10 Cities Where Black Americans Fare Best Economically

Where Black Americans Fare Best Economically – 2021 Study – SmartAsset

Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

Nationwide, when it comes to wealth and personal finance success, Black Americans generally have less. Census data from 2019 shows that the median Black household income is 33% lower than the overall median household income and the Black homeownership rate is 22 percentage points lower than the general homeownership rate. Data on wealth accumulation depicts even starker disparities: Black families’ net worth is 87% lower than that of white families and 33% lower than that of Hispanic families, according to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Though the national picture is less than encouraging, economic outcomes for Black Americans are better in some places than others. In this study, we determined the cities where Black Americans fared best economically leading up to 2020. We compared 129 cities across six metrics: median Black household income, Black homeownership rate, Black labor force participation rate, poverty rate for Black residents, percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree and percentage of business owners who are Black. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Six of the top 10 cities are located in Texas, Florida and North Carolina. These cities are Grand Prairie and Garland, Texas; Pembroke Pines and Miramar, Florida; and Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina. In both of the Texas and Florida cities, the median Black household income is higher than $61,000 and the Black homeownership rate is 46% or higher – compared to study-wide averages of about $43,000 and 35%, respectively. Meanwhile, Charlotte and Durham rank particularly well for our education and metro area business ownership metrics. In both North Carolina locales, more than 30% of Black adults have their bachelor’s degree and at least 3% of businesses are Black-owned – compared to study-wide averages of about 23% and 2%, respectively.
  • Preliminary 2020 estimates show that Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by not only the health impacts of COVID-19, but also its corresponding economic effects. The regional economic effects of COVID-19 on Black Americans are difficult to determine due to insufficient localized data, but the available national data paints a grim picture: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that as of December 2020, the Black unemployment rate was 3.9
    and 3.2 percentage points higher than the white and overall unemployment rates, respectively. Additionally, the Black labor force participation rate was about 2.0 percentage points lower than both white and overall participation rates.

1. Virginia Beach (tie)

Virginia Beach, Virginia ranks in the top 10 cities for four of the six metrics we considered. It has the seventh-highest median Black household income, at roughly $65,600, and the sixth-highest 2019 Black labor force participation rate, at 78.7%. Additionally, Census Bureau data shows that the 2019 poverty rate for Black residents in Virginia Beach is 10%, fourth-lowest in our study. In the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metro area, more than 5% of businesses are Black-owned, the seventh-highest percentage for this metric overall.

1. Grand Prairie, TX (tie)

Grand Prairie, Texas ties with Virginia Beach, Virginia as the city where Black Americans fare best economically. It has the fourth-highest Black labor force participation rate (at 79.9%) and the lowest Black poverty rate (at less than 5%) of all 129 cities in our study. Additionally, more than a third of Black residents in Grand Prairie have their bachelor’s degree and the median Black household income is more than $63,000. The city ranks sixth and 10th out of 129 for those two metrics, respectively.

3. Aurora, IL (tie)

Aurora, Illinois ranks in the top third of all 129 cities for five of the six metrics we considered, falling behind only for its metro area’s relatively low concentration of Black-owned businesses. It has the fourth-highest Black homeownership rate (about 52%), sixth-highest median Black household income (about $65,900) and 10th-lowest Black poverty rate (11.9%). Aurora’s Black labor force participation rate is 73.5%, ranking 15th overall for this metric. Moreover, more than 29% of Black residents in the city have their bachelor’s degree, ranking 26th overall.

3. Pembroke Pines, FL (tie)

Just north of Miami, Florida’s Pembroke Pines ties for the No. 3 spot. Across all 129 cities, it has the second-highest Black homeownership rate – 60.20% – and the sixth-lowest 2019 Black poverty rate – 10.6%. Additionally, incomes for Black households are relatively high. In 2019, the median Black household income was about $61,500, the 11th-highest in our study.

5. Miramar, FL

The Black homeownership rate in Miramar, Florida is the highest in our study, at 68.07%. This is about 26 percentage points higher than the 2019 national Black homeownership rate, which is approximately 42%. Miramar additionally ranks in the top 15 cities for three other metrics: its high median Black household income (about $66,300), its high Black labor force participation rate (74.1%) and its relatively low Black poverty rate (7.9%).

