7 Tips for Acing a Video Interview

Whether you just graduated school or are just seeking a new job, work interviews have modernized. Video interviews —conducted online— are increasingly common. In some industries, IRL interviews are (for now) a thing of the past—as more companies take on remote hires and millions are working from home.

And, with the rapid rise in digital job interviews, what are some ways to ace the video interview?

Here are seven tips for giving an impactful and memorable video interview—from practicing potential answers out loud ahead of time to tweaking the lighting for your camera.

There are various ways to get a first job after college. Being prepared for video interviews is one way to make a positive first impression.

Dressing for the Video Interview

For remote jobs, it’s quite possible that applicants may do a video interview through their tablets or computers. And, while the job interview location may now be a digital platform (and your couch), certain interview expectations stay the same—namely presenting yourself with professionalism and dressing for the job. Even when (especially when) you’re interviewing from home.

It may be helpful to ask about the expected dress code for a remote position. Asking questions like this may show a hirer that you’re aware that businesses have diverse expectations for professionalism. Even if they say you can wear whatever you want, you’ve shown that you’re unafraid of asking questions to grasp what’s expected of that role.

There’s an old adage— dress for the job you want, not the role you have. In a video interview, this could mean opting to dress a touch more formally—even if HR said the employees usually go for business-casual. (And, yes, you should wear pants during video interviews.)

It’s hard to feel like you’re going to shine if you’re in coffee-stained PJs.

It’s also not a bad idea to confirm the logistics of the video interview (in addition to outfit- planning). Some video interview logistics questions could include:

•   Will you get a calendar invite or event link for the interview?
•   What time zone will the interviewer be calling in from?
•   Which video conferencing platform will be used?
•   Will you need to download software to be able join the interview?

Knowing the answers to logistics can help bring more confidence to the video interview.

1. Practicing to Make Perfect

Different companies or organizations may use different platforms to host the interview—from Zoom to Google Hangouts to other programs. Don’t worry: You don’t need to become a pro at all the expert features. Still, it’s a good idea to become comfortable at:

•   Dialing in to scheduled calls
•   Checking the audio and the camera
•   Understanding what the interviewer can see
•   Ensuring the WiFi signal is strong enough for the video interview

If an interviewer mentions a program you’ve never used, it’s advisable to download and try it out well before the actual call. Opening up an unfamiliar program just before the interview only to realize it’s not compatible with your technology might create a positive first impression. So, make sure you double-check that you have all logins or passwords for the call. It’s best not to keep interviewers waiting because you failed to check the video interview details.

Try to make a mental checklist of digital distractions you’ve run across, as well. Then, see what you can do to minimize (if not outright eliminate) those common distractions before the live video interview. For example, you could turn off notifications or sounds for texts and emails during the interview time slot.

2. Setting the Surroundings

Generally, it’s a good idea to do a test call on the planned video-interview platform. This could help you assess how you and your surroundings appear via video. You may even want an extra set of eyes and ears–asking a friend or family member to do a “mock” call to ensure the audio and visuals are clear.

When prepping for a video interview, put yourself in the position of whoever will be interviewing you. Some questions to chew on:

•   What can the interviewer see of your space?
•   Are you easily visible or is more light needed?
•   Are there any distractions in the camera frame?

Some digital platforms allow users to record sessions. So, interviewees may want to record themselves talking and then watch and listen. You could run through the main things you want to say in the real video interview. Talking aloud on camera can help some people to become more aware of their own nervous tics and body language.

3. Taking Notes Beforehand

With job interviews, researching the company beforehand could give you ideas of how to connect previous work experience with the brand’s values or role’s job. One of the benefits of a video interview is that you can make these research notes quite literal.

Write out key points on a big piece of paper near your computer. Or, jot down some ideas or accomplishments on a sticky note next to your camera. It’s likely that the employer conducting the video interview will have no idea you’re looking at those pre-prepared notes—just make sure you keep your notes short, so you can naturally weave in keywords.

Talking points are a good idea. You may want to skip long sentences that sound like you’re reading.

4. Minimizing Off-Screen Distractions

Above all else, keep your on-screen image distraction-free. It’s worth remembering that the only person the interviewer wants to interact with is you–not your adorable pets, lovely roommates, or kid sister. You ask the folks you share a living space with to keep quiet or stay in their rooms during your interview. Plan ahead so the conversation isn’t distractingly interrupted by unexpected visitors.

5. Wearing Headphones

It would be a shame to have the audio cut out mid interview. Nothing can derail a smooth interview back-and-forth than the inability to hear the other person. It’s likely neither the interviewer or the job applicant wants to say, “What?” or “Can you repeat that?” during the video call.

There’s no need to invest in fancy, studio-quality headphones, thankfully—if you’re comfortable with earbuds, those should work fine. They also have the added benefit of not being visually intrusive.

6. Going Outside for a Breather

It’s hard to feel energetic and friendly if you’re cooped inside all day. A good way to minimize nerves is to get fresh air. Don’t just open up a window—put on sunscreen, maintain social distancing, and go outside. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, a jolt of sunlight and breeze can reset the mind.

7. Remembering to Be Yourself

After preparing for the logistics of a video interview, it can be easy to forget one simple thing: Be yourself. While a strong WiFi signal and well-lit space won’t hurt your chances during a video interview, it’s helpful to recall that interviews are conversations between two or more people. Be prepared and share who you are.

Getting to Work

Acing a job interview—video interview or otherwise—is just one part of navigating life after college. Being ready for a video interview is just one new way to get noticed these days.

On top of looking for a full-time or better-paying job, some grads also want to find ways to reduce their outstanding debt balances—including long-term bills, like student loan repayments.

After exhausting federal options (like income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness programs), some borrowers decide to refinance their student loans with a private lender.
Refinancing student loans could reduce monthly bill payments or the amount paid in interest during the duration of the loan.

Learn more about refinancing your student loans with SoFi.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.


Source: sofi.com

Can AI Beat the Market? 10 Stocks to Watch

Artificial intelligence isn’t new to the world of stock picking, but it hasn’t really been an option for retail investors. That is, until now.

Traditionally, powerful artificial intelligence systems – and the high-octane brainpower needed to develop and run them – that target stocks to watch have been available only to hedge funds, quant funds and a select group of asset management firms.

Danel Capital, a financial advice company, aims to change all that with a new analytics platform that harnesses the power of big data technology and machine learning. The idea is to help regular investors make smarter decisions with their tactical stock picks.

Here’s how it works:

The company’s AI algorithms analyze more than 900 fundamental, technical and sentiment data points per day for 1,000 U.S.-listed shares and 600 stocks listed in Europe. Danel says that in total, its AI predictive scoring capability churns through 10,000 daily indicators. The platform then analyzes that huge amount of data to predict the future performance of each stock, calculating the probability of beating the market over the next four months.

Once the algo determines which stocks to watch, it spits out a rating known as a Smart Score, which ranges from 1 to 10. Danel says that, on average, stocks with the highest Smart Scores of nine or 10 almost doubled the S&P 500’s annualized returns from January 2017 to July 2020.

