Zillow study illustrates home value disparity between races

Typical values for Black and Latinx-owned homes still lag behind overall U.S. home values, but the gap is narrowing.

A new Zillow analysis shows homes owned by Black and Latinx households are worth 16.2% and 10.2% less, respectively, than the typical U.S. home. Homes owned by non-Hispanic white and Asian families, meanwhile, have typical values 2.9% and 3.7% higher than the typical U.S. home.

While inequity in home values continues to persist, the data show them steadily, albeit slowly, converging. Since homeownership is the single largest driver of wealth for many households, the value and appreciation of a home is extremely impactful for families.

Before the Great Recession, the gap between Black-owned home values and all home values was about 15%, but grew to 20% by March 2014. Similarly, Latinx-owned homes saw the largest home value gap in May 2012 at 14% — 2 percentage points larger than before the housing bubble. Now, nearly a decade later, home values for Black- and Latinx-owned homes are back at pre-bubble levels, and continue to narrow despite the current economic crisis.

One reason for the wide gap is that the housing bust hit communities of color especially hard. Subprime loans were targeted to take advantage of the most vulnerable communities, and the ensuing wave of foreclosures hurt homeownership and home values disproportionately for Black and Latinx homeowners. Fast forward 12 years, and homeownership rates and home values are still recovering for these communities. While home value growth turned positive for U.S. homes in August 2012, it took an additional two years for Black and Latinx homes to see this same growth.

“It has taken nearly a decade for the home value gap to return to pre-recession levels, but still, the gap remains very large,” says Zillow economist Treh Manhertz. “With Black and brown communities and jobs hit disproportionately hard in the pandemic, there has been reason to worry another dip may be on the horizon that could slow or stop the progress. However, this is not the case, as the same factors that widened the gap in the Great Recession are not surfacing this time. Thanks to rock bottom rates on the most secure mortgages, extended forbearance programs, and rising home prices, there are no signs of another widening of the gap coming this year. However, through these turbulent times, continued vigilance and targeted intervention by policymakers is crucial to keep the progress going for communities of color.”

Home value inequality varies greatly in different states and metropolitan areas. Large metros with the smallest spread between Black-owned home values are Riverside (1% value gap), San Antonio (3%), Las Vegas (3%), and Portland (4%). Among the most unequal are Detroit (46% value gap), Buffalo (43%) Birmingham (43%), St. Louis (41%), and Milwaukee (40%).

Black homeownership rates are also on the rise since the Great Recession, despite challenges for Black homebuyers to secure a mortgage. Telework has the ability to expand the opportunity for homeownership even further for Black and Latinx renters, providing the flexibility to own a home in a less-expensive area.

The post Zillow study illustrates home value disparity between races appeared first on RealtyBizNews: Real Estate News.

Source: realtybiznews.com

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

Money-Saving Hacks to Beat the System

Money-Saving Hacks to Beat the SystemDavid Pogue is one of the world's bestselling how-to authors with over 3 million books in print. He has 120 titles in the Missing Manual series, a collection of funny computer books, and he wrote or co-wrote seven books in the "for Dummies" series.

David is a former New York Times columnist, the tech critic for Yahoo Finance, and he writes a monthly column for Scientific American. He's worked in TV as the host of science shows on PBS's "NOVA" and as a correspondent for "CBS Sunday Morning" since 2002. He's the recipient of prestigious awards like multiple Emmys, Webbys, and a Loeb for journalism.

In this interview. we talk about his most recent title Pogue’s Basics: Money – Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) About Beating the System. It covers 150 simple tips and tricks to stop leaving money on the table every day. You can pick up a copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or Booksamillion.

[Listen to the interview using the audio player in the upper right sidebar of this page or on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify]

Free Resource: Laura's Recommended Tools—use them to earn more, save more, and accomplish more with your money!

