The Art of Mortgage Pre-Approval

Buying a home can feel like a cut-throat process. You may find the craftsman style house of your dreams only to be bumped out of the running by a buyer paying in all cash, or moving super swiftly. But fear not, understanding the home buying process and getting a mortgage pre-approval can put you back in the race and help you secure the house you want.

What is Mortgage Pre-approval?

Mortgage pre-approval is essentially a letter from a lender that states that you qualify for a loan of a certain amount and at a certain interest rate based on an evaluation of your credit and financial history. You’ll need to shop for homes within the price range guaranteed by your pre-approved mortgage. You can find out how much house you can afford with our home affordability calculator.

Armed with a letter of pre-approval you can show sellers that you are a serious homebuyer with the means to purchase a home. In many ways it’s competitive to buying a home in cash. In the eyes of the seller, pre-approval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage.

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same as pre-approval. It’s actually a relatively simple process in which a lender looks at a few financial details, such as income, assets, and debt, and gives you an estimate of how much of a mortgage they think you can afford.

Taking out a mortgage is a huge step and pre-qualification can help you hunt down reputable lenders and find a loan that potentially works for you. Going through this process can be useful, because it gives you an idea of your buying power, or how much house you can afford.

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It also gives you an idea of what your monthly payment might be and is a chance to shop around to various lenders to see what types of terms and interest rates they offer. Pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will actually qualify for a mortgage.

Getting pre-approval is a more complicated process. You’ll have to fill out an application with your lender and agree to a credit check in addition to providing information about your income and assets. There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of pre-approval or to increase the amount your lender will approve. Consider the following:

Building Your Credit

Think of this as step zero when you apply for any type of loan. Lenders want to see that you have a history of properly managing your debt before offering you credit themselves. You can build credit history by opening and using a credit card and paying your bills on time. Or consider having regular payments , such as your rent, tracked and added to your credit score.

Checking Your Credit

If you’ve already established a credit history, the first thing you’ll want to do before applying for a mortgage is check your credit report and your FICO score. Your credit report is a history of your credit compiled from sources such as banks, credit card companies, collection agencies, and the government.

This information is collected by the three main credit reporting bureaus, Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Your FICO score is one number that represents your credit risk should a lender offer you a loan.
You’ll want to make sure that the information on your credit report is correct.

If you find any mistakes, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately to let them know. You don’t want any incorrect information weighing down your credit score, putting your chances for pre-approval at risk.

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Stay on Top of Your Debt

Your ability to pay your bills on time has a big impact on your credit score. If you can, make sure you make regular payments. And if your budget allows, you can make payments in full. If you have any debts that are dragging on your credit score—for example, debts that are in collection—work on paying them off first, as this can give your score a more immediate boost.

Watch Your Debt-to-income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debts divided by your monthly income. If you have $1,000 a month in debt payments and make $5,000 a month, your debt-income ratio is $1,000 divided by $5,000, or 20%.

Lenders may assume that borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio will have a harder time making their mortgage payments. Keep your debt-to-income ratio in check by avoiding making large purchases before seeking pre-approval for a mortgage. For example, you may want to hold off on buying a new car until you’ve been pre-approved.

Prove Consistent Income

Your lender will want to know that you’ve got enough money coming in each month to cover a potential mortgage payment. So, they’ll likely ask you to prove that you have consistent income for at least two years by taking a look at your income documents (W-2, 1099 etc.).

For some potential borrowers, such as freelancers, this may be a tricky process since you may have income from various sources. Keep all pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of income and be prepared to show them to your lender.

What Happens if You’re Rejected?

Rejection hurts. But if you aren’t pre-approved, or you aren’t approved for a large enough mortgage to buy the house you want, you also aren’t powerless. First, ask the bank why they made the decision they did. This will give you an idea about what you might need to work on in order to secure the mortgage you want.

SoFi Mortgage.


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Mortgages are not available in all states. Products and terms may vary from those advertised on this site. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria#eligibility-mortgage for details.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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Source: sofi.com

Investing during a recession – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

When things get lean, it’s natural to want to tighten your belt and save money wherever possible. But should you stop investing completely? It’s an entirely personal decision. Get some facts and insights about investing during a recession below to help you determine what will work for you.

Is It a Good Idea to Invest During a Recession?

It depends on a few factors, including what you’re referring to when you say “investing.” If you’re talking about funding a 401(k), you probably want to continue doing so unless you would be unable to pay your necessary bills and living expenses.

But if investing means the stock market or other similar options, you should seriously consider your financial situation. If you already have emergency savings and have disposable income to risk, investing can be an option. This is especially true if you won’t be touching your portfolio for a while, so you have time to weather the ups and downs associated with a recession economy.

But you do want to be aware of the bear market trap so you don’t fall into it. Bear traps occur when a lot of investors have bought into certain stock. This increases the selling pressure, which just means that there are buyers for the stock but not a lot of stock to be had.

Institutions that want the stock to move higher may push prices lower via short sales or other strategies, making it appear as if the prices are falling. That can scare people into selling the stock. In the long run, however, the stock maintains its price or increases in value, so selling early can mean losing out on future gains. This is just one reason you might want to work with a professional advisor when investing.

7 Tips for Investing During a Recession

1. Be Patient and Think Long-Term

Buying and selling stocks rapidly to turn huge profits is mostly an event seen in movies and television. And while it’s not impossible for pros to luck into a big win, this is not typically how individuals should look at investing. It may take time for your investments to pay off, especially if the economy as a whole is struggling, so it’s important to avoid being guided by emotions and rely on logic and sound financial advice.

2. Commit to a Personal Investment Plan

A personal investment plan is a written document that includes your financial goals and what types of limitations you might have, such as what you can afford to spend on investing. Creating such a document ensures you have a logical, well-thought-out guide to turn to when things do get tricky. If you feel tempted by a seemingly perfect investment, for example, your plan can remind you what you can realistically put into this new investment.