And, indeed, the top 5 rankings Danel Capital firm released in January and February beat the S&P 500 by considerable margins. The firm has since switched to issuing top 10 rankings.

Note well that we’re talking about the probability of beating the market over the next few months or so, not days. That makes the platform useful for tactical investors, not day traders.

It’s an interesting system that makes some pretty counterintuitive stock picks. Whether it proves to be a useful tool for retail investors remains to be seen, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Here are 10 stocks to watch over the next few months, as Danel Capital’s AI platform gives them the highest probability of beating the market in that time. All have perfect Smart Scores of 10, but for good measure, we also took a look at some fundamentals, technicals and analyst research on these names.

Share prices and other data are courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence as of April 6, unless otherwise noted.

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10. Snowflake

Concept art for high-tech insuranceConcept art for high-tech insurance
  • Market value: $68.1 billion
  • Smart score: 10

Cloud infrastructure unicorn Snowflake (SNOW, $236.01) generated considerable hype when it went public in September 2020 at $120 a share, making it the largest software offering in history. 

It didn’t hurt that Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) – whose chairman and CEO Warren Buffett is notoriously averse to initial public offerings – got in on Snowflake’s ground floor, snapping up $250 million worth of SNOW in a private placement.

But mostly the excitement stemmed from Snowflake’s growth prospects in the rapidly expanding industry of cloud infrastructure software. Known as a cloud-data warehousing company, Snowflake lets enterprise customers run their software on various cloud platforms, be they provided by Amazon.com (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT) or Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL), to name just three.

Investors have already included Snowflake among their stocks to watch thanks to the shares’ near-doubling since the IPO, but they’re off about 16% for the year-to-date amid a widespread selloff in the software sector. By Danel Capital’s reckoning, however, they’re poised for a rebound soon.

The firm’s proprietary AI assessment gives SNOW a Smart Score of 10, helped by strong – and rising – technical indicators and improving fundamental scores.

Wall Street likes SNOW’s prospects, too.

“Snowflake’s product architecture is superior to its rivals and that the market for cloud-hosted data analytics might be larger than investors believe,” writes UBS Global Research analyst Karl Keirstead, who rates the stock at Buy.

Of the 26 analysts covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, nine rate it at Strong Buy, two say Buy and 15 have it at Hold. Their average target price of $289.92 gives SNOW implied upside of about 25% over the next 12 months or so.

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9. Palantir Technologies

concept art for big dataconcept art for big data
  • Market value: $42.4 billion
  • Smart score: 10

Palantir Technologies (PLTR, $23.27) gets a perfect 10 Smart Score, again, thanks predominantly to strong technical grades. AI’s assessments of PLTR’s fundamentals and sentiment are more middling, but stable. Interestingly, Palantir’s daily Smart Score has been in a strong uptrend recently, nearly doubling since the end of March.

Although a Smart Score of 10 suggests that shares in the big data analytics company are a good candidate for outperformance in the shorter to intermediate term, the Street is more cautious, at least in its longer term view.

Analysts’ consensus recommendation on the name stands at Hold, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. One analyst rates PLTR at Strong Buy, one says Buy, three have it at Hold, one calls it a Sell and two slap a Strong Sell on the stock.

Shares in the company, which went public on Sept. 30, 2020 through a direct listing, opened at $10 on their first day of trading and closed at $9.50. Although PLTR is up about 145% ever since, what stands foremost in investors’ minds is that the stock is down 35% from its late-January all-time closing high.

William Blair equity research, which rates the stock at Underperform (the equivalent of Sell), is concerned that Palantir has struggled to deliver the same type of hyper-growth in its commercial division that many of its competitors have achieved. 

“Palantir offers a unique solution, which has the potential to support growth rates in line with some of the most successful providers of enterprise software,” writes William Blair analyst Kamil Mielczarek. “However, we believe there are several risks to achieving this growth rate that are not currently priced into the stock.”

Analysts’ average price target of $25.57 gives PLTR implied upside of roughly 10% over the next year or so. So, put Palantir among your stocks to watch over the next few months to see whether the more bullish algos, or more bearish humans, are right.

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8. Nio

Nio vehiclesNio vehicles
  • Market value: $65.5 billion
  • Smart score: 10

If you thought Tesla (TSLA) stock was a hot and volatile way to play the explosive growth in electric vehicles, take a look at shares in NIO (NIO, $40.00).

The Chinese electric-vehicle maker’s stock has outperformed TSLA by a stunning margin over the past 52 weeks – and has done so in even more volatile fashion than we’ve come to expect from the leading EV stock. 

Shares in NIO have gained more than 1,519% over the past year vs. an increase of 675% for TSLA. Of course, when comparing performance, it depends on how you draw the chart. For the year-to-date, for example, NIO is off 18% vs. a 2% drop in TSLA. 

Either way, with a perfect Smart Score of 10, Danel Capital’s AI expects NIO to return to its market-beating ways soon. Strong scores for technical and sentiment factors – and high marks for the fundamental factor of high expected revenue growth – all help propel NIO to the top of the AI list.

Investors certainly have to be pleased with some recent catalysts. Among them, NIO delivered a record number of vehicles in March. Most notably, the EV maker achieved the feat despite a global shortage of semiconductors that has forced other automakers to suspend or reduce production. 

The Street is likewise bullish on the premium EV start-up company. Of the 18 analysts covering NIO tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, six rate the stock at Strong Buy, five say Buy and seven call it a Hold. Their consensus recommendation comes to Buy.

UBS Global Research analyst Paul Gong isn’t quite so enthusiastic. He rates NIO at Neutral (Hold), citing risks such as weaker-than-expected demand; fierce competition, including the local production of Tesla; and a potential decline in government subsidies for the EV industry.

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7. Albemarle

Lithium-ion batteryLithium-ion battery
  • Market value: $17.8 billion
  • Smart score: 10

Albemarle’s (ALB, $152.89) specialty chemicals products work entirely behind the scenes, from clean-fuel technologies to pharmaceuticals to fire safety. But what puts Albemarle among the market’s top stocks to watch right now is lithium.

The world’s need for higher-capacity rechargeable batteries was already insatiable. And now that electric vehicles have entered the scene? Forget about it.

That’s why it makes perfect sense that Albemarle’s top Smart Score is driven by a blemish-free rating of its fundamentals. Danel Capital’s AI also assigns it a near-perfect score on the stock’s technical considerations.

The algo’s reading on sentiment, however, is relatively low, scoring only a three out of 10. That helps explain the Street’s mixed view on the stock and its consensus recommendation of at Hold.

Although the accelerating pace of global EV sales bodes well for lithium demand, some analysts think ALB stock may have gotten ahead of itself at current levels. 

“Our lithium outlook is improving, and we think ALB will be well positioned for growth through capacity expansions,” writes CFRA Research analyst Richard Wolfe. “However, we think shares’ lofty valuation captures much of this benefit, so we stay at Hold.”

Danel Capital’s AI suggests that ALB is a good current stock pick for tactical investors. But it also happens to be worth a closer look if you’re a longer term dividend growth investor. Indeed, ALB is a member of the S&P Dividend Aristocrats, an elite list of S&P 500 companies that have raised their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years. Albemarle last hiked its payout in February 2021, by 1.3% to a quarterly 39 cents a share. The move represented the firm’s 27th consecutive annual increase.

