Backdoor Roth IRA – Definition & How to Make These Contributions

Saving for retirement is important for everyone. It’s difficult to live off Social Security benefits alone, so most people will need to supplement their retirement income with their own savings.

Many people have access to retirement plans like 401(k)s through their employers. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), or simply want to save more or have more control over your retirement savings, you might consider opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

An IRA is a special type of account that is designed for retirement savings. You can open IRAs at many banks and with most brokerage companies. If you put money in an IRA, you can receive tax benefits, but you also restrict your ability to withdraw that money.

One drawback of traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs is that they limit the amount that you can contribute and exclude some people from contributing based on their income. However, there are ways to get around these limits.

What Is a Roth IRA?

For Roth IRAs, you pay taxes as normal when you contribute money to the account. However, withdrawals from the account are completely tax-free. That means you don’t have to pay any tax on your investment gains or dividends you receive in the account.

This can save you a lot of money in taxes compared to investing in a taxable brokerage account.

For comparison, a traditional IRA lets you deduct your contributions from your income, reducing your income tax bill immediately. However, you have to pay income tax on all the money you withdraw, including earnings, meaning you are deferring your taxes to a later date.

Roth IRAs are designed for retirement savings, so there are rules about withdrawing from the account.

Because you’ve already paid taxes on the money you contribute to a Roth IRA, you can withdraw contributions without penalty or taxation. However, the earnings in the account — the gains from your investment activities — are subject to penalties if you withdraw them before you turn 59 ½.

If you’ve had the account open for fewer than five years, you have to pay a 10% penalty and income tax on any earnings you withdraw. If you’ve had the account open for at least five years, you may be able to avoid taxes but will have to pay the 10% penalty on early withdrawals.

In some situations, such as paying for a first-time home purchase or paying for medical expenses, you may be able to avoid these taxes and penalties.

Once you turn 59 ½, you can make withdrawals from the account freely as long as it has been open for at least five years.


Roth IRA Contribution and Income Limits

The government places limits on the amount of money that you can contribute to a Roth IRA each year. The limits are based on your age and your income.

In general, for 2020, you can contribute up to the lesser of your taxable income for the year or $6,000. If you are age 55 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000.

If you have a high enough income, the amount that you can contribute will begin to decrease until it reaches $0. The income maximum varies depending on your filing status.

Full Roth IRA Contribution Allowed Partial Roth IRA Contribution Allowed No Roth IRA Contribution Allowed
Single or Head of Household tax filing status Earned less than $124,000 Earned $124,000 to $138,999 Earned $139,000 or more
Married, filing separately tax filing status, did not live with spouse during the year Earned less than $124,000 Earned $124,000 to $138,999 Earned $139,000 or more
Married, filing separately tax filing status, did live with spouse during the year Earned less than $10,000 N/A Earned $10,000 or more
Married, filing jointly, or qualified widower tax filing statuses Earned less than $196,000 Earned $196,000 to $205,999 Earned $206,000 or more

These income limits use your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), which is your gross income minus certain deductions such as contributions to employer retirement plans and student loan interest.


What Is a Backdoor Roth?

A backdoor Roth is a strategy people use to get around the income limits on Roth IRA contributions by contributing to a traditional IRA and then converting the balance to a Roth IRA.

Imagine that you’re fortunate enough to have an income of $150,000 as a single person. You probably have a good amount of money to invest for retirement, but the government won’t let you contribute to a Roth IRA.

You can use a backdoor Roth to get funds into your Roth IRA without breaking the income maximum rules. Traditional IRA contributions, unlike Roth IRAs contributions, are not limited by your income.

That means that you can contribute money to a traditional IRA no matter how much you make, and then roll those funds into a Roth IRA.

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


How to Make Backdoor Roth Contributions

Making a backdoor Roth contribution is relatively easy.

1. Contribute to a Traditional IRA

To start, contribute the amount that you want to put in your Roth IRA to a traditional IRA.

When you contribute money to a traditional IRA, you can usually deduct those contributions from your income when you file your tax return. However, like Roth IRAs, there are income maximums for deducting traditional IRA contributions.

If you make more than the maximum allowed, you can still contribute to a traditional IRA, but you cannot deduct that contribution from your income when filing your tax return.

Because you’re rolling your money into a Roth IRA anyway, you’ll have to pay taxes, meaning you don’t have to worry about making too much to take the deduction.

2. Roll Your Traditional IRA Into a Roth IRA

Once you’ve contributed to an IRA, you want to roll that money into a Roth IRA.

A rollover lets you convert some or all of your traditional IRA balance into a Roth IRA balance. In effect, you can completely dodge the income limit for Roth IRA contributions using this strategy. Your broker can typically help you with the rollover process, making it relatively easy.

When you roll your traditional IRA’s balance into a Roth IRA, you pay income taxes on the amount you roll over.

The Pro-Rata Rule

Before you make a backdoor Roth contribution, you need to keep in mind one rule surrounding traditional IRAs and rollovers: the pro-rata rule.

To understand the pro-rata rule, picture your traditional IRA as having two buckets. One bucket includes money you deducted from your income and thus haven’t paid taxes on yet. The other includes money you contributed that you could not deduct from your income, possibly because you made too much money that year.

You need to track the buckets separately because although you have to pay income tax on pre-tax contributions when you withdraw them, you don’t have to pay them on post-tax contributions. If you did, you’d be paying taxes on the same income twice.

The pro-rata rule states that you must roll a proportional amount of each bucket into a Roth IRA when performing a rollover, meaning you can’t choose which bucket of money to roll over. This can have significant tax implications depending on how much pre-tax money you already have invested.

Avoiding the Pro-Rata Rule

The only way to avoid the pro-rata rule is to roll over your entire traditional IRA balance. If you make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA in the first place, you’re in a high tax bracket, resulting in a large tax bill as part of the rollover if you already have funds in your traditional IRA.

Keep in mind, the pro-rata rule looks at all of your IRAs and other pre-tax accounts, even if you keep them at different brokerages. You can’t open accounts in different places to dodge the rule.

3. Pay the Taxes Owed

When you roll money from a traditional IRA, you have to pay income tax on the money you roll over, unless the rollover is entirely composed of nondeductible contributions. If you’re rolling a large amount, you’ll want to have some money set aside to cover this cost.

To keep costs low, it might be worth timing your rollover for a year where your income is low, which means you’ll be in a lower tax bracket when you owe the tax on the amount rolled from your traditional to your Roth IRA.

Ultimately, backdoor Roth IRA contributions work best if you have little or no money in your traditional IRA. Asking a tax professional or a financial planner is a good idea if you want help with the process.


Advantages of Backdoor Roth Contributions

There are a number of reasons to consider backdoor Roth contributions.

1. Avoid Income Limits

The obvious benefit of backdoor Roth contributions is that they let you get around the income limits imposed by the IRS.

If you make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, you probably have some extra money to save for the future. A backdoor Roth lets you get all of the advantages of a Roth IRA despite the income limits.

2. Tax-Free Growth

Money in a Roth IRA grows tax-free. You don’t pay taxes when you take money out of the account and the money you earn from your investments isn’t taxed either.

If you’re planning to invest the money anyway, by putting it in a Roth IRA, you’re getting the benefit of tax-free growth and only losing the freedom to withdraw earnings before you turn 59 ½.


Disadvantages of Backdoor Roth Contributions

Before using a backdoor Roth, consider these drawbacks.

1. Complexity

Making backdoor Roth contributions involves a few steps. You have to put money into a traditional IRA, then initiate a rollover to a Roth IRA.

If you have your traditional and Roth IRAs at the same company, your brokerage can probably help with the process, but there are a few moving parts.

You also have to make sure you submit the correct forms when you file your taxes to indicate your contributions and rollovers.

