISA plan is at risk, such as when you owe federal tax debts, criminal penalties, or an ex-spouse under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. 

When you leave an employer, you have the option to take your vested retirement funds with you. You can do a tax-free rollover to a new employer's retirement plan or into your own IRA. However, be aware that depending on your home state, assets in an IRA may not have the same legal protections as a workplace plan.

RELATED: 5 Options for Your Retirement Account When Leaving a Job

2. Getting matching funds

Many employers that offer a retirement plan also pay matching contributions. Those are additional funds that boost your account value.

Always set your 401(k) contributions to maximize an employer’s match so you never leave easy money on the table.

For example, your company might match 100% of what you contribute to your retirement plan up to 3% of your income. If you earn $50,000 per year and contribute 3% or $1,500, your employer would also contribute $1,500 on your behalf. You’d have $3,000 in total contributions and receive a 100% return on your $1,500 investment, which is fantastic!

Always set your 401(k) contributions to maximize an employer’s match, so you never leave easy money on the table.

3. Having a high annual contribution limit

Once you contribute enough to take advantage of any 401(k) matching, consider setting your sights higher by raising your savings rate every year. For 2021, the allowable limit remains $19,500, or $26,000 if you’re over age 50. A good rule of thumb is to save at least 10% to 15% of your gross income for retirement.

Most retirement plans have an automatic escalation feature that kicks up your contribution percentage at the beginning of each year. You might set it to increase your contributions by 1% per year until you reach 15%. That’s a simple way to set yourself up for a happy and secure retirement.

4. Getting free investing advice

After you enroll in a workplace retirement plan, you must choose from a menu of savings and investment options. Most plan providers are major brokerages (such as Fidelity or Vanguard) and have helpful resources, such as online assessments and free advisors. Take advantage of the opportunity to get customized advice for choosing the best investments for your financial situation, age, and risk tolerance.

In general, the more time you have until retirement, or the higher your risk tolerance, the more stock funds you should own. Likewise, having less time or a low tolerance for risk means you should own more conservative and stable investments, such as bonds or money market funds.

RELATED: A Beginner's Guide to Investing in Stocks

Cons of investing in a 401(k) retirement plan at work

While there are terrific advantages of investing in a retirement plan at work, here are three cons to consider.

1. You may have limited investment options

Compared to other types of retirement accounts, such as an IRA, or a taxable brokerage account, your 401(k) or 403 (b) may have fewer investment options. You won’t find any exotic choices, just basic asset classes, including stock, bond, and cash funds.

However, having a limited investment menu streamlines your investment choices and minimizes complexity.

2. You may have higher account fees

Due to the administrative responsibilities required by employer-sponsored retirement plans, they may charge high fees. And as a plan participant, you have little control over the fees you must pay.

One way to keep your workplace retirement account fees as low as possible is selecting low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) when possible.

One way to keep your workplace retirement account fees as low as possible is selecting low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) when possible.

3.  You must pay fees on early withdrawals

One of the inherent disadvantages of putting money in a retirement account is that you’re typically penalized 10% for early withdrawals before the official retirement age of 59½. Plus, you typically can’t tap a 401(k) or 403(b) unless you have a qualifying hardship. That discourages participants from tapping accounts, so they keep growing.

The takeaway is that you should only contribute funds to a retirement account that you won’t need for everyday living expenses. If you avoid expensive early withdrawals, the advantages of using a workplace retirement account far outweigh the downsides.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

6 Reasons to Try the FIRE Movement

The idea behind FIRE is if you can earn more money, live on less, and save and invest the rest, you can cut years — or even decades — off of your working career. Of course, the FIRE movement has its problems. 

Not everyone can save 50% or more of their income to work toward FIRE. And most who retire early continue working in some capacity to avoid running out of money early. Also, achieving FIRE is considerably easier during times of economic prosperity — no matter what anyone says, it would’ve been a lot harder to get excited about FIRE in 2008 when the Dow dropped by 33.84%!

Achieving FIRE and retiring early sounds good in theory, but it’s actually very hard to execute in a real-world sense. But here’s why you should try anyway.

6 Reasons FIRE Still Works

But, you know what? I would argue that anyone who can, should at least try to pursue FIRE anyway. As I’ve become more interested in financial independence, I’ve learned that there are side benefits to cutting expenses and learning to save money and invest more. Some advantages to FIRE don’t even have anything to do with money at all.

