Tips for Navigating Night Classes

When the sun is setting, happy hour consists of a stiff caffeinated drink or two for some. Their brains are still on the job.

More on liquid stimulants later, but add that sort of choice to the list when it comes to getting an education: Commute or live on campus, study full time or part time, and pick a major, to name but a few.

Once you’ve landed on a college and enrolled, it’s time to sign up for courses and plan your schedule. In many cases, schools offer courses throughout the day and evening to accommodate a broad range of students and their different schedules.

Night classes may be a convenient option for students who have to balance work and school. Given the cost of education, this is a large share of the student body. In 2018, 43% of full-time students and 81% of part-time students were employed during their studies.

Taking night classes can be an adjustment from studying during the traditional 8-to-5 window. Staying focused after a long day of work or rewiring your brain to study at night can be challenging.

Whether you’re gearing up for a degree’s worth of night school or a one-off evening class, take a look at these tips to survive night classes.

Nocturnal Animals

Generally speaking, night classes take place between 5 and 10 p.m. College night classes typically follow the traditional semester schedule, though there may be shorter timelines for special-interest topics or certificate programs.

Because night classes are geared toward nontraditional students with family and work obligations, they typically occur once a week for two to four hours, but it depends on the course credits and subject matter.

Although this condensed format may mean fewer trips to campus, it can also make for much longer days. Students may want to keep the following issues in mind.

Controlling Caffeine Cravings

When feeling tired, it may be a natural inclination to grab a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage to get a boost of energy and keep going. While this may help a student get through a night class or hammer out an assignment at the last minute, it can disrupt sleeping patterns, creating further fatigue the next day.

Caffeine can last up to 12 hours in the system after consumption. Even for night owls, a coffee or a Red Bull® or a Monster® after lunch could keep them awake well beyond when they want to go to bed.

If cold turkey seems like too drastic a change, you might want to try experimenting with less caffeinated beverages, such as tea. Everyone is different, and the goal is finding the sweet spot between staying awake and engaged during night classes and not losing precious sleep later on.

Staying Nourished and Hydrated

Staying focused during night classes can take practice and preparation. Packing healthy snacks and water is one way to maintain energy and feel comfortable as class discussions and lectures progress into the later evening hours.

If a professor doesn’t permit eating in the classroom, a student can likely squeeze in a quick bite beforehand or during break time.

Remaining Active

Between work, studying, class time, and other obligations, exercising may seem like a luxury that there isn’t enough time for. This can feel especially true on days when a full day at work is followed by a three-hour night class.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. Broken down over the whole week, that’s about 20 minutes of exercise a day.

If you’re really in a pinch, fitting in a brisk walk before night classes start or during the midway break in a three-hour seminar can help with your energy and work toward meeting the 150-minute threshold.

Befriending Classmates

Night classes can draw a more diverse student body than traditional college classes. For discussion-oriented classes, this can enrich the conversation with more perspectives.

It is also an opportunity to network and find a study buddy or two. Because night classes usually meet only once a week for a 15-week semester, even one absence could lead to falling behind or missing out on critical information. Classmates can be a resource for sharing notes and staying in the loop on what happened in class.

Also, becoming friends with classmates could make lengthy night classes more fun and add motivation to keep up strong attendance.

Creating a More Flexible Work Schedule

Even full-time students can expect to have at least one or two nights free from scheduled classes. If you have a flexible work schedule, you’re already in a position to craft an ideal balance of work, school, and social life.

However, if you’re working some version of the standard 9-5 schedule five days a week, the days with back-to-back work and class can feel like a marathon. Getting an education takes work, but you may not get the most out of it if it becomes something you dread.

Redistributing work hours to accommodate your night class schedule might prevent burnout. For instance, being able to come in an hour later on mornings after night classes and make them up later in the week can spread out the workload and help in catching up on sleep.

Talking to supervisors may feel intimidating, but if your college night classes are providing skills and knowledge to perform better at your job, you can make a case for getting some wiggle room at work while you finish school.

Avoiding Procrastination

As school traditionally runs from morning to early afternoon, conventional wisdom dictates completing homework and assignments the night before, at the latest. With night classes, the window to procrastinate can be extended later in the day.

Planning can help a student avoid a situation that requires picking between going to work or completing an assignment for class. Mapping out assignment due dates at the onset of the semester is one method to stay on track.

Managing Time

Between exams and papers, college classes often have a steady stream of readings and assignments to keep up with from week to week. Setting aside specific time frames to study for each class may counteract an urge to slack off between major assignments. Repetition can also improve knowledge retention, compared with cramming at the last minute.

After taking care of other responsibilities, such as an internship, job, or team practice, it may be difficult to recall readings and information at the end of a long day. Finding a moment before night class to review your notes could better prepare you to participate in discussion or ace a quiz. Creating a brief study guide covering key themes and topics for each week could help if you’re pressed for time.

Pacing Yourself

Before going full steam ahead with a full course load, you can consider testing the waters with one or two night classes. Education is a financial and career investment, and figuring out what’s right for your work-life balance could be the difference between burning out and graduating.

Keep in mind that whether you study full time or part time could affect financial aid or scholarships.

Exploring Night Class Options

Night classes are offered at community colleges and four-year universities alike. Researching multiple options could help a student find an ideal balance of cost, reputation, student body demographics, and campus environment.

Online courses are another option to consider. Synchronous courses may still have online lectures and discussions but allow students to participate from the comfort of home.

Paying for Night Classes

Education comes at a cost. Beyond tuition, taking night classes may require buying textbooks, paying for a parking pass, and other associated fees.

Work-study programs, scholarships, and grants could cover all or part of these expenses, but some students take out loans to pay the remaining cost for their degree or night classes.

Federal loans can come with protections, flexible repayment benefits, and loan forgiveness in certain cases.

When federal loans and other aid aren’t enough, private student loans are an option to consider. Students enrolled full or half time may qualify for a loan from SoFi, whose no-fee private student loans offer flexible repayment plans, helping students find an option that best meets their needs.

SoFi is here to help you reach your educational goals. It takes only minutes to find out what you’re prequalified for.