2. Combining Pre- and Post-Tax Money Is Messy

The pro-rata rule for rollovers means that backdoor Roth contributions work best if you don’t have any money in a traditional IRA.

If you do have some funds in your traditional IRA and don’t want to move the full balance of the account to your Roth IRA, you’ll be rolling a combination of pre- and post-tax funds into your Roth and leaving a combination of both in your traditional IRA.

This means you have to be diligent with your recordkeeping to make sure you don’t pay taxes on your post-tax traditional IRA funds when you withdraw money from the account in retirement.

You also have to pay taxes on any money rolled from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in the year you perform the rollover, which you need to plan for.


The Mega Backdoor Roth

Related to the backdoor Roth IRA is the mega backdoor Roth IRA. In rare cases, people can use a quirk of their 401(k) plan to get past the Roth IRA contribution limit, putting tens of thousands of dollars into their Roth IRAs each year.

401(k) Contribution Limits

A 401(k) is a retirement plan provided by employers as a benefit for their employees. One of the advantages of 401(k)s is their much higher contribution limits compared to IRAs.

For 2020, the individual limit for a 401(k) is $19,500 when it comes to deducting contributions from your taxes.

However, the true limit for 401(k)s is triple that number, $58,500. This limit includes all contributions made by the individual and their employer. Employees can deduct the first $19,500 they contribute and employers can contribute another $39,000 without the employee paying taxes on those employer contributions.

A small number of employers allow their employees to make post-tax, non-Roth contributions to their 401(k)s. This is like making nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA.

You put money into the 401(k) but still pay taxes on the contributions. If your employer allows these types of contributions, you can add your own post-tax money to the account up to the $58,500 limit.

Typically, when you leave an employer, you can roll the balance of your 401(k) into your IRA. Most employers don’t let you roll your 401(k) into an IRA or make withdrawals from the account while you’re still employed. However, a small number of employers do allow these in-service distributions.

Performing a Mega Backdoor Roth Rollover

If your employer lets you make both post-tax, non-Roth contributions and allows in-service distributions, you have access to the mega backdoor Roth IRA.

To make a mega backdoor Roth contribution, contribute post-tax, non-Roth funds to your 401(k), then perform an in-service rollover of that money from your 401(k) to your Roth IRA.

Using this strategy, you can put as much as $39,000 extra into your Roth IRA each year, increasing your tax-advantaged investments by a huge amount.

Unfortunately, 401(k) plans that allow both post-tax, non-Roth contributions, and in-service distributions are incredibly uncommon, meaning that most people won’t be able to use this strategy.

However, if you run your own business or are self-employed, there’s nothing stopping you from designing your retirement plan to offer these options.


Final Word

Roth IRAs are one of the best ways to save for retirement, but if you make too much money, the IRS won’t let you contribute to the account.

For those with incomes high enough that they can’t contribute to a Roth IRA but who want to save more toward retirement, a backdoor Roth IRA contribution can help get around the limits.

If you’d rather keep the money out of retirement accounts and easy to access, you can always consider opening a taxable brokerage account. If you’re a hands-off investor, you can also think about using a robo-advisor to manage your portfolio.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Solid Marks for Gabi Insurance Review

When it comes to my 401(k), daily alarm clock or, yes, even my rotisserie chicken, I’ve embraced the set-it-and-forget-it mantra. But for car insurance? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t shopping for better car insurance rates at least once a year.

That’s what makes tools like Gabi so helpful. In our Gabi insurance review, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of using an insurance comparison tool, instead of directly working with insurance agents, when shopping for new car insurance rates.

What Is Gabi Insurance?

Gabi Insurance is a newcomer to the insurance scene. The San Francisco insurance company was founded in 2016, four years after The Zebra (another car insurance comparison site that I had mixed feelings about; get the full scoop in my Zebra car insurance review). While Gabi is known primarily for its auto insurance quotes, users can also rely on Gabi to compare insurance providers for renters insurance, home insurance, condo insurance, landlord insurance and umbrella insurance. (I could not find an option for life insurance.)

Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker in 50 states plus the District of Columbia, meaning they can underwrite, price and sell policies and handle claims. It also means that, when you generate quotes on the site, you can buy directly on the site. One of the issues with sites like The Zebra is that, after generating your auto insurance quote, you’d have to leave the site and go to the actual insurance company’s site to complete the process.

Gabi works with more than 40 top insurance agencies to help you find the best rate for your car(s), driving history and budget. Among those insurance companies are Nationwide, Travelers, Progressive, Clearcover and Safeco.

Gabi claims it saves drivers an average of $961 per year and can provide quotes in a matter of minutes. It’s time to test those promises.

How Gabi Works: A Review

Getting your Gabi insurance quotes can be relatively painless, depending on the route you take. You have three options:

  1. Don’t provide any of your current auto insurance information.
  2. Provide your car insurance login information.
  3. Upload a PDF of your current auto insurance policy.

Because I’m private by nature (and because I just had the pleasure of dealing with a fraudulent unemployment claim in my name), I was hesitant to provide any login information. I first tried to advance without providing any information, but as we’ll see, this doesn’t get you very far. Eventually, I uploaded a PDF of my policy.

To get a quote for Gabi insurance, you start here.
To get a quote, your journey to cheaper car insurance starts here.

Getting started is easy. First you’ll make your decision re: providing insurance information or not (more on that below). Then you’ll enter your name. (Like I did when reviewing The Zebra, I started the process with the very real, honest name of Joe Schmoe.)

This screenshot shows a portal where Gabi insurance asks what your email is. The reviewer typed in Joe Schmoe.
Mr. Schmoe as he signs up for car insurance quotes.

After providing your name, Gabi will ask for a handful of other contact info: birthday, address, whether you own or rent your home, email address and cell phone number. When asking for the email address, Gabi promises your information is never sold or shared. The Zebra says something similar, yet Geico conveniently sent an email to my inbox addressing me as Joe just minutes after I hit submit on The Zebra’s site.

Gabi Insurance asks for your email address in this screen shot.
Gabi says they won’t share or sell your info; thus far, they’ve held up their end of the bargain.

Contact update: As of two hours after creating my account, I have received one text and two emails from Gabi, but none from any third-party insurance providers. Could it be that Gabi is telling the truth when they say they won’t share or sell your data?

To Provide Insurance Info Or Not to Provide Insurance Info? That Is the Question

That’s what Hamlet said, right?

As I mentioned, in my first attempt at using Gabi’s car insurance comparison platform, I resisted their pleas for my personal info. “They don’t need to know anything about me to build a quote tailored to me,” I foolishly asserted.

But when I got to the magical part where Gabi was supposed to tell me I’m a schmuck who has been paying too much for auto insurance, I was instead given a list of common insurance companies, all with blue buttons that said “View My Quote.”

“Surely I must just click each and see a quote at the ready, despite the platform having no knowledge of my car, driving history or policy preferences,” I told myself. Oh, Joe Schmoe, what a fool you are.

Gabi Insurance shows various options that can help you save money in this screen shot.
When you don’t provide your current insurance policy to Gabi, this is the type of screen you can expect to see.

I quickly learned, upon clicking into Liberty Mutual, Allstate and Progressive, that giving Gabi such limited info meant the site would merely direct me to individual insurance companies to provide more detailed personal information to generate a quote.

That’s right: In that instance, Gabi serves no purpose, because you must start from scratch on every insurance company’s site to compare.

If you’re unwilling to provide either your login info for your current insurance company or a PDF of your auto insurance policy, then Gabi is not right for you.

In the name of research, I decided I was comfortable enough downloading a copy of my policy from Allstate and then uploading it into Gabi. While it does have some personal data within it, my email and password were still safe with me.