If you’re on the fence about FIRE, here are some of the reasons you might want to change your way of thinking and get on board.

1. Encourages Living With Intention

After reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Living Forward, its concept of “drifting” stuck with me. Drifting occurs any time you’re going through the motions in life, but living without any concrete plans or goals. 

Maybe you’re going to work every day, taking care of your kids, and keeping up with bills. But in these day-to-day tasks, you’re not actively achieving anything in particular. 

You’re just waking up and getting by.

With the FIRE movement though, you learn to live with intentionality because you’re forced to focus on your spending, and the specific goals necessary to reach financial independence. 

As you pursue FIRE, you can’t simply drift through life in hopes that the numbers work out in your favor. To have enough money to retire early, you need a plan. You have no choice but to set goals, and the act of doing so forces you to get real about how you’re living and what you really want in life. 

Are you saving to buy a house? Are you saving to pay for college? Are you saving to retire early? Whatever your goals are, FIRE forces you to reverse engineer your long-term plan so it’s actionable and intentional today.

2. Feels More Financially Secure

Here’s another potential side benefit of pursuing FIRE — you get the opportunity to feel more secure and sleep better at night. This is something I personally experienced when I started becoming FIRE-minded, but it’s also backed up by research. 

In fact, a 2019 survey from Schwab showed that 63% of people with a written financial plan said they felt financially stable, compared to only 28% of those without a financial plan. Further, 56% of people with a financial plan said they felt “very confident” about reaching their financial goals.

If you’ve ever felt helpless about your finances before, then this probably makes total sense. Having a plan provides some comfort — even if you are far away from your goal. At least you’re working toward something, and that provides peace of mind. 

3. Forces You to Take Control

I don’t always agree with everything Dave Ramsey says, but I do love some of his best quotes. One example is:

“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.” — Dave Ramsey

The point I’m making is that, if you don’t ask yourself important, uncomfortable questions, you might never get control of your finances — or your life. 

Think about it this way. If you’re drifting through life and spending money without really saving for a goal, you’re at the mercy of your job and outside factors that affect your income and savings. But if you learn to take control of your spending, you’ll also learn to take control of your future finances in ways you probably never realized before.

When most people start pursuing FIRE, they realize right away that the biggest part that’s in their control is their spending. The other side of that coin is, of course, how much you’re able to save.

A recent survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows the average American set aside 5% to 8% of their income in savings. In contrast, those who pursue FIRE, frequently save 50% to 70% of their incomes toward their goals. 

When you find a way to save a large percentage of your income, this means you’ve taken control of the reins. You have goals and you have a purpose, and your money is no longer controlling your future. You are.

4. Empowers You with Information

According to a joint study from PwC US and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University, only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy. And, even with minimal knowledge of their own, only 27% had sought out professional financial advice. 

This is one area where even studying FIRE can leave you dramatically ahead. After all, pursuing FIRE or even reading about it forces empowers you with information about saving and investing for the long haul. 

For example, through FIRE you’ll randomly learn personal finance lessons like the 4% rule for retirement and how to create a budget. These are cornerstone concepts of the FIRE movement. 

You’re also forced to think about your income and your financial situation in a brand new way. This includes questions, like “How much are you actually earning?” and “How much interest are you paying toward debt every month?”

As a financial advisor, I can tell you for sure that a lot of people don’t know the answer to any of these questions because they’ve never thought about it before. You wind up learning so much that can help you along the way toward your goal.

5. Learn How to Budget and Question Yourself

I remember back in the day when my wife and I first started getting serious about budgeting. We’d sit down to look over our bills, and were shocked by some of our ongoing expenses and subscriptions. 

These budgeting “meetings” made a big difference in how we worked together to achieve our financial goals. When we sat down to look over our expenses, our income, and where we were headed, we found ways to spend less without affecting our quality of life.

Now, I hate budgeting, but I do think it’s an important part of pursuing FIRE — especially at first. After all, you can’t really work toward major financial goals if you have no idea where your money is going every month. 

And, the thing is, you can’t really argue anything when you start budgeting and tracking your expenses. You get the chance to see where your money went, in black and white, and you get the opportunity to act accordingly. This may sound like a huge buzzkill, but I’ve found that taking control and budgeting is actually really empowering. 

