Income-Driven Repayment Plans for Federal Student Loans – Guide

According to first-quarter data released in May 2021 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loans are now the second-largest source of consumer debt, outpacing both credit card and car loan debt and second only to mortgage debt. And for many Americans, that debt has become unmanageable. According to CNBC, more than 1 million borrowers default on their student loans every year. And the nonprofit public-policy research organization Brookings expects up to 40% of all borrowers to go into default before 2023.

Unfortunately, defaulting on student loans can have dire consequences, including wage garnishment and destruction of your credit, making it nearly impossible to get another loan — private or federal.

Fortunately, there are multiple repayment options for federal student loan borrowers, including deferment and forbearance, student loan consolidation, and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. If your federal student loan payments exceed your monthly income or are so high it’s difficult to afford basic necessities, you can lower your monthly student loan payment by taking advantage of one of the various IDR plans.

Pro Tip: If you have private student loans, the federal options are unavailable to you. But you can refinance them through Credible to earn a $750 bonus exclusive to Money Crashers’ readers. Learn more about refinancing through Credible.

How Income-Driven Repayment Plans Work

The default repayment schedule for federal student loans is 10 years. But if you have a high debt balance, low income, or both, the standard repayment plan probably isn’t affordable for you.

But if your payments are more than 10% of your calculated discretionary income, you qualify for the federal definition of “partial financial hardship.” That makes you eligible to have your monthly payments reduced.

That’s where IDR plans come in. Instead of setting payments according to your student loan balance and repayment term length, IDR plans set them according to your income and family size. Even better, if you have a balance remaining after completing your set number of payments, your debt may be forgiven.

These plans are beneficial for graduates right out of school who are not yet employed, are underemployed, or are working in a low-salary field. For these graduates, their paychecks often aren’t enough to cover their monthly student loan payments, and IDR means the difference between managing their student loan debt and facing default.

How IDR Plans Calculate Your Discretionary Income

IDR plans calculate your payment as a percentage of your discretionary income. The calculation is different for every plan, but your discretionary income is the difference between your adjusted gross income (AGI) and a certain percentage of the poverty level for your family size and state of residence.

Your AGI is your annual income (pretax) minus certain deductions, like student loan interest, alimony payments, or retirement fund contributions. To find the federal poverty threshold for your family size, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Using these guidelines, some borrowers even qualify for a $0 repayment on an IDR plan. That’s hugely beneficial for people dealing with unemployment or low wages. It allows them to stay on their IDR plan rather than opt for deferment or forbearance.

And there are two good reasons to take that option. Unless it’s an economic hardship deferment, which is limited to a total of three years, time spent in forbearance or deferment doesn’t count toward your forgiveness clock. However, any $0 repayments do count toward the total number of payments required for forgiveness.

Additionally, interest that accrues on your unsubsidized loans during periods of deferment and on all your loans during a forbearance capitalizes once the deferment or forbearance ends. Capitalization means the loan servicer adds interest to the principal balance. When that happens, you pay interest on the new higher balance — in other words, interest on top of interest.

But with IDR, if you’re making $0 payments — or payments that are lower than the amount of interest that accrues on your loans every month — most plans won’t capitalize any accrued interest unless you leave the program or hit an income cap. The income-contingent repayment plan (a type of IDR) is the sole exception. It capitalizes interest annually.

Student Loan Forgiveness

Any of your student loans enrolled in an IDR program are eligible for student loan forgiveness. Forgiveness means that if you make the required number of payments for your IDR plan and you have any balance remaining at the end of your term, the government wipes out the debt, and you don’t have to repay it. For example, let’s say your plan requires you to make 240 payments. After doing so, you still have $30,000 left on your loan. If you’re eligible for forgiveness, you don’t have to repay that last $30,000.

There are two types of forgiveness available to those in an IDR program: the basic forgiveness available to any borrower enrolled in IDR and public service loan forgiveness (PSLF).

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The PSLF program forgives the remaining balance of borrowers who’ve made as few as 120 qualifying payments while enrolled in IDR. To qualify, borrowers must make payments while working full-time for a public service agency or nonprofit. Public service includes doctors working in public health, lawyers working in public law, and teachers working in public education, in addition to almost any other type of government organization at any level — local, state, and federal. Nonprofits include any organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. They do not include labor unions, partisan political organizations, or government contractors working for profit.

PSLF can potentially benefit those required to have extensive education to work in low-income fields, like teachers. Unfortunately, it’s notoriously difficult to get. According to Insider, the program is still rejecting 98% of applicants after an ongoing history of rejecting borrowers who believed they qualified but weren’t granted forgiveness.

But there may be hope. In May 2021, the Biden administration announced ongoing plans to review and overhaul all the federal student loan repayment, cancellation, discharge, and forgiveness programs, including public service loan forgiveness, to better benefit borrowers, according to Insider.

For the best chance at receiving PSLF, the ED recommends you fill out an employment certification form annually and every time you change jobs. Additionally, once you reach 120 qualifying payments, you must complete a PSLF application to receive the forgiveness.

IDR Loan Forgiveness

For all other IDR borrowers, each program requires them to make a set number of payments — from 240 to 300 — before they qualify to have their loan balances forgiven. At this time, because the program isn’t yet 20 years old and no borrowers have qualified, there is no specific application process for student loan forgiveness.

According to the ED, your loan servicer tracks your number of qualifying payments and notifies you when you get close to the forgiveness date. No one yet knows if there will be a standard application form or if it will be automatic. Hopefully, as the program reaches the age when borrowers can start using the benefit, the process will become standardized.

Drawbacks to Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the biggest advantages of IDR, especially for borrowers with high balances relative to their income. But there are pros and cons of standard student loan forgiveness. First, while forgiveness sounds like it could be a significant financial benefit, the reality is after making 20 to 25 years of IDR payments, the average borrower doesn’t have any balance remaining to forgive.

And if the government does forgive your balance, the IRS counts that as income, which means you have to pay income taxes on the amount forgiven. If you have a high balance remaining and can’t pay your taxes in full, that means making multiple additional payments — this time to the IRS — just when you thought you were finally done with your student loans.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, makes a crucial change to this student loan policy. According to Section 9675, borrowers receiving a discharge of their student loans no longer have to pay income tax on any balances forgiven through Dec. 31, 2025.

That won’t help most borrowers currently enrolled or who plan to enroll in IDR. The first to become eligible for forgiveness only did so in 2019 — those who’ve been enrolled in income-contingent repayment since its beginning in 1994, as noted by the National Consumer Law Center. But some experts believe this change could become permanent, according to CNBC.

Note that balances forgiven through PSLF are always tax-exempt.

What Loans Are Eligible for IDR?

You can only repay federal direct loans under most IDR plans. But if you have an older federal family education loan (FFEL), which includes Stafford loans, or federal Perkins loan — two now-discontinued loan types — you can qualify for these IDR plans by consolidating your student loans with a federal direct consolidation loan.

Note, however, that consolidation is not the right choice for all borrowers. For example, if you consolidate a federal Perkins loan with a direct consolidation loan, you lose access to any Perkins loan forgiveness or discharge programs. Further, if you consolidate a parent PLUS loan with any other student loans, the new consolidation loan becomes ineligible for most IDR plans.

Private financial institutions have their own programs for repayment. But they aren’t eligible for any federal repayment program.

4 Types of Income-Driven Repayment Plans

There are four IDR plans for managing federal student loan debt. They all let you make a monthly payment based on your income and family size. But each differs according to who’s eligible, how your loan servicer calculates your payments, and how many payments you have to make before you qualify for forgiveness.

If you’re married, some calculations can depend on your spouse’s income if you file jointly. Because you can lose some tax benefits if you file separately, consult with a tax professional to see whether married filing jointly or married filing separately is more advantageous for your situation.

Regardless of your marital status, each IDR plan works differently. Your loan servicer can help you choose the plan that’s best for you. But it’s essential you understand the features, pros, and cons of each IDR type.

