Fixed Expense vs Variable Expense

Budgeting is the best way to get a better handle on where your money is going — which can help you get a better handle on where you’d like to see your money go.

But before you dive into the nitty-gritty of each individual line item on your ledger, you first need to understand the difference between fixed expenses and variable expenses.

As their name suggests, fixed expenses are those that are fixed, or unchanging, each month, while variable expenses are the ones with which you can expect a little more wiggle room. However, it’s possible to make cuts on items in both the fixed and variable expense category to save money toward bigger financial goals, whether that’s an epic vacation or your eventual retirement.

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is a Fixed Expense?

Fixed expenses are those costs that you pay in the same amount each month — items like your rent or mortgage payment, insurance premiums, and your gym membership. It’s all the stuff whose amounts you know ahead of time, and which don’t change.

Fixed expenses tend to make up a large percentage of a monthly budget since housing costs, typically the largest part of a household budget, are generally fixed expenses. This means that fixed expenses present a great opportunity for saving large amounts of money on a recurring basis if you can find ways to reduce their costs, though cutting costs on fixed expenses may require bigger life changes, like moving to a different apartment — or even a different city.

Keep in mind, too, that not all fixed expenses are necessities — or big budget line items. For example, an online TV streaming service subscription, which is withdrawn in the same amount every month, is a fixed expense, but it’s also a want as opposed to a need. Subscription services can seem affordable until they start accumulating and perhaps become unaffordable.

Recommended: Are Monthly Subscriptions Ruining Your Budget?

What Is a Variable Expense?

Variable expenses, on the other hand, are those whose amounts can vary each month, depending on factors like your personal choices and behaviors as well as external circumstances like the weather.
For example, in areas with cold winters, electricity or gas bills are likely to increase during the winter months because it takes more energy to keep a house comfortably warm. Grocery costs are also variable expenses since the amount you spend on groceries can vary considerably depending on what kind of items you purchase and how much you eat.

You’ll notice, though, that both of these examples of variable costs are still necessary expenses — basic utility costs and food. The amount of money you spend on other nonessential line items, like fashion or restaurant meals, is also a variable expense. In either case, variable simply means that it’s an expense that fluctuates on a month-to-month basis, as opposed to a fixed-cost bill you expect to see in the same amount each month.

To review:

•   Fixed expenses are those that cost the same amount each month, like rent or mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and subscription services.

•   Variable expenses are those that fluctuate on a month-to-month basis, like groceries, utilities, restaurant meals, and movie theater tickets.

•   Both fixed and variable utilities can be either wants or needs — you can have fixed-expense wants, like a gym membership, and variable-expense needs, like groceries.

When budgeting, it’s possible to make cuts on both fixed and variable expenses.

Recommended: Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Benefits of Saving Money on Fixed Expenses

If you’re trying to find ways to stash some cash, finding places in your budget to make cuts is a big key. And while you can make cuts on both fixed and variable expenses, lowering your fixed expenses can pack a hefty punch, since these tend to be big line items — and since the savings automatically replicate themselves each month when that bill comes due again. (Even businesses calculate the ratio of their fixed expenses to their variable expense, for this reason, yielding a measure known as operating leverage.)

Think about it this way: if you quit your morning latte habit (a variable expense), you might save a grand total of $150 over the course of a month — not too shabby, considering its just coffee. But if you recruit a roommate or move to a less trendy neighborhood, you might slash your rent (a fixed expense) in half. Those are big savings, and savings you don’t have to think about once you’ve made the adjustment: they just automatically rack up each month.

Other ways to save money on your fixed expenses include refinancing your car (or other debt) to see if you can qualify for a lower payment… or foregoing a car entirely in favor of a bicycle if your commute allows it. Can you pare down on those multiple streaming subscriptions or hit the road for a run instead of patronizing a gym? Even small savings can add up over time when they’re consistent and effort-free — it’s like automatic savings.

Of course, orchestrating it in the first place does take effort (and sometimes considerable effort, at that — pretty much no one names moving as their favorite activity). The benefits you might reap thereafter can make it all worthwhile, though.

Saving Money on Variable Expenses

Of course, as valuable as it is to make cuts to fixed expenses, saving money on variable expenses is still useful — and depending on your habits, it could be fairly easy to make significant slashes. For example, by adjusting your grocery shopping behaviors and aiming at fresh, bulk ingredients over-packaged convenience foods, you might decrease your monthly food bill. You could even get really serious and spend a few hours each weekend scoping out the weekly flyer for sales.

If you have a spendy habit like eating out regularly or shopping for clothes frequently, it can also be possible to find places to make cuts in your variable expenses. You can also find frugal alternatives for your favorite spendy activities, whether that means DIYing your biweekly manicure to learning to whip up that gourmet pizza at home. (Or maybe you’ll find a way to save enough on fixed expenses that you won’t have to worry as much about these habits!)

The Takeaway

Fixed expenses are those costs that are in the same amount each month, whereas variable expenses can vary. Both can be trimmed if you’re trying to save money in your budget, but cutting from fixed expenses can yield bigger savings for less ongoing effort.

Great budgeting starts with a great money management platform — and a SoFi Money® cash management account can give you a bird’s-eye view that puts everything into perspective. You’ll also have access to the Vaults feature, which helps you set aside money for specific savings purposes, no matter which goals are the most important to you, all in one account.

Check out SoFi Money and how it can help you manage your financial goals.

Photo credit: iStock/LaylaBird


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
The SoFi Money® Annual Percentage Yield as of 03/15/2020 is 0.20% (0.20% interest rate). Interest rates are variable subject to change at our discretion, at any time. No minimum balance required. SoFi doesn’t charge any ATM fees and will reimburse ATM fees charged by other institutions when a SoFi Money™ Mastercard® Debit Card is used at any ATM displaying the Mastercard®, Plus®, or NYCE® logo. SoFi reserves the right to limit or revoke ATM reimbursements at any time without notice.
SOMN0621048

Source: sofi.com

9 Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

@media (max-width: 1200px) body .novashare-buttons.novashare-inline .novashare-button-icon width: 100%; .novashare-inline .novashare-button .novashare-button-block background: #000000; .novashare-inline .novashare-button .novashare-border border-color: #000000; .novashare-inline .novashare-button .novashare-inverse color: #000000;


Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

For most people, buying a home is the biggest purchase decision of a lifetime. In fact, it’s one of the biggest decisions, period. 

Your mortgage is probably the largest debt you’ll ever take on, and taking care of a house is one of the largest responsibilities. Next to getting married or having children, it’s hard to think of anything that will have a greater impact on your life. 

With so much at stake, it makes sense to learn as much as possible about the process before you take the plunge. You can find lots of articles about home buying online, of course, just like any other subject. But for a really in-depth take on the topic, you can’t beat a good book.

Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

There are literally hundreds of books on home buying, covering the subject from every possible angle. Some real estate books provide a walk-through of the whole process. Some focus on the legal details. And some are all about getting the best deal on a mortgage.

With so many books to choose from, how do you find one that’s useful for you? To get started, look at what books other people have found most helpful. The books on this list all get good reviews from finance professionals, as well as ordinary homeowners.


1. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” by Eric Tyson & Ray Brown 

All the books in the “Dummies” series explain complex topics — from computer languages to sports — to people who know nothing about them. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” takes the same approach. It covers all the basics of buying a home in an easy-to-digest form.

This comprehensive guide covers every step of the home-buying process, including:

The book is ideal for first-time home buyers because it assumes no prior knowledge. It’s all in plain English, with no fancy lingo. You can read it from cover to cover or dip into it as needed to learn about specific topics.

To aid reading, the pages are peppered with icons marking key points. These include a light bulb for tips, a warning sign for pitfalls to avoid, and a deerstalker cap for topics to research on your own. They make it easy to spot important info at a glance.


2. “Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” by Nancy Conner 

The “Missing Manuals” series deals mostly with computer software and hardware. But it’s branched out into finance, another subject that ought to come with instructions. In this volume, Conner, a real estate investor, walks you through the home-buying process from start to finish.

“Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” is a step-by step guide to all the ins and outs of home buying. Its includes chapters on:

  • Choosing a real estate agent, mortgage lender, and lawyer
  • Choosing the right neighborhood
  • Finding your dream home 
  • Figuring out how much to offer on a house 
  • Financing your down payment
  • Comparing mortgages
  • Inspections
  • Closing costs

And it does all this with simple language and handy, bite-size chunks of information. Fill-in forms throughout the book help you apply the author’s expert advice to your specific situation.


3. “NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” by Ilona Bray J.D., Alayna Schroeder & Marcia Stewart 

The legal website NOLO is the top place to find legal advice online. Along with its free articles, the site offers an array of do-it-yourself forms, books, and software. This walk-through guide to homebuying is just one example.

“NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” covers most of the same topics as the Dummies and Missing Manual books, but from a different angle. It focuses on all the legal ins and outs of the home-buying process.

Although three attorneys wrote this book, it doesn’t rely on their knowledge alone. It draws on the knowledge of 15 other real estate professionals, including Realtors, loan officers, investors, home inspectors, and landlords. It’s like having your own private team of experts. For example:

  • A real estate agent offers tips on how to dress for an open house. 
  • A mortgage broker explains the risks of oral loan preapprovals. 
  • A closing expert discusses the importance of title insurance. 

Along with the expert advice, the book provides real-world stories from over 20 first-time home-buyers. Their experiences let you preview the process before jumping in yourself.


4. “Home Buyer’s Checklist: Everything You Need to Know — But Forgot to Ask — Before You Buy a Home” by Robert Irwin 

Every home-buying guide talks about the need for a home inspection. However, there are many problems home inspectors don’t always look for. The only way to detect them is to ask the right questions. In “Home Buyer’s Checklist,” Robert Irwin tells you what those questions are.

Irwin is a real estate professional with over three decades of experience. He knows all about the hidden flaws in homes and how to track them down. Irwin walks you through a house room by room and points out possible problem areas, such as:

  • Doors and door frames
  • Windows and window screens
  • Fireplaces
  • Light fixtures
  • Floors
  • Woodwork
  • Attic insulation

For each area, he notes possible problems and how to spot them. He also explains what they cost to fix and what damage they can cause if you don’t fix them. And he helps you use that information to your advantage in negotiating the price of the house.

Armed with this information, you can avoid unpleasant surprises when you move into your new home. It won’t make your house’s problems go away, but it will prepare you to deal with them — and keep the money in your pocket to do it.


5. “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)” by Gary Eldred

To first-time homebuyers, the real estate market is a big, confusing place. In “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them),” Gary Eldred offers you a map to help you find your way around.

Eldred’s guide draws on the real-world experiences of homebuyers, home builders, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders. They shed light on the mistakes homebuyers make most often, such as:

  • Believing everything a real estate agent says
  • Underestimating the cost of owning a home
  • Buying in an upscale neighborhood that’s on the decline
  • Paying too much for a house
  • Letting your agent handle the price negotiations
  • Staying out of the housing market due to fear

With the help of Eldred’s examples, you can avoid these pitfalls and find a house that’s both a comfortable home and a sound investment.


6. “No Nonsense Real Estate: What Everyone Should Know Before Buying or Selling a Home” by Alex Goldstein 

As both a Realtor and a real estate investor, Alex Goldstein has been on both sides of a real estate transaction. This gives him a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t in the home buying process.

In “No Nonsense Real Estate,” Goldstein puts that experience to work for you. He offers a step-by-step guide to the home buying process in language a first time home buyer can easily understand. This comprehensive guide covers:

  • The economics of the housing market in simple terms
  • The pros and cons of working with a real estate agent
  • What to look for in a home
  • Assembling a real estate team
  • Types of homes, such as single-family homes, condos, and co-ops
  • Traditional home loans and non-bank financing
  • Tips for sellers to get the best price on a home
  • The five elements of a successful real estate negotiation
  • Real estate contracts and closing costs
  • The eight steps of a real estate closing
  • The basics of real estate investing
  • A real-world case study of a home purchase
  • A list of frequently asked questions
  • A glossary of real estate terms

As a bonus, all buyers of the book gain access to a library of training videos and materials. They can help you find a real estate agent in your area, evaluate investment properties, and more.


7. “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” by Jack Guttentag

One of the most intimidating parts of buying your first home is getting your first mortgage. Not only is it likely the biggest loan you’ve ever taken out, there are dozens of options to consider. And the jargon loan officers use, from “escrow” to “points,” doesn’t make it any easier.

Jack Guttentag’s “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” offers a solution. The author, a former professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, tells you everything you need to know about how mortgages work and what your options are. The book includes:

  • A glossary of mortgage terms, from “A-credit” to “Zillow mortgage”
  • Advice on nitty-gritty issues such as the risks of cosigning a loan and the pros and cons of paying points versus making a larger down payment 
  • The lowdown on common mortgage myths, traps, and hidden costs to avoid
  • At-a-glance tables on topics like affordability and interest costs for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages

For first-time homebuyers grappling with the details of choosing and signing a mortgage, it’s a must-read.


8. “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye” by Elysia Stobbe 

Another book that focuses on mortgages is “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye.” As the whimsical title suggests, mortgage expert Elysia Stobbe understands how frustrating the mortgage approval process can be. 

To keep you sane, she helps break the process down into bite-sized chunks of info that are easy to manage. Her guide walks you through such details as types of mortgages, loan programs, interest rates, mortgage insurance, and fees. 

Stobbe explains how to find the right lender, choose the best real estate agent to handle negotiations, and find an appropriate type of loan. She also devotes a lot of space to mistakes you should avoid. And she supports it all with interviews with top real estate professionals.


Buying a home is such a huge, complicated process that it’s often hard to figure out where to start. In “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask,” Ilyce R. Glink addresses this problem by breaking the process down into a series of questions.

This approach makes it easy to find the information you want. Look through the table of contents to find the question that’s on your mind, then flip to the right page to see the answer. Glink tackles questions on all aspects of home buying, such as:

  • Should I buy a home or continue to rent?
  • How much can I afford to spend?
  • Is a new construction home better than an existing home?
  • What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a broker?
  • Where should I start looking for my dream home?
  • What should I look for at a house showing?
  • How does my credit score affect my chance of getting a mortgage?
  • How do I make an offer on a home?
  • Do I need a home inspection?
  • What happens at the closing?