It took only a few seconds for the artificial intelligence on Gabi’s site to read my policy and tell me in intricate detail what those pages contained. (This is either really convenient for insurance shoppers or a warning sign that robots are just days away from taking over.)

From there, I was able to input more personal information about myself as a driver, my partner (who is also on my policy) and our car. I tried to remove my partner for a good five minutes just for kicks and eventually gave up. Later on, I learned if I had just waited a few more clicks, I would have had the option of toggling secondary drivers on and off. If Gabi had made that clear, it would have saved me time and frustration.

Actually generating my quotes did take about a minute, which is notably fast. However, I had just used The Zebra a few days before, and that experience was faster, so Gabi seemed slow by comparison.

The Car Insurance Quotes I Got from Gabi

I was pleasantly surprised to see a few insurance agencies whose names I recognized among my top results. And the savings were quite large.

Gabi provides more insurance companies that can help you save money.
My top auto insurance quotes from the Gabi insurance comparison platform.

My top quote came from Stillwater and would save me $622 a year. I was dubious upon seeing that, so I clicked into the “View Details” portion of the quote and did find some discrepancies. The largest: My property damage coverage dropped from $500,000 with my current policy to $100,000 with this potential new policy.

Still, the changes were so minor that it ultimately felt like a good deal. But buyer beware: You shouldn’t necessarily expect your current policy and quoted policy to be one-to-one. Go through and make sure all the coverages you want are still represented by the new policy.

Quotes two and three purported to save me $573 and $468 a year, respectively, but again, those quotes weren’t an apples-to-apples comparison with my current policy, as some of the coverages differed.

That said, all three quotes were large improvements over my current auto insurance. My current auto policy is bundled with my homeowners insurance and thus linked to my escrow, so I’ve got some calls to make, but I can safely say I will be using Gabi again soon to find a better bundled policy for auto insurance and home insurance.

What We Like About Gabi Insurance

Clearly, as someone who has just publicly stated he’ll be using Gabi to generate a real quote down the road, I’m a fan. Here’s some of what I liked about Gabi:

  • You don’t have to leave the site. If you find a quote you like, you are able to purchase the insurance on Gabi’s own platform, as long as you are in the United State, since Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker.
  • It’s got an easy-to-read gauge during the process. It’s a small thing, but I can’t breeze past a good website UX when I see one. I found Gabi’s top-of-the-page tracker for percentage of completion to be a nice touch, especially for a site that is all about efficiency in generating a quote.
Gabi shows how far along you've made it in the process.
Gabi makes it easy to see how far along you are in the process.
  • Uploading my policy was easy. Assuming you want your new coverage at the same or similar levels you’re used to, you can get a quote in minutes by uploading your current policy.
  • You can bundle home insurance with auto insurance. I currently bundle my auto and home coverage, and I would like to continue. It’s convenient to have all my insurance policies in one app, and it earns me discounts.
  • I would legitimately save money. While I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, Gabi could deliver real savings over the course of a year from one of several different insurance companies. More than $600 for me; Gabi truly means it when they promise to find the best insurance company for your needs.

What We Don’t Like About Gabi Insurance

I may be a new Gabi fanboy, but that doesn’t mean I’m onboard with the entire experience. Here’s where I found the car insurance comparison platform fell short:

  • There isn’t an option to describe the policy you want. Gabi pushes you into a scenario where you have to hand over your current insurance account login information or uploading a copy of your policy. If you’re strict about who has access to your data, this could be problematic, as it’s the only way to get quotes to compare on the site.
  • It can sometimes take days. Though I did not provide my login information, some customers have complained that it could take up to two days (depending on the current insurance provider) for Gabi to get into the account and grab the relevant information. That takes the speed out of the process that is supposed to be a hallmark of Gabi.
  • The policies I was provided weren’t perfect matches for my current policy. And Gabi wasn’t upfront about this. I had to do some digging to realize that, by opting for the No. 1 policy choice, some of my coverages would be reduced.
  • They required my cell phone number. I understand needing my number if I decided to move forward with one of the policies, but for the general comparison purposes, I don’t think customers should have to input their numbers.

What Customers Are Saying About Gabi Insurance

Overall, I had favorable opinions of Gabi, but I wanted to see what other customers were saying about the company.

I started with Better Business Bureau and was actually shocked to see that, despite having a BBB rating of an A-, it has an average 1.77 out of 5 stars based on 22 customer reviews. Ouch.

Reviews on the Better Business Bureau website were largely around problems with the actual Gabi service, but some have said working with customer service is not a pleasant experience either, whether due to agent miscommunications or just generally slow customer service response time.

These poor customer reviews are notably absent on Gabi’s site, where it instead shows off its 4.8 out of 5 stars based on “third-party verified reviews” that are certainly not at all curated to paint a favorable picture.

Gabi does score well in terms of its mobile app. In the App Store, it currently has a 4.1 rating. I could not easily find it on Google Play.

The Bottom Line

So should you try Gabi? If you are actually ready to make the switch to a new car insurance provider and don’t mind a little leg work, absolutely. The Zebra is easier since you don’t have to relinquish your personal information, but I found The Zebra to be dishonest about its spam policy, frustrating to use and not really much of a money-saver. With Gabi, you’ll have to actually take the time to give the platform access to your current policy, but in doing so, big savings and an easy sign-up process could be on the horizon.

Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel. 

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Are Altcoins? Guide to Bitcoin Alternatives

There are many alternative investments available for people who hope to grow their money—from age-old collectibles like baseball cards, to new and somewhat confusing assets, like NFTs. Another alternative investment is cryptocurrency—and within that category falls another “alt”: alt coins, better known as altcoins.

Altcoins are crypto coins that are an alternative to Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency and reigning crypto leader. There are many different altcoins—different types, and within those categories, different specific products.

This article covers everything you need to know about altcoins, including what they are, where to buy them, and examples of the more popular coins on the market. Familiarize yourself with altcoins here, then check out the top things you should know before investing in any cryptocurrency.

What Are Altcoins?

Bitcoin is just one of the myriad coins and tokens that comprise the cryptocurrency space. You’ve likely heard some of their names—such as Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin. These coins and cryptos are, in effect, alternatives to bitcoin.

“Altcoin” is a catch-all term for alternative cryptocurrencies to bitcoin. They’re altcoins. It’s that simple. Currently, there are more than 9,000 cryptocurrencies in existence. That’s a lot of altcoins.

How do Altcoins Work?

Like Bitcoin, altcoins rely on blockchain technology, which allows for secure, peer-to-peer transactions. But each altcoin operates independently from the rest, and each has its own sets of rules and uses. For example, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are mineable, whereas Ripple and Stellar are not.

That said, in general, most altcoins operate in much the same way: They’re traded among investors, with transactions recorded via blockchain in a distributed ledger.

Different Types of Altcoins

Most altcoins can be slotted into a few different categories, which can help potential crypto investors get a better grasp of the field. This is not an exhaustive list, as categories and subtypes are always changing. But here are some of the most prevalent types of altcoins:

Digital currencies

The digital currency category comprises most of the cryptocurrencies that investors are familiar with, including Bitcoin. They’re exactly what they sound like: currency in digital form. They can be acquired as a form of payment, through trading on an exchange, or through mining (when applicable), and are generally used to conduct transactions.

Tokens

Unlike crypto like Bitcoin or Ethereum, which can be used on any platform, tokens are tied to their parent platform. For example, Tether and Golem are tokens used only on the Ethereum platform.

A utility token provides holders with some sort of service. BAT (Basic Attention Token) is an example of a utility token, meant to be used specifically as a method of payment on the Brave open-source browser.

Stablecoins

Stablecoins are built to be stable—they are pegged to an existing asset like the Euro or the U.S. dollar. The logic is that by pegging the asset to an existing one, it should help stabilize value and reduce volatility.