1. Income-Based Repayment Plan

Income-based repayment plans (IBRs) are likely the most well-known of all the IDR plans, but they’re also the most complicated. Depending on when you took out your loans, your monthly payment could be a more substantial chunk of your discretionary income than for newer borrowers, and you could have a longer repayment term. On the other hand, unlike some other IDR plans, this one has a favorable payment cap.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay 15% of your discretionary income if you were a new borrower before July 1, 2014, and 10% if you borrowed after that date. If the amount you’re required to pay is $5 or less, your payment is $0. If the repayment amount is more than $5 but less than $10, your payment is $10. If you’re married and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your payment amount is adjusted proportionally.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: For IBR, discretionary income is the difference between your AGI and 150% of the poverty level for your family’s size and state of residence. Your loan servicer includes spousal income in this calculation if you’re married filing jointly. They don’t include it if you’re married filing separately.
  • Payment Cap: As long as you remain enrolled in IBR, your payment will never be more than you’d be required to pay on the 10-year standard repayment plan, regardless of how large your income grows.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: If your monthly payments are less than the interest that accrues on your loans, the government pays all the interest on your subsidized loans — including the subsidized portion of a direct consolidation loan — for up to three years. It doesn’t cover any interest on unsubsidized loans.
  • Interest Capitalization: If your monthly payments are no longer tied to your income — meaning your income has grown so large you’ve hit the payment cap — your servicer capitalizes your interest.
  • Repayment Term: If you borrowed any student loans before July 1, 2014, you must make 300 payments over 25 years. If you were a new borrower after July 1, 2014, you must make 240 payments over 20 years.
  • Eligibility: To qualify, you must meet IBR’s criteria for partial economic hardship: The annual amount you must repay on a 10-year repayment schedule must exceed 15% of your discretionary income. If you’re married and filing jointly and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your loan servicer includes this debt in the calculation. IBR excludes only the parent PLUS loans from eligibility.
  • Forgiveness: Your remaining loan balance is eligible for forgiveness after you make 20 or 25 years of payments, depending on whether you borrowed before or after July 1, 2014.

2. Pay-as-You-Earn Repayment Plan

The pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) plan is possibly the best choice for repaying your student loans — if you qualify for it. It comes with some benefits over IBR, including a potentially smaller monthly payment and repayment term, depending on when you took out your loans. It also has a unique interest benefit that limits any capitalized interest to no more than 10% of your original loan balance when you entered the program.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay 10% of your discretionary income but never more than you would be required to repay on the standard 10-year repayment schedule. If the amount is $5 or less, your payment is $0. If the amount is more than $5 but less than $10, you pay $10. If you’re married and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your payment amount is adjusted proportionally.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: For PAYE, your servicer calculates discretionary income as the difference between your AGI and 150% of the poverty line for your state of residence. If you’re married and file jointly, they include your spouse’s income in the calculation. They don’t include it if you file separately.
  • Payment Cap: As with IBR, as long as you remain enrolled, payments can never exceed what you’d be required to repay on a standard 10-year repayment schedule, regardless of how large your income grows.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: If your monthly payments are less than the interest that accrues on your loans, the government pays all the interest on your subsidized loans for up to three years. It doesn’t cover any interest on unsubsidized loans.
  • Interest Capitalization: If your income has grown so large you’ve hit the payment cap, your servicer capitalizes your interest. But no capitalized interest can exceed 10% of your original loan balance.
  • Repayment Term: You must make 240 payments over 20 years.
  • Eligibility: To qualify, you must meet the plan’s criteria for partial financial hardship: the annual amount due is greater than 10% of your discretionary income. If you’re married and filing jointly and your spouse owes any student loan debt, this debt is included in the calculation. Additionally, you can’t have any outstanding balance remaining on a direct loan or FFEL taken out before Sept. 30, 2007. You must also have taken out at least one loan after Sept. 30, 2011. All federal direct loans are eligible for PAYE except for parent PLUS loans.
  • Forgiveness: As long as you stay enrolled, you remain eligible for forgiveness of your loan balance after 20 years of payments if any balance remains.

3. Revised Pay-as-You-Earn Repayment Plan

If you don’t meet the qualifications of partial financial hardship under PAYE or IBR, you can still qualify for an IDR plan. The revised pay-as-you-earn (REPAYE) plan is open to any direct federal loan borrower, regardless of income. Further, your payment amount and repayment terms aren’t contingent on when you borrowed. The most significant benefits of REPAYE are the federal loan interest subsidy and lack of any interest capitalization.

However, there are some definite drawbacks to REPAYE. First, there are no caps on payments. How much you must pay each month is tied to your income, even if that means you have to make payments higher than you would have on a standard 10-year repayment schedule.

Second, those who borrowed for graduate school must repay over a longer term before becoming eligible for forgiveness. That’s a huge drawback considering those who need the most help tend to be graduate borrowers. According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of those with six-figure student loan debt borrowed it for graduate school.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay 10% of your discretionary income. If the amount you must pay is $5 or less, your payment is $0. And if the repayment amount is more than $5 but less than $10, your payment is $10. If you’re married and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your payment amount is adjusted proportionally.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: Your discretionary income is the difference between your AGI and 150% of the poverty line for your state of residence. If you’re married, they include both your and your spouse’s income in the calculation, regardless of whether you file jointly or separately. However, if you’re separated or otherwise unable to rely on your spouse’s income, your servicer doesn’t consider it.
  • Payment Cap: There is no cap on payments. The loan service always calculates your monthly payment as 10% of your discretionary income.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: If your monthly payment is so low it doesn’t cover the accruing interest, the federal government pays any excess interest on subsidized federal loans for up to three years. After that, they cover 50% of the interest. They also cover 50% of the interest on unsubsidized loans for the entire term.
  • Interest Capitalization: As long as you remain enrolled in REPAYE, your loan servicer never capitalizes any accrued interest.
  • Repayment Term: You must make 240 payments over 20 years if you borrowed loans for undergraduate studies. If you’re repaying graduate school debt or a consolidation loan that includes any direct loans that paid for graduate school or any grad PLUS loans, you must make 300 payments over 25 years.
  • Eligibility: Any borrower with direct loans, including grad PLUS loans, can make payments under this plan, regardless of income. If you have older loans from the discontinued FFEL program, they are only eligible if consolidated into a new direct consolidation loan. Parent PLUS loans are ineligible for REPAYE.
  • Forgiveness: As long as you remain enrolled, your loans are eligible for forgiveness after 20 years of payments for undergraduate loans or 25 years for graduate loans.

4. Income-Contingent Repayment Plan

The income-contingent repayment plan (ICR) is the oldest of the income-driven plans and the least beneficial. Your monthly payments are higher under ICR than any other plan, and you must make those payments over a longer term. Additionally, although they limit the amount of capitalized interest, it’s automatically capitalized annually whether you remain in the program or not.

There is one major plus: Parent PLUS loans are eligible. But you must still consolidate them into a federal direct consolidation loan to qualify.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or what you would pay over 12 years on a fixed-payment repayment plan. If you’re married and your spouse also has eligible loans, you can repay your loans jointly under the ICR plan. If you go this route, your servicer calculates a separate payment for each of you that’s proportionate to the amount you each owe.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: For ICR, your servicer calculates discretionary income as the difference between your AGI and 100% of the federal poverty line for your family size in your state of residence. If you’re married filing jointly, your servicer uses both your and your spouse’s income to calculate the payment size. If you’re married filing separately, they only use your income.
  • Payment Cap: There is no cap on payment size.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: The government doesn’t subsidize any interest.
  • Interest Capitalization: Your servicer capitalizes interest annually. However, it can’t be more than 10% of the original debt balance when you started repayment.
  • Repayment Term: You must make 300 payments over 25 years.
  • Eligibility: Any borrower with federal student loans, including direct loans and FFEL loans, is eligible for ICR. For parent PLUS loans to qualify, you must consolidate them into a federal direct consolidation loan.
  • Forgiveness: As long as you remain enrolled, your loans are eligible for forgiveness after 25 years of payments.

How to Apply for Income-Driven Repayment Plans

To enroll in an IDR plan, contact your student loan servicer. Your servicer is the financial company that manages your student loans and sends your monthly bill. They can walk you through applying for IDR and recommend the most beneficial plan for your unique situation. You must complete an income-driven payment plan request, which you can fill out online at Federal Student Aid or use a paper form your servicer can send you.