6. Charlotte, NC

Though the median Black household income in Charlotte, North Carolina – at a little more than $46,300 – is relatively low, Charlotte ranks in the top third of cities for the other five metrics we considered. It has the 28th-highest Black homeownership rate (41.45%), the 18th-highest Black labor force participation rate (73.0%) and the 14th-lowest poverty rate for Black residents (13.6%). Additionally, more than 30% of Black adults have their bachelor’s degree and almost 4% of businesses in the larger Charlotte metro area are Black-owned – both of which rank within the top 25 out of all 129 cities in the study.

7. Garland, TX

The Black homeownership rate in Garland, Texas is the fifth-highest in our study, at 50.98%. This city has the 11th-highest Black labor force participation rate, at 75.8%. It also ranks in the top 15 for its median Black household income ($60,030) and the percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree (32.5%). Garland falls the most behind when it comes to the poverty rate for Black residents, which was 23.7% in 2019. That’s 1.2% higher than the national average for Black Americans and the worst of any city in our top 10.

8. Durham, NC

Only about two hours northeast of Charlotte, Durham, North Carolina takes the eighth spot on our list. The city ranks particularly well for its percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree (35.2%) and percentage of Black-owned businesses in the larger Durham-Chapel Hill metro area (4.7%). Additionally, the Black labor force participation rate is the 30th-highest across all 129 cities in the study, at 69.4%. The poverty rate for Black residents is 35th-lowest overall, at 18.9%.

9. Enterprise, NV

Enterprise, Nevada had the fifth-highest 2019 Black labor force participation rate (79.0%), the 16th-highest 2019 median Black household income (about $58,500) and 23rd-best 2019 Black homeownership rate (roughly 43%) of all 129 cities in our study. Enterprise falls behind, however, when it comes to the number of Black-owned businesses in the larger Las Vegas metro area, at less than 2%. The city ranks 67th out of 129 for this metric.

10. Elk Grove, CA

The median household income for Black residents in Elk Grove, California is a little more than $76,300, the second-highest in our study (ranking behind only Rancho Cucamonga, California, where the median household income is almost $92,000). Elk Grove also ranks in the top 10 cities for its relatively high Black homeownership rate (52.51%) and the relatively high percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree (35.1%). But like in Enterprise, Nevada, few businesses in the Elk Grove area are Black-owned. Annual Business Survey data from 2018 shows that less than 2% of employer firms in the greater Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade metro area are Black-owned.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where Black Americans fare best economically, SmartAsset looked at the 200 largest cities in the U.S. Only 129 of those cities had complete data available, and we compared them across six metrics:

  • Median Black household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Black homeownership rate. This is the number of Black owner-occupied housing units divided by the number of Black occupied housing units. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Black labor force participation rate. This is for the Black population 16 years and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Poverty rate for Black residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree. This is for the Black population 25 years and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of business owners who are Black. This is the number of Black-owned businesses with paid employees divided by the number of businesses with paid employees. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 Annual Business Survey and is at the metro area level.

To determine our final list, we ranked each city in every metric, giving a full weighting to all metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Editors’ Note: SmartAsset published this study in celebration and recognition of Black History Month. Protests for racial justice and the outsized impact of COVID-19 on people of color have highlighted the social and economic injustice that many Americans continue to face. We are aiming to raise awareness surrounding economic inequities and provide personal finance resources and information to all individuals.

Financial Tips for Black Americans

  • See if homeownership makes sense. The Black homeownership rate is 22 percentage points lower than the general homeownership rate. Deciding whether or not to buy is often difficult. SmartAsset’s rent or buy calculator can help you compare the costs to see which one makes sense for your financial situation. Additionally, if you want to figure out how much you can afford to buy a house, our home-buying calculator will help you break down the target price for your income.
  • Some kind of retirement account is better than none. The Federal Reserve says that Black Americans are less likely to have a retirement account than white Americans. According to their 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, 65% of white middle-aged families have at least one retirement account, while only 44% of Black families in the same age group have one. Even though 401(k)s are a popular retirement plan because employers could match a percentage of your contributions, an IRA could also be another great opportunity to boost your savings. In 2021, the IRA contribution limit is $6,000 for people under 50 and $7,000 for people age 50 and older.
  • Consider a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.