In contrast, consider Bitcoin: while its value has risen substantially in recent years, its price is highly volatile. Values have dropped to less than $6,000 per coin to more than $60,000—all within a couple of years. Stablecoins are designed to reduce those wild fluctuations, and allow holders to sleep at night.

An example of a stablecoin is Libra (aka Diem), which is being developed by Facebook, and pegged to the dollar.

Common Altcoins

There are seemingly more and more altcoins hitting the market every day. Here are a few of the more common altcoins:

Ripple: Also known as “XRP,” this altcoin is used primarily on its namesake, the Ripple currency exchange system. It was designed for use by businesses and organizations, rather than individuals, as it’s most often used to move large amounts of money around the world.

Ethereum: Ethereum is a programmable internet platform used to build decentralized programs and applications, and its native currency, Ether (ETH), is the altcoin in question that can be traded by investors.

Litecoin: Litecoin is another popular altcoin, which is often referred to as “Bitcoin lite,” hence the moniker. It’s one of the largest and most popular cryptocurrencies on the market, and operates in a very similar way to Bitcoin.

Dogecoin: There are a bunch of “joke” altcoins that are on the market, and Dogecoin is perhaps the most recognizable right now. Dogecoin started as a joke (its genesis is actually an internet meme), although it has gained value in recent months.

Cardano: Cardano (ADA) allows developers to use the Cardano blockchain to write smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps). ADA crypto is required to run programs like dApps. Cardano is also used as a medium of exchange.

Where to Buy Altcoins?

Looking to buy altcoins? They’re available on most any cryptocurrency exchange, like Coinbase or Binance. You can even trade cryptocurrencies with SoFi Invest® (if you live in an eligible state). Not all altcoins may be available on every platform, so interested investors should do their research before choosing an exchange.

In terms of actually trading for coins, the process can be as simple as depositing money into an account on your preferred exchange, and then trading either dollars or crypto for a targeted altcoin.

The Takeaway

Altcoin is a catchall term for cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin, the original crypto. There are a variety of different altcoins—from tokens to stablecoins—but many are available for interested investors.

If you want to get your feet wet, you can get started trading certain cryptocurrencies and altcoins using SoFi Invest. You can get started with just $10, manage your transactions in the SoFi app, and rest assured that your holdings are securely protected against fraud and theft.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOIN21139

Source: sofi.com

Wondering How to Become an Audiobook Narrator? Here’s How

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. 

While readers and writers have skeptically watched the fluctuating publishing industry in recent years, one literary market has caught us all a bit by surprise: audiobooks.

Somewhere along the path of lengthy commutes and ubiquitous smartphones, a market for audiobooks erupted: people who don’t otherwise read much.

This exploding market makes it imperative for authors and publishers to get books into audio form and on the most popular platforms — Audible (Amazon) and iTunes.

Enter Amazon’s Audiobook Creative Exchange (ACX), which connects audiobook narrators with books to narrate.

Like other publishing services you’ll find at Amazon — CreateSpace for print-on-demand books, CDs and DVDs; and Kindle Direct Publishing for ebooks — ACX simplifies the process of producing an audiobook from start to finish.

If you’re an actor or voice-over artist, you could make money working in this market.

Not sure where to start? Here’s our guide.

How to Become an Audiobook Narrator

Actor Kris Keppeler has been doing voice-over work for over a decade.

“I got started through freelancing and bidding on work,” Keppeler said. “I bid on a short audiobook and got that, and it went well. When ACX came along, I started auditioning there… It’s taken a little bit to discover where my voice fits.”

Based on her experience, Keppeler shares some advice — and warnings — for anyone interested in doing audiobook work.

What You Need to Know Before Auditioning

Before you spend months auditioning to land your first gig, we have some tips to help you get started.

“My voice just fits with audiobook work,” Keppeler said. “Actors are especially tuned in for audiobook work, by the nature of our training.”

That’s because actors learn how to represent multiple characters, necessary for fiction narration in particular. Even for nonfiction, acting training can help you animate narration and make a book interesting.

“You definitely have to have some training,” Keppeler said. “If you regularly listen to audiobooks and like them, that’s a good starting point. But you have to have a real desire to do this kind of work, because it’s a lot of work.”

How is narrating an audiobook different from just reading a book aloud?

“When you read a book, you’re seeing and hearing things in your mind,” she said. “When you’re narrating that book, what you’re seeing and hearing in your mind you have to then vocalize. That’s not easy!”

Because an audiobook listener relies entirely on your narration, painting the picture just right (and meeting the author’s vision) is vital. It’s a distinct difference from other voice-over work, like commercials, where images or video complement the narration.

Because of this need to draw the reader into a made-up world, narrating fiction requires acting skills. Not everyone is cut out for it.

But, “nonfiction has its own challenge,” Keppeler said. “Sometimes what you’re reading is kind of dry, but you still have to make it interesting.”

She says it doesn’t necessarily matter whether a book is interesting to her.

“At this point, whether it is or not, I am narrating it and finding the interesting bits for me and putting it into my voice,” Keppeler said.

Even if you don’t enjoy the subject matter, you can still enjoy the process of producing the book for readers.

Learn Proper Technique

Before landing her first gig through ACX, Keppeler submitted auditions to the platform for well over a year.

Why does it take so long to land a gig?

Some of it, Keppeler says, is just learning how to narrate correctly. “I had some coaching that finally brought me to the point of doing a fairly good job.”

Author Joanna Penn recorded the audio versions of some of her own books. If you can’t afford coaching, she offers some tips for beginners at The Creative Penn to help you get started.

Some tricks to consider:

  • If you’re new at recording, schedule sessions a few days apart to ensure you have enough energy.
  • Try to avoid dairy before recording. Same goes for foods like peanut butter or anything that clogs up your mouth or throat (yeck!).
  • Try to modulate your breathing so you don’t end up holding your breath. This has a real effect on stamina.

Find Your Niche

Once she’d mastered the audiobook reading techniques, Keppeler said, she had to find her niche.

She used trial and error. She took whatever narration work came her way, and listened to client feedback. When an author liked her voice, she knew it was a good fit.

“In voice-over in general, there are so many different genres,” she said. “Most people find you have certain specialities and certain ones don’t fit.”

Once you know your voice and which genres are the best fit, she says, jobs come much more quickly.

Only audition for gigs that fit your voice, and the success rate is much higher. You can even search for books by genre.

“I’m becoming a bit of a nonfiction specialist,” Keppeler said. “[When it comes to fiction], it’s hard to learn to do the different voices… Fiction books are heavily character-based, so you’re going to have to handle [those] unless you’re hired to work with a group, but that’s not that common.”

The Challenges of Audiobook Narration

Some of the work involved goes beyond just recording the voice-over. “Especially if you work through ACX, you have to do the producing yourself,” Keppeler said. “[That’s] editing and mastering yourself. There’s a technical learning curve.”

Audiobooks require hours and hours of editing, making them much more labor intensive than a lot of other voice-over work.

“What I learned editing smaller jobs contributed a lot to being able to jump into audiobooks,” Keppeler said.

So you might consider starting small.

Search online for voice-over jobs — you’ll find promotional videos under five minutes or corporate training videos of five to 15 minutes.

Even online course videos requiring a few hours of voice-over are much shorter than most audiobooks, which run closer to 10 to 15 hours. Hone your skills on smaller jobs and work your way up to the lengthier projects.

What about contracting the technical stuff out to an audio editor? Keppeler says that for what you’re paid, it’s not usually worth it for an audiobook.

You’re expected to record, produce and deliver a finished product. Any additional help you bring in will cut into your pay. Keppeler says you’re better off just learning to do it yourself.