3. Use the Dollar-Cost Averaging Strategy

Dollar-cost averaging is a strategy used by many investors, including some professionals. Its goal is to potentially reduce the volatile nature of a single purchase. The DCA strategy works like this:

  • You decide how much you’re going to invest in certain assets within a set period
  • You divide that budget over that time and make periodic purchases of the asset
  • You do this despite the price of the asset at any given time

The goal is to build up the investment for a long-term gain strategy. This is actually how most 401(k) investments are managed.

4. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

But don’t think that you have to buy tons of assets to be investing for the future. If you have limited funds to invest with, it can be tempting to buy up stock that is cheap just to get some quantity. But cheap stock isn’t always a great investment, and it might be better to buy a smaller number of shares in a well-trusted company with a history of strong stock performance.

5. Consider Funds Instead of Individual Stocks

Another option is to consider funds, which spread your investment over numerous stocks. You’ve probably heard that you have to diversify your portfolio. That just means investing in numerous types of assets so that if one doesn’t perform well, you have other gains to make up for the loss.

A mutual fund is an investment option that’s already diversified, for example. Plus, it’s a convenient way to add numerous assets to your equity portfolio without buying and managing numerous stocks yourself.

6. Rebalance When Necessary

While investing is a long-term strategy, active investing can’t be a set-and-forget strategy. You have to make efforts to rebalance your portfolio—or ensure someone is doing that for you—from time to time.

Rebalancing just means aligning your assets with your target goals. For example, you might have a goal of 60% in stocks and 40% in other assets. But if your stocks gain rapidly during a few years, outpacing the gains of your other assets, you could have a 70/30 split. If your goal is still 60/40, you would rebalance by selling stock, purchasing other assets or both.

7. Invest in Recession-Resistant Industries

Recession-resistant industries are those that don’t tend to succumb to downturns in the economy, often because they’re necessary. Examples of industries that have historically weathered recessions well include healthcare, technology, beauty, retail, construction and pet products.

Note that because a company is in a recession-resistant industry doesn’t mean that company itself is necessarily resistant. It’s always important to be discerning about which stocks you invest in. For example, if the company doesn’t have strong financial leadership or has known money problems, it may not matter what industry it’s in.

Review Your Finances and Decide What’s Best for You

Ultimately, only you can decide whether investing during a recession is right for you. Start by reviewing your own finances. Some things you might want to look at include:

  • What kind of savings you have. Having emergency savings is important, especially in a recession. Before you start investing, you may want to build yours.
  • Your income and expenses. You need disposable income before you can invest. That means that your income should be more than your expenses.
  • Your credit history. Buying stocks and investing typically doesn’t rely on you having good credit. But before you start building wealth, get a good look at your credit reports to ensure there’s nothing lurking that you might need to attend to. If you find any surprises, consider reaching out to Lexington Law for help disputing inaccurate items and working to make a positive impact on your credit.

And if you do decide to invest—during a recession or otherwise—consider working with a financial advisor to help you navigate the complexities of managing your portfolio.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

5 Ways to Perfect Your Credit Score

If you’re trying to perfect your credit score, it’s important to first understand what makes up your credit report and credit score. Your credit score is determined by an advanced algorithm which was developed by FICO and pulls the data from your credit report to determine your score. When calculating your credit score, the following information is going to affect your credit score in the corresponding percentages:

  • 35 percent: History of on-time or late payments of credit.
  • 30 percent: Available credit on your open credit cards
  • 15 percent: The age of your lines of credit (old = good)
  • 10 percent: How often you apply for new credit.
  • 10 percent: Variable factors, such as the types of open credit lines you have

Many of this may be common sense or information that you’ve already learned over time, resulting in a good credit score but possibly not a perfect score. If you have a bad credit score, it could take a lot of time and work to perfect your score and you may first want to consider repairing your credit. If your credit score is already above 700 but you’re trying to shoot for that perfect score of 850 to ensure the best deals and interest rates, here are 5 ways to perfect your credit score:

1. Maintaining Debt-To-Limit Ratio

To perfect your credit score, it’s recommended that you keep your debt-to-credit ratio below 30% and, if possible, as low as 10%. The debt-to-limit ratio is the difference between how much you owe on a credit card versus how much your credit limit is. For example, if one of your credit cards has a credit limit of $5,000, then you should always keep the balance below $1,500 but preferably around $500. As you can see above, 30% of your credit score is determined by the available credit on your open credit cards, so keeping the debt-to-limit ratio will increase your available credit and also show that you’re responsible with your credit.

2. Keep Your Credit Cards Active

Make sure that you use your cards at least once a year to keep them shown as “active” credit and make sure that you never cancel your credit cards. 15% of your credit score is determined by the age of your lines of credit, so you should always keep your credit cards active to lengthen the age of your line of credit. Many people tend to cancel cards that they no longer use – many times because the rates aren’t very good or because they have another card with better benefits – but even if you don’t use the cards very often (just once a year is fine), you should keep them active. Typically, someone with a credit score over 800 has credit lines with at least 10 years of positive activity.

3. Always Pay Bills On Time

Probably the most well-known factor of a credit score and the factor that has the biggest impact on your credit score (35% of your score) is your history of paying your credit payments on-time. If you have a history of always making your credit card, mortgage, and car payments on time, you will greatly improve your credit score. This can also have an adverse effect as well, should you ever make a late payment. Unfortunately, it only takes one late payment to severely reduce your credit score so it’s crucial that you make sure to always make credit payments on time.