Because your servicer ties payments on any IDR plan to your income, they require income information. You must submit proof of income after you complete your application. Proof of income is usually in the form of your most recent federal income tax return. Have this handy when applying over the phone. They also need your AGI, which you can find on your tax return. You must also mail or fax a copy of your return before your application is complete.

It generally takes about a month to process an IDR application. If you need them to, your loan servicer can place your loans into forbearance while they process your application. You aren’t required to make a payment while your loans are in forbearance. But interest continues to accrue, which results in a larger balance.

You can change your student loan repayment plan or have your monthly payments recalculated at any time. If an IDR plan is no longer advantageous to you, you lose your job, you switch jobs, or there’s a change in your family size, contact your student loan servicer to either switch your repayment plan or have your monthly payments recalculated.

You aren’t obligated to do so if the change would result in higher monthly payments. However, you must recertify each year.


You must recertify your income and family size annually by providing your student loan servicer with a copy of your annual tax return. You must recertify even if there are no changes in your family size or income.

Loan servicers send reminder notices when it’s time to recertify. If you don’t submit your annual recertification by the deadline, your loan servicer disenrolls you, and your monthly payment reverts to what it would be on the standard 10-year repayment schedule.

You can always reenroll if you miss your recertification deadline. But there are a couple of reasons not to be lax about recertification.

First, if your income increases to the point at which your monthly payment would be higher than it would be on the standard 10-year repayment schedule, you can’t requalify for either the PAYE or IBR plans. But if you stay in the program, your payments are capped no matter how much your income increases.

Second, if you’re automatically disenrolled from your IDR plan because of a failure to recertify, any interest that accrues during the time it takes to get reenrolled is capitalized. That means your servicer adds interest to the balance owed. Even after you reenroll in your IDR plan, you begin earning interest on the new capitalized balance, thereby increasing the amount owed. And that’s true even if you place your loans into a temporary deferment or forbearance.

How to Choose an IDR Plan

The easiest way to choose the best IDR plan is to discuss it with your loan servicer. They can run your numbers, tell you which plans you qualify for, and quote you monthly payments under each plan.

Don’t just choose the plan with the lowest monthly bill unless you can’t afford a higher payment. Instead, balance your current needs with the long-term costs of any plan. For example, one plan might offer a lower monthly payment but a longer repayment term. Further, although your interest rate remains fixed on all the IDR plans, some offer benefits like interest subsidies that can reduce the overall amount you must repay.

Even if you think you’ll qualify for PSLF, which could get you total loan forgiveness in as little as 10 years, it’s still worth it to weigh your options. Currently, too few borrowers qualify for PSLF, so it might not work out to pin your hopes on it until the program becomes more streamlined.

Note that IDR plans aren’t suitable for everyone. Before enrolling in any IDR plan, plug your income, family size, and loan information into the federal government’s loan simulator. The tool gives you a picture of your potential monthly payments, overall amount to repay, and any balance eligible for forgiveness.

Final Word

If you’re struggling to repay your student loans or facing the possibility of default, an IDR plan probably makes sense for you. But they aren’t without their drawbacks. It pays to research all your options, including the possibility of picking up a side gig to get those student loans paid off faster.

Student loan debt can be a tremendous burden, preventing borrowers from doing everything from saving for a home to saving for retirement. The faster you can get rid of the debt, the better.


10 Ways to Save Money on School Uniforms for Kids

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 public schools required students to wear uniforms as of the 2017-18 school year. These can be anything from identical outfits marked with the school’s name or logo to a basic color scheme, such as plain white shirts and tan pants.

According to 2011 research from the University of Nevada, Reno College of Education, a school uniform policy can have many benefits for students. It can make it easier to get ready for school, boost self-esteem, reduce bullying, and improve classroom discipline. But it has one big downside for parents: the cost. According to CostHelper, a school wardrobe of four or five uniforms can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000.

One reason uniforms often cost more than regular clothes is that parents have less choice about where to buy them. If you can only get your kids’ school wardrobes from the official school store, you must pay whatever that store charges. However, you can get around this problem with the right shopping strategies. The first tip to try: shopping secondhand.

Ways to Save With Secondhand School Uniforms

Clothes are one thing it nearly always pays to buy secondhand if you can. With school uniforms, that’s doubly true.

Since young children grow so fast, their outgrown uniforms can still have lots of life left in them. Naturally, these previously worn uniforms don’t look brand-new, but neither do most school clothes after a few weeks of wear. Secondhand school uniforms cost much less than new ones, and in some cases, they’re free.

1. Try Uniform Swaps

If you have two children attending the same school, the younger kid can wear the older one’s hand-me-downs. But if you have only one child or your kids go to different schools, you can end up with clothes in good condition and no one to hand them down to.

A uniform swap is a way to expand your hand-me-down family. By pooling resources with other parents, you can pass on your child’s outgrown uniforms to younger students at your school and receive uniforms from older students in turn.

Some schools hold official uniform exchanges. For example, at St. Catharine School in Ohio, you can trade in gently used school uniforms for larger sizes or pick up other people’s trade-ins at significantly reduced prices. Other schools, like St. Stephen’s Academy in Oregon, give parents points for their trade-ins, which they can use for purchases or donate.

If your child’s school doesn’t have an official uniform exchange, hold a clothing swap party of your own. Invite other parents over, lay out all your outgrown uniform items, and see who can use them.

If you don’t have the space to meet and exchange clothes in person, start a social media group where parents can post photos and descriptions of their kids’ outgrown clothes. When you find someone who has the size your child needs or needs the size you have to give, you can contact each other to arrange a pickup.

2. Shop at Thrift Stores

If you live in or near a large city with a large student population, there’s a good chance you can find outgrown school uniforms at local thrift stores. Check the stores closest to your child’s school to maximize your chances of finding them.

Even in smaller cities and towns, thrift stores are an excellent place to look for basic pieces that are often part of a school uniform. Dress shirts, solid-color polo shirts, and chino pants are likely to show up on their racks. You can’t count on finding the pieces you need in your child’s size, but if you do, they’ll be significantly cheaper than new clothes.

To find thrift stores in your area, do an Internet search on “thrift stores” or “thrift shops” with your town’s name or zip code. Also, check the websites of the largest store chains — such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village — to find their nearest locations.

3. Find Sellers Online

If you can’t find suitable secondhand clothes for your child’s uniform at local stores, try looking online. Start consulting your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace groups in early July, and look for new listings every other day or so. That gives you roughly two months to find all the pieces you need to build a complete school wardrobe for your child. Just be sure to contact sellers quickly when you find something you need so someone doesn’t beat you to it.

Another reliable source for secondhand uniforms online is eBay. You can create saved searches for each specific garment your child needs, such as “navy shorts size 8,” and receive daily emails of all new listings for your saved search. You can pick up pieces one at a time or — if you’re lucky — find a lot of uniform clothing all in the same size.

Ways to Save on New School Uniforms

The biggest downside of secondhand shopping is that you can’t be sure of finding what you need. If the start of the school year is approaching and you still don’t have a complete school wardrobe for your child, don’t panic. There are ways to buy new uniform-appropriate clothes and still keep costs down.

4. Buy the Minimum

For starters, don’t buy more of any component than you really need. Your child may need a clean shirt for school every day, but kids can usually get away with wearing the same skirt, pants, or sweater several days in a row. Jackets and ties can go even longer between cleanings.

How many pieces your child needs depends on how often you intend to do laundry. Mothers discussing their kids’ school wardrobes on Mumsnet generally say they include:

  • Five to 10 shirts
  • Two to five sweaters
  • Two to five skirts or pairs of pants or shorts

On top of that, you can add one or two school blazers and one or two dresses or jumpers if your uniform includes these pieces. And your child also needs at least one pair of school shoes and enough socks and underwear to last the week.

If you shop smart, you can put together this minimalist kids’ wardrobe for less than the $240 average parents reported spending on back-to-school clothes in a 2019 National Retail Federation survey. CostHelper says it’s possible to find pants and skirts for as little as $5 each, tops for as little as $3, and shoes starting at $15. That’s less than $100 for the whole wardrobe.

