Understanding Your Student Loan Promissory Note

Generally speaking, promissory notes are legally binding contracts that state the terms of a loan, such as the amount to be repaid, the interest rate that will be charged, and any other important terms and conditions of that particular loan.

A student loan promissory note is no different; you’ll be required to sign one, accepting the terms of your student loan(s) before the lender disburses your money.

If a student loan promissory note sounds super important, that’s because it is. You can think of it as your student loan contract. Like any legal contract, it’s important to know the nuances of what you’re signing. Here’s what you should know about student loan promissory notes and master promissory notes.

What Is a Student Loan Promissory Note?

A promissory note is your student loan contract. It details the terms and conditions of that loan, as well as any rights and responsibilities you have as a borrower. Both federal student loans — loans backed by the U.S. government — and private student loans require that you sign a promissory note.

With private student loans, borrowers will generally be required to sign a promissory note for each student loan they borrow, because each loan’s terms and conditions may be different. Federal student loan borrowers may have the option to sign just one master promissory note.

What Is a Master Promissory Note?

Borrowers with federal student loans may be able to sign just one master promissory note. If eligible, a master promissory note covers all federal loans borrowed for a period of 10 years. There are versions of the master promissory note for both students borrowing Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans and a version for borrowers who are using Direct PLUS Loans.

Whether you’ll be able to sign a master promissory note is determined by the school you attend and the types of federal loans you have. Some schools do not offer the option to have students sign a master promissory note that covers borrowing over multiple years.

So be certain to understand what your school allows, and whether you need to sign multiple promissory notes or one master promissory note. The financial aid office at your college should be able to guide you through the process.

What Should I Look for on My Student Loan Promissory Note?

Understanding the terms and conditions of a student loan promissory note is akin to understanding the terms of student loans. Here are some important items to consider on your loan, and note:

Loan type: First, it is important to know what type of loan you have. Federal loans will have different terms than private loans, which are loans accessed through an independent bank, credit union, or other lender.

Repayment options: Federal loans come with some options to help you manage your debt post-graduation, such as student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment. If you have federal loans and access to multiple repayment plans, take some time to understand the ins and outs of different plans.

Deferment options: Federal loans may also offer options for student loan deferment, which would allow you to suspend making payments during periods of economic hardship, immediately after you leave school, etc. Private loans may also offer some deferment options, but every lender is different, so you’ll need to check your note.

Interest rate: The interest rate is a percentage of the principal loan amount that the borrower is charged for borrowing money. Be certain to understand the interest rate on your student loans, and whether that rate is fixed or variable. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates.

Private student loans may offer variable rates. If the rate is variable, it is possible that it will increase in the future, which would also increase your monthly payments. Be especially wary of private loans that offer introductory rate offers that later expire — they could end up costing you quite a bit of money.

Additional costs: In addition to the loan’s interest rate, a student loan promissory note should include information on any additional costs, such as a loan fee (also known as an origination fee). Student loan fees will vary by lender, so be sure to check yours. Sometimes a loan fee is deducted directly from the amount that is disbursed.

Prepayment fees: Speaking of additional costs, one thing to check for is whether your student loan allows you to “pre-pay” loan payments. If you think there’s a chance you’ll want to pay your loan back faster than the stated terms, check to see whether prepayment is allowed, and if so, how additional payments are applied and whether there are any fees attached. Making prepayments on the principal value of the loan could help reduce the amount of money you owe in interest over the life of the loan.

Cosigner removal: With some loans, especially private loans, you may be required to have a cosigner. (That’s because private loans rely on your — or your cosigner’s — creditworthiness to determine the terms of your loan. Federal loans do not.) Upon graduation, some borrowers want to release their cosigner of the responsibility of having their name on the loan, so you may want to find out whether that’s a possibility.

Allocation of funds: Some loans may require that the money is spent only on designated expenses, such as books or tuition. If you’re looking to upgrade your apartment, you might not be allowed to do so using student loan funds. Make sure to check on any stipulations on how you can spend the money.

When Is the Promissory Note Signed?

In general, borrowers will need to sign the promissory note for their loans before receiving any funds. Students who are borrowing federal student loans are able to sign their master promissory note online by logging into their federal student loan account.

Private lenders may have their own policies for signing a promissory note, it’s helpful to check-in directly with the lender if you have any questions.

Understanding Your Options

If you haven’t picked up on it already, knowing how student loans work and understanding your student loan contract is the name of the game. Taking out a student loan can be a huge financial commitment and shouldn’t be done without careful consideration — which means knowing what’s on that promissory note.

Before going to sign your student loan promissory note, it’s also a good idea to spend some time thinking about your financial goals. A good place to start is by looking at how much you’ll take out in loans, total, and compare that to how much money you can expect to make after you graduate from school. Use a student loan calculator to get an idea of what your monthly payments could be given your total debt and the interest rate.

Rarely is it financially sound to take out more in loans than you absolutely need. It might seem like Monopoly money now, but this is all money that you’ll have to pay back, with interest. The repayment process can be painstaking, especially as a person early in their career or during a setback, like layoffs or a health issue. Taking out the bare minimum in student loans may mean working part-time in college, exploring more affordable college options, or continuing to apply for scholarships after you’re enrolled.

Once you’ve graduated, keep in mind that refinancing your student loans is a way for some graduates to lower the interest rates on their loans or lower their monthly payments. Refinancing is a process where your existing loans are consolidated and paid off with a new loan from a private lender.

Generally, the borrower has the option to keep the same repayment schedule or increase or decrease the amount of time left on their loan. (Increasing the duration of a loan may result in paying more interest over time, whereas decreasing the duration of a loan may result in higher monthly payments, but less interest paid overall.)

If you’re planning on using your federal loans’ flexible repayment plans or student loan forgiveness programs, refinancing with a private lender may not be the right choice for you as you will lose access to those federal benefits. However, some private lenders, like SoFi, offer protections to borrowers who lose their jobs or experience economic hardship. SoFi even provides career counseling to help their borrowers get back on track.

The Takeaway

A student loan promissory note is a contract between the borrower and the lender that details the loan’s terms and conditions and where the borrower promises to repay the loan. Federal student loan borrowers may be able to sign just one master promissory note, which will cover all federal loans for a period of up to 10 years. Private lenders generally require a promissory note for each individual loan.

Understanding the terms and conditions of your loan when signing of the promissory note can help you set your expectations for borrowing and ultimately repaying your student loans.

Whether you need help paying for school or help paying off the loans you already have, SoFi offers competitive interest rates and great member benefits as well.

