11 Best Hotel Booking Apps of 2021 – Get Cheap Deals on Rooms

You have more choices than ever when it comes to booking hotels. And using a hotel booking app can help save you time, hassle, and money when planning your next trip. Here are the apps you should download for your next trip.

Independent Hotel Booking Apps

Independent apps are not affiliated with a specific hotel brand or chain. Instead, they aggregate options across a range of hotel chains and independently owned accommodations to provide you with a bevy of choices. Here are the heavy hitters among independent booking apps.

1. Booking.com

Arguably the most popular website for reserving accommodations, Booking.com has a robust, easy-to-use app that deserves a spot on your smartphone. One of its best features is the sheer number of options it offers, including accommodations in off-the-beaten-path locations around the world.

If you’re traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language, the app makes it easy to view the address of your hotel in the local language. If you need to show a taxi or Uber driver where you’re headed, you can simply pull it up in the app and point.

Finally, the interface makes it easy to see all past, current, and future trips, and it highlights any loyalty discounts you’re eligible for at properties across the globe.

2. Hotels.com

Another major player in the online booking space, Hotels.com includes hundreds of thousands of properties in more than 200 countries and territories. One of the perks users like most about Hotels.com is that you get one night free for every 10 nights you book through it.

Redeeming reward nights incurs a $5 charge if you use the website to book. However, if you use the app to make a reward booking, you won’t be charged this fee. The app also lets you view or modify current reservations and view your reward progress toward free nights.

3. Priceline

Priceline was established in 1997 and is one of the longest-running hotel booking sites. The website is popular for its “Name Your Own Price” feature, which is now also available on the app.

You can book hotels, flights, rental cars, and even cruises through the Priceline app with a tap of your finger. The app includes exclusive discounts and promotions on hotels not found on the website. Priceline focuses on offering deeply discounted prices on travel but does not include a rewards or loyalty program.

4. Expedia

If you enjoy playing the travel rewards game and want to see just how steeply discounted a rate you can find, Expedia is the app for you. It often features exclusive app-only deals like double rewards points and extra discounts that may not be available on the Expedia website. You can also use the app to book other Expedia services like flights, rental cars, tickets, and tours.

5. HotelsCombined

A relative newcomer to the accommodation aggregate world, HotelsCombined sets itself apart from the rest in a few ways. It offers tons of pictures of potential hotels, which appeals to people who want to know exactly what they’re getting into when booking a room. It also has a “Price Alert” feature that lets you sign up for an email notification when a room you’re interested in drops in price by 10% or more. If there’s a specific hotel you want to stay in and you can plan ahead, this feature might be just the ticket for scoring a great deal.


Hotel Booking Apps For Last-Minute Deals

According to Business Insider, hotels have an average occupancy of about 65%. That means 35% of their rooms go unused each night. There are apps that take advantage of this fact, offering these vacant rooms for far less than their list price. If you enjoy the thrill of booking your nights’ accommodation at the eleventh hour, or if you need a place to stay in a strange city on the fly, these apps have you covered.

6. HotelTonight

Perhaps your Airbnb host cancels your reservation the day of your arrival, or you miss your flight and the first available connection isn’t until the next day. With HotelTonight on your phone, you can book a hotel for the same evening or up to seven days in advance.

HotelTonight aggregates a city’s empty hotel rooms in one place, and you can book one for up to 50% off the full price. Deals through the app go live at noon each day, and in some cities, you may have thousands of hotel rooms to choose from across multiple price points. The app is user-friendly and has a tiered loyalty program called HT Perks, which can net you even better rates the more loyalty credits you accrue. Even better, those loyalty points never expire.

7. One Night

If flying by the seat of your pants when you travel sounds appealing, One Night is the app for you. Using the One Night app, you can book a reservation only after 12pm for the same day in a select number of cities. Once you book a night, you can extend your accommodations for up to seven days.

The thing that sets One Night apart from other last-minute booking apps is that when you select your hotel, the app gives you hour-by-hour suggestions for fun, quirky things to do in your destination city. If you like to travel like a local, this is the app for you.

Hotel Chain Apps

If you take advantage of travel loyalty programs, it’s smart to have the app of your preferred hotel on your smartphone. With these apps, you can skip the line, choose your room, and unlock other member perks with ease.

8. Marriott

Marriott boasts more than 6,700 hotels in 130 countries. That means 1 out of every 15 hotel rooms in the world is owned by the Marriott group. So you definitely won’t be starved for choices if you book accommodations on the Marriott app.

Once you make your booking, you can request upgrades and late checkouts right from your phone. You can also request extras for your room, like a hair dryer or extra towels, from the app. If you frequently stay at Marriott or any of its 30 brands of hotel properties for work or play, keep this app on your phone.

9. Hilton Honors

If you’re a Hilton Honors devotee, you’ll love the app feature that everyone raves about: getting to choose your exact room ahead of time. At many hotels ,you can see a map of the property and pick the room you want via the app. This is especially popular with travelers who have a particular preference, such as a high floor with a view or distance from the elevator, or who want to be near a specific amenity like the pool or fitness center.

The app also has a digital key feature, so you can use your smartphone to unlock the door to your room at select properties. Finally, being able to check out of your room at the end of your stay via the app means you won’t be stuck in line at the front desk during checkout.

10. Hyatt

After a relaunch in August 2019, Hyatt’s mobile app, called World of Hyatt after their rewards program, is up and running with better functionality than the previous version. Among its features are the ability to stream personal entertainment content through the TV in your room with Chromecast, unlock your room door with your phone, and contact the hotel directly in real time through a new chat function both before and during your stay. You can view your progress toward rewards and see any points they’ve earned with previous stays at a Hyatt property.

11. IHG

Shorthand for InterContinental Hotels Group, IHG has almost 6,000 hotels across the world. Its app encourages customers to book travel directly with the chain instead of using a third-party site. It does this by offering a member-exclusive rate with savings of 3% on average if you book directly.

The app also features special rewards offers and discounts and lets you view your points balance toward a free or discounted stay. In addition to a user-friendly interface, the app also has a travel tools section with neighborhood guides and maps. Finally, it offers a white noise feature in case you don’t sleep well in hotels or suffer from insomnia.


Final Word

If you enjoy hunting out the best hotel deal to save money on vacation, or if you like racking up loyalty points you can trade in for free nights and other perks, it pays to download the above apps to your smartphone. From skipping the line at check-in to maximizing your savings to simply being able to view the property ahead of time, using hotel booking apps is an easy, free way to be a savvy traveler.

What’s your favorite hotel booking app? Why?

Source: moneycrashers.com

How Long Do Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report & Affect Your Score?

Your credit score is an important part of your financial life. Good credit can help you qualify for loans and credit cards and secure lower interest rates on those loans. Poor credit can make it expensive to borrow money and make some lenders refuse to lend you any money at all.

Usually, when you apply for a loan or credit card, the lender looks at a copy of your credit report. This places an inquiry on your report, which drops your score by a few points.

Understanding the impact of credit inquiries and how long the impact lasts can help you manage your credit score while applying for loans.

Calculating Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a three-digit number that lenders can use to quickly gauge your trustworthiness as a borrower. Scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850, with higher scores being better. Generally, anything above 760 is seen as an excellent score while scores above 700 are good.

There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Each tracks your interactions with debt and credit to build a credit report for you. Using the information on those reports, as well as a formula from FICO, they calculate your credit score, often called your FICO score.

There are five factors that affect your credit score.

1. Payment History

Your payment history is the most important part of your credit score, determining more than a third of it alone. It tracks your history of timely vs late and missed payments. Making timely payments helps your score. Missed and late payments hurt your score.

One missed or late payment has a much larger impact on your credit than a single timely payment, so it’s essential that you work to never miss a due date if you want to have good credit.

2. Credit Utilization

Your credit utilization measures two things, your total amount of debt and the amount of credit card debt you have in relation to your credit card’s combined limits. The less debt you have, the better it is for your credit score.

3. Length of Credit History

The length of your credit history is also composed of two factors. One is the total amount of time you’ve had access to credit. A longer credit history means more experience with debt, which can help your score.

The other is the average age of your credit accounts. Lenders prefer borrowers who stick with credit cards and loans over those who bounce from account to account. The older your average account, the better it will be for your score.

4. Credit Mix

The more different types of loans you’ve had, such as mortgages, auto loans, and student loans, the better it will be for your credit score. Dealing with different types of debt shows that you can handle all the different types of credit.

5. New Credit

New credit looks at both any new accounts that you’ve opened as well as new loans you’ve applied for. This is where credit inquiries appear on your report. Each inquiry can decrease your credit score slightly.


What Is a Credit Inquiry & How Long Does It Affect Your Credit?

When you apply for a new credit card or a loan, the lender wants to know whether you’ll repay your debts.

