Tag: programs

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.

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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.

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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

What credit card should I get?

One of the questions I’m asked the most is, “Which credit card should I get?”

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, but here’s how to narrow it down:

Which credit card to choose if you carry a balance 

If you’re in credit card debt, then you need to prioritize your interest rate over rewards. The average credit card charges 16.05%. It doesn’t make sense to pay interest just to earn 1%, 2% or 3% in cash back or travel points.

If you have credit card debt, forget about rewards for now. You can avoid interest for up to 18 months with the right balance transfer card. And some card issuers (especially credit unions) charge ongoing (non-promotional) rates as low as the 6%-9% range. Don’t chase rewards if you’re revolving a balance.

If you have credit card debt, I recommend these cards:

  • Citi Simplicity® Card*: 18-month 0% intro balance transfer offer; transfers must be completed in the first four months; 3% balance transfer fee ($5 minimum); 0% introductory purchase APR for 18 months; regular variable APR of 14.74%-24.74%
  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card: 15-month 0% intro balance transfer offer on qualifying balance transfers; intro balance transfer fee of 3% or $5 (whichever is greater); transfers must be made within 120 days to qualify for intro offer; 0% intro purchase APR for 15 months; regular variable APR of 14.49%-24.99%; regular balance transfer fee of 5% or $5 (whichever is greater)
  • BankAmericard® credit card: 12-billing-cycle 0% intro APR balance transfer offer; must complete the transfer within 60 days of opening the account; 3% or $10 transfer fee, whichever is greater; introductory 0% purchase APR for 12 billing cycles; regular variable APR of 12.99-22.99% on purchases and balance transfers

See related: Balance transfer cards with no transfer fee

Which card to pick if you don’t have any credit card debt 

Now we’re on to the fun stuff! The key questions at this juncture focus on how much effort you want to put in, how you spend your money and what you want to get out of your rewards.

Some people treat credit card rewards like a game. It’s fun for them, and they spend time looking for the best deals and juggling multiple cards. Yet about three-quarters of credit card holders prefer simplicity and would rather use the same card or two as widely as possible, we found in an August 2019 survey.

You won’t get the best rewards with that approach, but you can still do pretty well. Here are my favorite flat-rate cash back cards:

  • Alliant Visa Signature Card: 2.5% cash back on every purchase with a $99 annual fee (waived your first year)
  • Citi® Double Cash Card: Essentially 2% cash back on everything (technically 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay it off); no annual fee

If you make more than $20,000 in credit card charges in a typical year, the Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature is a better bet despite the annual fee.

Which card to pick if you’re willing to put in a little work to earn better rewards 

Dividing your spending among multiple cards is the best way to reap higher returns. At this stage, you need to consider how you spend your money. Different cards incentivize different types of spending (e.g., travel, restaurants, groceries, entertainment).

You also need to think about your desired redemption. Cash back has the broadest appeal (after all, who couldn’t use a little more cash?), although travel rewards are usually the most valuable. Some 49% of U.S. adults have at least one cash back card, 20% have an airline or hotel rewards card and 19% have a general travel rewards card, our research shows.

Chase Sapphire Reserve, the American Express® Gold Card, the Citi Premier® Card and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card).

Each of these issuers has more than a dozen airline and hotel transfer partners, plus you can book an even wider variety of flights and hotels directly through the card companies. These programs provide tons of flexibility, and in terms of cents per point, they generally offer higher returns than cash back cards.

Parting advice

As you can see, picking the right credit card for you is an individual decision. I’ll leave you with two more thoughts:

You’re doing well as long as you’re avoiding credit card debt and redeeming rewards for something that’s valuable to you.

Not everyone wants to fly to the Maldives in first-class and stay in an overwater bungalow. Even if it yields fewer cents per point, a free flight to grandma’s house or cash back on everyday purchases could make more sense for your particular situation.

You should absolutely consider sign-up bonuses when evaluating credit cards, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your credit card strategy should be a long-term pursuit. Especially if you’re new to credit, focus on ongoing value rather than card churning.

* Information about Citi Simplicity has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuers did not provide the details, nor are they responsible for their accuracy.

Source: creditcards.com

Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next

mortgage forbearanceSEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

Millions of Americans struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments because of COVID-19 have received relief through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But mortgage forbearance is only temporary, and set to expire soon, leaving many homeowners who are still struggling perplexed on what to do next.

Enacted in March, the CARES Act initially granted a 180-day forbearance, or pause in payments, to homeowners with mortgages backed by the federal government or a government-sponsored enterprise such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Furthermore, some private lenders also granted mortgage forbearance of 90 days or more to financially distressed homeowners.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 8.39% of loans were in forbearance as of June 28, representing an estimated 4.2 million homeowners nationwide.

So what are affected homeowners to do when the forbearance goes away? You have options, so it’s well worth contacting your lender to explore what’s best for you.

“If you know you’re going to be unable to meet the terms of your forbearance agreement at its maturity, you should call your loan servicer immediately and see what options they may be able to offer to you,” says Abel Carrasco, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Advisors in St. Petersburg, FL.