5. Visit Cheaper Stores

If your school’s uniform consists of basics like solid-color tops and pants, there’s no need to buy them at the official school store. Many major retail chains sell uniform-appropriate clothes for kids at quite reasonable prices. In fact, several retailers offer lines of kids’ clothes designed explicitly for this purpose, such as:

6. Shop Online

If stores in your area don’t carry the school uniform pieces you need at prices you like, try shopping online. Some online retailers specialize in school uniforms, and others have sections devoted to them. Good places to shop online include:

  • Amazon. The e-tail giant has an entire section called The School Uniform Shop. It provides links to uniform-appropriate garments from many popular brands, including Nautica, Izod, and Dockers. Alternatively, you can search for “school uniforms” to find apparel for girls and boys. Check out these Amazon savings tips for more ways to save.
  • French Toast. Online retailer French Toast deals in school uniforms for all ages, which you can search by school or gender. The site also offers two- and three-packs of identical shirts or pants for a discounted price per piece.
  • Lands’ End. The school uniform shop at Lands’ End offers sturdy clothing in all sizes, from toddler to adult. Clothes are covered by the brand’s unconditional lifetime guarantee. There’s even a selection of adaptive garments for kids with disabilities. This apparel combines easy-to-use magnetic closures with decorative buttons for a uniform look.
  • Lee Uniforms. For teens and young adults, the Lee Uniforms store on Amazon offers school- and work-friendly pieces. The selection is limited, but the prices are excellent.
  • As its name implies, specializes in uniform basics, from blazers to plaid pleated skirts. Garments come in a range of sizes to fit children ages 3 and up, including plus sizes.

When shopping for uniforms online, you can save still more by using a mobile coupon app like Rakuten or Ibotta. If you prefer to shop from a computer, install a money-saving browser extension like Capital One Shopping to help you find great prices and available coupon codes.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

7. Wait for Sales

If your school has an official uniform store, call that store and see when it plans to offer discounts or promotions. In many cases, uniforms go on sale in October, after most parents have already bought their kids’ clothes for the year. You can save money on school uniforms by buying just enough pieces to get through September and waiting until October to stock up.

If the school uniform is a generic outfit available from many stores, keep an eye out for sales at all the stores in your area. Consider signing up for emails from your favorite local stores to let you know when uniform clothing goes on sale. Sometimes, these emails also provide coupons, which can boost your savings still more.

Timing your purchases can help at department stores too. Clothes often go on sale at the end of the season — for example, summer clothes in September or winter coats in March. If you plan ahead, you can save by buying school uniforms for next year during these end-of-season sales.

If you’re unsure when and where school uniforms are most likely to go on sale in your area, create a Google Alert for the term “school uniform sale” with your location or zip code. Whenever a new sale pops up, you’ll receive an email about it. You can also use the term “school uniform clearance” to learn about end-of-season clearance sales.

8. Check Out Clearance

Even when a department store isn’t having a sale, there’s usually a clearance rack you can check for marked-down clothing. Since school uniforms tend to be plain clothes without a lot of eye appeal, there are often at least a few pieces that don’t sell and end up on the clearance rack.

For example, the frugal-living bloggers at Life Your Way and Joyfully Thriving both report finding uniform pieces for less than $5 on the clearance racks at stores like Gap and Macy’s.

9. Buy Bigger Sizes

If your child is still growing, there’s a good chance the uniforms you buy now won’t fit by the end of the year. However, you can make them last as long as possible by sizing up.

Choosing clothes with an extra inch to spare in the legs and sleeves gives your kid room to grow into them. Some uniform pants and skirts come with adjustable waistbands, so they’ll accommodate your child’s growth in width as well as height.

And if you find a great price on a particular piece your child needs, you can buy next year’s sizes now. Assuming they plan to attend the same school for the foreseeable future, you know they’ll need the same uniform next year, so buying multiple sizes at once lets you get them all at the best possible price.

10. Buy to Last

If your child has stopped growing but still has a few more years of school to go, you can save money by choosing quality clothing that will last. These well-made pieces may cost more upfront than cheaper brands, but they pay off in the long run. A $50 blazer that wears out after one year costs $50 per year, but a $100 blazer that lasts for four years costs only $25 per year.

For example, clothes from Lands’ End come with a lifetime guarantee. If they don’t last your child until graduation (or they outgrow them), you can return them for a full refund. Clothing from Dickies, available at Walmart, is also guaranteed for its “expected life,” though they don’t define the term. Clothes from Target’s Cat & Jack line come with a one-year guarantee.

Another way to make school uniforms last as long as possible is to choose the darkest colors allowed. On light-colored clothes, minor spots or stains show up more vividly, making them unfit for school wear. Darker-colored clothing, such as maroon, navy, or forest green, hides these minor flaws.

Final Word

Saving on school uniforms doesn’t end when you’ve made your purchases for the year. If your kid’s uniforms become unwearable due to rips, stains, or lost buttons, you’ll have to replace them in a hurry — possibly at full price. To avoid this problem, handle school uniforms with care to make them last as long as possible.

Always follow the washing instructions and line dry or dry flat when possible to avoid wear and tear from the dryer. Treat stains promptly, repair rips, and replace buttons.

If your sewing skills are up to it, you can even get another year or two of life out of garments by letting down the cuffs or adjusting the waistband to fit your child’s larger size. Following all these steps reduces waste, so you can also pat yourself on the back for being green.

One final tip: Label all your kids’ school clothing with their names. When all the students in a school wear the same outfit, it’s easy for them to grab someone else’s sweater or jacket by mistake. Sewing in a name tag or writing on the care tag with a permanent marker increases the chances misplaced clothes will find their way home again.


5 Credit Card Facts From The Arizona Credit Repair Experts

The fact is it takes lengthy research and education to truly understand the credit system in its entirety, and many devote themselves entirely to making it their career.  Credit lenders, banks, credit card companies, and almost any kind of big business has people on staff who’s entire job it is to fully understand the system.

But while it might require a college degree to get a job in the field of credit, you don’t need one to get incite on how the credit card system works.  With a little research, you can quickly gain knowledge in credit that you can use to your advantage.

5 Quick Facts About Credit Cards

A rudimentary understanding of the credit card system can be gained with the just the following 5 facts:

•    Many people believe that if they close a 10-year-old credit card they will lose all of the positive history associated with it.  That isn’t true.  The age and history of the card will remain on your credit report as long as the bureaus themselves don’t remove it from your report.  That history will continue to be considered even if the credit card is closed for the next 10 years.

•    Another commonly believed myth is that a credit card will stop aging after it is closed.  But if you close a credit card today that has a 10-year history behind it, at the end of the year it will have 11 years of history.  So it will go until ten years after you have closed the card when it is finally deleted from your credit report with a 20-year history.

•    Credit cards do not have to have a negative balance in order to build credit, as is commonly believed.  As long as the credit card is open, acquiring charges, and being paid on, it is reporting to the credit bureaus.  In fact, it is usually a better idea to keep the balance at zero, charging and paying in the same billing month to keep positive reports flowing.

•    New store credit cards aren’t necessarily a bad idea, as many people think.  In fact, store-specific credit cards usually have lower criteria for approval, making them much easier to qualify for.  With a single store credit card, you can boost your credit score, raise your limit ceiling, and improve your overall standing.  However, the temptation to over-use your store credit can quickly sneak up on you and build debt that could be bad for your credit report.

•    Many people also believe that a good credit card history will automatically override other sources of credit.  While a credit card is a good way to build and maintain credit, it is only a stone in the river combined with other lines of credit such as furniture payments, loans, or delinquent medical bills.  A credit card alone won’t fix your credit, you must keep all of your lines of credit in check.

Congratulations!  You now know more about credit cards and how they really affect your credit score than the majority of credit card-carrying Americans.

Get More From The Best Arizona Credit Repair Experts

For more information on how to build, repair, and maintain a healthy credit score with your credit cards and other lines of credit, contact Credit Absolute – the most trusted name in Arizona Credit Repair.


Quitting Your Job Without a New Offer – Can You Afford to Resign?