Typically the lender asks one or more of the credit bureaus to send a copy of your credit report. When a credit bureau receives the request, it makes a note of the inquiry on your credit report. Each credit inquiry decreases your score by a few points.

Credit inquiries reduce your score because applying for new loans on a regular basis can indicate a risky borrower. If someone asks a lender if they can borrow $25,000 to buy a car, that is a relatively reasonable request.

But if someone asks to borrow $25,000 for a car, then needs another $10,000 personal loan the next week, and $50,000 the week after that, and then a new credit card a day later, it can throw up red flags. The person might be sending in so many applications because they’re running into financial trouble or because they don’t plan to repay those debts.

A single inquiry on your credit report can reduce your score between five and 10 points. It’s not a huge impact, but it’s noticeable for someone who is right on the border between good and excellent credit or fair and good credit.

Each additional inquiry drops your score, so applying for multiple loans can cause your credit score to drop quickly.

The impact of each credit inquiry reduces over time. If the rest of your credit report is good, your score will return almost to normal within a few months. Inquiries completely fall off your report after two years.


Hard Inquiries vs. Soft Inquiries

When someone checks your credit report, it can place an inquiry on the report and drop your score. This can sound scary to people who use a credit monitoring service to keep an eye on their credit score.

The good news is that not every inquiry will hurt your credit score. When you apply for credit, lenders typically make something called a hard inquiry when asking the credit bureaus for a copy of your report. The bureaus take note of hard inquiries and put them on your credit report.

By contrast, soft inquiries are used by credit monitoring services or companies offering promotional credit offers or those helping you check if you’re pre-approved for certain products.

The credit bureaus don’t record soft inquiries into your credit, which means that soft inquiries have no effect on your credit score.

In simple terms, applying for a new loan or credit card usually involves a hard inquiry. Checking your credit without actually applying for a loan or credit card usually involves a soft inquiry.


What About Rate Shopping?

One of the best ways to save money on a loan — especially a large loan like a mortgage or an auto loan — is to shop around. If you get quotes from multiple lenders, you can choose the one with the lowest interest rate and fees to minimize your costs.

If each application results in a hard inquiry that hurts your credit score, rate shopping too extensively could damage your credit.

The good news for borrowers is that the FICO scoring formula accounts for the importance of rate shopping. For large loans like mortgages, auto loans, and student loans, all inquiries that occur within a short span — 14 to 45 days depending on the formula used — are treated as a single inquiry when calculating your score.

That means that you can safely compare rates from multiple lenders, as long as you get your quotes within a short period.


Final Word

Applying for credit cards or loans can place credit inquiries on your credit report, which can drop your score. To make sure you keep your score healthy, do your best to only apply for loans that you need.

As long as you use your credit responsibly and don’t apply for too many accounts in a short period, you shouldn’t have to worry about the impact that inquiries have on your credit score.

Source: moneycrashers.com

The Pros & Cons of Offering Owner Financing (When You Sell Your Home)

Sometimes, home sellers find a buyer eager to purchase but unable to finance the property with traditional mortgage financing. Sellers then have a choice: lose the buyer, or lend the mortgage to the buyer themselves.

If you want to sell a property you own free and clear, with no mortgage, you can theoretically finance a buyer’s full first mortgage. Alternatively, you could offer just a second mortgage, to bridge the gap between what the buyer can borrow from a conventional lender and the cash they can put down.

Should you ever consider offering financing? What’s in it for you? And most importantly, how do you protect yourself against losses?

Before taking the plunge to offer seller financing, make sure you understand all the pros, cons, and options available to you as “the bank” when lending money to a buyer.

Advantages to Offering Seller Financing

Although most sellers never even consider offering financing, a few find themselves forced to contemplate it.

For some sellers, it could be that their home lies in a cool market with little demand. Others own unique properties that appeal only to a specific type of buyer or that conventional mortgage lenders are wary to touch. Or the house may need repairs in order to meet habitability requirements for conventional loans.

Sometimes the buyer may simply be unable to qualify for a conventional loan, but you might know they’re good for the money if you have an existing relationship with them.

There are plenty of perks in it for the seller to offer financing. Consider these pros as you weigh the decision to extend seller financing.

1. Attract & Convert More Buyers

The simplest advantage is the one already outlined: You can settle on your home even when conventional mortgage lenders decline the buyer.

Beyond salvaging a lost deal, sellers can also potentially attract more buyers. “Seller Financing Available” can make an effective marketing bullet in your property listing.

If you want to sell your home in 30 days, offering seller financing can draw in more showings and offers.

Bear in mind that seller financing doesn’t only appeal to buyers with shoddy credit. Many buyers simply prefer the flexibility of negotiating a custom loan with the seller rather than trying to fit into the square peg of a loan program.

2. Earn Ongoing Income

As a lender, you get the benefit of ongoing monthly interest payments, just like a bank.

It’s a source of passive income, rather than a one-time payout. In one fell swoop, you not only sell your home but also invest the proceeds for a return.

Best of all, it’s a return you get to determine yourself.

3. You Set the Interest Rate

It’s your loan, which means you get to call the shots on what you charge. You may decide seller financing is only worth your while at 6% interest, or 8%, or 10%.

Of course, the buyer will likely try to negotiate the interest rate. After all, nearly everything in life is negotiable, and the terms of seller financing are no exception.

4. You Can Charge Upfront Fees

Mortgage lenders earn more than just interest on their loans. They charge a slew of one-time, upfront fees as well.

Those fees start with the origination fee, better known as “points.” One point is equal to 1% of the mortgage loan, so they add up fast. Two points on a $250,000 mortgage comes to $5,000, for example.

But lenders don’t stop at points. They also slap a laundry list of fixed fees on top, often surpassing $1,000 in total. These include fees such as a “processing fee,” “underwriting fee,” “document preparation fee,” “wire transfer fee,” and whatever other fees they can plausibly charge.

When you’re acting as the bank, you can charge these fees too. Be fair and transparent about fees, but keep in mind that you can charge comparable fees to your “competition.”

5. Simple Interest Amortization Front-Loads the Interest

Most loans, from mortgage loans to auto loans and beyond, calculate interest based on something called “simple interest amortization.” There’s nothing simple about it, and it very much favors the lender.

In short, it front-loads the interest on the loan, so the borrower pays most of the interest in the beginning of the loan and most of the principal at the end of the loan.

For example, if you borrow $300,000 at 8% interest, your mortgage payment for a 30-year loan would be $2,201.29. But the breakdown of principal versus interest changes dramatically over those 30 years.

  • Your first monthly payment would divide as $2,000 going toward interest, with only $201.29 going toward paying down your principal balance.
  • At the end of the loan, the final monthly payment divides as $14.58 going toward interest and $2,186.72 going toward principal.

It’s why mortgage lenders are so keen to keep refinancing your loan. They earn most of their money at the beginning of the loan term.

The same benefit applies to you, as you earn a disproportionate amount of interest in the first few years of the loan. You can also structure these lucrative early years to be the only years of the loan.

6. You Can Set a Time Limit

Not many sellers want to hold a mortgage loan for the next 30 years. So they don’t.

Instead, they structure the loan as a balloon mortgage. While the monthly payment is calculated as if the loan is amortized over the full 15 or 30 years, the loan must be paid in full within a certain time limit.

That means the buyer must either sell the property within that time limit or refinance the mortgage to pay off your loan.

Say you sign a $300,000 mortgage, amortized over 30 years but with a three-year balloon. The monthly payment would still be $2,201.29, but the buyer must pay you back the full remaining balance within three years of buying the property from you.

You get to earn interest on your money, and you still get your full payment within three years.

7. No Appraisal

Lenders require a home appraisal to determine the property’s value and condition.

If the property fails to appraise for the contract sales price, the lender either declines the loan or bases the loan on the appraised value rather than the sales price — which usually drives the borrower to either reduce or withdraw their offer.

As the seller offering financing, you don’t need an appraisal. You know the condition of the home, and you want to sell the home for as much as possible, regardless of what an appraiser thinks.

Foregoing the appraisal saves the buyer money and saves everyone time.

8. No Habitability Requirement

When mortgage lenders order an appraisal, the appraiser must declare the house to be either habitable or not.

If the house isn’t habitable, conventional and FHA lenders require the seller to make repairs to put it in habitable condition. Otherwise, they decline the loan, and the buyer must take out a renovation loan (such as an FHA 203k loan) instead.

That makes it difficult to sell fixer-uppers, and it puts downward pressure on the price. But if you want to sell your house as-is, without making any repairs, you can do so by offering to finance it yourself.

For certain buyers, such as handy buyers who plan to gradually make repairs themselves, seller financing can be a perfect solution.

9. Tax Implications

When you sell your primary residence, the IRS offers an exemption for the first $250,000 of capital gains if you’re single, or $500,000 if you’re married.