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6. Ebix

image of man with charts and graphsimage of man with charts and graphs
  • Market value: $987.7 million
  • Smart score: 10

Artificial intelligence – and its forerunner of quantitative analysis – in a sense puts blinders on. Data, not headlines, drives decisions. Whether that’s the best approach to take with a company like Ebix (EBIX, $31.90) is a matter of debate.

Ebix, which specializes in software and services to the insurance, health care and financial industries, saw its shares tumble by more than 50% over two sessions in late February after its auditor resigned.

The whiff of accounting issues has yet to be resolved, but shares have clawed back some of their losses. EBIX is now off about 16% for the year-to-date and, by some measures, trading at bargain-basement levels.

Interestingly, EBIX scores high in all three categories of Danel Capital AI’s Smart Score system, garnering sevens (out of 10) for fundamentals and sentiment, and an almost-perfect nine in technicals.

As for the fundamentals, the algo gives Ebix high marks for free cash flow, or money available to shareholders if the company decides to distribute it. And, indeed, the company generated free cash flow (after debt payments) of $59.5 million for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2020. That’s a notable figure given that the company generated net income of $94.5 million over the same 12-month period.

Valuation is another plus – shares are trading at less than 10 times at estimated earnings for 2021.

While Danel Capital has EBIX among its stocks to watch right now, it’s barely a blip on most analysts’ radar. The lone pro covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence is likewise bullish, giving it a Strong Buy recommendation.

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5. American Airlines

American Airlines planeAmerican Airlines plane
  • Market value: $15.4 billion
  • Smart score: 10

American Airlines (AAL, $24.06) – and indeed much of the rest of the air carrier industry – is considered by the Street to be among the ultimate recovery plays.

Danel Capital’s algo certainly thinks so, giving it a perfect Smart Score with strength across the board. AAL gets a 10 for fundamentals and ratings of nine on both sentiment and technicals. 

Notably, daily sentiment scores on the name have been in a steep uptrend since the end of March, while fundamental readings have remained perfect on a daily basis for even longer. Readings on technicals have likewise bounced higher in April.

The Street, however, is less sanguine on AAL, with a consensus recommendation of Sell. Of the 22 analysts covering the stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, two rate it at Strong Buy, eight say Hold, four call it a Sell and seven say Strong Sell. One has no opinion on the name.

Stifel equity research, which rates AAL at Hold, says it has reservations based on the company’s ability to navigate a challenging post-pandemic landscape. 

“American Airlines faces significant earnings pressure and uncertainty related to COVID-19, the pace of a recovery, and its ability to solve the margin challenges it faced pre-COVID,” writes Stifel analyst Joseph DeNardi in a note to clients. 

Argus Research also remains cautious on the stock.

“We are maintaining our Hold rating on AAL, which had been hurt by the 737 MAX groundings, is now wrestling with COVID-19 and high debt levels,” writes analyst John Staszak. “With air travel demand remaining weak, we think that lower operating expenses and a low interest rate environment will provide only partial relief to American and other airlines.”

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4. Zoom Video Communications

A person using video conferencingA person using video conferencing
  • Market value: $96.9 billion
  • Smart score: 10

Zoom Video Communications (ZM, $329.79) has been among the Street’s top stocks to watch ever since the pandemic. Few companies have benefited from the work-from-home economy as much as Zoom – and Danel Capital’s algos think there is more upside ahead.

The video conferencing company’s perfect Smart Score is driven by high marks for technicals and sentiment, which offset a somewhat more middling rating in fundamentals.

The Street likes what it sees, too. Analysts consensus recommendation works out to a Buy, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The breakdown comes to eight Strong Buy recommendations, three Buys, 14 Hold calls, one Sell and one Strong Sell.

Although shares in Zoom are up about 170% over the past 52 weeks, they’ve been trending lower since October. And as for the year-to-date? ZM is off 2.2% vs. a gain of 6% for the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index.

An accelerating vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and the green shoots of a return to pre-pandemic routines doesn’t necessarily bode well for ZM, but bulls say any pessimism over the stock’s prospects is overdone.

William Blair equity research, for example, expects Zoom’s momentum to continue in 2021 after posting “blowout” quarterly results to cap off an “incredible” year.

“We continue to believe that Zoom is benefiting from strong secular tailwinds in a large and underpenetrated market and expect that the company can continue to show strong growth for years to come,” analyst Matt Stotler, who rates the stock at Outperform (Buy), writes in a client note.

With an average target price of $462.72, analysts give ZM stock implied upside of about 40% in the next 12 months or so. They expect the company to generate average annual EPS growth of 15.6% over the next three to five years, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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3. Bluebird Bio

image of man with charts and graphsimage of man with charts and graphs
  • Market value: $2.0 billion
  • Smart score: 10

Bluebird Bio (BLUE, $30.16), a biotechnology company that develops gene therapies for both severe genetic diseases and cancer, gets high ratings in all three of Danel Capital’s major rating categories. It also gets high marks from the Street.

The algo gives it scores of seven, eight and seven for fundamentals, technicals, and sentiment, respectively. At the same time, the human consensus recommendation stands at Buy. 

Complicating matters is that following a series of setbacks, the company in January said it will split into two separate entities, with one focusing on cancer and the other on rare diseases.

The problem, as Raymond James analyst Dane Leone puts it, is what is the value of Bluebird Bio with the split looming later this year? As a result, the analyst rates BLUE at Hold.

Another challenge stems from regulatory uncertainty surrounding the company’s development of LentiGlobin. The Food and Drug Administration in February put trials of the gene therapy on clinical hold.

Although the consensus recommendation stands at Buy, analysts are pretty closely split on the name amid all the uncertainty. Of the 24 analysts covering BLUE tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, nine rate it at Strong Buy, one says Buy and 14 call it a Hold.

Their average target price of $47.89 gives BLUE implied upside of nearly 60% over the next 12 months or so. Keep in mind that the stock is off 30% so far in 2021.

As with Ebix above, Bluebird Bio appears to be one of the more speculative bets on the AI list.

9 of 10

2. TechnipFMC

oil services workeroil services worker
  • Market value: $3.5 billion
  • Smart score: 10

The energy sector is loaded with recovery plays. TechnipFMC (FTI, $7.65), an oil and gas services company, could be one of the better ones, according to Danel Capital’s AI.

FTI’s perfect Smart Score is based on a rating of nine for fundamentals, and 10s for both technicals and sentiment. 

The Street is mostly bullish too, with a consensus recommendation of Buy. Of the 25 analysts covering FTI tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 11 call it a Strong Buy, two say Buy, 11 rate it at Hold and one has it at Sell. Their average price target of $10.89 gives the stock implied upside of about 40% in the next 12 months or so. 

The slow reopening of the global economy is bullish for oil prices, and the market has been rewarding the sector handsomely. Indeed, energy has been the S&P 500’s best-performing sector so far this year, with a gain of 29% through April 6. 