Crazily enough, not enough people have any idea how they spend the income they work so hard to earn. In fact, a recent survey from the budgeting app Mint found that 65% of respondents had no idea how much they spent last month. 

When you ask someone pursuing FIRE how much they save each month, these people know. In fact, they often know their savings amount down to the penny. 

6. FIRE Helps You Be Grateful

Finally, there’s one more major benefit of FIRE that goes largely ignored. I’m going to call it the “contentment factor”. It’s the ability to be content with what you have. 

Everything involved with FIRE — tracking your spending, cutting things you don’t care about, creating long-term goals — can really put your life in perspective for you. It also makes you realize you might have more power over your life than you realized. That’s a pretty amazing lesson. 

And of course, learning contentment leads to learning how to feel grateful. How amazing is it that, in this broken world we live in, you can earn a living, care for your family, and set aside something for the future? How amazing is it that you have the chance to work hard and retire early, and then spend decades doing whatever it is you love?

This brings me to a quote I love from Oprah:

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ―

Oprah Winfrey

This is what I love about FIRE; it really encourages you to be grateful and teaches you to be content with what you have. After all, there is no way you could ever save 50% or even 30% of your income without these lessons. 

Pursuing FIRE teaches you that you don’t need the hottest pair of sneakers, and that you might not need that cable television package you pay for each month. It teaches you that a huge car payment isn’t worth it, and that any “friend” who judges your car probably isn’t a good one. 

Learning about FIRE makes you ask yourself all of these questions, and sometimes, that’s all it takes to realize how good you have it.

Garth Brooks once said that “you aren’t wealthy until you have something money can’t buy.” 

And perhaps that’s the greatest benefit of pursuing FIRE. You learn that happiness and true contentment comes from within. And that, my friends, is priceless.

The post 6 Reasons to Try the FIRE Movement appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

5 Key Property Features When House Hunting

5 Key Property Features When House Hunting

When shopping for a home, many of us know our basic focal points, such as identifying the right neighborhood or finding a house with the ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms. These factors are important, but there are other home features (some very large and some very small) that can greatly contribute to the enjoyment of your new home. Let’s make sure you don’t miss any of them.

Here are five opportunities to maximize the benefits of your purchase that go beyond just the house and why each one deserves your consideration.

click to enlarge

Home Buying Consideration #1: The Garage

Garages are a very important feature for many homebuyers, and can even end up being a dealbreaker for some buyers. More than a parking spot, garages provide valuable storage and project space, as well as a way to protect your vehicles from all types of damage. When you are first shopping for a home, you may know that you want a garage, but you may not have considered all of the variables that go into the garage design, and which choice is right for you.

Garage Design: Why it Matters

When evaluating garage design, it’s important to start by considering what you may want to use the space for, and what external factors (such as weather) might impact your use. Here are several major garage design aspects to keep in mind as you house hunt.

Rental space: Depending on the size and layout of your garage, is there space that could be rented out full time, or used as a short-term rental to generate additional income? That extra income could be directed towards your mortgage payment.

Storage opportunities: Does the garage have room to store what you need to reduce in-home clutter? Is there space for shelves, or even room in the rafters?

Potential property value increase: According to the sales comparison approach (SCA), one of the most recognizable forms of valuing residential real estate, a “finished” garage that feels like an extension of the home’s indoor living space is one of several features that can increase overall home value. You may also want to consider the possibilities of eventually remodeling a bland garage in an otherwise perfect home.

Attached vs. Detached Garages: Pros vs. Cons

One of the biggest distinctions in garage design is whether a garage is attached or detached. Often influenced by lot shape (narrow lots on an alley often have detached garages, wider lots with a driveway often have attached garages) or the age of a home, having a detached or attached garage has both advantages and disadvantages.  