However, if you earn more than that exemption, or if you sell an investment property, you still have to pay capital gains tax. One way to reduce your capital gains tax is to spread your gains over time through seller financing.

It’s typically considered an installment sale for tax purposes, helping you spread the gains across multiple tax years. Speak with an accountant or other financial advisor about exactly how to structure your loan for the greatest tax benefits.


Drawbacks to Seller Financing

Seller financing comes with plenty of risks. Most of the risks center around the buyer-borrower defaulting, they don’t end there.

Make sure you understand each of these downsides in detail before you agree to and negotiate seller financing. You could potentially be risking hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single transaction.

1. Labor & Headaches to Arrange

Selling a home takes plenty of work on its own. But when you agree to provide the financing as well, you accept a whole new level of labor.

After negotiating the terms of financing on top of the price and other terms of sale, you then need to collect a loan application with all of the buyer’s information and screen their application carefully.

That includes collecting documentation like several years’ tax returns, several months’ pay stubs, bank statements, and more. You need to pull a credit report and pick through the buyer’s credit history with a proverbial fine-toothed comb.

You must also collect the buyer’s new homeowner insurance information, which must include you as the mortgagee.

You need to coordinate with a title company to handle the title search and settlement. They prepare the deed and transfer documents, but they still need direction from you as the lender.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the home closing process, and remember you need to play two roles as both the seller and the lender.

Then there’s all the legal loan paperwork. Conventional lenders sometimes require hundreds of pages of it, all of which must be prepared and signed. Although you probably won’t go to the same extremes, somebody still needs to prepare it all.

2. Potential Legal Fees

Unless you have experience in the mortgage industry, you probably need to hire an attorney to prepare the legal documents such as the note and promise to pay. This means paying the legal fees.

Granted, you can pass those fees on to the borrower. But that limits what you can charge for your upfront loan fees.

Even hiring the attorney involves some work on your part. Keep this in mind before moving forward.

3. Loan Servicing Labor

Your responsibilities don’t end when the borrower signs on the dotted line.

You need to make sure the borrower pays on time every month, from now until either the balloon deadline or they repay the loan in full. If they fail to pay on time, you need to send late notices, charge them late fees, and track their balance.

You also have to confirm that they pay the property taxes on time and keep the homeowners insurance current. If they fail to do so, you then have to send demand letters and have a system in place to pay these bills on their behalf and charge them for it.

Every year, you also need to send the borrower 1098 tax statements for their mortgage interest paid.

In short, servicing a mortgage is work. It isn’t as simple as cashing a check each month.

4. Foreclosure

If the borrower fails to pay their mortgage, you have only one way to forcibly collect your loan: foreclosure.

The process is longer and more expensive than eviction and requires hiring an attorney. That costs money, and while you can legally add that cost to the borrower’s loan balance, you need to cough up the cash yourself to cover it initially.

And there’s no guarantee you’ll ever be able to collect that money from the defaulting borrower.

Foreclosure is an ugly experience all around, and one that takes months or even years to complete.

5. The Buyer Can Declare Bankruptcy on You

Say the borrower stops paying, you file a foreclosure, and eight months later, you finally get an auction date. Then the morning of the auction, the borrower declares bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure.

The auction is canceled, and the borrower works out a payment plan with the bankruptcy court judge, which they may or may not actually pay.

Should they fail to pay on their bankruptcy payment plan, you have to go through the process all over again, and all the while the borrowers are living in your old home without paying you a cent.

6. Risk of Losses

If the property goes to foreclosure auction, there’s no guarantee anyone will bid enough to cover the borrower’s loan debt.

You may have lent $300,000 and shelled out another $20,000 in legal fees. But the bidding at the foreclosure auction might only reach $220,000, leaving you with a $100,000 shortfall.

Unfortunately, you have nothing but bad options at that point. You can take the $100,000 loss, or you can take ownership of the property yourself.

Choosing the latter means more months of legal proceedings and filing eviction to remove the nonpaying buyer from the property. And if you choose to evict them, you may not like what you find when you remove them.

7. Risk of Property Damage

After the defaulting borrower makes you jump through all the hoops of foreclosing, holding an auction, taking the property back, and filing for eviction, don’t delude yourself that they’ll scrub and clean the property and leave it in sparkling condition for you.

Expect to walk into a disaster. At the very least, they probably haven’t performed any maintenance or upkeep on the property. In my experience, most evicted tenants leave massive amounts of trash behind and leave the property filthy.

In truly terrible scenarios, they intentionally sabotage the property. I’ve seen disgruntled tenants pour concrete down drains, systematically punch holes in every cabinet, and destroy every part of the property they can.

8. Collection Headaches & Risks

In all of the scenarios above where you come out behind, you can pursue the defaulting borrower for a deficiency judgment. But that means filing suit in court, winning it, and then actually collecting the judgment.

Collecting is not easy to do. There’s a reason why collection accounts sell for pennies on the dollar — most never get collected.

You can hire a collection agency to try collecting for you by garnishing the defaulted borrower’s wages or putting a lien against their car. But expect the collection agency to charge you 40% to 50% of all collected funds.

You might get lucky and see some of the judgment or you might never see a penny of it.


Options to Protect Yourself When Offering Seller Financing

Fortunately, you have a handful of options at your disposal to minimize the risks of seller financing.

Consider these steps carefully as you navigate the unfamiliar waters of seller financing, and try to speak with other sellers who have offered it to gain the benefit of their experience.

1. Offer a Second Mortgage Only

Instead of lending the borrower the primary mortgage loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars, another option is simply lending them a portion of the down payment.

Imagine you sell your house for $330,000 to a buyer who has $30,000 to put toward a down payment. You could lend the buyer $300,000 as the primary mortgage, with them putting down 10%.

Or you could let them get a loan for $270,000 from a conventional mortgage lender, and you could lend them another $30,000 to help them bridge the gap between what they have in cash and what the primary lender offers.

This strategy still leaves you with most of the purchase price at settlement and lets you risk less of your own money on a loan. But as a second mortgage holder, you accept second lien position

That means in the event of foreclosure, the first mortgagee gets paid first, and you only receive money after the first mortgage is paid in full.

2. Take Additional Collateral

Another way to protect yourself is to require more collateral from the buyer. That collateral could come in many forms. For example, you could put a lien against their car or another piece of real estate if they own one.

The benefits of this are twofold. First, in the event of default, you can take more than just the house itself to cover your losses. Second, the borrower knows they’ve put more on the line, so it serves as a stronger deterrent for defaults.

3. Screen Borrowers Thoroughly

There’s a reason why mortgage lenders are such sticklers for detail when underwriting loans. In a literal sense, as a lender, you are handing someone hundreds of thousands of dollars and saying, “Pay me back, pretty please.”

Only lend to borrowers with a long history of outstanding credit. If they have shoddy credit — or any red flags in their credit history — let them borrow from someone else. Be just as careful of borrowers with little in the way of credit history.

The only exception you should consider is accepting a cosigner with strong, established credit to reinforce a borrower with bad or no credit. For example, you might find a recent college graduate with minimal credit who wants to buy, and you could accept their parents as cosigners.

You also could require additional collateral from the cosigner, such as a lien against their home.

Also review the borrower’s income carefully, and calculate their debt-to-income ratios. The front-end ratio is the percentage of their monthly income required to cover all housing costs: principal and interest, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and any condominium or homeowners association fees.

For reference, conventional mortgage lenders allow a maximum front-end ratio of 28%.

The back-end ratio includes not just housing costs, but also overall debt obligations. That includes student loans, auto loans, credit card payments, and all other mandatory monthly debt payments.

Conventional mortgage loans typically allow 36% at most. Any more than that and the buyer probably can’t afford your home.

4. Charge Fees for Your Trouble

Mortgage lenders charge points and fees. If you’re serving as the lender, you should do the same.

It’s more work for you to put together all the loan paperwork. And you will almost certainly have to pay an attorney to help you, so make sure you pass those costs along to the borrower.

Beyond your own labor and costs, you also need to make sure you’re being compensated for your risk. This loan is an investment for you, so the rewards must justify the risk.

5. Set a Balloon

You don’t want to be holding this mortgage note 30 years from now. Or, for that matter, to force your heirs to sort out this mortgage on your behalf after you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Set a balloon date for the mortgage between three and five years from now. You get to collect mostly interest in the meantime, and then get the rest of your money once the buyer refinances or sells.

Besides, the shorter the loan term, the less opportunity there is for the buyer to face some financial crisis of their own and stop paying you.

6. Be Listed as the Mortgagee on the Insurance

Insurance companies issue a declarations page (or “dec page”) listing the mortgagee. In the event of damage to the property and an insurance claim, the mortgagee gets notified and has some rights and protections against losses.