4. Dispute Errors On Your Credit Report

If you don’t already, make sure that you request a copy of your credit report once every year and review it for errors. It is actually quite common for credit reports to contain errors which can be disputed and potentially allow you to have negative items removed from your credit report. If, for instance, your credit report shows a late payment on a credit card but contained errors in the record, you can dispute the negative item and request to have it removed from your report. Having a negative item, like a late payment, removed from your report can improve your credit score significantly. While disputing errors on your credit report can be tedious and take a lot of time, it is usually worth it. Another option would be to contact a credit repair agency to help you dispute any negative items on your credit report.

5. Reduce The Number of Credit Inquiries

While this may only affect 10% of your credit score, keeping the number of credit inquiries down can still help to build that perfect credit score but is often ignored. You should never have more than one credit inquiry per year but many people do not realize how often this is done and often times have their credit checked more than once per year. If you’re applying for a car loan, checking your credit score online, or applying for a new credit card, these type of actions will almost always result in a credit inquiry and should be avoided if you’ve already had a credit inquiry earlier in the year. Make sure you do your research on what will result in a credit inquiry so that you don’t accidentally have more than one a year without realizing it.

Source: creditabsolute.com

7 Things to Do After College Besides Work

Numerous college students have a trajectory in mind for navigating life after college. For some, getting a job is their top goal. But, are there other things to do after college besides work?

Beyond looking for a traditional entry-level job, there are alternative choices for new grads—including internships, volunteering, grad school, spending time abroad, or serving in Americorps.

Naturally, the options available will differ depending on each person’s situation, as not all alternatives to work come with a paycheck attached.

Here’s a look at these seven things to do after college besides work.

1. Pursuing Internships

One popular alternative to working right after college is finding an internship. Generally, internships are temporary work opportunities, which are sometimes, but not always, paid.

Internships may give recent grads a chance to build up hands-on experience in a field or industry they believe they’re interested in working in full time. For some people, it could help determine whether the reality of working in a given sector meets their expectations.

Whatever grads learn during an internship, having on-the-job experience (even for those who opt to pursue a different career path) could make a job seeker stand out afterwards. Internships can help beef up a resume, especially for recent grads who don’t have much formal job experience.

A potential perk of internships is the chance to further grow your professional network—building relationships with more experienced workers in a particular department or job. Some interns may even be able to turn their short-term internship roles into a full-time position at the same company.

Starting out in an internship can be a great way for graduates to enter the workforce, “road testing” a specific job role or company.

2. Serving with AmeriCorps

Some graduates want to spend their time after college contributing to the greater good of American society. One possible option here is the Americorps program—supported by the US Federal Government.

So, what exactly is Americorps? Americorps is a national service program dedicated to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. There are three main programs that graduates can join in AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps State and National, and AmeriCorps Vista.

There’s a wide variety of options in AmeriCorps, when it comes to how you can serve. Graduates can work in emergency management, help fight poverty, or work in a classroom.

However graduates decide to serve through AmeriCorps, it may provide them with a rewarding professional experience and insights into a potential career.

Practically, Americorps members may also qualify for benefits such as student loan deferment, a living allowance, education awards (upon finishing their service), and skills training.

It may sound a bit dramatic, but AmeriCorps’ slogan is “Be the greater good.” Giving back to society could be a powerful way to spend some time after graduating—supporting organizations in need, while also establishing new professional connections.

3. Attending Grad School

When entering the workforce, graduates may encounter job postings with detailed employment requirements.

Some jobs require just a Bachelor’s degree, while others require a Master’s–think, for instance, of being a lawyer or medical doctor. Depending on their field of study and career goals, some students may opt to go right to graduate school after receiving their undergraduate degrees.

The number of jobs that expect graduate degrees is increasing in the US. Graduates might want to research their desired career fields and see if it’s common for people in these roles to need a master’s or terminal degree.

Some students may wish to take a break in between undergrad and grad school, while others find it easier to go straight through. This choice will vary from student to student, depending on the energy they have to continue school as well as their financial ability to attend graduate school.

Graduate school will be a commitment of time, energy and money. So, it’s advisable that students feel confident that a graduate degree is necessary for the line of work they’d like to end up in before they apply or enroll.

4. Volunteering for a Cause

Volunteering could be a great way for graduates to gain some extra skills before applying for a full-time job. Doing volunteer work may help graduates polish some essential soft skills, like interpersonal communication, interacting with clients or service recipients, and time management.

Another potential benefit to volunteering is the ability to network and forge new connections outside of college. The people-to-people connections made while volunteering could lead to mentorship and job offers.

Volunteering is something graduates can do after college besides work, while still fleshing out their resume or skills.

New grads may want to volunteer at an institution or organization that syncs with their values or, perhaps, pursue opportunities in sectors of the economy where they’d like to work later on (i.e., at a hospital).

On top of all these potential plus sides, volunteering just feels good. It makes people feel happier. And, after all of the stress that accompanies finishing up college, volunteering afterward could be the perfect way to recharge.

5. Serving Abroad

Similar to the last option, volunteering abroad can be attractive to some graduates. It may help grads gain similar skills they’d learn volunteering here at home, while also giving them the opportunity to learn how to interact with people from different cultures, try to learn a new language, and see new perspectives on solving problems.

Though it can be beneficial to the volunteers, volunteering abroad isn’t always as ethical as it seems. And, not all volunteering opportunities always benefit the local community.

It could take research to find organizations that are doing ethically responsible work abroad. One key thing to look for is organizations that put the locals first and have them directly involved in the work.

6. Taking a Gap Year

According to the Gap Year Association , a gap year is “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

While a gap year is generally taken after high school or after college, one common purpose of the gap year is to take the time to learn more about oneself and the world at large—which can be beneficial after graduating from college and trying to figure out what to do next.

Not only might a gap year help grads build insights into what they’d like to do with their later careers, it may also help them home in on a greater purpose in life or build connections that could lead to future job opportunities.

