Tag: investment

How To Retire At 50: 10 Easy Steps To Consider

Can you retire at 50? On average, people usually retire at 65. But what if you want to retire 15 years earlier than that like  at 50? Is it doable? Below are 10 easy steps to take to retire at 50.  Retiring early can be challenging. Therefore, SmartAsset’s free tool can match you with  a financial advisor who can help to work out and implement a retirement income strategy for you to maximize your money.

10 Easy & Simple Steps to Retire at 50:

1. How much you will need in retirement.

The first thing to consider is to determine how much you will need to retire at 50. This will vary depending on the lifestyle you want to have during retirement. If you desire a lavish one, you will certainly need a lot.

But according to a study by SmartAsset, 500k was found to be enough money to retire comfortably. But again that will depends on several factor.

For example, you will need to take into account where you want to live, the cost of living, how long you expect to live, etc.

Read: Can I Retire at 60 With 500k? Is It Enough?

A good way to know if 500k is possible to retire on is to consider the 4% rule. This rule is used to figure out how much a retiree should withdraw from his or her retirement account.

The 4% rule states that the money in your retirement savings account should last you through 30 years of retirement if you take out 4% of your retirement portfolio annually and then adjust each year thereafter for inflation.

So, if you plan on retiring at 50 with 500k for 30 years, using the 4% rule you will need to live on $20,000 a year. 

Again, this is just an estimation out there. You may need less or more depending on the factors mentioned above. For example, if you’re in good health and expect to live 40+ years after retiring at 50, $500,000 may not be enough to retire on. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a financial advisor.

Get Matched With 3 Fiduciary Financial Advisors
Managing your finances can be overwhelming. We recommend speaking with a financial advisor. The SmartAsset’s free matching tool will pair you with up to 3 financial advisors in your area.

Here’s how it works:

1. Answer these few easy questions about your current financial situation

2. In just under one minute, the tool will match you with up to three financial advisors based on your need.

3. Review the financial advisors profiles, interview them either by phone or in person, and choose the one that suits your’ needs.

Get Started Now>>>

2. Maximize your tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Once you have an idea of how much you need in order to retire at 50, your next step is to save as much as possible at a faster rate. If you are employed and you have a 401k plan available to you, you should definitely participate in it. Nothing can grow your retirement savings account faster than a 401k account.

See: How to Become a 401k Millionaire.

That means, you will need to maximize your 401k contributions, for example. In 2020, and for people under 50, the 401k contribution limit is $19,500.  Also, take advantage of your company match if your employee offers a match.

In addition to the maximum contribution of $19,500, your employer also contributes. Sometimes, they match dollar for dollar or 50 cents for each dollar the worker pays in.

In addition to a 401k plan, open or maximize your Roth or traditional IRA. For an IRA, it is $6,000. So, by maximizing your retirement accounts every year, your money will grow faster.

3. Invest in mutual or index funds. Apart from your retirement accounts (401k, Roth or Traditional IRA, SEP IRA, etc), you should invest in individual stocks or preferably in mutual funds. 

4. Cut out unnecessary expenses.

Someone with the goal of retiring at 50 needs to keep an eye on their spending and keep them as low as possible. We all know the phrase, “the best way to save money is to spend less.”

Well, this is true when it comes to retiring 15 years early than the average.  So, if you don’t watch TV, cancel Netflix or cable TV. If your cell phone bill is high, change plans or switch to another carrier. Don’t go to lavish vacations.

5. Keep an eye on taxes.

Taxes can eat away your profit. The more you can save from taxes, the more money you will have. Retirement accounts are a good way to save on taxes. Besides your company 401k plan, open a Roth or Traditional IRA.

6. Make more money.

Spending less is a great way to save money. But increasing your income is even better. If you need to retire at 50, you’ll need to be more aggressive. And the more money you earn, the more you will be able to save. And the faster you can reach your early retirement goal.

7. Speak with a financial advisor

Consulting with a financial advisor can help you create a plan to. More specifically, a financial advisor specializing in retirement planning can help you achieve your goals of retiring at 50. They can help put in a place an investment strategy to put you in the right track to retire at 50. You can easily find one in your local area by using SmartAsset’s free tool. It matches users with financial advisors in just under 5 minutes.  

8. Decide how you will spend your time in retirement.

If you will spend a lot of time travelling during retirement, then make sure you do research. Some countries like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, and so many others are good places to travel to in retirement because the cost of living is relatively cheap.

While other countries in Europe can be very expensive to travel to, which can eat away your retirement money.  If you decide to downsize or sell your home, you can free up more money to spend.

9. Financing the first 10 years.

There is a penalty of 10% if you cash out your retirement accounts before you reach the age of 59 1/2. Therefore, if you retire at 50, you’ll need to use money in other accounts like traditional savings or brokerage accounts. 

10. Put your Bonus, Raise, & Tax Refunds towards your retirement savings. 

If retiring at 50 years old is really your goal, then you should put all extra money towards your retirement savings. That means, if you receive a raise at work, put some of it towards your savings account.

If you get a tax refund or a bonus, use some of that money towards your retirement savings account. They can add up quickly and make retiring at 50 more of a reality than a dream.

Retiring at 50: The Bottom Line: 

So can I retire at 50? Retiring at 50 is possible. However, it’s not easy. After all, you’re trying to grow more money in less time. So, it will be challenging and will involve years of sacrifices, years living below your means and making tough financial decisions. However, it will be worth it in the long run. 

