Tag: Invest

15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started

Are you looking for a work from home job or some at home business ideas?

If so, then I have a great list of free resources, such as courses and guides, that will help you find the best option and learn how to get started. Plus, all of the courses and guides in this article are free!

home business ideasIf you’re looking to make extra money, or even a full-time income, working from home is a great option. There are lots of realistic home business ideas that allow you to work on a flexible schedule.

In fact, around 50% of U.S. businesses are home based, and that number is expected to grow well into the future.

But, many people don’t know what kind of options are available or how to get started with their in home business ideas.

This article is a good starting point because I’m going to tell you about 15 different profitable home based business ideas and link to free courses, workshops, and guides that will help you kick off each of these ideas.

There are lots of valuable paid courses out there, but if you’re not sure about an idea, you might not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a course. That’s why free courses and guides are a great way to start.

You can learn more about each of these small business ideas, learn some of the basic skills, how much money you can earn, and more. You get to test these ideas a little bit before you invest a lot of time and money.

No matter what kind of business you decide to start, I think you’ll really enjoy starting one from home. 

I have been working from home since 2013, and I wouldn’t change it for anything! I absolutely love and enjoy running a business from home.

It has allowed me to travel full-time, save enough money to retire early, love what I do each day, and more.

Many people love running home based businesses for those reasons, but it also cuts your commute, allows you to earn money in your spare time, be your own boss, work on a flexible schedule, and more.

So, to help you get started, today I will explain some of the best small business ideas from home and which free online courses can help you get started.

Here is a quick list of the free work at home courses and resources I’m sharing:

  1. Selling Printables on Etsy Ebook
  2. Sell on Amazon Starter Course
  3. How To Start a Blog Course
  4. Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse
  5. Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch
  6. Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business
  7. Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days
  8. General Transcription Mini-Course
  9. Become a Proofreader 76 Minute Webinar
  10. Court Transcript Proofreading Mini Course
  11. Podcast Virtual Assistant Workbooks
  12. Make Money Writing Romance Novels ecourse
  13. Pinterest Virtual Assistant Training Workshop
  14. Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business
  15. Self-Publishing Your First Book

Below, I will be diving deeper into what each option is like, as well as more information about each of those free resources.

Below are 15 home business ideas.

 

1. Sell printables on Etsy.

Are you looking for a smart home business idea that allows you to use your creativity? Are you wondering “What can I sell from home to make money?”

If so, I recommend checking out this option. See, creating printables on Etsy can be a great side hustle because you just need to create one digital file per product, which you can then sell an unlimited number of times.

Printables are digital products that customers can download and print at home. Examples include grocery shopping checklists, gift tags, candy bar wrappers, printable quotes for wall art, and patterns.

You can sign up for this free ebook that helps you figure out where to start when it comes to selling printables on Etsy.

Related content on successful home business ideas:

  • 12 Passive Income Ideas That Will Let You Enjoy Life More
  • 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed
  • 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside
  • 24 Of The Best Work From Home Jobs & How To Avoid Scams

 

2. Sell items on Amazon.

Yes, you can make money selling items on Amazon. Actually, this is one of the home business ideas with low start up costs because you can literally start selling items from around your house. Make money while you declutter your home, what’s not to love?!

The first year that my friend Jessica ran her Amazon FBA business, working less than 20 hours a week total, she made over $100,000 profit!

This free course shows you how to start a profitable Amazon business in a 9-part video course. You’ll learn:

  • The exact steps to follow to set up your Amazon Seller account
  • Two easy and affordable ways to find items to sell
  • How to choose profitable inventory that customers actually want to buy

Click here to sign up for the FREE Amazon FBA Starter Course!

 

3. Start a blog to work at home.

For obvious reasons, blogging is my favorite on this list of profitable home business ideas.

It is a business that allows me to travel full-time, have a flexible schedule, earn somewhat passive income, and more.

Blogging changed my life for the better, and it allows me to earn thousands of dollars a month, all by doing something that I love.

My blog was created on a whim as a way to track my personal finance progress. And when I first started my blog, I honestly didn’t even know that this was going to be one of the best small profitable business ideas out there. At least that’s been the case for me! 

You can easily learn how to start a blog with my free How To Start a Blog Course.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn:

    • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
    • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
    • Day 3: How to create your blog (in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress – my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog)
    • Day 4: How to make money blogging
    • Day 5: My tips for making passive income from blogging
    • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
    • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

 

4. Become a voice over actor.

A voice over actor is the person you hear but rarely see on YouTube videos, radio ads, explainer videos, corporate narration, documentaries, e-learning courses, audiobooks, TV commercials, video games, movies, and cartoons.

In 2014, Carrie Olsen replaced her salaried day job to become a full-time voice over actor. People are constantly asking her how she got her start and how they can too.

So, she created Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse — This free course will help you learn about becoming a voice over artist, even if you’re brand new!

 

5. Run Facebook ads for local businesses.

Did you know that you can make a living from Facebook? With Facebook advertising, you can help businesses expand their reach.

And, yes, this is a skill that you can learn without any prior experience in marketing or advertising.

The going rate for Facebook Ad management is $1,000 – $1,500 per month, per client.

Last year, business owners spent over $88,000,000 per day on Facebook ads. This is expected to continue to grow, and it is one of the largest advertising spaces that exists.

My friend Bobby Hoyt knows a lot about this topic. Bobby is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He now runs the personal finance blog Millennial Money Man full-time, as well as a digital marketing agency for local businesses that he started in 2015.

Bobby has a free webinar on this topic too. His webinar, Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch, will teach you how to start this business even if you’re brand new, how to find paying clients, and more.

 

stay-at home business ideas

6. Start a bookkeeping business.

A bookkeeper is someone who tracks the finances of a business. They may handle payroll, billing and invoicing, etc.

These are all skills you can learn without being an accountant or having any previous experience.

Ben, from Bookkeeper Launch, helps people get started as bookkeepers even when they don’t have any experience. Ben is a CPA who founded his business after realizing that many businesses needed better bookkeepers. 

Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business will teach you more about running your own virtual bookkeeping business. You’ll learn:

  • Is a bookkeeping business for you?
  • What exactly is a bookkeeping business? What kind of work do they do?
  • How much money can you make as a bookkeeper?
  • How do you find clients?

 

7. Search for items to resell.

Have you ever found something that you thought you could resell to make a profit?

Melissa’s family earned $133,000 in one year by buying and selling items that they’ve found at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

Some of the best flipped items that they’ve sold include:

  • An item that they bought for $10 and flipped for $200 just 6 minutes later
  • A security tower they bought for $6,200 and flipped for $25,000 just one month later
  • A prosthetic leg that they bought for $30 at a flea market and sold for $1,000 on eBay the next day

This is one of the home business ideas that anyone can start because you can start off selling things in your own house — I know we all have lots of stuff in our house that we could stand to get rid of. Then once you get a feel for the work, you can start purchasing items to resell.

Melissa has a great free webinar, Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days, that will help you learn how to make money by flipping items.

 

8. Transcribe audio or video content into text.

Transcription is when you turn audio or video content into a text document. You listen to what’s being said and type it up.

There are many businesses looking for transcriptionists too – since general transcriptionists convert audio and video to text for virtually any industry, there really isn’t a typical client. Some examples include marketers, authors, filmmakers, academics, speakers, and conferences of all types.

Beginning transcriptionists earn around $15 an hour and it goes up from there.

You can learn more in the Free General Transcription Mini-Course. In this course, you will learn what it takes to become a transcriptionist, how much money you can earn, how you can find jobs, and more.

 

9. Become a general proofreader.

Proofreading is one of the most flexible and detail-orientated home business ideas that work. All you need to work as a proofreader is a laptop or tablet, an internet connection, and a good eye for finding mistakes.

Proofreaders look for punctuation mistakes, misspelled words, lack of consistency, and formatting errors.

You take content that other people have written and then go over it with a fine-tooth comb. You might be proofreading blog posts, print articles, academic articles, website copy, ad copy, books, student papers, emails, and more.

In one year, Caitlin made slightly over $43,000 by being a freelance proofreader.

Caitlin put together a FREE 76-minute workshop, where she answers all of the most common questions about becoming a proofreader, and she even shows you how to use the most popular tools used by proofreaders around the world. You can sign up for free here.

 

10. Become a court transcript proofreader.

Becoming a court transcript proofreader is a more focused version of the last idea.

Here’s what it’s like:

“Court reporters use digital stenography machines in combination with computer-aided transcription software to write verbatim records of various legal proceedings. They report depositions, trials, hearings, arbitrations, case management conferences, compulsory medical examinations, examinations under oath, and pretty much any other type of legal proceeding. Because of the sensitive nature of legal proceedings, it’s imperative that as many errors as possible be eliminated from transcripts — an especially major error could ruin an entire trial!”