You should never buy anything but refurbished computers. – David Pogue

I had a great time chatting with David about some of my favorite money-saving tips from the book. Here are some of the topics we discuss:

  • The right way to purchase computers and laptops
  • Whether you should pay for extended product warranties
  • Tips to save money on insurance
  • How to get free money from Amazon programs
  • Places to turn unused gift cards into cash at sites like CardCash or Cardpool
  • How to leverage credit cards for cash back

No matter how much or little money you have, you'll take away easy tips and shortcuts to outsmart retailers, leverage savings programs, and keep more of your hard-earned money!

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To learn about how to get out of debt, save money, and build wealth, get a copy of my award-winning book Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. It tells you what you need to know about money without bogging you down with what you don’t. It’s available at your favorite bookstore as a paperback or e-book. Click here to download 2 FREE book chapters now!

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Source: quickanddirtytips.com

My spending goal for 2020: Spend less on food

I’m pleased to report that 2020 is off to a fine start. As I mentioned in my year-end review, 2019 sucked for me. I have high hopes that this year will be a vast improvement. So far, it has been.

The biggest change is that I’m not drinking alcohol. While this is meant as a January-only test, it’s possible that I’ll extend the experiment. It’s saving me money and making me more productive. Plus, it may be helping with my anxiety and depression. I like that. (Thanks to the GRS readers who sent me private notes about their own struggles with alcohol. I appreciate it.)

I’ve made other small changes this year too. While I didn’t make any resolutions — I rarely do — I’m using the new year as a prompt to alter some of my habits, to do things differently.

One area that both Kim and I want to focus on in 2020 is our food spending. In 2018, I spent an average of $1038.03 per month on food. While I don’t have complete numbers for 2019 (my expense tracking was messy in the latter half of the year), I know that while my food spending declined, it didn’t decline by much. I want to change that.

To that end, Kim and I are making a couple of changes. For one, I’m canceling HelloFresh…at least for now. Plus, there’s the whole “cut out alcohol” thing. While alcohol isn’t included in my food spending, it contributes to my food spending. It leads us to eat out more. We want to reduce our restaurant spending in 2020.

Let’s take a closer look at how I hope to spend less on food this year.

Good-bye, HelloFresh

Last year was the year I experimented with HelloFresh, the meal delivery service. Mostly, I like it. Mostly. I like the HelloFresh recipes. I like the convenience. I like the company itself.

That said, there are enough downsides to HelloFresh that starting next week, I’m dropping the service. Part of this is because of me. Part of this is because of HelloFresh itself.

On the me side, I need to walk more. I need to get more exercise, and I need to experience my neighborhood. As part of that, I want to make regular trips to the grocery store — by foot.

Also on the me side, I like greater variety than HelloFresh offers. It’s not that HelloFresh doesn’t offer different meals and cuisines — because it does. But the recipes themselves have a relentless sameness about them. Yes, you can choose Italian or Korean or American dishes, but the preparation is always always always the same. It’s boring.

Those are the problems with me. There are also problems with HelloFresh itself.

For instance, I’m sick of the never-ending push to get me to promote the service to my friends. Get lost. Every week, the HelloFresh package contains a plea to share sign-up codes with friends. Every week when I choose my meals online, there’s an additional plea to share sign-up codes with friends. Every week in the follow up e-mails, there’s a plea to share sign-up codes with friends. I’m over it.

But the biggest strike against the service is its inability to get produce right.

Most weeks, there’s at least one meal with a shitty piece of produce. It’s usually (but not always) a tomato. One meal I prepped last week had a rotten lemon. (I’ve never even seen a rotten lemon before!) It’s as if there’s no quality control.

And at least once per month, a vegetable is simply missing. Absent. Not in the bag. During Thanksgiving week, for instance, I was prepping a meal with asparagus almandine, which sounded awesome. But the package I received contained no asparagus. I scrambled to find a substitute — Brussels sprouts — but it was a poor replacement.

The Cost of Convenience

Plus, there’s the cost. When we first tried HelloFresh in June 2018, I crunched the numbers. Meals from HelloFresh cost about $10 per person. If I were to purchase the ingredients myself, the cost was just over $3 per person. At three meals per person per week, I’ve been paying an extra $175 per month for groceries that I don’t need to pay.