Review the insurance policy carefully before greenlighting the settlement. Make sure your loan documents include a requirement that the borrower send you updated insurance documents every year and consequences if they fail to do so.

7. Hire a Loan Servicing Company

You may multitalented and an expert in several areas. But servicing mortgage loans probably isn’t one of them.

Consider outsourcing the loan servicing to a company that specializes in it. They send monthly statements, late notices, 1098 forms, and escrow statements (if you escrow for insurance and taxes), and verify that taxes and insurance are current each year. If the borrower defaults, they can hire a foreclosure attorney to handle the legal proceedings.

Examples of loan servicing companies include LoanCare and Note Servicing Center, both of whom accept seller-financing notes.

8. Offer Lease-to-Own Instead

The foreclosure process is significantly longer and more expensive than the eviction process.

In the case of seller financing, you sell the property to the buyer and only hold the mortgage note. But if you sign a lease-to-own agreement, you maintain ownership of the property and the buyer is actually a tenant who simply has a legal right to buy in the future.

They can work on improving their credit over the next year or two, and you can collect rent. When they’re ready, they can buy from you — financed with a conventional mortgage and paying you in full.

If the worst happens and they default, you can evict them and either rent or sell the property to someone else.

9. Explore a Wrap Mortgage

If you have an existing mortgage on the property, you may be able to leave it in place and keep paying it, even after selling the property and offering seller financing.

Wrap mortgages, or wraparound mortgages, are a bit trickier and come with some legal complications. But when executed right, they can be a win-win for both you and the buyer.

Say you have a 30-year mortgage for $250,000 at 3.5% interest. You sell the property for $330,000, and you offer seller financing of $300,000 for 6% interest. The buyer pays you $30,000 as a down payment.

Ordinarily, you would pay off your existing mortgage for $250,000 upon selling it. Most mortgages include a “due-on-sale” clause, requiring the loan to be paid in full upon selling the property.

But in some circumstances and some states, you may be able to avoid triggering the due-on-sale clause and leave the loan in place.

You keep paying your mortgage payment of $1,122.61, even as the borrower pays you $1,798.65 per month. In a couple of years when they refinance, they pay off your previous mortgage in full, plus the additional balance they owe you.

Of course, you still run the risk that the borrower stops paying you. Then you’re saddled with making your monthly mortgage payment on the property, even as you slog through the foreclosure process to try and recover your losses.


Final Word

Offering seller financing comes with risks. But those risks may be worth taking, especially for hard-to-sell properties.

Only you can decide what risk-reward ratio you can live with, and negotiate loan terms to ensure you come out on the right side of the ratio. For unique or other difficult-to-finance properties, seller financing may be the only way to sell for what the property’s worth.

Before you write off the returns as low, remember that your APR will be far higher than the interest rate charged.

Beyond the upfront fees you can charge, you’ll also benefit from simple interest amortization, which front-loads the interest so that nearly all of the monthly payment goes toward interest in the first few years — the only years you need to finance if you structure the loan as a balloon mortgage.

Just be sure to screen all borrowers extremely carefully, and to take as many precautions as you can. If the borrower can’t qualify for a conventional mortgage, consider that a glaring red flag. Seller financing involves risking many thousands of dollars in a single transaction, so take your time and get it right.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Tips for a Successful Move: Part 2

The first part of my blog series about moving collaboration covered the decision to move, stress-free moving tips, and how to pack up your entire home in 30 days (or less). The collaboration with Homes.com continues with the second phase of moving–the move itself!

You’ve made the arrangements, chosen your new home, packed up your current one, and now the moving truck is waiting for you. You’ll either watch movers load it for you OR you will pack that baby up yourself. Well, if you are like us, you have a lot of heavy lifting ahead of you.

For our move, we opted to save money and do it all on our own. If you’re reading this and plan to move yourself, good news: we made some mistakes, and now we can pass along our hard-earned wisdom!

GET THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT:

To make moving those heavier items a breeze, make sure that you have these items listed below:

  • FURNITURE / APPLIANCE DOLLY: Request one from the truck rental company to help move washers, dryers, refrigerators and large dressers more easily.
  • FURNITURE LIFTING STRAPS: These will be your best friends for lifting armoires, large dressers, or even sofas.
  • TIE DOWNS: There are metal anchors or wooden slats in the moving truck that you can attach these to, or tie rope around to secure your larger pieces of furniture.
  • FURNITURE BLANKETS: Learn from our mistake and use furniture blankets to protect your furniture. When we began unloading the truck, we found that some furniture pieces rubbed against each other and scratched through the drop cloths. We thought we could cut corners and save some money, but by doing so it ruined five pieces of furniture.

LOAD THE TRUCK THE RIGHT WAY:

We have done local moves by ourselves before, but this was our first long-distance move on our own. In the past, we loaded up the truck with whatever would fit, drop off the load and come back for another. With this cross-country move, we have to pack it all and pack it right the first time, utilizing every inch of space! Here are my top four tips:

  • HEAVY ITEMS FIRST: Most rental truck companies will tell you to pack in a “T” shape to save gas and maximize the space. This means to secure all your heavy and tall pieces of furniture in the front of the truck (against the cab). Once the front part of the truck is full and stacked to the ceiling, place other heavy items such as dressers, tables and sofas in the middle of the truck.
  • BOXES & RUGS: Place rugs at the front of the truck, especially if you have an “attic space.” If not, place all area rugs underneath dressers to save space. Sort boxes by weight and load the heaviest boxes first. Regardless of size, always place the heaviest ones on the bottom. Then load boxes by size and stack all like-size boxes on top of each other so weight is distributed evenly.
  • MISC. ITEMS: For all items that won’t fit into boxes, load them around and on top of your larger furniture and boxes.
  • BEDS: Load your mattress sets after the whole truck is packed because they’ll be the first thing you want to unload. Place them along the door of the truck to hold everything else in place, and help prevent too much shifting as you travel to your destination. When unloading, go slowly as there might be an avalanche awaiting just behind them. If you use our loading tips, only slight shifting should occur.

ON THE MOVE:

  • SAYING “GOODBYE”: The home you are leaving carries many memories, so say your goodbyes and thank your home. You might be thinking… “Did this crazy lady just tell me to thank my house?” Yes. Yes I did. And here’s why: this home, now empty, has been filled with life. It’s where you spent good days and bad. Maybe it was your first home, where you brought a baby home. Maybe it was your starter rental and you are finally setting out on homeownership. Whatever your situation, thank it for the memories and all the life lived there.
  • THE TRIP AHEAD: For us, this move was as far of a cross-country move as you could get, from one coast to another. Here are my tips for making a long-distance move less stressful:
    • Pack everything you need in clear plastic totes instead of suitcases. Have outfits sorted by day and night and only bring into the hotel what you need each night. Keep toys and activities easily accessible and always have a first aid kit on hand.
    • Set daily driving hours and desired destinations, with backups in case you don’t make it that far. Sometimes the kids have enough or you hit more traffic than expected. I never book hotels ahead of time for this reason.
    • Traveling setbacks are out of your control. Some days we drove only five hours a day, then 12 hours the next. It wasn’t worth it to have cranky kids every day so we alternated long days and short ones until we reached our new home.

RELAX, YOU’RE HOME:

You survived packing, loading and traveling! But, before you relax, you have a truck to unload and a house to move into.

We opted to move ourselves to save money, but were left totally exhausted.  My advice: if you’re moving and at your limit, ask for help. Our truck didn’t come with muscle men to unload it, and we knew once we arrived to our new home that we’d need help. We called local moving companies and discovered you can hire them to unload your truck for you. For a surprisingly low cost of $200, we sat back and watched two men do all of the lifting! It was well worth the money after all of the work we had done.

We’re now settled into our new home in San Diego, California. While it’s been a long journey to get here, I can say it is so worth it. We have even more moving tips and advice to share with you so follow along with all that is to come! Moving is one of life’s biggest stressors, but it doesn’t have to be if you take one step at a time, you will soon be “home” again. – Jennifer

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Jennifer Ciani is a mom of two, wife to a Marine Corps veteran and the content creator behind the blog, Simply Ciani, where she shares easy to follow DIY’s, home decor, lifestyle and everyday tips for making life simple and organized.

Source: homes.com

10 Best Health Care ETFs of 2021

Technological innovation is everywhere you look.

One of the biggest changes taking place thanks to advancements in technology is an evolution in health care. New technologies are making simple work of some of the most pressing medical conditions known to man. Even the COVID-19 pandemic has been proof that the health care sector is evolving, with vaccines being created and marketed within a year of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Of course, the health care industry is massive. Well-researched investments in a variety of health care stocks and bonds have proven to be lucrative moves. But what if you don’t have the time or expertise to do the research it takes to make individual health care investments?