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

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/LeoPatrizi

Stephanie Horan, CEPF® Stephanie Horan is a data journalist at SmartAsset. A Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®), she sources and analyzes data to write studies relating to a variety of topics including mortgage, retirement and budgeting. Before coming to SmartAsset, she worked as an analyst at an asset management firm. Stephanie graduated from Williams College with a degree in Mathematics. Originally from Philadelphia, she has always been a Yankees fan and currently lives in New York.
Read next article

Categories

Source: smartasset.com

Small card transactions lead to big rewards: 17 ways to earn even more points

How small card transactions can lead to big rewards – The Points Guy


Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

Underrated Reasons Why You Need a Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard

If you’re a traveler looking for inexpensive but quality hotels, you’re probably familiar with Best Western. This hotel group spans 18 brands in about 100 countries.

Even if you stay only a few times per year, you should consider the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®. Not only will the card generate Best Western Rewards points toward future stays, but it also comes with a number of valuable, underrated perks.

But first: The well-known reasons

  • Welcome bonus: Get 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 billing cycles after the account is opened, plus 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.

  • Automatic platinum status: Cardholders are upgraded to Best Western Platinum elite status, which gets you a 15% bonus on all points earned on eligible stays.

  • Earnings bonus: Cardholders get 20 points per dollar spent at Best Western hotels, as well as 2 points per dollar spent elsewhere.

Underrated reasons

Potential for an additional 40K bonus points every year

If you spend $5,000 in your first 12 months as a cardholder, the company will reward you with an additional 40,000 points.

Even better: This offer is good every year.

Your 12-month qualifying period begins the month after you enroll your credit card, and starts again on your card anniversary. With rewards nights ranging from 8,000 to 36,000 points, your complimentary stays could add up quickly.

Helps you keep an eye on your credit score

The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® gives you access to your FICO Bankcard Score 9, which is the version of the credit score that the company uses to manage your account.

The card is light on fees

Credit cards sometimes offer lots of “free” perks, but then charge huge fees. This card is a little easier on the wallet. The annual fee is a relatively modest $89. Plus, it doesn’t impose a 1% to 3% surcharge on purchases made abroad or in a foreign currency. Since the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, it’s a good card to use when traveling abroad.

10% discount on every stay for rewards members

Sign up for Best Western Rewards in conjunction with your new credit card and you’ll receive a minimum 10% discount on the hotel’s flexible rate. This member-only discounted rate is available when booking online at bestwestern.com.

Points don’t expire

It can be frustrating to manage rewards points that have deadlines. Thankfully, the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® makes it easy: The points you earn won’t expire as long as you use your card.

What’s more, there are no blackout dates for reservations, taking some stress out of the equation for cardholders.

Flexible arrival and departure times

If you love to drop off your bags at the hotel before a day of exploring or prefer to take your mornings slow, this underrated perk of the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® will put a pep in your step: Cardholders enjoy early check-in and late checkout for every stay.

The bottom line

Adding the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® to your wallet is worth considering for travelers who stay at Best Western properties at least a few times a year. Not only does it give you automatic elite status and a strong sign-up bonus, but it also offers an opportunity to earn additional rewards points every 12 months. The card gives you these benefits with only an $89 annual fee and zero foreign transaction fees.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to travel more for fewer miles with United’s Excursionist Perk

Travel more for fewer miles with United’s Excursionist Perk – The Points Guy



Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

Smart Ways to Negotiate Your Salary in an Uncertain Economy

The pandemic-related recession has altered many job descriptions. For Haley Jones, a 24-year-old resident of Michigan, the coronavirus changed the needs of her company, and as she adapted to meet them, her responsibilities were no longer confined to her marketing specialist role.

“I graduated with a marketing degree, no medical experience at all, and I ended up having to scrub in at our surgery center and help patients get prepped for anesthesia,” Jones says.

After adding those kinds of new hats, Jones felt that her responsibilities had outgrown her entry-level salary and position, so she requested more compensation.

Your role may also merit a salary discussion, even in uncertain times. Here are some strategies to help you achieve the ideal salary.

Research the market

Understanding the market for your job is critical, according to Lindsey Pollak, author of the upcoming book “Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work.”

“You can look at websites like Glassdoor, Salary.com and PayScale and see what’s standard,” she says.