FTI, down about 18% for the year-to-date, hasn’t participated in the rally. But it’s among Wall Street’s best stocks to watch right now because the bulls – and the algos – say it’s only a matter of time. 

“In the Surface Technologies segment, we expect higher international activity to offset modest-to-lower North American activity in 2021,” writes CFRA Research analyst Andrzej Tomczyk, who rates shares at Buy. “The Subsea segment should also see growth, given renewed operator confidence amid the improved macro environment and higher oil prices.”

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1. Alaska Air

An Alaska Air planeAn Alaska Air plane
  • Market value: $9.2 billion
  • Smart score: 10

Alaska Air (ALK, $73.74) is set to benefit disproportionately from a recovery in the air travel sector, analysts say. And Danel Capital AI’s assessment suggests shares will take off soon.

ALK gets perfect scores of 10 on fundamentals, technicals and sentiment. With shares up nearly 42% for the year-to-date, it’s fair to say the market and Danel’s AI are of the same mind.

On the Street, analysts emphasize the air carrier’s unusually strong fundamentals in an otherwise battered industry. 

“We believe ALK’s combination of a conservative balance sheet and its historically high cash generation per plane will make it among the first U.S. airlines to recover profitability this year,” writes CFRA analyst Colin Scarola, who has a Buy recommendation on the stock. “ALK also has modest equipment purchase commitments for 2021-2022, in our view, with 2022 commitments equating to only 32% of 2019 operating cash flow.”

At Stifel, analyst Joseph DeNardi, who rates ALK at Buy, believes the airline’s geographic service area lowers the risk that it emerges from the pandemic facing significantly lower structural demand.

But Alaska Air also is among the best stocks to watch right now for its M&A potential. For example, what if the pandemic and its aftermath trigger a painful reckoning in the industry, leading to consolidation?

In that case, “Alaska would be a highly valued asset,” DeNardi writes.

The bulk of the Street sides with the bulls on ALK, with nine Strong Buy calls, three Buys and two Hold recommendations. Add it all up and the consensus recommendation comes to Buy, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Source: kiplinger.com

The History of Federal Student Loan Interest Rates

More than two out of three of recent college students took out loans to help cover the costs of furthering their education—averaging $29,900 per borrower, including private and federal debts.

When it comes to paying back student loans, both the total amount borrowed (i.e., the principal) and the interest rates (i.e., the percentage charged on top of the principal) can shape how much a borrower ends up shelling out over the life of the loan.

And, just as the cost of attending college in the US has changed with the times, the interest rates charged on educational loans have historically fluctuated.

While the cost of attending college has steadily gone up, the history of student loan interest rates shows both ups and downs. For instance, the 2020-2021 federal loan rates for undergraduates are now 2.75%—compared to 4.29% just five years ago.

A wide variety of educational loans are available to eligible students—including subsidized and unsubsidized federal ones and those handled by private lenders.

Interest rates for different loans change over time. The US government plays a major role in shaping the student loan landscape, setting fixed interest rates each year on federal loans, which can impact the total amount a borrower ends up paying back.

To understand the history of student loan interest rates, it can be helpful to zoom out and take a wide-lens view of the student loan landscape in the US.

The US federal government is the major player in student lending—with $1.51 trillion in debt owed by more than 40 million borrowers. (By comparison, private lenders account for $119 billion in student debts).

Below is an overview of how current rates compare to the recent history of student loan rates:

Understanding US Student Debt

Of the around $14 trillion of outstanding household debt, more than $1.7 trillion comes from student debt—that totals more than what Americans owe for cars or credit card debt, respectively.

Besides mortgages, student loan debt accounts for the largest form of household debt. More than 90% of all outstanding student loans are federal student loans, making the student loan interest rate set by the federal government a significant factor for millions of student borrowers.

Whereas private student loans tend to be set according to a combination of prevailing interest rates and the lender’s projection of the student’s ability to pay, federal student loan rates can be shaped, in part, by something even more confusing than the fine print on a financial statement: politics.

Federal student loans are fixed interest (but the rates are adjusted annually), while private lenders often provide both fixed-rate and variable-interest loans.

Here’s an overview of federal student loan rates and some changes they’ve seen:

What Did the Coronavirus Pandemic Change?

Right now represents an exceptional period in student lending. Typically, federal student loan interest rates are set according to a formula established by the US Congress.

However, presently, the rate is set to zero through September 30, 2021. This means interest will not accrue on Direct Loans, FFEL loans, and Perkins loans issued by the Education Department.

Payments due on federally held student loans have also been paused through at least Sept. 30, 2021. Both actions are a result of a presidential executive order that extended benefits first established in the CARES Act—in response to the extraordinary economic situations triggered by the novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans represent the lion’s share of student lending. But, there’s more than one type of federal student loan. There are a variety of federal educational loans with different student loan interest rates that, historically, have changed with time—from subsidized to unsubsidized, from undergraduate to graduate.

Current federally owned student loans include Direct Loans, Direct PLUS loans, and Parent Plus Loans.

Direct Loans

“Direct Loans” are responsible for the majority of federal student lending. Issued by the US Department of Education, these loans include both subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.

Subsidized loans are for borrowers who can demonstrate financial need and are exclusively available for undergraduate education, while unsubsidized loans can be used by graduate students. There are also Direct PLUS loans for graduate students and parents of students.

Direct Loans for the 2020-2021 school year have a fixed interest rate of 2.75% for both direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans—notably lower than the interest set on federal loans in previous years.

As a point of comparison, Direct Loans for the 2019-2020 academic year were set at 4.53% for subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans. Two years ago (2018-2019), that rate was 5.05%.

Additional Types of Federal Student Loans

The other type of direct loans are PLUS loans and PLUS parent loans. These both carry interest rates determined through a federal government formula. For the 2020-21 school year, the rate on PLUS loans is 5.3%, coming down from 7.08% in 2019-20, and 7.6% two years ago.

For those going to graduate or professional school, the rate for direct loans is now 4.3%. Federal PLUS education loans have a fixed interest rate.

Disused Federal Student Loan Types

The Federal Perkins Loan Program offered fixed-rate loans, at a 5% interest, to qualifying students. This program was aimed at students with exceptional financial need. Schools stopped disbursing Perkins Loans in 2018—after their authority to do so expired under federal law.

How Are Rates Determined?

Traditionally, federal student loan interest rates have been determined in response to laws passed by the US Congress. According to a piece of legislation from 2013 known as the “Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act,” the rate on direct loans is determined by a formula pegged to borrowing cost for government debt.

The first year under this formula produced 3.86% rates on direct loans. During the year before, the 2012-2013 academic year, subsidized loans were 3.4% and unsubsidized loans were 6.8%. (A 2007 bill had lowered the subsidized rate to 3.4%, but it was due to expire in 2012 and go back to 6.8%.) The bill, which set up the formula currently governing federal student loan rates, was meant to address this snapback to a higher rate.

Before the legislation passed, Congress directly set the student loan interest rate, with 3.4% rates on subsidized loans and 6.8% on unsubsidized loans for the 2012-2013 school year. The 2013 bill also introduced caps that limit how high interest rates could go on the new formula.