That’s where health care exchange-traded funds (ETFs) come in.

Best Health Care ETFs

Health care ETFs are funds that pool money from a large group of investors and then invest in health care stocks and other health care-focused investments.

As with any investment vehicle, not all health care ETFs are created equal. Some will come with higher costs than others, and returns on your investment will vary wildly from one fund to another.

With so many options available, it can be difficult to pin down which ETFs you should invest in. Here are some of the best options on the market today:

1. Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF (VHT)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.10%
  • One-Year Return: 29.89%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.10%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.42%
  • Morningstar Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The top holdings in the VHT portfolio include Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UHC), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TOM), and Pfizer (PFE).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 14
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

Vanguard is one of the best-known wealth managers on Wall Street. So, you can rest assured that when you invest in a health care ETF, or any other Vanguard fund, your money is in good hands.

The Vanguard Health Care Index Fund ETF is focused on investing in companies that sell medical products, services, equipment, and technologies using a highly diversified portfolio.

As a Vanguard fund, the VHT comes with an incredibly low expense ratio and a strong history of providing compelling returns for investors.

Pro Tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals.


2. Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.12%
  • One-Year Return: 23.75%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.15%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.49%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The top holdings in the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund portfolio include Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), Pfizer (PFE).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 17
  • Years Down Since Inception: 5

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund is offered by State Street Global Advisors, one of the largest asset management companies on Wall Street. The firm behind this health care ETF is one with pedigree.

As a passively-managed fund, the XLV was designed to track the returns of the Health Care Select Sector Index, which provides a representation of the health care sector of the S&P 500.

As a result, the XLV ETF provides diversified exposure to some of the largest U.S. health care companies. The fund provides compelling returns and relatively strong dividends for the health care industry. As is the case with most funds provided by State Street Global Advisors, this ETF comes with incredibly low fees, far below the industry average.


3. ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.75%
  • One-Year Return: 174.19%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 43.78%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.93%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings:The top holdings in the ARKG ETF include Teladoc Health (TDOC), Twist Bioscience (TWST), Pacific Biosciences of California (PACB), Exact Sciences (EXAS), and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 4
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The ARK Genomic Revolution ETF is offered by ARK Invest, yet another highly trusted fund manager on Wall Street. The ETF is designed to provide diversified exposure to companies that are working to extend the length and improve the quality of life for consumers with debilitating conditions through technological and scientific innovations in genomics.

Essentially, this fund invests in companies focused on the editing of genomes, or base units within DNA, to solve some of the most pressing problems in medical science.

With genomics being a relatively new concept that’s showing incredible promise in the field of medicine, companies in the space are experiencing compelling growth, making the ARKG ETF one of the best performers on this list.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the higher-volatility ETFs on the list, which adds to the risk of investing.


4. Fidelity MSCI Health Care Index ETF (FHLC)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.08%
  • One-Year Return: 29.76%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 15.11%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.46%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The top holdings in the FHLC investment portfolio include Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Abbott Laboratories (ABT), AbbVie (ABBV), and Pfizer (PFE).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 6
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

Fidelity is a massive company that has grown to become a household name thanks to its insurance division. It’s also one of the biggest and most well-trusted fund managers on Wall Street.

The company’s MSCI Health Care Index ETF has become a prime option for retail investors who want to gain diversified exposure to the U.S. health care industry.

The ETF was designed to track the MSCI USA IMI Health Care Index, which represents the universe of investable large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap U.S. equities in the health care sector.

As can be expected from the vast majority of Fidelity funds, the FHLC is a top performer on the market with a relatively low expense ratio.


5. iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 38.14%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.38%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.19%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The top holdings in the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF include Amgen (AMGN), Gilead Sciences (GILD), Illumina (ILMN), Moderna (MRNA), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 15
  • Years Down Since Inception: 4

iShares has become yet another leading fund manager on Wall Street, and the firm’s Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF is yet another strong option to consider if you’re looking for diversified exposure to the U.S. health care sector.

The fund was specifically designed to provide exposure to the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals subsectors of the health care industry, and does so by investing in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies listed on the Nasdaq.

As an iShares fund, investors will enjoy market-leading returns through a diversified portfolio of investments selected by some of the most trusted professionals on Wall Street. The IBB expense ratio is around the industry-average ETF expense ratio of 0.44%, according to The Wall Street Journal, but the fund’s expenses are justified by its outsize returns.


6. iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF (IHF)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 31.67%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 16.5%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.54%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The top holdings in the IHF include UnitedHealth Group (UNH), CVS Health (CVS), Anthem (ANTM), HCA Healthcare (HCA), and Teladoc Health (TDOC)
  • Years Up Since Inception: 13
  • Years Down Since Inception: 1

The iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF is designed to provide exposure to a different area of the health care industry. Instead of investing in companies that create treatments and therapeutic options, the IHF fund invests in companies that provide health insurance, specialized care, and diagnostics services.

To do so, the ETF invests in an index designed to track large U.S. health care providers.

The fund comes with an expense ratio that’s slightly lower than the average for ETFs, while providing performance that’s hard to ignore. While IHF isn’t the best dividend payer, the iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF does provide compelling returns, making it a strong pick for any health care investor’s portfolio.


7. iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF (IHI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.42%
  • One-Year Return: 36.77%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 23.60%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.50%
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The largest holdings in the IHI investment portfolio include Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO), Medtronic (MDT), Danaher (DHR), and Stryker (SYK).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 2

The iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF gives investors access to a diversified portfolio of stocks in the medical device subsector. Investments in the company center around products like glucose monitoring devices, robotics-assisted surgery technology, and devices that improve clinical outcomes for back surgery patients.

In order to provide this exposure, the iShares U.S. Medical Devices ETF tracks an index composed of domestic medical devices companies.

While the expense ratio on the fund is about average, its performance over the past 10 years has been anything but, with annualized returns throughout the period of more than 18%, earning it a perfect five-star rating from Morningstar.


8. iShares Global Healthcare ETF (IXJ)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.46%
  • One-Year Return: 19.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 11.51%
  • Dividend Yield: 1.27%
  • Morningstar Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The largest holdings in the iShares Global Healthcare ETF are Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Roche Holdings (ROG), Novartis (NOVN), and Abbott Laboratories (ABT).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 12
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

If you’re not interested in choosing subsectors of the health care industry to invest in and would rather have widespread exposure to all sectors of health care in all economies, whether developed or emerging, the iShares Global Healthcare ETF is a strong pick.

The ETF comes with an expense ratio that’s nearly in line with the industry average, but its holdings are some of the most diverse in the health care ETF space.

Moreover, the IXJ ETF is known to produce relatively reliable gains year after year, closing in the green in 12 of the past 15 years.


9. Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care ETF (RYH)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.40%
  • One-Year Return: 27.93%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 13.81%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.51%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The largest holdings in the RYH investment portfolio are Illumina (ILMN), Eli Lilly (LLY), Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN), Abiomed (ABMD), and Catalent (CTLT).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Founded in 1935, Invesco is a fund manager that’s been around the block more than a few times. It’s all but expected that the firm would make an appearance in just about any “top ETF” list.

Based on the S&P 500 Equal Weight Health Care Index, the ETF provides diversified exposure to all health care stocks listed on the S&P 500. That means when you purchase shares of RYH, you’ll be tapping into a wide range of health care stocks.

In fact, the S&P 500 represents more than 70% of the market cap of the entire U.S. stock market, which is why it’s often used as a benchmark. So, by tapping into every health care stock listed on the index, you’ll be tapping into some of the highest quality U.S. companies in the space.


10. SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI)

  • Expense Ratio: 0.35%
  • One-Year Return: 66.31%
  • Five-Year Annualized Return: 22.56%
  • Dividend Yield: 0.2%
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Top Holdings: The largest holdings in the XBI portfolio are Vir Biotechnology (VIR), Novavax (NVAX), Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), Agios Pharmaceuticals (AGIO), and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX).
  • Years Up Since Inception: 11
  • Years Down Since Inception: 3

Another fund offered up by State Street Advisors, the SPDR S&P 500 Biotech ETF is an impressive option. While it’s the last on this list, it has also been the top performer on this list over the past year and third best performer in terms of annualized returns.

The XBI ETF was designed to track the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index, an index designed to track the biotechnology subsector of the health care industry. As a result, an investment in this fund means you’ll be investing in all biotechnology companies listed on the S&P 500.

Not to mention, while returns on the XBIO have been impressive to say the least, the expense ratio on the fund is below the industry average. While the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF isn’t the biggest income earner on this list, it is a strong play with a relatively consistent history of producing gains far beyond those seen across the wider market.


Final Word

Health care ETFs are a great option for investors who are interested in using their investments to create some good in the world. Not only are the top ETFs in this space known for producing incredible returns, it feels good knowing that your investment dollars are helping companies produce medications, devices, and services designed to improve quality of life and extend the length of the lives of your fellow man.