Exactly what’s available depends on the fine print in the terms of your mortgage forbearance agreement. Here’s an overview of some possible avenues to explore if you still can’t pay your mortgage after the forbearance period ends.

Extend your mortgage forbearance

One simple option is to contact your lender to request an extension.

Homeowners granted forbearance under the CARES Act can request a 180-day extension, giving them a total of 360 days of forbearance, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The key is to contact your lender well before your forbearance expires. If you let it expire without an extension, your lender could impose penalties.

“If you just stop making regular, scheduled payments, you could have a late mortgage payment on your credit,” warns Carrasco. “That could severely impact refinancing or purchasing another property in the immediate future and potentially subject you to foreclosure.”

Keep in mind, though, a forbearance simply delays payments, meaning they’ll still need to be made in the future. It doesn’t mean payments are forgiven.

Refinance to lower your mortgage payment

Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, hovering around 3%. So if you can swing it, this may be a great time to refinance your home, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

Refinancing could come with some hefty fees, however, ranging from 2% to 6% of your loan amount. But it could be worth it.

A lower interest rate will likely lower your monthly payment and save you thousands over the life of your mortgage. Dropping your interest rate from 4.125% to 3% could save more than $40,000 over 30 years, for example, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Lenders have tightened standards, though, so you will need to show that you are a good candidate for refinancing,” Kapfidze says. You’ll need a good credit score of 620 or higher.

As long as you’ve kept up your end of the forbearance terms, having a mortgage forbearance shouldn’t affect your credit score, or your ability to refinance or qualify for another mortgage.

Ask for a loan modification

Many lenders are offering an assortment of programs to help homeowners under hardship because of the pandemic, says Christopher Sailus, vice president and mortgage product manager at WaFd Bank.

“Lenders quickly recognized the severity of the economic situation due to the pandemic, and put programs into place to defer payments or help reduce them,” he says.

A loan modification is one such option. This enables homeowners at risk of default to change the terms of their original mortgage—such as payment amount, interest rate, or length of the loan—to reduce monthly payments and clear up any delinquencies.

Loan modifications may affect your credit score, but not as much as a foreclosure. Some lenders charge fees for loan modifications, but others, like WaFd, provide them at no cost.

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Watch: 5 Things to Know About Selling a Home Amid the Pandemic

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Put your home on the market

It may seem like a strange time to sell your home, with COVID-19 cases growing, unemployment rising, and the economy on shaky ground. But, it’s actually a great time to sell a house.

Pending home sales jumped 44.3% in May, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ Pending Home Sales Index, the largest month-over-month growth since the index began in 2001.

Home inventory remains low, and buyer demand is up with many hoping to jump on the low interest rates. Prices are up, too. The national median home price increased 7.7% in the first quarter of 2020, to $274,600, according to NAR.

So if you can no longer afford your home and have plenty of equity built up, listing your home may be a smart move. (Home equity is the market value of your home minus how much you still owe on your mortgage.)

Consider foreclosure as a last resort

Foreclosure may be the only option for many homeowners, especially if you fall too behind on your mortgage payments and can’t afford to sell or refinance. In May, more than 7% of mortgages were delinquent, a 20% increase from April, according to mortgage data and analytics firm Black Knight.

“When to begin a foreclosure process will vary from lender to lender and client to client,” Sailus says. “Current and future state and federal legislation, statutes, or regulations will impact the process, as will the individual homeowner’s situation and their ability to repay.”

Foreclosures won’t begin until after a forbearance period ends, he adds.

The CARES Act prohibited lenders from foreclosing on mortgages backed by the government or government-sponsored enterprise until at least Aug. 31. Several states, including California and Connecticut, also issued temporary foreclosure moratoriums and stays.

Once these grace periods (and forbearance timelines) end, and homeowners miss payments, they could face foreclosure, Carrasco says. When a loan is flagged as being in foreclosure, the balance is due and legal fees accumulate, requiring homeowners to pay off the loan (usually by selling) and vacating the property.

“Absent participation in an agreed-upon forbearance, deferment, repayment plan, or loan modification, loan servicers historically may begin the foreclosure process after as few as three months of missed mortgage payments,” he explains. “This is unfortunately often the point of no return.”

The post Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier

6 Signs Your personal finance software makes life easier

6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier

Finding personal finance software is easy, because there are countless choices in mobile apps, online programs, and finance software you can run on your home computer. But they’re certainly not equal. Personal finance software should make your life simpler, not more complicated, and it should be customizable for your particular life, goals, and needs. You know you’ve found great software when your financial life becomes easier over time. Here are 6 signs your personal finance software makes life easier.

1. You Haven’t Paid a Late Fee in Months

Does your personal finance software let you know in advance of when bills are due? It should be easy to set up automated alerts that tell you a few days before monthly, quarterly, or yearly bills are due, so you can take care of them and avoid annoying and guilt-inducing late fees. Ideally your software should notify you by text, so you’ll be sure and get the message whatever you’re doing and wherever you are.