Glink combines advice from top brokers, real-world stories, and her own experience to provide solid answers to all these questions. And she wraps it up with three appendices covering mistakes to avoid and simple steps to make the home-buying process easier.


Final Word

All the books on this list offer a good grounding in the basics of home buying. But if you’re looking for more details on any part of the process, there’s sure to be a book for that too.

You can find books on just about every aspect of home buying. There are books on every stage of the process, from raising cash for a down payment to preparing for your closing. There are books about home buying just for single people and books on buying a home as an investment.

And once you move into your new home, there are more books to help you organize it, decorate it, and keep it in repair. Just search for the topic that interests you at Amazon, a local bookstore, or your local public library.

.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-table-of-content-wrappadding:30px 30px 30px 30px;background-color:#f9fafa;border-color:#cacaca;border-width:1px 1px 1px 1px;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-table-of-contents-titlefont-size:14px;line-height:18px;letter-spacing:0.06px;font-family:-apple-system,BlinkMacSystemFont,”Segoe UI”,Roboto,Oxygen-Sans,Ubuntu,Cantarell,”Helvetica Neue”,sans-serif, “Apple Color Emoji”, “Segoe UI Emoji”, “Segoe UI Symbol”;font-weight:inherit;text-transform:uppercase;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-table-of-content-wrap .kb-table-of-content-listcolor:#001c29;font-size:14px;line-height:21px;letter-spacing:0.01px;font-family:-apple-system,BlinkMacSystemFont,”Segoe UI”,Roboto,Oxygen-Sans,Ubuntu,Cantarell,”Helvetica Neue”,sans-serif, “Apple Color Emoji”, “Segoe UI Emoji”, “Segoe UI Symbol”;font-weight:inherit;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-table-of-content-wrap .kb-table-of-content-list .kb-table-of-contents__entry:hovercolor:#16928d;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-table-of-content-list limargin-bottom:7px;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-table-of-content-list li .kb-table-of-contents-list-submargin-top:7px;.kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-toggle-icon-style-basiccircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:after, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-toggle-icon-style-basiccircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:before, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-toggle-icon-style-arrowcircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:after, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-toggle-icon-style-arrowcircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:before, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-toggle-icon-style-xclosecircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:after, .kb-table-of-content-nav.kb-table-of-content-id_b1122d-50 .kb-toggle-icon-style-xclosecircle .kb-table-of-contents-icon-trigger:beforebackground-color:#f9fafa;

Source: moneycrashers.com

23 Ideas for Cheap Christmas Decorations

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, but you live in an area that doesn’t get any snow, you can use spray snow to make your winter wonderland dreams come true. You can spray artificial snow on your windows to create a frosted look or spray your front door wreath to make it appear to be covered with snowflakes. A can of spray snow costs less than on Amazon.
Dress up your dining table to bring out the joy of the holiday season. Drape your table with a red, green or white tablecloth and fill a vase or tray with seasonal elements, such as pine cones, holly leaves, cranberries, sprigs of pine needles, jingle bells, candy canes or candles.
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily

23 Ideas for Cheap Christmas Decorations

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

1. Wall Christmas Trees

Turn empty flower pots into outdoor Christmas decor with just a little paint. You’ll need at least three pots of varying sizes. Paint them white if you want to create a snowman out of your flower pots or green to make a flower pot Christmas tree. Once dried, stack the pots on top of each other upside down and paint additional embellishments, like a face and buttons on your snowman or ornaments and tinsel on your Christmas tree.

2. Get an Artificial Christmas Tree

You can buy boxes of candy canes for cheap at grocery stores or dollar stores around this time of the year. Fill candy dishes full of these red and white striped treats to go on your tablescape, coffee table or end tables. Or hang one or two candy canes on your Christmas tree in place of buying more pricy ornaments.

A woman decorates a tiny Christmas tree.
Getty Images

3. Get a Tiny Tree

The weather’s getting colder. The days are getting shorter. Before you know it, Christmas will be here.

4. Garland

Transform your doors into the biggest presents ever by covering them in wrapping paper. You can use wrapping paper to decorate your interior doors as well as your front door. Add ribbon or a big bow for extra embellishment.

5. DIY Ornaments

Talk about easy Christmas decorations that make your home merry. You can also stack your wrapped present props in an empty corner, by the base of your staircase or on your front porch.

6. Twinkling Lights

Rather than buying an advent calendar this year, make your own. This post from Country Living has several ideas. Come up with whatever little treat, token or message you want to open each day.

7. Window Stickers

Whether you use a kit or make your own gingerbread from scratch, a gingerbread house is a fun holiday project that can double as Christmas decor. Just know it probably won’t last long — so consider this a temporary decoration!

8. Candles

Bundling up on a snowy day to go to the Christmas tree farm and chop down the perfect tree may be a sweet holiday outing, but you’ll get more bang for your buck by opting for an artificial Christmas tree. Now, artificial trees can get pricy themselves, depending on what size and type you choose. However, you can reuse the tree for years to come, rather than having to put it out to the curb when the new year rolls around.

A front door is wrapped in wrapping paper.
Getty Images

9. Decorate Your Doors

Candles are a simple and low-cost way to add a bit of Christmas spirit to a room. You can create a tablescape with red, green, white or gold candles — or set them on the mantle or a wide window ledge. Set battery-operated votive candles inside Mason jars painted in holiday colors for a flame-free decor option.

10. Bells Around Door Knobs

This winter craft doubles as a cheap Christmas decoration. You may be able to make it with items you already have at home: white tube socks, rice, buttons, pins and a scrap of fabric. This post from Darkroom and Dearly tells you exactly how to create them.

11. Decorate With Ribbon

Instead of buying an expensive 7-foot tree, you can save money by getting a much smaller tree that’ll fit on your tabletop. In addition to spending less on the tree, you’ll save on the amount of lights and ornaments you’ll need to decorate it.

12. Wrap Empty Boxes

Dress up your windows with seasonal decals. You can find window stickers of snowflakes, ornaments, gingerbread men and more at the dollar store, craft store and major retailers like Walmart or Amazon. If stored properly, you can even reuse them for next year.

13. Holiday Cards Display

An easy way to light up the outside of your house without needing yards of string lights and a ladder is to use a light projector. You can buy one on Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart and similar retailers for under .

14. Make your Own Advent Calendar

Privacy Policy

A boy eats a gingerbread house he made.
Getty Images

15. Gingerbread House

Deck the halls without wrecking your finances. Here are 23 festive ideas for cheap Christmas decorations.

16. Display Your Kids’ Holiday Artwork

A flat Christmas tree hung on the wall is a great space saver and money saver. You can make wall Christmas trees out of a string of lights, garland, a large piece of felt or even Washi tape. Check out this article from Apartment Therapy for ideas. It looks festive with or without a tree topper!

17. Create a Holiday Tablescape

Make your home not only look but sound festive by tying jingle bells to some red or green ribbon and then wrapping them around your door knobs. Whenever someone opens a door, the kiddos in the house will be looking over their shoulders to see if Santa’s coming.

