Retirement Comfort: How to Avoid Running Out of Money

Nowadays, we’re all living longer, and those life expectancy numbers are only going to rise. With people living up to three or four decades in retirement, it’s crucial you have enough money to enjoy all your retirement days. What do you do if you run out of money?

There are many ways people can run out of money, but there are some easy ways to avoid that.

Write Out Your Retirement Plan (and Check It Often)

The No. 1 question we get as financial experts is: Will I have enough money for retirement? No one wants to outlive their money, so our first piece of advice is to make a plan. Having a comprehensive plan before you head into retirement can save you headaches down the road.

To create a retirement plan, you need to answer some basic questions:

  • What are your income needs?
  • Do you have any additional income sources?
  • Will you have a shortcoming in your income needs?
  • If so, what resources will you have to address those shortcomings?

A financial adviser can help you answer those questions and start putting a plan in place. Having that retirement professional helps you identify your needs now and in the future.

Invest Your Money in the Right Place

An important part of your retirement plan is deciding where to invest your money. This is one of the reasons why when we are putting a retirement plan together, one of the first things we look at is our clients’ risk tolerance. This is one of the most important things to know before investing. If you are taking more risk than you are comfortable with and the market declines, you may panic and make a costly decision. Remember that an investment that works for one person may not be a good investment for you. Talk to a financial adviser to learn your options and what approach best suits your needs.

Don’t Fall Victim to Fraud

Phishing emails and scamming phone calls are becoming more and more common. This is especially true for those already in retirement. People are trying to take advantage of our older generations. On average, senior citizens lose $1 billion a year in scams. All retirees and even those getting close to retirement need to be informed and educated on avoiding scams.

First and foremost, research any purchase, donation or investment before you jump into it. If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The consequences of falling victim to fraud could be far-reaching. You may think it will never happen to you, but it could. It happens more often than you think. Scammers are getting smarter and more sophisticated, especially with all of our information online.

If you are scammed or fall victim to fraud, you may not know it until it is too late. Always be proactive as opposed to reactive. Trust your gut, be concerned, and ask lots of questions. Don’t make a quick decision on your own. Always ask your financial planner if this financial decision is a smart one. 

Have a Budget and Stick to It

When most people get to retirement age, they want to maintain the same standard of living they have gotten used to. Having a budget can help get you there. While many of us may think of this as a simple step, it is surprising how many people do not have a budget.

Begin your budget planning by tracking all of your expenses. This will help you see where every single dollar is going. Start tracking your income, where it is coming from and exactly how much is coming in on a monthly basis. After tracking your income, make sure that your expenses are less than your monthly income. If they aren’t, find a way to cut back on some expenses. This budget will help you determine how much money you need on a monthly and annual basis to support the lifestyle you want and to help you continue that into retirement.

A budget is a helpful tool on your journey of financial planning. But also make sure you have an emergency fund set aside. We saw how crucial this was for many people at the height of the pandemic. Try to have at least three to six months of expenses in that fund should you lose your job, experience car trouble or have an emergency house repair.

No matter how close or far you are from retirement, you want to make sure you will have enough money. Don’t be afraid to ask your financial planner what you need to do. You want to continue living the lifestyle you have become accustomed to well into your golden years, and achieving that starts with a plan.

Founder & CEO, Drake and Associates

Tony Drake is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™and the founder and CEO of Drake & Associates in Waukesha, Wis. Tony is an Investment Adviser Representative and has helped clients prepare for retirement for more than a decade. He hosts The Retirement Ready Radio Show on WTMJ Radio each week and is featured regularly on TV stations in Milwaukee. Tony is passionate about building strong relationships with his clients so he can help them build a strong plan for their retirement.


7 Ways to Show Proof of Renters Insurance to Your Landlord

No one wants to have an apartment break-in happen to them or lose their personal belongings to an unexpected tornado but sometimes life happens. When the unexpected occurs, everyone wants financial coverage and know that they have a backup plan or safeguard in place.

That’s where renters insurance comes in. While property owners will have insurance policies covering the apartment complex and building in place, it’s often up to the tenants to provide their own renters insurance where the policy covers personal belongings. In fact, most landlords are requiring proof of renters insurance to rent their property before signing the lease.