2. Spending Categories Correspond to Your Actual Life

When personal finance software requires you to shoehorn your actual spending patterns into pre-set spending categories, the result can be confusion and frustration. Look for software that lets you create an unlimited number of spending categories you can customize. Do you buy your employees breakfast once a month? You can make a spending category for it. Are you a coffee or microbrew aficionado? You can make a spending category for it. Your budget should conform to your life, not the other way around.

3. You See How Trimming Budget Fat Affects Financial Goals

Sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it to hold back at the grocery store after a long day or when buying Christmas presents. But when your personal finance software shows you exactly how disciplined spending helps you achieve your financial goals, like a vacation or paying off a loan, it’s easy to avoid giving in to those little temptations you face every day. When you can see how your discipline pays off, you’re more likely to stick with your good habits.

Start now: Get budgeting software from Mint to help manage your finances and make everyday life simpler by clicking here.

4. You May Have Faced One or Two Painful Truths

Powerful personal finance software can tell you things like how much you spent on fast food last week, or how much you’ve paid in non-network ATM fees this month. Sometimes, getting control of your personal finances means facing some harsh truths, like how much those little extras add up to. Your software should also be able to tell you how much more quickly you can reach financial goals if you cut a certain dollar amount from various spending categories. It’s a great way to stay on track to your goals.

Meeting finance goals with personal finance software5. You Know Exactly How Close You Are to Meeting Financial Goals

Maybe you want to save for retirement, or build up a down payment on a home. Your personal finance software should show you exactly how close you are to your goal at any time. You should also be able to receive monthly emails that track your progress and see how your everyday spending decisions affect how much you’ll have left over at the end of the month. Don’t settle for software that doesn’t let you track your progress easily.

6. Your Personal Finance Software Goes With You Everywhere

Personal finance software that links your computer and your mobile devices empowers you to make smart spending choices anytime, anywhere. Thinking about buying an item you unexpectedly find on sale? You can check your account balances right on your phone and know instantly if you can afford it. You can also set up convenient alerts that can tell you right away such things as whether you’re approaching your credit limits on your credit cards.

Personal finance software has come a long way since the days you had to manually enter checkbook balances and draft amounts. Today’s software offers an astonishing array of features that not only help you achieve financial goals, but actually make your everyday life easier. And when it links your accounts to your computer and your mobile devices, like Mint does, you have all the budget tools you need, wherever you go.

Start now: Get budgeting software from Mint to help manage your finances and make everyday life simpler by clicking here.

The post 6 Signs Your Personal Finance Software Makes Life Easier appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Get the Best Deals From Bank of America?

Bank of America, like most banks, offer several bonuses, either from their credit cards, checking or savings accounts. These deals can be either cash rewards, bonus points, etc. For example, open this credit card then you get a $200 cash rewards bonus. In the past, if you refer a friend, Bank of America would pay you $50 referral bonus. But Bank of America has discontinued the referral bonus when you refer a friend.

SAVINGS ACCOUNTCIT Savings Builder – Earn 0.85% APY. Here’s how it works: Make at least a $100 minimum deposit every month. Or Maintain a minimum balance of $25k. Member FDIC. Click Here to Learn More.

Bank of America “refer a friend & cash rewards” bonus program

While Bank of America does not have a cash reward bonus when you refer a friend, there are cash rewards when you yourself get approved for a particular credit card.

Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • Receive $200 cash rewards bonus after you make $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. Also, you get to choose how to collect your rewards.
  • Plus, earn 3% cash back when you shop for: gas, online shopping, drug stores, home improvements, dining or travel.
  • Get 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee. Go to Bank of America’s homepage to take advantage of this credit card referral bonus.

Travel Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points when you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. You can redeem it for a $250 credit toward your travel purchases.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 bonus points for every $1 spent on all purchases.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card.

Again Bank of America offers no referral bonus when you refer a friend, but this credit card has great deals and promotions.

  • 50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 2 points for every 1$ spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Get $200 in travel statement credit.

Make sure you take a look at other Bank of America Promotions.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a cash reward deal when you refer a friend to Bank of America, you will not find any at this time. But there are several credit cards with great cash rewards. For more cash back deals, rewards or future referral bonus programs and promotions, check Bank of America’s deals here. The site guarantees no coupons or promo codes. You just activate your deals and go.

Here are other popular Bank promotions deals!

  • CIT Bank Savings Builder Account. 0.85% APY. Maintain a minimum balance of $25k OR make at least $100 minimum deposit every month. FDIC insured. Read our review here.
  • CIT Bank Money Market Account – 1.00% APY. $100 minimum opening deposit. No monthly maintenance fee. FDIC insured.  Read our review here.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

If you have questions about your finances, 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 How to Get the Best Deals From Bank of America? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Escape your home for a safe holiday staycation

With the 2020 holidays upon us, it’s likely you’ve spent some time considering how you’ll have a COVID-safe celebration. Should you stay? Should you go? Is travel to your family even an option this year as some states impose new travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine periods?