Although investing in health care ETFs is a promising way to go about building your wealth in the stock market, it’s important to remember not all ETFs are created equal. So, it’s best to do your research, looking into key stats surrounding historic performance and expenses before diving into any fund.

Nonetheless, the ETFs listed above are some of the strongest performers in the health care industry, and make a great first watchlist for the newcomer to health care ETF investing.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Could You Move With 30 Days Notice? Now You Can!

Sometimes you have a “normal” home buying or selling process. The agreements are done, you have 45 days until closing and your lists are prepared to help you move. But, sometimes, that perfect home comes out of nowhere, and you have less than 30 days to get your life packed and onto the next adventure. Sounds stressful, right?

Lucky for you, our friend, Jennifer Ciani, of blog Simply Ciani, is here to share her expert tips (as this is a real-life story of her current moving situation).

How much moving supplies will you need?

When moving, it can feel like the number of things you own doubles overnight, am I right?  The guide below can help you figure out how many boxes you will need for each room.

Tip: Don’t just pack up and move unwanted items from one home to the next; take this opportunity to sort through things into “keep” and “donate” piles. Visit these resources for more decluttering tips during a move.

Jennifer typically uses between 75 to 90 boxes for moving a three-bedroom home. You can always return what you do not use, but it’s better to have more than enough rather than making run after run back to the store to buy more!

The Art of Tape

Now that you’ve assembled the boxes you need, another vital piece of the equation is the tape you use. Spoiler Alert: the tape you use to wrap your holiday gifts is not going to cut it. Jennifer recommends investing in good, sturdy tape, like Heavy Duty Scotch Tape, so that your items arrive at your destination in the condition you packed them in. The last thing you need is the bottom of your box to fall open after you spent all that time wrapping up your belongings.

Jennifer’s Taping Tip: Tape the box across both flaps, then tape once down the center line, then again on either side of that, overlapping the sides of the tape to create a strong hold.

 Labeling

Label each box so that it has a final destination and anyone picking up the box can figure out where it goes. And be sure to label not where they came from in your current home, but where you want them to go in your new home. For an organization bonus, label some of the contents in the box so you can be sure the contents are going to the right room.

What to Pack First

Okay, it’s almost time to get to work packing everything up. Remember, good prep is half the battle for acing your move! Before you begin going room by room, Jennifer recommends setting aside a suitcase (or a few depending on the size of your family) along with two large boxes and a medium sized box. The suitcases are for your travels if you’re moving long-distance, and the boxes are you “first night boxes” in your new home. Here’s a cheat sheet of what to pack in each:

Packing Room by Room

Bathroom:

Start in the bathroom because it is the smallest room in the home and usually has the least amount to pack. Pack up all liquids and lotions, each in their own separate plastic bag. Place those in a box by themselves, separate from everything else.

The Kids Room:

If you have children, especially young ones, get them involved with the packing. Let them choose which items they want to pack up and make a game out of it! Try to see who can pack their boxes faster or count how many items fit into a box, or sort toys by colors. The more you involve your children, the less anxiety they will have.

Closets and Dressers:

Pack clothes first and leave the clothes on the hangers, placing a plastic trash bag over them for easy storage and unpacking in your new home. For clothing in dressers, take out the drawers of the dresser on moving day, load the dresser, then place the drawers back in them with the clothing still inside. As you fill up the truck, the other furniture and boxes will ensure that your drawers will not open and it’s one less thing you don’t have to worry about packing!

Home Decor and Dishes:  

Wrap breakable decor up with quality packing paper. Each item gets wrapped individually. One of the easiest ways to pack dishes is to place a foam paper plate in between each plate, then wrap the whole set up in bubble wrap. For coffee mugs and breakable glasses, wrap them with packing paper and pots and pans wrap up with extra bath towels.

Bedding:

Pack each bedding set together, including throw pillows. This way, once your beds are all set up, it is easy to put each one together again.

Garage and Tools:

Packing plastic wrap is great for keeping rakes/ mops/ brooms together, but when it comes to the tools, you might want to purchase large plastic totes to ensure that none of the tools get damaged in the move. Plus, it makes for easy organizing after moving into your new home.


Living the millennial life with my husband and Wheaten Terrier in beautiful Virginia. I document my life on Instagram and am ready to talk all things home-related at a moment’s notice.

Source: homes.com

How to Design a Home for Every Climate

The decision to build your own home is not one to be taken lightly. Not only is the process time consuming and expensive, but there are a wide variety of things that need to be taken into account when creating a dream home. Outside of the more traditional checklists that include layout, amenities, renewable energy options and proper HVAC design, an element that is often overlooked is creating a home that works with—not against—it’s surrounding environment.

Once the decision of where to build has been made, consider the average climate. Ask yourself: what are the issues you might deal with on a day to day basis? Then work to implement exterior and interior features that will help prevent potential issues down the line. For example, if you live in a colder climate, you’ll want to use gable roofing to help shed snow and south facing windows to increase your daily sun intake. But you’ll want to avoid uneven walkways that make shoveling snow impossible and high ceilings that will collect and waste heat. The Zebra took a look at the four most common climates for home builders, and broke down home design tips per climate to help maximize your home’s efficiency throughout the year no matter where you live.


Source: homes.com

The psychology of being overworked and underpaid

Stressed woman with hands on her head looking at a laptop.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

A competitive salary is something we all strive for in our careers, but for some, the salary we know we deserve doesn’t necessarily match our reality. An employee may put in extra hours, take on more responsibilities and go the extra mile, but they still may not be properly compensated for their work. 

Being overworked and underpaid isn’t as uncommon as we think. According to a poll conducted by Gallup, 43 percent of U.S. workers believe they are underpaid. 

Unfortunately, this can have a negative impact on a person’s productivity, mental health and even credit health. So, what can you do if you feel you’re not being fairly paid at work? 

Read on to find out the psychological impact of being overworked and underpaid and how you can combat this issue—or jump straight to the infographic below. 

Impacts of being overworked and underpaid

Sometimes we’re so eager to accept a job that we settle for whatever salary we’re offered, only to find out that what we’re given doesn’t match the responsibilities we’ve taken on. Or, you may have been at a company for a while and experienced an increase in your workload but seen little to no increase in pay. 

Being overworked and underpaid can ultimately lead to a multitude of feelings that can cause more harm than good. Here are three signs you shouldn’t ignore:

Decrease in productivity

Employees who work long hours and have heavier workloads aren’t necessarily the most productive. Some may think the more hours you work, the more you’ll get done, but for most, this can have the opposite effect.

The more work an employee takes on, the more prone they become to mistakes. This can lead to feelings of burnout, sleep deprivation and work-life imbalance due to stress and the inability to keep up with the heavy workload. On top of that, if you’re being underpaid, it can make it extremely difficult to stay motivated in your role. 

Gallup found that 23 percent of employees felt burnt out almost always at work, according to a study made up of 7,500 full time employees. When it becomes hard to juggle workplace stress, people can find it difficult to function and stay productive. The same study conducted by Gallup also found that 13 percent of workers are less confident in their work performance when experiencing symptoms of burnout.

13% of workers are less confident in their work performance when feeling burnt out. Source: Gallup.

Employees may start to feel disconnected from their work and may even have built up resentment toward their employer because of their lack of compensation, causing a never-ending cycle of stress, burnout and lack of productivity. These feelings can ultimately impact employees’ overall well-being and mental health. 

Negative effects on your mental well-being 

Most people spend the majority of their time in the workplace. Unfortunately for some, the stresses from work can be hard to shut off even when leaving the office for the day. According to a study conducted by Wrike, 94 percent of employees said they felt stress at work and 54 percent said the stresses from work negatively affect their home life.

57.9% of employees said work has impacted their mental health in some way. Source: Paychex.

Long work hours, an increase in work-related tasks and insufficient pay can all start to take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health. A survey conducted by Paychex found that 57.9 percent of employees said work impacted their mental health in some way. 

Damaged credit health  

Aside from mental health and productivity, being underpaid can start to hurt your financial standing. Though your income doesn’t have a direct impact on your credit score, lack of income can make it more difficult to pay your bills on time. A survey by WalletHub found that 30 percent of respondents missed credit card payments because they didn’t have enough money. 

30% of people missed credit card payments because they didn’t have enough money. Source: WalletHub.

A Gallup poll also found that 55 percent of women feel they are underpaid for the amount of work they do, which could play into why they hold nearly two-thirds of the student loan debt in the U.S. With women receiving lower-than-average wages, keeping up with student loans and other debt payments becomes harder, thus affecting their overall credit health. 