The Creative Penn also offers a few editing tips:

  • Avoid page turning noises — read from a tablet, Kindle or other electronic device.
  • Turn off any devices’ Wi-Fi connections and set them to Airplane mode to avoid static noises. (They may be there, even if you can’t hear them.)
  • Each ACX file needs to be a single chapter of the book. It’s easier to record these as separate files rather than cut it up later.
  • The ACX technical requirements mean you have to add a few seconds of Room Tone at the beginning and end of the file.

How Much Money Can You Make Reading Audiobooks?

ACX doesn’t set or recommend rates for producers to charge.

But it does point out many narrators are members of the SAG-AFTRA union, which lists minimum rate restrictions.

These guaranteed rates vary by publisher/producer. Author Roz Morris tells authors to expect to pay around $200 per finished hour for audiobook narration.

However, Keppeler says most freelance audiobook work will be paid in royalties. As you might guess, this reduces an author’s upfront cost — as well as their risk in hiring you.

While ACX may be a good place to find the work, the pay is usually lower, especially compared with freelance broker sites that aren’t dedicated solely to audiobook narration.

When you record an audiobook with ACX, you’ll choose between setting your own per-finished-hour rate or splitting royalties 50/50 with the rights holder (usually the book’s author or publisher).

If you charge a flat rate, you’ll be paid upon completion of the book. Royalties are paid monthly based on sales from the previous month.

Mostly, Keppeler focuses on short books she can quickly complete. And she gets paid a flat rate of about $100 per finished hour, rather than royalties.

“I have done royalty deals but only on ACX with short books,” she said.

“I don’t want to tie up my time, because you [typically] make very little on royalty books… I have four royalty books [on ACX], and about $20 trickles in every quarter.”

Whether or not a royalty deal pays off is largely based on an author’s platform, The Creative Penn points out. Research an author before signing an agreement.

If you’re just looking for a quick job and aren’t concerned with long-term sales, you can work with an author regardless of their audience. Set a flat rate, and get your money when the job’s done.

But if you want to develop a long-term relationship with an author and you’ve found someone with a sizable audience, you may be better off with the royalty deal.

Long term, you could make much more money in sales royalties. Your working relationship with the author also will be strengthened, because you’ll be invested in the book’s success.

Where to Find Audiobook Work

As with any freelance work, booking a gig directly with the client in your network allows you the most autonomy in setting your rate.

Connecting with a client through a freelance broker like Upwork and Freelancer offers less autonomy and usually lower rates than working with someone directly.

Bidding through an exchange site like ACX offers the lowest of both.

“I only go out to ACX when I don’t have other paid work,” Keppeler said.

ACX also makes it difficult to achieve one of the staples of successful freelance work: repeat clients.

Keppeler said the platform isn’t really set up to connect authors with narrators long-term. Instead you audition for each job. It eliminates a huge opportunity for narrators to work with an author on a series or future books.

Directly connecting through a freelance broker does offer that opportunity. Keppeler said it’s how she found the author of this series of books on Wicca, which offered her ongoing work.

What ACX is good for, she said, is building your portfolio.

If you’re just getting started, the platform gives you an opportunity to hone your chops.

Practice your narrating and editing skills through auditions, and improve from author feedback. Once you land a few gigs, use those as samples to land clients elsewhere.

As audiobooks increase in popularity, Keppeler is seeing more audiobook work appear on Upwork. Freelancers, she says, tend to be better for general voice-over gigs, but not audiobook narration.

Audiobook Narrator Must-Haves

Keppeler’s top tip for anyone getting into voice-over work is to invest in a good microphone and headphones.

Early on, she says,  “I lost out on work because I didn’t have a really great pair of headphones, and there was background noise that I wasn’t hearing. If you send something out that’s not good enough, they will never hire you again.”

Eventually, she hired a professional to help improve her set-up. She says she wishes she had done it up front, instead of DIYing.

A good pre-amp or audiobox can also help clean up your sound and eliminate background noise. But Keppeler warns against buying a cheap one — it’s a tool worth spending money on.

Finally, “You have to have a desire to learn the technical part of it,” she said. “You can ruin an audiobook with bad editing.”

How to Get Started

ACX offers comprehensive guides and FAQs for authors, narrators and publishers, so review those before you get started.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

  1. Create a profile to detail your experience.

  2. Upload samples to your profile to showcase your various skills — accents, genre, style, etc.

  3. Determine whether you’ll always want to be paid per finished hour or by royalty agreements, or if you’re open to either.

  4. Search for books authors/publishers have posted, and record a few minutes of the manuscript to audition for the gig.

  5. When you’re chosen by the author/publisher, they’ll send you an offer. To take the job, accept the offer. All of this should happen through ACX (not over the phone or via email) to ensure the contract terms are on record.

  6. Record and edit a 15-minute sample for feedback before recording and editing the full project. They’ll also have the right to approve or request changes once you’ve submitted the full project.

  7. You’ll be paid a flat rate upon completion and approval of the project or monthly royalty payments based on book sales.

If you’re just getting started in voice-over work, try browsing Upwork for smaller projects you can use to find your voice, build your technical skills and grow your portfolio.

Or reach into your network, and get creative to find freelancing gigs on your own.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a former branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Interview with a Car Broker

Buying a car with bad credit is possible—it’s just going to cost you. You’ll probably have a higher interest rate and require a bigger down payment, and you may have a much smaller selection to choose from than someone with a better credit history.

Here’s how to go about buying a car with bad credit and what you’ll need to be aware of to avoid being overcharged.

/*Chat Animation*/ #animation-wrapper max-width: 450px; margin: 0 auto; margin-bottom: 50px; width: auto; #animation-wrapper .box background-color: rgb(44, 74, 94);color: #fff;text-align: center;font-family: “ProximaNova-Regular”, Arial, sans-serif;height: 153px;padding-top: 10px; .content .box p margin: 0px 0px; .box .btn-primary color: #fff;background-color: #ff7f00;margin: 10px 0px; .chat ul margin: 0px;padding: 0px;list-style: none; .message-left .message-time display: block;font-size: 12px;text-align: left;padding-left: 30px;padding-top: 4px;color: #ccc;font-family: Courier; .message-right .message-time display: block;font-size: 12px;text-align: right;padding-right: 20px;padding-top: 4px;color: #ccc;font-family: Courier; .message-left text-align: left;margin-bottom: 16px; .message-left .message-text max-width: 80%;display: inline-block;background: #e5e6ea;padding: 13px;font-size: 14px;color: #000;border-radius: 30px;font-weight: 100;line-height: 1.5em; .message-right text-align: right;margin-bottom: 16px; .message-right .message-text line-height: 1.5em;display: inline-block;background: #5ca6fa;padding: 13px;font-size: 14px;color: #fff;border-radius: 30px;line-height: 1.5em;font-weight: 100;text-align: left; .chat background: #fff; margin: 0; border-radius: 0; .chat-container height: 450px;padding: 5px 15px;overflow: hidden; .spinme-right display: inline-block;padding: 15px 20px;font-size: 14px;border-radius: 30px;line-height: 1.25em;font-weight: 100;opacity: 0.2; .spinme-left display: inline-block;padding: 15px 20px;font-size: 14px;color: #ccc;border-radius: 30px;line-height: 1.25em;font-weight: 100;opacity: 0.2; .spinner margin: 0;width: 30px;text-align: center; .spinner > div width: 10px;height: 10px;border-radius: 100%;display: inline-block;-webkit-animation: sk-bouncedelay 1.4s infinite ease-in-out both;animation: sk-bouncedelay 1.4s infinite ease-in-out both;background: rgba(0,0,0,1); .spinner .bounce1 -webkit-animation-delay: -0.32s;animation-delay: -0.32s; .spinner .bounce2 -webkit-animation-delay: -0.16s;animation-delay: -0.16s;@-webkit-keyframes sk-bouncedelay 0%,80%,100%-webkit-transform: scale(0)40%-webkit-transform: scale(1.0)@keyframes sk-bouncedelay0%,80%,100%-webkit-transform: scale(0);transform: scale(0);40%-webkit-transform: scale(1.0);transform: scale(1.0); /*Text Ad*/ .ad-container padding: 15px 30px;background-color: #FFFFFF;max-width: 690px;box-shadow: 1px 1px 4px #888888;margin: 20px auto; .ad padding: 10px 6px;max-width: 630px; .ad-title font-size: 20px;color: #0077BB;line-height: 22px;margin-bottom: 6px;letter-spacing: -0.32px; .ad-link line-height: 18px;padding-left: 26px;position: relative; .ad-link::before content: ‘Ad’;color: #006621;font-size: 10px;width: 21px;line-height: 12px;padding: 2px 0;text-align: center;border: 1px solid #006621;border-radius: 4px;box-sizing: border-box;display: inline-block;position: absolute;left: 0; .ad-link a color: #006621;text-decoration: none;font-size: 14px;line-height: 14px; .ad-copy color: #000000;font-size: 14px;line-height: 18px;letter-spacing: -0.34px;margin-top: 6px;display: inline-block; .ad .breaker font-size: 0px; #ad-4 font-family: Arial, sans-serif;background-color: #FFFFFF; #ad-4 .ad-titlecolor: #2130AB; #animation-wrapper .cta-lexcolor: #FFFFFF; width: 80%; #animation-wrapper .lex-logodisplay: inline-block; @media (max-width: 500px) .ad padding: 20px 18px;max-width: 630px;