18. Sock Snowmen

While you’re out shopping for gifts, it can be very tempting to add a bunch of holiday decorations to your cart to help get your home looking merry and bright. But the cost of Christmas decorations often gets overlooked when making your holiday budget — and you end up spending way more than you thought you would.

A person decorates their Christmas tree with candy canes.
Getty Images

19. Candy Canes

To avoid that post-holiday regret, consider these low-budget suggestions for decorating for Christmas.

21. Fake Snow in Windows

Forget the store-bought ornaments, and pick up your hot glue gun. Create wonderful holiday memories while crafting ornaments you can hang on your tree or use as decor around the house. See this Good Housekeeping post for over 75 ideas for DIY Christmas ornaments.

22. Flower Pot Decorations

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

23. Light Projector

A string of lights can really spread holiday cheer. To save money, opt for shorter strings of light to cover smaller areas — such as a window or mantle piece, rather than along your gutters or around a 7 foot tree. You can also use a string of lights on a blank stretch of wall in the shape of a star or to spell out “Merry Christmas” in cursive.
You can use ribbon for more than just wrapping presents. Take some thick ribbon in Christmas colors like red, green or gold and use it to make bows to hang on your Christmas tree, your mantle and even on door knobs or drawer pulls. Tie them around a glass vase with a candle inside for a simple Christmas centerpiece. <!–

–>




Garland is a low-budget Christmas decoration that instantly adds holiday spirit to a room. In addition to stringing garland around your Christmas tree, you can hang strings of garland above your mantle, over your doorways, around your window frames or wrapped around the banister of your staircase. Instead of buying your garland, you can make your own using natural elements like dried citrus and pine cones, construction paper, popcorn or cheap ball ornaments.

It Still Pays to Wait to Claim Social Security

Laurence Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and author of Money Magic: An Economist’s Secrets to More Money, Less Risk, and a Better Life. He also developed MaxiFi Planner and Maximize My Social Security—software programs designed to help users raise their living standards by getting the most out of their Social Security benefits.

In its most recent annual report, the Social Security Board of Trustees said that if nothing is done, the trust fund will be depleted by 2033, which would mean Social Security would be able to pay out only 76% of promised benefits. What do you say to people who plan to file at age 62—which results in about a 25% cut in benefits—because they’re afraid the program will run out of money? I have run through our software a benefit cut starting in 2031, and you still see a very major gain from waiting to collect. But I don’t see the politicians cutting benefits directly. I think they’re going to raise taxes on the rich. Congress could also use general revenue to finance Social Security, or they could partially index benefits for the rich. Historically, they phase in changes, so anybody who is close to retirement is quite safe—and by close I mean 55 and older.

Yet many people fear that if they postpone claiming Social Security until age 70, they’ll die before they’ll be able to take advantage of the higher benefits. What’s your response to that? They’re ignoring longevity risk. If you’re 98 and collecting a Social Security check that’s 76% higher and adjusted for inflation, that’s where you want to be. A lot of people will live that long. If you buy home insurance and your house doesn’t burn down, are you shortchanged because you paid the premium? You’re protecting yourself against catastrophic events. Financially, the catastrophic event is living to 100.

Thanks to big increases in home values, seniors have seen their housing wealth grow to a record $9.6 trillion. Are reverse mortgages, which allow seniors to tap that equity while remaining in their homes, a good source of retirement income? When the Federal Housing Administration insured most reverse mortgages, I thought, they can’t be that bad. But when I spent several weeks looking at them carefully with software, I decided that they’re way too expensive. They’ve got huge fees. You could sell your home and move into a continuing care retirement community—that’s like buying an annuity and long-term-care insurance at the same time. Or you could sell the house to the kids and write a contract in which they let you stay in it until you die. You take care of me and as soon as I die, you get the house. I die early, you win. I die late, I win. But it’s a win-win because we’re insuring each other.

What did the pandemic teach us, if anything, about the state of personal finances in the U.S.? We don’t save enough. The Chinese save 30% of their disposable income. We save very little. This is a wake-up call. The pandemic got me to think about what I was spending on housing, living in Boston. We downsized and moved to Providence, where house prices were a third as expensive. The pandemic has been a saving and spending wake-up call for us, just as the Great De­pression was for those who lived through it. We’ve realized life is much riskier than we thought. The pandemic is making us all reevaluate our finances and what really matters, which doesn’t include driving a BMW.

Source: kiplinger.com

Winter Houseplant Care: How To Keep Your Plants Happy and Alive This Winter

Change your houseplant’s care routine this winter with these tried and true winter houseplant care tips!

According to U.S. Census data, 66 percent of consumers have at least one house plant. As we head into winter, it’s important to acknowledge that plants need a little extra TLC to get them through the season. To help you keep your green thumb during the colder months, experts shared their winter houseplant care tips with us.

Why is winter houseplant care so tricky?

During the winter, a lot of elements come into play when caring for your houseplants. Since the temperatures drop and there is less daylight this time of year, houseplants — many of which come from tropical environments — die-off easier than warmer times of the year. These three things could result in your houseplant’s demise:

  • Lack of light
  • Too much water
  • Not enough humidity

Keep these three things in mind when you’re caring for your houseplants and follow these winter houseplant care tips so you can keep your plants — succulents and air plants, too — alive and happy until spring.

1. Mist regularly

Misting a houseplant in the winter.

Misting a houseplant in the winter.

“Humidity levels will decrease during the colder months and coupled with using heaters, this can be harmful to indoor plants such as ferns and calatheas which require high humidity, says Raymond from the Cheeky Plant Co., “Group up your plants closer together and mist them regularly to keep them happy throughout winter. Using a humidifier does the same trick but will be more effective and efficient.

2. Establish a watering routine

“One of our favorite winter houseplant care tips is to adjust your watering schedules! In the winter months, our plants receive less sunshine and have a slower growth rate. The best way to get a feel for your plants’ new watering schedule is to check by sticking your finger into the soil a few inches down, and if it’s dry, it’s time for watering!” says Plant Therapy.

Also, it’s important to water your houseplants with room temperature water during this time of year. A critical step in winter houseplant care is to not shock your plant’s roots — so avoid watering your plant friends with cold water at all costs.

3. Do not over-fertilize

Man fertilizing a plant.

Man fertilizing a plant.

“For winter care in cold and dry northern areas, add a couple of drops of fertilizer to a spray bottle once a month and mist the leaves of your plants,” says Christie Pollack from Learn Plant Grow, “Your plants will enjoy the additional humidity from the mist and will absorb the fertilizer through their leaves to help keep them green without over-fertilizing them in the winter months.”

4. Add humidity where you can

“The key to maintaining your house plants in winter is to try to keep them in an area that has lots of natural sunlight plus increase the humidity around the plants by standing the plants on dishes or saucers which you can add water. This will offset the drying effects of central heating which is the biggest problem for houseplants in winter months,” says Garden Advice.

5. Look to the light

Light hitting houseplants inside of an apartment.

Light hitting houseplants inside of an apartment.

“While reducing watering is essential to keep your plants alive during the winter months, people often underestimate the importance of light. As the amount of available light goes down, your plant’s current spot might not remain suitable. Try moving your plants to a new location or add a grow light to substitute the natural light,” says Samira from PlanterSam.