When I signed up for HelloFresh, I did so because I hoped it would save me money. I hoped that it would keep me out of the grocery store (which it does, actually) and that in turn would reduce my grocery spending. I tend to make a lot of impulse purchases at the supermarket, so this seemed like sound reasoning.

The results of this experiment were inconclusive. For the first half of 2019, my home food spending (HelloFresh and groceries combined) dropped from $620.92 per month to $553.45 per month. But during the last two months of the year, I spent $729.38 per month. Was that year-end spike because of the holidays? The huge Costco trip I made in early November? I don’t know. Maybe I should dive deeper.

In any event, if I did save money, it isn’t nearly as much as I’d hoped I would save.

That said, Kim and I have really enjoyed many of the meals we’ve ordered from HelloFresh. And we’re especially keen on the recipe cards. They’re a lot of fun. They make cooking simple — even if they are relentlessly the same.

Because I’m a nerd, I’ve saved every recipe card from every HelloFresh meal we’ve ordered. And to get nerdier yet, I’ve both graded each recipe and taken notes on it. In other words, we have a customized illustrated “cookbook” containing over 100 different recipes. (Plus, all 2500+ of the HelloFresh recipes are available for free from their website.)

Going forward, I intend to use these recipe cards to plan and prep our meals. Instead of ordering from HelloFresh itself, though, I’m going to walk to the grocery store (carrying my backpack) to buy the ingredients. This should prevent me from buying crap we don’t need while allowing me to obtain better produce than HelloFresh tends to send.

We’ll see how it works.

Here’s another way Kim and I have come up with to cut costs on food: batch cooking. It’s nothing new, I know, but it’s new to us. We won’t do once-a-month cooking, but we’ll each pick one recipe per week and make a larger version of it.

I’ll pick one HelloFresh cards and make three nights of the meal, for example. Last Sunday, Kim prepped a big batch of pork tacos that we’ve eaten for dinner the past three nights. And so on. We think this’ll keep life simple and keep me out of the grocery store.

Rascally Restaurants

Kim and I will also try to cut back on food spending this year by reducing how much we dine out. Left to our own devices, we choose restaurants much of the time. That gets expensive.

  • In 2017, I spent an average of $567.97 per month on restaurants. Kim spent some unknown amount too (but much less).
  • In 2018, I spent an average of $389.63 per month on restaurants. Plus, Kim spent some. So, we made big gains in 2018, but our spending was still high.
  • As I mentioned, my records are incomplete for last year, but I know I spent $288.04 for restaurants during the last two months of 2019.

From 2017 to 2019, we cut our restaurant spending in half. That’s great progress! Still, there’s room for improvement.

I spent an average of $66.47 per week on restaurants last year. My gut feeling is that this is basically dining out once per week. I know from experience that our typical check is about $55, which includes our two meals plus two beers each. After tip, that’s $66. That’s our standard meal. (And it’s usually on a Thursday night.)

So far in 2020, we’ve had one restaurant meal and it cost us exactly $34 (including tip). If we’d both had our typical two beers, that check would have been about $58. By not drinking, we saved ourselves more than twenty bucks!

Kim and I do enjoy eating out together, so it’s not something we want to eliminate. Instead, we want to be more mindful about how and where we dine out when we do dine out.

We’ve already shifted our focus from fancier places (which is where we were eating in 2017) to cheap and tasty spots. But now we’re interested in finding places that are even less expensive. And, at least for now, we want to be careful to avoid spots that might tempt us to drink. (Our favorite pub has great food and a cozy environment, but we both know it’s madness for us to eat there. It’ll make us want to drink beer.)

It’s far to early to predict how this whole restaurant thing is going to go in 2020. But we’ve thought of a couple of ways to cut costs (in addition to the “not drinking” thing.) As I said, we can turn our attention to less expensive eateries. Why go to the fancy Mexican place with “gourmet” tacos that cost $8 or $9 when we can go to the cheap place down the hill with $4 tacos? Let’s try that new ramen spot.