Attached Garages: Pros

  • Convenient access to your cars, storage, and other items, particularly if you live in an area with an extreme climate 
  • Attached garages are often less expensive to build, and can be climate controlled by accessing the electrical and HVAC systems that are part of the home
  • As attached garages are the most popular type of garage, having one typically increases the value of your home

Attached Garages: Cons

  • If you’re thinking of adding one, it may not be possible to fit on a narrow, urban lot
  • Since they offer direct access to the home, they can be a security and fire risk  
  • They can be hard to add onto or expand, and any additions or changes might require more expensive permits and extensive inspections
  • Adding an attached garage, particularly to a vintage home, may look strange or otherwise detract from the exterior look of the home
  • Noisy garage activities may be heard more inside the home

Detached Garages: Pros

  • More flexibility in size, layout and location, lot size and shape permitting
  • It’s easier to add room for cars, storage, and projects, and to add onto if needed
  • Less fire and security risk to your home 
  • Less of an impact to the look or curb appeal of your home
  • Can increase the resale value of your home

Detached Garages: Cons 

  • Particularly in bad weather, less convenient in terms of access 
  • Will require separate utilities, HVAC, and more
  • May not be allowed by your HOA or city permitting office

Now that we’ve examined the garage, let’s take a look at another key feature — what’s going on with the front and backyard?

Home Buying Consideration #2: The Yard

No longer limited to just a lawn, yards have now become an extension of the home. A convenient, well-designed outdoor living space is something that many homeowners desire. Yards can be great spaces for entertaining and are often much less expensive to create than comparable indoor entertaining spaces. Here are some important yard elements to consider. 

Trees and landscaping: Important for both aesthetic and practical reasons, trees and landscaping can increase your yard’s appeal. A mature, well-designed landscape is valuable, as it represents an investment of both time and money. 

Outdoor kitchen: Whether you are grilling for two or entertaining 200, an outdoor kitchen makes cooking fun and convenient. 

Fireplace or fire pit: This stylish focal point makes it easy to keep enjoying your yard, even after dark or in cooler weather. 

Automatic sprinklers, drip system, and misting system: Automatic sprinklers and drip systems can keep your yard looking lush for a low cost, and are particularly valuable in dry climates. Misting systems can also keep you cool on hot days. 

Deck or Patio: A stylish outdoor surface makes it easy to enjoy your yard, and many new construction materials require little to no maintenance. 

Shed: Well-designed sheds can go beyond storage, offering everything from a private workspace to extra space for guests to sleep. 

So, you’re considering the finer points of a yard. But what about adding a body of water to that yard for cooling off on hot days? Here’s the pros and cons of investing in a water element for your next home.

Just starting your home search? Here’s the best time to begin.

Home Buying Consideration #3: The Pool

Pools and hot tubs are perhaps the most controversial of all outdoor home features. Some homebuyers totally avoid them, and some won’t look at a house without them. Which side are you on? Here are some factors to consider. 

Backyard Pool and Hot Tub: Pros 

  • Pools and hot tubs can be aesthetically pleasing
  • Both are also useful for entertaining
  • In warmer climates, pools can provide a way to enjoy the outdoors comfortably
  • If you like to swim, engage in other aquatic exercises regularly for fitness, or use a hot tub for muscle and joint pain, having your own can be convenient
  • In hot climates where pools are common (i.e., Arizona, California, Florida), having a pool can significantly increase the resale value of your home 

Backyard Pool and Hot Tub: Cons

  • Both pools and hot tubs require regular maintenance that includes chemicals, cleaning, and repair
  • Many families with small children do not want a pool at home due to safety concerns
  • Your insurance cost may be higher, and your utility bills may go up as well, particularly for heating a pool 
  • When it is time to sell your home, there are many buyers who will not want a house with a pool

A pool is a big decision that comes with both maintenance and benefits alike. You can always opt for a different kind of water feature, like a backyard stream. But if you’re looking to streamline your life, investing in home tech devices is almost a no-brainer.

Home Buying Consideration #4: The Appliances and Tech Gadgets

As technology improves and designs continually evolve, having up-to-date appliances and other devices in your home has become increasingly important. For example, while attractive kitchens are near the top of many house-hunters’ wish lists, there are items within those kitchens that can help — and items that can hurt — when it comes to increasing a home’s value.

Appliances That Can Help Property Value

Commercial-grade appliances: Particularly in high-end properties, many buyers expect to see appliances from luxury or professional brands. 

Smart devices: Thermostats, fire detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, security cameras, door locks, and doorbells are just a few of the relatively new smart home devices that homebuyers are now beginning to appreciate and even expect.

Appliances That Can Hurt Property Value

Old and energy inefficient: These power-sucking products will cost you in both your utility bill, and the resale value of your home. 

Homes totally lacking certain appliances: Is your property missing a dishwasher, indoor laundry, or other key features? This can be a major turn-off for buyers who don’t want to have to complete a complicated remodeling and installation project. 