See what you’re pre-qualified for in just a few minutes.


We’ve Got You Covered


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (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 Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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.

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.

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.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Source: sofi.com

5 Mortgage REITs for Yield-Hungry Investors

In the search for rich dividend yields, mortgage REITs (mREITs) are in a class all their own. 

These are companies are structured as real estate investment trusts (REITs), but they own interest-bearing assets like mortgages and mortgage-backed securities rather than physical real estate.

One of the biggest reasons to own mortgage REITs is their exceptional yields, currently averaging around 8% to 9%, according to Nareit – the leading global producer on REIT investment research – more than four times the yield available on the S&P 500. These outsized yields are enticing, but investors should approach these stocks with caution and hold them only as one part of a larger, more diversified portfolio. 

One reason for this is their sensitivity to changes in interest rates. When interest rates rise, mortgage REIT earnings generally decline. The Federal Reserve is signaling plans for multiple rate hikes in 2022 that could create headwinds for these stocks.   

And increasing interest rates hurt mREITs because these businesses borrow money to fund their operations. Their borrowing costs rise with interest rates, but the interest payments they collect from mortgages remain the same, causing profit margins to compress. Some of this risk can be managed with hedging tools, but mortgage REITs can’t eliminate interest-rate risk altogether.  

Another caveat is that mortgage REITs frequently cut dividends when times are tough. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, 30 of this sector’s 40 companies either cut or suspended dividends. On the flip side, dividends were quickly restored in 2021, with 20 mREITs raising dividends.

We searched the mortgage REIT universe for stocks whose dividends appear safe this year.

Read on as we explore five of the best mREITs for 2022. A few of these REITs are reducing interest-rate risk via acquisitions or an unusual lending focus, while others have strong balance sheets or outstanding track records for raising dividends. And all of them offer exceptional yields for investors.

Data is as of Jan. 12. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price. Stocks are listed in order of lowest to highest dividend yield.

1 of 5

Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital

green investing conceptgreen investing concept
  • Market value: $4.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.9%

Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital (HASI, $48.56) is a bit of an oddball for a mortgage REIT in that it specializes in clean energy and infrastructure rather than pure real estate. Specifically, the real estate investment trust invests in wind, solar, storage, energy efficiency and environmental remediation projects – making it not only one of the best mREITs, but also one of the best green energy stocks to own.

Its loan portfolio encompasses 260 projects and is valued at $3.2 billion. In addition to its own loans, Hannon Armstrong manages roughly $8 billion of other assets, mainly for public sector clients.   

This mREIT boasts a $3 billion pipeline and is ideally positioned to capture some portion of the spending from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that was passed by Congress in late 2021.  

Over the last three years, Hannon Armstrong has generated 7% annual earnings per share (EPS) gains and 1% yearly dividend growth. Over the next three years, HASI is targeting accelerated gains of 7% to 10% yearly earnings per share growth and 3% to 5% in dividend hikes. Future earnings growth should be enhanced by the firm’s prudent 1.6 times debt-to-equity ratio.

Hannon Armstrong produced exceptional September-quarter results, showing 45% year-over-year loan portfolio growth and a 14% increase in distributable earnings per share. 

Analysts expect earnings of $1.83 per share this year and $1.91 per share next year – more than enough to cover the REIT’s $1.40 per share annual dividend.

HASI is well-liked by Wall Street analysts, with five of the six that are tracking the stock calling it a Buy or Strong Buy. 

2 of 5

Starwood Property Trust

little red house surrounded by little white houseslittle red house surrounded by little white houses
  • Market value: $7.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 7.6%

Starwood Property Trust (STWD, $25.44) has a $21 billion loan portfolio, making it the largest mortgage REIT in the U.S. The company is affiliated with Starwood Capital Group, one of the world’s biggest private investment firms. 

STWD is considered a mortgage real estate investment trust, but it operates more like a hybrid by owning physical properties as well as mortgages and real estate securities. Its portfolio comprises 61% commercial loans, but the REIT also has sizable footholds in residential loans (11%), properties (12%) and infrastructure lending (9%), a relatively new focus for the company.

The mREIT benefits from access to the databases of Starwood Capital Group, which makes over $100 billion in real estate transactions annually and has a portfolio consisting of 96% floating-rate debt. This high percentage of floating-rate debt and unusually short loan durations – averaging just 3.3 years – minimizes Starwood’s risk from rising interest rates. 

STWD is also one of the nation’s largest servicers of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) loans; sizable, reliable loan servicing fees help mitigate risk if loan credit quality deteriorates.

Starwood Property Trust closed $3.8 billion of new loans during the September quarter and generated distributable earnings of 52 cents per share – up sequentially from June and slightly above analysts’ consensus estimate. After the September quarter closed, the mREIT booked a huge $1.1 billion gain on the sale of a 20% stake in an affordable housing real estate portfolio.   

The company has made 12 consecutive years of quarterly dividend payments, and unlike many other mortgage REITs, held its ground in 2020 by maintaining an unchanged dividend.

Of the seven Wall Street pros following STWD, one says it’s a Strong Buy, five call it a Buy and just one says Hold. Adding fuel to the bullish fire, CNBC analyst Jon Najarian recently tapped Starwood as one of his top stocks to watch, given its impressive 7.6% dividend yield.

3 of 5

Arbor Realty Trust

mortgage-backed securities conceptmortgage-backed securities concept
  • Market value: $2.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 7.7%

Arbor Realty Trust (ABR, $18.70) stands out as one of the best mREITS given its six straight quarters of dividend hikes and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 18% for dividend growth over the past five years. 

What’s more, Arbor Realty Trust has delivered 10 straight years of dividend growth while maintaining the industry’s lowest dividend payout rate.

This mortgage REIT is able to steadily grow dividends thanks to the diversity of its operating platform, which generates income from agency and non-agency loans, physical real estate (including rentals) and servicing fees.

Agency loan originations and the servicing portfolio have grown at a 16% CAGR over five years. And during the first nine months of 2021, Arbor Realty Trust set a new record with balance sheet loan originations, coming in at $7.2 billion – 2.5 times its previous record. Loan volume rose 45% over its previous record to total $13.2 billion over the nine-month period.

While September EPS declined year-over-year due to a reduced contribution from equity affiliates, earnings for the first nine months of the year were up 164% from the year prior to $1.56 per share.

Arbor Realty Trust earns Buy ratings from two of the three Wall Street analysts following the stock, and Zacks Research recently named ABR one of its top income picks for 2022. 

Valued at only 10 times forward earnings – which is 15.4% below industry peers – ABR shares appear bargain-priced at the moment.   