The cap for direct loans to undergraduates was 8.25%, for graduate student loans it was 9.5%, and for PLUS loans, it was 10.5%. Since 2013, the rates have remained well below the legal caps. You can find previous rates for Direct on the Federal Student Aid website .

Politics and Student Loans

Today’s rates are governed by a formula that differs for different types of loans.

For undergraduate loans, the formula is the interest rate on one type of government debt at a certain time of year plus 2.05%. (The extra interest is added to cover the cost of deferrals, forbearance, and defaults). For graduate student loans it’s that same government debt rate plus 3.6%. And, for PLUS loans, it’s that rate plus 4.6%.

Put another way, the cost students pay to borrow money from the federal government is determined by the cost the government pays to borrow money—plus a fixed buffer of extra interest, which is intended to reduce risk to the government of students not being able to pay back their loans.

Since late 2018, government borrowing costs have been coming down and since the coronavirus epidemic slammed the brakes on the world economy, borrowing costs have been especially low. So, since the 2018-19 school year, rates have been falling, from just over 5% to under 3%.

Federal student loan interest rates for the 2020-21 school year dropped considerably, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn. The interest rate on direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans is just 2.75%, down from 4.53% during the 2019-20 school year.

The Takeaway

The interest rates on federal student loans are set by congress each year and are fixed for the life of the loan. The interest rates are determined based on a formula that the rate on direct loans is determined by a formula tied to borrowing cost for government debt. Federal student loan interest rates for the 2020-21 school year are historically low . The interest rate on direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans is 2.75%.

Millions of students use federal student loans to help them pay for their higher education. These loans come with benefits baked in—including grace periods, income-driven repayment options, forgiveness for public service, and forbearance—that are not guaranteed by private student loans.

But sometimes, federal student aid isn’t enough to cover the cost of tuition and other expenses. For some, a private student loan may help cover the total cost of attending college—including school-certified expenses like, tuition, fees, room and board, and transportation.

Private loans are disbursed by non-government institutions. SoFi, for instance, offers competitive rate in-school loans that come with no fees. And, when a borrower enrolls in autopay, they could get a rate discount.

For those with outstanding student debt, refinancing may be an option to consider. Refinancing student loans may help eligible borrowers pay off their loans faster or lower their monthly payments. (It’s worth noting that refinancing a federal loan with a private lender eliminates federal benefits).

Looking to pay off your student loans? Learn how refinancing with SoFi might help save thousands and lower your interest rate. Check your rate in just two minutes.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.


Source: sofi.com

Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space | Apartminty

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Working from home has become more prominent than ever, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when you’re living in an apartment, it can sometimes be challenging to create a productive remote workspace. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to maximize your space (no matter how small it may be), arrange it in a way that inspires creativity and productivity, and take care of yourself so you stay motivated. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make the most of your apartment while you’re working from home, so you can find a healthy work-life balance and stay focused on your job each day. 

Arranging Your Space

A productive apartment work-from-home space starts with actually creating a designated workspace. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate spare room to set up an office. As long as you have a specific location in mind that is dedicated to your work, you can get things done effectively. Some suggestions include: 

  • Fixing a folding shelf to a wall.
  • Using a large closet/wardrobe.
  • Utilizing a large hallway.
  • Pulling your sofa away from the wall in the living room and using it as a desk chair.

Having your own workspace can help you to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Remember, your environment can affect your mental health. It can either keep you motivated or bring you down. So, focus on things like using natural lighting, having live plants around to give you energy, and even controlling the temperature to keep things a bit cooler. 

If you know you will have to participate in Zoom meetings or similar video chats, make sure that your office looks as professional as possible. Because you’re at home, it’s okay to make things personal. But, whatever is in your background should still suggest that you’re working. A professional background for a video call can include things like plants, pictures, and artwork, but probably shouldn’t include your Star Wars actions figures. 

Keeping Your Health in Mind

In addition to having the right space set up, it’s crucial to take care of yourself in order to stay productive. When working from home, it’s easy to feel distracted and unmotivated. Taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, can have a huge impact on how well you do your job. 

One of the potential drawbacks of working from home is having a harder time with a work-life balance. You can combat this by having a routine each day. Start work at the same time and end it at the same time. Having a separate office space in your apartment will make it easier to “walk away” from work at the end of the day. 

It’s also important to take breaks, and you may need to encourage yourself to do so. Your apartment might be small, but don’t be afraid to splurge on a few “self-care” items including, perhaps, a sofa that you can put in or near your workspace for whenever you need to take a break. 

Your breaks should also consist of movement, as much as possible. Stand up and stretch every hour. Or, take longer breaks throughout the day that allow you to get outside and go for a walk. Studies have shown that simply being out in nature can improve your mood, which may help with productivity, and it will give you a chance to get some space after being in a small apartment all day. 

It’s possible to create a productive apartment work-from-home space and to stay motivated each day. With a few simple changes, some organizational skills, and maybe a professional purchase or two, you can turn almost any area of your apartment into an effective workspace. 

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Source: blog.apartminty.com

Dating During the Pandemic: The Struggle is Real [Study]

It seems younger generations might be taking pandemic guidelines more responsibly.

We’re a little more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic. People around the world have had to adapt to this new normal, from working from home to remote learning and watching sports on television played in front of empty stadiums.

Social activities also took a hit. Fewer people are dining out with friends or going to the bar. Zoom happy hours became a thing. Drive-by weddings were all the rage.

And then there’s dating.

The struggles of dating during the pandemic

It’s no surprise that dating during the pandemic has become a more virtual experience. Match Group, the company that owns Hinge, Tinder and other dating apps, saw an 11 percent increase in subscribers during the pandemic.

Apps like Bumble started adding badges to indicate pandemic date boundaries — think only socially distanced with a mask, only virtual meetups and others.

We conducted a study of single renters to determine how their attitudes about dating during the pandemic have changed over the past year. While there are some differences between men and women and age groups, it seems attitudes are (mostly) the same.

Older daters are less cautious about meeting in person

With in-app video features and zoom dates, users can meet and qualify their dates from the safety and comfort of their homes. A 2020 Match.com study shared that six percent of respondents were not using video before the pandemic, and since coronavirus hit, 69 percent are now open to video chatting.

Our survey also found that overall, 15 percent of daters had more virtual or video meetups than before the pandemic and 22 percent are waiting longer to meet someone for the first time. When you break it down by age groups, you notice a definite trend from younger single renters who are dating to older generations.

precautions on first date graphic

It seems as daters get older, they are less responsible in terms of meeting for the first time compared to Gen Z and younger millennials (who often get criticized for ignoring social distancing guidelines).

In fact, while nearly a quarter (24 percent) of renters between the ages of 18-29 waited longer to meet someone for the first time, that number shrinks to 19 percent for actively dating renters between the ages of 45 and 60.

Additionally, younger generations are also more likely to go on video dates and take precautions for themselves or ask their dates to do the same, such as wearing a mask or waiting for a negative COVID test before meeting in-person.

However, actively dating single renters between 30-44-years old (the majority of the millennial generation) have the highest rate of video first dates at 18 percent.