6. Don’t forget to dust

“Just like you and me, houseplants require natural light to thrive. You may want to consider relocating plants to south or west-facing windows to optimize their daylight exposure during winter months,” says Alex Kuisis of Soul Fitness Coaching, “Also, keep in mind that even thin layers of dust on a plant’s leaves can block its access to light, so use a damp cloth to gently remove dust each time you water — your plants will thank you for the TLC!”

7. Help your plants stay warm

“Keep your roots warm. Invest in a root zone heat mat to keep your plant’s root zone active all winter long! Heat mats are an easy and cheap way to make your plants thrive even in the dead of winter,” says David Flores of Hort N Culture.

Winter plant care for specific types of plants

Not every plant has the same type of care routine — so it’s key to know what type of houseplant you have. Most houseplants fall into three categories:

  • Air plants
  • Succulents and cacti (indoor and outdoor)
  • Common houseplants (bright to low light)

Air plants

Air plants hanging up during the winter.

Air plants hanging up during the winter.

Formally known as Tillandsias, air plants continue to rise in popularity. A part of the Bromeliaceae family — there are about 650 different kinds. In nature, these plants grow on and around other plants like trees and they are native to desert, forest and mountain areas in South and Central America.

Airplants have a reputation for being relatively easy to care for, so it’s no surprise they frequent must-have plant lists. Winter houseplant care specifically for air plants should focus on making sure they get enough light and don’t get too cold.

“During winter make sure to protect your air plants from frost, keep them inside your home in colder environments. Air plants may demand more water when your heat is on creating a drier environment,” says air plant experts from Twisted Acres, “Slowly increase your water if needed.”

Succulents and cacti

Succulents by the window.

Succulents by the window.

There are over 10,000 succulent species in the world. Known for being hard to kill, succulents have leaves and stems that retain moisture — making them tolerant to drought periods and easy to care for.

“It’s best to provide succulents with well-draining soil for the winter,” says Chau Ly from SucculentsBox.com, “Before moving the succulents inside for the winter, water them so that they soak up the water and begin to dry out. Covering the succulents with bedsheets, row or non-woven fabric will also benefit them from the cold of winter. It is important for gardeners and plant lovers to keep in mind that many succulents do not need much water in winters, and they require at least 8 hours of indirect sunlight a day.”

If you’re looking for hardy succulents that will make it through cold winters, try these:

  • Sempervivum Calcareum, Cobweb, Red Lion or Mahogany
  • Stonecrop Sedum
  • Corsican Stonecrop
  • Sedum Golden Moss
  • Dragon’s Blood Sedum
  • Cape Blanco Sedum
  • Ice Plant Oscularia Deltoides
  • Agave Butterfly

Also, remember cacti belong to the succulent family too. Christmas cactuses and Opuntia, better known as prickly pear, both thrive during the winter season.

Other tips if your home has low-light during winter

  • Check regularly if your plant needs water. Put your finger in the soil up to the first knuckle, if it’s dry, it’s time to water. Keep it splashing on until water comes out of the drainage holes. Don’t just water in the same spot. Water all the way around the plant thoroughly so the root ball gets moistened.
  • Keep your windows clean — the less dirt on the window itself or the screen the better for more light to make it through.
  • Rinse your plants in the sink or shower — this will help remove any dirt or dust build-up on the leaves and will help your plants absorb more nutrients.

Plants that will thrive in the winter

Houseplants in an apartment during the winter.

Houseplants in an apartment during the winter.

  • Maria Arrowhead plant
  • Moth Orchid
  • Maidenhair Fern
  • Ponytail Palms
  • Pothos
  • Snake Plants
  • Aloe vera
  • Cactus
  • Snake plant
  • Clivia
  • Corn plant
  • Jade plant
  • Dragon tree
  • Sweetheart plant
  • Dracaena Reflexa
  • Dracaena Tarzan Bush
  • Cast Iron Plant Aspidistra
  • Euphorbia Milii Crown of Thorns
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Peperomia Obtusifolia
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Philodendrons
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig
  • Wax Plant
  • ZZ plant

Take a leaf of faith this winter

All in all, by modifying your routine to combat the challenges that winter may pose — you’re giving your succulents, air plants and large, leafy green houseplants the best chance of survival. Remember, a little extra care goes a long way during the coldest months of the year and that stands not just for houseplants, but humans and animals, too. Whatever you do — don’t give up on your plants this season because spring 2022 will be here before you know it.

Source: rent.com

12 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks and Funds to Buy for 2022

For all the changes we’ve experienced in recent years, some things remain regrettably the same. We all have bills to pay, and those bills generally come monthly. Whether it’s your mortgage, your car payment or even your regular phone and utility bills, you’re generally expected to pay every month.

While we’re in our working years, that’s not necessarily a problem, as paychecks generally come every two weeks. And even for those in retirement, Social Security and (if you’re lucky enough to have one) pension payments also come on a regular monthly schedule. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in our investment portfolios. 

That’s where monthly dividend stocks come into play.

Dividend-paying stocks generally pay quarterly, and most bonds pay semiannually, or twice per year. This has a way of making portfolio income lumpy, as dividend and interest payments often come in clusters.

Well, monthly dividend stocks can help smooth out that income stream and better align your inflows with your outflows.

“We’d never recommend buying a stock purely because it has a monthly dividend,” says Rachel Klinger, president of McCann Wealth Strategies, an investment adviser based in State College, Pennsylvania. “But monthly dividend stocks can be a nice addition to a portfolio and can add a little regularity to an investor’s income stream.”

Today, we’re going to look at 12 of the best monthly dividend stocks and funds to buy as we get ready to start 2022. You’ll see some similarities across the selections as monthly dividend stocks tend to be concentrated in a small handful of sectors such as real estate investment trusts (REITs), closed-end funds (CEFs) and business development companies (BDCs). These sectors tend to be more income-focused than growth-focused and sport yields that are vastly higher than the market average.

But in a market where the yield on the S&P 500 is currently 1.25%, that’s certainly welcome. 

The list isn’t particularly diversified, so it doesn’t make a complete portfolio. In other words, you don’t want to overload your portfolio with monthly dividend stocks. But they do allow exposure to a handful of niche sectors that add some income stability, so take a look and see if any of these monthly payers align with your investment style.

Data is as of Nov. 21. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price. Fund discount/premium to NAV and expense ratio provided by CEF Connect.

1 of 12

Realty Income

7-11 store7-11 store
  • Market value: $40.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 4.2%

Perhaps no stock in history has been more associated with monthly dividends than conservative triple-net retail REIT Realty Income (O, $70.91). The company went so far as to trademark the “The Monthly Dividend Company” as its official nickname.

Realty Income is a stock, of course, and its share price can be just as volatile as any other stock. But it’s still as close to a bond as you’re going to get in the stock market. It has stable recurring rental cash flows from its empire of more than 7,000 properties spread across roughly 650 tenants.

Realty Income focuses on high-traffic retail properties that are generally recession-proof and, perhaps more importantly, “Amazon.com-proof.” Perhaps no business is completely free of risk of competition from Amazon.com (AMZN) and other e-commerce titans, but Realty Income comes close. 