Perhaps for safety’s sake, you’ve decided to stay put. But you also recognize that being “home for the holidays” doesn’t have the same cozy appeal as it used to when you’ve already been home working from home for months on end. What you might need is a staycation – the getaway for when you can’t get away.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

Get away for the holidays without going away

Traditionally, when we think about holiday travel, we’re most likely planning how to get ourselves to a faraway destination – whether that’s to see family across the country, or to flee from some combination of family, holiday hustles and winter weather.

This year, I’ve personally decided I won’t be among the holiday crowds attempting to fly on the busiest travel days of the year. Instead, I’ll be sticking closer to home, celebrating in my own city with a staycation – and testing a theory that there is no place like a Hyatt for the holidays.

If you’re planning to stay close to home like me, here’s some good news: Your credit card points work just as well for living it up in luxury in your hometown as they do when you’re on the road.

Some more good news: You’ll save lots of points and dollars by not flying anywhere this holiday – so go ahead and book the suite!

How to use your credit card points to book a staycation

If you live in or near a city, finding a hotel to tuck into for a few days over the holiday period should be pretty straightforward.

To plan a staycation, I normally start by checking what’s available near me by searching the website for each of the hotel groups in whose loyalty programs I participate.

Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I found plenty of options at varying price points when I looked up Marriott, IHG, Hilton and Hyatt – the four hotel programs in which I currently have points.

For example, a few weeks ago, I decided to take an early holiday staycation at the Hyatt Centric Downtown Portland. I chose the hotel because of its location right in the middle of the city, and because Hyatt has a 25% points-back offer on award stays and free parking for The World of Hyatt Credit Card holders through the end of the year.

I paid 30,000 World of Hyatt points for a two-night stay, got 7,500 points back, and got upgraded to a suite thanks to my World of Hyatt elite status. Without points, the suite would have cost $355 dollars a night – plus the free valet parking saved me another $47 a day. I was able to get a $804 value for 22,500 rewards points. Even though I was less than two miles from my actual house, I felt a world away.

How to use travel rewards to book a staycation

If you don’t already have a hotel-branded rewards credit card for earning points in a specific hotel program like World of Hyatt, or if you live in a location where there aren’t many chain hotels, you’ll likely have more luck booking a staycation using travel rewards points.

You can book directly through the respective program’s travel planning portal. Flexible bank programs include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points.

Once you find a hotel you want to visit, and before you make the booking, you’ll want to check to make sure the hotel amenities that excite you for your staycation are going to be open and accessible.

Other than being snuggled up in a warm bed that I didn’t make myself, the best part of my staycation weekend at the Hyatt Centric Portland was the food.

Masia, the hotel’s signature restaurant designed by Portland’s award-winning Spanish chef Jose Chesa, was finally open and serving after a long COVID closure. Since I live in a city where indoor dining still hasn’t made a full comeback (and is now taking a pause for the holiday season), it was a rather delightful experience to spend two mornings lingering over a long breakfast.

If you’re booking more than a week in advance, you should also make sure your reservation is flexible or cancelable should your own plans change, or the COVID regulations in your state or county change and require the hotel to amend their offerings.

creditcards.com

VA Loan Myths

Because of their complexity relative to other mortgage programs, VA loans are the subject of plenty of different myths. Some of these myths are based on truths, but what you hear can end up being very misleading, and it could be entirely untrue.

If you were to take these myths at face value without doing your own research, you might miss out on one of the best mortgage products available. Here’s the truth to some of the biggest myths surrounding VA loans:

Click to check today’s VA rates.

Myth #1: VA loans can only be used once

Because of how useful VA loans can be, some people believe they’re too good to be true. The myth VA loans can only be used once is completely false, but it’s easy to see where this mistaken idea might have come from. If you currently have a VA loan, you are not eligible for a second one.

However, this doesn’t mean you aren’t eligible for a second VA loan ever again.

Once you pay off your current VA loan, you’re eligible to use the program again. There are some small differences after the first time, such as a slightly higher cost at closing. But aside from the small differences, your second VA loan will be similar to the first one that you paid off.

Myth #2: VA members are guaranteed a mortgage

Nobody is guaranteed any type of mortgage, regardless of which mortgage program they’re applying for or whether they’re veterans. You must be approved for a mortgage, which means — depending on which program you choose — meeting credit requirements and having a specific debt-to-income ratio, among other factors.

When a lender says a VA loan is “guaranteed,” they mean the VA backs the loan. The VA guarantee is there to tell veterans they can get a mortgage with no required down payment, competitive mortgage rates and other benefits.

You can learn more about what “guaranteed” means here.

Myth #3: VA appraisals are impossible to pass

It is true that VA appraisals can be stricter than an appraisal with a different mortgage type. But that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to pass, and many VA home buyers don’t have any trouble with the VA appraisal at all. Because the VA is backing the home, they want to confirm it’s in good and livable condition before they approve any type of loan.