These websites offer a minimum and maximum salary range that you can reference to give your boss a realistic request. Pollak also suggests networking with professional associations in your industry and asking about the appropriate salary range for the job in your particular city.

Tally up your contributions

If you’re working remotely, Pollak suggests being more self-promotional about big wins. With many distractions in the pandemic, your boss may not know the extent of your contributions.

Jones created a slideshow presentation with links to her work, a list of tasks completed and her overall impact on the company. Her boss shared the presentation with others weighing in on her salary request.

“If you want someone to do something for you, make it as easy as you can for them to say yes,’’ Jones says.

Dive as far back into your contributions as is necessary or gather evidence up to the last annual or midyear review. And be as specific as possible.

Lay the groundwork for the conversation

Be strategic as you plan the conversation. Gauge your level of confidence at every step.

  • Put it on your supervisor’s radar. Give your boss a general but serious reason for the meeting. Pollak suggests saying that you want to have a “career conversation” about your role and future at the company.

  • Time it right. Don’t plan such a conversation after the company announces a terrible quarter or when your boss is in a bad mood, says Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of the book “Get Paid What You’re Worth.”

  • Practice until you’re confident. Jones built confidence by rehearsing in front of her mirror and loved ones.

  • Be intentional with your environment. If it’s a video call, use sticky notes to remember key points. In an office environment, Jones leaned on slides and hard copies to move the conversation along.

If you need further guidance, Pollak suggests connecting with a college’s career center for advice, whether that’s your alma mater or a community college. Even if you never attended college, your local community college may offer resources.

Maintain control of the conversation

Don’t allow emotions or nerves to steer the conversation away from your goal. Remember three key points for your discussion:

  • Lead with gratitude. Jones began by thanking her employer for many learning opportunities, then pivoted to her excitement about the company’s future and her role in it.

  • Know when to stop talking. Get comfortable with silence. “Say the amount you want and then stop talking,” Pollak says. Don’t negotiate against yourself by saying that you’d like a $15,000 increase, but you’re willing to settle for $8,000.

  • Focus on the value for your employer. Don’t phrase your request around reasons why you need a raise or promotion. Be aware of economic impacts to your company and its priorities, and keep the focus on how you’re saving the company money or contributing to its bottom line.

Be prepared for the response

If your employer can’t meet your request this time, all isn’t lost. You have promoted your work and carved out the path for the next conversation, according to Garfinkle. You can also consider negotiating for non-monetary benefits.

“Maybe it’s a title change, or they’ll pay for an executive coach, or they’ll provide some training, or additional benefits or retirement contributions,” Garfinkle says. “There are other things you can get that might be beneficial for you.”

If your employer is willing to offer a pay increase or an alternative, get it in writing. Send a thankful email to your boss summarizing the conversation and alert them that you’ll be following up on the next steps.

In the case of a firm “no” or “not right now,” let your boss know that you would greatly appreciate the chance to revisit the conversation in the future.

Following up is key with any response. Jones followed up twice in a month, once via email and another time in person. Eventually, she was promoted to marketing director and received $5,000 more than the maximum amount she requested.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

Source: nerdwallet.com

Ready to Start Adulting? 10 Steps to Retire the Right Way

If you are in your 50s or 60s, you are probably hoping to find the fountain of youth. However, when you plan your golden years it is best to retire like an adult.

retire like an adultRetiring like an adult gives you the financial freedom to pursue the life you want — even if that means doing things that make you feel like a kid.

The Merriam Webster dictionary has added “adult” as a verb — not just a noun: “To ‘adult’ is to behave like an adult, specifically to do the things — often mundane — that an adult is expected to do.”

Being an adult means being responsible, dependable, self-sufficient and maybe even knowing when it is a good time to throw these rules out the window. Examples of “adulting” include: cleaning up after yourself, paying bills on time, and — we would like to add — planning your retirement.

Here are 10 ways to know if you have a reliable plan to retire like an adult:

1. You Know How Much Retirement Income You Will Have

It will do you no good to hide from the truth when it comes to your retirement income. You need to know how much you will have and from what sources.

How much will you get from Social Security? Do you have a pension? An annuity? Will you work part-time for any amount of time? And, crucially, how much will you need to withdraw from savings every month?