Daters are enjoying more outside experiences

In what should come as no surprise, outside dating adventures are the most popular options for renters during the pandemic. When asked about the types of dates that people went on more often during the pandemic, outside dates like walks and picnics (34 percent) and dinner or drinks at an establishment with outside seating (29 percent) are the most popular options.

most popular dates during pandemic graphic

Inside dates or dinner and drinks at indoor restaurants are still fairly popular, with both receiving about 16 percent. Interestingly, dates at either person’s homes also come in at roughly 25 percent of the time, indicative of people trying to limit their exposure outside of their personal bubbles.

Tinder remains most popular among dating apps

Tinder had the highest day of swipes ever in late March, with more than 3 billion swipes. In fact, Tinder has reported increasing quarterly paid subscribers counts from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020 with a 15 percent revenue increase year-over-year.

This correlates with our survey data, which shows Tinder as the most popular dating app among single renters, followed by Bumble.

most popular dating apps during pandemic graphic

Interestingly, our findings show a higher percentage of men claiming they are active on all of the dating apps or sites that we listed. This possibly shows that men are using more platforms simultaneously to find love, while women prefer to stick with a few favorites.

4 out of 10 singles say dating is harder than ever before

Nearly 40 percent of all single renters who went on a date in the past year say the experience is more challenging during the pandemic. That’s not surprising when you consider social distancing restrictions and limitations on society.

graphic about how people feel dating during a pandemic is harder than before

When diving deeper, you notice a trend that women who have been dating over the past year say the whole experience has been more challenging compared to men in the same situation. Perhaps this relates to our previous takeaway where women are active on fewer dating apps, potentially limiting themselves to a smaller number of possible partners.

It’s also worth noting that as renters get older, they feel dating is becoming more challenging because of the pandemic. However, our survey does not look into other factors at play for middle-aged renters, such as increased life or job responsibilities, possible health issues and a shrinking dating pool.

Dating tips during the pandemic

Adapting to this new dating landscape isn’t always fun or easy, but it’s definitely possible! Whether you’re hesitant to try dating right now or you want to, but simply don’t know where to start, here are a few tips for dating during the pandemic.

1. Give dating apps a chance

Dating apps often get a bad rap, but they’re the best option for meeting new people when you can’t go out to parties, bars and other places where you’d normally meet someone. And there are plenty of dating apps out there to choose from, all of which have unique offerings. You may need to test out a few different ones before finding an app that you like, so don’t turn away from them if you have a bad experience on one.

2. Take advantage of video chat

Sure, messaging each other is convenient and phone calls are nice, but being able to see the person that you’re talking to is really valuable when dating. There’s a lot of non-verbal communication that happens via facial expression and you’ll be able to better gauge someone’s interest in you if you’re able to read what their voice and words alone can’t tell you.

3. Make time to talk frequently

If you’re not meeting up in person, it is easy to push off responding to messages or starting phone and video calls, even if you’re interested in the person you’re talking to. So set aside time to talk to them, whether that means messaging them on your lunch break or chatting over the phone for a half-hour after work. Make it a priority or else you and the person you’re talking to might lose interest and may stop talking altogether.

4. Meet in person — safely

Just as there’s a big difference between messaging, phone calls and video calls, there’s a big difference between video chatting and doing it in person. Facial expressions can tell us a lot, but body language gives us even more to work with when we’re trying to decipher how someone feels.

Meet up somewhere that you can stay socially distanced, but still talk and interact in some way. You can try hanging out at a park for a bit and maybe even throw a frisbee or kick a soccer ball, so you’re doing something together without getting too close.

5. Establish your comfort level

Everyone has a different experience and their own feelings about the pandemic. It’s important to know where you and the person you’re dating are at with things so you can both feel as good as possible in the circumstances.

If you’re not comfortable meeting in person, then say so and be specific in letting them know why you don’t want to meet in person. Or if you’re okay with meeting up and the person you’re meeting would prefer if you stayed 10 feet apart, be respectful and understanding of that so that they don’t feel worried the entire time you’re together. Don’t focus on seeming “paranoid” or worry about how others will view you — you should feel just as comfortable as the other person in this unique dating situation, so make your comfort level known to them.


The information in this article was drawn from a Rent.com survey conducted in January 2021. The survey collected 1,091 responses from single renters over the age of 18. Of these individuals, 52 percent were between the ages of 18 and 29. Another 25 percent were between the ages of 30 and 44, while 17 percent listed their age as between 45 and 60. An additional 6 percent were over the age of 60.

Respondents were 55 percent female and 45 percent male. Survey results were self-reported, so they are subject to response biases.

Respondents’ reported annual incomes ranged from $0 to $200,000+. Sixty percent of renters made between $0 and $49,999; 24 percent of renters fell in the $50,000 to $99,999 income bracket; 7 percent made between $100,000 and $200,000 and 2 percent earned more than $200,000 annually. Seven percent of respondents preferred not to answer this question.

Fair use statement

This survey information and related graphics are available to help interpret economic, holiday and pandemic-related trends. Please properly credit and link to the survey information and graphics as a courtesy to their creators.

Source: rent.com

Home Decor – 3 Tips for Creating a Stand-Out Brand for Your Brokerage — RISMedia – Fintech Zoom

Home Decor – 3 Tips for Creating a Stand-Out Brand for Your Brokerage — RISMedia |

You hear the word “branding” thrown around a lot in business circles, so much so that its meaning has almost become diluted. That can minimize the importance of true branding for many people when they create their marketing strategy—but branding your brokerage is crucial to building a business that will withstand changes in the market.

Here’s what you should know about branding and how to take the first steps toward building a strong brand in your niche or location.

1. Create long-form audio or video content.
In many ways, our phones have replaced our televisions, which is great news for your brokerage. Gone are the days where you will have to spend thousands of dollars on a TV commercial to get your name out there. Now, with social media, you can get in front of customers for free. And one of the best ways to do this is with long-form audio or video content.

First, create a video or episode of a podcast that tells first-time homebuyers what to expect when buying their first home, or explain some of the common faux pas sellers make when selling in a hot market. People will appreciate this free advice and see you as the hardworking expert that you are.

2. Publish content across all social media platforms.
Once you’ve created your long-form content, use it to create all your social media posts for the next day or week across a variety of channels, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or your blog.

You can post the full-length version on YouTube or whichever podcasting platform you use, then chop it up and post bite-sized clips on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook throughout the week. You can also transcribe it to create a written blog post that can be posted on LinkedIn or your website. Try breaking up your content into enough pieces that you have something to post each day.

3. Follow up and be patient.
Set aside some time each day to follow up on every comment across all of your platforms. You can use these comments as another opportunity to showcase your expertise and let your fans and followers know that you care about their questions or concerns.

It’s important to remember that branding is a long game. Chances are you aren’t going to “go viral” overnight, but with some time and consistency, your brand can become more highly sought-after in your market.

Real Estate Express is the nation’s premier online real estate school, providing pre- and post-licensing courses, continuing education courses, and professional development to hundreds of thousands of real estate agents across the country. RealEstateExpress, along with its sister schools McKissock Learning, Superior School of Real Estate, Allied Schools, The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing and Hondros Education Group, helps real estate professionals achieve sustainable success throughout each stage of their real estate career.