If you are applying for a VA loan and want to have a quick, speedy appraisal process, check here for some tips on how to pass the appraisal.

Check your VA eligibility.

Myth #4: Today’s home prices require a higher down payment

There’s no denying home prices have increased over the past decade. This has made homes harder to afford for many would-be home buyers, since down payments are usually used to lower the costs of monthly payments. The higher the downpayment, the lower the monthly payments.

Here’s the truth: with a VA loan, you don’t need to make a down payment and you can still afford a house. The key to buying an affordable home isn’t the size of the down payment, but finding a home within your means.

Many VA members purchase a home without a large down payment. In March, the average down payment for a VA loan was just two percent – below the minimum 3.5% required by FHA loans, and much lower than the traditional 20%.

While a larger down payment will lower your monthly costs, you probably don’t need to make a larger downpayment to be eligible for a VA loan.

Myth #5: VA loans take forever

When comparing FHA loans, conventional loans and VA loans, VA loans are typically the slowest program. According to mortgage software giant Ellie Mae’s October 2020 Origination Report, VA loans took an average of 54 days to close.

By comparison, FHA loans took 52 days to close, and conventional loans took an average of 54 days as well.

So yes, a VA loan is likely going to take longer to close than another program. However, a difference of 2-3 days is small when you consider how much lower VA rates are.

VA loans are slower than other mortgage types, but they do not take forever.

Click to start the VA home buying process.

Myth #6: Surviving spouses don’t qualify for VA mortgages

Actually, many spouses of veterans can qualify for a VA home loan.

Generally, the spouse must be un-remarried and the veteran must have died during service or from service-connected causes. But there are exceptions and other ways a surviving spouse can be eligible.

And, surviving spouses are exempt from paying the VA funding fee. To confirm your eligibility, your VA loan officer will request your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and verify that it has Entitlement Code 06.

Myth #7: All realtors are good VA home loan advisors

There is no VA loan certification for real estate agents. As a result, you shouldn’t look to your real estate agent for reliable information about VA loans. And an underinformed real estate agent can unintentionally push VA-eligible borrowers towards programs that might be less advantageous for them.

Instead, you should get your VA loan facts from a VA specialty lender whose primary product is VA-backed loans.

The VA loan facts are hard to beat

The proliferation of myths about VA loans can obscure the fact this is simply one of the best loan products available to aspiring home buyers.

The VA loan rates available to eligible buyers — combined with the low down payments — are hard to beat with a conventional or FHA loan. But with a little research and a well-informed VA lender, you could be on your way to a VA home loan.

Click to check today’s VA rates.

Source: militaryvaloan.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

The Highest Paying Trade Jobs On the Market

Pursuing a four-year degree or higher isn’t for everyone. If you fall into that group, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a high-paying job. There are a surprising number of trade jobs that pay salaries at or above careers that require a four-year degree. They pay well because they’re in demand and are expected to grow for the foreseeable future.

To earn that kind of money, you’ll need to land one of the best trade jobs. And while they may not require a four-year degree, most do require some type of specialized education, typically an associate’s degree (which you can often get from an online college). That has a lot of advantages by itself, because a two-year education is a lot less expensive than a full four-year program.

I covered the best jobs with no college degree previously, and this post is specifically about trade jobs. Choose one that interests you – and fits within your income expectations – then read the description for it. I’ve given you the requirements to enter the trade, the income, working conditions, employment projections and any required education. After reading this guide, you’ll already be on your way to your new career!

Benefits of Pursuing Trade Jobs

For a lot of young people, going to a four-year college is the default choice. But when you see how well the trade jobs pay, and how much less education they require, I think you’ll be interested.

Apart from income, here are other benefits to the best trade jobs:

  • You’ll need only a two-year degree or less, so you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars on your education.
  • You’ll graduate and begin earning money in half as much time as it will take you to complete a four-year degree.
  • Since trade jobs are highly specialized, you’ll mainly be taking courses related to the job, and less of the general courses that are required with a four-year degree.
  • Some schools provide job placement assistance to help you land that first position.
  • Since most of these jobs are in strong demand, the likelihood of finding a job quickly after graduation is very high.

Still another major benefit is geographic mobility, if that’s important to you. Since the best trade jobs are in demand virtually everywhere in the country, you’ll be able to choose where you want to live. Or if life takes one of those strange turns – that it tends to do – you’ll be able to make a move easily without needing to worry about finding a job. There’s an excellent chance one will be waiting for you wherever you go.

The Best Paying Trade Jobs

The table below shows some of the highest paying trades you can enter without a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, most do require at least an associate’s degree (AA) or equivalent education. Not surprisingly, occupations in the medical field are the most common.