SoFi Private Student Loans
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SoFi Private Student Loans
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SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See 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.

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Show Your Teachers Some Appreciation: 21 Teacher Gifts for Under $10

Teacher Appreciation Week, which is the first week of May, is kind of like National Ice Cream Month in July. We should show our gratitude for teachers — and love of ice cream — all year round, not just at a designated time on the calendar.

In the year of virtual classrooms and so many other challenges it’s definitely time for teacher appreciation gifts this week or on the last day of school.

Teacher gifts are usually just small tokens to represent big thanks. Giving a thoughtful gift, however, enhances their value. The Penny Hoarder asked several educators to help create a list of teacher-approved gift ideas.

“The best are the notes from the kids. Honestly, those are the things that you save in your desk drawer,” said Kate Brown who teaches middle school English in Charlotte, N.C.

If you really want to thrill a teacher, suggest your child and several other students write a thank you speech or toast. This was one of the favorite gifts ever for Kathleen Tobin, who teaches high school journalism and multimedia in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“All the seniors got together and wrote a speech thanking me and saying what they had learned for me,” she said. “The seniors each took a part and came up to the microphone and they gave me flowers.”

A thoughtful note or words were the most common response when teachers were asked to name their favorite teacher gift. What they universally don’t love getting: a coffee mug.

Consider these gift ideas for a favorite teacher to go along with a nice note.

20 Teacher Gifts To Buy or Make for Under $10

1. Gift Card for Coffee or Cheap Eats.

A $10 gift card goes a long way at Starbucks, Chic-fil-A or McDonald’s. (A gift card for $10 to a pricey shop or restaurant isn’t a great gift if teachers have to spend more of their own money to use it.)

2. Gift Card for Rare Indulgences.

A $10 gift card won’t buy a week’s worth of groceries at Whole Foods or a local gourmet market (not even close). But it will buy a decadent dessert, pricey body wash or other splurge your teacher might not otherwise treat herself to. A gift certificate to a local bakery is a great option, as well.

3. Chocolate.

“That’s all I ever want and the kids know it,” Tobin said. At the end of that speech in fact, her students threw four bags of Hershey Kisses and miniature Dove bars to her.

 4. Baking Kit.

Buy a new set of measuring spoons and a measuring cup from a dollar store. Add a bottle of vanilla extract and pack them together in a pretty gift bag. Include a copy of your favorite cookie recipe if you like. (Get bags and tissue paper for any teacher gift from a dollar store.)

5. Nailed it.

A fun teacher gift is a cute bag with two bottles of nail polish and an emery board. What a nice treat for summer feet.

6. Christmas Ornaments.

“I have so many ornaments on my tree that students have given me over the years. I really do think of each one when I decorate my tree,” said Penny Manning, who teaches fourth grade in Kinston, N.C. “Some are homemade and some maybe they got on a trip or something.” No worries that it’s May. Christmas is always just around the corner.

7. Custom Tote Bag.

The youngest students can make handprints with fabric paint, then Mom or Dad can write “Best Teacher Hands Down,” with a Sharpie. If the handprints are horizontal, they can be turned into fish by adding eyes, bubbles and waves of water. Older children can decorate the bag with a pattern or picture painted or drawn with Sharpies.

8. Custom Note Cards.

A custom set of stationery designed by a student makes for a unique gift. Fold eight pieces of plain, white printer paper in half and the young artist can draw a picture on the front of each. Add eight standard envelopes (the cards can be folded again to fit) and eight stamps.

9. Dog Treats.

These make great teacher gifts. Buy a box of treats or make your own, then put them in a plastic bag and tie a ribbon around it.

A jar contains cookies against a blue polka dot background.
Getty Images

10. Human Treats.

Homemade cookies, cakes and pies are always yummy. You can think beyond sweets and make a quiche, soup, spaghetti sauce, pineapple salsa or whatever is your specialty.

11. Emergency Kit.

“One time a student made me the cutest emergency kit,” said Robin Clemmons, who was a preschool teacher in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It was a gift bag with Advil, a Tide to Go stick, chocolate, soda and chips. That was one of the most unique teacher gifts.”

12. A plant.

A little bit of green brightens any at-school or virtual classroom. You can buy a succulent, spider plant, one-pint Santiago Palm or flowering bulbs for $5 to $10.

13. Reusable Cutlery.

“One student gave me reusable travel silverware in this little container. It was a thoughtful gift,” said Clemmons. “Teachers bring their lunch too.” Keep scrolling past the pricey sets on and there are several kits for under $10.

14. School Supplies.

Many teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies such as art materials and teaching aids. Several educators we interviewed said a gift certificate to a school supply store is a perfect gift.

15. Combine Forces.

If two or three families plan something together they can go in on a group gift, such as a gift certificate for a nice dinner out.

16. Tea time.

A box of tea bags, from the grocery store or a local shop is nice. Add a little pot of honey and a pack of colorful cocktail napkins from a discount store.

17. Soap.

Many cities have a local soap store selling homemade soaps in a wide range of colors, scents and ingredients. Your kid’s teacher will love a colorful bar with the image of a sunshine, heart, fish or you-name-it embedded in the middle.

18. Memory plate.

Have your student (or you if their handwriting is still emerging) use colorful Sharpies to write experiences the class shared on a plastic dinner plate. Draw a little heart, flower, or circle between each word or phrase. Memories can include titles of books the teacher read aloud, the class pet’s name, a field trip destination, a play conducted, a rainy day game played indoors, a math exercise, or a song the class often sang.

19. Fortune Cookies.

Ask for a few extra fortune cookies when you pick up Chinese food as well as one of the iconic takeout boxes. Place the cookies in the box with a note about how “fortunate” you are to have such a great teacher. Students can decorate the box with a drawing, glitter or a magazine photo collage.

20. Trader Joe’s Candle.

“One year a student gave me a candle from Trader Joe’s. It was in this cute tin and smelled fabulous,” said Robin Tuverson, who teaches sixth grade in Los Angeles. “I had no idea they sell candles and now that’s the only place I buy them. They are just $4. I always think of that student when I get one.” The soy wax candles burn for 20 hours and come in flavors like watermelon mint, strawberry basil, and pineapple cilantro.