Mismatched appliances: Appliances from different eras or in different colors can make your kitchen look unfinished and low-quality, even if your other finishes are fantastic.

Looking to stock up on home amenities? We’ve targeted the seasonal best deals for doing so.

Now that you’ve considered the key interior and exterior components of your dream home, there’s one last important element to contemplate: the driveway.

Home Buying Consideration #5: The Driveway

Walkways and driveways connect your home to the outside world and play a crucial role in the curb appeal of your residence. Although often overlooked, they are important home features that can be messy and expensive to replace or update. 

If you are evaluating the driveway at a potential home, or considering an update at your current home, the first choice you will need to make is whether you want asphalt or concrete. Both have benefits and drawbacks that may vary depending on your climate, landscape, and usage needs.

Today, many homeowners and buyers are also looking for something beyond the basics, with driveway design trends including elaborate paving materials, irregular shapes, and additional features like extra parking for guests.

Know the Tricks, Now Land the House

Although these five features may not be your first considerations in the house-hunting process, they are important elements that you will use or interact with nearly every day. Add them to your consideration list, and you will be sure to end up in a customized home that you enjoy and treasure. If you’ve found your ideal home with all the right features, reach out to a PennyMac Loan Officer today or apply online to get pre-approved for the loan that’s right for you.

Source: pennymacusa.com

75 Personal Finance Rules of Thumb

A “rule of thumb” is a mental shortcut. It’s a heuristic. It’s not always true, but it’s usually true. It saves you time and brainpower. Rather than re-inventing the wheel for every money problem you face, personal finance rules of thumb let you apply wisdom from the past to reach quick solutions.

I’m going to do my best Buzzfeed impression today and give you a list of 75 personal finance rules of thumb. Some are efficient packets of advice while others are mathematical shortcuts to save brain space. Either way, I bet you’ll learn a thing or two—quickly—from this list.

The Basics

These basic personal finance rules of thumb apply to everybody. They’re simple and universal.

1. The Order of Operations (since this is one of the bedrocks of personal finance, I wrote a PDF explaining all the details. Since you’re a reader here, it’s free.)

2. Insurance protects wealth. It doesn’t build wealth.

3. Cash is good for current expenses and emergencies, but nothing more. Holding too much cash means you’re losing long-term value.

4. Time is money. Wealth is a measure of how much time your money can buy.

5. Set specific financial goals. Specific numbers, specific dates. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

6. Keep an eye on your credit score. Check-in at least once a year.

7. Converting wages to salary: $1/per hour = $2000 per year.

8. Don’t mess with City Hall. Don’t cheat on your taxes.

9. You can afford anything. You can’t afford everything.

10. Money saved is money earned. When you look at your bottom line, saving a dollar has the equivalent effect as earning a dollar. Saving and earning are equally important.

Budgeting

I love budgeting, but not everyone is as zealous as me. Still, if you’re looking to budget (or even if you’re not), I think these budgeting rules of thumb are worth following.

11. You need a budget. The key to getting your financial life under control is making a budget and sticking to it. That is the first step for every financial decision.

12. The 50-30-20 rule of budgeting. After taxes, 50% of your money should cover needs, 30% should cover wants, and 20% should repay debts or invest.

13. Use “sinking funds” to save for rainy days. You know it’ll rain eventually.

14. Don’t mix savings and checking. One saves, the other spends.

15. Children cost about $10,000 per kid, per year. Family planning = financial planning.

16. Spend less than you earn. You might say, “Duh!” But if you’re not measuring your spending (e.g. with a budget), are you sure you meet this rule?

Investing & Retirement

Basic investing, in my opinion, is a ‘must know’ for future financial success. The following rules of thumb will help you dip your toe in those waters.

17. Don’t handpick stocks. Choose index funds instead. Very simple, very effective.

18. People who invest full-time are smarter than you. You can’t beat them.

19. The Rule of 72 (it’s doctor-approved). An investment annual growth rate multiplied by its doubling time equals (roughly) 72. A 4% investment will double in 18 years (4*18 = 72). A 12% investment will double in 6 years (12*6 = 72).

20. “Don’t do something, just sit there.” -Jack Bogle, on how bad it is to worry about your investments and act on those emotions.

21. Get the employer match. If your employer has a retirement program (e.g. 401k, pension), make sure you get all the free money you can.