6 ways to handle being underpaid 

Being underpaid is a problem that many people find themselves in and struggle to get out of. The only way to get out of this predicament is to take matters into your own hands. Here are six ways you can get out of being underpaid: 

1. Negotiate a competitive raise

Present your employer with an exact dollar amount and provide documentation of your work and performance.

Asking for a raise can seem scary and intimidating, but it’s an important step toward solving your problem. Though it’s not always the easiest thing to do, you’ll never know if you don’t ask. 

When asking for a raise, make sure you do your research on your industry’s salary range and provide an exact number when meeting with your employer. Providing an exact dollar amount as opposed to a salary range will show your employer that you know what you want and will make the negotiation process easier. Try aiming a little higher than what you would like to leave room for negotiation. When researching salary ranges, tools like Salary.com and LinkedIn’s salary tool can be a huge help. 

To support your case, come to the meeting with documentation to show your work and accomplishments thus far. Provide hard data, numbers, positive feedback you’ve received in the past and all of the ways you have helped and plan to help increase the company’s bottom line. The more evidence you provide, the better chance you have at landing that raise. 

2. Review company growth path and policies 

Schedule an official performance review with your employer to discuss your progress and an increase in pay.

Most companies give performance reviews and have a growth path clearly noted, so it may be worth revisiting your company policies first. Growth paths are important in understanding what’s expected from your employer in order to progress within the company and earn a higher wage. 

If you haven’t received an official review, get one on the schedule with your boss. A 2018 report found that 68 percent of executives say they learn about employees’ concerns for the first time during performance reviews. If you’re concerned about your growth within the company, don’t wait for your employer to come to you about it. 

3. Start a conversation about your workload

Consider decreasing your hours to alleviate workplace stress and create a healthier work-life balance.

If you’re continuing to work long hours and find the pay still isn’t worth it, it might be beneficial to have an open and honest conversation about the amount of work you’ve taken on. If your employer is unable to give you a raise, you may want to discuss cutting back on your hours or workload.

The result may not be an increase in pay, but you may be happier in your role and be able to perform better if they ease up on your day-to-day tasks. Your pay sometimes isn’t worth being unhappy at work. In fact, one of our studies on employee happiness found that 60 percent of Americans said they would take a job they loved with half their current income over one they hated. 

Employers may not be aware of the impact the extra work is having on you, so always try your best to be transparent about your load to find a healthy compromise. 

4. Start exploring other options 

Aside from monetary benefits, take other factors into consideration, such as health insurance coverage and time-off policies.

If your request for a raise gets denied and you still find yourself in the same predicament, you might want to start exploring other options. In fact, those experiencing symptoms of burnout at work are 2.6 times as likely to actively be looking for another job. 

Though monetary benefits are usually of the utmost importance, remember to consider other factors like health insurance options, flexible hours, vacation policies and overall company culture. The issues you experience in your current position can help you determine what you’re looking for in your next role. 

5. Consider quitting your job 

Make sure you’re in a good financial standing and have at least 3 to 6 months of pay saved.

At the end of the day, no job is worth putting your mental health at risk. If your current employer isn’t paying you what you deserve and you don’t feel fulfilled in your role, consider moving on. Now that you’ve done extensive research on your industry’s salary range, you’ll know what range to keep in mind when applying for other positions. 

Before jumping the gun and resigning from a position, make sure you’re financially prepared. In these situations, it’s smart to have at least three to six months’ worth of pay saved to give you some cushion during your job search. It may become more difficult to get approved for a credit card without a job, so having saved up income can help ensure you’re able to pay your credit balance. 

6. Know your worth 

Use Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth tool to compare salary levels according to location, experience level and job title.

Understanding your own worth means being clear on the value you can bring to a company. When you know your worth, asking for a raise and vocalizing your concerns will start to come naturally to you. 

Assess your own skills and level of expertise and be realistic with yourself. Once you’ve analyzed your own skills and industry’s expectations, you’ll have a better understanding of an appropriate wage. Glassdoor has a Know Your Worth tool that can help you determine salary ranges by title, experience level and location. 

The most important thing to remember is to not sell yourself short. Research from Glassdoor found that 59 percent of employees did not negotiate salary and accepted the first offer they were given. Know your worth and don’t settle for less than what you deserve. 

Money isn’t everything when it comes to employment, but it can certainly start to impact your career and personal growth if it remains stagnant. If your paycheck isn’t reflecting your worth, take action and make sure you’re getting the compensation that will set you up for further financial success. 

For tips on how to handle being overworked and underpaid, check out our infographic below.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

7 Ways to Get Your FICO Credit Score for Free

Man checking his credit score
Photo by garagestock / Shutterstock.com

A good credit score is the key that unlocks the door to better loan terms, an improved chance of getting a rental apartment and even the odds of landing a job.

So, this three-digit number packs a punch. Knowing the score reveals whether you need to work to improve your credit score.

In the past, you’d have to pay to see your credit score. But that has changed. Today, you can get a free score from any of the following sources.

1. Discover

Anyone can access their credit score for free through the Discover Free Credit Scorecard program.

You don’t have to be a Discover customer to sign up for the service. It not only provides your credit score, but also will notify you of new accounts on your Experian credit report and send an alert if your Social Security number is found on the dark web.

2. Credit cards

Through the FICO Score Open Access program, FICO works with more than 200 financial institutions to provide their partners’ customers with free access to credit scores. The following credit card issuers are among those participating in the program:

  • Citi
  • Barclaycard
  • HSBC

3. Lenders

If you have student loans, an auto loan or a mortgage, you may also be able to get a free FICO score through your lender. Here are a few of the loan companies that have partnered with the FICO Score Open Access program:

  • Sallie Mae
  • Payoff
  • Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance

4. Banks and credit unions

Dozens of banks and credit unions across the country also offer access to free FICO scores through FICO Open Access. These include both large and small institutions. Here are a few examples:

  • SunTrust
  • Bank of America
  • Affinity Federal Credit Union

Depending on the institution, free scores may only be available to customers enrolled in certain products, and the program may change.

5. Credit counselors

If you’re using the services of a credit-counseling program to improve your finances, you may be eligible for a free FICO score through that organization via the FICO Score Open Access program.

Partner organizations (see them listed below participating banks and credit cards) include companies with national or regional clients.

These are a few of the credit counseling organizations offering free FICO scores:

  • DebtHelper.com
  • Operation Hope
  • Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Savannah

6. Experian

The credit reporting company Experian offers free access to FICO credit scores through its website FreeCreditScore.com.

You won’t have to enter any credit card information to create a free account and see your FICO score. The company says it does not sell your information to third parties. It updates scores every 30 days.

7. Credit applications

A sometimes overlooked option for getting a free credit score is simply to ask to see it when applying for a loan.

If your credit is being pulled by a dealership, mortgage lender or bank, see if they will be willing to share your score with you. While this won’t work for an automated credit application, such as for a credit card, it is an option anytime you have contact with a company representative.

Keep in mind, though, that a major reason for checking your score is to provide you time to repair or boost your credit score before applying for a loan. If possible, try one of the options above first.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

12 Hidden Costs of Raising a Child – Expenses Parents Should Budget For

A USDA report pegs the total cost of raising a child at $233,610, or $284,570 if you factor in future inflation. That includes only the basics however, and excludes costs like helping with college education, birthday parties, and holiday gifts.

Include those, and you’re looking at $745,634, according to a report by NerdWallet — a jarring amount, no matter how much you earn.

Most of us know that kids come with extra costs like clothing, food, and possibly college tuition. But what about the hidden costs of raising a child? Kids require more than food and clothes, and often the less obvious costs get lost in estimates of just how much children cost to rear.

As you consider having children or plan your finances for an existing family, keep the following costs in mind. Just remember that although these expenses are common, they’re not written in stone, and you do ultimately control how much your own children cost you.

Hidden Costs of Raising a Child

Many parents, particularly mothers, take a career break to raise young children in their first years and often up to school age. It’s not like pressing the pause button and resuming play where you left it. Taking an extended break comes with significant costs, some less obvious than others.

1. Lost Income

On the obvious side, you lose out on the income from those years spent outside the workforce.

Imagine a family where both partners work, and upon having their first child, the mother decides to take a career break. They have a second child three years later, and the mom decides to stay at home until the youngest starts kindergarten at age 5.

That’s eight years of lost income. At a median full-time salary of $52,312 calculated by BLS, that comes to $419,496 in lost wages, not including wage growth over the next eight years.

This says nothing of lost retirement benefits, such as 401(k) matching, or lost returns on your own contributions to investments you could have made with that extra income. Compounded over the next 30 years, those lost returns can amount to millions of dollars.

2. Lost Career Momentum & Potential

Beyond the lost years of income, becoming a stay-at-home parent can stunt your career potential.