Plus, we might try take-out this year. Neither one of us has ever been a big proponent of ordering food to go, but I think it makes some sense right now. On my way home from the new office, I can pick up something tasty for dinner from the Thai place or the Italian place, maybe. We can have the restaurant food without restaurant temptation.

The Last Big Win

Food seems to be the last major place that I can trim my budget. My austerity measures in 2019 yielded excellent results, and I’ll continue to pursue those in the future. But I’ve cut most of my discretionary spending as far as I want to cut it at present. Food is the exception.

  • I averaged spending $1176.06 per month on food in 2017.
  • That dropped to $1038.03 in 2018.
  • During the last two months of 2019, I spent an average of $1053.28 per month on food.

As I say, we’re making progress, but I feel there’s more to be had here. This is the last big win left in my budget. It’d be great if I could trim my food spending to, say, $800 per month (or lower!) in 2020. That’d be a fantastic drop from $1200 each month in 2017, right? I’d call that a victory.

On a food-related note, I should point out that eliminating (or reducing) alcohol could also save me plenty of money. During the past three years, I’ve reliably spent about $250 per month on alcohol — and that doesn’t include alcohol in restaurants. Going dry could help my health and wealth.

Source: getrichslowly.org

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

Let the Roaring 2020s Begin

First some great news: because of your support in reading and sharing this blog, it has been able to earn quite a lot of income and give away over $300,000 so far.

The latest $100k of that happens at the end of this article. Please check it out if you want to feel good, learn more, and even join me in helping out the world a bit.

As I type this, there are only a few days left in the 2010s, and holy shit what a decade it has been.

Ten years ago, a 35 year old MMM and the former Mrs. MM were four years into retirement, but not feeling very retired yet. We stumbled out of 2009 with a precious but very high strung three-year-old, a house building business that was way more stressful than it should have been, and a much more rudimentary set of life skills. It was a time of great promise, but a lot of this promise was yet to be claimed.

Ten years later, despite the fact that I have one less marriage, one less surviving parent, and ten years less remaining youth, I am in an even better place in life right now, and would never want to trade places with the 2009 version of me. And on that measure alone, I can tell it has been a successful decade.

This is a great sign and it bodes well for early retirees everywhere. Compared to the start of the decade, I am healthier and stronger physically, wealthier financially, and (hopefully) at least a bit wiser emotionally. I’ve been through so much, learned so much in so many new interesting fields, and packed so much living into these 3653 days. A big part of that just flowed from the act of retiring from my career in 2005, which freed me up to do so many other things, including starting this blog.

It has not always been easy, in fact the hard times of this decade have been some of the hardest of my life. But by coming through it all I have learned that super difficult experiences only serve to enrich your life even more, by widening your range of feelings and allowing you to savor the normal moments and the great ones even more.

Ten Years of Learning in Three Points

I think the real meaning of “Wisdom” is just “I’ve seen a lot of shit go down in my lifetime and over time you start to notice everything just boils down to a few principles.

The books all say it, and the wise older people in real life all say it too. And for me, it’s probably the following few things that stand out the most:

1) This Too Shall Pass: nothing is as big a deal as you think it is at the time. Angry or sad emotions from life traumas will fade remarkably quickly, but so will the positive surprises from one-time life upgrades through the sometimes-bummer magic of Hedonic Adaptation. What’s left is just you – no matter where you go, there you are.

2) But You Are Really Just a Bundle of Habits: most of your day (and therefore your life) is comprised of repeating the same set of behaviors over and over. The way you get up, the things you focus your mind on. Your job. The way you interact with other people. The way you eat and exercise. Unless you give all of this a lot of mindful attention and work to tweak it, it stays the same, which means your life barely changes, which means your level of happiness barely changes.