Due to this, many court reporters also use court transcript proofreaders.

There is more training that goes into becoming a court transcript proofreader, and that is why I separated it from the general proofreading job above.

Caitlin, mentioned above, also has a great FREE 7 day course just for people who are interested in becoming a court transcript proofreader.

 

Home business ideas with low startup costs

11. Become a podcast virtual assistant.

There’s a big demand for podcast virtual assistants right now.

This is because there are over 800,000 podcasts out there, and that number just continues to grow. Podcasts are still a pretty new area, and that opens the door for lots of home business ideas that help out with all of these podcasts.

While the podcast host is responsible for recording themselves, other tasks like editing and publication take time, so many podcasters outsource their work to freelancers or virtual assistants. Also, some podcasters may not know how to do those things, or they may choose to focus their time on other areas.

Some of the different services you can offer as a podcast virtual assistant include:

  • Audio editing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Publication
  • Distribution
  • Show note creation

You can sign up here for free information that will tell you more about how to become a podcast VA. In this free resource, you’ll learn exactly what a podcast virtual assistant is, the services you can offer, and starting rates.

 

12. Write romance novels.

My friend Yuwanda Black has found one of the most interesting home business ideas – she writes romance novels, and in one month, she was able to make over $3,000!

With her free Making Money Writing Romance ecourse, she teaches you how to make money writing and self-publishing romance novels.

It is taught from first-hand experience, which Yuwanda has because she’s written and self-published 50 romance novellas since 2013. And, she continues to publish today.

 

13. Work as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

Working as a Pinterest virtual assistant is a growing field as more and more business owners are using Pinterest to grow their business.

Pinterest VAs help businesses improve their reach by doing things like:

  • Designing Pinterest images for a website
  • Helping business owners set up their Pinterest account
  • Scheduling pins because this can be time consuming for the average business owner
  • Brainstorming a marketing plan

Click here and click on “Free Training Workshop” to learn how to become a Pinterest virtual assistant and find your first client. In this free course, you’ll learn what you need to do to get started, what services to offer, and how much to charge as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

 

14. Work as a virtual assistant.

If you’re looking for home business ideas with low startup costs, then virtual assisting is a great one!

Virtual assistance is a field that is growing very quickly and it is one of the very popular stay-at home business ideas.

Not only does the internet allow us to complete more of our daily tasks online, more and more people are working online. This presents a good opportunity for more virtual assistants.

Virtual assistant tasks may include social media management, formatting and editing content, scheduling appointments or travel, email management, and more. Basically, you can get paid to do any task that needs to be done in someone’s business, but doesn’t need to be done by them.

If this is one of the home business ideas you’re interested in, I recommend checking out Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business. In that link, you’ll receive a free worksheet and workbook that will help you decide what virtual assistant services you can offer (there are over 150 choices!).

 

15. Write your own eBook for work from home ideas.

Writing your own eBook is a great way to make money from home, and there is probably something super helpful that you could write about (even if you think otherwise!).

In fact, my friend Alyssa self-published her first book and has sold more than 13,000 copies.

She is now earning a great passive income of over $200 a day from her book ($6,500 in one month alone!).

Learn more at Self-Publishing Your First Book. This free series will teach you what it takes to publish a book, including the strategies used to launch a book, writing tips, and more.

 

What is the best home business to start? What are the most successful small businesses?

As you can see, there are plenty of different home business ideas out there, and this list is only scratching the surface. There are full-time home based business ideas, and then there are part-time business ideas.

The best business home based ideas are going to be different for everyone. For example, some people are naturally good proofreaders, while others will have a knack for finding the right items for reselling.

I would think about what kinds of things you’re good at, what interests you, the skills you already have, etc. That may narrow the choices down some. 

But, what I love about the home business ideas on this list is that the free courses and guides listed mean you can learn more about any of them without a big investment. You can explore ideas without feeling like you’re wasting your money.

What home business ideas are you interested in?

The post 15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Why Set Impossible Goals for 2021? [The Ultimate New Year’s Savings Hack]

In the 1980s, self-driving cars and smartphones without antennas were only things you’d see in movies — unimaginable futuristic goals. Now, these “impossible” inventions are part of people’s everyday lives. These innovative ideas were thought to be outlandish years ago until creators like Elon Musk and IBM’s team put their impossible goals to the test.

Impossible goals are things you want to achieve that seem out of the ordinary — ones that feel as if you may never reach them, even in your wildest dreams. These goals could be turning your dream side hustle into a full-time job or building your savings from zero in the next year to buy your dream home.

While the end result seems unreachable, a mix of motivation, determination, and hard work can get you further than you think. To see the strategic process of setting and achieving your biggest life goals, keep reading our jump to our infographic below.

What’s an Impossible Goal?

An impossible goal is a goal you think you could never achieve. Becoming a millionaire, buying your dream home, or starting a business may be your life goal, but one too big that you never set out to achieve. Instead, you may stick to your current routine and believe you should live life in the comfort zone.

Becoming a millionaire usually requires investing time, confidence, and a lot of hard work — things that may challenge you. But when you think about the highest achievers, most of them had to put in the effort and believe in themselves when nobody else did.

Flashback to 1995 when nobody believed in the “internet store” that came to be Amazon. While that was considered impossible years ago, Amazon’s now made over $280 billion dollars.

In other words, when you make your impossible goals a priority, you may be pleasantly surprised by your progress. We share how to set hard financial goals, why you should set them, and how these goals could transform your financial portfolio this year.

Impossible Goals Set by the Rich and Famous

4 Reasons to Reach for the “Impossible”

Impossible goals challenge you to shift your way of thinking — getting comfortable out of the safety zone. They help fine-tune your focus for daunting tasks you’re willing to put in the time and work for. Whether you’re looking to become a millionaire, buy your dream house, or pay down your debts, here’s why you should set goals for things you think you could never achieve.

1. You May Be Pleasantly Surprised

Everything seems impossible until you do it. When you’re in elementary school, maybe you thought getting a four-year college degree would be out of reach. Regardless, you put in the time and hard work to become a college grad years later. The same goes for your potential goal to write a book. You may think it’s hopeless to write a few hundred pages in the next year, but you may find it attainable once you hit the halfway point.

2. You Check Off Micro-Goals Along the Way

It’s hard to set your goals too low when you’re trying to reach for the stars. In the past, you may have set small goals like being more mindful with your money. While mindfulness practices are extremely beneficial for your budget, you may need more of a push to save for your dream home. By setting impossible goals, you may find it easier to reach your savings goal this year. You may have no idea how to do it, but your goal is to figure it out. Side hustles, a new job, or starting a business are all potential starting points.

3. It May Not Be as Hard as You Think

It can be uncomfortable to try something for the first time, so to avoid the doubts of reaching your goals, create a strategic plan. Download and print out our printable to breakdown each impossible goal. Start with your big goals and break them down into mini-goals. For example, if you want to start an online ecommerce store, researching the perfect website platform is a good starting point.

4. What Do You Have to Lose?

If you already live a comfortable life, you may only have experiences to gain and nothing to lose. When embarking on this journey, check in with yourself every month. Note all the lessons you learned and how far you’ve come. You most likely will face failures, but you’ll be failing forward rather than backwards. Your first ecommerce product launch may not have gone smoothly, but you may know how to improve for the next time around.

Impossible Goals Roadmap

Impossible Goals Download Button

How To Set Impossible Budgeting Goals in 6 Steps

If your impossible goal is related to finances, your mindfulness, time, and dedication will be required to put you on a path towards your dream life. To get started, follow our step-by-step guide below.

Step 1: Map Out Your Dream Lifestyle

  • Get out a journal and map out your dream life. Some starter questions may be:
  • Do you want to afford that house you’ve always dreamt about?
  • Do you want to have a certain amount of money in your savings?
  • Are you hoping to turn your side hustle into a full-time job?
  • What do you find yourself daydreaming about?

Track all these daydreams in a notebook and curate the perfect action plan to achieve each goal.

Step 2: Outline Micro-goals to Reach Your Financial Goals

Now, list out mini-goals to achieve your desires. Start with the big “unachievable” goal and break it down into medium and small goals, then assign each mini-goal a due date. For example, saving $10,000 this year may take more than your current monthly earnings. To achieve this, you may create passive income streams. If that side hustle is to start a money-making blog, you may need to research steps to successfully launch your website.