21. Class Memory Book

If your child’s school has a Facebook page or you have taken pictures at events throughout the year of the class (not just your little darling), you can get actual photos printed and compile them into an album with funny comments from young students. Ask other parents to solicit answers from their child to questions such as: What you think Mrs. Teacher dreams about at night? What is Mr. Teacher’s favorite food?  What’s the most interesting thing you learned this year? Why do you think it’s important to go to school? And for a big laugh: How old is your teacher?

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.


Cheap Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20 Including Shipping

While some families feel safer reuniting for Mother’s Day this year with vaccination programs rolling out across the country, others are still keeping their distance as they wait for everyone to get shots.

Pandemic aside, some of us live across the country or state from dear old Mom and can’t treat her to brunch. Whatever’s keeping you and Mom apart this Mother’s Day, May 9, there are plenty of ways you can show her you love and miss her. Not only that, but you can do it all while going easy on your wallet.

To help, we’ve put together a list of 20 Mother’s Day gifts under $20 you can order online. And that $20 includes shipping — free for some items.

Mother’s Day Gifts That Will Help Her Get Outdoors

The outdoors is a safer place to hang out than inside thanks to the coronavirus.

Pickleball Glove for Mom

Pickleball is the hottest team sport these days. This is the perfect season to play socially-distanced and outdoors. If your mom is seriously into this sport, you can pick her up a brand-name pickleball glove on Amazon for between $18 and $20. If you have Prime membership, shipping is free, keeping you under budget.

Annual Flower Bulbs

Does Mom love gardening?

Give her a gift that keeps on giving with annual bulbs. Plant these flowers once, and they will bloom year after year. Bulbs that need a freeze to bloom (iris, daffodils, tulips) are typically put in the ground in the fall before it gets too hard for digging and they pop up and blossom in spring. The following bulbs can be planted in the spring to bloom in the summer.

Gladiolus Flower Bulbs

Gladiolus are beautiful and you can get a lot of them even on a budget. You can pick your color, ordering a bag in white or purple for  $13.95 on Walmart’s platform. Shipping is free.

Lily Flower Bulbs

You can get about three lily bulbs for under $20. Some options from Walmart sellers include:

These options run between $13.95 and $15.99 and come with free shipping.

Gift Certificate to a Local Garden Center

Maybe Mom doesn’t have space for a garden, but does love having flowers and plants around. In this case, consider getting her a gift certificate to her local garden center for $20.

There’s an added bonus to sending your card on Mother’s Day; when she goes shopping after the holiday, excess inventory will be marked down dramatically, giving her more bang for her buck.

A blue butterfly stands out amongst a group of red butterflies.
Getty Images

Butterfly Habitat

Butterfly habitats may be marketed towards children, but Mom can enjoy one, too! This kit from Target is $19.99, and comes with a habitat and voucher for live caterpillars — which ship separately. Your order should qualify for free shipping.

Mom will be able to watch the caterpillars as they build their chrysalises and grow into butterflies, eventually releasing them into the wild. Bonus points for sending a card with a cheesy analogy about how she helped you grow into a butterfly, and what a great job she did.

Sweets & Culinary Gift Ideas for Moms

Mother’s Day is a great time to shower your mom with sweets. Or, if Mom’s great in the kitchen, it’s a fun time to celebrate those skills with gifts.

Personalized Recipe Cards

Mom’s a great cook. Everyone’s always asking her for recipes. Pick her up a set of personalized recipe cards on Etsy so she’ll get full credit when she shares her skills. This set costs $10.75 and ships free to the US.

Heart-Shaped Pan

We’ve all been cooking at home this past year — perhaps way more than normal. Turn the mundane fun with this heart-shaped pan from Ecolution on Whether your mother’s making pancakes or eggs, she’ll appreciate that Ecolution’s products are eco-friendly yet durable. You’ll appreciate that it clocks in at just $12.51 and ships free with Prime membership.

Fruit Infusion Pitcher

We haven’t just been eating at home a lot more often — we’ve been drinking at home a lot more often, too. This fruit infusion pitcher is great for making mimosas and flavored water alike. It is $19.99 on and ships free with Prime membership.


Believe it or not, you can get a fair amount of good chocolate for under $20. The “ G-Cube” from Godiva comes with an assortment of 22 flavors, and costs $11.95. With shipping, you can expect to pay around $19.95.

Delivery from a Local Bakery

Ask your mom about her favorite local bakery recommendations. Then, place an order for delivery with them on Mother’s Day. This allows you to not only get mom a gift, but also support small businesses in her community.

If the delivery fee would put you over budget and Mom is vaccinated, you can find another way. You could likely request curbside pickup or she could take a very quick trip inside while double-masked to pick up the treats herself.

Self-Care Gifts for Mother’s Day

We all need a little more self-care these days. Help Mom relax with these soothing Mother’s Day gift ideas until you can see each other again.

Comfortable Sleep Mask

A lot of people have experienced insomnia throughout this pandemic. If Mom’s one of them, you might want to consider helping her get some better shut eye. This silk satin sleep mask from Kessom on Walmart’s platform not only comes in under budget with no shipping costs, but also comes with a matching scrunchie and storage pouch.

Shea Butter Replenishing Bar Soap

This shea butter soap, infused with essential oils, lots of benefits. Rebourne Home + Body says it can:

  • Fight inflammation.
  • Heal chapped, dull or prematurely aging skin.
  • Fight eczema.
  • Improve skin elasticity.
  • Increase blood circulation.

Rebourne sells high-quality bath and beauty products. This one will cost you around $19.45 to send to mom after accounting for shipping costs.

A woman puts cucumbers over her eyes as she sits up with a charcoal facial mask on her.
Getty Images

Luxe Face Masks

Charmed Bath & Body offers several different face masks available via Etsy. You can choose from:

  • Matcha
  • Rose clay.
  • White clay
  • Charcoal
  • Turmeric

It should cost you around $15.95 in all to purchase and ship one of these mask powders for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Coloring Book

Give Mom an opportunity to de-stress with this Mother’s Day coloring book from Amazon. Each page comes with intricate drawings to color in and encouraging and cute quotes about motherhood.