The NewRetirement Retirement Planner makes it easy to find out how much retirement income you will have every year. And, you can run different scenarios to determine the best retirement withdrawals strategy for your needs and values.

2. Your Retirement Expenses Remain Below Your Income

The most important rule of personal finance — spend less than you earn — applies to retirement as well. In fact, it is even more important than ever before. The risk you run of overspending is that you will actually run out of money.

The trick is that you actually need to make a good prediction and figure out exactly how much you will spend every year for the next 15–30 years.

Here are 9 tips for predicting your retirement expenses.

3. Even Better? You Have Guaranteed Lifetime Income to Cover Basic Expenses

Guaranteed lifetime income is income that you will receive for as long as you live — no matter how long that turns out to be. Social Security and most pensions are the most common examples of guaranteed lifetime income.

Many personal finance experts recommend that in retirement you have sufficient guaranteed lifetime income to cover your baseline retirement expenses — the money you need to spend to get by. Baseline spending includes housing, healthcare, and food.

To accomplish sufficient lifetime guaranteed income you have two choices:

  • Reduce your baseline expenditures to fall below the income you will have.
  • Increase your guaranteed lifetime income through the purchase of lifetime annuities or other strategies.

Try different scenarios in your Retirement Plan to figure out something that works for you.

And, here are 18 different retirement income strategies to explore.

4. You Have Paid Off Debt

One of the greatest threats to retirement today may not be saving too little, but owing too much. A 2020 report from Experian found that Boomers (those aged 57–74) are carrying a significant amount of debt into retirement.

The most adult way to handle debt is to pay it off before you quit working. However, that is not always possible. Explore 13 tips for managing debt for retirement.

5. You Have Planned for Inflation

Inflation might seem relatively benign, but high inflation can have a devastating effect on your retirement spending power. As Sam Ewing said,

Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for a ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.”

When you are working — your wages generally rise as the costs of goods and services increase. Your earnings “keep pace with inflation,” so normal inflation is not generally a big concern. However, when you are living off of savings, inflation literally robs you of income.

The good news is that Social Security and some pension programs (though decreasing in prevalance) adjust your income for inflation. The bad news is that if you are living in retirement by withdrawing from investments or savings, then the value of your money will dramatically decrease over time. You will require far more money to support your lifestyle in the future.

Asset Allocation can Protect You from the Ravages of Inflation

We mentioned that wages tend to rise with inflation, as by definition, inflation is when the cost of goods and services increases across the board. Stock prices also rise with inflation for the same reason: as the price of the goods and services a company produces rises, so does that company’s revenue. As a company’s prospects (including revenue) develop and grow, its stock price also tends to rise.

As such, stocks can end up serving as a hedge against inflation.

However, as we age, our tolerance for risk decreases. Hence safer investments (such as bonds) become more and more attractive. Reconciling these opposing forces in creating the right asset allocation for you is no easy feat, requiring an understanding of your personal risk tolerance and investment time horizon.

Financial advisors can help you navigate designing an asset allocation strategy that outruns inflation, while managing risk.

6. You Have a Plan for Other Potential Risks

We can not predict the future. However, an adult retirement plan is one that mitigates the potential harmful financial effects of a long term health event, a natural disaster, a car accident, a stock market crash, or some other unknowable future event.

Having the right insurance products and a dedicated emergency fund can protect you.

7. You Evaluate Your Plans at Least Quarterly

Retirement planning is not something you do once and then never think about again.

You need to maintain, update and adjust your plans. It is a good idea to go through the details at least once a quarter and make updates as you and the economy change.

Because it saves your information, the NewRetirement Retirement Planner makes it easy to make changes and check in on your plans.

8. You Have a Responsible Plan for Investing Your Savings

Retirement investing is not all about getting the highest return possible. A responsible retirement investment plan matches how and when you need to access the money with your need for growth and security.

It is possible to do this on your own. However, it can also be useful to work with a financial advisor who has deep expertise in stocks, bonds, and other potential financial vehicles.

NewRetirement offers fiduciary advice from an independent fee-only Certified Financial Planner. Consultations are by phone or video call and, by using the NewRetirement Planner, the process is collaborative, cost-effective, and efficient.