Step 3: Believe and Act Like Your Future Self

Think of yourself as the future self you want to be. You may picture yourself with a certain home, financial portfolio, and lifestyle, but your current actions may not reflect your future self. Your future self may invest, but your current self is too intimidated to start. To act like your future self, consider doing the research and finding low-risk investments that suit you and your budget.

Step 4: If You Fail, Learn from Your Mistakes

When working towards your dream life, you may hit roadblocks and experience failures. As Oprah explains it, “there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” While failure may happen, you’re able to learn from it and pivot. Every mistake you make, analyze it in your journal. Note what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to do better tomorrow to surpass this roadblock.

Step 5: Track Your Results Consistently

Host monthly meetings with yourself to see how far you’ve come. Consider creating a goal tracking system that suits you best. That may include checking your budgeting goals off in our app month after month. Find a system that works for you and note your growth at the end of each month. If you’re putting in the time and hard work, you’ll get closer to your goals in no time.

Step 6: Be Patient With Your Budget Goals

Throughout this journey, practice patience. Setting goals may be exciting and motivating, but when you’re faced with failures, you may feel hints of disappointment. To avoid a failure slump, be patient and open to learn from your mistakes. If you didn’t make what you wanted from your side hustle the first year, you’re that much closer than you were last year.

Why set your sights on hard goals? Everything feels out of reach until you do it. All it takes is motivation and determination to achieve the impossible. To boost your lifestyle, budget, and drive this New Year, consider setting goals that feel out of reach. Keep reading to see why these goals may be perfect for you. Why Set Impossible Goals for 2021? [The Ultimate New Year’s Savings Hack] appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is Austerity?

What Is Austerity?

Austerity policies are nothing new. But talk about them in the news has recently escalated. In response to its ongoing debt crisis, the Greek government is preparing to implement austerity measures aimed at helping the country regain its financial footing. If you didn’t major in economics or you have no clue what austerity means, read on to find out how this fiscal program works.

Check out our personal loans calculator.

Austerity: A Definition

Trust us, austerity isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Austerity is a type of economic policy that governments use to deal with budget deficits. A country faces a deficit whenever it’s using more money than it’s earning from tax dollars.

By taking on an austerity package, a government hopes to reign in its spending, improve the status of its economy and avoid defaulting on its unpaid debt. Governments usually take on austerity measures in order to appease their creditors. In exchange, these lenders agree to bail out countries and allow them to borrow more money.

If you look up the word austere in the dictionary, you’ll see that it means severe, grave, hard, solemn and serious. Indeed, austerity is nothing to joke about.

Austerity Measures

What Is Austerity?

Austerity plans normally involve increases in different taxes, (property taxes, income taxes, etc.) budget cuts or a push to incorporate both. Government workers could lose their jobs or see their wages and benefits either decline or become stagnant. Hiking up interest rates, adding travel bans and keeping prices at a fixed level could be other strategies put in place to reduce spending.

Naturally, austerity measures typically aren’t viewed in the best light because they mean that there might be fewer government programs available to the public. Aid for veterans and low-income families, healthcare coverage and pensions are some of the benefits that normally take a hit when a country’s using an austerity package. Government services that aren’t eliminated might not be as comprehensive or as beneficial as they once were.

As you can see, in an austere environment, conditions are tighter overall. Historically, austerity has been implemented in the US during tough times including World War I, World War II and the Great Recession of 2008.

Greece’s new austerity package – which government lawmakers finally accepted in July 2015 – will feature less government funding, higher taxes and cuts to pension plans. As a result of this deal, the country was allowed to begin talks with its creditors about a third bailout.

Related Article: All About the Greek Debt Crisis

The Problems With Government Austerity 

Experts on the economy tend to go back and forth about how effective austerity can be. Some believe that instead of turning to austerity, the government should pump out more money and borrow as much as possible if an economy is on the rocks.

From a political standpoint, austerity is often controversial and results in riots and demonstrations. Anti-austerity protests erupted in Greece, where quite a few folks say that past austerity programs have only made social and economic conditions worse.

Beyond slowing down the economy, an austerity bill can cause a country to remain in its debt crisis, particularly if it’s in the midst of a recession. As fiscal austerity decreases spending, GDP can go down while unemployment goes up. Consumers can get nervous and stop spending and investing their own money.

In short, austerity policies can make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling. That’s why governments tend to turn to them as a last resort if other strategies aren’t working.

Why Austerity Might Not Be So Bad

What Is Austerity?

Notable European creditors have argued that austerity can be beneficial to a country’s long-term economic state. For instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has previously reported that austerity has done more damage than anticipated. But the European Central Bank released a paper saying that austerity has been helpful, at least for some of the weaker eurozone countries.

In fact, austerity has helped strengthen the economies in European countries like Latvia and Iceland. Although Spain’s unemployment remains high, its economy is in better shape overall. Ireland has made considerable progress as well toward rebuilding its economy.

Proponents of austerity policies say that they can make investors feel more optimistic when a country is being run more responsibly. Austerity has the potential to bring a shrinking economy back to life as everyday citizens invest in the private sector instead of relying on support from the federal government.

Try out our free investment calculator. 

The US used austerity measures between 2010 and 2014. Not only were our policies harsher than those employed by the governments in the UK and other European nations, but our economy fared better than theirs.

The Takeaway

The point of austerity is to tighten the government’s belt, bring a country’s debt back down to a more manageable level and stimulate an economy that has stopped growing. Countries generally try to meet these goals by cutting spending and raising taxes.

The debate over whether austerity works continues but one common theme has emerged. Timing matters. Some critics suggest that cutting too much too quickly during a recession can be painful. When introduced more slowly, however, (or when the economy is doing very well,) austerity measures can turn things around.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eltoddo, ©iStock.com/DNY59, ©iStock.com/Peter Booth

The post What Is Austerity? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Getting Your Finances Back on Track Post-COVID

A young man writes in his notebook in front of an open laptop.

It’s safe to say 2020 was a pretty hard year for everyone financially.

Even if your wallet hasn’t taken a hit in the last few months it’s likely either your employer or someone in your family has found themselves stretched financially by the effects of COVID.

No point dwelling on the past, though. We may not be able to go back in time and stop COVID happening and ruining our 2020, but we can ensure we’re at least in a better position financially in 2021, avoiding bad credit scores and getting our savings back on track.

There’s no better time than now to start planning for post-COVID life, so here are our essential financial tips.

Tips for Getting Your Finances Back on Track

  • Draw Up a Budget That Fits Your Lifestyle
  • Secure All the Incomings You Can
  • Have a Plan for Deferred Payments
  • Start Saving Now
  • Tips for Businessowners

Draw Up a Budget That Fits Your Lifestyle

Throughout the pandemic, your monthly budget probably changed quite dramatically.

You probably saved on fuel, travel, and evenings out with so many offices and restaurants closed—but no doubt spent a whole lot more on your utility bills.

As the economy reopens and some sense of normality resumes, you need to restructure your budget to a post-COVID world.

Now, this doesn’t mean penny-pinching. COVID may have been kind to you, and reassessing your budget is simply a matter of moving funds that you would have spent on your home into your socializing budget. However, if you’re one of the many people no longer getting some kind of financial support on top of your diminished wage, you need to figure out how you’re going to pay rent, buy food, and cover all the other essentials.

The end of remote working, catching up on vacations, covering childcare—these are all real-world requirements your budget will need to be able to answer for.

Secure All the Incomings You Can

A huge part of getting your finances back on track properly is about making sure you’re making the most of every incoming payment available to you.

With so many people across the world struggling with a lack of work caused by the pandemic, it’s important to be aware of any possible financial aid available to you.

Most importantly, you should check if there are systems unique to your personal circumstances or line of work. There are businesses and charities with systems in place to provide or acquire support for everyone from professional actors unable to perform throughout the pandemic (such as Actors Fund) to retired veterans who have returned from tours with physical or invisible injuries and conditions (such as Vet Comp & Pen). Whatever line of work you are or were in, there will likely be some level of support available for you.

Likewise, you should start to consider how your talents could be put to good use to make that budget stretch a little further.

Side hustles such as running an Etsy store or becoming an online tutor become massively popular alternative revenue streams for out of work professionals during the height of lockdown. This is still a highly viable way of rebuilding your finances post-COVID. If you have a little bit of cash to invest, it can go a long way.

Have a Plan for Deferred Payments

Pandemic solutions have seen governments, banks, and landlords offering mortgage, loan, and rent deferrals to people who cannot pay them.

As things return to normal, people are going to need a plan to pay off these debts.

First, start by referring to the deferment terms so you know exactly what payment will be expected and if it can be broken up into installments. This will massively affect the overall structure of your budget.