3) Change Your Habits, Change your Life: Because of all this, the easiest and best way to have a happier and more satisfying life is to figure out what ingredients go into a good day, and start adding those things while subtracting the things that create bad days. For me (and quite possibly you, whether you realize it or not), the good things include positive social interactions, helping people, outdoor physical activity, creative expression and problem solving, and just good old-fashioned hard work. The bad things mostly revolve around stress due to over-scheduling one’s life, emotional negativity and interpersonal conflict – all things I am especially sensitive to.

So while I can’t control everything, I have found that the more I work to design those happiness creators into my life and step away from things that consistently cause bad days, the happier and richer life can become.

Speaking of Richer:

I recently read two very different books, which still ended up pointing me in the same direction:

This Could Be Our Future, by former Kickstarter cofounder and CEO Yancey Strickler, is a concise manifesto that makes a great case for running our lives, businesses, and even giant corporations, according to a much more generous and person-centric set of rules.

Instead of the narrow minded perspective of “Profit Maximization” that drives so many of the world’s shittier companies and gives capitalism a bad reputation, he points out that even small changes in the attitude of company (and world) leaders, can lead to huge changes in the way our economy runs.

The end result is more total wealth and happier lives for all of us – like Mustachianism itself, it really is a win/win proposition rather than any form of compromise or tradeoff. In fact, Strickler specifically mentions you and me in this book, using the FIRE movement as an example of a group of people who have adopted different values in order to lead better lives.

Die with Zero*, by former hedge fund manager and thrill seeking poker champion Bill Perkins sounds like a completely different book on the surface: Perkins’ point is that many people work too long and defer too much gratification for far too long in their lives.

Instead, he encourages you to map out your life decade by decade and make sure that you maximize your experiences in each stage, while you are still young enough to enjoy each phase. For example, do your time in the skate park and the black diamond ski slopes in your 20s and 30s, rather than saving every dollar in the hopes that you can do more snowboarding after you retire in your 60s.

Obviously, as Mr. Money Mustache I disagree on a few of the finer points: Life is not an experiences contest, you can get just as much joy from simpler local experiences as from exotic ones in foreign lands, and spending more money on yourself does not create more happiness, so if you die with millions in the bank you have not necessarily left anything on the table. But it does take skill to put these truths into practice, and for an untrained consumer with no imagination, buying experiences can still be an upgrade over sitting at home watching TV.

However, he does make one great point: one thing you can spend money on is helping other people – whether they are your own children, family, friends, or people with much more serious needs like famine and preventable disease.

And if you are going to give away this money, it’s better to do it now, while you are alive, rather than just leaving it behind in your estate, when your beneficiaries may be too old to benefit from your gift anyway.

So with this in mind, I made a point of making another round of donations to effective causes this year – a further $100,000 which was made possible by some unexpected successes with this blog this year, combined with finding that my own lifestyle continues to cost less than $20k to sustain, even in “luxury bachelor” mode.

And here’s where it all went!

$80,000 to GiveWell, who will automatically deliver it to their top recommended charities. This is always my top donation, because it is the most serious and research-backed choice. This means you are very likely doing the most good with each dollar, if your goal is the wellbeing of fellow human beings. GiveWell does constant research on effective charities and keeps an updated list on their results – which makes it a great shortcut for me. Further info in my The Life You Can Save post.

Strategic Note: I made this donation from my Betterment account where I keep a pretty big portion of my investments. This is because of tax advantages which multiply my giving/saving power – details here at Betterment and in my own article about the first time I used this trick.

$5000 to the Choose FI Foundation – this was an unexpected donation for me, based on my respect for the major work the ChooseFI gang are doing with their blog and podcast and meetups, and their hard-charging ally Edmund Tee who I met on a recent trip. They are creating a curriculum and teaching kids and young adults how to manage their money with valuable but free courses.

$2000 to the True Potential Scholarship Fund, set up by my inspiring and badass Omaha lawyer friend Ross Pesek. Ross first inspired me years ago by going through law school using an extremely frugal combination of community and state colleges, then rising to the top of the pack and starting his own firm anyway. Then he immediately turned around and started using some of the profits to help often-exploited immigrant workers in his own community with both legal needs and education.