9. You Have Developed an Estate Plan

Estate planning is a term broadly used to describe a variety of end of life planning issues. Your estate plan should include:

  • Opportunities to manipulate your assets for tax efficiency and maximum wealth for both you and your heirs
  • A detailed description of what you want to happen when you die — a plan for your internment and for the disbursement of your assets and property.
  • Instructions for what you would like to happen if you are living but cannot care for or make decisions for yourself

Explore the 11 documents you need for a reliable estate plan.

10. You Have a Dream and a Purpose

Without a plan for life after retirement, many retirees find themselves feeling vaguely unfulfilled and restless, craving something more but not knowing what that something might be. Focusing on the financial aspects of retirement is important, but the personal side of your retirement plan is just as important, and could ultimately guide how you use your retirement assets.

Explore these resources for figuring out what to do in retirement:

Make sure your retirement plan is responsible, dependable, self-sufficient and sometimes rule breaking!

Use the NewRetirement Planner to Start Adulting!

Source: newretirement.com

When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Reopening soon? A country by country guide to coronavirus recovery



Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

We Really Dig This Adorable and Affordable Hobbit House in Wisconsin>

For anyone driving around an established neighborhood of traditional homes in Madison, WI, one residence on Stevens Street stands out. Or doesn’t stand out.

“It’s an earth-sheltered home. Not necessarily built into the ground, but it’s earth-covered on the roof and on a couple of sides,” explains the listing agent, Jennifer Rios. “It’s in a kind of older neighborhood, with typical midcentury homes and older.”

She says she doesn’t believe any comparable earth-covered home can be found within at least a 10-mile radius.

The style has proved popular with buyers. The home was listed for $329,900, and multiple offers above the listing price came in after just a few days on the market.

“We went into it not really knowing what to expect with the uniqueness of the home,” Rios explains. “I laid out two scenarios: In this market, we’ll either see a very quick turnaround, or we may sit awhile. We tested it and had the best outcome possible.”

Exterior of home in Madison, WI
Exterior of home in Madison, WI

VRX Media Group

Exterior
Exterior

VRX Media Group

Exterior
Exterior

VRX Media Group

Exterior
Exterior

VRX Media Group

Interior
Interior

VRX Media Group

Bedroom
Bedroom

VRX Media Group

Bathroom
Bathroom

VRX Media Group

The home has two bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, plenty of living space, and is surprisingly bright.

“It has full exposure on the back side, so there’s lots of nice natural light,” Rios says. “Because of its earth-covered roof and partially on the sides, it’s very temperate inside. The earth provides a really nice installation and flow of air.”

Which adds up to lower electricity bills—a boon in this part of the country.

___

Watch: Idaho Home Perched on a Lake Is a Storybook Fantasy Come to Life

___

Living space
Living space

VRX Media Group

Kitchen
Kitchen

VRX Media Group

Porch
Porch

VRX Media Group

Built in 1980, the home has only had two owners in the past 41 years, and the current owner has lived there for 26 years.

Rios says she feels a perfect buyer would be somebody who is environmentally conscious and appreciates the uniqueness of an earth home, and who also likes being able to walk or bike around the city.

She grew up in the neighborhood and knows this distinctive dwelling quite well.

“I would ride my bike by, and wonder who in the world lives there,” she says.

Now that Rios has been inside and scoped out the place, she says that looks are deceiving.

“When you walk in, you kind of feel like you’re entering a hobbit house,” she says. “It’s really surprising when you open the front door, and it’s an abundance of natural light. It feels like a very traditional home for the most part, except for the curved roof line.”

The curve is an interesting flourish.

“It creates such a nice sort of vaulted ceiling effect, but it’s kind of open and airy, which is what a lot of people like nowadays,” Rios adds.

Living space
Living space

VRX Media Group

Inside, the house doesn’t need require any more maintenance than any other 40-year-old home, but Rios points out that the roof does need attention and upkeep—at least after the snow melts.

“You can let it go and become real grassy, or you can mow it,” she says. “The sellers have just gone up there with a weed whacker a couple of times a year.”