These are perhaps the most important payments you’ll be making, as they concern your home, so make sure they’re priority number one post-COVID.

Start Saving Now

After all, any savings are good savings.

No one can be sure where we’ll be in six months or even a year. If we see another major spike across the world it could mean your finances take another hit and you need to dip into those rainy day funds to stay ahead.

Find the right savings account for you

Start working out a savings plan that works for you now. Don’t plan to give up everything you love for a year to get some extra cash, but, much like a budget, notice where you can cut back.

 Online banks and apps like Monzo and Chime are a great way to save within even realizing it. These apps allow you to set a monthly budget on different types of purchases, sending you alerts when you’re about to break them. So much of budgeting is about self-control and being across your financial situation, so why not take responsibility out of your hands?

Tips for Businessowners

Before we go, here are a few tips for small businessowners who may be worried about how they can secure their enterprise’s financial security as well as their personal one.

  • Find alternative revenue streams for your business. Is there a second service your business could offer to bring in some extra cash, such as gift wrapping for a small online store during the holiday period?
  • Make sure you’re not overspending on digital tools. They may have stepped up and helped us host meetings, manage teams, and schedule inspirational social content remotely, but are you paying a subscription fee for an app that doesn’t actually boost your business all that much?
  • Use freelancers rather than employing new staff. The freelance sector could really use a hand up right now, and freelancers present a cheaper, less permanent way for you to pick up lucrative contracts and projects without investing in hiring and training staff on permanent contracts.

It’s important to be realistic when financially planning for the end of COVID. We don’t know when that will be, and you can’t expect yourself to come out of this in better financial shape than you’ve ever been. That’s an unrealistic pressure.

Follow these tips and make sure you’re making the most of this period of reflection to ensure a healthy financial future for you and your loved ones.

Rodney Laws is an ecommerce consultant with EcommercePlatform.io. He has more than a decade of experience providing marketing advice to online entrepreneurs and businesses. He’s set up and marketed his own businesses and consulted on crafting campaigns for established companies.

Interested in submitting a guest post to Credit.com? Review our guest post guidelines.

The post Getting Your Finances Back on Track Post-COVID appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

10 Minimalist Lifestyle Tips to De-Stress and Save Money

Minimalism has become a popular practice in recent years. When you live as a minimalist, you strive to only use things that serve a purpose. It’s about living simply and having only what you need to go about your daily life. For instance, some people may start a no-spend challenge or only fill their home with items they absolutely need. Not only could you save money, but you can also save time on cleaning and organizing.

Practicing minimalism is an ongoing process. You’ll always find ways to improve and modify your minimalism. To start, evaluate what currently serves a purpose in your life and what may be superfluous. When you practice a minimalist mindset, you’re choosing to live a more focused life. You may start with cleaning up your budget and then move on to organizing your home. Taking the first steps to declutter your life is a big move, but you might need a game plan to make these habits stick.

Many of us may have too much stuff, and may even be spending too much on unnecessary purchases. Establishing a consistent and healthy budget should help you cut down on the things you don’t need and may even reduce your anxiety and stress. To keep track of your minimalist budget, download our app for easy accessibility. If you’re considering doing some decluttering this season, skip to our infographic or keep reading for in-depth tips on practicing a minimalist lifestyle.

Minimalist Lifestyle Starter Tips

When first starting out your journey, it’s important to start small. From changing your shopping habits to going strictly digital, there are lots of ways to switch up your routine. Here are our go-to tips for kickstarting your minimalism journey.

1. Shop Quality, Not Quantity

Minimalism doesn’t mean you never go shopping, it just means you’re more intentional with your purchases. Whether you’re in need of a new pair of running shoes or work pants, invest in quality pieces that will last you a long time. Even though a higher price tag may be less than ideal at the time, you’ll likely save money in the long run by cutting down on frequent purchases. Not to mention, you’ll cut down on waste — one garbage truck of clothes is discarded every second.

2. Digitize Movies and Books

If you’re a big reader or movie watcher, consider going digital with your collection. This will save space in your home and make sure you can always find what you want. Instead of having to go to the store for your next read, you could get it at your fingertips in a couple of clicks. If you like to physically feel the book pages every time you flip the page, consider checking out your local library. You can find all sorts of books at no charge.

3. Eliminate, Eliminate, Eliminate

One of the most important parts of minimalism is cutting down on things you don’t need. To start decluttering, identify what serves a purpose in your life and what doesn’t. From there, start to see how you can cut down items that don’t add value to your life, and then get rid of them entirely. You could test the waters by doing a mindful money challenge before decluttering your whole life.

4. Invest In Reusables

As you start to declutter your home, consider what products could be reused. One simple change could be swapping out your disposable water bottles for a glass reusable one. Or, even bring your reusable takeaway coffee cup with you every time you visit your local cafe. Not only could you get a discount for bringing your own cup, but you’re also helping cut down on single-use products!

5. Give Everything a Place

Once you get into a rhythm, give every item a place. Get creative with storage bins and organizers to ensure you’re able to store exactly what you need. If you don’t have a spot for some of your extras, it may be time to consider if they are items you really need to keep. As your minimalist space falls into place, hold yourself accountable for putting away items once you’re done using them.

Minimalist Lifestyle Tips In-Post Image

5 Money-Saving Minimalism Best Practices to Follow

It’s one thing to start out your minimalism journey, but another to keep your practice going. To live an intentional life, there are some easy practices to follow. Keep reading to see where this could help save you more time, money, and stress.

1. Invest in Experiences

A popular practice in minimalism is prioritizing experiences over buying material items. Some people value the memories created from trips or classes over having the latest gadgets or fashions. Determine where you stand and spend intentionally.

As minimalism may cut down on your “extra” budget expense, you may also have more leeway to spend on other things. With this extra budget, be intentional with where you choose to put your money. Save up your takeaway coffee budget to invest in a weekend away with your family. You may find yourself saving more and spending less time on things that drain your budget.

2. Re-Audit Your Life Frequently

Take time to assess your current spending habits and then consistently review them. Always cut out things that take up space or events that drain your energy. As you get more comfortable, you may find yourself wanting to get rid of things you thought you couldn’t live without. For instance, your cluttered kitchen may be useless if you reach for the same items every time you cook — cut down on the things you haven’t used to make more room to cook.

3. Cut Meaningless Expenses

Turns out, the average American spends $18,000 a year on unnecessary purchases. As you review your budget, you may be able to cut out a large portion of these expenses. For things you may not want to completely eliminate, find inexpensive alternatives. You may swap a vacation across the county for a staycation in the comfort of your backyard.

4. Let Go of What You Can’t Control

Letting go of things you can’t control may seem easier said than done. To find that balance, start by focusing on things you love to do or have. Once you have narrowed down what’s most important to you, focus your energy on that. Being thankful for what you do have may even cut down on your budget. You may find yourself reusing what you do have rather than wanting more.

5. Appreciate What You Have

Practice gratitude and focus on the positives. Instead of scrolling through social media, write out three to five things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude first thing in the morning may put you in a positive mood and help you prepare for the day ahead of you. Being grateful for what you have might even cut your urge to overspend on things you don’t need.
could be a minimalist? If so, check out our top TED Talk tips for practicing minimalism and how it may benefit you. Turns out, sometimes living with less could mean so much more.

Sources: Making Sense of Cents | CNBC 1, 2

The post 10 Minimalist Lifestyle Tips to De-Stress and Save Money appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

10 Financial Steps to Take Before Having Kids

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), raising a child to the age of 18 sets families back an average of $233,610, and that’s for each child. This figure doesn’t even include the cost of college, which is growing faster than inflation. 

CollegeBoard data found that for the 2019-2020 school year, the average in-state, four-year school costs $21,950 per year including tuition, fees, and room and board. 

Kids can add meaning to your life, and most parents would say they’re well worth the cost. But having your financial ducks in a row — before having kids — can help you spend more time with your new family instead of worrying about paying the bills.

10 Financial Moves to Make Before Having Kids

If you want to have kids and reach your long-term financial goals, you’ll need to make some strategic moves early on. There are plenty of ways to set yourself up for success, but here are the most important ones. 

1. Start Using a Monthly Budget

When you’re young and child-free, it’s easy to spend more than you planned on fun activities and nonessentials. But having kids has a way of ruining your carefree spending habits, and that’s especially true if you’ve spent most of your adult life buying whatever catches your eye.

That’s why it’s smart to start using a monthly budget before having kids. It helps you prioritize each dollar you earn every month so you’re tracking your family’s short- and long-term goals.