We’ll help you understand the fundamentals of a basic tenant insurance policy and provide ideas on how to show proof of renters insurance if your landlords require it.

What is a renters insurance policy?

Simply put, insurance is protection against financial loss. Renters insurance is a type of insurance policy that’s specific to tenants and renters only. Unlike homeowners insurance, renters insurance does not usually cover the structure of the building, but it does cover the renter’s personal property that’s housed inside the apartment.

Renters insurance exists to protect you and your personal belongings should an incident — like theft or fire — occur while you rent. The insurance policy would then pay you for the damage caused to your belongings. Renters insurance also protects renters from liability in case someone gets hurt within your apartment.

Renters insurance covers property from a burglary

Why every renter needs renters insurance coverage

Landlords are requiring tenants to provide proof of renters insurance. This helps safeguard property managers from liability, but it also protects renters. People who have renters insurance can breathe easy knowing it protects their personal property. Here are a few reasons you need to purchase renters insurance:

  • Offers protection of your personal items from theft or natural disasters
  • Covers you from personal liability if someone is hurt within your apartment
  • Often required to sign a new lease
  • Sometimes required for lease renewal
  • Can save you money should something happen to your personal belongings
  • Provides peace of mind to tenants
  • Helps expedite the rental process and avoid waiting periods if you already have a policy

Regardless of the reason you purchase renters insurance, it’s smart to have it when you live in a rental unit.

What exactly does renters insurance cover?

We’ve talked about the benefits of having renters insurance, but what exactly does renters insurance cover? Your coverage will vary based on your insurance company and policy, but in most cases, renters insurance policies offer these types of coverage:

Personal property coverage

Personal property coverage includes repairs or replacements for lost or damaged property, such as furniture, electronics and clothing. Depending on the policy, it may cover the costs of things like jewelry, but you’ll have to check with your insurance provider to see how much coverage comes with your plan.

Liability coverage

Liability coverage protects the tenant in case an injury occurs to someone within the apartment and needs medical attention. There’s often a cap on how much liability coverage there is, so read your policy carefully.

Renters insurance will cover a hotel room if you

Additional living expenses coverage

Additional living expenses coverage includes the cost of hotel or travel bills should your apartment become unlivable due to an incident that occurs on-site. This part of a policy will not cover property damage to the building itself — that’s usually the landlord’s responsibility — but it will cover your hotel bills while you find a new place to rent.

You’ll likely have increased premiums when you purchase more coverage and it’s up to you to determine how much renters insurance you need and how much coverage your landlord requires. Do your research to select the best policy for you.

How to show proof of renters insurance to your landlord

We’ve mentioned that landlords require proof of insurance to rent a rental property. But how do you show proof of renters insurance to a landlord? Here are several ways to show proof of renters insurance.

1. Provide the declarations page to your landlord

Every renters insurance policy will have a declarations page that outlines the details of your coverage. The declarations page will include things like your name, the policy number and how much coverage you purchased. You can send a digital copy directly to property management as proof.

Send a digital copy to your landlord.

2. Share a digital file with the landlord

You can show digital proof of your insurance by emailing the landlord a copy of the entire policy or the declarations page itself. When you send electronic proof, you have a digital footprint that shows your communication with the landlord. You can even ask your landlord to store this electronic copy on their property management software so you have a record of it.

3. Show them the physical copy of the renters insurance policy

If you’re more old-school, you can print out a physical copy of the policy as a way of showing proof of coverage. Print out a copy for your records and print out a second copy for the landlord to have, as well.

4. Have your insurance agent contact your landlord to confirm

If your landlord will accept verbal confirmation, you can ask the insurance company to call the landlord directly to show proof of insurance. Let your landlord know when your insurance agent will contact them so they can prepare for the call.

5. Add the landlord as an interested party to the policy

On any insurance policy, you can add an interested party to the policy. This is one way to show proof that the tenant has insurance. When the insurance agent is writing the policy, they will add the landlord as an interested party and then, notify the landlord upon completion of the policy.