Its largest tenants include 7-Eleven, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), FedEx (FDX) and Home Depot (HD), among others. The portfolio had relatively high exposure to gyms and movie theaters, which made the pandemic painful. But as the world gets closer to normal with every passing day, Realty Income’s COVID-19 risk gets reduced that much more.

At current prices, Realty Income yields about 4.2%. While that’s not a monster yield, remember that the 10-year Treasury yields only 1.6%. 

It’s not the raw yield we’re looking for here, but rather income consistency and growth. As of this writing, Realty Income has made 616 consecutive monthly dividend payments and has raised its dividend for 96 consecutive quarters – making it a proud member of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats. Since going public in 1994, Realty Income has grown its dividend at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5%, well ahead of inflation.

2 of 12

Stag Industrial

warehousewarehouse
  • Market value: $7.6 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.4%

Realty Income was pretty darn close to “Amazon.com-proof.” But fellow monthly payer STAG Industrial (STAG, $42.77) proactively benefits from the rise of internet commerce.

STAG invests in logistics and light industrial properties. You know those gritty warehouse properties you might see near the airport with 18-wheelers constantly coming and going? That’s exactly the kind of property that STAG buys and holds.

It’s a foregone conclusion that e-commerce is growing by leaps and bounds, and STAG is positioned to profit from it. Approximately 40% of STAG’s portfolio handles e-commerce fulfillment or other activity, and Amazon.com is its largest tenant.

E-commerce spiked during the pandemic for obvious reasons. As stores have reopened, the effects of that spike have dissipated somewhat, but the trend here is clear. We’re making a larger percentage of our purchases online.

Yet there’s still plenty of room for growth. As crazy as this might sound, only about 15% of retail sales are made online, according to Statista. Furthermore, the logistical space is highly fragmented, and Stag’s management estimates the value of their market to be around $1 trillion. In other words, it’s unlikely STAG will be running out of opportunities any time soon.

STAG isn’t sexy. But it’s one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy in 2022, with a long road of growth in front of it. And its 3.4% yield is competitive in this market.

3 of 12

Gladstone Commercial

industrial parkindustrial park
  • Market value: $838.2 million
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For another gritty industrial play, consider the shares of Gladstone Commercial (GOOD, $22.49). Gladstone Commercial, like STAG, has a large portfolio of logistical and light industrial properties. Approximately 48% of its rental revenues come from industrial properties with another 48% coming from office properties. The remaining 4% is split between retail properties, at 3%, and medical offices at 1%.

It’s a diversified portfolio that has had little difficulty navigating the crazy volatility of the past few years. As of Sept. 30, 2021, the REIT had a portfolio of 127 properties spread across 27 states and leased to 109 distinct tenants. In management’s own words, “We have grown our portfolio 18% per year in a consistent, disciplined manner since our IPO in 2003. Our occupancy stands at 97.7% and has never dipped below 95.0%.”

That’s not a bad run.

Gladstone Commercial has also been one of the most consistent monthly dividend stocks, paying one uninterrupted since January 2005. GOOD currently yields an attractive 6.7%.

4 of 12

EPR Properties

movie theater and tub of popcornmovie theater and tub of popcorn
  • Market value: $3.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.1%

The COVID-19 pandemic was rough on a lot of landlords. But few were as uniquely battered as EPR Properties (EPR, $49.21). EPR owns a diverse and eclectic portfolio of movie theaters, amusement parks, ski parks, “eat and play” properties like Topgolf, and a host of others.

EPR specializes in experiences over things … which is just about the worst way to be positioned at a time when social distancing was the norm. Essentially every property EPR owned was closed for at least a time, and crowds still haven’t returned to pre-COVID levels across much of the portfolio.

But the key here is that the worst is long behind EPR Properties, and the more normal life becomes, the better the outlook for EPR’s tenants.

EPR was a consistent dividend payer and raiser pre-pandemic. But with its tenants facing an existential crisis, the REIT cut its dividend in 2020. With business conditions massively improving in 2021, EPR reinstated its monthly dividend in July, and the shares now yield an attractive 6.1%. If you believe in life after COVID, EPR is one of the best monthly dividend stocks to play it.

5 of 12

LTC Properties

senior living propertysenior living property
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For one final “traditional” REIT, consider the shares of LTC Properties (LTC, $34.24).

LTC faces some short-term headwinds due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, but its longer-term outlook is bright. LTC is a REIT with a portfolio roughly split equally between senior living properties and skilled nursing facilities.

Needless to say, COVID-19 was hard on this sector. Nursing homes were particularly susceptible to outbreaks, and nursing home residents were at particularly high risk given their age. 

Senior living properties are different in that the tenants are generally younger and live independently without medical care. But a lot of would-be tenants were reluctant to move out of their homes and into a more densely populated building during a raging pandemic. And many still are.

These lingering effects won’t disappear tomorrow. But ultimately, senior living facilities offer an attractive, active lifestyle for many seniors, and that hasn’t fundamentally changed. And home care might be a viable option for many seniors in need of skilled nursing. Ultimately there comes a point where there are few alternatives to the care of a nursing home.

Importantly, the longer-term demographic trends here are all but unstoppable. The peak of the Baby Boomer generation are in their early-to-mid-60s today, far too young to need long-term care. But over the course of the next two decades, demand will continue to build as more and more boomers age into the proper age bracket for these services.

At 6.7%, LTC is one of the higher-yielding monthly dividend stocks on this list.

6 of 12

AGNC Investment

couple going over financials with mortgage brokercouple going over financials with mortgage broker
  • Market value: $8.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 9.0%

AGNC Investment (AGNC, $15.98) is a REIT, strictly speaking, but it’s very different from the likes of Realty Income, STAG or any of the others covered on this list of monthly dividend stocks. Rather than own properties, AGNC owns a portfolio of mortgage securities. This gives it the same tax benefits of a REIT – no federal income taxes so long as the company distributes at least 90% of its net income as dividends – but a very different return profile.

Mortgage REITs (mREITs) are designed to be income vehicles with capital gains not really much of a priority. As such, they tend to be monster yielders. Case in point: AGNC yields 9%.

Say “AGNC” out loud. It sounds a lot like “agency,” right?

There’s a reason for that. AGNC invests exclusively in agency mortgage-backed securities, meaning bonds and other securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae or the Federal Home Loan Banks. This makes it one of the safest plays in this space.

And here’s a nice kicker: AGNC almost always trades at a premium to book value, which makes sense. You and I lack the capacity to replicate what AGNC does in house and lack access to financing on the same terms. Those benefits have value, which show up in a premium share price. Yet today, AGNC trades at a 9% discount to book value. That’s a fantastic price for the stock in this space.

7 of 12

Dynex Capital

little house on chartlittle house on chart
  • Market value: $640.6 million
  • Dividend yield: 8.9%

Along the same lines, let’s take a look at Dynex Capital (DX, $17.47). Like AGNC, Dynex is a mortgage REIT, though its portfolio is a little more diverse. Approximately 85% of its portfolio is invested in agency residential mortgage-backed securities – bonds made out of the mortgages of ordinary Americans – but it also has exposure to commercial mortgage-backed securities and a small allocation to non-agency securities.

It’s important to remember that the mortgage REIT sector was eviscerated by the COVID-19 bear market. When the world first went under lockdown, it wasn’t immediately clear that millions of Americans would be able to continue paying their mortgages, which led investors to sell first and ask questions later. In the bloodbath that followed, many mortgage REITs took catastrophic losses and some failed altogether.