You can create a simple budget with a pen and paper. Each month, list your income and recurring monthly expenses in separate columns, and then log your purchases throughout the month. This gives you a high-level perspective about money going in and out of your budget. You can also use a digital budgeting tool, like Mint, Qube Money, or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to get a handle on your finances. 

Regardless of which budgeting tool you choose, create categories for savings (e.g. an emergency fund, vacation fund, etc.) and investments. Treat these expense categories just like regular bills as a way to commit to your family’s money goals. Your budget should provide a rough guide that helps you cover household expenses and save for the future while leaving some money for fun.

2. Build an Emergency Fund

Most experts suggest keeping three- to six-months of expenses in an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund is even more crucial when you have kids. You never know when you’ll face a broken arm, requiring you to cover your entire health care deductible in one fell swoop. 

It’s also possible your child could be born with a critical medical condition that requires you to take time away from work. And don’t forget about the other emergencies you can face, from a roof that needs replacing to a job loss or income reduction. 

Your best bet is opening a high-yield savings account and saving up at least three months of expenses before becoming a parent. You’ll never regret having this money set aside, but you’ll easily regret not having savings in an emergency.

3. Boost Your Retirement Savings Percentage

Your retirement might be decades away, but making retirement savings a priority is a lot easier when you don’t have kids. And with the magic of compound interest that lets your money grow exponentially over time, you’ll want to get started ASAP. 

By boosting your retirement savings percentage before having kids, you’ll also learn how to live on a lower amount of take-home pay. Try boosting your retirement savings percentage a little each year until you have kids. 

Go from 6% to 7%, then from 8% to 9%, for example. Ideally, you’ll get to the point where you’re saving 15% of your income or more before becoming a parent. If you’re already enrolled in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, this change can be done with a simple form. Ask your employer or your HR department for more information.

If you’re self-employed, you can still open a retirement account like a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k) and begin saving on your own. You can also consider a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, both of which let you contribute up to $6,000 per year, or $7,000 if you’re ages 50 or older. 

4. Start a Parental Leave Fund

Since the U.S. doesn’t mandate paid leave for new parents, check with your employer to find out how much paid time off you might receive. The average amount of paid leave in the U.S. is 4.1 weeks, according to a study by WorldatWork, which means you might face partial pay or no pay for some weeks of your parental leave period. It all depends on your employer’s policy and how flexible it is.

Your best bet is figuring out how much time you can take off with pay, and then creating a plan to save up the income you’ll need to cover the rest of your leave. Let’s say you have four weeks of paid time off, but plan on taking 10 weeks of parental leave, for example. Open a new savings account and save weekly or monthly until you have six weeks of pay saved up. 

If you have six months to wait for the baby to arrive and you need $6,000 saved for parental leave, you could strive to set aside $1,000 per month for those ten weeks off. If you’re able to plan earlier, up to 12 months before the baby arrives, then you can cut your monthly savings amount and set aside just $500 per month.

5. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA)

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged way to save up for health care expenses, including the cost of a hospital stay. This type of account is available to Americans who have a designated high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), meaning a deductible of at least $1,400 for individuals and at least $2,800 for families. HDHPs must also have maximum out-of-pocket limits below $6,900 for individuals and $13,800 for families. 

In 2020, individuals can contribute up to $3,550 to an HSA while families can save up to $7,100. This money is tax-advantaged in that it grows tax-free until you’re ready to use it. Moreover, you’ll never pay taxes or a penalty on your HSA funds if you use your distributions for qualified health care expenses. At the age of 65, you can even deduct money from your HSA and use it however you want without a penalty. 

6. Start Saving for College

The price of college will only get worse over time. To get a handle on it early and plan for your future child’s college tuition, start saving for their education in a separate account.  Once your child is born, you can open a 529 college savings account and list your child as its beneficiary. 

Some states offer tax benefits for those who contribute to a 529 account. For example, Indiana offers a 20% tax credit on up to $5,000 in 529 contributions each year, which gets you up to $1,000 back from the state at tax time. Many plans also let you invest in underlying investments to help your money grow faster than a traditional savings account. 

7. Pay Off Unsecured Debt

If you have credit card debt, pay it off before having kids. You’re not helping yourself by spending years lugging high-interest debt around. Paying off debt can free-up cash and save you thousands of dollars in interest every year. 

If you’re struggling to pay off your unsecured debt, there are several strategies to consider. Here are a few approaches:

Debt Snowball

This debt repayment approach requires you to make a large payment on your smallest account balance and only the minimum amount that’s due on other debt. As the months tick by, you’ll focus on paying off your smallest debt first, only to “snowball” the payments from fully paid accounts toward the next smallest debt. Eventually, the debt snowball should leave you with only your largest debts, then one debt, and then none.

Debt Avalanche

The debt avalanche is the opposite of the debt snowball, asking you to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, while paying the minimum payment on other debt. Once that account is fully paid, you’ll “avalanche” those payments to the next highest-rate debt. Eventually, you’ll only be left with your lowest-interest account until you’ve paid off all of your debt. 

Balance Transfer Credit Card

Another popular strategy involves transferring high-interest balances to a balance transfer credit card that offers 0% APR for a limited time. You might have to pay a balance transfer fee (often 3% to 5%), but the interest savings can make this strategy worth it.

If you try this strategy, make sure you have a plan to pay off your debt before your introductory offer ends. If you have 15 months at 0% APR, for example, calculate how much you need to pay each month for 15 months to repay your entire balance during that time. Any debt remaining after your introductory APR period ends will start accruing interest at the regular, variable interest rate. 

8. Consider Refinancing Other Debt

Ditching credit card debt is a no-brainer, but debt like student loans or your home mortgage can also weigh on your future family’s budget.

If you have student loan debt, look into refinancing your student loans with a private lender. A student loan refinance can help you lower the interest rate on your loans, find a manageable monthly payment, and simplify your repayment into one loan.

Private student loan rates are often considerably lower than rates you can get with federal loans — sometimes by half. The caveat with refinancing federal loans is that you’ll lose out on government protections, like deferment and forbearance, and loan forgiveness programs. Before refinancing your student loans, make sure you won’t need these benefits in the future. 

Also look into the prospect of refinancing your mortgage to secure a shorter repayment timeline, a lower monthly payment, or both. Today’s low interest rates have made mortgage refinancing a good deal for anyone who took out a mortgage several years ago. Compare today’s mortgage refinancing rates to see how much you can save. 

9. Buy Life Insurance

You should also buy life insurance before having kids. Don’t worry about picking up an expensive whole life policy. All you need is a term life insurance policy that covers at least 10 years of your salary, and hopefully more.

Term life insurance is extremely affordable and easy to buy. Many providers don’t even require a medical exam if you’re young and healthy. 

Once you start comparing life insurance quotes, you’ll be shocked at how affordable term coverage can be. With Bestow, for example, a thirty-year-old woman in good health can buy a 20-year term policy for $500,000 for as little as $20.41 per month. 

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10. Create a Will

A last will and testament lets you write down what should happen to your major assets upon your death. You can also state personal requests in writing, like whether you want to be kept on life support, and how you want your final arrangements handled.

A will can also formally define who you’d like to take over custody of your kids, if both parents die. If you don’t formally make this decision ahead of time, these deeply personal decisions might be left to the courts.

Fortunately, it’s not overly expensive to create a last will and testament. You can meet with a lawyer who can draw one up, or you can create your own using a platform like LegalZoom.

The Bottom Line

Having kids can be the most rewarding part of your life, but parenthood is far from cheap. You’ll need money for expenses you might’ve never considered before — and the cost of raising a family only goes up over time.

That’s why getting your money straightened out is essential before kids enter the picture. With a financial plan and savings built up, you can experience the joys of parenthood without financial stress.

The post 10 Financial Steps to Take Before Having Kids appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

529 Plans: A Complete Guide to Funding Future Education

Do you have kids? Are there children in your life? Were you once a child? If you plan on helping pay for a child’s future education, then you’ll benefit from this complete guide to 529 plans. We’ll cover every detail of 529 plans, from the what/when/why basics to the more complex tax implications and investing ideas.

This article was 100% inspired by my Patrons. Between Jack, Nathan, Remi, other kiddos in my life (and a few buns in the oven), there are a lot of young Best Interest readers out there. And one day, they’ll probably have some education expenses. That’s why their parents asked me to write about 529 plans this week.

What is a 529 Plan?

The 529 college savings plan is a tax-advantaged investment account meant specifically for education expenses. As of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (in 2017), 529 plans can be used for college costs, K-12 public school costs, or private and/or religious school tuition. If you will ever need to pay for your children’s education, then 529 plans are for you.