Graduates might want to spend a gap year doing a variety of activities—including:

•   trying out seasonal jobs
•   volunteering
•   interning
•   teaching or tutoring
•   traveling

A gap year can be whatever the graduate thinks will be most beneficial for them.

7. Traveling Before Working

Going on a trip after graduation is a popular choice for graduates that can afford to travel after college. Traveling can be expensive, so graduates may want to budget in advance (if they want to have this experience post-graduation.

On top of just being really fun, travel can have beneficial impacts for an individual’s stress levels and mental health. Research from Cornell University published in 2014 suggests that the anticipation of planning a trip might have the potential to increase happiness.

Traveling after graduation is a convenient time to start ticking locations off that bucket list, because graduates won’t be held back by a limited vacation time. Going abroad before working can give students more time and flexibility to travel as much as they’d like (and can afford to!).

With proper research, graduates can find more affordable ways to travel—such as a multi-country rail pass, etc. It doesn’t have to be all luxury all the time. Budget travel is possible especially when making conscious decisions, like staying in hostels and using public transportation.

If graduates are determined to travel before working, they can accomplish this by saving money and budgeting well.

Navigating Post Graduation Decisions

Whether a recent grad opt to start their careers off right away or to pursue one of the above-mentioned things to do after college besides work, student loans are something that millions of university students have taken out.

After graduating (or if you’ve dropped below half-time enrollment or left school), the reality of paying back student loans sets in. The exact moment that grads will have to begin paying off their student loans will vary by the type of loan.

For federal loans, there are a couple of different times that repayment begins. Students who took out a Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, or Federal Family Education Loan, will all have a six month grace period before they’re required to make payments. Students who took out a Perkins loan will have a nine month grace period.

When it comes to the PLUS loan, it depends on the type of student that’s taken one out. Undergraduates will be required to start repayment as soon as the loan is paid out. Graduate and professional students with PLUS loans will be on automatic deferment while they’re in school and up to six months after graduating.

Some graduates opt to refinance their student loans. What does that mean? Well, refinancing student loans is when a lender pays off the existing loan with another loan that has a new interest rate. Refinancing can potentially lower monthly loan repayments or reduce the amount spent on interest over the life of the loan.

Both US federal and private student loans can be refinanced, but when federal student loans are refinanced by a private lender, the borrower forfeits guaranteed federal benefits—including loan forgiveness, deferment and forbearance, and income-driven repayment options.

Refinancing student loans may reduce money paid to interest. For graduates who have secured well-paying jobs and have improved their credit score since taking out their student loan, refinancing could come with a competitive interest rate and different repayment terms.

Graduating from college means officially entering the realm of adulthood, but that transition can take many forms. There are various financial tips that recent graduates may opt to look into.

Thinking about refinancing your student loans? With SoFi, you could get prequalified in just two minutes.



External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

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Source: sofi.com

Earn double AAdvantage miles by shopping online with this new offer – The Points Guy


Earn double AAdvantage miles with this offer — The Points Guy


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Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

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Source: thepointsguy.com

Hilton confirms top luxury property redemption rates going up by 25%, but could it spread? – The Points Guy


Hilton confirms top luxury property redemption rates going up by 25%, but could it spread? – The Points Guy


Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

What Is a Bond Mutual Fund – Risks & Different Types of This Investment

Investing is an important part of saving for the future, but many people are wary of putting their money into the stock market. Stocks can be volatile, with prices that change every day. If you can’t handle the volatility and risk of stocks or want to diversify your portfolio into a less risky investment, bonds are a good way to do so.

As with many types of investments, you can invest in bonds through a mutual fund, which gives you easy diversification and professional portfolio management — for a fee.

Are bond mutual funds a good addition to your portfolio? Here are the basics of these investment vehicles.

What Is a Bond?

A bond is a type of debt security. When organizations such as national and local governments, government agencies, or companies want to borrow money, one of the ways they can get the loan they need is by issuing a bond.

Investors purchase bonds from the organizations issuing them. Typically, bonds come with an interest rate and a maturity. For example, a company might sell bonds with an interest rate of 5% and a maturity of 20 years.

The investor would pay the company $1,000 for a $1,000 bond. Each year, that investor receives an interest payment of $50 (5% of $1,000). After 20 years, the investor receives a final interest payment plus the $1,000 they paid to buy the bond.


What Is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is a way for investors to invest in a diverse portfolio while only having to purchase a single security.

Mutual funds pool money from many investors and use that money to buy bonds, stocks, and other securities. Each investor in the fund effectively owns a portion of the fund’s portfolio, so an investor can buy shares in one mutual fund to get exposure to hundreds of stocks or bonds.

This makes it easy for investors to diversify their portfolios.

Mutual fund managers make sure the fund’s portfolio follows their stated strategy and work towards the fund’s stated goal. Mutual funds charge a fee, called an expense ratio, for their services, which is important for investors to keep in mind when comparing funds.

Pro tip: Most mutual funds can be purchased through the individual fund family or through an online broker like Robinhood or Public.


Types of Bond Mutual Funds

There are many types of bond mutual funds that people can invest in.

1. Government

Government bond funds invest most of their money into bonds issued by different governments. Most American government bond funds invest primarily in bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.

U.S. government debt is seen as some of the safest debt available. There is very little chance that the United States will default on its payments. That security can be appealing for investors, but also translates to lower interest rates than other bonds.

2. Corporate

Corporate bond funds invest most of their assets into bonds issued by companies.

Just like individuals, businesses receive credit ratings that affect how much interest they have to pay to lenders — in this case, investors looking to buy their bonds. Most corporate bond funds buy “investment-grade” bonds, which include the highest-rated bonds from the most creditworthy companies.