22. Balance pre-tax and post-tax investments. It’s hard to know what tax rates will be like when you retire, so balancing between pre-tax and post-tax investing now will also keep your tax bill balanced later.

23. Keep costs low. Investing fees and expense ratios can eat up your profits. So keep those fees as low as possible.

24. Don’t touch your retirement money. It can be tempting to dip into long-term savings for an important current need. But fight that urge. You’ll thank yourself later.

25. Rebalancing should be part of your investing plan. Portfolios that start diversified can become concentrated some one asset does well and others do poorly. Rebalancing helps you rest your diversification and low er your risk.

26. The 4% Rule for retirement. Save enough money for retirement so that your first year of expenses equals 4% (or less) of your total nest egg.

27. Save for your retirement first, your kids’ college second. Retirees don’t get scholarships.

28. $1 invested in stocks today = $10 in 30 years.

29. Inflation is about 3% per year. If you want to be conservative, use 3.5% in your money math.

30. Stocks earn 7% per year, after adjusting for inflation.

31. Own your age in bonds. Or, own 120 minus your age in bonds. The heuristic used to be that a 30-year old should have a portfolio that’s 30% bonds, 40-year old 40% bonds, etc. More recently, the “120 minus your age” rule has become more prevalent. 30-year old should own 10% bonds, 40-year old 20% bonds, etc.

32. Don’t invest in the unknown. Or as Warren Buffett suggests, “Invest in what you know.”

Home & Auto

For many of you, home and car ownership contribute to your everyday finances. The following personal finance rules of thumb will be especially helpful for you.

33. Your house’s sticker price should be less than 3x your family’s combined income. Being “house poor”—or having too expensive of a house compared to your income—is one of the most common financial pitfalls. Avoid it if you can.

34. Broken appliance? Replace it if 1) the appliance is 8+ years old or 2) the repair would cost more than half of a new appliance.

35. Used car or new car? The cost difference isn’t what it used to be. The choice is even.

36. A car’s total lifetime cost is about 3x its sticker price. Choose wisely!

37. 20-4-10 rule of buying a vehicle. Put 20% of the vehicle down in cash, with a loan of 4 years or less, with a monthly payment that is less than 10% of your monthly income.

38. Re-financing a mortgage makes sense once interest rates drop by 1% (or more) from your current rate.

39. Don’t pre-pay your mortgage (unless your other bases are fully covered). Mortgages interest is deductible, and current interest rates are low. While pre-paying your mortgage saves you that little bit of interest, there’s likely a better use for you extra cash.

40. Set aside 1% of your home’s value each year for future maintenance and repairs.

41. The average car costs about 50 cents per mile over the course of its life.

42. Paying interest on a depreciating asset (e.g. a car) is losing twice.

43. Your main home isn’t an investment. You shouldn’t plan on both living in your house forever and selling it for profit. The logic doesn’t work.

44. Pay cash for cars, if you can. Paying interest on a car is a losing move.

45. If you’re buying a fixer-upper, consider the 70% rule to sort out worthy properties.

46. If you’re buying a rental property, the 1% rule easily evaluates if you’ll get a positive cash flow.

Spending & Debt

Do you spend money? (“What kind of question is that?”) Then these personal finance rules of thumb will apply to you.

47. Pay off your credit card every month.

48. In debt? Use psychology to help yourself. Consider the debt snowball or debt avalanche.

49. When making a purchase, consider cost-per-use.

50. Make your spending tangible with a ‘cash diet.’

51. Never pay full price. Shop around and do your research to get the best deals. You can earn cash back when you shop online, score a discount with a coupon code, or a voucher for free shipping.

52. Buying experiences makes you happier than buying things.

53. Shop by yourself. Peer pressure increases spending.

54. Shop with a list, and stick to it. Stores are designed to pull you into purchases you weren’t expecting.

55. Spend on the person you are, not the person you want to be. I love cooking, but I can’t justify $1000 of professional-grade kitchenware.

56. The bigger the purchase, the more time it deserves. Organic vs. normal peanut butter? Don’t spend 10 minutes thinking about it. $100K on a timeshare? Don’t pull the trigger when you’re three margaritas deep.

57. Use less than 30% of your available credit. Credit usage plays a major role in your credit score. Consistently maxing out your credit hurts your credit score. Aim to keep your usage low (paying off every month, preferably).