Read More:

  • How Much Is Enough For Retirement
  • How to Grow Your 401k Account
  • People Who Retire Comfortably Avoid These Financial Advisor Mistakes
  • 5 Simple Warning Signs You’re Definitely Not Ready for Retirement

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

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 to retire at 50, 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.

The post How To Retire At 50: 10 Easy Steps To Consider appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift

If you have a special child in your life, you may be wondering what to put under the tree this year. One long-lasting and truly meaningful way to show the child in your life that you care is by taking a few minutes to set up a UGMA/UTMA account and give them a leg up in life.

The earlier you open a UGMA or UTMA account for a child, the longer your initial gift has to grow, thanks to the magic of compound interest. For example, investing just $5 a day from birth at an 8% return could make that child a millionaire by the age of 50. By setting up a UGMA/UTMA account, you’re really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, that’s a gift they’re sure to remember!

What is a UGMA/UTMA account?

UGMA is an abbreviation for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. And UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Both UGMA and UTMA accounts are custodial accounts created for the benefit of a minor (or beneficiary).

The money in a UGMA/UTMA account can be used for educational expenses (like college tuition), along with anything that benefits the child – including housing, transportation, technology, and more. On the other hand, 529 plans can only be used for qualified educational expenses, like summer camps, school uniforms, or private school tuition and fees.

 

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use UGMA/UTMA funds to provide the child with items that parents or guardians would be reasonably expected to provide, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Another important point is that when you set up a UGMA/UTMA account, the money is irrevocably transferred to the child, meaning it cannot be returned to the donor.

 

Tax advantages of a UGMA/UTMA account

The contributions you make to a UGMA/UTMA account are not tax-deductible in the year that you make the contribution, and they are subject to gift tax limits. The income that you receive each year from the UGMA/UTMA account does have special tax advantages when compared to income that you would get in a traditional investment account, making it a great tax-advantaged option for you to invest in the child you love.

 

Here’s how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodian’s’ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the child’s (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodian’s regular tax rate.

A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts

While there’s no doubt that UGMA/UTMA accounts have several advantages and a place in your overall financial portfolio, there are a few things to consider before you open up a UGMA/UTMA account:

 

  • When the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21, depending on the specifics of the plan), the money is theirs, without restriction.
  • When the UGMA/UTMA funds are released, they are factored into the minor’s assets.
  • The value of these assets will factor into the minor’s financial aid calculations, and may play a big role in determining if they qualify for certain programs, such as SSDI and Medicaid.

Where you can open a UGMA/UTMA account

Many financial services companies and brokerages offer UGMA or UTMA accounts. One option is the Acorns Early program from Acorns. Acorns Early is a UGMA/UTMA account that is included with the Acorns Family plan, which costs $5 / month. Acorns Early takes 5 minutes to set up, and you can add multiple kids at no extra charge. The Acorns Family plan also includes  Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the family’s finances, from one easy app.

 

During a time where many of us are laying low this holiday season due to COVID-19, remember that presents don’t just need to be a material possession your loved one unwraps, and then often forgets about. Give the gift of lasting impact through a UGMA/UTMA account.

The post Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS)

What is the AAMS certification?New financial advisors need something to help them stand out. Consequently, the AAMS does just that. Designed for newcomers to the financial advice business, the AAMS trains advisors to identify investment opportunities as well as help clients with other financial goals. It also gives more experienced advisors a fast and simple way to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. Here’s how it works.

AAMS Defined

An Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) can advise clients on college savings, taxes, and retirement savings. The course and tests for this certification are designed to ensure advisors can assist clients with their complete financial needs. It emphasizes evaluating the client’s assets and making appropriate recommendations.

The AAMS certification is granted by the College for Financial Planning, a unit of the Kaplan Company. The college oversees a large number of financial certification programs, including the Certified Financial Planner designation, one of the most valued certifications in the field.

AAMS Certification Requirements

What is the AAMS certification?

To receive an AAMS, students first have to complete a 10-module education program provided by the College for Financial Planning. Then they have to pass an examination. Finally, they must agree to abide by a code of ethics and promise to continue their education.

The courses are online and can be delivered in self-study or instructor-led formats. Courses are open-enrollment, therefore students can begin at any time without waiting for the next session.  The 10 modules cover the following material:

1.:The Asset Management Process

2. Risk, Return & Investment Performance

3. Asset Allocation & Selection

4. Investment Strategies

5. Taxation of Investments

6. Investing for Retirement

7. Deferred Compensation and Other Benefit Plans

8. Insurance Products for Investment Clients

9. Estate Planning for Investment Clients

10. Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisors

The College of Financial Planning provides everything necessary to study for and complete the modules and take the test. Students have access to the study materials and tests through an online portal.

Streaming video lectures, audio files, and interactive quizzes also can be found through the college’s site. Meanwhile, students can access live classes online and contact professors with questions and issues.

The AAMS Test

To get the AAMS certification, students have to pass just one test. However, they have to make their first attempt at the test within six months of enrollment and pass it within a year.

The fee for the first attempt at taking the test is included in the course tuition. There are no prerequisites for signing up to take the AAMS course.

Time and Money Requirement

Tuition for the AAMS courses is $1,300. This includes the fee for the first attempt at passing the certification exam. It also includes all needed course materials. Each additional attempt costs $100.

Students employed with certain financial services firms may be able to get tuition discounts. The college may also provide scholarships.

The College for Financial Planning recommends students plan to spend 80 hours to 100 hours on the course. Since the course is self-study, this amount of time is flexible.