The lower a bond’s credit rating, the higher the interest rate it will pay. However, lower credit ratings also translate to a higher risk of default, so corporate bond funds will hold a mixture of bonds from a variety of companies to help diversify their risks.

3. Municipal

Municipal bonds are bonds issued by state and local governments, as well as government agencies.

Like businesses, different municipalities can have different credit ratings, which impacts the interest they must pay to sell their bonds. Municipal bond funds own a mixture of different bonds to help reduce the risk of any one issuer defaulting on its payments.

One unique perk of municipal bonds is that some or all of the interest that investors earn can be tax-free. The tax treatment of the returns depends on the precise holdings of the fund and where the investor lives.

Some mutual fund companies design special municipal bond funds for different states, giving investors from those states an option that provides completely tax-free yields.

The tax advantages municipal bond funds offer can make their effective yields higher than other bond funds that don’t offer tax-free yields. For example, someone in the 24% tax bracket would need to earn just under 4% on a taxable bond fund to get the equivalent return of a tax-free municipal bond fund offering 3%.

4. High-Yield

High-yield bond funds invest in bonds that offer higher interest rates than other bonds, like municipal bonds and government bonds.

Typically, this means buying bonds from issuers with lower credit ratings than investment-grade bonds. These bonds are sometimes called junk bonds. Their name comes from the fact that they are significantly riskier than other types of bonds, so there’s a higher chance that the issuer defaults and stops making interest payments.

Bond mutual funds diversify by buying bonds from hundreds of different issuers, which can help reduce this risk, but there’s still a good chance that some of the bonds in the fund’s portfolio will go into default, which can drag down the fund’s performance.

5. International

Foreign governments and companies need to borrow money just like American companies and governments. There’s nothing stopping Americans from investing in foreign bonds, so there are some mutual funds that focus on buying international bonds.

Each country and company has a credit rating that impacts the interest rate it has to pay. Many stable governments are seen as highly safe, much like the United States, but smaller or less economically developed nations sometimes have lower credit ratings, leading them to pay higher interest rates.

Another factor to keep in mind with international bonds is the currency they’re denominated in.

With American bonds, you buy the bond in dollars and get interest payments in dollars. If you buy a British bond, you might have to convert your dollars to pounds to buy the bond and receive your interest payments in pounds. This adds some currency risk to the equation, which can make investing in international bond funds more complex.

6. Mixed

Some bond mutual funds don’t specialize in any single type of bond. Instead, they hold a variety of bonds, foreign and domestic, government and corporate. This lets the fund managers focus on buying high-quality bonds with solid yields instead of restricting themselves to a specific class of bonds.


Why Invest in Bond Mutual Funds?

There are a few reasons for investors to consider investing in bond mutual funds.

Reduce Portfolio Risk and Volatility

One advantage of investing in bonds is that they tend to be much less risky and volatile than stocks.

Investing in stocks or mutual funds that hold stocks is an effective way to grow your investment portfolio. The S&P 500, for example, has averaged returns of almost 10% per year over the past century. However, in some years, the index has moved almost 40% upward or downward.

Over the long term, it’s easier to handle the volatility of stocks, but some people don’t have long-term investing goals. For example, people in retirement are more concerned with producing income and maintaining their spending power.

Putting some of your portfolio into bonds can reduce the impact of volatile stocks on your portfolio. This can be good for more risk-averse investors or those who have shorter time horizons for their investments.

There are some mutual funds, called target-date mutual funds, that hold a mix of stocks and bonds and increase their bond holdings over time, reducing risk as the target date nears.

Income

Bonds make regular interest payments to their holders and the majority of bond funds use some of the money they receive to make payments to their investors. This makes bond mutual funds popular among investors who want to make their investment portfolio a source of passive income.

You can look at different bond mutual funds and their annual yields to get an idea of how much income they’ll provide each year. For example, if a mutual fund offers a yield of 2.5%, investors can expect to receive $250 each year for every $10,000 they invest in the fund.

Pro tip: Have you considered hiring a financial advisor but don’t want to pay the high fees? Enter Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. When you sign up you’ll work closely with an advisor to create a custom investment plan that can help you meet your financial goals. Read our Vanguard Personal Advisor Services review.


Risks of Bond Funds

Before investing in bonds or bond mutual funds, you should consider the risks of investing in bonds.

Interest Rate Risk

One of the primary risks of fixed-income investing — whether you’re investing in bonds or bond funds — is interest rate risk.

Investors can buy and sell most bonds on the open market in addition to buying newly issued bonds directly from the issuing company or government. The market value of a bond will change with market interest rates.

In general, if market rates rise, the value of existing bonds falls. Conversely, if market rates fall, the value of existing bonds rises.

To understand why this happens, consider this example. Say you purchased a BBB-rated corporate bond with an interest rate of 2% for $1,000. Since you bought the bond, market rates have increased, so now BBB-rated companies now have to pay 3% to convince investors to buy their bonds.

If someone can buy a new $1,000 bond paying 3% interest, why would they pay you the same amount for your $1,000 bond paying 2% interest? If you want to sell your bond, you’ll have to sell it at a discount because investors can get a better deal on newly issued bonds.

Of course, the opposite is true if interest rates fall. In the above example, if market rates fell to 1%, you could command a premium for your bond paying 2% because investors can’t find new bonds of the same quality that pay that much anymore.

Interest rate risk applies to bond funds just as it applies to individual bonds. As rates rise, the share price of the fund tends to fall and vice versa.

Generally, the longer the bond’s maturity, the greater the effect a change in market interest rates will have on the bond’s value. Short-term bonds have much less interest rate risk than long-term bonds. Bond funds usually list the average time to maturity of bonds in their portfolio, which can help you assess a fund’s interest rate risk.