1. Check Your Credit
2. Improve Your Score
3. Fix Credit Errors
4. Know What You Can Pay
5. Make a Bigger Down Payment
6. Get a Shorter Loan
7. Work with a Bad Credit Car Dealer
8. Get Preapproved
9. Get a Co-signer
10. Comparison Shop
11. Read the Fine Print
12. Refinance

Buying a Car With Bad Credit

If you have poor or bad credit, buying a vehicle requires some common steps that people with good credit don’t necessarily need to worry about. Consider taking these steps when buying a car with bad credit.

1. Check Your Credit

If your credit is poor, you may be stuck paying a higher interest rate until you can improve your credit scores. Your credit score is a huge factor when it comes to the interest rate and credit financing you will receive for your auto loan—or if you’ll be approved at all. You’ll want to go into this process knowing what your score is and what your options are.

Check your credit from all three major credit bureaus several months before you begin your car shopping journey so you have time to rebuild your credit if possible. Track your credit history to determine the areas where you can most improve before applying for a car loan.

2. Improve Your Score

There is no official minimum credit score you need to buy a car, but a higher score will open up more options and better rates. According to Experian, the average credit score for used car purchases at the end of 2018 was 659.

If your score is below 660, look for ways to improve your score before applying for a car loan. Your free Credit Report Card from Credit.com will help you determine the most efficient ways to improve your score: paying off debt, clearing up errors or taking care of old collection accounts could bump you over that coveted 700 threshold. Delaying the car finance process to improve your poor credit score and rebuild your credit can save you money in the long run.

3. Fix Credit Errors

If you find mistakes on your credit reports, fixing those errors could bring your score up quite a bit. If possible, give yourself at least 30 days to dispute credit report mistakes before you start car shopping and looking for an auto finance company or submit a loan application. If you think this is your best option, you can try DIY credit repair, or work with a credit repair service such as those from Lexington Law.

4. Know What You Can Pay

Whether or not you’re able to improve your credit score, you should know what you can afford to pay before you start shopping—and stay committed to your budget. Auto loan calculators are helpful tools to use when you are trying to determine how much car you can afford. These calculators can also provide you with an estimate of what you will be paying for the entire term of the auto loan, interest included.

〉 Try it now: Auto Loan Calculator

5. Make a Bigger Down Payment

If your score is still on the low side and you don’t have more time to rebuild your credit before purchasing a car, be prepared to put a large chunk of money down. If you’re able to put down more money, you can borrow less money—which will usually mean more savings overall. How much you have to put down on a car with bad credit depends on how low your score is (and why) as well as the price of the car and the dealer you’re working with. In general, at least $1,000 or 10% of the purchase price is recommended.

If you’re unable to put any money down, your options will be severely limited. You may be able to buy a car from a private seller who is willing to take payments, but this scenario is unlikely.

6. Get a Shorter Loan

Longer loans are generally considered a higher risk: there’s more time for you to potentially default on the loan, so the interest rates tend to be higher. The monthly payments will be higher for shorter loans, however, so make sure you are able to fit this into your budget with some room to spare.

7. Work with a Bad Credit Car Dealer

If you need a car now and have a credit score that falls below the 600 range, you may need to go to bad credit car dealerships that specialize in no-credit or poor-credit buyers. These dealerships will work with your credit history to get approval, but interest rates will likely be high and terms may be unfavorable.

8. Get Preapproved

Getting preapproval for auto financing from a bank or credit union could better prepare you for the car shopping process. This preapproval process analyzes your income, expenses, credit score and credit report and determines if you qualify for an auto loan from the lender and how much the lender would be willing to lend. Submitting your paperwork early and learning what obstacles you face could spare you a lot of headaches later when going through the loan approval process.

9. Get a Co-signer

If you have a poor credit score, it may be helpful to get a co-signer for your loan application. Not all lenders offer this option, so consider this carefully before moving forward.

10. Comparison Shop

Always shop around for your loan. You never know what options are available until you look. Look for the best possible terms and make sure that you can actually afford the payments so you don’t end up negatively affecting your credit even more. It’s also a good idea to compare rates from other lenders like banks or credit unions before settling on a loan straight from the dealership.

11. Read the Fine Print

The fine print can make a big difference in the overall purchase price of the vehicle, especially if your credit means a high interest rate. Make sure there’s no prepayment penalty so you’re not fined for paying off a loan quicker than agreed, and avoid pricey add-ons that increase the sales price.

12. Refinance

Auto loan refinancing could help lower your auto loan rates and your monthly payment, which could end up saving you hundreds over the life of the loan. For loan refinancing, you typically want a strong history of making on-time payments for at least 12 months. However, keep in mind that the loan refinancing will also take your credit history and current credit scores into account as well. So, as always, continue working diligently to improve and rebuild your credit rating.

Key Takeaways

Whether or not you can get a car loan with bad credit depends on many factors. If you follow these tips, you may be able to get an auto loan and save money even with poor credit scores.

You can view your credit score and get an easy-to-understand Credit Report Card for free at Credit.com or via the mobile app for iPhone and Android. Start by taking a look at what factors are having the most impact on your scores and credit rating so you know what to address first.

Source: credit.com

Mortgage Rate Shopping: 10 Tips to Get a Better Deal

Last updated on December 8th, 2020

Looking for the best mortgage rates? We’ve all heard about the super-low mortgage rates available, but how do you actually get your hands on them?

When it’s all said and done, it never seems to be as low as the bank originally claimed, which can be pretty frustrating or even problematic for your loan closing.

But instead of worrying, let’s try to find solutions so you too can take advantage of these remarkable interest rates.

There are a number of ways to find the best mortgage rates, though a little bit of legwork on your behalf is definitely required.

After all, you’re not buying a TV, you’re buying a home or refinancing an existing, probably large home loan.

best mortgage rate

If you’re not willing to put in the work, you might be disappointed with the rate you receive. But if you are up for the challenge, the savings can make the relatively little time you put in well worth it.

The biggest takeaway is shopping around, since you can’t really determine if a mortgage rate is any good without comparing it to others.

Many prospective and existing homeowners simply gather one quote, typically from a friend or real estate agent’s reference, and then kick themselves later for not seeing what else is out there.