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529 plans are named in a similar fashion as the famous 401(k). That is, the name comes from the specific U.S. tax code where the plan was written into law. It’s in Section 529 of Internal Revenue Code 26. Wow—that’s boring!

But it turns out that 529 plans are strange amalgam of federal rules and state rules. Let’s start breaking that down.

Tax Advantages

Taxes are important! 529 college savings plans provide tax advantages in a manner similar to Roth accounts (i.e. different than traditional 401(k) accounts). In a 529 plan, you pay all your normal taxes today. Your contributions to the 529 plan, therefore, are made with after-tax dollars.

Any investment you make within your 529 plan is then allowed to grow tax-free. Future withdrawals—used for qualified education expenses—are also tax-free. Pay now, save later.

But wait! Those are just the federal income tax benefits. Many individual states offer state tax benefits to people participating in 529 plans. As of this writing, 34 states and Washington D.C. offer these benefits. Of the 16 states not participating, nine of those don’t have any state income tax. The seven remaining states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, and North Carolina—all have state income taxes, yet do not offer income tax benefits to their 529 plan participants. Boo!

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This makes 529 plans an oddity. There’s a Federal-level tax advantage that applies to everyone. And then there might be a state-level tax advantage depending on which state you use to setup your plan.

Two Types of 529 Plans

The most common 529 plan is the college savings program. The less common 529 is the prepaid tuition program.

The savings program can be thought of as a parallel to common retirement investing accounts. A person can put money into their 529 plan today. They can invest that money in a few different ways (details further in the article). At a later date, they can then use the full value of their account at any eligible institution—in state or out of state. The value of their 529 plan will be dependent on their investing choices and how those investments perform.

The prepaid program is a little different. This plan is only offered by certain states (currently only 10 are accepting new applicants) and even by some individual colleges/universities. The prepaid program permits citizens to buy tuition credits at today’s tuition rates. Those credits can then be used in the future at in-state universities. However, using these credits outside of the state they were bought in can result in not getting full value.

You don’t choose investments in the prepaid program. You just buy credit’s today that can be redeemed in the future.

The savings program is universal, flexible, and grows based on your investments.

The prepaid program is not offered everywhere, works best at in-state universities, and grows based on how quickly tuition is changing (i.e. the difference between today’s tuition rate and the future tuition rate when you use the credit.)

Example: a prepaid credit would have cost ~$13,000 for one year of tuition in 2000. That credit would have been worth ~$24,000 of value if used in 2018. (Source)

What are “Qualified Education Expenses?”

You can only spend your 529 plan dollars on “qualified education expenses.” Turns out, just about anything associated with education costs can be paid for using 529 plan funds. Qualified education expenses include:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Room and board (as long as the beneficiary attends school at least half-time). Off-campus housing is even covered, as long as it’s less than on-campus housing.

Student loans and student loan interest were added to this list in 2019, but there’s a lifetime limit of $10,000 per person.

How Do You “Invest” Your 529 Plan Funds?

529 savings plans do more than save. Their real power is as a college investment plan. So, how can you “invest” this tax-advantaged money?

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There’s a two-part answer to how your 529 plan funds are invested. The first part is that only savings plans can be invested, not prepaid plans. The second part is that it depends on what state you’re in.

For example, let’s look at my state: New York. It offers both age-based options and individual portfolios.

The age-based option places your 529 plan on one of three tracks: aggressive, moderate, or conservative. As your child ages, the portfolio will automatically re-balance based on the track you’ve chosen.

The aggressive option will hold more stocks for longer into your child’s life—higher risk, higher rewards. The conservative option will skew towards bonds and short-term reserves. In all cases, the goal is to provide some level of growth in early years, and some level of stability in later years.

The individual portfolios are similar to the age-based option, but do not automatically re-balance. There are aggressive and conservative and middle-ground choices. Thankfully, you can move funds from one portfolio to another up to twice per year. This allowed rebalancing is how you can achieve the correct risk posture.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Using a 529 Plan

The advantages of using the 529 as a college investing plan are clear. First, there’s the tax-advantaged nature of it, likely saving you tens of thousands of dollars. Another benefit is the aforementioned ease of investing using a low-maintenance, age-based investing accounts. Most states offer them.

Other advantages include the high maximum contribution limit (ranging by state, from a low of $235K to a high of $529K), the reasonable financial aid treatment, and, of course, the flexibility.

If your child doesn’t end up using their 529 plan, you can transfer it to another relative. If you don’t like your state’s 529 offering, you can open an account in a different state. You can even use your 529 plan to pay for primary education at a private school or a religious school.

But the 529 plan isn’t perfect. There are disadvantages too.

For example, the prepaid 529 plan involves a considerable up-front cost—in the realm of $100,000 over four years. That’s a lot of money. Also, your proactive saving today ends up affecting your child’s financial aid package in the future. It feels a bit like a punishment for being responsible. That ain’t right!

Of course, a 529 plan is not a normal investing account. If you don’t use the money for educational purposes, you will face a penalty. And if you want to hand-pick your 529 investments? Well, you can’t do that. Similar to many 401(k) programs, your state’s 529 program probably only offers a few different fund choices.

529 Plan FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions about 529 education savings plans. And I even provide answers!

How do I open a 529 plan?

Virtually all states now have online portals that allow you to open 529 plans from the comfort of your home. A few online forms and email messages is all it takes.

Can I contribute to someone else’s 529?

You sure can! If you have a niece or nephew or grandchild or simply a friend, you can make a third-party contribution to their 529 plan. You don’t have to be their parent, their relative, or the person who opened the account.

Investing in someone else’s knowledge is a terrific gift.

Does a 529 plan affect financial aid?

Short answer: yes, but it’s better than how many other assets affect financial aid.

Longer answer: yes, having a 529 plan will likely reduce the amount of financial aid a student receives. The first $10,000 in a 529 plan is not part of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) equation. It’s not “counted against you.” After that $10,000, remaining 529 plan funds are counted in the EFC equation, but cap at 5.46% of the parental assets (many other assets are capped higher, e.g. at 20%).

Similarly, 529 plan distributions are not included in the “base year income” calculations in the FAFSA application. This is another benefit in terms of financial aid.

Fafsa memes. Best Collection of funny fafsa pictures on iFunny

Finally, 529 plan funds owned by non-parents (e.g. grandparents) are not part of the FAFSA EFC equation. This is great! The downside occurs when the non-parent actually withdraws the funds on behalf of the student. At that time, 50% of those funds count as “student income,” thus lowering the student’s eligibility for aid.

Are there contribution limits?

Kinda sorta. It’s a little complicated.

There is no official annual contribution limit into a 529 plan. But, you should know that 529 contributions are considered “completed gifts” in federal tax law, and that those gifts are capped at $15,000 per year in 2020 and 2021.

After $15,000 of contributions in one year, the remainder must be reported to the IRS against the taxpayer’s (not the student’s) lifetime estate and gift tax exemption.

Additionally, each state has the option of limiting the total 529 plan balances for a particular beneficiary. My state (NY) caps this limit at $520,000. That’s easily high enough to pay for 4 years of college at current prices.

Another state-based limit involves how much income tax savings a contributor can claim per year. In New York, for example, only the first $5,000 (or $10,000 if a married couple) are eligible for income tax savings.

Can I use my state’s 529 plan in another state? Do I need to create 529 plans in multiple states?

Yes, you can use your state’s 529 plan in another state. And mostly likely no, you do not need to create 529 plans in multiple states.

First, I recommend scrolling up to the savings program vs. prepaid program description. Savings programs are universal and transferrable. My 529 savings plan could pay for tuition in any other state, and even some other countries.

But prepaid tuition accounts typically have limitations in how they transfer. Prepaid accounts typically apply in full to in-state, state-sponsored schools. They might not apply in full to out-of-state and/or private schools.

What if my kid is Lebron James and doesn’t go to college? Can I get my money back?

It’s a great question. And the answer is yes, there are multiple ways to recoup your money if the beneficiary doesn’t end up using it for education savings.

First, you can avoid all penalties by changing the beneficiary of the funds. You can switch to another qualifying family member. Instead of paying for Lebron’s college, you can switch those funds to his siblings, to a future grandchild, or even to yourself (if you wanted to go back to school).

Lebron James Mood GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY

What if you just want you money back? The contributions that you initially made come back to you tax-free and penalty-free. After all, you already paid taxes on those. Any earnings you’ve made on those contributions are subject to normal income tax, and then a 10% federal penalty tax.

The 10% penalty is waived in certain situations, such as the beneficiary receiving a tax-free scholarship or attending a U.S. military academy.