58. Unexpected windfall? Use 5% or less to treat yourself, but use the rest wisely (e.g. invest for later).

59. Aim to keep your student loans less than one year’s salary in your field.

The Mental Side of Personal Finance

At the end of the day, you are what you do. Psychology and behavior play an essential role in personal finance. That’s why these behavioral rules of thumb are vital.

60. Consider peace of mind. Paying off your mortgage isn’t always the optimum use of extra money. But the peace of mind that comes with eliminating debt—it’s huge.

61. Small habits build up to big impacts. It feels like a baby step now, but give yourself time.

62. Give your brain some time. Humans might rule the animal kingdom, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t impulsive. Give your brain some time to think before making big financial decisions.

63. The 30 Day Rule. Wait 30 days before you make a purchase of a “want” above a certain dollar amount. If you still want it after waiting and you can afford it, then buy it.  

64. Pay yourself first. Put money away (into savings or investment accounts) before you ever have a chance to spend it.

65. As a family, don’t fall into the two-income trap. If you can, try to support your lifestyle off of only one income. Should one spouse lose their job, the family finances will still be stable.

66. Every dollar counts. Money is fungible. There are plenty of ways to supplement your income stream.

67. Savor what you have before buying new stuff. Consider the fulfillment curve.

68. Negotiating your salary can be one of the most important financial moves you make. Increasing your income might be more important than anything else on this list.

69. Direct deposit is the nudge you need. If you don’t see your paycheck, you’re less likely to spend it.

70. Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Instead, use comparisons to set goals. (net worth).

71. Learning is earning. Education is 5x more impactful to work-life earnings than other demographics.

72. If you wouldn’t pay in cash, then don’t pay in credit. Swiping a credit card feels so easy compared to handing over a stack of cash. Don’t let your brain fool itself.

73. Envision a leaky bucket. Water leaking from the bottom is just as consequential as water entering the top. We often ignore financial leaks (e.g. fees), since they’re not as glamorous—but we shouldn’t.

74. Forget the Joneses. Use comparisons to motivate healthier habits, not useless spending.

75. Talk about money! I know it’s sometimes frowned upon (like politics or religion), but you can learn a ton from talking to your peers about money. Unsure where to start? You can talk to me!

The Last Personal Finance Rule of Thumb

Last but not least, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Boom! Got ’em again! Ben Franklin streaks in for another meta appearance. Thanks Ben!

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

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

Source: bestinterest.blog

The Power of Baby Steps

Today’s simple graphics will enlighten you on the power of baby steps and the potency of small repeated marginal gains.

A Baby’s Growth

It’s easy to overlook the rapid growth that humans undergo.

At first, we’re a helpless whiny lump that’s capable of only three things: eat, sleep, bathroom. This baby, one might assume, must have a pretty low ceiling.

Fast forward two full years and…ok, some progress has happened. Our baby is now zooming around of her feet, and she’s babbling, and she’s feeding herself, albeit poorly. These are some true baby steps. Small progress. But this is largely still a helpless child.

Walking Baby GIFs | Tenor

By age five, she’s talking. That’s cool. She can eat food without spilling, she can read (whoa!), and she can run around. Compared to an adult, she’s small and weak and dumb (sorry, it’s true!). But there’s been fantastic progress.

I won’t go much further. We know that brains and bodies continue to grow into adulthood. And we know that adult humans are capable of amazing accomplishments. But the path from helpless whiny lump to amazing adult—that path was walked one baby step at a time.

Let’s bring back Wallace

Remember Wallace from “The Best Time to Invest?”

He’s back, and he’s trying to improve himself via a similar baby step method. What’s he improving?

It could be anything, financial or otherwise. Perhaps Wallace wants a fully funded emergency fund. He wants to eat a healthier diet. Or maybe he wants to be a better writer.

I’m going to refer to these improvements as levels. Wallace is at Level 1 right now. He’s a whiny helpless lump, but he’s looking to grow.

Wallace is going to focus on building towards his goals using a simple 1% improvement every week. Whatever the goal, whatever the skill. Wallace’s wants to take baby steps of 1% improvement each week.

Wallace’s will improve from 1.00 to 1.01 in Week 1.

And then he’ll improve from 1.01 to 1.021 in Week 2.

Slowly but surely, Wallace will progress. His level will improve.