Home Decor – 3 Tips for Creating a Stand-Out Brand for Your Brokerage — RISMedia |

Source: fintechzoom.com

Here’s How to Find Housing on Facebook

Even in the best of times, meeting strangers to select an affordable place to live can be difficult. You never know if, at best, your potential landlord or roommate will be a scammer, or at worst, a murderer. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and you have the added risk of catching COVID-19, even with a mask.

(It’s also difficult to truly socially distance when someone is giving you a tour of a tiny apartment. For now, Zoom and Facetime tours will have to suffice.)

Meanwhile, Facebook groups dedicated to finding housing in specific cities, often targeting niche audiences, are helping anxious home seekers on a budget.

How to Find Housing on Facebook

I experienced the stress of finding a new place to live during the pandemic. As anyone on a budget who lives in a major city can tell you, finding a new place to live also means finding multiple roommates with whom you can comfortably share space.

I am very happy with my current place in Washington, DC, which I share with two roommates. I found it through the Facebook group DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland Housing, Sublets, and Roommates. With more than 61,000 members, it is one of the biggest groups of its kind in the area. I spoke to its founder, Carson Sweezy, a chef and business owner.

Sweezy started the group in 2015 after noticing the D.C. area lacked a housing group on Facebook. He was inspired by the housing groups commonly used by college students to find roommates and leases without the hassle and expense of using a broker.

“Housing is a community resource. I don’t think we should have to rely on brokers or leasing offices to find housing but rather through our networks,” he said.

For finding an ideal home, as well as roommates, he suggests looking at it a bit like applying for a job. This means presenting yourself and your background along with what you’re looking for in a living situation.

The lack of interference from an agent or broker is a draw for finding housing on Facebook. Not only does it save you money, but the process is also casual enough that when you have questions or concerns, you can directly message your potential roommate or landlord.

In essence, Facebook has become a middle ground between the rigidness of sites like Zillow, and the unpredictable Wild West of Craigslist.

Benefits of Using Facebook to Find Housing

With Facebook groups, you can easily find housing that fits your specific life. There are groups dedicated to finding housing for Muslims, Asian-Americans and even vegans. These aren’t meant to be exclusionary, but a tool to find like-minded roommates that share your values and customs.

For some, finding appropriate housing can be a matter of safety as well. I spoke to Arami Tessa, a health care navigation professional, about the group he founded called Queer Housing Boston.

Tessa started the group about five years ago to give queer people an outlet to find a home where they can be their uninhibited selves.

The consequences of living in a non-LGBT-friendly place, he said, “can be as extreme as violence, or as much as not wanting to change yourself and be your full self in your home. There is power in having a living space that is queer-centric. There’s an assumption that there’s safety.”

The ongoing pandemic has affected how Tessa runs the group.

“(The LGBT) community is hurting a lot. We are disproportionately homeless anyway, and the pandemic has made it worse. This is especially true for queer people who are also brown or disabled,” he said. “As a moderator, I did make a concrete change when Covid hit. Pre-Covid I was very strict about only housing posts, and now I am open to fundraising requests from community members and resource sharing.”

The bigger the city, the more diverse and numerous the housing groups. If you don’t see any specific groups for your city, Facebook Marketplace is also a good bet.

Whiteville, N.C., is the tenth least-populated city in America, with a whopping 5,340 residents. Still, Facebook Marketplace shows there are dozens of nice homes available to rent. It’s all a matter of looking in the right place and trusting your gut.

Tips for Using Facebook to Find Housing

  • Don’t give your personal number right away. Facebook messaging is a good way to tell if someone is the real deal, without the risk of giving away personal info.
  • Make sure to get a feel of how your potential roommates are handling the pandemic. If they are ignoring social distancing and never wear a mask, it is a sign to perhaps look elsewhere. At the same time, if they are going to shame you for ever leaving the house, that may be another display of a bad fit.
  • It is always a good practice to do a reverse image search on images of your potential home. I have personally done this, and found what I thought was an apartment in DC, was actually in Seattle at three times the cost. If nothing comes up, the pictures are probably legit.
  • Be realistic. Look up the average cost of living in the neighborhood you desire. If you find the perfect place but the rent is less than half of what your neighbors are paying, it is either a fake listing or there is a major catch. A good tool to use is the Zillow Rent Zestimate, which gives the estimated cost of the property that you’re interested in. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Olivia Smith is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Home Decor – Luxury Residential Vegas Resort Adds Home Automation/Security System to Dwellings – Fintech Zoom

Home Decor – Luxury Residential Vegas Resort Adds Home Automation/Security System to Dwellings

Residents of more than 300 apartments at the Tuscan Highlands resort community can now remotely control and schedule automation of lighting, climate, security and door locks.

LAS VEGAS — At Tuscan Highlands, a brand new south Las Vegas residential resort community, the custom pool, giant LED screens, personalized service and trendy bar set the tone for luxury living, but also represent fairly standard Las Vegas fare. Step into the residences themselves, however, and it’s obvious that Tuscan Highlands set out to stand above the rest, with each unit integrating its own Clare Controls ClareOne security and smart home system that offers remote control and scheduled automation of lighting, climate, security and door locks.

Thanks to the expert integrators at Innovative Home Systems, the Las Vegas-based custom integration firm that outfitted Tuscan Highlands with cutting-edge technologies, the smart home system standard for every apartment is equal parts innovative and necessary.

Particularly for 2021, when many renters will undoubtedly spend more time at home due to ongoing pandemic concerns, the technology is a crucial inclusion that benefitted from local availability of products and design assistance from Volutone.


7 Truths From a Gut-Wrenching Stock Market Crash, One Year Later

A year ago, the stock market was crashing, and who can honestly say they weren’t panicked? A stock market crash is anxiety-inducing enough during normal times, even when you don’t have a pandemic, lockdowns and record job losses in the mix.

The 2020 market meltdown began March 9. The bloodbath continued for an agonizing two weeks. By the time stocks hit bottom on March 23, the S&P 500 index had lost nearly a third of its value.

Some economists predicted the stock market would take three years to recover. Instead, stocks took 181 days to return to their pre-pandemic highs.

7 Lessons From the 2020 Stock Market Crash Apocalypse

Now that we have some hindsight, let’s reflect on seven lessons from the gut-wrenching 2020 stock market crash that still hit home one year later.

1. The stock market doesn’t reflect the economy.

The stock market fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels by August 2020. Yet unemployment remained stubbornly high. COVID-19 shutdowns were hammering small businesses.

The big lesson: The stock market doesn’t reflect the economy. It doesn’t tell us anything about the struggles of small businesses or the droves of unemployed people who can’t afford their bills.

What the stock market tells us is whether investors are optimistic or pessimistic. Over the past year, they’ve been mostly optimistic. They believed the effects of COVID-19 would be relatively short-lived. Some stocks soared precisely because of the pandemic. Investors rushed to invest in companies like Zoom, Home Depot and Peloton that stood to benefit from people being stuck at home.