To maintain AAMS certification students have to commit to completing 16 continuing education credits every two years. Also, continuing education has to cover one or more of the topics covered in the AAMS coursework.

AAMS certificate holders also have to agree to follow a professional standard of conduct. As a result, they have to maintain integrity, objectivity, competency, confidentiality and professionalism in providing financial services.

AAMS Certificate Holder Jobs

AAMS certificates are generally earned by entry-level workers in the financial advice business. Consequently, AAMS holders are typically trainees. In some cases, they may provide support services to more experienced and highly credentialed advisors.

The AAMS designation does not confer any special powers or privileges. Instead, it’s an optional credential that students may obtain to advance their careers and enhance their knowledge of financial advice.

Comparable Certifications

What is the AAMS certification?

In addition to the AAMS, the College for Financial Planning offers an Accredited Wealth Manager Advisor (AWMA) certificate. This is a somewhat more advanced designation. As a result, it requires a course equivalent to three graduate level college credits and requires 90 hours to 135 hours to complete.

Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) is sponsored by the Investment Company Institute along with the College of Financial Planning. It is similar to the AAMS certificate except it focuses on mutual fund assets.

Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) is a general personal finance advice certificate from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. First, it requires 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience. Secondly, it demands three letters of reference. Finally, applicants must both complete coursework and pass an exam.

Bottom Line

The AAMS designation is usually for newly minted financial advisors, but even experienced pros can use it to bulk up their credentials. The courses and tests associated with the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations.

While this certification doesn’t give an advisor any real powers, it’s a sign that they can identify investment opportunities specific to their clients. Above all else, it can be a great relief to a client who has a child going to college or a retirement house on their wish list. As a result of obtaining an AAMS, and advisor can point them toward the right investments for their goals.

Investing Tips

  • If you’re looking to identify investment opportunities, consider using an AAMS as your advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • An AAMS can help you with college savings, taxes, and retirement savings if you know what your goals are. However, if you are unsure how much you want to invest, what your risk tolerance is, or how inflation and capital gains tax will affect your investment, SmartAsset’s investing guide can help you take the first steps.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SARINYAPINNGAM, ©iStock.com/fizkes, ©iStock.com/Suwanmanee99

The post Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Need Cash? 3 Ways To Tap Your Home Equity—and Which One’s Right for You

home equityaluxum / Getty Images

You need to come up with some cash, fast. Maybe you have a leaky roof that desperately needs fixing or you need help paying for your kid’s first semester of college. But where do you turn?

If you’re a homeowner, you have options that involve tapping into your home equity—the difference between what your home is worth and how much you owe on your mortgage.

There are three main ways to tap into home equity, but sorting through those options can be confusing. To help, we’ve boiled down what you need to know about some of the most common home financing options—cash-out refinance, home equity loan, and home equity line of credit—and how to determine which one is right for you.

1. Cash-out refinance

How it works: A cash-out refinance replaces your existing mortgage with a new loan that’s larger than what you currently owe—and puts the difference in your pocket. With a cash-out refinance, you’re able to receive some of your home’s equity as a lump sum of cash during the process.

“This only works if you have equity in your home, either through appreciation or paying down your mortgage,” says David Chapman, a real estate agent and professor in Oklahoma.

Pros: If you need cold, hard cash in your hands, a cash-out refinance can help you get it. You can use this money for whatever you want—upgrades to your house, even a vacation. Another positive? If interest rates are lower than when you first got your loan, you’ll get to lock in lower interest rates than you’re paying now.

“Now is the time to look at a cash-out refinance due to the low interest rate environment,” says Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group.

Cons: You’ll have to pay closing costs when you refinance, though some lenders will let you roll them into your mortgage. The costs can range from 2% to 5% of your loan amount. And, depending on the circumstances, if interest rates have gone up, you could end up with a higher interest rate than your existing mortgage.

Also, you’ll be starting over with a new loan and, unless you refinance into a different type of mortgage altogether, you’ll ultimately be extending the time it takes to pay off your home loan. Even if you get a better interest rate with your new loan, your monthly payment might be higher.

When to get a cash-out refi: A cash-out refinance makes the most sense if you’re able to get a lower interest rate on your new loan. (Experts typically say that at least a 1% drop makes refinancing worth it.)

This option also works well for home renovations, since (ideally) you’ll be increasing your home’s value even more with the updates. In essence, you’re using your home’s existing equity to help pay for even more equity growth.

While you could use your cash-out refinance to pay for anything, financial experts typically advise that you spend the money wisely, on something that you see as a good investment, rather than on something frivolous.

2. Home equity loan

How it works: Unlike a cash-out refi, which replaces your original loan, a home equity loan is a second additional mortgage that lets you tap into your home’s equity. You’ll get a lump sum to spend as you see fit, then you’ll repay the loan in monthly installments, just as you do with your first mortgage. The home equity loan is secured by your house, which means that if you stop making payments, your lender could foreclose on the home.

Pros: With a home equity loan, you get a huge chunk of cash all at once. A home equity loan lets you keep your existing mortgage, so you don’t have to start over from year one. Your interest rate is typically fixed, not adjustable, so you know exactly what your monthly payment will be over the life of the loan. And, another plus is your interest may be tax-deductible.

Cons: Compared with a cash-out refinance, a home equity loan will likely have a higher interest rate. Home equity loans also come with fees and closing costs (though your lender may opt to waive them). Another downside? You’re now on the hook for two mortgages.