This book is $14.99 and ships free for Prime members.

Blue Light Glasses

We’ve all been spending a lot more time in front of screens over the past year. That means we’ve been spending a lot more time staring at blue light, which can cause migraines, damage our vision and even throw off circadian rhythms, our natural sleep-wake cycles.

Help Mom out with some self-care she didn’t even know she needed with these blue light blocking glasses from Nordstrom. They’re only $15 and shipping is free.

Sentimental Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20

These sweet, mom-centric products will highlight your relationship as you take a trip down memory lane.

Tell Me Your Story Book (Grandma Edition)

You know what’s been happening a lot less often thanks to the pandemic and social distancing? We aren’t telling each other as many stories on a regular basis. That includes grandmas telling their own life stories and family histories to their grandchildren.

Compensate for the loss over the past year with this memory journal. It’s available for $10 on with free shipping for Prime members.

Tell Me Your Story Book (Mom Edition)

Don’t have kids, but love the memory book idea?

Fear not. There is a version of these products for children to give directly to their moms — no procreation required. This daily journal of childhood memories will run you $12, once again with free shipping for Amazon Prime members.

You & Me Mom Journal

Want to make the memory journal thing a two way street?

This journal from Uncommon Goods can be sent back and forth between you and your mother. Each page has prompts encouraging the two of you to reflect on your life memories and love together over the years. It will run you $13, and should come in just under $20 after accounting for shipping costs.

Photo Book

There’s nothing moms love more than pictures of their kids and grandkids . Photo books can often be cumbersome to create, or come with deceptive discounts and “deals” that don’t account for exorbitant shipping costs.

You can get around all that by creating a book with Google Photos. You can easily import all the pictures already on your Google account, and can create a 20-page, soft-cover photo book that’s sure to put a smile on her face for just $13.95 including shipping.


You’re shopping on a tight budget, so your wallet is probably thin right now. She might not want to admit it, but money might be tight for your mom in this pandemic, too.

Instead of buying her physical presents, consider sending her the cash. If Mom’s on Venmo or CashApp, you can keep things completely socially distant. Be sure to send a card or heartfelt note.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at 


The Best Places to Live in Wyoming in 2021

Wyoming became an official state in the United States in 1890. Since then, this gem of America, with its roving bison herds, gorgeous mountains and sweeping plains and plenty of rodeos, keeps the spirit of the West alive.

The best places to live in Wyoming immerse you in all the benefits of the Cowboy State.

The state of Wyoming boasts a strong academic record, an economy with a mineral and tourism focus and one of the lowest costs of living in the country. The average price of rent in Wyoming is less than the national average. Plus, Wyoming has no state income tax — so money stretches further.

When you choose to live in one of the best cities in Wyoming, you decide to begin a brand-new adventure in one of America’s natural beauties. Take your pick from the following:

Casper, WY.

Casper first appeared on the map thanks to Fort Caspar, a stop on the Oregon Trail, the Wyoming Central Railway and an oil boom. Now “Oil City” is Wyoming’s second-largest city with a thriving rental market.

Casper provides ample education opportunities, with more than 25 schools and Casper College serving the area.

Natural beauty and outdoor activities abound in Casper. The city continually appears on lists as a top place for fishing in the country; its North Platte river provides plenty of angling opportunities and gorgeous scenery for canoeing excursions.

Plus, historic downtown hosts various shops, a historic walking tour and delicious restaurants and cafes to enjoy here.

Cheyenne, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Known as the “Magic City of the Plains,” Cheyenne serves as the capital of Wyoming. The Old West-inspired city is famous for producing the likes of country music legend Chris LeDoux and hosting the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days.

For a capital city, Cheyenne’s rental market is remarkably affordable, with the average three-bedroom apartment running under $1,100 a month.

The city itself has grown into a family-friendly place. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens and Paul Smith Children’s Village, along with movie theaters, museums and city parks, provide plenty of activities year-round for little ones.

Plus, living in Cheyenne puts residents a short drive to Vedauwoo Recreation Area and Granite Springs Reservoir Campgrounds, beautiful hiking and fishing areas for those who want to escape.

evanston wy

Source: / Classic Lodge Apartments

Standing at 6,800 feet with 300 days of sunshine a year, Evanston is an ideal spot for sun worshippers. Plus, the Bear River flows right through this spirited small town set near the Uinta Mountains, creating a beautiful backdrop.

Locals enjoy wandering the vibrant downtown district or golfing at the Purple Sage Golf Course during the summer months. Hunting, fishing and hiking flourish in the area, with Bear River State Park just a stone’s throw from the town.

Winter provides plenty of opportunities for skiing and snow-shoeing, ice-fishing, dog-sled races, parades and holiday celebrations.

Evanston’s recreation center, parks and public schools make the town an excellent choice for families who like to stay busy year-round.

Gillette, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Gillette is the “Energy Capital of the Nation” due to its minerals and fuel production, but there is more to this city than mining. Adventurers and families thrive in Gillette, which serves as a base for travel to Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.

Campbell County Parks and Recreation provides the city with everything from team sports and an annual dodgeball tournament to swimming and rock-climbing lessons.

The community works hard to provide a rich social life for everyone. Local organizations put on year-round events like the Festival of Lights and the 4th of July celebrations.

Families arriving in Gillette will find excellent schools, a local community college and plenty of kid-friendly activities.

Adventurers and explorers will discover myriad getaway opportunities, fly fishing expeditions and unique sites to visit in this diverse and growing city.

Gillette, WY.

Jackson has become the Hollywood of Wyoming. The city is home to many celebrities, from Kanye West to Harrison Ford, and it’s no wonder why. Jackson, also known as Jackson Hole, boasts one of America’s best ski-resorts — Jackson Hole Mountain Resort — and some of the best scenery Wyoming has to offer.

Nestled in the Tetons, within the Bridger-Teton National Forest and National Elk Refuge, Jackson offers a sea of trees and mountainous views unlike any other.