4 of 5

MFA Financial

person looking for business loan on laptopperson looking for business loan on laptop
  • Market value: $2.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.2%

MFA Financial (MFA, $4.68) just closed an impactful acquisition that reduces its exposure to interest-rate changes and accelerates loan growth. This REIT was already hedging its bets by investing in both agency and non-agency mortgage securities. 

Agency securities are guaranteed by the U.S. government and tend to be safer, lower-yielding and more sensitive to interest rates than non-agency securities. By combining these in one portfolio, MFA Financial generates nice returns while reducing the impact of changes in interest rates and prepayments on the portfolio. 

Through the July acquisition of Lima One, MFA Financial becomes a major player in business purpose lending (BPL), an attractive niche comprised of fix-and-flip, construction, multi-family and single-family rental loans. 

An aging U.S. housing stock is creating demand for real estate renovations and causing BPL to soar. BPL loans are good quality and high-yielding, but difficult to source in the marketplace. With the purchase of Lima One, MFA Financial gains a $1.1 billion BPL loan-servicing portfolio and an established national franchise for originating these types of loans. 

Lima One’s impact was apparent in MFA Financial’s September-quarter results. The REIT originated $2.0 billion of loans, the highest quarterly total on record, and grew its portfolio by $1.5 billion after runoff. 

Net interest income increased 15% on a sequential basis, and gains recorded on the Lima One purchase contributed 10 cents to the mREIT’s earnings of 28 cents per share. MFA Financial also took advantage of the strong housing market to sell 151 properties, booking a $7.3 million gain on the sale. MFA’s book value – the difference between the total value of a company’s assets and its outstanding liabilities – rose 4% sequentially to $4.82 per share, a modest 3% premium to its current share price.

Raymond James analyst Stephen Laws upgraded MFA to Outperform from Market Perform – the equivalents of Buy and Hold, respectively – in December. He thinks the Lima One acquisition will accelerate loan growth and reduce the mortgage REIT’s borrowing costs.

MFA Financial has a 22-year track record of paying dividends. While payments were reduced in 2020, the REIT recently signaled improving prospects with a 10% dividend hike in late 2021.

5 of 5

Broadmark Realty Capital

real estate contract with keys and penreal estate contract with keys and pen
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.6%

Broadmark Realty Capital (BRMK, $9.77) is unusual for its zero-debt balance sheet, robust loan origination volume and sizable monthly dividends. This mortgage REIT provides short to mid-term loans for commercial construction and real estate development that are less interest-rate sensitive. As such, BRMK is a solid play on America’s housing boom.  

Lending activities focus on states with favorable demographics and lending laws. Plus, 60% of its business comes from repeat customers, ensuring low loan acquisition costs.

Broadmark Realty Capital achieved record loan origination volume of $337 million during the September quarter, roughly twice prior-year levels and up 68% sequentially. The overall portfolio grew to $1.5 billion. Broadmark Realty Capital also originated its first loans in Nevada and Minnesota, with expansion into additional states planned during the December quarter. 

Despite rising revenues and distributable EPS, Broadmark Realty’s results came in slightly below analyst estimates and its share price declined in reaction. However, this price slip may present an opportunity to pick up one of the best mREITs at a discount. At present, BRMK shares trade at just 12.7 times forward earnings and 1.1 times book value – the latter of which is a 15% discount to industry peers.

The mortgage REIT cut its dividend in 2020, but continued to make monthly payments to shareholders. And in 2021, it raised its dividend 17% in early 2021. While dividend payout currently exceeds 100% of fiscal 2021 earnings, analysts are forecasting a 17% rise in fiscal 2022, which would comfortably cover the current 84 cents per share annual dividend.     

Source: kiplinger.com

REPAYE vs PAYE: What’s the Difference?

Struggling to make your student loan payments? Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) may ease the burden. The choice boils down to your degree of financial hardship, desired repayment term, and income trajectory.

Both adjust your monthly loan payments based on your income and family size.

PAYE vs REPAYE: An Overview

If your federal student loan payments under the standard 10-year repayment plan are high compared with your income, one of the four income-based repayment plans might be an option.

The PAYE and REPAYE plans generally enable eligible federal student loan borrowers to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. (Discretionary income is the difference between annual income and 150% of the poverty guideline for family size and state of residence.)

One main difference: While borrowers need to apply for both programs, the PAYE plan typically requires proof of financial hardship.

The pay as you earn repayment plans are available for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans; Grad PLUS loans; Direct Consolidation Loans that did not repay any Parent PLUS loans; FFEL loans if consolidated; and consolidated federal Perkins Loans.

Key Differences Between PAYE and REPAYE

Both plans extend the length of your loan beyond the standard 10-year repayment plan. Both require you to “recertify” your income and family size each year. Both cap your monthly loan payment at 10% of your discretionary income.

Both consider the same federal student loans eligible.

Both plans are designed to forgive any loan balance after 20 or 25 years, although if you’re also working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may qualify for forgiveness of any remaining loan balance after 10 years of qualifying payments.

So what are the differences?

PAYE

•   Requires proof of financial hardship.

•   Has a repayment period of 20 years.

•   Counts a spouse’s income unless you’re married and file separately.

•   You’re eligible if you took your first loan out on or after Oct. 1, 2007, and received at least one Direct Loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

REPAYE

•   Has a repayment period of 20 years if all loans being repaid under the plan were for undergraduate study.

•   Has a repayment term of 25 years if any loans being repaid under the plan were for graduate or professional study.

•   Always considers a spouse’s income.

•   Has no application restrictions based on when you took out your federal student loans.

There are also differences in the interest subsidy.

What Is the Interest Subsidy?

If your payments under PAYE or REPAYE are too small to cover the interest your loan accrues each month, the government will help in the form of an interest subsidy.

Under both plans, the federal government covers surplus interest charges on subsidized loans for the first three years.

With REPAYE, though, after three years, the government will pay 50% of the accruing interest on subsidized loans. Eligible unsubsidized loans receive a 50% interest subsidy at all times if your payment is too small to cover the interest.

Interest will capitalize under both plans if you fail to recertify income and family size or you leave the plan, and in the case of PAYE if you no longer can demonstrate a financial hardship.

Answers to Common Questions

How do I apply for a repayment plan?

You only need to submit one application for any income-driven repayment plan and will need to supply financial information. It will take about 10 minutes. The federal Student Aid Office also will recommend a repayment plan based on your input.

I want to apply for PAYE. How is financial hardship defined?