Credit Risk

Bonds are debt securities, meaning they’re reliant on the bond issuer being able to pay its debts.

Just like people, companies and governments can go bankrupt or default on their loan payments. If this happens, the people who own those bonds won’t get the money they lent back.

Bond mutual funds hold thousands of bonds, but if one of the issuers defaults, some of the fund’s bonds become worthless, reducing the value of the investors’ shares in the fund.

Bonds issued by organizations with higher credit ratings are generally less risky than those with poor credit ratings. For example, most people would consider U.S. government bonds to have a very low credit risk. A junk bond fund would have much more credit risk.

Foreign Exchange Risk

If you’re buying shares in a bond fund that invests in foreign bonds, you should consider foreign exchange risk.

Currencies constantly fluctuate in value. Over the past five years, $1 could buy anywhere between 0.80 and 0.96 euros.

To maximize returns, investors want to buy foreign bonds when the dollar is strong and receive interest payments and return of principal when the dollar is weak.

However, it’s incredibly hard to predict how currencies’ values will change over time, so investors in foreign bonds should consider how changing currency values will affect their returns.

Some bond funds use different strategies to hedge against this risk, using tools like currency futures or buying dollar-denominated bonds from foreign entities.

Fees

Mutual funds charge fees, which they commonly express as an expense ratio.

A fund’s expense ratio is the percentage of your invested assets that you pay each year. For example, someone who invests $10,000 in a mutual fund with a 1% expense ratio will pay $100 in fees each year.

Expense ratio fees are included when calculating the fund’s share price each day, so you don’t have to worry about having cash on hand to pay the fee. The fees are taken directly out of the fund’s share price, almost imperceptibly. Still, it’s important to understand the impact fees have on your overall returns.

If you invest $10,000 in a fund that produces an annual return of 5% and has a 0.25% expense ratio, after 20 years you’ll have $25,297.68. If that same fund had an expense ratio of 0.50%, you’d finish the 20 years with $24,117.14 instead.

In this example, a difference of 0.25% in fees would cost you more than $1,000.

If you find two bond funds with similar holdings and strategies, the one with the lower fees tends to be the better choice.


Final Word

Bond mutual funds are a popular way for investors to get exposure to bonds in their portfolios. Just as there are many different types of stocks, there are many types of bonds, each with advantages and disadvantages.

If you don’t want to pick and choose bonds to invest in, bond funds offer instant diversification and professional management. If you want an even more hands-off investing experience, working with a financial advisor or robo-advisor that handles your entire portfolio may be worth considering.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Tips on How to Store Winter Clothes

Sewing is not something everyone is fluent in, and let’s face it — it is a time-consuming and often frustrating activity. Fortunately, with the right resources, you can easily repair your winter items before storing them with iron-on patches. (Here’s a side gig opportunity for you sewers out there. Offer to make these repairs for friends or the winter sports community for cash, of course.)
Most department stores stock iron-on patches, making it as simple as heading to your local Walmart or Joann Fabrics to quickly and economically get your winter clothes ready for long-term storage.

5 Ways to Get More Life Out Cold Weather Clothes

Patagonia offers a free repair for all of its branded clothing, for example. All you need to do is submit a repair assessment form and Patagonia will pay for the shipping and repair of your item.
You may be tempted to stuff that down parka in a box and store it in the attic. After all, you want that closet space for summer clothes. But don’t. Down needs to breathe. Follow the tips below but let the coat hang loose in the closet. When you’re ready to wear it again, and doesn’t that come too soon, toss it in the dryer on low for about 10 minutes.

1. Repair Before You Pack

To wash a down jacket, aim to use a front-loading washer (top-loading washer drums can sometimes agitate or distort down items). Place the down jacket in the washer with like items (ahem, your other winter clothes), set the wash and rinse setting to cold water, and use a down-specific detergent.
One unique trait of winter clothing is that much of it is waterproof or water-resistant. This comes in handy during snowstorms, sleet and slush that are trademarks of the year’s most frigid months.
There are tons of waterproofing products on the market to protect your winter gear. Many exist in the form of sprays or paint-on coatings that dry quickly and do not impact the look or feel of the clothing. Most cost under and will help your winter clothes last for numerous snowstorms to come.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Whether you’re hoping to make your winter wardrobe more resistant to the elements or protect a particularly cozy sweater from the cold, making the investment in waterproofing before storing winter clothes will help you save time and money next year and beyond.
Being proactive is rarely a bad thing. In this case, taking steps to prevent winter clothes-loving critters like moths and mice will pay dividends in keeping your winter gear creature-free.

2. Prepare for the Next Snowstorm … a Year in Advance

REI also makes it easy to extend the life of your winter gear before storing it into a closet. Whether you have a backpack, jacket, shirt, or winter shoes  that could use some love, REI has you covered and will provide you with a free estimate for any repairs.
Instead, make your first stop in storing winter clothes the repair shop. And thanks to nationally available programs, fixing a rip or tear doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.
Wool coats, however, can be stored in bug-proof garment bags and stored in the attic or basement. Read on for more tips.
It may seem obvious, but giving winter gear a once-over with detergent or other cleaning supplies will help winter coats, winter shoes, and other cold-weather items to maintain their textile integrity and bonus —  it will help keep clothes smelling fresh for the next time you pull them out and over your head.
The sting of winter’s cold is finally giving way to the warmer, sunnier days of spring. As the seasons change, so too does our wardrobe. Goodbye parka, hello light sweater. It’s a welcome change for many of us to store our winter clothes and not give them a second thought for many months.