The economy grows every year in Jackson, thanks to its diverse tourism market and thriving town culture.

The Snow King Mountain Resort provides adventure galore with an alpine coaster, adventure park and an ice-climbing park to satiate any fun-seeking resident. At the same time, the town itself boasts plenty of spas, cafes and delicious restaurants for a relaxing evening.

Lander, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Lander brings the best of rural and city living together within the Absaroka Mountains. This little town comes with a whole lot of fun for the residents of gorgeous Wind River Country.

Renowned for the rock climbing and national parks nearby, Lander is the outdoor enthusiast’s best friend.

The Wind River Casino, Lander Brewfest and International Climbers’ Festival bring plenty of entertainment for the young adult crowd.

History and culture lovers enjoy traveling along the California and Oregon Trail, visiting ghost towns, panning for gold and attending Native American powwows while thoroughly enjoying the Lander cultural experience.

Lander, WY.

Home to the University of Wyoming, Laramie may just be the smallest state university town in America. Football, family and fun are a major part of Laramie’s community, with the whole town often closing down to watch the Border War game against Colorado State University — the University of Wyoming’s biggest rival.

But this college town isn’t just for co-eds. Albany County School District serves the younger students of Laramie, while its recreation center, Snowy Range ski area and nearby Medicine Bow National Forest provide plenty of indoor and outdoor fun for everyone.

Rock Springs, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Rock Springs came about much the same way as many Wyoming towns. The railroad and coal mining made this little town, and thanks to these industries — Rock Springs grew into a melting pot of diversity.

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes live nearby on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and descendants of railroaders still reside in the city today.

Living in Rock Springs won’t break the bank. A two-bedroom apartment costs less than $800 — well below the national average. Plus, living here puts you a hop, skip and jump away from some of America’s most interesting landmarks, including Killpecker Sand Dunes and the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Kayakers and hikers can travel along the Wind River Canyon for outdoor fun, while the Rock Springs Historical Museum offers plenty for indoor exploring.

Saratoga, WY.

Saratoga’s name comes from the Native American word “Sarachtoue,” which translates to “place of miraculous water in the rock.” It speaks to the rich array of hot springs in the area, including Hobo Hot Springs and the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort.

Meandering down Main Street in Saratoga brings the spirit of the Old West alive. The quintessential small town has gorgeous hiking and camping grounds and miles of running river a stone’s throw from town, comfortable and historic lodgings like Hotel Wolf and plenty of good hometown cooking and shopping.

Saratoga provides its residents with a small but devoted school district, a community pool and a community center for entertainment. The city also boasts prime fishing locations, with a large population of blue-ribbon trout swimming in Saratoga Lake and the North Platte River.

Sheridan, WY, one of the best places to live in wyoming

Lovingly called “Wyoming’s Jewel” by locals, Sheridan lies nestled in the forested northern reaches of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. The city was once home to Buffalo Bill Cody, whose wild west show sparked imagination and adventure across America. His Sheridan Inn still stands today for travelers to enjoy.

Sheridan’s school district provides excellent education, while Sheridan Recreation District offers sports and activities for all ages.

The city itself houses several dude ranches where horse-loving, trail-riding travelers can explore and stay. Sheridan also cultivates a unique and busy cultural atmosphere, with festivals and events filling the calendar. Locals love the legendary Don King Days rodeo and the Antelope Butte Summer Festival.

Find your own best place to live in Wyoming

The state of Wyoming offers cities and towns ideal for adventurers, nature lovers and families, alike. Affordability, natural beauty and a statewide community come together to create amazing options for renters looking to move to Wyoming. Find the perfect place for you to live in Wyoming today.


Living Room Remodel: Should You Do It?

Living room makeovers can happen in various stages—they don’t have to be all or nothing. Simple, affordable updates like new lighting, paint or flooring can have a big effect on the room’s welcoming vibe.

Whether you have the budget for a total overhaul or you’re just looking for an easy update, there are some ways to get the living room remodel that works for you.

Recommended: Home Improvement Cost Calculator

Living Room Remodel Ideas: Top Elements To Change


Effective use of space makes a room feel comfortable and inviting. If your living room seems underused, perhaps changing the layout will make family and friends want to hang out in it more often.

For someone moving into a new home and starting with a blank space, looking first to the layout of the room is a good starting point. Where do you enter the room? Where does your focus go first? Are the windows situated for convenient placement of furnishings?

If you’re currently living in the home, but the living room just isn’t functional, look at the layout in terms of what can be easily changed.

What in the room do you regularly use, e.g., couch or closets? Where do piles tend to accumulate? Do the windows cause a glare on the television? Is your furniture arranged to allow for good traffic flow? The more effortlessly the room setup can support your daily movements, the better.

Recommended: Home Equity Loans vs Personal Loans for Home Improvement


Windows not only let light in, they affect our perception of how large, open, and welcoming a space is. Replacing them can be pricey, but might increase a home’s value and can generate energy savings: On average, 25% to 30% of a home’s energy use is due to heat gained or lost through the windows .

If the window itself is fine but the aesthetic is not, new window trim or window treatments can make a world of difference. Painting dark-stained trim can make a space feel lighter, brighter, and more modern.

Updating window treatments with floor-length curtains adds drama and interest, while Roman shades that fit inside the window casing keep things unobtrusive while still adding texture.


Lighting is functional, of course, but it can also be an aesthetic choice. Think about taking a picture indoors with or without a flash: Room lighting has that same sort of visual resonance, affecting how the other elements of the room appear and how you feel in the space.

In choosing lighting for your living room remodel, consider if you want the fixture to recede out of sight or be a visual focal point. How bright or dim, warm or cool do you want your light levels? Where in the room will you need the most light? And adding dimmer switches to any lighting setup gives you loads of control.


Like the sky outside, what’s hanging above our heads indoors dramatically affects how we feel in a space. If you have a textured or popcorn ceiling, refinishing it to be smooth can instantly brighten and update your living room. It’s a messy DIY project, but one experienced painters or contractors can do while keeping the mess to a minimum.