When to get a home equity loan: A home equity loan makes more sense than a cash-out refi if you’re happy with your current home loan, but you still want to tap into your home equity, says Andrina Valdes, chief operating officer of Cornerstone Home Lending. It can also be handy for home renovations that add value, though of course you’re free to use it however you want.

“A home equity loan could be used in cases where you may already have a low mortgage interest rate and wouldn’t necessarily benefit from a refinance,” says Valdes.

3. Home equity line of credit

How it works: A home equity line of credit, aka HELOC, is similar to a home equity loan—it’s a second mortgage that lets you pull out your home equity as cash. With a HELOC, however, instead of a lump sum amount, it works more like a credit card. You can borrow as much as you need whenever you need it (up to a limit), and you make payments only on what you actually use, not the total credit available.

Since it’s a second mortgage, your HELOC will be treated totally separately from your existing mortgage, just like a home equity loan.

“With a HELOC, the homeowner will need to make two payments each month—their mortgage payment and the HELOC payment,” says Glenn Brunker, mortgage executive at Ally Home.

Pros: You borrow only what you need, so you may be less tempted to spend this money than a lump-sum home equity loan. You pay interest only once you start borrowing, but you can keep the line of credit open for many years, which means your HELOC can act as a safeguard for emergencies.

HELOCs typically have lower interest rates than home equity loans, and they typically have little or no closing costs. (Again, your lender might offer to waive these fees.) HELOCs are often easier to get because they’re subject to fewer lending rules and regulations than home equity loans.

Cons: HELOCs usually have adjustable interest rates, which means you can’t necessarily predict how much your monthly payment will be. Most HELOCs typically require the borrower to pay interest only during what’s known as the draw period, with principal payments kicking in later during the repayment period. If you don’t plan properly or you lose your job, you might be caught off guard by these higher payments down the road. As is the case with other second mortgages, your bank can foreclose on your house if you stop making payments.

“Once a HELOC transitions into the repayment period, the borrower is required to make both principal and interest payments,” says David Dye, CEO of GoldView Realty in Torrance, CA. “Many borrowers forget about this transition and are often startled by the sudden increase in minimum payments.”

When to get a HELOC: A HELOC makes the most sense if you want the flexibility and peace of mind of knowing you can easily access money in the future, says Mindy Jensen, a real estate agent in Colorado.

“A HELOC is great to have just in case,” says Jensen. “You have access to it, but are not committed to taking it or paying for money you don’t have an immediate need for.”

And compared with an actual credit card, a HELOC has a much lower interest rate, so it’s likely a cheaper financing option for you.

The post Need Cash? 3 Ways To Tap Your Home Equity—and Which One’s Right for You appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

What To Know Before You Buy Lakefront Property

Before you sign on that dotted line to purchase a lakefront property of your own, there are several important factors to consider.

The post What To Know Before You Buy Lakefront Property appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The sad thing about cars is that like boats and diamond rings, they’re depreciating assets. As soon as you drive yours off the lot, it immediately begins losing value. Some people are lucky enough to live somewhere with a reliable public transportation system. And others can bike to work. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, however, a car isn’t something you can put off buying.

Check out our investment calculator. 

If you’re preparing to purchase a new or used vehicle, you might be wondering, how much should I spend on a car? We’ll answer that question and reveal ways to make sure you’re not overpaying when you buy your vehicle.

The True Cost of Buying a Car

Next to buying a house, buying a car is likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. And if you want a quality vehicle that isn’t going to break down, you’re probably going to have to pay a pretty penny for a new ride. The average cost of a brand new car was about $33,543 in 2015, compared to $18,800 for a used one.

When you buy a car, of course, you’re paying for more than just the vehicle itself. Besides the fee you’ll pay for completing a car sales contract (known as a documentation fee), you might have to pay sales tax. Then there are license and registration fees, which vary by state. In Georgia, for example, you’ll pay a $20 registration fee every year versus the $101 that drivers pay annually in Illinois.

The amount you pay up front for a car can rise by 10% or more when you add taxes and fees into the equation. And if you need a car loan, you might have to put 10% down to get a used car and 20% down to get a new vehicle. If you decide to roll the sales tax and fees into the loan, you’ll cough up even more money over time because interest will accrue.

Once the car is in your possession, you’ll have to pay for insurance, car payments, parking fees, gasoline and whatever other costs come up. In a 2015 study, AAA found that a standard sedan cost Americans $8,698 annually, on average. As convenient as having your own car might be, it’ll be a huge investment.

Related Article: The True Cost of Cheaper Gas

How Much Should I Pay?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The exact amount that you should spend on a car might change depending on who you ask. Some experts recommend that car-buyers follow the 36% rule associated with the debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your DTI represents the percentage of your monthly gross income that’s used to pay off debts. According to the 36% rule, it isn’t wise to spend more than 36% of your income on loan payments, including car payments.

Another rule of thumb says that drivers should spend no more than 15% of their monthly take-home pay on car expenses. So under that guideline, if your net pay is $3,500 a month, it’s best to avoid spending more than $525 on car costs.

That 15% cap, however, only applies to consumers who aren’t paying off any loans besides a mortgage. Since most Americans have some other form of debt – whether it’s credit card debt or student loans that they need to pay off – that rule isn’t so useful. As a result, other financial advisors suggest that car buyers refrain from purchasing vehicles that cost more than half of their annual salaries. That means that if you’re making $50,000 a year, it isn’t a good idea to buy a car that costs more than $25,000.