6. Share the policy number and insurance agency with your landlord

Another way to show proof when renting is to share details of the policy with your landlord. You can share things like the number of the policy, the name of the insurance company and agent or the amount of coverage purchased.

Simply tell your landlord you have renters insurance.

7. Give verbal assurances of your renters insurance policy

Depending on the property managers, you can show proof by giving verbal confirmation of coverage. While this is only as good as your word, some landlords are OK with this type of proof. Keep in mind that there’s often no digital or written record of verbal assurances, so it’s not the most concrete or secure way to show proof of renters insurance.

These are some of the most common and accurate ways to show proof of coverage when property owners require proof.

How much does renters insurance cost?

Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive and ranges from $15 to $20 a month, or $180 to $220 per year. The cost of the policy will depend on how much coverage you purchase. Some landlords will even require that you have a certain amount of coverage, but that varies by location, by the landlord and even by state. When you’re analyzing your budget, it’s important to include renters insurance with your other utilities.

Keep in mind that most policies renew annually and if you don’t automatically renew your policy lapses and you may temporarily lose coverage. You also need to pencil in the cost of compensation for the agent, if they charge a fee to draft a policy.

Signing the renters insurance policy.

How to get a renters insurance policy of your own

If you’re trying to rent an apartment and can’t sign the lease until you have proof of renters insurance, then it’s time to find a policy for you. There are ways to find an insurance agency who you get you set up:

  • Ask your new landlord for a recommendation
  • Use your existing insurance agency and bundle it with your car insurance, for example, to save money
  • Use an online comparison tool to find an insurance company
  • Do an online search to find an insurance agency
  • Ask your neighbors who they use
  • Go to your local insurance broker

Proof of renters insurance is key

Once your policy is in place, you’ll be happy to know that you can then sign the lease, move into your new apartment and feel secure knowing you’re protected from the unexpected.


Bonds Are Having a Rough Year. Here Are 3 Actions That Can Help

During the past few weeks, several clients have asked the question, “Why are my bond investments losing money?” They were surprised to see the results of their bond portfolio over the last year.

I understand why investors are perplexed. The Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is down 8.9% in 2022 through May 31. It’s no secret inflation, high gasoline prices and the war in Ukraine are causing stock market volatility. However, most investors view bonds as the safe part of their portfolio. While they are generally less volatile than stocks, rising interest rates are causing bond yields to increase. When yields rise, the price of a bond will drop.

Here’s an example of how this works.

Let’s say one year ago a person bought a $1,000 corporate bond from a company, and the bond yields 1% annually. One year later, interest rates have risen and the same company now issues new bonds for $1,000 with a yield of 2.5%. This makes the older bond less attractive. If the holder of the older bond wants to sell it, they would have to take a loss since any buyer would want a 2.5% yield.

As the Federal Reserve moves to fight inflation, interest rates are expected to continue to climb for the next several months and possibly into 2023.

While there are no magic bullets to quickly reverse the performance of an investor’s bond portfolio, here are three moves for investors to consider.

Try a Different Bond-Buying Strategy

When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near 0% overnight two years ago to offset the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we advocated investing in bond funds and decreased our investment in individual bonds where it made sense. We did this because the bonds in those funds were already providing higher yields than if we had purchased individual bonds.

Now, as rates have started to rise, the reverse could make sense.  Investors may look to replace these bond funds with individual bonds, which have a better yield since the funds now hold bonds with lower yields.

As part of this strategy, investors can look to purchase short-dated bonds that will mature within a few years. While bonds with longer maturity dates – such as 10+ years – often have higher yields, the increase isn’t all that much (because of what is called a flat yield curve). For investors expecting rates to rise, the longer-dated bonds will be hit hardest if rates do rise.

For those investors who expect rates to hold or fall, or those who tend to pull a low percentage of their portfolio for living expenses, it could make sense to go out a little further than a few years and “lock in” the yields that we are seeing now, despite them not being much higher than the short-term rates.  While the price of the bond could still go down if rates rise, the investor is locked in to the yield at the time of purchase.

Consider Building a Bond Ladder

The second strategy we used was a bond ladder to help provide a steady performance over a longer period. Think of each bond as one of the rungs on a ladder. Once a bond matures, its proceeds are reinvested in a new bond that has a higher yield.