Dynex is one of the survivors. And frankly, any mortgage REIT that could survive the upheaval of 2020 is one that can likely survive the apocalypse. Your risk of ruin should be very modest here.

Dynex trades at a slight discount to book value and sports a juicy 8.9% yield. We could see some volatility in the space if the Fed ever gets around to raising rates, but for now this looks like one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy if you’re looking to really pick up some yield.

8 of 12

Broadmark Realty

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

Broadmark Realty (BRMK, $9.75) isn’t a “mortgage REIT,” per se, as it doesn’t own mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. But it does something awfully similar. Broadmark manages a portfolio of deed of trust loans for the purpose of funding development or investment in real estate.

This is a little different than AGNC or Dynex. These mortgage REITs primarily trade standardized mortgage-backed securities. Broadmark instead deals with the less-liquid world of construction loans.

Still, BRMK runs a conservative book. The weighted average loan-to-value of its portfolio is a very modest 60%. In other words, Broadmark would lend no more than $60,000 for a property valued at $100,000. This gives the company a wide margin of error in the event of a default by a borrower.

At current prices, Broadmark yields an attractive 8.6%. The company initiated its monthly dividend in late 2019 and sailed through the pandemic with no major issues.  

9 of 12

Main Street Capital

person doing business on computerperson doing business on computer
  • Market value: $3.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 5.5%

We know that the pandemic hit Main Street a lot harder than Wall Street. It is what it is.

But what about business development companies. This is where the proverbial Main Street means the proverbial Wall Street. BDCs provide debt and equity capital mostly to middle-market companies. These are entities that have gotten a little big to get financing from bank loans and retained earnings but aren’t quite big enough yet to warrant a stock or bond IPO. BDCs exist to bridge that gap.

The appropriately named Main Street Capital (MAIN, $46.61) is a best-in-class BDC based in Houston, Texas. The last two years were not particularly easy for Main Street’s portfolio companies, as many smaller firms were less able to navigate the lockdowns. But the company persevered, and its share price recently climbed above its pre-pandemic highs.

Main Street has a conservative monthly dividend model in that it pays a relatively modest monthly dividend, but then uses any excess earnings to issue special dividends twice per year. This keeps Main Street out of trouble and prevents it from suffering the embarrassment of a dividend cut in years where earnings might be temporarily depressed.

As far as monthly dividend stocks go, Main Street’s regular payout works out to a respectable 5.6%, and this does not include the special dividends.

10 of 12

Prospect Capital

man signing contractman signing contract
  • Market value: $3.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.0%

For another high-yielding, monthly-paying BDC, consider the shares of Prospect Capital (PSEC, $8.97).

Like most BDCs, Prospect Capital provides debt and equity financing to middle-market companies. The company has been publicly traded since 2004, so it’s proven to be a survivor in what has been a wildly volatile two decades.

Prospect Capital is objectively cheap, as it trades at just 89% of book value. Book value itself can be somewhat subjective, of course. But the 11% gives us a good degree of wiggle room. It’s safe to say the company, even under conservative assumptions, is selling for less than the value of its underlying portfolio. It also yields a very healthy 8.0%.

As a general rule, insider buying is a good sign. When the management team is using their own money to buy shares, that shows a commitment to the company and an alignment of interests. Well, over the course of the past two years, the management team bought more than 29 million PSEC shares combined. These weren’t stock options or executive stock grants. These are shares that the insiders bought themselves in their brokerage accounts.

That’s commitment.

11 of 12

Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund

Ecofin logoEcofin logo
  • Assets under management: $269.7 million
  • Distribution Rate: 6.0%*
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -14.3%
  • Expense ratio: 2.28%**

There’s something to be said for orphan stocks. There are certain stocks or funds that simply don’t have a “normal” go-to buying clientele.

As a case in point, consider the Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund (TEAF, $15.00). This is a fund that straddles the divide between traditional energy infrastructure like pipelines and green energy projects like solar panels. It also invests in “social impact” sectors like education and senior living. Approximately 68% of the portfolio is dedicated to sustainable infrastructure with energy infrastructure and social impact investments making up 13% and 19%, respectively.

But this isn’t the only way the fund is eclectic. It’s also a unique mixture of public and private investments. 52% is invested in publicly traded stocks with the remaining 48% invested in private, non-traded companies.

Is it any wonder that Wall Street has no idea what to do with this thing?

This lack of obvious buying clientele helps to explain why the fund trades at a large discount to net asset value of 15%.

That’s okay. We can buy this orphan stock, enjoy its 6% yield, and wait for that discount to NAV to close. And close it will. The fund is scheduled to liquidate in about 10 years, meaning the assets will be sold off and cash will be distributed to investors. Buying and holding this position at a deep discount would seem like a no-brainer of a strategy. 

Learn more about TEAF at the Ecofin provider site.

* Distribution rate is an annualized reflection of the most recent payout and is a standard measure for CEFs. Distributions can be a combination of dividends, interest income, realized capital gains and return of capital.

** Includes 1.50% in management fees, 0.28% in other expenses and 0.50% in interest expenses.

12 of 12

BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term

BlackRock logoBlackRock logo
  • Assets under management: $1.9 billion 
  • Distribution rate: 2.9%
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -4.6%
  • Expense ratio: 1.01%**

We’ll wrap this up with another term fund, the BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term Fund (BTT, $25.49).

As its name suggests, the fund is designed to be liquidated in 2030, roughly eight years from now. A lot can happen in eight years, of course. But buying a portfolio of safe municipal bonds trading at a more than 4% discount to book value would seem like a smart move.

The biggest selling point of muni bonds is, of course, the tax-free income. The bond interest isn’t subject to federal income taxes. And while city, state and local bonds aren’t “risk free” – only the U.S. government can make that claim – defaults and financial distress in this space is rare. So, you’re getting a safe, tax-free payout. That’s not too shabby.

As of Oct. 29, 2021, BTT’s portfolio was spread across 633 holdings with its largest holding accounting for about 3.4%.

BTT sports a dividend yield of 2.9%. That’s not “high yield” by any stretch of the imagination. But remember, the payout is tax free, and if you’re in the 37% tax bracket, your tax-equivalent yield is a much more palatable 4.6%.

Learn more about BTT at the BlackRock provider site.

** Includes 0.40% in management fees, 0.61% in interest and other expenses

Source: kiplinger.com

Dear Penny: Did My Husband Betray Me by Giving Our Broke Daughter Our Car?

Dear Penny,
A couple of things in your letter — like the fact that he was swayed by your daughter’s tears into giving over the car keys and then told you by phone instead of in person — make me think that he may be the type who doesn’t like conflict. If you think that’s the case, make it clear that avoiding tough discussions is causing way more conflict. But if your husband doesn’t involve you out of arrogance, your problem will be a lot harder to solve. This isn’t going to be an easy pattern to fix, particularly if it’s persisted throughout the past 48 years. But your husband needs an impetus to change. Otherwise, this cycle will continue and your feelings of hurt and betrayal will only compound. -Livid Wife We have been married for 48 years. I was LIVID that he didn’t have the guts to talk to me about it and told me on a phone call with everyone there. I am mad and hurt over this. I feel betrayed. My daughter just about ruined our credit because our names were on the title of her past vehicle. Now he does the same thing AGAIN!!  Tell your husband that you feel hurt and betrayed, and explain how his actions affect you. Ask him why he feels that he can’t talk over these matters with you. The key here is to be proactive and talk about this before he makes another big decision.
You need to focus on mitigating the damage from your husband’s latest decision. Your daughter clearly has a history of not making payments, so your husband has put your credit at risk again.