If the ceiling would benefit from a new coat of paint, veering from the standard white might give the room a stylish quality. Light hues can create the illusion of a taller space, while something a little darker can evoke coziness.


Along with layout and paint, flooring has perhaps the biggest impact on a room. It’s a large, dominant, visual element that affects how sound echoes in the room or carries beyond it, how much light reflects into the room, and how much dirt shows up.

When buying a new home, checking what’s under the carpet might reveal lovely hardwood floors in pristine condition—or it might reveal a mess of a subfloor. Knowing what you will have before signing the mortgage agreement will allow you to make a plan for any needed renovations. For a quick change, don’t underestimate a simple area rug.

Recommended: Top 10 Home Projects With the Highest ROI


Molding hits the sweet spot of a decorative finish that feels structural. The trim around windows and doors, crown molding and baseboards, picture and knee rails—all inform the character of a space and add visual interest and structure. In particular, if things feel blank or sterile, adding decorative trim can make a space a little more impressive.


Fresh paint works wonders. Even if you don’t have time or budget for anything else, reimagine the wall color. Samples painted on the wall will show how the room’s light will affect the paint. Many paint brands now also offer virtual ways to “paint” your room.

Just as a room’s lighting can affect your mood, paint color has an effect on one’s psyche, too. For instance, the color blue has been shown to have a calming effect, while red has a stimulating effect and can create feelings of excitement or even stress in some people.

Furniture and Decoration

You can replace it, move it, or just pull it from another room. Alone or in conjunction with other major changes, furniture and decor have a major effect on the finished space—and keeping layout top-of-mind when selecting furniture will help make sure it’s the right stuff for the space.

Using online room planners or going old school with graph paper to map out, to scale, what will go where is a good way to experiment without the heavy lifting.

The Takeaway

Deciding how much you can—or want—to invest in a living room remodel is likely the place to start after deciding changes need to be made. Some changes, like moving furniture from one room to another or changing a paint color, can probably be done inexpensively. But if the living room makeover is a total one, additional funding might be necessary. That’s where a home improvement loan from SoFi might help.

With lower interest rates than credit cards and no fees, using a SoFi unsecured personal loan to pay for home improvements can get your home into loveable condition in no time.

Check your rate on a home improvement loan from SoFi.

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How to Write a Holiday Thank You Note

The holidays have come and gone.

Dinner parties were had, gifts were given and everyone was merry.

But even after the last present has been unwrapped and the last piece of silverware washed and put away, there’s still something else that must be done.

You need to plan how you’ll show your gratitude to those who share in the holiday season with you.

The lost art of saying thanks

Long before text messages and Instagram posts conveyed the innermost thoughts of people, cards sharing best wishes and kind appreciation were handwritten and mailed as thank you notes.

Receiving an actual letter in the mail amidst all the junk that still comes through can bring more joy to someone than whatever you’re actually thanking them for doing. The importance of taking a few minutes to jot down a special message for the people you appreciate, especially during the holidays, isn’t as common anymore, but it’s an easy gesture with a big impact.

Where to start

Before you begin thinking about the message you want to write, you need to have the right materials. Put aside blank sheets of printer paper and ripped off pages from notepads. They only convey a lazy sentiment and that you rushed to get this note written.

Instead, invest in a pack of nice cards to have on hand when needed. You don’t have to spend a lot of money at a stationary store in order to be prepared – just about every drug store sells them. If you’re in a situation where you’ll be thanking the same person more than once in a short time period, consider getting a set of notecards with different designs on the front, for some variety.

The pen you use is important, too. No pencil and no typing. Stick with ink colors that are easy to read and ones that stand out against the color of the notecard. Dark blue, purple or green might be good choices, but stay away from black, especially if your notecard is white. According to color studies, the black and white combination of colors is the hardest to remember.

Pick your handwriting style that’s easiest to read as well. If you can pull off an elegant cursive, go for it. Otherwise, stick to print. Don’t worry if your handwriting isn’t perfect, either. The fact that you’re taking the time to physically write out a note will make a positive impression no matter how neat the handwriting.

Write the right message

A typical thank you note doesn’t have to be long. A short, heartfelt message will do the trick. What’s important is that you speak in your own voice, share a message that’s complimentary and kind, and personalize each note with specific details related to the recipient.

Your purpose is to express gratitude, so make sure that clearly comes across. It’s OK to say thank you more than once in your note, as well. It’s also a nice touch to add a line about when you’ll see them again, or that you hope to see them soon.

Mailing the thank you note

Once the note is complete, it’s time to pop it in the mail. Again, hand write the recipient’s address on the envelope. Don’t print out labels, even if you’re writing quite a few notes. Show off that you’ve put time into this special message.

Consider purchasing holiday themed stamps for a little something extra, and keep return address labels on hand, even if you’re not sending out that much mail these days. Stationary stores also offer return address stamps or embossers if you’re interested in adding a classier element to your mail.

What are you thankful for

Two of the most common reasons to write a thank you note are for gifts you’ve received or to show gratitude toward someone who came to an event you hosted. Sometimes these sentiments are combined in a single note, like at a birthday party, but during the holidays, they’re often separate.

Here are two sample thank you notes which convey the tips already shared.

1. Thank you for coming to my holiday party

Dear Jill,

Thank you for coming to my holiday party this past weekend. It was such a fun night, and I was happy you were able to join in the festivities. It was so thoughtful of you to bring cookies to share with everyone. I appreciated the extra dessert and they were so delicious. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and look forward to seeing you again.


2. Thank you for the lovely holiday gift

Dear Clark and Lois,

Thank you so much for the wine of the month club subscription. I love trying new wine and it’s exciting to know I’ll be sampling bottles from around the world. I really appreciate you thinking of us during the holidays with such a kind gift. You’ll have to come over one month for a wine tasting! Have a wonderful holiday.




8 Great Vanguard ETFs for a Low-Cost Core

Vanguard is best known as one of the foremost pioneers of low-cost investing, including in the exchange-traded fund (ETF) space. It’s hardly alone in low costs anymore, of course. Providers such as Schwab, iShares and SPDR have all hacked away at each other with ever-shrinking fees.