A general rule of thumb: If your debt exceeds your income, you likely demonstrate hardship under PAYE.

More specifically, your loan servicer will compare your monthly payment under the standard plan and PAYE. If you’d pay more under the standard plan, you have a financial hardship.

What if I’m in PAYE and no longer demonstrate hardship?

Your loan payments will stop being based on your income, and unpaid interest will be added to your loan.

What if I forget to recertify my income and family size for either plan?

Your loan payments will no longer be based on your income. They will revert to the amount you would pay under the 10-year standard repayment plan.

I’m married and have a moderate income I don’t expect to change much. What’s the better fit?

PAYE might fit best.

I’m single, I’ll probably earn much more in the coming years, and I can’t prove a financial hardship. Which plan of the two might fit me better?

REPAYE.

Does a Parent PLUS Loan qualify for either plan?

No.

Looking to lower your monthly
payments or reduce your term?
Check out SoFi student loan refinancing.

Income-Driven Repayment Alternatives

PAYE and REPAYE may lower your monthly student loan payments, and forgiveness of any balance after 20 or 25 years is a big perk. But these plans aren’t the only way to reduce the sting of loan payments.

You can also refinance your student loans — private and federal — with a private lender and potentially qualify for a lower interest rate.

Got graduate school or federal parent loan debt? Many borrowers refinance Grad PLUS Loans and Parent PLUS Loans, as those have historically offered less competitive rates.

The government Direct Consolidation Loan program combines federal student loans into a single federal loan, but the interest rate is the weighted average of the original loans’ rates rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percentage point, which means the borrower usually does not save any money. Lengthening the loan term can decrease the monthly payment, but that means you’ll spend more on total interest.

With PAYE or REPAYE, federal loan benefits and protections like deferment and public service-based loan forgiveness are in play and will not carry over with a refinanced private loan. But borrowers who qualify for a lower interest rate could see substantial savings over the life of the loan through refinancing.

The Takeaway

PAYE and REPAYE tie federal student loan payments to income and family size for 20 to 25 years. They differ in small ways, and each has its merits, but borrowers might want to consider refinancing student loans if they can get a better rate.

SoFi blazed the trail in student loan refinancing, offering flexible repayment plans and charging no origination fees.

Rates have been at historic lows. See what you qualify for in just two minutes.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Source: sofi.com

5 Best Esports Stocks to Buy in 2022

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

According to Grand View Research, the esports and gaming industry is growing rapidly. By the year 2027, it will be worth around $6.82 billion after enjoying a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 24%. 

Many esports and gaming enthusiasts who are looking for ways to exploit the stock market for financial freedom are starting to make investments. These investors know which companies in the space are the top dogs. The fact that most people enjoy video games makes research far less daunting when investing in esports than in other, less sexy industries like utilities. 

But with so many esports and gaming companies out there to choose from, how do you choose the best companies in the space to invest in? Here are some top stocks to consider.

Best Esports Stocks to Buy in 2022

The esports and gaming industry is booming, with much of the growth being a side effect from the recent pandemic. When COVID-19 took hold around the world, traditional sports halted, and consumers were looking for things to do while under lockdown orders. 

During this time, esports viewership grew rapidly. According to Statista, the growth in gaming interest is likely to continue. 

During the pandemic, those who were into video games had nothing better to do, and many who wouldn’t have considered playing them in the past found themselves picking up the controls and immersing themselves in the gaming ecosystem. 

Now, with a whole new wave of consumers in gaming and a growing esports audience, it’s time for the big players in the industry to capitalize. 

What stocks give you the biggest opportunities in the industry? Below you’ll find my top five picks, all of which are great options to consider.

1. Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI)

You Can’t Talk About Gaming Without Mentioning Activision Blizzard

  • Market Cap: Activision Blizzard is one of the largest gaming companies in the world, trading with a market cap of more than $54.5 billion. 
  • Earnings History: The company has a strong history of beating analyst expectations in terms of earnings, which it has done for the past four consecutive quarters. All told, the company has produced an average positive earnings surprise of over 9%. 
  • Dividend Yield: The current dividend yield on the stock is 0.67%. Over the past five years, the dividend yield on the stock has ranged from 0% to 0.88%, averaging 0.57%. 

Many who follow the esports and gaming industry closely will be surprised to see Activision Blizzard on this list, considering the wave of blues that has hit the company and the stock. To address the elephant in the room, the stock has recently seen a dramatic decline as a result of delays in the launches of Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV, leading analysts to downgrade the stock. 

On top of the delays, the company has been dealing with a PR nightmare after an employee walkout resulting from management’s tone-deaf response to allegations of sexual discrimination and harassment. Additionally, co-head Jen Oneal stepped down after a short run in the leadership role that began in August 2021. 

Nonetheless, there’s a strong probability that a significant undervaluation in the stock exists. 

The company is the owner of several esports leagues, hosting several esports events per year. Keep in mind, we’re talking about the company behind Call of Duty and Overwatch, two of the most popular video games ever made and the center of some of the most popular esports tournaments in the space.  

Although delays and discrimination are concerning, the stock has been thoroughly hammered, falling more than 32% from its highs in February. 

Keep in mind that these declines have happened even in the face of gains in revenue and earnings, and consistent earnings beats quarter after quarter. 

The bottom line is that even though the company is shrouded in bad press at the moment, general consumers and esports teams alike consider the company’s games to be legendary. 

Moreover, the biggest declines were seen shortly after the company announced delays in the launches of Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV. However, delays in game launches have become more commonplace these days, as the world’s leading producers of video games have begun focusing more on launching polished games free of glitches rather than rushing to market and patching bugs later. 

All told, there’s no question that Activision Blizzard will bounce back. The only real question is when it will happen. When it does, those who own the stock will be grinning from ear to ear. 


2. Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA)

Leader in Sports Gaming With Massive Franchises 

  • Market Cap: EA is another of the world’s largest esports and gaming companies, trading with a market cap of nearly $40 billion.  
  • Earnings History: EA has produced stellar earnings over the past four consecutive quarters, beating analyst expectations each step of the way. Over the past year, the average quarterly earnings surprise has been 18.7%. 
  • Dividend Yield: Like many others in the gaming and esports space, Electronic Arts currently pays no dividend. 

While Electronic Arts had its ups and downs throughout 2021, the stock has remained relatively flat, gaining less than 2% cumulatively. However, this is yet another company that many believe to be undervalued. 

Electronic Arts, better known as EA, isn’t just any game developer. It’s the developer that has signed into partnerships with the National Football League (NFL), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), and several other massive sports franchises to develop a long line of games like Madden NFL and FIFA. The company is also the publisher behind non-sports-related hits like The Sims and Apex Legends. 