And remember those state income tax breaks we discussed earlier? Those tax breaks might get recaptured (oh no!) if you end up taking non-qualified distributions from your 529 plan.

Long story short: try to the keep the funds in a 529 plan, especially is someone in your family might benefit from them someday. Otherwise, you’ll pay some taxes and penalties.

Graduation

It’s time to don my robe and give a speech. Keep on learning, you readers, for:

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

-Ben Franklin

Oh snap! Yes, that is how the blog got its name. Giving others the gift of education is a wonderful thing, and 529 plans are one way the U.S. government allows you to do so.

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

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

Source: bestinterest.blog

Grow Your Money: Mutual Funds, Index Funds, & CDs

If you’re looking to save money for a short, intermediate or long-term goal, such as retirement, you need to find a safe place to park it, earn interest, and have fairly access to your money.

But, how do you find such a safe place?

The good news is that there are several places to put your hard-earned savings.

Besides a savings account, three of the most common accounts available to you are mutual funds, index funds and certificate of deposits.

We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these short and long-term investments below.

Before we go in detail with the differences between these accounts, you might be wondering about mutual fund.

You may have heard a lot about certificate of deposits, but you may not know a lot about mutual funds.

But one thing you should know is that the question of ‘what is a mutual fund?’ is searched online more than 16,000 each month.

So people are actively looking for the definition. This is what a mutual fund is:

What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle, where investors pool their money together to buy shares.

A professional manager manages the fund. They invest the money for you in securities such as stocks and bonds.

However, a mutual fund differs from an index fund, a certificate of deposit, or Vanguard CDs. 

CDs are safer than mutual funds and index funds, because mutual funds and index funds invest in stocks and bonds. One type of mutual fund, money market fund, invests in money and is quite safe.

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Nonetheless, mutual funds and index funds in general are safe for various reasons (more on this below).

One thing for sure is that in most cases, you can expect a higher return on your investment with a mutual fund and index fund than a certificate of deposit.

However, be ready to come up with a bigger minimum deposit with a mutual fund and index fund.

Mutual funds vs index funds vs certificate of deposits: what’s the difference?

All of these accounts are safe comparing to investing in individual stocks. However, there are key differences between mutual funds, index funds and certificate of deposits.

First of all, most mutual funds and index funds invest in stocks or bonds — with the exception of money market funds, which invest in “money.” 

Even though there is a possibility that shares in a mutual fund and index fund can drop significantly due to volatility of the stock market, mutual funds and index funds return a much higher yield than a certificate of deposit.

However, index funds deliver a better return than mutual funds.

Index funds, unlike mutual funds, are managed by a computer. An index fund simply invests to match the performance of an index such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks.

So, they stay invested and thus deliver better returns.

Unlike certificate of deposits, mutual funds and index funds do not require you to keep money for a specific period of time.

With a mutual fund, just like an index fund, you are free to withdraw your money at anytime you want. In other words, there is no penalty for selling your share in a mutual funds.

However, CDs have something that mutual funds and index funds lack. They are insured by the federal government (FDIC insurance) for up to $250,000. That means your money is always protected.

Having said, mutual funds that invests in stocks or bonds are still safe due to their diversification.

Mutual funds are safe, because they invest in dozens of stocks (from large, mid, and small size companies) across different and multiple industries.

Advantages and disadvantages of mutual funds vs index funds vs CDs

To understand better how these products can grow your money, it’s important to know their pros and cons. Here they are:

Mutual Funds

Generally, mutual funds offer higher returns than certificate of deposit.

Pros

  • Higher returns: Compared with CDs and savings account, expect a a higher return on your money.
  • Accessibility: You can easily sell your shares, either via your fund company’s website online or via their toll-free number. Also, most money market funds offer check-writing privileges.
  • Diversification:  while most mutual funds can be risky (especially those that invest in stocks), their diversification make them a safer investment. Most mutual funds own stocks or bonds from dozens of companies across multiple industries. So, if one stock is not doing well, another stock can balance it out.  

Cons

  • Less safe: Unlike CDs which are FDIC insured, mutual funds are not. If you want to make sure that you don’t lose your money because you want it in the short term, stick with money market funds. Although, they too are not federally insured, they are considered very safe.
  • Initial investment minimum: Most mutual funds have high minimum investment requirements compared with saving accounts and certificate of deposits. Many mutual funds have minimums of $3,000 or more.

Index Funds 

Index funds, unlike mutual funds, are passive. That means they are managed by a computer and not actively managed by a fund manager.

Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index.

Index funds don’t jump around; they stayed invested in the market.

Pros

Easy to purchase: Just like mutual funds, you can buy index funds through fund companies like Vanguard and Fidelity.

Expense is low: Like mutual funds, index funds have low-cost, which is usually less than 1% annually. This lower operating expenses help boost your returns. 

Diversification: Another benefit of index funds is that they are diversified. Like mutual funds, they invest in multiple companies, thus spreading out the risk.

Tax-friendlier: When you invest in index funds in non-retirement accounts, you are taxed less than you would in mutual funds.

Because mutual fund managers are actively buying and selling in an attempt to increase returns, that increase a fund’s taxable capital gains distributions. Index funds are traded less frequently. 

Cons:

One of the downside with index funds, is that they won’t outperform the market they track.

Certificate of Deposit

If you need safety and a competitive yield on your money, CD is a good place for you. But you will need to agree to leave a certain amount of money with a bank for a specific period of time.

If you withdraw your money before the agreed period of time, you will end up paying a penalty.

Depending on the length of the CD and the amount of money you put in, you might earn a higher return than a regular savings account, but not a mutual fund.

Pros

  • Safety: CDs like savings accounts are federally insured up to $250,000. That means your money is protected.
  • Interest rate: CDs pay a higher interest rate than savings account. 
  • No fees: Unless you don’t withdraw your money before maturity, there is no fee.

Cons

Low accessibility: When you invest in a CD, the money is not easily accessible. You can withdraw the money, but a penalty will apply.

Penalty: if you withdraw your money before it becomes “due” or before it “matures,” then you will pay a penalty.

However, there are some banks that offer CDs with no penalty. But these CDs usually come with lower APYs.

Who should benefits from mutual funds, index funds and CDs? 

Choosing among a mutual fund, index fund, and CDs depend on your goals (whether short-term and long term) and your current financial situation.

If you don’t have a lot of money, it might make sense to start with a CD, since some CDs have minimum deposit requirement as low as $1000 or less.

A CD investment can be used as short-term investment as well.

If you’re thinking of buying a house in 2 years  and want the money for the down payment, a CD is a good choice.

But if you’re thinking of tapping into your money at any time, then a savings account can be a better option.

On the other hand, if you want to save for retirement, mutual funds and index funds are good long-term investments.

These investment vehicles are the most aggressive because they invest in stocks and bonds. More specifically, they are good for you if:

  • don’t expect to tap your money for 5 years or more;
  • you want to maximize your income and are willing to tolerate the stock market volatility.

How to use mutual funds, index funds, and CDs for your saving goals

These accounts can help you save money for different type of goals.

If you invest money for long-term goals, such as retirement, index funds and mutual funds are great choices.

So, don’t use these funds to invest money you plan to use in the next 5 years or so, because the stock market can drop significantly and you can lose your money.

For short-term goals, consider CDs. As mentioned, CDs are a safe, higher-yielding alternative to savings accounts.

Best Index Funds

So what are the best index funds?

No doubt, Vanguard has some of the best index funds. Among them is the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Admiral (VFIAX). 

This fund invest in 500 of largest U.S. companies with a few a midsize stocks. Some of the big companies in this index fund includes Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Google/Alphabet (GOOGL).

Moreover, this Vanguard index fund has a pretty low cost, (0.04%) if not the lowest of all the index funds.

Plus, the initial minimum investment is also low ($3,000).

So if you’re looking for an index fund that maintains low operating expenses while enjoying a good rate of return, the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Admiral is for you.

Best Mutual Funds

We are big fan of Vanguard Mutual funds. The reason is simply because they are of high quality, reasonably cheap, professionally managed and are cost-efficient.

So, if you’re in the market for the best Vanguard funds, you have many options to choose from. One is the Vanguard Total Stock Market Admiral (VTSAX).

This Vanguard fund gives long term investors a broad exposure to the entire US equity market, including large, mid, and small cap growth stocks.

Some of the largest stocks include Apple, Facebook, Johnson And Johnson, Alphabet, Berkshire Hathaway, etc…

Note this Vanguard fund invests exclusively in stock. So it’s the most aggressive Vanguard fund around. You need a minimum of $3000 to invest in this fund. The expenses are 0.04%, which is extremely low.