How to Buy a Car Without Busting Your Budget

If you’re trying to figure out how to make your first car purchase happen, know that you can do it even if your finances are currently in disarray. If you look at a website like Kelley Blue Book before visiting a dealership, you’ll have a better idea of what different makes and models cost. From there, you can set a goal and work towards reaching it by saving more and keeping your excess spending to a minimum.

Once you find a car you like (and that you can afford), you can save money by challenging or cutting out certain fees. For example, you can lower or bypass dealer fees for shipping and anti-theft systems. If you’re planning on getting an extended warranty, you can shop around and see if there’s another company offering a better deal on it than your car manufacturer.

Meeting with more than one dealer and comparing offers can also improve your chances of being able to find a vehicle within your price range. So can timing your purchase so that you’re buying a car when a salesperson is more open to negotiating, like near the end of a sales quarter.

Try out our budget calculator.

If you need financing, it’s important to make sure you’re not getting saddled with a car loan that’ll take a decade to pay off. Long-term car loans are becoming more common. In 2015, the average new car loan had a term of 67 months versus the 62 months needed to cover the average used car loan.

The longer your loan term, however, the more interest you’ll pay. And the harder it’ll be to trade in your car in the future, especially if the amount of the loan surpasses the car’s value. That’s why some experts suggest that buyers get loans that they can pay off in four years or less.

The Takeaway

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How much should you spend on a car? Only you can decide that after reviewing your budget and figuring out if you can pay for the various expenses that go along with owning a car.

Keep in mind that getting a new or used car will likely involve taking on more debt. If you can’t make at least minimum payments on the debt you already have, it might be a good idea to get a part-time job or concentrate on saving so you won’t have to take out a huge loan.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eva Katalin Kondoros, ©iStock.com/michaeljung, ©iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

The post How Much Should I Spend on a Car? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

What Items Should You Put in a Fire Safe Box

If a fire happens, will your important documents stay safe?

Apartment dwellers need to be proactive about protecting critical information in case of a fire. Plenty of us have gone digital when it comes to storage of personal information, but certain items still need to come in hard copies. And some things, other than papers, also need a tangible safe place.

The safety deposit box at the local bank is still an option. However, bank hours aren’t always aligned with yours. If you want to go the digital route, look for companies that specialize in the storage of critical data. You can access your info directly from your phone, tablet or Amazon’s Alexa device. But if you prefer to go more old school — you need to think about protecting your valuables that are difficult to replace.

What will you need easy access to when you’re in an emergency fire crisis? Your list will probably look like this: an original birth certificate, social security card, insurance papers and car titles and other original docs. You could also include spare keys, passports and irreplaceable items like heirloom jewelry. A fireproof safe box will give you peace of mind. And, it will act as a security measure should a fire occur.

Are all fire safe boxes the same?

Did you know that not all fire safe boxes are alike? For example, standard fireproof safes protect your valuables against intense heat and smoke damage for periods of up to 120 minutes, according to Western Safe, while others can withstand the heat for longer. So, what’s the best type of fireproof box? Experts say it all depends on what you intend to store.

You should look for a fire safe box that has emergency override keys so you can open it up even if you forget the passcode. The keys are also good if the batteries run out on the keypad.

To help you know what things to keep in a fire safe box in your apartment, we’ve organized a list. These items make good sense to safeguard against fire:

  • Critical documents: Store your checking and savings account bank books, birth certificates, social security cards, wills and passports in a fire safe box. If you need to get out at a moment’s notice, these important documents will be safe and accessible.
  • Digital media: Your digital must-haves include USB sticks, memory cards and CDs. These items are your physical back-up. And this is especially true if you don’t want your most private data to live on remote servers.
  • Insurance policies: Talk to your insurance company about your renters insurance following the fire. Having access right away to your policy will help you to take action post-fire.
  • Cash: Life today is debit and credit card-driven. But it’s also smart to keep a stash of small bills on hand. If an emergency calls for quick cash, you’ll be glad you thought ahead and put some aside.
  • Other valuables: Remember to organize a file with essential information. Include emergency numbers of family members. Have your prescriptions, who your family doctor is and contact info for your pet’s vet, too.

apartment fire

Do your homework

Before purchasing a fire safe box, be sure to research what’s on the market. You’ll be surprised to find a range of choices. You can even select from fireproof safes that you can bolt to the ground or wall. Is the fire safe box waterproof? If not, be sure to protect all contents by storing them in plastic.

An official fire rating from the Underwriters Laboratory comes with all safes, according to Haven Life. The rating lets you know what temperature the fire safe box will stay inside during a fire. It will also let you know how long it will stay at that temperature.

Look for fire safe boxes that are either 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 325-degrees safe. They typically come with up to three hours’ worth of protection. Spruce reports that some fire safe boxes can withstand fires with temperatures up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Does size matter?

Fire safe boxes are compact to mid-size and come in a range to meet your needs. You can find options with a capacity of 0.17 cubic feet and weighing in at just 14 pounds. Or, one that weighs a little less than 28 pounds and can store flat 8-1/2-by-11-inch, letter-sized documents.

Extra-large capacity fire boxes can hold much more. They can weigh more than 100 pounds and measure more than 1-1/2-feet on each side. But the size is worth it because it gives your stuff a greater chance of surviving a disaster, according to Wirecutter. The site recommends a fire safe box the size of a mini-fridge that weighs in at 56 pounds.

Choose a fire safe box that has all the protective features and benefits to keep your important documents safe. In the long run, the investment could prove to be a wise one.