In the world of competitive gaming, there are few in the esports industry that have garnered nearly as much attention as EA. Gamers from all over the world dream of competing for six-figure prizes at some of the gaming industry’s most popular tournaments hosted by the company. 

If EA’s past is any indication, there will be plenty for investors to look forward to in the future. 

One of the biggest draws for investors has to do with the company’s coming game releases. Not only have EA’s sports-related titles done incredibly well, in November 2021 the company launched Battlefield 2042, another game in its popular Battlefield franchise. Many experts expect this to be the best-selling title from the franchise to date, setting the stage for strong Q4 revenues, as the game is likely atop many holiday shopping lists. 

All told, EA is a force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry, and thanks to a lackluster year of performance in the stock in 2021, a clear undervaluation is being born, setting the stage for a strong growth opportunity. 


3. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN)

Yes, Amazon is in Gaming Too

  • Market Cap: Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world, currently trading with a market cap of nearly $1.8 trillion. 
  • Earnings History: Historically, the company has smashed earnings expectations, beating analyst projections in the past three out of four consecutive quarters. Even with a painful 32.75% miss in the most recent quarter, the average quarterly earnings surprise over the past year has clocked in at 38.2%. 
  • Dividend Yield: Throughout its history, Amazon hasn’t been a dividend-payer. Instead, it piles its profits back into the company in an effort to expand, and with the company being one of the largest in the world, those efforts have definitely been fruitful. 

You may be surprised to see Amazon on a list of the top gaming and esports companies, but it’s important to keep in mind that the company isn’t just an e-commerce powerhouse. It has its fingers in various areas of the tech industry as a digital conglomerate. 

The company isn’t a game publisher, although it does sell video games on its e-commerce platform. Nonetheless, the company is a key player in the gaming market even beyond its role in the retail distribution of video games.

Amazon acquired Twitch, one of the largest game-streaming platforms in the world, in August 2014. 

Twitch is a lot like YouTube. However, the big difference between the two is that while YouTube provides various types of streaming content, Twitch is a platform that focuses on streaming gameplay, giving players a way to show off their skills and esports teams a great venue for connecting with their audiences. This makes Twitch a top-pick among esports enthusiasts in terms of digital entertainment. 

However, when you purchase shares of this stock, you’re not just purchasing exposure to Twitch. You’re purchasing exposure to Amazon.com’s entire ecosystem of opportunities and enjoying the stability that comes along with investing in one of the world’s largest companies. 

At the end of the day, Amazon has grown from nothing to a dominant player in several high-value markets over the years and, by all accounts, that growth is far from over. 


4. Huya Inc. (NYSE: HUYA)

An Underdog That Could Become a Massive Winner 

  • Market Cap: Huya is the smallest company on this list by market cap, trading at an enterprise value of around $2.67 billion, and just making its way onto the large-cap playing field.  
  • Earnings History: As a smaller, newer company, Huya’s earnings have been interesting to follow. During a couple of the past four quarters, analysts didn’t even provide expectations. In the most recent quarter, analysts didn’t even expect that the company would produce a penny of profit, but it surprised investors by reporting earnings of $0.34 per share. 
  • Dividend Yield: Huya has not yet declared a dividend. 

Of all companies on this list, Huya is definitely the smallest and one of the riskiest bets. However, many argue that the stock is significantly undervalued at current levels, and I happen to agree. 

Huya was one of the pioneers in the game streaming industry in China and has quickly grown to become the largest game streaming platform in the region. As a result, many have compared it to Twitch, calling it the Twitch of China. 

As a game streaming service, the company plays an integral role in the esports industry in the region, connecting fans with teams and setting the stage for the next wave of Chinese esports stars. 

While what the company is doing from an operational perspective has been impressive, the idea behind the investment is more of a political bet than one aimed at the company’s operations. 

Over the past year, the Chinese government has been flexing its muscles, enacting a wide range of laws that have hampered businesses in several sectors, including gaming. As a result, investment interest in companies in the region have faded amongst fears that new laws may impact corporate earnings capabilities. 

Unfortunately, the selloff has been significant for some stocks, and Huya is one of those stocks. In the past year, the stock has given up more than 50% of its value, with no real negative catalyst to speak of. At the same time, the stock had no real reaction to the recent and dramatic earnings beat announced by the company. 

Over time, political fears in the region are likely to subside, and when this happens, the hardest-hit companies in the recent Chinese stock selloff will look like heavily discounted gold nuggets. I believe Huya falls into this class of stock. 


5. Take-Two Interactive Holdings, Inc. (TTWO)

A Growing Company with Significant Upside

  • Market Cap: Take-Two Interactive may not be the largest company on this list, but its market cap of more than $20 billion is nothing to shake a stick at.  
  • Earnings History: The company isn’t just known for beating earnings expectations, it’s known for smashing them. Over the past year, the average earnings surprise produced by the company was over 100%. 
  • Dividend Yield: Like many in the tech industry, TTWO does not pay dividends. 

Take-Two Interactive Holdings is a game developer that has had some pretty significant hits in the past. Its portfolio of companies includes game publishers like Rockstar Games, 2k, and Firaxis Games. Companies under its umbrella are the developers behind wildly popular franchises like Grand Theft Auto, BioShock, Borderlands, and Civilization, plus a wide range of other games that capture consumer attention and imagination like nothing else. 

Beyond its activities as a game developer, Take-Two is also a major player in the esports industry. The company currently owns a 50% stake in the NBA 2K League, one of the most popular esports leagues in the world. 

Unfortunately, however, 2021 wasn’t a great year for the stock. While the company smashed expectations in all earnings releases all year, the investing community seems to have shunned the stock, leading to declines of 12%. 

Nonetheless, many argue that the declines are an opportunity. The company has produced stellar revenue and earnings all year, and experts suggest more growth is on the horizon with positive guidance. 

Many investors, like Warren Buffett, have made massive amounts of money buying stocks when companies were down on their luck or the stocks were simply undervalued. What we’re seeing from Take-Two Interactive stock suggests it might be one of these opportunities. 


Consider Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

If you’re not interested in doing the research required to choose individual stocks — or simply don’t have the time or don’t know how — don’t worry. There’s another way to gain exposure to solid picks in the esports industry. 

One of the best ways is to buy into a themed exchange-traded fund (ETF) that’s centered around esports. A couple funds to look into in this category include the VanEck Video Gaming and eSports ETF (ESPO) and the Global X Video Games & Esports ETF (HERO). 