Here’s a hypothetical example of the potential benefit of the bond ladder for an individual investor:

A retiree may want to hold seven to 10 years of their cash flow needs in safe assets. To do this they can use a mix of bonds and cash.  If the retiree spends $200,000 annually, they may look to target between $1.4 million and $2 million in this bucket.

To achieve this goal, purchasing individual, shorter-term bonds can maintain flexibility to invest in attractive yields. As the short-term bonds mature, it may be possible to reinvest with longer-dated bonds with better yields if rates have risen. This approach enables the retiree to live off these safe assets for their targeted time period, without needing to dip into the rest of their portfolio, which consists of stocks or other investments.

As a result of this strategy, the shorter-term volatility of the equity markets often means much less to the retiree. While there is both an art and a science to managing the balance of increasing the portfolio value and meeting the retiree’s future needs, it is comforting to many retirees to know that, in a down market, it could be several years before they even need to look to that part of their portfolio for living expenses.

Know that Bond Losses May Provide a Tax Benefit

As investors begin the process of selling bond funds, there is one benefit. Most bond funds purchased in the last five years have likely declined in value. Investors holding them in a taxable account, the investor can use the loss from the sale to offset part of their tax bill. This is called tax-loss harvesting.

By selling an investment that is a loss, a person can reduce their capital gains taxes and potentially offset up to $3,000 in ordinary income. The money from the sale of the bond fund is then reinvested in a different security – in this case, an individual bond – that meets the investor’s financial goals.  Therefore, an investor can not only get a tax benefit, they can also lock in a better yield – a win-win.

Despite losses in 2022’s first quarter, bonds have an important role to play in nearly every investor’s portfolio. While each person has different needs and goals, they can work with their adviser to develop a bond strategy generating steady returns over the long term, providing the security any investor needs.

Adviser, Moneta

Matt Schaller brings more than a decade of experience in the financial services industry to his role as an adviser with Compardo, Wienstroer, Conrad & Janes (CWCJ) Team at Moneta, a Top 10 Registered Investment Advisory Firm, according to Barron’s. Matt is both a Chartered Financial Analyst® Charterholder and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional. His extensive background in client service, coupled with his previous experience as an investment research analyst, offers a unique lens for clients’ investment decisions.


What to Know Before Accepting Unsubsidized Student Loans

When financial aid like scholarships and grants comes up short, federal student loans can help bridge the gap.

Unsubsidized Direct Loans may be offered to undergraduate and graduate students in a financial aid package.

Subsidized Direct Loans may be offered to undergrads only, and have benefits in terms of who pays the interest during certain periods.

When a college sends an aid offer, the student must indicate which financial aid to accept.

What Is an Unsubsidized Student Loan?

The Department of Education provides Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans as one of four options under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. (Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans are the other types.)

The unsubsidized loans provide undergraduate and graduate-level students with a fixed-rate financing option to help fund their college education.

Unlike Direct Subsidized Loans, unsubsidized student loans are not based on financial need. This means that any student may receive unsubsidized loan funding, as long as it meets the Department of Education’s general eligibility requirements.

How Do Unsubsidized Student Loans Work?

If you’re eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans, the amount you’re offered for the academic year is determined by your school, based on its cost of attendance minus other financial aid you’ve received (such as scholarships, grants, work-study, and subsidized loans).

You will need to complete entrance counseling to ensure you understand the terms and your obligation to repay the loan. Then you’ll sign a master promissory note stating that you agree to the loan terms.

The government will send the loan funds directly to your school. Your institution will then apply the money toward any unpaid charges on your school account, including tuition, fees, room, and board.

Any remaining money will then be sent to you. For example, if you were approved for $3,800 in unsubsidized loans but only $3,000 was applied to your education costs, the school will send the remaining $800 to you.

The Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office recommends accepting grants and scholarships first, then work-study, then loans. And it advises accepting a subsidized loan before an unsubsidized loan, and an unsubsidized loan before a PLUS loan.

A Matter of Interest

As soon as any student loan is disbursed, it starts accruing interest. For federal student loans and most private student loans, you can defer payments until after your grace period, which is the first six months of leaving school or dropping below half-time status.