The salary indicated is the median for the entire country. But there are large differences from one area of the country to another. Salary information is taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Trade Median Salary Education Requirement
Air traffic controllers $122,990 AA or BS from Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative Program
Radiation therapists $85,560 AA degree
Nuclear technicians (nuclear research and energy) $82,080 AA degree
Nuclear medicine technologists $77,950 AA degree
Dental hygienists $76,220 AA degree
Web developers $73,760 AA degree
Diagnostic medical sonographers $68,750 AA degree
MRI technologists $62,280 AA degree
Paralegals $51,740 AA degree
Licensed practical nurses $47,480 AA degree or state approved educational program

The table doesn’t list other common trades, like electricians, plumbers, elevator repair techs, welders or mechanics. To enter those fields you’ll usually need to participate in an apprentice program sponsored by an employer, though there may be certain courses you’ll need to complete.

The Best Trade Jobs in Detail

The table above summarized the best trade jobs, as well as the median salary and the basic educational requirements. Below is additional information specific to each job – and more important – why it’s a career worth considering.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers coordinate aircraft both on the ground and in the air around airports. They work in control towers, approach control facilities or route centers. The pay is nearly $123,000 per year, and the job outlook is stable.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need at least an associate’s degree, and sometimes a bachelor’s degree, that must be issued by the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative Program. There are only 29 colleges across the country that offer the program. Some of the more recognizable names include Arizona State University, Kent State University, Purdue University, Southern New Hampshire University (SHNU), and the University of Oklahoma.

Job Challenges: The limited number of colleges offering the program may be inconvenient for you. The job also requires complete concentration, which can be difficult to maintain over a full shift. You’ll also be required to work nights, weekends, and even rotating shifts. And since the pay is high and demand for air traffic controllers expected to be flat over the next few years, there’s a lot of competition for the positions.

Why you may want to become an air traffic controller:

  • The pay is an obvious factor – it’s much higher than most jobs that require a bachelor’s degree.
  • You have a love for aviation and want to be in the middle of where the action is.
  • Jobs are available at small private and commercial airports, as well as major metropolitan airports.

Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists are critical in the treatment of cancer and other diseases that require radiation treatments. The work is performed mostly in hospitals and outpatient centers, but can also be in physician offices. Income is well over $85,000 per year, and the field is expected to grow by 9% over the next decade, which is faster than average for the job market at large.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy, and licensing is required in most states. That usually involves passing a national certification exam.

Job Challenges: You’ll be working largely with cancer patients, so you’ll need a keen sensitivity to the patient’s you’re working with. You’ll need to be able to explain the treatment process and answer questions patients might have. There may also be the need to provide some degree of emotional support. Also, if you’re working in a hospital, the position may involve working nights and weekends.

Why you may want to become a radiation therapist:

  • You have a genuine desire to help in the fight against cancer.
  • The medical field offers a high degree of career and job stability.
  • The position pays well and typically comes with a strong benefits package.

Nuclear Technicians

Nuclear technicians work in nuclear research and energy. They provide assistance to physicists, engineers, and other professionals in the field. Work will be performed in offices and control rooms of nuclear power plants, using computers and other equipment to monitor and operate nuclear reactors. The pay level is about $82,000 per year, and job growth is expected to be slightly negative.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need an associate’s degree in nuclear science or a nuclear related technology. But you’ll also need to complete extensive on-the-job training once you enter the field.

Job Challenges: There is some risk of exposure to radiation, though all possible precautions are taken to keep that from happening. And because nuclear power plants run continuously, you should expect to do shift work that may also include a variable schedule. The biggest challenge may be that the field is expected to decline slightly over the next 10 years. But that may be affected by public attitudes toward nuclear energy, especially as alternative energy sources are developed.

Why you may want to become a nuclear technician:

  • You get to be on the cutting edge of nuclear research.
  • Compensation is consistent with the better paying college jobs, even though it requires only half as much education.
  • There may be opportunities to work in other fields where nuclear technician experience is a job requirement.
  • It’s the perfect career if you prefer not dealing with the general public.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs that are administered to patients for imaging or therapeutic procedures. You’ll typically be working in a hospital, but other possibilities are imaging clinics, diagnostic laboratories, and physician’s offices. The position pays an average of $78,000 per year, and demand is expected to increase by 7% over the next decade.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need an Associates degree from an accredited nuclear medicine technology program. In most states, you’ll also be required to become certified.

Job Challenges: Similar to radiation therapists, you’ll need to be sensitive to patient needs, and be able to explain procedures and therapies. If you’re working in a hospital, you may be required to work shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays.

Why you may want to become a nuclear medicine technologist:

  • You have a strong desire to work in the healthcare field, participating in the healing process.
  • Nuclear medicine technologists are in demand across the country, so you can choose your location.
  • The field has an unusual level of job stability, as well as generous compensation and benefits.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists provide dental preventative care and examine patients for various types of oral disease. They work almost entirely in dentists offices, and can be either full-time or part-time. The annual income is over $76,000, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a healthy 11% growth rate over the next decade.

Education/Training Required: An associate’s degree in dental hygiene, though it usually takes three years to complete rather than the usual two. Virtually all states require dental hygienists to be licensed, though requirements vary by state.