ETFs pool money from a large number of investors and use those funds to buy shares in esports companies. As the companies grow or pay dividends, the profits are enjoyed by all shareholders of the fund. 


Final Word

The esports industry is an exciting one. Whether you’re a gamer or esports enthusiast, or you don’t play games at all, it can be an incredibly lucrative investment opportunity. 

However, as is the case when investing in any sector, it’s important to do your research before risking your hard-earned money. After all, each company is unique, offering investors a different mix of opportunity and risks. 

Fortunately many people find researching gaming stocks to be fun. After all, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the companies behind the games you play, find out about upcoming titles, and potentially earn a return for doing so. 

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Joshua Rodriguez has worked in the finance and investing industry for more than a decade. In 2012, he decided he was ready to break free from the 9 to 5 rat race. By 2013, he became his own boss and hasn’t looked back since. Today, Joshua enjoys sharing his experience and expertise with up and comers to help enrich the financial lives of the masses rather than fuel the ongoing economic divide. When he’s not writing, helping up and comers in the freelance industry, and making his own investments and wise financial decisions, Joshua enjoys spending time with his wife, son, daughter, and eight large breed dogs. See what Joshua is up to by following his Twitter or contact him through his website, CNA Finance.

Source: moneycrashers.com

The Real Cost of Impulsive Investing

Worried man watching stock drop as he makes an investing mistake
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

It seems to happen every fall. The stock market is rolling right along, hitting new highs every week or so. And then by September or October something spooks the markets.

Investors who have been ignoring economic warning signs all year suddenly start paying attention. Sometimes when the S&P 500 drops by 5% or so, they make a snap judgment to sell, ignoring the double-digit gains it’s posted so far.

They rely on CNBC to guide their next move. They spend every waking minute agonizing over whether to hang on or bail out.

Millions of people invest this way, on impulse. They worry whenever there is any sign of market turbulence and give in to their fears and then get burned.

We’ve all seen this movie and know how it ends. And who benefits the most? The huge institutional traders on Wall Street.

They profit by capitalizing on the impulsive behavior of Main Street investors. Motivated by the twin fears of “I can’t afford to lose” and “I don’t want to lose out,” these investors routinely buy high and sell low.

And Wall Street cashes in by selling high and buying low. Time after time, year after year.

The inevitable results of these David vs. Goliath trading interactions are so predictable that Wall Street has a euphemism for it: exploiting market inefficiencies. The big traders can predict with razor-sharp precision when regular investors will give in to their fears or greed.

Their analysts get access to the information they need to buy or sell shares of stock at the best price long before this same information percolates down to regular investors.

Here is how to understand and avoid self-defeating behavior.

Self-defeating behavior

Upset senior on a laptop
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Emotions are the enemy of investing. When you’re plagued by doubt, you’re more likely to embrace certain thought patterns or superstitions that result in bad decisions. When you’re emotionally biased, you’re less willing to listen to views that could keep you from going down with the ship.

Psychologists have developed a whole field of study to identify these kinds of self-defeating thought processes: behavioral finance.

Numerous studies have shown that anxious investors often see and react to trading patterns that don’t really exist. They develop biases that aren’t easily shaken. And they fail to see the financial forest for the trees.

While hundreds of these behaviors have been researched and catalogued, there are a few that even the most experienced investors will recognize as applying to themselves at one time or another.

Loss aversion

Worried man holds up hands in a stop or halt motion
Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock.com

Research has shown that investors are much more upset when their portfolio has dropped 5% in value than they are happy when it rises by 10%.

They’re more likely to hold on to a stock whose price is falling in the hope that it will bounce back. And they’re much more likely to sell a stock whose price has risen long before it’s reached its peak.

Framing

Woman with picture frame
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Even though we consciously understand that a diversified portfolio helps to offset the falling price of one stock with the rising value of another, we still tend to obsess on the outsized profits or losses of individual stocks, regardless of how little overall impact one security has on our portfolio as a whole.

Anchoring

An investor panics over a market crash
Gearstd / Shutterstock.com

The way certain kinds of information are presented can influence our thinking. For example, when the stock market drops by 10% or more, the media has conditioned us into thinking of it as a market correction, with all of its associated doomsday fearmongering.

But that 10% is just an arbitrary numerical signpost that is no better at predicting a bear market than a 5% drop.

Availability bias

An older man scratches his head and wrinkles his nose while thinking
Aaron Amat / Shutterstock.com

People who have experienced a recent major event tend to believe that a similar event will occur when certain situations preceding the event have occurred.

A good example is the belief that rising rates of COVID-19 infections are likely to trigger a major stock selloff similar to the three-month bear market of 2020.

Conservatism bias

Aaron Amat / Shutterstock.com

When investors have a strong belief in a certain company they’ve invested in, they tend to cling to their faith even when the company hits a bad patch. The fall of Enron in the early 2000s is a textbook example.

Even when news about the company’s scandals came to light, too many investors believed Enron would emerge unscathed — and ultimately lost their entire investment.

So how do you avoid financial misbehavior?

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

It’s critical to increase your financial self-awareness. Recognize the beliefs and fears that drive these behaviors and make a determined effort to think before you act.

Start by diagnosing your financial health. If you feel confident that you’re on track toward saving enough for retirement, your children’s higher education, or other goals, then you’ll be less likely to engage in behaviors that could derail your investment plan.

This can be difficult to do on your own, which is why you might want to seek out the services of a qualified, fee-only fiduciary financial planner.

This professional can help you address your fears, overcome your inertia, and conquer your biases by helping you figure out exactly where you are financially today and what you may need to get back on track. And if you hire them to manage your investment portfolio, you can sleep easier knowing that your financial future is in good hands.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Getting Back to Work Safely

As many states move to reopen businesses affected during COVID-19, it’s essential that building owners, managers and tenants follow safety guidelines to keep employees and…

The post Getting Back to Work Safely first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

What You Need to Know About Virtual Open Houses in the COVID-19 Era

In 2019, the real estate industry celebrated 100 years of open houses. Over the course of those decades that real estate professionals have been hosting open houses, they have evolved, and in some cases, disappeared. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis, the real estate industry has scrambled to evolve once again. That includes if, and how, open houses are conducted. At the guidance of the National Association of Realtors, open houses during this time should look different and those marketing properties have found new ways to make touring the home virtually accessible.

The traditional open house is what we’re all widely familiar with. It’s hosted by a real estate agent and potential home buyers are allowed to come and go while they tour the property. However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Association of Realtors has advised suspending in-person open houses. While this is simply a guidance to brokers, many state and local governments have also enacted “shelter-in-place” orders which deem in-person open houses not permissible.