But don’t sleep on Vanguard ETFs.

The provider isn’t always No. 1 among the cheapest index funds like it used to be, but it remains a low-cost leader across several classes. No matter where you look, it’s usually among the least expensive funds you can buy.

And expenses matter. Let’s say you put $100,000 into Fund A and another $100,000 into Fund B. Both funds gain 8% annually, but Fund A charges 1% in fees while Fund B charges 0.5%. In 30 years, that investment in Fund A will be worth a respectable $744,335. But Fund B? It’ll be worth $865,775. That’s about $120,000 lost to fees and missed opportunity cost as those expenses suck away returns that could compound over time.

Here, then, are eight of the best low-cost Vanguard ETFs that investors can use as part of a core portfolio. All of these index funds are among the least expensive in their class and offer wide exposure to their respective market areas.

Data is as of April 22. Yields represent the trailing 12-month yield, which is a standard measure for equity funds. All eight ETFs also are available from Vanguard as mutual funds.

1 of 8

Vanguard S&P 500 ETF

Blue chipsBlue chips
  • Market value: $217.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.5%
  • Expenses: 0.03%

Any portfolio can use a fund that tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. Every year, investors are reminded that the majority of active portfolio managers are unable to beat their benchmark indexes, and that includes a wide swath of large-cap managers that simply can’t top the S&P 500.

And it does pay to merely match the index. The S&P 500 has returned an average of just less than 10% annually between 1930 and the start of 2021. Based on the “rule of 72,” the index has doubled investors’ money about every seven years during that time.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO, $378.99), iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) and the SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 ETF (SPLG), at just 3 basis points each (a basis point is one one-hundredth of a percentage point), are the cheapest ways to track the S&P 500.

The S&P 500 is an index of 500 mostly large-cap companies (those with market values of more than $10 billion) and a few mid-cap companies ($2 billion to $10 billion in market value) that trade on U.S. exchanges. And the bigger the company is, the greater its representation in the index. Right now, Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT) and (AMZN) are the three largest companies in the index. Thus, they also represent the largest percentages of assets in S&P 500 trackers such as VOO.

Learn more about VOO at the Vanguard provider page.

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Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF

Wad of cashWad of cash
  • Market value: $36.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.0%
  • Expenses: 0.06%

Dividends are cash payments that many companies pay out (typically regularly, say, every quarter) as a way of rewarding shareholders for hanging on to the stock. This isn’t altruism – it’s a great way of compensating executives and other insiders who hold massive piles of shares. But ultimately, this benefit trickles down to all of us.

Each stock might deliver only a dollar or two every year, but over time, across many shares, that adds up in a big way. A Hartford Funds study shows that between December 1960 and December 2020, a $10,000 investment in the S&P 500 became $627,161 simply based on price returns alone. But the total return – that is, what you would accumulate from collecting dividends and then reinvesting them – was more than five times that at $3.8 million.

Dividends also are a critical source of income for retirees, who often rely on regular cash payouts to help pay their ongoing expenses.

The Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM, $102.41) immediately sticks out among the best Vanguard ETFs for this purpose. VYM tracks an index of high-yielding, primarily large-cap stocks whose dividend yields are better than the market average.

While there are literally hundreds of ETFs that deliver more yield, most of them invest in other areas of the market that might be more income-friendly but either carry higher risk or little to no growth potential. VYM, however, currently provides shareholders with double the broader market’s yield while still keeping them invested in blue chips with some appreciation potential.

Top holdings include familiar large caps JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Procter & Gamble (PG).

Learn more about VYM at the Vanguard provider page.

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Vanguard Small-Cap ETF

Small puppySmall puppy
  • Market value: $44.9 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.1%
  • Expenses: 0.05%

While dividends are treasured by people on the back half of their investing timeline, younger investors typically are expected to pile into growth to build their portfolios. And a common place to find growth is in small-cap stocks.

Small caps range between $300 million and $2 billion in market value, and it’s their very size that gives them so much growth potential. Just consider the effort it would take to double revenues from $1 million to $2 million … but then think about the effort it would take to double revenues from $1 billion to $2 billion. Naturally, the underlying shares of these high-growth companies tend to move higher, faster, than larger, less explosive companies.

Of course, smaller companies might only have one or two revenue streams, leaving them much more vulnerable to industry disruption. And if they get caught up in the tide of a broader-market swoon, they usually won’t have the cash hoards and access to capital that larger companies can use to keep their heads above water. But you can mitigate that risk somewhat by investing in numerous small caps at once.

The Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB, $219.21) holds about 1,460 mostly small-cap stocks. That huge portfolio shields you from single-stock risk – the potential for a big drop in one stock to have an outsize negative effect on your portfolio. Even the top 10 holdings, which include the likes of Ohio-based medical equipment company Steris (STE) and casino REIT VICI Properties (VICI), represent less than 1% of the overall portfolio.

While VB is among the best Vanguard ETFs you can own, it isn’t risk-free. In fact, it can be one of your most volatile fund holdings. That’s because small caps as a whole tend to struggle when investors become more defensive. But when risk appetites swell again, VB can help you enjoy the resulting growth without worrying about one company imploding and setting you back.

Learn more about VB at the Vanguard provider page.

4 of 8

Vanguard Information Technology ETF

Concept art of technologyConcept art of technology
  • Market value: $44.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 0.8%
  • Expenses: 0.10%

Certain areas of the market ebb and flow depending on market and economic conditions, so you might want to be a little more tactical with your holdings.

Utilities, for instance, tend to do well when investors are nervous because utility companies have dependable earnings that pay considerable dividends. Financial stocks typically do well when the economy is expanding and can benefit when interest rates rise, as that allows them to charge more for products such as loans and mortgages without paying out much more in interest to customers.

Technology is one of the better sector bets simply because it’s becoming more pervasive in every aspect of the human experience. We use more technology at home and at work. Other sectors – whether it’s utilities, health care or industrials – are incorporating more technology into their operations. Seemingly, there’s always somewhere that technology can keep growing.