Here’s the kicker: With a subsidized student loan, the government pays the interest while you’re in school and during your grace period and any hardship deferment.

With an unsubsidized federal student loan or private student loan, unpaid interest that accrues will be added into your loan’s principal balance when you start repayment.

Pros and Cons of Unsubsidized Student Loans

Although unsubsidized student loans offer many benefits, there are also some downsides to know.

Unsubsidized Loan Pros Unsubsidized Loan Cons
Eligibility is not based on financial need Interest accrues upon disbursement
Available to undergraduate and graduate students You’re responsible for all interest charges
Can help cover educational expenses up to an annual limit Graduate students pay a higher rate
No credit check or cosigner required Interest capitalizes if payments are deferred
Can choose to defer repayment
Multiple payment plans are available

Applying for Unsubsidized Student Loans

Applying for federal financial aid starts with the FAFSA® — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students seeking aid complete the FAFSA each year.

Where to Apply

Applying for the FAFSA can be done at, or you can print out a paper FAFSA and mail it.

Based on the information you included in your FAFSA, each school that you listed will determine your financial aid offer, including whether you’re eligible for an unsubsidized loan.

Typical Application Requirements

You must have an enrollment status of at least half-time to be eligible for a Direct Loan. You must also be enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program at a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program.

The Department of Education has general requirements to be eligible for federal aid. Applicants must:

•   Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen

•   Have a Social Security number

•   Prove that they qualify for a college education

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress

•   Sign a certification statement

In the certification statement, you’ll need to confirm that you aren’t currently in default on a federal student loan and don’t owe money on a federal grant, and affirm that you’ll only use aid funds toward educational costs.

How Long Will You Have to Wait?

After submitting your FAFSA, it can take the Department of Education three to five days to process your application. If you submitted your FAFSA by mail, processing can take up to 10 days.

Once you’ve told your school which financial aid you want to accept, loan disbursement timelines vary. Generally, first-time borrowers have up to a 30-day waiting period before they receive their funds. Other borrowers may receive funding up to 10 days before the start of the semester.

How Much Can You Borrow?

There are annual limits to how much in combined subsidized and unsubsidized loans you can borrow. These limits are defined based on the year you are in school and whether you’re a dependent or independent student.

Here’s an overview of combined subsidized and unsubsidized loan limits per year for undergraduate students:

Undergraduate Year Dependent Independent
First-year student $5,500 $9,500
Second-year student $6,500 $10,500
Third year and beyond $7,500 $12,500

Graduate students are automatically considered independent and have an annual limit of $20,500 for unsubsidized loans (they cannot receive subsidized loans).

There are also student loan maximum lifetime amounts.

Subsidized vs Unsubsidized Student Loans

Another type of loan available through the Direct Loan Program is a subsidized loan. Here’s a quick comparison of subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans.

Subsidized Loans Unsubsidized Loans
For undergraduate students For undergraduate and graduate students
Borrowers aren’t responsible for interest that accrues during in-school deferment and grace period Borrowers are responsible for interest that accrues at all times
Borrowers must demonstrate financial need Financial need isn’t a requirement
Annual loan limits are typically lower Annual loan limits are generally higher

Alternatives to Unsubsidized Student Loans

Unsubsidized student loans are just one type of financial support students can consider for their education. Here are some alternatives.

Subsidized Loans

Direct Subsidized Loans are fixed-rate loans available to undergraduate students. As discussed, borrowers are only responsible for the interest charges that accrue while the loan is actively in repayment.

Scholarships and Grants

In addition to accessing potential scholarships, grants, and loans through the FAFSA, students can seek financial aid from other entities.

Scholarships and grants for college may be found through your state or city. Businesses, nonprofits, community groups, and professional associations often sponsor scholarships or grants, too. The opportunities may be based on need or merit.

Private Student Loans

Private lenders like banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions offer private student loans. Some schools and states also have their own student loan programs.

Private student loan lenders require borrowers, or cosigners, to meet certain credit thresholds, and some offer fixed or variable interest rates. Many lenders offer pre-qualification without a hard credit inquiry.