Almost everyone has entertained fantasies of walking out of their job one day. If your boss isn’t the greatest, perhaps you’ve imagined telling them off too. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought a host of changes to the workplace and what workers expect from their jobs, so many people are departing the workforce or considering a career change.

In its 2021 Work Trend Index, Microsoft surveyed over 30,000 people in 31 countries about their thoughts on work. Their results found that 54% of Generation Z workers (those aged 18 to 25) were thinking of quitting their jobs. Across the entire global workforce, that figure was 41%.

Leaving a bad job may be the best way to change your life, improve mental health, and increase happiness. But to quit your job without arranging a new one leaves you vulnerable to hardship. Before you quit your job, think through every aspect of the decision — especially financial implications — to be sure it’s the right path for you.

Determine How Much Money You Should Have Saved

If you want to quit your job, once you’ve landed on your reasons why, consider the financial ramifications. Usually, to quit your job without disrupting quality of life, you have to rely on savings for a time. It’s different if you’re quitting with a new job offer already on the table.

The question is whether you can afford to quit your job now, even without another position lined up. You have to decide how much time you expect to be unemployed, and save enough money to cover your bills while pursuing other job opportunities.

1. Examine Your Budget

A key step before resigning from your job is examining your budget. Normally, your budget is a balance sheet of income and expenses, but for the sake of preparing for unemployment, expenses are the main focal point.

Perhaps you already follow a budget every month — great! If that’s the case, simply revisit your budget with an eye toward a potential loss of income. If you don’t already do some form of budgeting, start now, before making any major employment decisions.

The budget is pivotal to any plan to quit your job. If you don’t have a solid idea of how much money you spend every month, you don’t have any way to estimate your financial needs and quit confidently.

Try one of several great budgeting apps to monitor your spending. While some charge fees, others are completely free and could be game-changing, helping you see your finances clearly.

When you examine your budget in this context (wanting to quit your job), pay attention to which budgeting categories are essential and which are luxuries. Chances are, you’ll note a few monthly expenses that you could cut out temporarily, like a gym membership or streaming subscription.

By separating necessities from luxuries, you decrease monthly spending. Your strict “bare-bones” budget may enable you to quit your job sooner, or take a little longer to find a new job. Because this lowers your monthly expenses, your savings stretch further.

This exercise of separating wants from needs is useful in showing you how dissatisfied you are at work. Your willingness to sacrifice discretionary expenses can illuminate how badly you want to quit. If you don’t want to give up anything, you need to save according to your normal budget — and stay at your job longer.

2. Consider Additional Career Expenses

Perhaps your motivation in quitting your job is to train for a new career or pivot directions within your current career. If so, be sure to calculate any job search expenses like education or training fees, professional attire, travel, and resume services.

If this requires an entire bachelor’s degree, that’s a major commitment of time and money. It would mean even more careful consideration — getting a spouse or partner on board to support you through that process, securing a good part-time job, and feeling confident of that chosen career path.

But if you’re pursuing a better job that requires something more manageable, like a three-month training program, that’s simple to calculate into your budget and savings needs. Factor in any fees or costs associated with career education along with your regular budgetary expenses.

Maybe you’re quitting your office job to pursue remote employment. It’s considered a real perk to many people these days. In the 2021 State of Remote Work survey conducted by Buffer Doist, Remotive, and We Work Remotely, responses were overwhelmingly positive about remote work arrangements.

An overwhelming 97.6% of survey respondents said they wanted to continue working remotely at least part-time for the rest of their careers. The biggest benefits of remote work, they said, were flexible schedule (32%) and flexibility of location (25%). Remote work could offer a huge boost to your well-being.

If your goal is to work remotely, you might need to spend some money to outfit your home office. While high-end furnishings are not necessary to work productively from home, budget for essentials like a reliable laptop or Internet service.

Child care may be an issue as well if you’re a working parent. Don’t expect to cut out all child care costs while you’re unemployed, because training and looking for a new job are a lot of work. Children can’t come along on job interviews or to classes.

Even if working remotely is your plan, keep in mind that working from home with kids isn’t ideal. To focus properly on work, expect to pay for child care at least some of the time.

3. Have a Fully Funded Emergency Fund

When quitting a job to seek new training or employment, it’s time to evaluate the strength of your emergency fund. Most experts consider three to six months’ worth of expenses to be a full emergency fund.

Remember, you also need an emergency fund for emergencies that could occur while you’re not working. Cars can still break down, accidents can happen, or a death in the family might require a cross-country trip for the memorial service.

Don’t rely on your normal emergency fund to bridge the gap between jobs. Although some of that assists you in case of a loss of income, you shouldn’t spend down the entire fund while looking for a new job. Keep it available for unexpected costs. It’s an extra safety net in case your job hunt takes longer than anticipated due to the job market or other factors.

Employment Benefits to Consider

When you start thinking seriously about leaving your job, it’s not only the salary or pay rate that you lose. Benefits outside of your base pay and bonuses are essential to maintaining your lifestyle and protecting you and your loved ones. Even if they don’t have a fixed monetary value, they definitely impact your bottom line and the way you evaluate the job market.

1. Health Insurance

Health insurance is a huge issue and one factor that might prevent you from quitting your job, at least until you’ve received another job offer. The cost of health care in the United States is high: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that in 2019, health care spending grew in the U.S. to an average cost of $11,582 per person per year.

Costs like that mean you don’t want to be caught without health insurance coverage, so that’s an employer benefit to consider before handing in your resignation letter.

One possible solution is the COBRA health insurance program. It offers some employees the option to continue health insurance coverage through a group plan for a limited length of time.

If that doesn’t apply to your situation, see whether you could switch to coverage under your spouse’s insurance plan. Or look into other options for managing your health care costs without insurance.

2. Paid Leave

Does your employer offer paid leave for circumstances like giving birth to or adopting a child? If you anticipate an event that qualifies you for the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, think carefully before quitting a job with that option.

FMLA requires some types of employers — but not all — to offer maternity, paternity, or adoption leave. Eligible employees can take up to 12 work weeks of leave during a 12-month period due to birth, adoption, health issues, or a family member being called for active military duty.

3. Paid Vacation Time

Paid time off for general reasons could be another incentive to stay rather than quit. Check around at other employers or other industries you’re considering. Do they seem to provide better vacation time for their employees or worse than your current employer?

You might have worked for your employer long enough to earn extra vacation days each year, and starting at a new company may mean starting over at square one. While not necessarily a deal-breaker, it’s one of the intangible benefits of a job to keep in mind when considering quitting.

4. Flexible Work Schedule

Remote work or a flexible work schedule is another perk some employers offer. If your current employer allows you to work remotely a few days per week, think about whether you’re willing to give that freedom up for an unknown new position that might not afford you that flexibility.

How to Save Money Before Quitting Your Job

When you calculate all your monthly expenses, remember to cut out luxuries but factor in possible extra costs for lost insurance or benefits. Then make a savings plan.

If your emergency fund and additional savings aren’t sufficient yet, the first step is to cut out the nonessential expenses. Get rid of discretionary expenses like gym memberships, concert tickets, dinners out, and vacations while you’re still working to pocket the savings. Find free alternatives to nonessential expenses.

It may be possible to pause retirement contributions as well, but be cautious. Be sure to treat deferring retirement savings as temporary and commit to resuming contributions as quickly as possible once your new job is off the ground.

Explore other money-making possibilities to help boost your savings. Garage sales or selling your possessions through online marketplaces can be lucrative if you have items people want.

Are you a two-car household that could get by with one car? You could sell your car for a nice chunk of cash, helping to pad your emergency fund while you’re looking for a different job.

Brainstorm other strategies to bring in added income and other ways to spend less month to month. Every little bit inches you closer to your goal of quitting your job.

What to Do With Your Retirement Accounts When You Quit

If you have a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement account, figure out the best way to take that money with you. The IRS has specific guidelines to follow to avoid tax penalties on early withdrawals.

If you’ve been putting money into an employer-sponsored account such as a 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b), a few options are available to you.