$1000 to plant one thousand trees, via the #teamtrees effort via the National Arbor Day Foundation. I credit some prominent YouTubers and Elon Musk for promoting this effort – so far it has resulted in over 20 million trees being funded, which is a lot (roughly equal to creating a dense forest as big as New York City)

$5000 to Bicycle Colorado – a force for change (and sometimes leading the entire United States) in encouraging Colorado leaders and lawmakers to shift our spending and our laws just slightly away from “all cars all the time” and towards the vastly more effective direction of accommodating bikes and feet as transportation options. Partly because of their work, I have seen incredible changes in Denver, which is rapidly becoming a bike utopia. Boulder is not far behind, and while Longmont is still partially stuck in the 1980s as we widen car roads and build even more empty parking lots, these changes slowly trickle down from leaders to followers, so I want to fund the leaders.

$5000 (tripled to $15,000 due to a matching program that runs until Dec. 31) to Planned Parenthood. Although US-centric, this is an incredibly useful medical resource for our people in the greatest need. Due to emotional manipulation by politicians who use religion as a wedge to divide public opinion, this general healthcare organization is under constant attack because they also support women’s reproductive rights. But if you have a loved one or family member who has ever been helped during a difficult time by Planned Parenthood, you know exactly why they are such an incredible force for good – affecting millions of lives for the better.

And finally, just for reasons of personal and local appreciation, $1000 to the orchestra program of little MM’s public middle school. I have been amazed at the transformation in my own son and the hundreds of other kids who have benefited from this program. They operate a world-class program on a shoestring (violin-string?) budget which they try to boost by painstakingly fundraising with poinsettia plants and chocolate bars. So I could see that even a little boost like this could make a difference. (He plays the upright bass.)

You could definitely argue that there are places that need money more than a successful school in a wealthy and peaceful area like Colorado, and I would agree with you. Because of this, I always encourage people not to do the bulk of their giving to local organizations. Sure, it may feel more gratifying and you may see the results personally, but you can make a much bigger difference by sending your dollars to where they are needed the most. So as a compromise, I try to split things up and send the lion’s share of my donations to GiveWell where they will make the biggest difference, and do a few smaller local things here as a reward mostly for myself.

So those are the donations that are complete – $99,000 of my own cash plus an additional $10,000 in matching funds for Planned Parenthood. But because environment and energy are such big things to me, I wanted to do one more fun thing:

$5000 to build or expand a local solar farm.

This one is more of an investment than a donation, but it still does a lot of good. Because if you recall, last year I built a solar array for the MMM Headquarters coworking space, which has been pumping out free energy ever since. My initial setup only cost me $3800 and it has already delivered about $1000 in free energy, more than the total amount used to run the HQ and charge a bunch of electric cars on the side.

So, I plan to invest another $5000, to expand the array at HQ if possible, or to build a similar one on the roof of my own house, possibly with the help of Tesla Energy, which is surprisingly one of the most cost-effective ways to get solar panels installed these days. These will generate decades of clean energy, displacing fossil fuels in my local area while paying me dividends the whole time, which I can reinvest into even more philanthropy in the future.

What a great way to begin the decade. Let’s get on it!

* Die With Zero is not yet released, but I read a pre-release copy that his publisher sent me. The real book comes out on May 5th

** Also, if you find the scientific pursuit of helping the world as fascinating as I do, you should definitely watch the new Bill Gates documentary called Inside Bill’s Brain, which is available on Netflix.

Source: mrmoneymustache.com

Wealth Tax: Definition, Examples, Pros and Cons

Man holding large wad of bills

A wealth tax is a type of tax that’s imposed on the net wealth of an individual. This is different from income tax, which is the type of tax you’re likely most used to paying. The U.S. currently doesn’t have a wealth tax, though the idea has been proposed more than once by lawmakers. Instituting a wealth tax could help generate revenue for the government but only a handful of countries actually impose one.

Wealth Tax, Definition

A wealth tax is what it sounds like: a tax on wealth. This can also be referred to as an equity tax or a capital tax and it applies to individuals.