Below are 10 tips aimed at helping you better navigate the shopping experience and ideally save some money.

1. Advertised mortgage rates generally include points and are best-case scenario

You know those mortgage rates you see on TV, hear about on the radio, or see online. Well, most of the time they require you to pay mortgage points.

So if your loan amount is $200,000, and the rate is 3.75% with 1 point, you have to pay $2,000 to get that rate. And there may also be additional lender fees on top of that.

It’s important to understand that you’re not always comparing apples to apples if you look at interest rate alone.

For example, lenders don’t charge the same amount of fees, so clearly rate isn’t the only thing you should look at when shopping.

Additionally, these advertised mortgage rates are typically best-case scenario, meaning they expect you to have a 760+ credit score and a 20% down payment. They also expect the property to be a single-family home that will be your primary residence.

If any of the above are not true, you can expect a much higher mortgage rate than advertised.

Are you showing the lender you deserve the lowest rate, or simply demanding it because you feel entitled to it? Those who actually present the least risk to lenders are the ones with the best chance of securing a great rate.

2. The lowest mortgage rate may not be the best

Most home loan shoppers are probably looking for the lowest interest rate, but at what cost? As noted above, the lowest interest rate may have steep fees and/or require discount points, which will push the APR higher and make the effective rate less desirable.

Be sure you know exactly what is being charged for the rate provided to accurately determine if it’s a good deal. And consider the APR vs. interest rate to accurately gauge the cost of the loan over the full loan term.

Lenders are required to display the APR next to the interest rate so you know how much the rate actually costs. Of course, APR has its limitations, but it’s yet another tool at your disposal to take note of.

3. Compare the costs of the rate offered

Along those same lines, you need to compare the costs of securing the loan at the par rate, versus paying to buy down the rate.

For example, it may be in your best interest to take a slightly higher rate to cover all your closing costs, especially if you’re cash-poor or simply don’t plan on staying in the home very long.

If you won’t be keeping the mortgage for more than a year or two, why pay points and a bunch of closing costs out of pocket. Might as well take a slightly higher rate and pay a tiny bit more each month, then you can get rid of the loan. [See: No cost refinance]

Conversely, if you plan to hunker down in your forever home and can obtain a really low rate, it might make sense to pay the fees out-of-pocket and pay points to lower your rate even more. After all, you’ll enjoy a lower monthly payment as a result for many years to come.

4. Compare different loan types

When comparing pricing, you should also look at different loan types, such as a 30-year vs. 15-year. If it’s a small loan amount, you might be able to refinance to a lower rate and barely raise your monthly payment.

For example, if you’re currently in a 30-year home loan at 6%, dropping the rate to 2.75% on a 15-year fixed won’t bump your mortgage payment up a whole lot. And you’ll save a ton in interest and own the home much sooner, assuming that’s your goal.

And as mentioned, if you only plan to stay in the home for a few years, you can look at lower-rate options, such as the 5/1 ARM, which come with rates that can be much lower than the 30-year fixed. If you’ll be out of there before the loan ever adjusts, why pay for the 30-year fixed?

5. Watch out for bad recommendations

However, don’t overextend yourself just because the bank or broker says you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage in no time at all.

They may recommend something that isn’t really ideal for your situation, so do your research before shopping. You should have a good idea as to what loan program will work best for you, instead of blindly following the loan officer’s opinion.

It’s not uncommon to be pitched an adjustable-rate mortgage when you’re looking for a fixed loan, simply because the ultra-low rate and payment will sound enticing. Or told the 30-year fixed is a no-brainer, even though you plan to move in just a few years.

6. Consider banks, online lenders, credit unions, and brokers

I always recommend that you shop around and compare lenders as much as possible. This means comparing mortgage rates online, calling your local bank, a credit union, and contacting a handful of mortgage brokers.

If you stop at just one or two quotes, you may miss out on a much better opportunity. Put simply, don’t spend more time shopping for your new couch or stainless-steel refrigerator. This is a way bigger deal and deserves a lot more time and energy on your part.

Your mortgage term is probably going to be 30 years, so the decision you make today can affect your wallet for the next 360 months, assuming you hold your loan to term. Even if you don’t, it can affect you for years to come!

7. Research the mortgage companies

Shopping around will require doing some homework about the mortgage companies in question. When comparing their interest rates, also do research about the companies to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate, reliable lender that can actually get your loan closed.

A low rate is great, but only if it actually funds! There are lenders that consistently get it done, and others that will give you the runaround or bait and switch you, or just fail to make it to the closing table because they don’t know what they’re doing.

Fortunately, there are plenty of readily accessible reviews online that should make this process pretty simple. Just note that results will vary from loan to loan, as no two mortgage loans or borrowers are the same.

You can probably take more chances with a refinance, but if it’s a purchase, you’ll want to ensure you’re working with someone who can close your loan in a timely manner. Otherwise a seemingly good deal could turn bad instantly.

8. Mind your credit scores

Understand that shopping around may require multiple credit pulls. This shouldn’t hurt your credit so long as you shop within a certain period of time. In other words, it’s okay to apply more than once, especially if it leads to a lower mortgage rate.

More importantly, do not apply for any other types of loans before or while shopping for a mortgage. The last thing you’d want is for a meaningless credit card application to take you out of the running completely.

Additionally, don’t go swiping your credit card and racking up lots of debt, as that too can sink your credit score in a hurry. It’s best to just pay cash for things and keep your credit cards untouched before, during, and up until the loan funds.

Without question, your credit score can move your mortgage rate significantly (in both directions), and it’s one of the few things you can actually fully control, so keep a close eye on it. I’d say it’s the most important factor and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If your credit scores aren’t very good, you might want to work on them for a bit before you apply for a mortgage. It could mean the difference between a bad rate and a good rate, and hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

9. Lock your rate

This is a biggie. Just because you found a good mortgage rate, or were quoted a great rate, doesn’t mean it’s yours.

You still need to lock the rate (if you’re happy with it) and get the confirmation in writing. Without the lock, it’s merely a quote and nothing more. That means it’s subject to change.

The loan also needs to fund. So if you’re dealing with an unreliable lender who promises a low rate, but can’t actually deliver and close the loan, the rate means absolutely nothing.

Again, watch out for the bait and switch where you’re told one thing and offered something entirely different when it comes time to lock.

Either way, know that you can negotiate during the process.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower rate if you think you can do better; there’s always room to negotiate mortgage rates!

10. Be patient

Lastly, take your time. This isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly, so do your homework and consult with family, friends, co-workers, and whoever else may have your best interests in mind.

If a company is aggressively asking for your sensitive information, or trying to run your credit report right out of the gate, tell them you’re just looking for a ballpark quote. Don’t ever feel obligated to work with someone, especially if they’re pushy.

You should feel comfortable with the bank or broker in question, and if you don’t, feel free to move on until you find the right fit. Trust your gut.

Also keep an eye on mortgage rates over time so you have a better idea of when to lock. No one knows what the future holds, but if you’re actively engaged, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.

One thing I can say is, on average, mortgage rates tend to be lowest in December, all else being equal.

In summary, be sure to look beyond the mortgage rate itself – while your goal will be to secure the lowest rate possible, you have to factor in the closing costs, your plans with the property/mortgage, and the lender’s ability to close your loan successfully.

Tip: Even if you get it wrong the first time around, you can always look into refinancing your mortgage to lower your current interest rate. You aren’t stuck if you can qualify for another mortgage down the road!

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

A Brief History of Cryptography

Who doesn’t love a good secret code? Cryptography is the science of secret codes—of creating a language or code that can’t be cracked unless one knows exactly how to decode it.

Today, cryptography is used for everything from internet cybersecurity to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency investing. It has evolved and advanced over time along with technology, but it got its start in ancient times, with hieroglyphs and cuneiforms.