3. Bring the Heat to the Cold

Winter is a harsh season. For many of us, it entails snow, wind, mud and sidewalk salt. All of these can impact the integrity of your favorite winter clothes.
To ward off moths and other bugs, spend less than on a bag of cedar chips. Place the chips in the storage bin, plastic bag, or closet where you are storing winter clothes and let the refreshing cedar scent not only soothe your nose, but naturally ward off undesirable insects. Cedar will not damage clothes or alter them, either, making it a cheap way to keep winter clothes fresh.
Ensuring that down-filled products — and all winter gear — are entirely dry before storing them in a closet for months is critical. Down products can go in a low-heat dryer. For other products such as shoes and boots, using a low-heat setting on a hairdryer or good ole’ air drying should suffice.
But knowing how to store winter clothes is key to making garments last beyond one season. Down parkas can cost anywhere from 0 to ,000. No matter what you spend, you don’t want to flush that money away. Taking care to store winter clothes with an eye for longevity can help turn your one-season parka purchase into a multi-decade investment, saving you hundreds  — if not thousands — of dollars over the years.

Depending on how big the tear is, a tailor might charge to . If you have a good relationship with a cleaners, their tailor might make the fix for less. On a less expensive coat, the repair might not be worth it but if you’ve paid 0 or more and only worn the coat for one season, consider the repair.

4. Ward Off the Vermin

Colorado-based writer Kristin Jenny focuses on lifestyle and wellness. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Instead of chucking those winter boots into a closet and hoping for the best, be proactive  by restoring waterproof abilities prior to tossing in a storage container.
Iron-on patches are extremely cheap — often less than —and only require a hot iron in order to be effective.
Storing winter clothes is a process that should be done with some thought and should not be a haphazard process of tossing things into plastic bags, shoving them under the bed, and calling it good.
Although bugs are typically the main culprit in clothing destruction, mice are not uncommon predators to winter clothing in long term storage or hastily-packed storage bins.

5. Keep it Clean

Winter clothing is rarely cheap and is often a budget-altering expense. From boots costing over 0 to specialized pants and accessories starting in the -range, it is to your benefit to know how to store winter clothes. When done correctly, you’ll have gear that lasts for years —if not decades — and will save you enough money to perhaps take that ski trip you’ve always dreamed about.
There are a variety of iron-on patches to choose from, with some made specific for nylon gear, some for jeans, and others for standard cotton clothing.
For synthetic and water-resistant products like Gore-Tex, a damp towel with some gentle soap should be enough to wipe away a winter’s worth of grime. The same goes for many winterized shoes and winter boots.
Even the most durable of winter gear can rip, snag or tear. While programs like those of Patagonia and REI will assist in repairing everything from damaged clothing to worn winter boots, sometimes it can be easier and more efficient to fix a small hole yourself.
For just about , you can purchase these ultrasonic sensors to put in your closet, small space, or attic and know that your winter gear will be safe for another season.
Outside of mouse traps, ultrasonic mice repellent sensors are a natural and slightly less grisly way to defend against these four-legged foe.
Nothing lasts forever, including the waterproof coating that protects much of the winter gear you’re getting ready to put into a storage bin.

5 Mind-Altering Wealth Strategies for Successful Business Owners

I’m an entrepreneur and just so happen to be in the business of providing other entrepreneurs with financial advice. But I don’t typically offer up the usual status quo advice that tells you to do things that aren’t always in alignment with growing your business.

My views originate from my experiences and at times are contrarian to what’s being recommended by the usual tax preparer and other financial advisers, because I am in the trenches running a business just like you. I know what it takes to grow a business, make payroll, deal with IRS notices and manage cash flow.

The truth is that being an entrepreneur can be isolating at times as a result of being wrapped up in the day-to-day of running your business. When you are hyper-focused on your business, it is difficult to also be an expert at managing the profits of the company.  You may be great at making money, but once it’s made, what do you do with it?

Thinking differently about your company and how you will use it to build wealth is the key to true financial success.

In this article, I’ll outline five ways you can shift your mindset about money to transform how you define and operate your business and approach your financial decisions. It will help you identify what you really want to achieve: A Self-Managing Company®, a term coined by  Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach.  

Mind Shift No. 1: Understand that Retirement Savings Plans Don’t ‘Lower’ Your Tax Bill

As a business owner, you are probably time-starved and used to making fast decisions. And you may be tempted to make fast decisions at tax time, especially when your tax preparer suggests that tax-deferred investments are the answer to lower your tax bill and save some money for retirement.  Easy enough, right?

This is what I like to call a half-truth. It’s true that you’ll get the deduction for that year’s taxes. But the other half of the story uncovers the problem with the use of SEP IRAs, 401(k)s and other tax-deferred options to “lower” your tax bill. The reality is that you are taking money from your business where you have some level of control and redirecting those dollars into the stock market where you have absolutely no control.  The money is tied up until you are 59½ years old and face potentially higher tax liabilities than you previously owed with no access to your cash if it is needed for growing or sustaining your business.

When you own a business, the half-truths you hear from many finance professionals and the mainstream media can at times negatively impact your ability to grow your business and protect your interests.  I have found there are other, more productive ways to build wealth outside of your business, beyond the base-level concepts of investing or putting money in an IRA or 401(k).

Mind Shift No. 2: View Your Company Not as Your Job, but as a Tool for Building Your Wealth

If you run a healthy business, you have a long-term strategy. You know what the end-goal is. You think about the business as a whole, rather than focusing on simply the day-to-day tasks.

We’ve all heard the old adage: Work on your business, not in your business. That’s because if you’re working in your business all the time, you’ve only created a job for yourself.  The goal is to build systems and develop people to slowly work yourself out of the role you have and allow the business to run on its own.  The sooner you shift your mindset to this way of thinking, the sooner you can begin to experience the results.