The post What Items Should You Put in a Fire Safe Box appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design

I don’t know about you, but for me, a bathroom goes well beyond its practical uses; within the past years, I’ve come to think about it as a sanctuary of sorts, that room of the house that’s dedicated to pampering, relaxing, and deconnecting — a place where I can enjoy some alone time and use that alone time to take care of my skin, hair, body, and mind.

And just like any other space in my house, the more beautiful my bathroom is, the more I can enjoy the time I spend in it. But re-designing a bathroom or remodeling it altogether is quite an investment. That’s why today we’re going to look at a few handy ways in which we can improve our bathroom’s design without having to spend a ton of money in the process. Here are some tips to help you maximize your bathroom’s function and style while saving money — both on the short and long run:

#1 Choose décor materials wisely

When designing your bathroom, one of the most important things to take into consideration is choosing the right materials. And I’m not talking about the tile (which we all know ceramic is the way to go); but rather furniture and appliances. Since this space is expected to be exposed to water, humidity, and moisture, it’s best to use waterproof materials for all furniture, décor items, and appliances.

For example, solid wood or plywood may not be a good choice for furniture, as it will likely warp and crack (and it can even lead to mold). Instead, a way better — and longer-lasting — choice would be PVC, which is extremely durable, completely waterproof and offers a great look and feel as well for bathroom cabinets. When buying blinds for your bathroom windows, choose waterproof blinds because they are stain and mold resistant, as well as fade-free. When picking appliances, make sure to avoid any metal that might rust, and preferably stay away from plastic; some of your best choices are brass, stainless steel, and zinc (or zinc alloys), as they stand the test of time and add a note of style to your bathroom.

Overall, focus on materials that can withstand humidity and water. This way, you don’t have to spend money replacing them and you can rest assured that your bathroom will maintain its clean and brand-new look over the years.

#2 Widen and brighten your space with mirrors

Instead of adding a skylight or a new window to brighten a rather gloomy bathroom (which would call for a pricy renovation), consider using a large mirror, re-painting your walls in a light color, or adding extra light fixtures. These can all help create the illusion of space, making your bathroom look wider and brighter. Obviously, this technique is much more affordable than having to install an additional window to your bathroom space and you’d be surprised at how much of a difference adding a large mirror can make.

If you feel like you don’t have the space to add an additional mirror to your bathroom, consider replacing the mirror above your vanity with a far larger one. Bonus tip: choosing an unusual shape or a unique frame for the vanity mirror (like the one in the image below) can give an impressive look to your bathroom, and act as the centerpiece of the room.

bathroom vanity with large, unique mirror

#3 Update by regrouting

If you’re looking to update your bathroom quickly and on a tight budget, consider replacing the existing tile grout. Regrouting is a two-step manual process by which you first remove the hardened old grout from the seams, or joints, between the tiles in your bathroom, then apply fresh new grout to make it seem like you have just installed your tiles (here’s a full walkthrough of the process). You’d be surprised how big of a difference this fairly simple update can make — especially since tiles rarely show signs of wear and tear, but the grout’s initial color fades away, and often gives a sense that it’s dirty, discolored and old.

This idea works best if the tiles in your space are still in great shape, that is, they don’t have cracks or missing pieces. Although it may take a bit of work, it’s surely faster and cheaper than a major bathroom overhaul. Fresh grout will make the tiled area look brand new, and you can even apply a new grout color to make a more dramatic change to your bathroom. 

pink bathroom tiles

#4 Get creative with designer tiles

Now, if you’re looking to add a splash of sophistication to your shower or bathroom tiles, but don’t have the budget to splurge on designer tiles, there’s a super easy trick you can turn to: use regular, budget friendly tiles across the walls of your bathroom, then add a pop of design and color in a small area using more expensive designer tiles. 

Or, you can keep it simple and use classic tiles, but arrange them in an unusual pattern or install them at an angle to create an eye-catching effect. If you’re looking for the maximum effect, create an accent wall (preferably right where either the shower or bathroom vanity go, to highlight that space), like the one pictured below. It won’t cost as much as replacing all of your bathroom tiles, but will definitely give your space a great, updated look.

bathroom shower tiles

#5 Try to avoid current trends

We all like to think that we’re aligned with the latest trends and fads. But the truth of the matter is, the best way to waste money is to follow fads that in a couple of years will seem so outdated that you’ll feel the need to renovate your bathroom all over again. You can make your design last way longer if you’ll use natural finishes and neutral colors.

Classics also tend to be considerably less expensive than their trending counterparts, and they’re much more likely to stand the test of time. See below for a marble-themed bathroom that was all the rage a few years back, but that seems a little out of place in the more minimalist-inclined era that we live in today.

marble bathroom with gold fixtures

#6 Use traditional finishes

This goes hand in hand with our last point: using fancy fixtures and embellishments on your faucets and cabinet hardware may seem like a good way to add some personality, but they can turn out to be rather costly without having the desired effect over the years. These kinds of fixtures are pricier than standard ones and their unusual colors, trimmings, and shapes can be more difficult to match with the rest of the décor — and limit any improvements you might decide to make in the near future.

Because of this, you may be forced to buy new coordinating pieces, too. However, if you’ll stick with traditional finishes, it will be simpler for you to create a cohesive look while still sticking to your budget. 

bathroom sink and fixtures

#7 Re-use old furniture to create a unique look

If you have an old desk, table, dresser, or TV stand, consider using it in your bathroom (provided it can withstand humidity and isn’t easily prone to water damage, as we’ve stated above). Repurposing old furniture will give you a chance to show your personality while adding much-needed bathroom storage. Consider doing this as a DIY project, which can help you save money while also being earth-friendly. 