Let’s look back at the history of cryptography and how it has evolved over the years to serve different functions with the same goal—securing information.

What is Cryptography?

Cryptography is the process of securing information by changing it into a form that people can’t understand unless they know how it was encoded. The original information is known as plaintext, and the encoded version of the information is known as ciphertext. The calculation or code used to change plaintext into ciphertext is called an algorithm and the process is called encryption. The opposite of encryption is decryption—turning ciphertext back into plaintext, or another readable form.

In order for someone to decode the information, they need to know how to read it or change it back into its plaintext form. Usually decryption involves both the algorithm and a key. Generally this key is a number.

Ancient History of Cryptography

The history of encryption dates back thousands of years. The earliest known use of cryptography was over 5600 years ago in Sumeria and Egypt. Cuneiform and hieroglyphics were created to record transactions. These were not necessarily intended to be secret, but were forms of writing down information that someone wouldn’t know how to read unless they understood the language system. It took hundreds of years for these early forms of writing to be deciphered by other societies.

Early forms of encryption all used a key that had to be given to the recipient in order for them to be able to decipher it. This is known as symmetric encryption, because the same key is used for encryption and decryption. The following are several examples of ciphers that use symmetric encryption.

Caesar Box

Julius Caesar used cryptography around 100 BC to send messages to his military generals, encrypted to be protected from opponents who might intercept it. The “Caesar Box,” or “Caesar Cipher,” was easily decrypted by those who knew how, but it protected messages from unintended eyes.

The Caesar Cipher is what is known as a “substitution cipher” or “shift cipher.” It works by changing each letter within a message three letters, to the right. For example, an A in a message would become a D, and a B would be written as an E. The number of letter places that get shifted is called the key. In this case the key is three.

Since there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, shift ciphers like the Caesar Box are easy to figure out and not very secure forms of cryptography. Once mathematicians figured out that certain letters are more commonly used than others in a language, they understood that people trying to crack the code could start to recognize patterns and figure it out.

Scytale Cipher

The Spartans developed a different type of encryption known as the Scytale Cipher. It was made by wrapping parchment around a pole then writing on the pole length-wise. When the paper is removed from the pole, the message is encrypted. To decipher it, one needs to know the pole’s diameter. The Scytale is less easy to decipher using patterns like the Caesar Box, but it can be possible to read some of the words on the pole.

Vigenère Cipher

The Vigenère Cipher was created by an Italian named Giovan Battista Bellaso in the 16th century. It uses a key as part of the decryption process. The key can be any combination of letters or a word of the message writer’s choosing. The key is matched to the plaintext and used in the process of decrypting the secret message. It’s much more difficult than the Caesar Box because each letter of the message has its own shift value. Therefore, even solving one word in the message won’t reveal the entire message.

Using a key adds an extra layer of security to a cryptographic message. The cipher wasn’t solved until 1863, and became known as le chiffre indechiffrable, or “the indecipherable cipher.”

Vernam Cipher

The only cipher that has been mathematically proven to be unbreakable is the Vernam Cipher, otherwise known as a one-time pad (OTP). It’s similar to a Vigenere Cipher but the key changes with each use. The Vernam Cipher isn’t used widely today due to the challenges of distributing the keys, but it is useful for emergency situations in which there is no electronic option.

Enigma

The Enigma is a type of cryptography using rotary encryption, which was developed by Arthur Scherbius in Germany during WWII. Similar to other cryptography, it was created using disks that were put into a machine in a certain order. If they were inserted in the correct order, the machine would decode the message.

An early computer developed by British cryptanalyst Alan Turing and his colleagues helped to crack the Enigma code. It’s estimated that their work helped save as many as 21 million people.

Asymmetric Encryption and Modern Cryptography

The advent of computers made it essential to develop more advanced forms of cryptography in order to keep data and information safe. This was especially the case as financial transactions began to move to computer networks. Everything from email to ecommerce sites to phone apps use encryption today.

The world of cryptography is also getting more complex due to its use by terrorists and criminals, as well as legal structures which protect individuals’ data. The U.S. Government and tech companies like Apple have been in legal battles for years to determine the ethics around data and privacy.

Most modern cryptography uses asymmetric encryption, or public-key encryption, in which there is a separate lock and key. This allows people to share public keys openly while keeping the private keys secure.

Here are some examples of asymmetric encryption.

Morse Code

Samuel F. Morse developed the Morse Code to transmit messages through telegraph machines in 1835.

The Zimmerman Telegram

The U.S. entered WWII with the decryption of a message solved by the British Intelligence Agency. The Zimmerman Telegram was sent from the German Foreign Office in the U.S. to the German Ambassador to Mexico and proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico.

Lucifer/DES

IBM developed a system called Lucifer in the 1960s, which was ultimately adopted by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and is also known as the Data Encryption Standard (DES).

RSA

The RSA encryption system created in the 1970s was one of the first uses of asymmetric encryption.

Salt

One tactic used in encryption is called salting. This is where a random string of alphanumeric characters gets added to the end of the password before it’s encrypted. Salting adds extra security because even after the password gets decrypted, the “salt” has to be subtracted before it can be used. Even very obvious and common passwords can be difficult to figure out when they are salted.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Today’s default encryption mechanism used by the U.S. government is the Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES. It uses a 256-bit key and multiple rounds of encryption, known as substitution-permutation networking. AES has mostly replaced the formerly used Data Encryption Standard, or DES, which is now considered to be less secure.

Other Forms of Encryption

There are countless other forms of encryption. Some of the commonly used ones are:

•  Triple DES
•  Blowfish
•  Twofish
•  ElGamal
•  Hash Functions
•  Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange

Cryptocurrency and Cryptography

Cryptography is an integral part of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Transactions and balances are tracked on a ledger and encrypted using complicated algorithms. This helps with security, transparency, and tracking. Crypto wallets also rely on cryptography for security.

Each type of digital asset or cryptocurrency has its own form of cryptography, making some more secure or popular than others and providing different use cases. Before investing in cryptocurrencies, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of the way the technology works, especially the use of public and private keys. This will help decide which cryptocurrency to invest in and ensure that the transaction and digital asset storage is done securely.

The Future of Cryptography

As time goes on, it gets more and more challenging to maintain secure encryption of information. Computers and hackers get more sophisticated, and even the most impenetrable codes can be cracked using psychological tactics and social engineering.

Two tools that help increase security are two-factor authentication (2FA) and Honeypots. Each of them works slightly differently, though with the same goal.

•  With 2FA, the user must input a code retrieved from a text message or app on their phone in addition to their password. This means that an account can’t be accessed without access to the individual’s phone.
•  Honeypots trick attackers by creating false data that looks real and then alerting organizations when the attackers attempt to do a hack.

A newer form of cryptography is called homomorphic encryption. This attempts to solve one of today’s major cryptographic problems: the fact that data cannot be processed while it’s encrypted. This means that data has to be encrypted before it can be used for anything, making it vulnerable during that processing time. Homomorphic encryption allows users to process data while it’s encrypted, and then simply decrypt the final result.

The next wave of encryption will likely involve the use of quantum computers and post-quantum cryptography. These add layers of encryption beyond today’s capabilities. However, this technology is still in development.

The Takeaway

The history of cryptography is long and fascinating, and the technology has gotten more essential and complex over time. In today’s world, cryptography underpins everything from social media to financial transactions. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you keep your data and information safe using strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and other tools.

If you’re starting to invest in cryptocurrencies, you’ll need a basic understanding of public and private keys. One way to get started investing in cryptocurrencies is with SoFi Invest®. The investing platform allows you to research, trade digital assets right from your phone, and view all of your financial information in one simple dashboard.

Find out how to invest in crypto with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOIN21087

Source: sofi.com