Job Challenges: You’ll need to be comfortable working in people’s mouths, some of whom may have extensive gum disease or poor dental hygiene. But you also need to have a warm bedside manner. Many people are not comfortable going to the dentist, let alone having their teeth cleaned, and you’ll need to be able to keep them calm during the process.

Why you may want to become a dental hygienist:

  • Dental hygienists have relatively regular hours. Though some offices may offer early evening hours and limited Saturday hours, you’ll typically be working during regular business hours only.
  • You can work either full-time or part-time. Part-time is very common, as well as rewarding with an average hourly pay of $36.65.
  • Dental hygienists can work anywhere there’s a dental office, which is pretty much everywhere in the Western world.

Web Developers

Web developers design and create websites, making the work a nice mix of technical and creative. They work in all types of environments, including large and small companies, government agencies, small businesses, and advertising agencies. Some are even self-employed. With an average annual income of nearly $74,000, jobs in the field are expected to grow by 13% over the next decade. That means web developers have a promising future.

Education/Training Required: Typically an associates degree, but that’s not hard and fast. Large companies may require a bachelor’s degree, but it’s also possible to enter the field with a high school diploma and plenty of experience designing websites. It requires a knowledge of both programming and graphic design.

Job Challenges: You’ll need the ability to concentrate for long stretches, as well as to follow through with both editing and troubleshooting of the web platforms you develop. Good customer service skills and a lot of patience are required, since employers and clients are given to change direction, often with little notice.

Why you may want to become a web developer:

  • It’s an excellent field for anyone who enjoys working with computers, and has a strong creative streak.
  • Web designers are needed in just about every area of the economy, giving you a wide choice of jobs and industries, as well as geographic locations.
  • This is one occupation that can lead to self-employment. It can be done as a full-time business, but it can also make the perfect side hustle.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Diagnostic medical sonographers operate special imaging equipment designed to create images for aid in patient diagnoses. Most work in hospitals where the greatest need is, but some also work in diagnostic labs and physician’s offices. The pay is nearly $69,000 per year, and the field is expected to expand by 14%, which is much faster than the rest of the job market.

Education/Training Required: Most typically only an associate’s degree in the field, or at least a postsecondary certificate from a school specializing in diagnostic medical sonography.

Job Challenges: Similar to other health related fields, you’ll need to have a calm disposition at all times. Many of the people you’ll be working with have serious health issues, and you may need to be a source of comfort while you’re doing your job. You’ll need to develop a genuine compassion for the patients you’ll be working with.

Why you may want to become a diagnostic medical sonographer

  • The field has an exceptionally high growth rate, promising career stability.
  • As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you’ll be able to find work in just about any community you choose to live in.
  • It’s an opportunity to earn a college level income with just a two-year degree.

MRI Technologists

As an MRI technologist, you’ll be performing diagnostic imaging exams and operating magnetic resonance imaging scanners. About half of all positions are in hospitals, with the rest employed in other healthcare facilities, including outpatient clinics, diagnostic labs, and physician’s offices. The average pay is over $62,000 per year, and the field is expected to grow by 9% over the next 10 years.

Education/Training Required: You’ll need an associate’s degree in MRI technology, and even though very few states require licensing, employers often prefer candidates who are. MRI technologists often start out as radiologic technologists, eventually transitioning into MRI technologists.

Job Challenges: Similar to other healthcare occupations, you’ll need to have both patience and compassion in working with patients. You’ll also need to be comfortable working in windowless offices and labs during the workday.

Why you may want to become an MRI technologist:

  • With more than 250,000 jobs across the country, you’re pretty much guaranteed of finding work on your own terms.
  • You’ll typically be working regular business hours, though you may do shift work and weekends and holidays if you work at a hospital.
  • Solid job growth means you can look forward to career stability and generous benefits.

Paralegals

Paralegals assist lawyers, mostly by doing research and preparing legal documents. Client contact can range between frequent and nonexistent, depending on the law office you’re working in. But while most paralegals do work for law firms, many are also employed in corporate legal departments and government agencies. The position averages nearly $52,000 per year and is expected to grow by 12% over the next 10 years.

Education/Training Required: Technically speaking there are no specific education requirements for a paralegal. But most employers won’t hire you unless you have at least an associate’s degree, as well as a paralegal certification.

Job Challenges: You’ll need to have a willingness to perform deep research. And since you’ll often be involved in preparing legal documents, you’ll need a serious eye for detail. You’ll also need to be comfortable with the reality that much of what takes place in a law office involves conflict between parties. You may find yourself in the peacemaker role more than occasionally. There’s also a strong variation in pay between states and even cities. For example, while average pay in Washington DC is over $70,000 per year, it’s only about $48,000 in Tampa.

Why you may want to become a paralegal:

  • There are plenty of jobs in the field, with more than 325,000. That means you’ll probably be able to find a job anywhere in the country.
  • You’ll have a choice of work environments, whether it’s a law office, large company, or government agency.
  • You can even choose the specialization since many law firms work in specific niches. For example, one firm may specialize in real estate, another in family law, and still another in disability cases.

Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurses provide basic nursing care, often assisting registered nurses. There are more than 700,000 positions nationwide, and jobs are available in hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, extended care facilities, and even private homes. With an average pay level of over $47,000 per year, the field is expected to grow by 11% over the next decade.

Education/Training Required: At a minimum, you’ll need to complete a state approved LPN education program, which will take a year to complete. But many employers prefer candidates to have an associate’s degree, and will likely pay more if you do. As medical caregivers, LPNs must also be licensed in all states.

Job Challenges: As an LPN, just as is the case with registered nurses, you’ll be on the front line of the healthcare industry. That means constant contact with patients and family members. You’ll need to be able to provide both care and comfort to all. If you’re working in a hospital, nursing home, or extended care facility, you’ll be doing shift work, including nights and weekends.

Why you may want to become a licensed practical nurse:

  • With jobs available at hospitals and care facilities across the country, you’ll have complete geographic mobility as well as a choice of facilities.
  • You may be able to parlay your position into registered nursing by completing the additional education requirements while working as an LPN.
  • Though most positions are full-time, it may be possible to get a part-time situation if that’s your preference.

Start On Your Career Path by Enrolling in a Trade School

If you want to enter any of the trades above, or one of the many others that also have above average pay and opportunity, you’ll need to enroll in a trade school. However, in many cases it will be better to get the necessary education – especially an associate’s degree – at a local community college. Not only are they usually the least expensive places to get higher education, but there’s probably one close to your home.

Steps to enrolling in a trade school

Whether you go to a community college, a trade school, or enroll in a certificate program, use the following strategy:

  1. Develop a short list of the schools you want to attend to give yourself some choices.
    Make sure any school you’re considering is accredited.
  2. Do some digging and make sure the school you want to attend has a job placement office with a solid record of success.
  3. Complete an application form with the school, but be sure to do it well in advance of the beginning of the semester or school year.
  4. Apply for any financial aid that may be available. You can use the tool below to get started.
  5. Consider whether you want to attend on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time will be quicker, but part-time will enable you to earn money while you’re getting your certificate or degree, as well as spread the cost of your schooling over several years.

Tax credits can help you afford your education

Even if you don’t qualify for financial aid, the government may still be able to help by providing tax credits. Tax credits can be even better than tax deductions, because they provide a direct reduction of your tax liability.

For example, the American Opportunity Credit is available for students for qualified education expenses paid for the first four years of higher education. The credit is $2,500 per year, covering 100% of the first $2,000 in qualified education expenses, plus 25% of the next $2,000.

Another credit is the Lifetime Learning Credit. It’s a credit for tuition and other education expenses paid for courses taken to acquire or improve job skills, including formal degree programs. The credit is worth up to $2,000 per tax return, based on 20% of education expenses up to $10,000 paid.

What to watch out for when looking for trade schools

When choosing a trade school it pays not to be too trusting. While that shouldn’t be a problem with community colleges, since they’re publicly accredited, there are a large number of for-profit trade schools that are not only expensive, but they often don’t have the best reputations. That isn’t to say all for-profit schools are scam artists, but the possibility is real.

Make sure the school is accredited by your state.
Don’t rely on assurances by the school that they’re accredited by some poorly known and totally unrecognized industry trade group.

Check out the school with reliable third-party sources.
This can include your state Department of Education, the Better Business Bureau, and even reviews on Yelp or other social media sites. If the school has burned others, you could be a future victim.

Interview people already working in your chosen field.
They’re likely to know which schools are legitimate, and which have a less than savory reputation.

Don’t ignore cost!
Don’t pay $30,000 at a for-profit school when you can get the same education for half as much at a community college. This will be even more important if you will be using student loans to pay for your education. Overpaying for school means you’ll be overpaying on your student loan.

How We Found the Best Trade Jobs of 2021

Just so you know our list of the best trade jobs isn’t just our opinion, we used the following methodology in including the occupations we did:

  • The occupations frequently appear on published lists of “the best jobs without a college degree”.
  • We focused on those occupations that appeared frequently across several lists.
  • We specifically chose fields that could best be considered semi-professional. That means that while they don’t require a four-year degree or higher, they do require at least some form of education, and in most cases, a certification. We consider this an important criteria, because career fields with a low entry bar can easily become saturated, forcing pay levels down.
  • As the table at the beginning of this guide discloses, statistical information for each of these occupations was obtained from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Summary: The Best Trade Jobs

If you’re a high school student, a recent high school graduate, or you’re already in the workforce and looking to make a career change, take a close look at these trade jobs. They pay salaries comparable to jobs that require a four-year college degree, but you can enter with just a two-year degree or less.

That will not only cut the time, cost, and effort in getting your education in half, but it will also enable you to begin earning high pay in only one or two years.

Pick the field that’s right for you, choose a reputable trade school or community college, then get started in time for the next semester.

The post The Highest Paying Trade Jobs On the Market appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com