2. You only lose money in a crash when you sell.

You didn’t lose money during the 2020 market meltdown if you didn’t sell in a panic during the 2020 market meltdown. It may seem obvious in retrospect. But it’s worth repeating for the next time the market tanks and you can’t stop obsessively monitoring your retirement accounts.

Had you invested $10,000 in an S&P 500 index fund on Jan. 2, 2020, your investment would have been worth just $6,876 on March 23, 2020, the day stocks bottomed out. But if you’d stayed calm and kept your money invested, you’d have $11,820 today.

3. You’ll miss the best days if you try to avoid the worst ones.

If you sell after a market crash, you risk missing the best days. A JP Morgan Chase study found that seven of the stock market’s best days between January 2000 and April 2020 occurred within two weeks of the worst days.

Missing the best days is a way bigger disaster for your investments than experiencing a few more bad days. That same JP Morgan Chase study found that if you’d invested $10,000 in the S&P 500 at the start of 2000 and kept it there, you would have had $32,421 by the end of 2019. But had you missed the 10 best days, you’d have less than half that — $16,180.

4. A stock market crash can be a huge opportunity.

When you can afford to invest, a stock market crash can be like a Black Friday sale for investors. If you had psychic powers and invested $10,000 on March 23, knowing that would be the day the market would hit its low point, you’d have more than $17,000 today.

The problem, of course, is that you don’t have a crystal ball. When you invest after a stock market crash, you have to be prepared for the possibility that the market could tank even further. But that doesn’t matter if you’re investing for the long term.

One approach some investors take is to practice dollar-cost averaging, which means you invest on a regular schedule no matter what’s happening in the stock market. But they set aside extra cash so that if the market heads south, they can invest more at low prices.

5. FOMO is a real fear.

Plenty of people weren’t scared off by the stock market crash. Instead, the crash exposed a different kind of fear: FOMO, or fear of missing out. Last year, stock trading apps like Robinhood saw a huge spike in activity when the first round of stimulus checks went out after the market crashed.

While investing after a crash is often a great opportunity, some investments are too risky. These include investing in companies that just declared bankruptcy, day trading and penny stocks — all of which have surged since last year’s crash.

6. Recoveries are inevitable. We just don’t know when.

The stock market has recovered from every single crash in history. The trouble is that we never know when that recovery will happen. The COVID-19 recovery that happened in 181 days was the fastest on record.

By comparison, it took 1,997 days for the S&P 500 to recover from the pre-Great Recession high it reached on Oct. 9, 2007. It wasn’t until March 28, 2013, that stocks would fully recover.

7. An emergency fund is the best investment you can have.

The biggest lesson of the 2020 stock market crash and recession is just how vital an emergency fund is. Saving for a rainy day isn’t nearly as sexy as picking a stock at a rock-bottom price and watching it soar.

Your emergency fund may not earn you the bragging rights you get from picking a winning stock. But it safeguards the investments you already have, because you can turn to your savings rather than cashing out if you lose your job or have a big expense after the market crashes. Peace of mind and security matter more than bragging rights.

Focus on your emergency fund regardless of what’s happening in the stock market. Once your savings is in good shape, you can afford to use a crash as an opportunity to invest more if that’s what you want.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

Related Posts

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Introducing the Livestream Open House

Necessity is the mother of innovation, and with that comes the so-called “Livestream Open House,” which has just been launched by Realtor.com in the face of COVID-19.

To combat the ill effects of the coronavirus on the housing market, companies have been stepping up efforts to introduce new tech that allows consumers to continue pursuing the American Dream.

A few weeks back, Clear Capital announced the release of OwnerInsight, a new tool that lets homeowners take interior pictures of their home like an appraiser normally would.

This allows for social distancing to be adhered to, even while the home buying and selling process goes on.

What Is a Livestream Open House?

Livestream open house

  • An open house that is broadcasted online in real-time via a video platform
  • Allows listing agents to show multiple home shoppers around the property
  • Buyers can ask the agent questions and request to see specific home features up-close
  • It is scheduled in advance just like a normal open house

Now we’ve got the Livestream Open House, which as the name denotes, allows real estate agents to continue showing property listings while maintaining proper distance.

There had been reports of open houses still going on in some areas of the country, but with social distancing measures in place and probably a lot of nervous people in masks.

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman wrote about one in Hoboken, New Jersey, where six groups of potential home buyers were being staggered like a Disneyland ride.

But in today’s day and age, that’s simply not good enough anymore.

The Livestream Open House provides a better solution by allowing serious home buyers and lookie-loos to get an all-encompassing view of a home without undue risk.

And unlike a virtual home tour, which has been around for a while, it’s an interactive experience.

Home shoppers can interact with the agent, ask questions, and have the agent show them a specific home feature or area of the property.

Not sure about something or need clarification? You can ask the agent to move you into the kitchen or the upstairs bathroom to get a closer look. Or have them take you outside and explore the backyard.

Ultimately, a pre-recorded virtual tour might not show you all the details. Perhaps more dangerous, it might leave important things out if the seller/agent curate the video too much.

These Livestream Open Houses are now available on Realtor.com’s web and smartphone/app in certain geographic areas.

Once you find a property you like, check the listing page to see if Livestream Open House is supported, then select the time that works best for you.

Then simply join via the Open House section of the for sale property listing page. You can also search for properties with upcoming open houses.

At the moment, Livestream Open Houses are supported by several leading video platforms including Google Hangouts, Zoom, join.me and Zoho. Others are expected to be added over time.

Nearly a Quarter Would Buy a Home Without Seeing It in Person

  • 24% of people would be willing to buy a home without seeing it in person
  • 30% would be willing to rent a home sight unseen
  • Numbers are even higher for younger age groups at 29%/34 respectively
  • 21% believe COVID-19 has made them more likely to move into a home sight unseen

A separate but related study by Realtor.com and Toluna found that more prospective home buyers and renters are open to the idea of moving into a home sight unseen.

Some 24% would buy a house without actually seeing it in the flesh, which is pretty shocking given the major expense involved.

This supports a similar survey from Redfin back in 2018 that claimed a third of home buyers made offers without visiting the property.

Additionally, 30% of renters would move into a property without physically entering it first.

However, nearly half of prospective buyers (47%) still prefer to see a home in person with their buyer’s agent.

In terms of how technology could help, these are the top five solutions in order of popularity:

– Virtual tour of the home (61%)
– Accurate and detailed listing information (58%)
– Accurate and detailed neighborhood information (53%)
– High quality listing photos (51%)
– Agent or landlord walk-through via video chat (39%)

Like buyers, home sellers are also wary of letting people into their homes during this pandemic, but are open to solutions as well.

Some alternatives include allowing their agent into the home to take photos, virtual tours, and video chat.

But when push comes to shove, most will probably still let serious home buyers in the door.

It’ll be interesting to see how COVID-19 affects open houses moving forward. Not everyone holds them for one reason or another, and fewer will probably take place as a result.

For me, the virtual open house makes sense, and if you like what you see, then you can ask to see the home in person. This could be both safer and more efficient.

Safer for homeowners who have valuables in their homes, safer for listing agents that are often alone, and safer in terms of lessening the spread of illnesses in general.

Read more: Open Houses Result in Faster, More Expensive Home Sales

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com