  • Some companies allow you to keep your account even after you’re no longer employed there, which may be wise while searching for a job.
  • You may roll over the money in your 401(k) to a traditional or Roth IRA. Keep in mind that you may owe income tax on the amount transferred into a Roth IRA.
  • Roll over the money into a retirement account under your new employer (once you find one).
  • Withdraw the entire balance of the account. This provides you with some instant cash, but at a high cost. Taking a distribution from a 401(k) or similar account before the designated retirement age results in a 10% early withdrawal penalty on top of your regular income tax rate.

Maximize any retirement funds you’ve already accumulated through your current employer and avoid early withdrawal penalties if possible. It’s better to strategically save money and cut out discretionary expenses to help fund your time off work instead of robbing your future self.

What If You’re Not Financially Ready to Quit?

After running through these exercises, what if you find that you’re not quite financially prepared to quit your job? Endless number-crunching doesn’t magically make quitting your job a wise idea.

It’s possible you’ll calculate your monthly budget and come up short. Maybe you don’t know how you’ll pay for that new career training, or you’ve cut out everything imaginable and still can’t see a way to make it work. What if you still can’t bear the thought of staying at your job?

This may come down to a gut feeling. If you’ve been struggling for years in one job or one career and continue to dread going to work, it can seem an impossible punishment to stay even one more day.

1. Begin Looking for Your Next Job Immediately

Don’t overlook the obvious solution to not being financially ready to quit: securing a new job as quickly as possible. This may not be possible if you need more training, but if you’re simply looking to move on within your current field, get busy with your job search now.

Update your LinkedIn profile and begin searching for networking and job opportunities there. Talk with job recruiters if that applies in your field. Get solid career advice from trusted mentors, whether at your current job or elsewhere.

Job hunting is a job in itself, so being proactive before leaving your employer could help you find your new role more quickly.

2. Temporary Jobs May Be the Solution

There’s a reason temporary jobs exist: people sometimes just need a little bit of income for an interim season. Consider taking part-time or gig work after quitting your job; that will help fund your needs for the weeks or months of job searching.

You may really need to get out of your job as soon as possible. If it’s a toxic work environment or there’s some other urgent reason for leaving, don’t be afraid to earn money through a side gig, like driving for Uber or walking dogs. You also may be drawn to a legitimate work-from-home opportunity.

A part-time or temp job doesn’t even have to mean sacrificing benefits. Certain companies offer health insurance for part-time employees, so it’s worth checking into one of them for employment to bridge any gap between your current job and future full-time employment.

3. Negotiate With Your Current Employer

What if you consider all of the financial and personal factors involved in your job and realize that quitting your job isn’t really the answer? You might decide you actually like your employer, but you simply need more flexibility, a pay raise, or bigger challenges. Get creative about ways your current job could make you happier with a few simple changes.

If working from home three days per week would solve most of your problems with your current job, perhaps you could negotiate a flexible or remote working schedule with your boss. It’s worth a try, and saves you the hassle of quitting your job and searching for a new one.

4. Start a Side Hustle While Employed

If you’ve done the math and aren’t comfortable with quitting your job outright, another route to consider is starting a side hustle. This is a job you can do in your free time, outside of work, building up your business gradually.

If you already know the type of work you want to do, research how others have successfully built side hustles in that niche, and fit it around your current availability. The idea here is to build clientele and credibility in your new field without giving up your day job.

Side hustles aren’t always the easiest route — they can demand a lot of your time and affect your personal life. But whether your goal is to build up savings or turn your side hustle into a full-time job, some sacrifices are necessary.

Many freelancers and side-hustlers have turned their side gigs into their main source of income. It’s challenging to avoid burnout, but remember that this time of double duty at both your full-time job and your side hustle is only temporary.

If you’ve built your side hustle for some time already and you’re struggling to keep up with demand and handle your regular job responsibilities, it may be time to take the plunge and quit the job. This frees up your time and energy to focus solely on the side gig, making it easier for you to build that business into your dream job.

Final Word

Many of us daydream about the thrill of quitting our jobs, but it’s a decision not to be taken lightly. After all, your livelihood is largely wrapped up in your job, so be sure your financial life is in order before making such a big decision.

Quitting your job before getting a new job offer can be the right choice if you plan your exit carefully. This provides peace of mind while waiting and preparing to start a new job because you know you can cover your financial needs during the transition.


Motley Fool Subscriptions – Membership Types, Costs & What They Offer

The Motley Fool is the oldest and still best-known online peer community for serious investors and traders. It caters to pretty much everyone with any interest in the equities markets, from sophisticated day traders hoping to compete with deep-pocketed high-frequency trading shops to retirees and near-retirees seeking stable, predictable income in their later years.

And it offers a dizzying array of premium subscription options to match. Many investors know about its flagship, the Motley Fool Stock Advisor program, but that’s just one of about 20 packages serving up premium market insights, stock recommendations, and investing advice from expert teams led by Motley Fool co-founders Tom Gardner and David Gardner.

Premium insights and advice don’t come cheap at The Motley Fool. Premium packages cost anywhere from about $150 to more than $2,000 per year here, depending on the product. But the consistent market-beating returns of the Gardners’ investment portfolios speak for themselves and, for subscribers who follow their recommendations faithfully, could more than justify the subscription cost.

Motley Fool Subscriptions: What They Offer and Who They’re For

Each Motley Fool subscription has a particular mix of offerings and delivers value for particular types of investors and traders. That said, all feature exclusive stock picks and insights from the Gardner Brothers or Motley Fool market experts working under their supervision — picks and insights that often aren’t available from open-source investor resources like Yahoo! Finance or Google Finance, or even the free corners of The Motley Fool itself.

Is a Motley Fool subscription worth the cost for you? If you’re truly devoted to doing your own research and coming up with your own stock ideas — rather than paying a wealth manager to do it for you or contenting yourself with the average returns of the typical robo-advisor’s passive portfolio — chances are good that the answer is yes.

Which Motley Fool subscriptions are right for you is a different and more interesting question.

What follows is a comprehensive list of Motley Fool subscription programs. When evaluating historical performance data, bear in mind that past performance does not guarantee future results and that Motley Fool subscribers must act on the platform’s recommendations in a timely fashion to replicate its results.

1. Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Motley Fool Stock Advisor is the flagship premium subscription product from The Motley Fool. Priced at $199 per year and built around frequent investment newsletters with exclusive stock tips and recommendations, its highlights include:

  • Two handpicked monthly stock recommendations from the Motley Fool Stock Advisor team
  • Best Buys Now, a collection of 10 timely buys each month from 300 candidate stocks
  • Starter Stocks, or portfolio-building stock recommendations that have stood the test of time
  • Access to about 10 bonus research reports with additional market insights
  • A risk-free 30-day trial period with a membership-fee-back guarantee (full refund)

The Stock Advisor’s track record speaks for itself. Since its inception in 2002, the Stock Advisor team has “4x-ed” the S&P 500 — appreciating 593%, about four times more than the S&P’s 132% increase during the same period. Nearly 200 Stock Advisor recommendations have risen by more than 100% since they first came on the subscription service’s radar, an impressive achievement in a world with nearly as many investment losers as winners.

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor team also prides itself on doing the heavy lifting for subscribers. According to The Motley Fool, Stock Advisor subscribers can act on its recommendations and tune up their portfolios in as little as five minutes per month, leaving plenty of time for other income-generating activities — or kicking back and doing nothing.

For more information about the Stock Advisor subscription, read our Motley Fool Stock Advisor review.

Who It’s For: Motley Fool Stock Advisor is for hands-off investors looking to build diversified, market-beating portfolios without extensive research or backtesting. Its moderate price point is ideal for relatively inexperienced subscribers who want to give The Motley Fool a try before investing in higher-priced subscription products, as well as investors without large sums to commit to the recommended stocks and strategies.

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2. Motley Fool Rule Breakers

Cut from the same cloth as Motley Fool Stock Advisor, Motley Fool Rule Breakers surfaces handpicked growth stocks that the Motley Fool team believes will dominate the markets of tomorrow — think Apple in 2005, Amazon in 2008, Netflix in 2011, Facebook in 2012.