Private student loans can be a convenient financing option for students who are either ineligible for federal aid or have maxed out their federal student loan options. One need-to-know: Private student loans are not eligible for federal programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment.

SoFi Private Student Loan Rates

If your federal financial aid package doesn’t quite cover all the bases, or if you’re not eligible for federal aid, a private student loan from SoFi could be just the ticket.

You can borrow up to your school’s certified cost of attendance, at a low fixed or variable rate, and pay no loan fees.

Find your rate for a SoFi Private Student Loan in three minutes.


What are unsubsidized loan eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, undergraduate and graduate students must be enrolled at least half-time at a qualifying school. They must also meet the basic eligibility requirements for federal aid, including being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, have a Social Security number, and complete the FAFSA.

How long does it take to receive a Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

Loan disbursement for first-time borrowers can take up to 30 days after the first day of enrollment. For others, disbursement takes place within 10 days before classes start.

What is the maximum amount of unsubsidized loans you can borrow?

Dependent students can borrow a maximum of $5,500 and $6,500 per year during their first and second academic years, respectively. Students in their third year of school and beyond can borrow an annual maximum of $7,500. The aggregate loan limit for dependent students is $31,000 in combined subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Graduate or professional students may receive up to $20,500 per year in unsubsidized loans. Their aggregate loan limit is $138,500 (which includes all federal student loans received for undergraduate study).

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see

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 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.

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.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Photo credit: iStock/LPETTET


How To Decorate Your Home On A Budget

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

While finding the right house is important, the way you furnish and decorate a space is what really makes it home. But when you’re on a tight budget, it can be difficult to create the vibe you’re looking for.

The good news is, you can drastically drive down the cost of furnishing and decorating with a little creativity. Here are some of our best tips.

How to Decorate Your Home on a Budget

Decorating a new house can be more expensive than you realize. Read below for ideas on how to find furniture, decor and accessories without busting your budget. 

Shop at consignment stores

Many high-end consignment stores carry furniture and decor for half off of their original cost. You can find a West Elm dining room table for hundreds of dollars less than the retail price. 

Do a Google search for the best consignment stores in your area and visit their websites to see if they sell furniture and decor. If they do, plan to visit or follow them on social media to see what they post. 

Local liquidation stores often carry furniture and decor from name brands and designers. One liquidation store near me only carries items from Target, so you can find cute throw pillows, candles, mirrors and home accessories at clearance prices. 

Some furniture stores may also have outlets near you where they sell last season items for a huge discount. 

Visit flea markets

While antique stores carry expensive furniture pieces, flea markets can have hidden gems for much lower prices. Flea markets can be a fun place to find decor and furniture items like chairs, coffee tables and dressers. 

Flea markets usually don’t help with delivery, so you’ll need to bring a large car, rent a van or ask a friend for help. Make sure to include the cost of renting a car or truck when deciding if the price is fair. 

Flea markets and thrift stores can also be a fun place to find knickknacks and tchotchkes. Also, look through old boxes of childhood items and family heirlooms for things to display around the house.   

Find frugal picture frames

Custom framing can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead of getting your art or pictures custom framed, scour through your nearby thrift stores for a suitable frame. Make sure to measure the art beforehand. If you can’t find a perfect-sized frame, find one that’s slightly bigger and buy a mat that fits the picture online.

You could also visit a framing store and pay them to add a mat. You’ll still be saving hundreds of dollars compared to the cost of custom framing.

Find second-hand furniture and decor 

Every day, homeowners post furniture and decor for sale on sites like OfferUp, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You can also find special Facebook groups devoted to selling furniture and other items within your neighborhood. Your neighborhood NextDoor community is another place to find cheap or free items. 

Freecycle is a site where you can find free items that people are donating. You can subscribe to get daily emails to see what people are giving away. 

Sometimes you can find people who will deliver the furniture to you for free or for a small fee. The fee may be less than what you’d pay buying new furniture. 

Look for plants and planters that people are donating. These are another easy way to spruce up a place without spending a bunch of money. 

Bring out your crafty side

You can save a lot of money on home furnishings by getting a little crafty. Try spray painting furniture or frames a different color. If you have more time, you can also sand wooden furniture and stain it a different shade. 