More importantly, you need to get it across to your husband that making big decisions unilaterally is not OK.
Your husband made at least three big financial decisions without your consent. So the answer to your question is, yes, you have every reason to feel betrayed. But focusing on whether you have a right to feel a certain way doesn’t get you anywhere.
Privacy Policy
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily


The bigger challenge is communicating with your husband, particularly if he’s gotten used to being the sole decision maker in your 48 years of marriage. You need to have a frank discussion with him about how you handle money matters before he makes another big decision without involving you.
The best way to protect your finances from your daughter is to have her make payments directly to you. Then, you can directly make the payment to the lender. At the very least, you need to have access to the account so you can confirm that your daughter is actually making payments.
Our daughter got a check for ,400 and wanted him to help her find a car, but her credit wasn’t good enough to get one. She was upset and crying. So unbeknownst to me, he sold her our car for 0 down and had her take over payments. 
In that year he kept trying to get rid of his truck. Fast-forward to now. He made a deal to sell it to a car dealer without me. Then he bought a different car. Of course I wasn’t happy about it, but it did take our interest down and the payment to 0 per month. 
Ready to stop worrying about money?
Dear Livid,
Unfortunately, the reality of helping someone who isn’t creditworthy is that there’s a high likelihood you won’t get repaid. So you’ll need to budget with the assumption that you won’t get that 0 each month. If your names are still on the title, that’s actually a good thing because you can take back the car if your daughter fails to make payments.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected] or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

He trusted her to make payments that will end up being 0 with the other money she owes us. Am I right to be so hurt and betrayed?

<!–

–>


My husband and I had a four-wheel drive pickup. He bought this vehicle unseen in 2017. The car lot drove it to our house, all without my input. We had it for one year. In that time, our payments were 3 a month.  

Year-End Tax Planning Comes with a Twist in 2021

If there’s one thing that’s important to know about year-end planning, it’s to be proactive right now. With legislative changes hovering dangerously close, and with no one really knowing what the final budget bill will look like, planning early is essential. Even if nothing changes, which is unlikely, you will still have a solid plan in place and will also be prepared for what may transpire over the next few months.

This is year-end planning with a twist: Do what you would normally do, but if you believe tax laws will change, then be ready to do something different.

For example, some of the traditional, tried-and-true, routine year-end planning strategies include deferring income to next year and maximizing deductions for this year. This would decrease the overall current tax bill for calendar year 2021.  The twist here is that if income tax rates go up, whether because of tax law changes or you expect to have higher income next year, you will want to do the opposite — recognize income this year and defer deductions to next year.  This may result in you accelerating income through strategies such as taking more in required minimum distributions from retirement accounts, doing a Roth IRA conversion, or harvesting capital gains to realize more income this year. 

In terms of deferring deductions, you may want to wait until 2022 to make sizable charitable donations, because a charitable deduction at a higher tax rate next year could be “worth” more from a tax perspective than one in this year at a lower tax rate.  Other deductible expenses, such as medical and certain interest expenses, may be better if taken in 2022.

All of this would be bucking conventional wisdom.  The challenge here is that it is unclear whether rates will go up, and if so, at what level and how much.  As of the time of this writing, the previously proposed increases in ordinary income tax rates and capital gains taxes are no longer in the latest legislative proposal. Instead, there is now a proposed surcharge for individuals with income over $10 million and trusts with income over $200,000.  That said, it is prudent to keep in mind that all previously proposed increases may still be possible as negotiations continue. 

Let’s take a look at some other strategies you may want to consider.

High-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals need to give now

If your assets are significant enough to constitute a taxable estate, year-end planning has even more significance. For 2021, the amount exempt from federal gift and estate tax is $11.7 million per person, which means that you may give this amount during your lifetime, free of gift tax, with any unused amount applied against federal estate taxes at your death. Under current law this exemption amount is scheduled to sunset on Dec. 31, 2025. However, there is a very strong possibility that legislation may be enacted earlier that may abruptly, and potentially dramatically, reduce the exemption. Previous proposals have suggested the date may be as early as Jan. 1, 2022.

If you are considering making a substantial lifetime gift, now is the time. Although we don’t know for certain what the new tax laws may look like, chances are they are not going to get any better for high-net-worth taxpayers. Don’t lose the chance to take advantage of some very beneficial wealth-transfer opportunities this high exemption allows.

Take advantage of trusts

Gone are the days of your grandfather’s trust, which operated as an immovable black box. Today’s modern trusts are built with much more flexibility and can be structured to continue to meet the needs of your family with transparency, and over multiple generations.

Utilizing your exemption to make larger gifts today to a trust will give your gift more time to grow outside of your estate. In addition to the traditional benefits of a trust — such as professional management, tax mitigation and creditor protection — you can also structure your trust as a grantor trust. Grantor trusts effectively allow the trust assets to grow income-tax-free, as all income tax obligations are paid by the grantor. The grantor trust structure also benefits the grantor in that all payments for taxes further reduce the taxable estate yet are not subject to gift tax.

Although there have been numerous legislative proposals this past year that, if passed, would have severely limited the effectiveness of this strategy, the latest round of budget proposals from the House of Representatives and President’s Biden’s tax framework do not contain such restrictive terms.  Therefore, it is an important time to speak with your advisers about the possibility of establishing a grantor trust.

Planning for business owners

When it comes to what is likely your most valuable asset — your business — tax planning and gifting become a bit more complex. And, if you are contemplating selling your business, it’s critical to consult with your advisers to time the sale when it’s in your best interest to do so. For example, with higher income tax rates possible, selling business interests may help reduce tax by selling ownership in installments, versus selling as a whole.

A final word

Don’t let the twists and turns of an uncertain tax horizon threaten your carefully constructed wealth plan. Speak with your advisers about whether or not you should implement some advanced planning strategies to be sure you are utilizing this year’s opportunities while staying prepared for what the future may bring.

Wilmington Trust is a registered service mark used in connection with various fiduciary and non-fiduciary services offered by certain subsidiaries of M&T Bank Corporation

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service or as a determination that any investment strategy is suitable for a specific investor. Investors should seek financial advice regarding the suitability of any investment strategy based on their objectives, financial situations and particular needs. This article is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, accounting or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. If professional advice is needed, the services of a professional adviser should be sought.

Chief Wealth Strategist, Wilmington Trust

Alvina Lo is responsible for strategic wealth planning at Wilmington Trust, part of M&T Bank. Alvina’s prior experience includes roles at Citi Private Bank, Credit Suisse Private Wealth and as a practicing attorney at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLC. She holds a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is a published author, frequent lecturer and has been quoted in major outlets such as “The New York Times.”

Source: kiplinger.com