Priced at $299 per year, Rule Breakers features:

  • Two new Motley Fool stock picks each month
  • Best Buys Now, a collection of five timely buys each month from 200 candidate stocks (subscribers who also subscribe to Stock Advisor get 15 total Best Buys Now each month)
  • Access to about 10 free bonus research reports
  • A 30-day money-back guarantee

Rule Breakers has tripled the S&P 500’s gains since its inception, appreciating 344% compared to the benchmark index’s 114%. Like Stock Advisor, it has an outsize collection of big winners, with 178 stock recommendations gaining more than 100% since their first appearances. (Shopify and Tesla, two early Rule Breakers recommendations, have gained 6,910% and 10,582%, respectively.)

Rule Breakers is available as part of a package deal with Motley Fool Stock Advisor, priced at $498 per year. While there’s no discount associated with buying the Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers as a package deal, managing a single subscription is marginally more convenient for time-pressed users — delivering more monthly stock picks and a wider array of insights in one place.

Who It’s For: Like the Stock Advisor, Rule Breakers is built for investors seeking market-beating returns without devoting hours to research each week. Because its recommendations focus on high-growth companies in emerging industries, it’s ideal for investors with healthy risk tolerance. And thanks to the popular Rule Breakers Investing Podcast, Rule Breakers content is available to subscribers who prefer to consume market insights on the go.

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3. Motley Fool Rule Breakers: Industry and Trend Packages

Not content with the same old Rule Breakers recommendations? Motley Fool offers a handful of higher-priced Rule Breakers stock picking services tailored to specific industries, trends, or investor strategies.

These packages open and close to new members regularly, so check Motley Fool’s services page to confirm that the one you want is still available. Unless otherwise noted, each costs $1,999 per year.

Blast Off

Blast Off is a sort of starter kit for growth investors. Its goal is to surface little-known stocks with extremely high growth potential — the sort that will be fundamental components of growth investors’ stock portfolios in five, 10, or 15 years. Previous Blast Off portfolios have dramatically beaten the market, with Blast Off 2019 appreciating 250% since inception.


Trend-Spotter aims to uncover what the Motley Fool team calls “genesis trends,” or era-defining supertrends with life cycles far longer than the typical five-to-seven year business cycle. Not that it always takes that long to produce results: A Trend-Spotter portfolio heavy on work-from-home and e-commerce plays returned 1,031% over just 134 days in 2020, according to Motley Fool.

Marijuana Masters

Should you invest in cannabis? Sure — but it helps to pick the right stocks. Marijuana Masters mixes and matches pure-play cannabis stocks and derivative plays (like distributors, retailers, and equipment manufacturers) to create a durable, diversified portfolio for the cannabis connoisseur.

Marijuana Masters also includes recommendations of cannabis stocks to avoid and exclusive expert investment advice for investors navigating the emerging industry’s complex regulatory environment.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Beyond

The Motley Fool is highly bullish on augmented reality — enough to devote an entire Rule Breakers subscription package to startups and established companies (including Apple) riding the AR wave. Like Marijuana Masters, AR and Beyond mixes pure plays — companies focused exclusively on AR — with derivative plays like sensor manufacturers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another emerging tech trend that The Motley Fool appears to be all-in on. In addition to an ever-changing list of top stock recommendations in the AI space, this package includes two proprietary guides to investing in artificial intelligence companies.

Future of Entertainment

The Future of Entertainment package includes eight foundational stock recommendations and about 15 additional recommendations, all of which stand — in The Motley Fool’s estimation — to profit from where the entertainment industry is headed.

Bear in mind that this portfolio bets on plenty of upside left for the streaming industry, so if you disagree with that thesis, you might want to steer clear.

Fintech Fortunes

Online banks, personal budgeting apps, cryptocurrencies, next-generation payment apps — the fintech space is busier than ever, and The Motley Fool has a Rule Breakers package built to help investors exploit it.

Because fintech changes so fast, Fintech Fortunes comes with an added layer of value: quarterly reevaluations of every pick in the portfolio. That ensures subscribers stay one step ahead of the curve in an industry where fortunes can change dramatically from one month to the next.


This package includes all current Rule Breakers industry and trend packages. Because specific packages come and go, its makeup varies over time, but it’s always a better value than purchasing three or more packages a la carte. (At $3,999 per year, it costs about the same as two Rule Breakers packages.)

Who They’re For: These Rule Breakers packages are built for investors seeking greater exposure to industry- and trend-specific market opportunities with outsize growth potential. Due to their cost and specificity, they’re best for well-capitalized investors who can afford to devote significant sums to very narrow segments of the stock market.

If you’re interested in two or more Rule Breakers packages, consider Rule Breakers: Platinum instead. It’s the same price as two packages and offers far more content.

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4. Motley Fool Options

Motley Fool Options is a beginner-friendly service for options traders. In the aggregate, its recommended options trades are profitable a staggering 85% of the time, although (as always) past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Motley Fool Options also has a comprehensive education platform called Options University. It’s designed to prepare investors who may or may not be absolutely clueless about options trading to more than hold their own in the field, regardless of whether stock prices rise or fall.

All this for $999 per year.

Who It’s For: Motley Fool Options is clear that it’s made for novice- to intermediate-level options traders looking to use options to boost their stock market earnings without committing huge sums of money to the practice or using sophisticated, high-risk strategies.

That said, all options trading involves significant risk, so Motley Fool Options is not for investors more comfortable with a buy-and-hold-only investment strategy, nor for new investors in general.

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5. Everlasting Stocks

Everlasting Stocks is a newer stock picking service built to mimic the personal portfolio of Tom Gardner, The Motley Fool co-founder. Priced at $299 per year, it’s overseen by the same team behind the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service and touts the same eye-popping 4x returns over the S&P 500 since that service’s inception.

New Everlasting Stocks members get immediate access to 15 top Motley Fool stock picks, plus new stock picks every month. Tom Gardner owns every stock in the portfolio, giving subscribers confidence that he and his team have skin in the game. And Everlasting Stocks has the same risk-free 30-day trial period that eases investors into Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers.

Who It’s For: Everlasting Stocks is ideal for Motley Fool subscribers who want the added conviction of investing in companies Tom Gardner owns. The modest pricing is beginner-friendly too, regardless of investing strategy.

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6. Everlasting Portfolio

Everlasting Portfolio is another Gardner-validated portfolio, albeit considerably more expensive at $2,999 per year than Everlasting Stocks. Backed by $15 million of The Motley Fool’s own money, the portfolio contains the only individual stocks Gardner himself owns (some of which also make an appearance in the Everlasting Stocks service).

Each stock pick comes with a recommended allocation as a total percentage of the investor’s portfolio, plus periodic buy and sell recommendations to keep subscribers’ holding in line with Gardner’s own.

In other words, Everlasting Portfolio is the closest regular Motley Fool subscribers can get to profiting directly from a co-founder’s money moves.

Who It’s For: Everlasting Portfolio is not cheap, so it’s best for well-capitalized investors aiming to replicate the investing success of a Motley Fool co-founder.

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7. Everlasting: Industry and Trend Packages

Like the Rule Breakers industry and trend packages, Tom Gardner’s Everlasting packages drill down on specific trends and opportunities for buy-and-hold investors in the 2020s and beyond.

In keeping with the theme of Everlasting Stocks and the Everlasting Portfolio, these services’ stock picks are potential game-changers for their respective industries — and names that Gardner feels good about owning himself. Unless otherwise noted, each Everlasting package costs $1,999 per year.

Cloud Disruptors 2020

This package focuses exclusively on the best stocks to buy in the cloud computing space. According to The Motley Fool, Tom Gardner believes in his picks so much that he staked $500,000 of his own money on them.

Global Partners

This package surfaces high-potential, mainly micro-cap stocks trading on equities markets outside the United States. In 2019, it more than doubled the performance of the S&P 500, according to The Motley Fool.

Rising Stars 2021

This package targets small- and micro-cap stocks with market capitalizations under $6 billion. That’s about one-twentieth of the $145 billion market capitalization of the average Stock Advisor pick, according to The Motley Fool. The original Rising Stars portfolio, launched in 2017, outpaced broader small-cap indexes by about 2.5 times since inception.

The Ownership Portfolio

This package is a portfolio made up solely of founder-led companies — that is, companies whose founders remain involved in day-to-day operations. Tom Gardner and his team back it with $250,000 of The Motley Fool’s own money, and the portfolio’s early returns have been impressive: 650%, compared with 95% for the S&P 500 over the same period.