As a result, technology ETFs have become a hot commodity, and Vanguard is among the lowest-cost ETF options in the space.

The Vanguard Information Technology ETF (VGT, $379.39) is the best Vanguard ETF for the job. This robust portfolio of about 330 stocks includes consumer-tech stocks such as Apple, software companies like Microsoft, component companies such as Nvidia (NVDA) and even payments-tech firms like Visa (V) and PayPal Holdings (PYPL). And that just scratches the surface.

Just remember: A number of seemingly technology-related stocks aren’t actually classified as tech stocks. For instance, companies such as Facebook (FB) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) were once considered technology companies, but now are in the ranks of the communication services sector.

Learn more about VGT at the Vanguard provider page.

5 of 8

Vanguard Real Estate ETF

real estatereal estate
  • Market value: $37.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.5%
  • Expenses: 0.12%

Investors seeking out a more targeted income play than, say, the VYM have a few areas to explore, including the real estate sector.

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are businesses that typically own and sometimes operate physical real estate such as office buildings or shopping malls, though sometimes they can hold real estate “paper” such as mortgage-backed securities. And their rules are designed to make them dividend-friendly. REITs aren’t required to pay federal income taxes, but in exchange, they must distribute at least 90% of their taxable income as dividends to shareholders.

The result is a typically high yield on many REITs, which explains why the Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ, $97.21) is paying out more than double the S&P 500 in dividends right now.

The VNQ holds a diverse selection of real estate – apartment buildings, offices, strip malls, hotels, medical buildings, even driving ranges. Right now, its top holdings include telecom infrastructure company American Tower (AMT), logistics and supply-chain REIT Prologis (PLD) and data center REIT Equinix (EQIX).

The S&P 500 doesn’t provide investors with an even distribution of all its sectors, and real estate is woefully sparse in many large-cap funds, including S&P 500 trackers. Thus, while you might use some sector funds to occasionally amplify your holdings in a particular sector, it might behoove you to hold a REIT fund such as VNQ in perpetuity to improve your exposure to this income-happy part of the market.

Learn more about VNQ at the Vanguard provider page.

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Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US ETF

  • Market value: $33.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.0%
  • Expenses: 0.08%

There are several ways to diversify your portfolio. You can hold different types of assets (stocks, bonds and commodities), you can diversify by style (growth versus value), you can diversify simply by numbers (owning more stocks to lower single-stock risk) … and you can diversify geographically.

The Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US ETF (VEU, $62.19) is a bargain-priced fund that plugs you into more than 3,500 stocks from nearly 50 countries across the globe. The primary focus is developed markets (countries with more established economies and stock markets, but typically lower growth) in areas such as western Europe and the Pacific, though a little more than a quarter of the fund is invested in emerging-market countries in regions such as Latin America and southeast Asia.

Right now, Japan (16.5%) makes up the largest country weight, followed by China (11.1%) and the U.K. (9.3%). But VEU’s investments span countries large and small, including even a little exposure to the likes of Poland, Colombia and the Philippines.

Also noteworthy is that this is a predominantly large-cap fund holding the likes of chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) and Swiss food titan Nestle (NSRGY). Many developed-market blue chips yield significantly more than their American counterparts; hence, VEU typically delivers more income than VOO.

For the record, numerous Vanguard ETFs fit the international bill depending on your specific needs. Income hunters can target big dividends in mostly developed countries via Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF (VYMI), while growth-oriented investors can trade the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) that targets markets such as China and India.

Learn more about VEU at the Vanguard provider page.

7 of 8

Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF

  • Market value: $73.3 billion
  • SEC yield: 1.3%*
  • Expenses: 0.035%

Bonds – debt issued by governments, corporations and other entities that pay a fixed income stream to holders – are an important asset class for many investors. Typically, investors nearing or in retirement that are trying to protect their wealth lean on bonds. Of course, they also become uber-popular in times of unrest, such as the current stock market correction.

But bonds are problematic because they’re harder to invest in on an individual basis than stocks, and they’re far more difficult to research in large part because individual debt securities typically get little to no media coverage.

Many investors instead depend on funds for their bond exposure, which is where the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND, $85.44) comes in.

There are several targeted Vanguard ETFs that range from short-term corporate debt to long-term U.S. Treasuries, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to invest in a wide swath of the bond world, BND has you covered. Vanguard Total Bond Market holds a massive trove of more than 10,000 debt securities, including Treasury/agency bonds, government mortgage-backed securities, corporate debt and even some foreign bonds.

All of BND’s bonds have an investment-grade rating, which means that the major credit agencies perceive all of these to have a high likelihood of being repaid. It also has a duration (a measure of risk for bonds) of 6.6 years, which essentially means if interest rates rise by one percentage point, the index should lose 6.6%. Thanks to a Fed funds rate that’s still nearly zero, BND is paying out a lean 1.3% – just a little less than the S&P 500 right now.

* SEC yield reflects the interest earned after deducting fund expenses for the most recent 30-day period and is a standard measure for bond and preferred-stock funds.

Learn more about BND at the Vanguard provider page.

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Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond ETF

globe on stock newspaperglobe on stock newspaper
  • Market value: $2.7 billion
  • SEC yield: 3.9%
  • Expenses: 0.25%

Whether it’s stocks or bonds, you typically have to take on a little more risk to get a little more yield. The Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond ETF (VWOB, $78.97) is an example of how to make this kind of compromise without going overboard.

VWOB allows you to invest in the sovereign debt of about 50 developing countries, ranging from China and Mexico to Angola and Qatar. As you would imagine, when you invest in developing countries such as these, you’re going to take on a bit more risk. A little more than 60% of the fund’s debt holdings have an investment-worthy score, with the rest deemed “junk” by the major credit rating agencies.

The downside to junk? A higher risk of default. The upside? A higher yield. That’s why you’re getting so much more yield than BND right now.

You’re also defraying risk a bit by investing a basket of 730 holdings across so many countries. The effective maturity (how long before the average bond in the portfolio matures) of 13.4 years is a little on the long side, however, which means VWOB’s holdings are at greater risk from rising interest rates.

Learn more about VWOB at the Vanguard provider page.