Find ways to update old furniture that you already own. For example, your grandma’s dresser may look frumpy now, but with some new knobs or handles, it can look like a completely different piece of furniture. 

Print pictures

If you have high-resolution photos of beautiful locales, consider printing and framing them. Printing large pictures can cost less than $10, and if you print a standard frame size, you can buy a regular picture frame instead of needing a custom frame.

Use sites like Shutterfly or the Costco photo center, which offer low prices for printing services. Choose a matte finish, which will look more refined and high-end than a glossy finish.

Don’t underestimate the power of paint

Decorating a white wall with art and pictures can be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, consider painting the wall a bold color, which can have a huge visual impact. 

When you paint a wall, you don’t have to hang as much art. If you already have art or pictures in mind that you want to hang, make sure to pick a paint color that will match those frames. 

Use social media

Before you visit a furniture store, post on social media what you’re looking for. You never know who might be getting rid of the exact item you need. People may also have suggestions on where to get a good deal on what you want. 

If social media doesn’t work, you can also make a post on your local group or on your neighborhood’s Facebook or NextDoor page. 

Don’t Feel the Pressure to Decorate Quickly

When you buy a new house, you’re likely spending a lot of money on moving expenses, minor upgrades and basic necessities. You may feel pressure to put the house together quickly, but this can result in you buying cheap furniture instead of quality pieces you’ll have for years to come.

Instead, take your time to save up and invest in items that you’ll enjoy for a while. Don’t worry if a room or wall is blank for several months.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Mahima Dutt


Can You Get Student Loans for Community College?

Community colleges offering two-year programs can be a wonderful option for students looking to gain a higher education in less time. It can also be a great option for those looking to save a little cash while bettering their current skills, prepping for a four-year university, or going for an associate’s degree.

Moreover, it can often save students thousands of dollars in the long run toward the career of their dreams too. Though community college can cost far less than a four-year school, it still isn’t free. Here are a few helpful ways to gain a little financial assistance for your personal education journey.

The Government Looks at Community College the Same Way It Does a Four-Year School

Federal student loans are available for both two- and four-year colleges. The process of applying for federal aid is the same, regardless of the school, as long as the Department of Education sees it as an “eligible degree or certificate program.” Vocational, career, trade, or online schools often offer federal loan options, but it’s not a guarantee. If you’re not sure whether your school participates in federal loan programs, you can confirm with your school before moving forward.

To apply for federal aid, including student loans, a potential student must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). On the FAFSA, all would-be students will list the schools they are interested in attending using the Federal School Code. The schools listed will use the FAFSA application answers to determine the types and amounts of aid a student can receive.

After submitting the FAFSA, the applicant will receive an award letter from each school listed on the FAFSA application. This will tell you what aid you qualified for. If you plan on applying for federal aid to attend community college, consider applying as early as possible.

Some federal aid is determined on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you submit your FAFSA, the better position you may be in to receive aid.

Those hoping to obtain a federal loan for community college can apply for one of three: Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, and Direct Plus. Here’s how to determine which one of those may be the best fit for your education goals.

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans for Community College

When it comes to borrowing federal student loans, the government offers both subsidized and unsubsidized loans to assist students in covering the cost of higher education. For both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, the school a potential student hopes to attend will determine how much a student is eligible to borrow.

Direct Subsidized Loans are based on financial need and they come with a major benefit — the U.S. Department of Education pays the interest while the student is still enrolled in school at least half-time and for the loan grace period (usually the first six months after leaving school).

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are similar to subsidized loans except that they are not based on financial need, they are based on your cost of attendance and other financial aid you receive. As such, the borrower would be responsible for all accrued interest on the loan. While not required to make payments as a student, there is an option to make interest-only payments on the unsubsidized loan.

When the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan is not paid during periods of deferment, such as the grace period, the accrued interest will be capitalized. That means, when graduation day comes and the grace period ends, the interest that has accumulated on the loan will be added to the principal value of the loan and you’ll be responsible for paying off both. Interest will also continue to accrue based on that new principal.