IPO Trailblazers

Tom Gardner and his team built this package to capitalize on the wave of initial public offerings (IPOs) coming to market in the late 2010s and early 2020s.

Pointing to the success of high-profile IPOs like Beyond Meat (up 163% on its IPO date) and Zoom (up 72% on its IPO date and a lot more in the months that followed), IPO Trailblazers invites participants to cash in on what The Motley Fool calls “the Golden Age of IPOs.” IPO Trailblazers is backed by $1 million of The Motley Fool’s own money.

Boss Mode

Boss Mode consolidates every Everlasting package in a single master service priced at $4,999 per year. If you plan to purchase three or more Everlasting services, Boss Mode is a better deal.

Who They’re For: Each Everlasting package provides exposure to a different market sector, trend, or investor thesis, all validated by Tom Gardner and his stock-picking team. Because they’re so specific, individual Everlasting portfolios are best used as supplements to diversified investment portfolios rather than the main focus of users’ investments. But the fact that they’re backed by real money from Tom Gardner or The Motley Fool lends confidence and conviction to the picks.

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8. Market Pass

Market Pass is a package deal that includes subscriptions to Motley Fool Stock Advisor, Motley Fool Rule Breakers, and an exclusive stock picking service called Ultimate Portfolio.

The bulk of its $1,499 annual price tag is borne by Ultimate Portfolio, which The Motley Fool says has outperformed the broader market by more than 2x since inception. As the name suggests, Ultimate Portfolio is a collection of what The Motley Fool calls “the right stocks to buy right now,” from names that have consistently beaten the market to up-and-coming companies poised to take off in the months and years ahead.

Who It’s For: Market Pass is built for people who want to profit from the insights and recommendations produced by the Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers teams while adding exposure to an exclusive custom portfolio that The Motley Fool believes has high potential to beat the market over time. Whether the $1,499 price point is worth it really depends on how well the Ultimate Portfolio performs.

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9. Rule Your Retirement

Rule Your Retirement is a modestly priced service ($149 per year) for the long-term investor looking ahead to a stable, prosperous retirement. The package includes:

  • Access to Robert Brokamp, CFP®, a financial advisor who has been doling out advice to current and future retirees for over a decade
  • Three sets of model retirement portfolios with custom allocation and rebalancing advice for each
  • Insights and guidance around specific mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to supplement or replace an all-stock portfolio
  • Social Security tips and tricks
  • More content about topics of interest to current and future retirees, including estate planning, long-term care insurance, and more

Who It’s For: Rule Your Retirement is an excellent resource for investors planning for retirement and for those managing their nest eggs after they’ve left the workforce for good. With a relatively low annual fee and access to a financial planner, it offers very good value for active retirement investors and those who wish they’d asked more questions sooner.

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10. Real Estate Winners

Real Estate Winners is an industry-specific service that helps subscribers build market-beating portfolios with outsize exposure to U.S. and international real estate markets, always through publicly traded entities like real estate investment trusts (REITs). Priced at $249 per year, its highlights include:

  • At least one real estate investment opportunity recommendation each month, with more if the Real Estate Winners team finds timely picks that can’t wait for next month
  • A quarterly rotating list of The Motley Fool’s top 10 real estate picks
  • Access to a community of real estate investors and content about real estate investing

Who It’s For: Real Estate Winners is built for novice and intermediate investors looking to build income-producing real estate investment portfolios that consistently beat the market. Since real estate is just one of many market sectors that round out a diversified investment portfolio, Real Estate Winners is best used as part of a comprehensive investing strategy.

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11. Mogul

Mogul is another real estate investing service that builds on the Real Estate Winners foundation and offers access to more opportunities in the space — including those not available to the general public. Priced at $2,999 per year, its main selling points are:

  • A proprietary Mogul Score rating system that The Motley Fool uses to evaluate real estate investing opportunities
  • Timely recommendations for both public real estate investing opportunities (such as REITs) and private placement deals not traded on any exchange
  • Exclusive, detailed real estate tax guidance from The Motley Fool’s tax partners
  • Private events and enrichment opportunities for members, including exclusive webinars, workshops, and in-person gatherings

Who It’s For: Mogul is pricey. But, as one of the few Motely Fool packages not oriented around traditional stock market investments, it’s worth the cost for serious real estate investors with ample capital to invest in the public and private placement deals it surfaces.

Because private placement real estate deals generally are available only to accredited investors, Mogul isn’t a good deal for subscribers who can’t consistently clear the accredited threshold. For individual investors, that means those consistently earning $200,000 per year ($300,000 for married couples) or with a net worth in excess of $1 million.

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Final Word

The Motley Fool offers a subscription product for everyone. At least, for just about every type of serious equities market participant.

From the flagship Motley Fool Stock Advisor to industry- and trend-specific Rule Breakers and Everlasting packages, The Motley Fool offers more premium services and financial content than just about any other peer-driven investor resource, including Seeking Alpha — its current rival in the space. It’s been doing so for more than two decades and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

The Motley Fool does owe some of its longevity to an enthusiastic and loyal group of core members. But those members wouldn’t keep coming back without its other big differentiator: a seemingly never-ending supply of proprietary wisdom and advice from co-founders Tom and David Gardner and their team of market experts. If you do eventually come to the conclusion that a Motley Fool subscription (or several) is worth the cost, you’ll have them to thank.


Money Talk: Sara Fujimura on the Importance of Talking About Money

Sara Fujimura, author of Faking Reality and Every Reason We Shouldn’t, discusses the challenges and successes she’s faced with finances as she navigated her writing career. 


Sara Fujimura, Interviewed by
July 15, 2021  to help me cull the ideas and decide where to put my focus each “year.” That way, I don’t have a big freak out every December. The system helps me go deeper on fewer things, and that’s how progress realistically happens.

  • I use Todoist ( to park all the tasks. Granted there are days when I have 25 things on my list, but at least I know they are all captured somewhere, even if it isn’t that project’s “year” yet.
  • I take my sometimes (okay, often) unrealistic To-Do list and pull a few of the highest-value tasks into a much more manageable list in my bullet journal. There are utilitarian bullet journals and ones that are mini art masterpieces. Mine is somewhere in between. My bujo contains To-Do lists done in colored pens in nice handwriting and decorated with washi tape. I will not be taking questions on the amount of washi tape I own. *cough*
  • MG: What do you like to spend money on that some people might consider a splurge or luxury?

    Travel. I would rather live a modest retirement with thousands of stories to reminisce about than retire with a billion dollars after working non-stop until retirement age. Though I would be okay with having a billion dollars *and* going on multiple vacations around the globe each year. Netflix, call me!

    Also, cute washi tape. Moving on.

    SF: What’s the best thing you’ve bought in the last few months?

    Renting an Air B&B up in Sedona for a long weekend with my husband and two grown kids. Being outside and hiking around the gorgeous red rocks recharged my spirit more than any expensive purse or shoes could have.

    MG: What’s the biggest money mistake you’ve ever made?

    Early in my writing career, I didn’t always write with a contract. I got burned so many times. Yes, it was for only a few hundred dollars each time, but the bigger issue was that I didn’t feel confident enough to insist on a contract.

    SF: Tell me a financial rule that you never break.

    Errr…how about I tell you the rule that has continued to plague me? It is the same problem as the previous answer, only in a different form: Undervaluing my work and giving away too much of my time, energy, and expertise. Yes, I want to be generous and helpful to others, but when a male counterpart is paid more than you for the same work (or worse, subpar work but done with chutzpah), you need to reevaluate your fee schedule. I get on my female friends regularly about undercharging for their products/services. I have lost count of the number of times I have overtipped or refused a discount because a businesswoman was undervaluing herself. This is where having a community is paramount.

    You need to know what the going rate is in your area. If you have a mastermind group with other women in your field, then I challenge your group to set an agreed-upon amount so that your price becomes the area’s norm, not the exception.

    My author mastermind group recently had a frank discussion about school visit fees, where I realized that my rates were way too low. Talking about money always feels squidgy, but we need to do it!