More specifically, a wealth tax is applied to someone’s net worth, meaning their total assets minus their total liabilities. The types of assets that may be subject to inclusion in wealth tax calculations might include real estate, investment accounts, liquid savings and trust accounts.

A wealth tax isn’t the same as other types of tax you’re probably familiar with paying. For example, you might be used to paying income tax on the money you earn each year, self-employment tax if you run a business or work as an independent contractor, property taxes on your home or vehicles and sales tax on the things you buy.

Instead, a wealth tax has just one focus: taxing a person’s wealth. According to the Tax Foundation, only Norway, Spain and Switzerland currently have a net wealth tax on assets. But a handful of other European countries, including Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, levy a wealth tax on selected assets.

How a Wealth Tax Works

Uncle Sam picks a rich man's coat pocketGenerally, a wealth tax works by taxing a person’s net worth, rather than the income they earn in a given year. In countries that impose a wealth tax, the tax is only levied once assets reach a certain minimum threshold. In Norway, for instance, the net wealth tax is 0.85% on stocks exceeding $164,000 USD in value.

Wealth taxes can be applied to all of the assets someone owns or just some of them. For example, the wealth tax can include securities and investment accounts while excluding real property or vice versa.

Every country that imposes a wealth tax, whether it’s a net tax or a tax on selected assets, can set the tax rate differently. It’s not uncommon for there to be exemptions or exclusions to who and what can be taxed this way.

A wealth tax can be charged alongside an income tax to help generate revenue for the government. The wealth tax rates are typically lower than income tax rates, in terms of the actual percentage rate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean paying less in taxes. Someone who has substantial assets that are subject to a wealth tax, for instance, may end up paying more toward that tax than income tax if they’re able to reduce their taxable income by claiming tax breaks.

Is a Wealth Tax a Good Idea?

In countries that use a wealth tax, the revenue helps to fund government programs and organizations. In some places, such as Norway, revenue from the wealth tax is split between the central government and municipal governments. It would be up to the federal government to decide how wealth tax revenue should be allocated if one were introduced here.

In the U.S., the concept of a wealth tax has been used to argue for a redistribution of wealth. Or more specifically, lawmakers who back the tax have suggested that it could be used to more fairly tax the wealthy while relieving some of the tax burdens on lower and middle-income earners. While wealthier taxpayers may take advantage of loopholes to minimize income taxes, a wealth tax would be harder to work around, at least in theory. That could yield benefits for less wealthy Americans if it means they’d owe fewer taxes.

That sounds good but implementing and collecting a wealth tax may be easier said than done. It’s possible that even with a wealth tax in place, high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth taxpayers could still find ways to minimize the amount of tax they’d owe. And the tax itself could be seen as unfairly penalizing wealthier individuals who own charities or foundations, invest heavily in businesses or save and invest their money instead of using it to buy things like luxury cars, expensive homes or other physical assets.

It’s important to keep in mind that a wealth tax is targeted at people above certain wealth thresholds, so most everyday Americans wouldn’t have to pay it. But it could cause problems for someone who unexpectedly receives a large inheritance that increases his wealth, even if his income remains at the lower end of the scale.

The Bottom Line

Rich man in his private jet

In the U.S., the wealth tax is still just an idea that’s being floated by progressive politicians and lawmakers. Whether a wealth tax is ever implemented remains to be seen and it’s likely that debate over it may continue for years to come. And enforcing one could be difficult if it were ever introduced, if for no other reason than there are many ways for the extremely wealthy to avoid taxes. In the meantime, talking with a tax professional may be the best way to manage your own personal tax liability.

Tips on Taxes

  • Consider talking to your financial advisor about the best ways to handle taxes as you grow an investment portfolio. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors online. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized financial advisor recommendations. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Managing taxes is an important part of growing wealth and creating an estate plan. The less you pay in taxes, the more money you have to save and invest toward establishing a legacy of wealth. A free income tax calculator is a good way to start figuring what you owe or to get confirmation that  your calculations are correct.

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