Virtual Open Houses: A Quick Guide

What is the Difference Between a Virtual Tour and a Virtual Open House?

Many programs exist to provide 24/7, 360-degree virtual tours to buyers. While a virtual tour is the first step any prospective homebuyers should take, if interest is there for that property, a guided tour would be the next step. The difference between virtual tours and virtual open houses are that a real estate professional will guide you through the open house while virtual tours are completed on your own. Virtual tours can be completed from the listing page of a property without any prior scheduling. Virtual tour software goes beyond photography and provides 3-D, walking virtual tours of a property. This allows potential buyers to feel like they are literally standing in the middle of the room touring the home, but without having to leave the comfort of their own home.

Young woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptopYoung woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptop

Virtual open houses can help provide more insight to potential homebuyers. They’re usually scheduled after you took a virtual tour or looked through the listing’s photos and felt interested enough to see the property in all its glory. Buyers can schedule a virtual open house with an agent directly from the Homes.com listing page. As in-person open houses and home tours are suspended, the prevalence of virtual tours will be of paramount importance.

Having these services are a crucial part of an effective real estate marketing plan during this time, so if you’re looking to sell, make sure you can find an agent that has the capability to utilize virtual tours and open houses.

Questions to Ask, or Be Prepared for, During a Virtual Open House

While your agent helps conduct the virtual open house, it’s always good to be prepared in advance with a list of questions for each property you’re going to see (virtually, that is). Start gathering your list after, or during, the virtual tour of that property. You can find a list of questions to start here, but also take into consideration that you’ll want to know the following:

  1. What’s the neighborhood like? Is it safe and walkable? Are there kids in the area and is it in a good school zone? These questions are important to ask local real estate agents, so make sure you’re working with someone who is familiar with the area you’re shopping around in.
  2. Are the current owners living in the home? Is it move-in ready? If the current owners are still living on the property, get an idea for the length of time to help set a basis for when you’ll be moving.
  3. Is the home in a flood zone? If so, what does the cost of flood insurance look like? If you’re in a coastal city or living near a body of water, these questions are pertinent to ask during the virtual open house.

Looking to Sell? Try These Alternatives in Addition to Virtual Open Houses

Despite a pandemic, many homeowners still need to sell their home which requires creativity on the part of the listing agent to market the home effectively and safely. By hiring an experienced and innovative real estate professional to the list a home, homebuyers can be rest assured that Realtors are working to reinvent the wheel and best serve their clients through a host of options.

Professional Photography

While hiring a list agent that understands the value of professional photography over cell phone list photos has always been crucial, the quality of digital images is even more important as more buyers will be searching on sites like Homes.com. By incorporating high resolution professional photography into the marketing plan, homes have statistically sold 32% faster.

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.

Drone Video

The rule of real estate is location, location, location. Even with the best professional photography and 3D tours of a home, many of these options lack the ability to properly view the location of the home. By incorporating drone images and video into a marketing plan, home buyers can evaluate surrounding conditions, proximity, as well as other factors. In fact, homes with aerial & drone photography sold statistically 68% faster than listings without aerial images.

As Realtors work to promote social distancing and safe practices, they have not slowed in their efforts to effectively assist buyers and sellers. If anything, real estate professionals are working harder than ever to reinvent the wheel and evolve in an ever-changing climate. While open houses and real estate marketing may look different than before, the real estate industry has incorporated multiple tools that adhere to social distancing guidelines without sacrificing the exposure of available properties.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

Stock Market Today: Rising Rates Put Another Scare Into Stocks

More commotion in the bond markets sent equities off to a rocky start for the week – though what was shaping up to be a significant gashing turned out to be just a scrape.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury jumped yet again Monday, to as high as 1.808% after starting 2021 at 1.510%.

“While rates have been volatile throughout 2021, the 10-year has not reached this level since prior to the pandemic,” says Lindsey Bell, chief money and markets strategist for Ally Invest. “Information received since the start of the new year is making the case for Mister Market that the Fed is going to raise rates and remove liquidity from the market at a faster pace than what was thought just over a week ago.”

Remember: The Federal Reserve’s members have signaled expectations for at least three hikes to the central bank’s benchmark interest rate in 2022. Kiplinger forecasts the Fed will raise rates four times, and over the weekend, Goldman Sachs predicted the same. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon upped the ante Monday, saying “I’d personally be surprised if it was just four.”

However, heavy selling pressure Monday morning mercifully relaxed into the afternoon as 10-year rates backed off their highs.

Sign up for Kiplinger’s FREE Investing Weekly e-letter for stock, ETF and mutual fund recommendations, and other investing advice.

Fresh off its worst week in 11 months, the Nasdaq Composite dropped by as much as 2.7% at its nadir, to 14,530 – just about 80 points from official correction territory (a drop of 10% or more from a peak) – but managed to finish with a marginal gain to 14,942. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (-0.5% to 36,068) and S&P 500 (-0.1% to 4,670) closed down but well off their intraday lows.

stock chart for 011022stock chart for 011022

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 slipped by 0.4% to 2,171.
  • Gold futures posted a marginal gain, settling at $1,798.80 an ounce.
  • U.S. crude oil futures slipped 0.9% to end at $78.23 per barrel.
  • Bitcoin, which sat at $41,912.19 on Friday afternoon, dropped below $40,000 earlier in Monday’s session but recovered to $41,714.45, a 0.5% decline. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m.) 
  • Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) is upping its stake in the mobile video game world, announcing today that it is buying Farmville creator Zynga (ZNGA) for $12.7 billion in cash and stock. This works out to $9.68 per ZNGA share – a 61.3% premium to last Friday’s close. “This strategic combination brings together our best-in-class console and PC franchises, with a market-leading, diversified mobile publishing platform that has a rich history of innovation and creativity,” said Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive. “We believe that we will deliver significant value to both sets of stockholders, including $100 million of annual cost synergies within the first two years post-closing and at least $500 million of annual net bookings opportunities over time.” The deal is expected to close by the end of the second quarter as long as it gets the green light from regulators and shareholders. ZNGA shares soared 40.7% on the news, while TTWO fell 13.1% – potentially creating an attractive entry point for investors looking to pick up one of the best communication services stocks for 2022 at a discount.
  • Moderna (MRNA) was a rare splash of bright green today, jumping 9.3% after the biotech’s CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday that the company is working on a COVID-19 booster that will target the omicron variant. Bancel said MRNA believes this will be the “best strategy for a potential booster for the fall of 2022” after discussions with various public health officials. This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said immunocompromised individuals are now eligible for a fourth vaccine dose, as detailed Monday in our free A Step Ahead newsletter.