Living space
Living space

VRX Media Group

Bathroom
Bathroom

VRX Media Group

Living space
Living space

VRX Media Group

Exterior
Exterior

VRX Media Group

Wine nook
Wine nook

VRX Media Group

Aerial view
Aerial view

VRX Media Group

Interior
Interior

VRX Media Group

Porch
Porch

VRX Media Group

Bathroom
Bathroom

VRX Media Group

  • For more photos and details, check out the full listing.
  • Homes for sale in Madison, WI
  • Learn more about Madison, WI

Source: realtor.com

How to Track Your Spending on the Chase Freedom Flex 5% Cap

One of the key benefits of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card is a rotating 5% earning category. Every quarter, cardholders will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in select categories. That’s up to $300 cash back each year.

The catch? Once you pass the $1,500 spending threshold, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on further purchases in these categories. So, it’s important to know how much you’ve spent toward the limit. That way you can switch to using a credit card that provides a higher return on spending once you hit the cap.

Here’s how to track your spending on the Chase Freedom Flex℠.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ 5% earning categories

Between January and March 2021, Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders earn 5% on:

  • Wholesale club purchases.

  • Internet, cable and phone services.

  • Select streaming services.

However, the rest of the 2021 bonus categories won’t be announced until less than three weeks before the start of the quarter.

This makes it hard to plan your credit card strategy for the year. However, it allows Chase to remain flexible and offer categories that are especially relevant for the time — from department stores around the holidays to select streaming services during the pandemic.

For reference, recent bonus categories have included:

  • Q4 2020: Walmart and purchases through PayPal.

  • Q3 2020: Amazon and Whole Foods.

  • Q2 2020: Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships, and select streaming services.

  • Q1 2020: Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; and select streaming services.

3 steps to monitoring your category spending

1. First, check if you’ve activated cash-back earnings for the quarter

LOG IN AND HEAD TO CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS®

First, log in to your Chase account and navigate to the Chase Ultimate Rewards® landing page. If you have multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning Chase cards, you’ll need to select your Chase Freedom Flex℠ from the list.

NAVIGATE TO THE 5% CATEGORIES SECTION

Once logged in, click the menu button (represented by three lines) at the top left corner of the page. Then select “5% Categories” from the menu list.

CONFIRM ACTIVATION

On this page, Chase shows whether or not you’ve activated your 5% cash back for the quarter and the following quarter if registration is open. Do so if you haven’t already. Right below the activation button for the current quarter, you’ll find that quarter’s spending tracker.

This bar will give you a visual approximation of how close you are to the spending cap for the quarter. However, it doesn’t give details on your exact progress. Instead, you’ll need to check another page.

There’s only one place we’ve found that Chase provides an exact figure of how much you’ve spent toward the quarterly $1,500 spending cap.

2. Find the Rewards Activity page

Navigate to the Rewards Activity page. Then, click the “5% cash back” tab on the top menu to scroll down to the tracker.

Here, you’ll find details on how much cash back you’ve earned toward the $75 cap. However, the figures can be a bit confusing. The values listed for each merchant represent the 4% cash-back bonus for the quarter, and the 1% base earning is listed separately.

You don’t have to add up these values to see your bonus category cash-back earnings, though. In the example above, the cardholder has earned $58.48 of their $75 maximum cash back for the quarter.

3. Figure out how much you can still spend toward the cap

It takes a few calculations to determine how much you can still spend before hitting the spending cap.

Nerd tip: Subtract the amount of cash-back earnings so far from $75; you’ll need to divide this amount by 5% (0.05) to find out how much more you can spend before hitting the cap.

In the example above, we need to subtract $58.48 from $75. Then, we divide the $16.52 result by 5%, which gets us $330.40. This is the amount the cardholder can spend in bonus categories this quarter to maximize their cash-back return.

Other bonus categories of the Chase Freedom Flex℠

While the two cards share similar names, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a substantial improvement over the Chase Freedom®.

The Chase Freedom® also earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in select categories, but only 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Flex℠, however, improves on this by offering the following earning categories:

  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.

  • 3% on drugstore purchases.

Even if you opt to swap this card for one with a higher return after you reach the $1,500 spending cap in a quarter, it is wise to keep it handy for any of the above purchases.

The bottom line

To get the most out of your Chase Freedom Flex℠, you’ll want to max out your 5% cash-back earnings each quarter. But, there are plenty of cards that earn better than 1% cash back on spending. So, you’ll want to switch to using another card once you hit the $1,500 limit.

To improve your chances of maximizing your cash-back earnings, continually monitor your progress toward hitting the spending cap each quarter from your Chase account.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com