Best CDs

Vanguard CDs are the best out there. But you should know that Vanguard only offers brokered CDs.

Banks issue brokered CDs. Banks sell them in bulk to brokerage firms such as Vanguard and Fidelity.

Vanguard CDs are some of the best, because they offer higher rates than most Bank CDs.

In conclusion, there are several options to choose from when it comes to finding a safe place to save and invest your hard-earned money.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond investing in index funds, mutual funds and CDs, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
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The post Grow Your Money: Mutual Funds, Index Funds, & CDs appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

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5 Best Hedges in the Face of Inflation

Inflation measures how much an economy rises over time, comparing the average price of a basket of goods from one point in time to another. Understanding inflation is an important element of investing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator shows that $5.00 in September 2000 has the purchasing power equal to $7.49 in September 2020. To continue to afford necessities, your income must pace or rise above the rate of inflation. If your income didn’t rise along with inflation, you couldn’t afford that same pizza in September 2020 — even if your income never changed.

Inflation represents a real risk for investors as it could erode the principal value of your investment.

For investors, inflation represents a real problem. If your investment isn’t growing faster than inflation you could technically end up losing money instead of growing your wealth. That’s why many investors look for stable and secure places to invest their wealth. Ideally, in investment vehicles that guarantee a return that’ll outpace inflation. 

These investments are commonly known as “inflation hedges”. 

5 Top Inflations Hedges to Know

Depending on your risk tolerance, you probably wouldn’t want to keep all of your wealth in inflation hedges. Although they might be secure, they also tend to earn minimal returns. You’ll unlikely get rich from these assets, but it’s also unlikely you’ll lose money. 

Many investors turn to these secure investments when they notice an inflationary environment is gaining momentum. Here’s what you should know about the most common inflation hedges.

1. Gold

Some say gold is over-hyped, because not only does it not pay interest or dividends, but it also does poorly when the economy is doing well. Central banks, who own most of the world’s gold, can also deflate its price by selling some of its stockpile. Gold’s popularity might be partially linked to the “gold standard”, which is the way countries used to value its currency. The U.S. hasn’t used the gold standard since 1933.

Still, gold’s stability in a crisis could be good for investors who need to diversify their assets or for someone who’s very risk-averse. 

If you want to buy physical gold, you can get gold bars or coins — but these can be risky to store and cumbersome to sell. It can also be hard to determine their value if they have a commemorative or artistic design or are gold-plated. Another option is to buy gold stocks or mutual funds. 

Is gold right for you? You’ll need to determine how much risk you’re willing to tolerate with your investments since gold offers a low risk but also a low reward. 

Pros

  • Physical asset: Gold is a physical asset in limited supply so it tends to hold its value. 
  • Low correlation: Creating a diversified portfolio means investing in asset classes that don’t move together. Gold has a relatively low correlation to many popular asset classes, helping you potentially hedge your risk.
  • Performs well in recessions: Since many investors see gold as a hedge against uncertainty, it is often in high demand during a recession.

Cons

  • No dividends: Gold doesn’t pay any dividends; the only way to make money on gold is to sell it. 
  • Speculative: Gold creates no value on its own. It’s not a business that builds products or employs workers, thereby growing the economy. Its price is merely driven by supply and demand.
  • Not good during low inflation: Since gold doesn’t have a huge upside, during periods of low inflation investors generally prefer taking larger risks and will thereby sell gold, driving down its price.

2. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Buying real estate can be messy — it takes a long time, there are many extra fees, and at the end of the process, you have a property you need to manage. Buying REITs, however, is simple.

REITs provide a hedge for investors who need to diversify their portfolio and want to do so by getting into real estate. They’re listed on major stock exchanges and you can buy shares in them like you would any other stock.

If you’re considering a REIT as an inflation hedge you’ll want to start your investment process by researching which REITs you’re interested in. There are REITs in many industries such as health care, mortgage or retail. 

Choose an industry that you feel most comfortable with, then assess the specific REITs in that industry. Look at their balance sheets and review how much debt they have. Since REITs must give 90% of their income to shareholders they often use debt to finance their growth. A REIT that carries a lot of debt is a red flag.

Pros

  • No corporate tax: No matter how profitable they become, REITs pay zero corporate tax.
  • High dividends: REITs must disperse at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders, most pay out 100%.
  • Diversified class: REITs give you a way to invest in real estate and diversify your assets if you’re primarily invested in equities.

Cons

  • Sensitive to interest rate: REITs can react strongly to interest rate increases.
  • Large tax consequences: The government treats REITs as ordinary income, so you won’t receive the reduced tax rate that the government uses to assess other dividends.
  • Based on property values: The value of your shares in a REIT will fall if property values decline.

3. Aggregate Bond Index

A bond is an investment security — basically an agreement that an investor will lend money for a specified time period. You earn a return when the entity to whom you loaned money pays you back, with interest. A bond index fund invests in a portfolio of bonds that hope to perform similarly to an identified index. Bonds are typically considered to be safe investments, but the bond market can be complicated.

If you’re just getting started with investing, or if you don’t have time to research the bond market, an aggregate bond index can be helpful because it has diversification built into its premise. 

Of course, with an aggregate bond index you run the risk that the value of your investment will decrease as interest rates increase. This is a common risk if you’re investing in bonds — as the interest rate rises, older issued bonds can’t compete with new bonds that earn a higher return for their investors. 

Be sure to weigh the credit risk to see how likely it is that the bond index will be downgraded. You can determine this by reviewing its credit rating. 

Pros

  • Diversification: You can invest in several bond types with varying durations, all within the same fund.
  • Good for passive investment: Bond index funds require less active management to maintain, simplifying the process of investing in bonds.
  • Consistency: Bond indexes pay a return that’s consistent with the market. You’re not going to win big, but you probably won’t lose big either.

Cons

  • Sensitive to interest rate fluctuations: Bond index funds invested in government securities (a common investment) are particularly sensitive to changes to the federal interest rate.
  • Low reward: Bond index funds are typically stable investments, but will likely generate smaller returns over time than a riskier investment.

4. 60/40 Portfolio

Financial advisors used to highly recommend a 60/40 stock-bond mix to create a diversified investment portfolio that hedged against inflation. However, in recent years that advice has come under scrutiny and many leading financial experts no longer recommend this approach. 

Instead, investors recommend even more diversification and what’s called an “environmentally balanced” portfolio which offers more consistency and does better in down markets. If you’re considering a 60/40 mix, do your research to compare how this performs against an environmentally balanced approach over time before making your final decision.

Pros

  • Simple rule of thumb: Learning how to diversify your portfolio can be hard, the 60/40 method simplifies the process.
  • Low risk: The bond portion of the diversified portfolio serves to mitigate the risk and hedge against inflation.
  • Low cost: You likely don’t have to pay an advisor to help you build a 60/40 portfolio, which can eliminate some of the cost associated with investing.

Cons

  • Not enough diversification: Financial managers are now suggesting even greater diversification with additional asset classes, beyond stocks and bonds.
  • Not a high enough return: New monetary policies and the growth of digital technology are just a few of the reasons why the 60/40 mix doesn’t perform in current times the same way it did during the peak of its popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.

5. Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS)

Since TIPS are indexed for inflation they’re one of the most reliable ways to guard yourself against high inflation. Also, every six months they pay interest, which could provide you with a small return. 

You can buy TIPS from the Treasury Direct system in maturities of five, 10 or 30 years. Keep in mind that there’s always the risk of deflation when it comes to TIPS. You’re always guaranteed a minimum of your original principal at maturity, but inflation could impact your interest earnings.

Pros

  • Low risk: Treasury bonds are backed by the federal government. 
  • Indexed for inflation: TIPS will automatically increase its principle to compensate for inflation. You’ll never receive less than your principal at maturity.
  • Interest payments keep pace with inflation: The interest rate is determined based on the inflation-adjusted principal. 

Cons

  • Low rate of return: The interest rate is typically very low, other secure investments that don’t adjust for inflation could be higher. 
  • Most desirable in times of high inflation: Since the rate of return for TIPS is so low, the only way to get a lot of value from this investment is to hold it during a time when inflation increases and you need protection. If inflation doesn’t increase, there could be a significant opportunity cost.

The Bottom Line 

Inflation represents a real risk for investors as it could erode the principal value of your investment. Make sure your investments are keeping pace with inflation, at a minimum. 

Inflation hedges can protect some of your assets from inflation. Although you don’t always have to put your money in inflation hedges, they can be helpful if you notice the market is heading into an inflationary period. 

The post 5 Best Hedges in the Face of Inflation appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com