By the time you’re ready to reenter the workforce, you’ve fallen vastly behind your colleagues who have had many years to climb the corporate ladder. They’ve been advancing and winning promotions, while you’d be lucky to reenter your industry at the same level where you left.

The opportunity cost doesn’t end there, either. In today’s world of disruption and fast-paced change, eight years of falling out of touch with industry trends, best practices, and technological innovations puts you at a deep disadvantage compared to people still in the workforce and up to speed.

The bottom line: parents who take a break of several years from their career may reenter the workforce at a lower level than they left, and advance less over the remainder of their career. While there’s surprisingly little research on this effect, one study by Adzuna found that Brits who took a five-year career break took an average annual salary loss of £9,660 (about $12,500).

3. Less Time for Side Hustles

Even among parents who don’t take a career break, they simply don’t have the same free time to build extra income through a side hustle.

Historically, I spent much of my Saturdays working on either my business or writing. When my daughter was born, that came to an abrupt end, first because I was so sleep-deprived and later because my wife wouldn’t hear of it.

My father told me growing up that the 40-hour workweek was a baseline for survival, and it’s what you do outside those hours that determines your success, particularly in your 20s and 30s.

Although I believe in creating passive income streams and pursuing financial independence, you need to save a lot of money in the beginning to build momentum. That comes from a high savings rate and a high income, which often requires side gigs.

It’s not so easy to run a business on the side of your full-time job when you have young children.

4. Higher Housing Costs

A family of two can share a one-bedroom apartment. A family of three, four, or five? Not so comfortably.

At the time of this writing, Apartment Guide lists the average one-bedroom apartment rent at $1,621, compared to the average two-bedroom apartment rent of $1,878. That’s a difference of $257 per month, or $3,084 per year, just to add one more bedroom.

Larger homes cost more money, whether you rent or buy. And with the extra square footage comes higher utility costs to light, heat, cool, and power the property and everything in it.

They also require more maintenance for homeowners. The larger the roof, the more square footage there is to spring a leak. The larger the lawn and grounds, the more time and/or money they cost to maintain. And so on.

Expect to pay thousands of dollars more each year for a home that can accommodate your children, not just you and your spouse.

5. Transportation Costs

The same logic applies to transportation.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average cost to buy a new compact car is around $20,000. The cost to buy a midsize SUV? A hefty $33,000, representing a 65% increase in cost.

As with housing, the difference in costs doesn’t end at the sticker price. It costs more to insure and fuel a beastly SUV than an efficient compact. When your kids reach their teenage years and start driving, they’ll need car insurance, which many parents pick up.

(Personally, I had to pay for my own as a teenager, and I recommend you do the same with your kids to give them practice earning and budgeting for real world expenses. But I digress.)

Some parents even go so far as to give their teenage kids a car, whether a hand-me-down or buying it for them as a gift.

Again, these costs remain voluntary. But it’s harder to drive your kids, their friends, and their gear to hockey practice in a sporty compact than in a minivan or SUV.

6. Medical Costs

People of all ages need medical care. And in the United States, medical care is expensive, no matter how you approach it.

Higher Health Insurance Premiums

Adding more people to your health insurance plan adds to your monthly premium. Period.

Well, not quite period. Some insurers, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, charge for each additional child up to the first three, then stop charging extra and only charge for the three oldest under the age of 21. Regardless, expect to pay more for family health insurance when you have children than you’d pay as a couple.

You may also decide you need more coverage as a family with kids than you did as a couple. For example, you may opt for dental coverage, or more inclusions, or a lower yearly ceiling on out-of-pocket expenses.

Higher Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Kids get into trouble, break their arms playing soccer, step on rusty nails while running around the neighborhood barefoot. And before they do that, babies require plenty of checkups and medical care of their own.

Every time they visit a doctor, need a prescription filled, or look cross-eyed at the health care system, you can expect to get hit with an out-of-pocket bill. Few health insurance plans cover 100% of all medical expenses with no deductible, and those few charge outrageous premiums.

And kids come with other medical costs. If you don’t want your kids to have crooked teeth, suddenly you find yourself with orthodontist bills. Eye exams, contact lenses, glasses — the list goes on.

Your kids will need plenty of medical care between birth and when they enter the workforce, and you’ll be on the hook for every penny.

7. Lessons, Tutoring, and Other Extracurriculars

If your child has dyslexia, they may need special tutoring to help them learn how to read. Many children need speech therapy as young kids. Many others require academic tutoring at some point or another.

If your kids want to learn an instrument, dive deeper into a sport, or pick up just about any hobby, they’ll need lessons.

Parents always forget to budget for these sorts of expenses until they strike, but kids — and just as often their parents — may want or need more than what resources their school offers for free. And when it happens, you need to be prepared to open your wallet.

8. Baby Paraphernalia

I was shocked and appalled at the amount of baby paraphernalia that flooded our apartment when we had a baby.

At every turn, I fought my wife to stop buying so much stuff. And at every turn, I lost the battle. She insisted on buying every gadget, every “cute” piece of baby clothing, every piece of nursery furniture she could get her hands on. From infrared baby monitors to smart chips that attach to diapers to track vital signs, we have it all.

As a minimalist, it drives me insane. Like so many middle-class parents, we have far more baby items than we need. Eventually, I stopped tallying the cost because it was pushing my cortisol levels through the roof.

You may consider yourself a reasonable human being, vigilant against unnecessary spending. But new parents get both anxious and excited — and their response to both is usually to buy more stuff. When you or your spouse gets pregnant, budget extra for spousal splurges when you try to predict how much it costs to have a baby.

9. Toys and Gifts

Again, parents all too often go wild buying gifts, toys, and unnecessary clothes, all in the name of spoiling their children.

It’s so insidious that many parents go into debt each holiday season. Between gifts, swag, and travel, the average American family spends $1,050 at the holidays according to a 2019 National Retail Federation study reported by USA Today.

You can and should fight the urge. But parents overspend on gifts and toys all the time, so it bears including here.

10. Electronics

Increasingly, kids need electronics for schoolwork, not just as frivolous gifts. In the era of COVID-19, they’ve become mandatory learning tools.

Laptops and tablets aren’t cheap though, and they come with notoriously short lifespans as they slip into obsolescence after a few short years. Between the time a child is old enough to use one and the time they move out and pay their own bills, they’ll likely go through dozens of devices between phones, tablets, laptops, and gadgets that haven’t been invented yet but will be all the rage 15 years from now.

Added together, that comes to tens of thousands of dollars.

11. Travel Costs

My wife and I once looked up the cheapest flights for the following week from our then home. We booked flights to Bulgaria for $160 round trip per person and spent only a few hundred dollars over the entire next week.

That doesn’t happen when you have kids, for several reasons.

First, you can’t just up and go during the travel offseason when you feel like it. Your kids have school, so you have to travel when everyone else and their mother travels: during school holidays. Which means always traveling during the expensive high season.

Second, you have to pay for more, well, everything. More airline tickets. More hotel rooms, or a larger home on Airbnb. And then come the meals, entertainment, entrance passes, and so forth. All of it costs more money.

When you travel with an infant, you can avoid many of those costs. But they don’t stay infants very long, and soon you find yourself traveling with teenagers who insist on doing the exact opposite of what you want to do. So you end up paying to do both.

And good luck doing low-key travel like backpacking or hiking trips with social media-addicted kids and teens.

If you really want to travel the way you used to with your spouse, you end up either having to hire a nanny or ship your kids off to summer camp — both of which cost an arm and a leg in themselves.

12. Life Insurance

Many couples can responsibly dodge life insurance, provided they both work. If the worst happens, the surviving spouse can still pay their bills, albeit with the possible need to downsize.

Add children to the mix, however, and you have more mouths to feed — plus all the other expenses outlined above. Losing one spouse, particularly a primary breadwinner, could tip the family into poverty or at the very least require a massive, painful change in lifestyle.

Having children doesn’t necessarily require you to buy life insurance. I don’t have it, as one of the many side benefits of the FIRE lifestyle. But when you have children, you need to plan for contingencies like losing a spouse, and making sure your family can survive without them.

Often that means a life insurance policy, and even when it doesn’t, you still need a plan in place.


Final Word

Having children is not all financial doom and gloom. Yes, some expenses remain unavoidable, no matter how frugally you live. But many of the expenses above represent average expenses among parents with little financial literacy. You can minimize many of them with a little more awareness, and avoid others entirely.

The costs of raising children also operate on an economy of scale. While you and your spouse don’t want to share a bedroom with your child after the first few months, you can put two children in the same second bedroom, for example. Younger children can benefit from hand-me-downs such as cribs, strollers, and clothes. And once you bite the bullet to buy a minivan, having a third child doesn’t change your transportation needs any further.

It doesn’t have to cost $745,634 to raise a child. But it certainly can if you’re not careful.

Source: moneycrashers.com