Not sure how to fit old furniture with your bathroom décor? Repurposing doesn’t mean using the piece of furniture in the same way it was intended by its makers; so you can get as creative as you want, by say turning an old desk into a vanity, parts of a table into shelves, an old painting frame into a mirror frame, you name it. See below for a great example of how this stunning bathroom with matching his and hers vanities uses old crates to frame the bathtub.

elegant bathroom with matching his and hers vanities

#8 Refinish rather than replace

Replacing bathroom elements will usually require removing or replacing plumbing fixtures, which comes with additional costs. It can also involve construction changes, demolition work, and new installation. Before deciding on replacing any of these fixtures, determine if they really need replacement. If you’re replacing them for aesthetic reasons, you might have the option to refinish them instead of replacing them altogether. 

For example, you can refinish your old tub with a nice-looking, protective coating instead of completely replacing it. You can also paint your cabinet anew instead of purchasing a new one — and you can even get creative with the color you use. Check out this elegant bathroom below, whose owners chose to refinish the bathtub and paint it in a slight pinkish hue. Isn’t it just lovely?

pink bathtub in elegant bathroom

Final thoughts

The bathroom is one part of the house that needs some upgrading every now and then, and said upgrades can turn out to be quite expensive. However, with some rather small, but well-thought changes, you can spruce up your bathroom design without spending a pretty penny. And if our suggestions are not to your liking, there’s tons of helpful resources out there that can give you some great ideas to get you started.

More interior design tips

Here’s Everything You Need to Set Up a Meditation Corner in Your House
How to Turn Your Kitchen Into Every Coffee Lover’s Dream
Design Trends that Add Extra Flair to Your Fancy Home
How to Add a Touch of Luxury to Your Home without a Costly Renovation

The post 8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Turkey, Money, COVID, and More

I’m thankful for you, reading this article. But I’m also thankful for turkey and potatoes and pecan pie. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving dinner, I’d like to serve you with a smorgasbord today. The appetizer comes from the engineering world. The main course brings in investing. And for dessert, I added a quick calculator to consider the risk of COVID at your Thanksgiving dinner.

Low and Slow

I’m a mechanical engineer. In the engineering sub-field of heat transfer, there’s an important quantity called the Biot number. The Biot (bee-yo) number compares the way heat enters a body at its surface against the way that heat travels through the body.

That might not make sense to you. That’s why the Biot number needs to be explained using food!

Why do we cook pizzas at 900ºF for 3 minutes? Great question, especially when compared against cooking turkeys at 350ºF for multiple hours.

Pizza has a small Biot number. It has a large surface area compared to its volume—it’s very thin. Any energy added to the pizza at its surface will quickly propagate to the center of the pie.

But turkey has a large Biot number. It’s roughly spherical, so its ratio of volume to surface area is vastly larger than a pizza’s. It takes time for energy added at the surface of the turkey to propagate to the center of the turkey.

Food pizza cooking GIF on GIFER - by Aragami

And then there’s the matter of mass. This is separate from the Biot number, but equally important. Cooking a 20-pound turkey will take longer than cooking a 1-pound pizza. That’s easily understood. Heavy stuff takes longer to warm up.

Potatoes and Pumpkin Bread

Why do I have to bake pumpkin bread at 325ºF for an hour? Why can’t I bake it for 450ºF for 40 minutes? Or in a pizza oven, at 900ºF for a few minutes?

I don’t recommend it, but it’s an experiment you could conduct yourself. You’d find that you’d overload the exterior of the loaf with heat before giving that heat enough time to propagate to the center of the loaf. The outside burns. The inside remains raw. And everyone’s sad at the lack of pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin bread GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

The more cubic or round or dense a food is, the more low-and-slow the cooking or baking will be. This applies to loaves of bread, cakes and pies, or dense cuts of meat. A meat smoker might run at 225ºF all day.

If a food is flat or thin or narrow, it can probably be cooked high and fast. Pizzas, bacon, stir fries all apply. Lots of surface area and lightweight.

But what about mashed potatoes? We only boil potatoes at 212ºF degrees for 15 minutes. That’s way colder and shorter than a turkey or pie. And potatoes are reasonably dense. What gives?

The answer is that water transfers heat more effectively than air. That’s why 60ºF air feels temperate to your skin, but 60ºF degree water is frigid. That’s why you can stick you bare hand in a 400ºF oven (for a few seconds), but sticking your hand in boiling water (212ºF) will scald you. Water moves heat better than air.

Snoop Dogg Adds Mayonnaise To His Mashed Potatoes And I'm Actually OK With It

And moving or flowing fluid transfers heat better than stagnant fluid. This is why cold winter air has a “wind chill” factor—the blowing cold air removes more heat from your skin that stagnant cold air. And those Thanksgiving potatoes are surrounded by boiling and roiling water. They cook quickly.

Invest Like a Turkey

Enough engineering. Let’s bring it back to money.

You can approach investing like baking a pizza. Or you can invest like you would cook a turkey. I recommend the turkey version.

Turkey Cooking GIFs | Tenor

You can (try to) pick stocks that will double overnight. Or you could explore exotic asset classes with promises of “going to the moon.” You can even borrow money—or leverage—to further extend your investments. This is investing like a pizzamaker. It’ll be hot and fast and potentially over in five minutes.