Will Earnings Jolt the Market?

Interest rates might be dominating headlines now, but a new potential market mover kicks off later this week.

It’s the unofficial start of the fourth-quarter earnings season – and while you can check out a schedule of major reports here, big names to watch include Delta Air Lines (DAL), Wells Fargo (WFC) and BlackRock (BLK), which we’ve previewed here.

According to FactSet, analysts’ estimated earnings growth rate for S&P 500 companies in Q4 2021 is 21.7% – if achieved, that would be the fourth consecutive quarter that earnings growth has topped 20%, which should give investors something to look forward to.

“While there are real risks, expectations for continued hiring and spending will support growth in expected earnings,” says Jeff Buchbinder, chief equity strategist for LPL Financial, who adds that despite the risks of continued volatility “higher rates have usually been associated with strong market performance” too.

Investors looking for ways to potentially buy on the dip during short-term volatility could consider Kiplinger picks for the year ahead – such as our top stocks for 2022 or our best exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

That said, if you have a greater thirst for risk, and a speculative portfolio allocation you can afford to lose, you might consider swinging for the fences – with the pros’ help, anyway.

While Wall Street analysts typically don’t make bombastic calls, they have identified a few stocks that they see, ahem, “going to the moon” over the next year or so. These 30 names in particular have consensus buy targets implying at least 100% returns – and in many cases, much more. But watch out: This is a volatile bunch.

Source: kiplinger.com

Wells Fargo Stock: Earnings Season Kicks Off With WFC in Focus

Here we go again. The earnings calendar is set to start filling up, with travel name Delta Air Lines (DAL, $41.76) and big banks BlackRock (BLK, $890.90) and Wells Fargo (WFC, $55.01) among the first companies slated to report fourth-quarter results.

“Earnings are expected to grow 20% in the fourth quarter – which, while down from prior quarters, is still quite strong – and end the year with nearly 40% growth,” says Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network.

And if this metric exceeds that 20% estimate in Q4, it will mark the fourth straight quarter of earnings growth above 20%, according to John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet Research Systems.

Still, “Analysts and companies have been less optimistic compared to recent quarters in their earnings estimate revisions and earnings outlooks for the fourth quarter to date,” Butters adds. As of mid-December, 56 S&P 500 companies had issued negative earnings per share (EPS) guidance, compared to 37 that had issued positive guidance, on average, for the quarter.

Analyst Sees Solid Q4 Earnings for Wells Fargo

Big banks will dominate the earnings calendar early on, and these lower earnings estimates are found throughout the industry. 

“All the large banks show the upcoming fourth quarter as the lowest estimated revenue and EPS to date in 2021,” says CFRA Research analyst Kenneth Leon. “We are likely to see continued low-to-moderate credit risk to credit cards, commercial and industrial loans, commercial real estate and trading and counterparty losses.”

However, for Wells Fargo, which is slated to unveil its fourth-quarter results ahead of Friday’s open, Leon is confident the big bank will deliver a turnaround that will result in higher capital returns. 

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“We think WFC should benefit from favorable industry trends, and management’s focus on execution has improved. While the pandemic remains uncertain, we expect Q4 2021 and 2022 to show improved loan activity and higher net interest income than the first half 2021.”

Leon also expects “a rebound in consumer loan demand, card activity, and higher loan balances, as well as personal and small business loans,” and points to Wells Fargo’s technological innovations, including its mobile, cloud-based consumer banking platform, as reasons to be upbeat toward the big bank. 

He has a Buy rating on the financial stock and he’s certainly not alone. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, 11 analysts say Wells Fargo is a Strong Buy and five call it a Buy. This compares to 11 Holds and not a single Sell or Strong Sell.

As for WFC’s fourth-quarter results, the Wall Street pros, on average, are targeting a 4.3% year-over-year (YoY) improvement in revenues to $18.7 billion. Earnings are expected to arrive at $1.09 per share, up 70.3% from the year prior.

BlackRock Stock Choppy Ahead of Earnings

BlackRock is another large financial institution set to report ahead of the Jan. 14 open. Shares of the world’s largest exchange-traded fund (ETF) operator have been choppy over the past six weeks or so, but still remain up roughly 22% on a 12-month basis.

Can a strong earnings report be the catalyst for BLK stock’s next leg higher?

Analysts are a little scattered on the subject. On average, the pros expect BLK to report fourth-quarter revenues of $5.1 billion, a 14.5% YoY improvement. Earnings, on the other hand, are expected to decline 1.4% from the year-ago period to $10.04 per share – though analysts’ Q4 EPS estimates range from a low of $9.50 to a high of $10.45.

Still, there are several analysts who see reason for optimism. “BLK remains well-positioned for growth across a broad array of products (ETFs, Aladdin and Private Markets) and themes (sustainability, China, retirement gap and democratization of alternatives),” says BMO Research’s James Fotheringham. He has a Market Perform rating on the financial stock, which is the equivalent of a Hold. 

“We expect BLK to continue to steal share from its traditional asset management peers,” he adds.

And CFRA Research’s Catherine Seifert (Strong Buy) thinks favorable fund flow trends, like the nearly $328 billion of net inflows BLK recorded in the first nine months of 2021, will lead to a 15% rise in revenues for fiscal 2021. 

“BLK shares trade at a premium to peers and we expect the firm’s dominance in the asset management industry, coupled with its solid execution, and growing technology services division, to enable the shares to retain this premium,” she adds.

Analyst Estimates Vary for Delta Air Lines Earnings

It’s not only about big banks this week. Airline giant Delta Air Lines will unveil its fourth-quarter results ahead of the Jan. 13 open.

DAL stock sold off sharply in late 2021, falling from its mid-November peak around $45.50 to an early December low near $33.50, though it has since recovered back up to the $42 per-share price point.

This selloff was in part related to uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant of COVID-19. However, Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth believes “the indiscriminate selling” created buying opportunities for investors looking to “gain exposure to high-quality airline stocks,” such as Strong Buy-rated DAL.

For DAL’s fourth quarter, Syth is expecting the airline to record a per-share loss of 40 cents – a vast improvement over the $2.53 per-share loss it suffered in Q4 2020. 

The consensus estimate among Wall Street pros, though, is for DAL to swing to a fourth-quarter profit of 12 cents per share. Revenue, meanwhile, is expected to land at $9.1 billion (+130% YoY).

Source: kiplinger.com