But baby steps are slow

Baby steps are slow. And that’s why baby step improvements can be frustrating (at least for adults—not so much for babies). Take a look at Wallace’s first year of progress. It’s that little blue streak at the bottom of the plot.

baby step year 1
After one year, Wallace has grown from 1.0 to 1.7

Whether he’s saving money or writing a blog or improving at chess, Wallace has barely made any progress (at least, based on my chosen Y-axis).

But Wallace is a grinder. He believes in the power of baby steps. So he continues to focus on weekly 1% improvements for two more years.

baby step year 3
After three years, Wallace is at Level 4.7

Ok! At least Wallace’s growth is no longer looking like a flat line. Let’s fast forward another couple years.

baby step year 5
After five years, Wallace is at Level 13.3

Wallace hits the curve

After five years, it’s apparent that Wallace is starting to “hit the curve.” His 1% improvements no longer look like a straight line. Instead, those improvements are building on one another in a compounding manner.

When he started, Wallace was at “Level 1.” His 1% improvement was tiny—1% of 1 is 0.01. But after hundreds of 1% improvements, he’s now around Level 13. The 1% improvements now increase his level by 0.13 each week. In ~6 weeks of Year 5, Wallace grows more than he did the entire Year 1.

All styles of exponential growth exhibit this behavior. Growth compounds on growth. The early steps feel slow, barely making progress. The last steps feel monumental. But those monumental steps wouldn’t have been possible without the years of slow progress beforehand.

Many 4-year olds can’t read, but many 9-year olds can read chapter books. Five years of consistent practice can bring a sea change of improvement.

It’s just like the parable of rice filling up a chessboard.

baby step year 10
After ten years, Wallace is at Level 177

The curve continues to steepen through Year 10. Now at level 177, the idea of being at level 1 is a distant memory for Wallace. It’s just like the idea that “a lot can change in ten years.”

But are baby steps always possible?

I’ve shown you an assumed scenario where Wallace is always able to make 1% improvements. And maybe that’s too ambitious of an assumption.

Even if Wallace hits the top of his game—like Lebron, Adele, or Meryl Streep—he will probably hit some sort of plateau. You can’t necessarily get better forever. But the goal doesn’t need to be infinite growth. Instead, the goal is to find an effective mindset to achieve growth. And that’s what the baby step method provides.

A widely shared story of baby steps involves coach Dave Brailsford’s leadership of the British Cycling team.

Have a Laugh with the 20 Best Cycling GIFs! - We Love Cycling magazine

Brailsford’s vision expanded beyond training and racing and physical attributes. Instead, Brailsford wanted to improve every aspect of a cyclist’s life—diet, sleep, even relationships. Of course, it included their training and recovery and equipment, too. Brailsford was thinking about baby steps. If he could find 70 different places to make a 1% improvement, the cyclists would end up 100% better (1.01 ^ 70 = 2). Sounds easy, right?

They bought more comfortable pillows to help the cyclists sleep through the night. They cut out refined foods, replacing them with something nutritious. The team considered every component on the bicycle where mass could be reduced, even if only by a gram.

These small improvements worked wonders.

Under Brailsford’s leadership from 2007 to 2017, British cyclists won 5 Tour de France titles. And they won 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals. Oh, and they won 178 world championships. British cycling dominated the world cycling scene.

Baby steps work.

Baby steps in personal finance

There are plenty of opinions about simple financial goals that you can add to your baby step to-do list.

Unburying yourself—from debt, from bad habits, etc.—isn’t a one step process. It takes time. And it requires small improvements. You know—baby steps.

You can earn money in bits and pieces. A little raise here, a side hustle there. You can find odd jobs or use smartphone apps that pay you money. Little baby steps all over.

College loans and mortgages can take decades to repay. Learning a new budgeting system requires patience. The math behind interest rates might take a few attempts to understand. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And your personal finance success will take time too. But it’ll come if you stick with it.

This plot shows the small baby steps I’ve made over the past two years. In blue are my slow and steady investments. In red is my slow and steady debt payoff. And the white circles combine the two to show a steady increase in net worth.

Winning the lottery would be cool. So would investing in next Amazon, Apple, etc. while they’re still a startup. But if I don’t get that lucky, I’ll be ok. My baby steps are slowly building up.

Keep on Growing

Take it away, Clapton!

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

And thank you to Feedspot for including me in their Top 100 personal finance blogs. What an honor! Gotta keep on growing…

Source: bestinterest.blog