There is an annual limit to how much money undergraduate students can borrow in Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. For example, the limit for your first undergraduate year is $5,500 for dependent students (and $9,500 for independent students).

Direct PLUS Loans for Community College

There is another option from the government, known as the Direct PLUS Loan . This loan is available to parents of dependent students. Unlike both Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, when a person borrows via a Direct PLUS Loan, he or she will be subject to a credit check. If the person has an adverse credit history, they may not be approved to borrow the loan.

If you are a parent of a dependent undergraduate student, you can receive a Direct PLUS Loan for the remainder of your child’s college costs not covered by other financial aid.

It’s important to note when a person borrows a Direct PLUS Loan, there are fees in addition to interest. With this loan, parents can borrow up to the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received. In order to obtain this loan, parents must qualify and their credit history will be checked. Interest will also accrue.

Private Student Loans

If a student does not receive enough aid through federal student loans or maxes out his or her eligibility for federal student loans, they can seek additional funding through private student loans. Private student loans can be borrowed from banks, credit unions, or other lenders.

Each institution has its own eligibility requirements so each borrower will have to check with individual lenders to see about qualifications. Like federal loans, there is usually a limit to the amount you can borrow with private loans, which can vary by lender. The limit might be the cost of tuition, less the amount of aid the student is already receiving, for example. However, the limit on some private loans may be higher than the federal loan limit.

Furthermore, government student loans come with deadlines to apply , while students may apply for private student loans at any time. But one major downfall of private student loans is the fact that they may also come with higher eligibility requirements, like a specific credit score, to even be considered. Additionally, private lenders aren’t required to offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans, such as a grace period or income-driven repayment plans. Because of this, private student loans are generally considered only after all other financing options have been thoroughly reviewed.

Other Options For Community College Student Loans

Federal and private student loans aren’t the only options. And this is where, as a student, you can really do some homework.

Several states also offer their own student loan programs to help students. To qualify for many of these loans, a student must be a resident of the state program you’re applying for, or an out-of-state student enrolled in a college or university within that particular state. Check out each state’s student loan offerings here .

Saving Post-Graduation

Even if you went to community college, you may still graduate with student loan debt. But, there’s a way you can save after graduation as well. Upon completion of your degree (or, if you’ve already finished school), you may want to consider looking into student loan refinancing with SoFi.

This way, you may be able to get a better interest rate than what you originally qualified for or change the terms of your loan to fit your post-grad life. And you can focus on earning and saving for your future thanks to your hard-earned education.

When you refinance with SoFi there are no prepayment penalties or origination fees. Plus you’ll gain access to benefits like community events, career coaching, and unemployment protection. To see what your student loans could look like after you refinance with SoFi, take a look at our easy to use student loan refinance calculator.

Private Student Loans With SoFi

Community college students have a variety of options available to them when paying for their education. In addition to some scholarships or grants, students may use student loans, either federal or private, to help pay for college.

Private student loans can be an option for students who are looking to fill in financing gaps. SoFi offers no fee student loans with competitive interest rates available for qualifying borrowers. SoFi student loans also allow borrowers to select one of four flexible repayment plans.

Find out more about the student loan options available from SoFi. You can get a quote from SoFi in just a few minutes.


Will student loans pay for all of college?

Student loans can be used to pay for college expenses. There are borrowing limits depending on the loan type. For example, first-year dependent students may be eligible to borrow up to $5,500 in Direct Loans. Of this, no more than $3,500 can be subsidized loans. Students may look to alternatives like private student loans to fill in gaps. The borrowing limit for federal student loans is determined by the individual lender.

How much are student loans for an associate’s degree?

Student loans for community college are available, including for associate’s degrees. In order to borrow a federal student loan, potential borrowers must be enrolled in an eligible degree granting program, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. These programs may include associate degree programs.

What do you do if you can’t afford college?

If you can’t afford college, consider evaluating the costs and programs available at different colleges. Consider factors like location and room and board, in addition to tuition. Also fill out the FAFSA form, which allows students to apply for federal financial aid including grants and scholarships (which don’t typically need to be repaid) and federal student loans (which do need to be repaid). Consider contacting the financial aid office at your school for more personalized information.

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SoFi Private Student Loans
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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