But sadly, historical context provides ample data suggesting that pizza investing is not effective. Hand-picking stocks has more risk than reward. Short-term flips are closer to gambling than to investing.

That’s why you should invest like a turkey. Low and slow and long-term. Check on your progress occasionally. Adjust your timeline if needed. A half-cooked turkey does not resemble your final product, just like a half-funded portfolio can’t support your retirement. But mostly, stay on plan and trust the process. Plan for the long-term and let time take care of the rest.

Use last week’s retirement calculator to plan for the long-term…starting with your savings goal for 2021.

A Plate Full of Stuffing

And speaking of Thanksgiving, ensure that your investing portfolio resembles a Thanksgiving plate: diverse and well-balanced.

Could you imagine eating 1500 calories worth of gravy? Well, maybe. But it would be accompanied by plenty of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and potatoes, too. You can even fit in a slice of something exotic, like pecan pie.

Thanksgiving Dinner GIFs | Tenor

Similarly, a well-balanced investment portfolio reduces your risk from being over-exposed to any single asset type. I described my personal choices in my “How I Invest” article. But there are many ways to skin a turkey, and many ways to diversify a portfolio.

Will Your Turkey Get COVID?

Everyone seems to be all huffy about gathering for Thanksgiving. So-called “experts” are saying the holiday will act as a super-spreading event for COVID. First, Starbucks cancelled Christmas. And now China is cancelling Thanksgiving? What’s up with that?!

Don’t be an ignoramus. For most of the United States, a gathering of 10 or more people has a higher than 50% chance to contain at least person who is positive for COVID. Re-read that sentence.

If you’re going to gather for Thanksgiving, it’s helpful to understand the risk involved. For some, the risk is small and reasonable. For others, the probability of COVID being at your gathering will easily surpass a coin flip.

The following calculator is a simple, first-order estimate. It provides an example of how probabilities work. There’s more explanation after the calculator.

#fbuilder input[type=text],
#fbuilder textarea,
#fbuilder select
border: 2px solid #3b7d04;
.specialclass select border: 2px solid #00f !important;

form_structure_1=[["form_identifier":"","name":"fieldname2","shortlabel":"","index":0,"ftype":"fnumber","userhelp":"How many people will be at your Thanksgiving? ...Or at any gathering you're interested in looking in to","userhelpTooltip":false,"tooltipIcon":false,"csslayout":"","title":"People at Thanksgiving","predefined":"10","predefinedClick":false,"required":true,"exclude":false,"readonly":false,"size":"small","thousandSeparator":"","decimalSymbol":".","min":"0","max":"150","formatDynamically":false,"dformat":"digits","formats":["digits","number","percent"],"fBuild":,"parent":"","form_identifier":"","name":"fieldname3","shortlabel":"","index":1,"ftype":"fnumber","userhelp":"What is your state's, region's, or community's positive infection rate? You can look it up here: https://covidactnow.org/?s=1360346","userhelpTooltip":false,"tooltipIcon":false,"csslayout":"","title":"Your Local Positive Infection Rate (Percentage)","predefined":"4.4","predefinedClick":false,"required":true,"exclude":false,"readonly":false,"size":"small","thousandSeparator":"","decimalSymbol":".","min":"0","max":"100","formatDynamically":false,"dformat":"number","formats":["digits","number","percent"],"fBuild":,"parent":"","dependencies":["rule":"","complex":false,"fields":[""]],"form_identifier":"","name":"fieldname11","shortlabel":"","index":2,"ftype":"fCalculated","userhelp":"Based on your inputs, this is the probability that at least one person with COVID-19 will be at your gathering","userhelpTooltip":false,"tooltipIcon":false,"csslayout":"","title":"Probability That COVID Will Be at Your Thanksgiving","predefined":"","required":false,"exclude":false,"size":"medium","eq":"ROUND(100-100*POW((1-fieldname3/100),fieldname2),0.1)","suffix":"%","prefix":"","decimalsymbol":".","groupingsymbol":"","readonly":true,"noEvalIfManual":true,"formatDynamically":false,"hidefield":false,"fBuild":,"parent":""],"0":"title":"Turkey and COVID: Probability of COVID at your gathering","description":"A quick calculator to help you understand the risk of coronavirus at your Thanksgiving dinner","formlayout":"top_aligned","formtemplate":"","evalequations":1,"evalequationsevent":"2","autocomplete":1,"persistence":0,"customstyles":"#fbuilder input[type=text],n#fbuilder textarea,n#fbuilder select nborder: 2px solid #3b7d04;nnn.specialclass select border: 2px solid #00f !important;","formid":"cp_calculatedfieldsf_pform_1"];

I’m not an epidemiologist or virologist. Please take this math at face value. If an area has a positive infection rate P, then then odds of a person being negative is 1-P. The odds that all N people at your gathering are negative is (1-P)^N. Therefore, the odds of at least one positive case at your Thanksgiving gathering is 1-(1-P)^N.

I recommend looking up your area’s positive case rate here—COVID ActNow. Now, a large positive test rate is just as indicative of insufficient testing as it is of high infection rates. If you only have enough test supplies to test the sickest people, then you’re likely to have a higher rate of positive infections. More reading here from a guy named Johns Hopkins.

So feel free to play around with the infection rate. The true infection rate of an area is likely lower than what’s reported on COVID ActNow.

Keep Grandma healthy!

Thanks Again

Thanks a ton for reading the Best Interest. I try to stuff this blog full of fun and helpful information, and having wonderful readers is the gravy on top.

I wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. And don’t burn the pumpkin bread!

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