First, carve out the time in your day to think about your business. Many business owners I talk to don’t do this, because they are buried in the work. Take time to talk to your future self about what you want your life to look like in the future.  What would your future self say to you about the decisions and choices you are making?  It helps to outline your thinking time, keep a journal of your discoveries, meditate to de-stress, and use the time to reflect on what you are trying to accomplish in the business.

Next, think about your business as a piece of your financial plan. How much time and capital are you investing into the business, and what are you getting out of it?  What is your ROI?  I’ve found that a business can offer the biggest opportunity to build wealth, and in many cases — depending on your results — it can offer more than what you might get from investing in the market.

Finally, think with the end in mind. At the end of the day, what are you trying to get out of your company? To build wealth through your business, you must identify what will build its value.

Building value revolves around creating a self-managing company, one that runs without you and has a strategy to sustain itself into the future. This allows you to sell it for maximum value, or even create a passive income stream without actually having to work in the business.

Shifting your mindset is important, because you probably didn’t start your business that way. Many business owners don’t, and that’s OK while you’re getting things up and running. But it’s important to remember that what got you started will not get you to the next level and will not build the wealth needed to successfully exit the business.

Mind Shift No. 3: Master Your Cash Flow

I tend to bust a lot of myths when it comes to financial matters, and one of them has to do with cash flow. This is especially important to understand as an entrepreneur. Your cash flow is not there to simply pay your bills. Yes, you must pay your bills of course, but there is more to it than simply making payroll.

Cash flow is a tool to help you build wealth and the value of your company.  Healthy cash flow allows for you to control your money, and there are strategies you can explore to help you maximize it.

I recently spoke with a partner of a business who was earning a W-2 salary of $400,000 per year. In working with his CPA, we were able to rework his partnership agreement, removing him as an employee and adding him as a consultant of his own LLC.  While this simple strategy reduced his tax liability by $20,000, implementing this strategy was about more than just lowering taxes.  This was about cash flow – everything is always about cash flow.  By making this little tweak, he increased his cash flow by $1,666 per month.

I’m not a CPA and don’t provide tax advice, but I ask a lot of questions and propose many scenarios for the tax professionals to consider – scenarios that can increase cash flow for business owners. Increasing and optimizing your cash flow should be a top priority for your business.

Mind Shift No. 4: Be Your Own Bank

Companies with cash are able to do many things without having to rely on a bank or other source of funding. In essence, they can be their own bank. Think about it. When you have cash, you can use it to work on your wealth-building strategy. You could buy a company, invest in equipment, hire more people (maybe even a replacement for yourself who can run the company while you collect passive income), buy property, or take advantage of any other opportunity that may come your way.

But there is another way you can be your own bank. Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of “BUILD Banking™,” a cash flow strategy using a specially designed life insurance contract. It’s a strategy that I use personally and with many of my clients who want to have greater control of their cash flow. It frees them from dependence on banks for capital infusions and avoids government red tape when they need to access their money.

For more information about BUILD Banking™, visit www.buildbanking.com.

This strategy enables business owners to grow assets tax-free and have access to those funds whenever they’re needed. In essence, you’re accessing cash when it is needed while having uninterrupted compounding growth for your future.

Mind Shift No. 5: Understand Your Legal Exposures and Protect Yourself

You likely have some form, or forms, of insurance in place for your business. And you may believe that these policies have you covered. Well, they may, and they may not. The coverage you need goes far beyond liability, even extending into punitive damages.

It’s important to work with an insurance professional who specializes in business coverage to ensure that you have the right type of policies and the proper level of protection for your specific business.

There are also certain types of insurance policies (including the BUILD Banking strategy I’ve described above) that can serve a strategic purpose for your business. It’s common, and valuable, for business owners to have a life insurance contract as part of their succession plan, acting as a funding mechanism for the beneficiary to purchase the deceased owner’s share of the business.

Again, you will want to have a collaborating team of insurance professionals who have expertise in their vertical and who understand your business, your goals and what you are trying to accomplish. It’s also a good idea to include your CPA, attorney and financial planner in on those discussions.

These five financial planning tips and mindset shifts will help you use your business as a tool to start building wealth (or build greater wealth). They may be things you’ve never thought about, or things you’ve considered but haven’t been able to implement.  Putting these ideas to work can get you on the path to true business success.

Results may vary. Any descriptions involving life insurance policies and their use as an alternative form of financing or risk management techniques are provided for illustration purposes only, will not apply in all situations, may not be fully indicative of any present or future investments, and may be changed at the discretion of the insurance carrier, General Partner and/or Manager and are not intended to reflect guarantees on securities performance. Benefits and guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the insurance company.
The terms BUILD Banking™, private banking alternatives or specially designed life insurance contracts (SDLIC) are not meant to insinuate that the issuer is creating a real bank for its clients or communicating that life insurance companies are the same as traditional banking institutions.
This material is educational in nature and should not be deemed as a solicitation of any specific product or service. BUILD Banking™ is offered by Skrobonja Insurance Services LLC only and is not offered by Kalos Capital Inc. nor Kalos Management.
BUILD Banking™ is a DBA of Skrobonja Insurance Services LLC.  Skrobonja Insurance Services LLC does not provide tax or legal advice. The opinions and views expressed here are for informational purposes only. Please consult with your tax and/or legal adviser for such guidance.

Founder & President, Skrobonja Financial Group LLC

Brian Skrobonja is an author, blogger, podcaster and speaker. He is the founder of St. Louis Missouri-based wealth management firm Skrobonja Financial Group LLC. His goal is to help his audience discover the root of their beliefs about money and challenge them to think differently to reach their goals. Brian is the author of three books, the Common Sense podcast and blog. In 2017 and 2019 Brian received the award for Best Wealth Manager and in 2018 the Future 50 St. Louis Small Business.

Source: kiplinger.com

The Ultimate College Senior Checklist

Earning a college degree is no easy feat. Think countless late-night cram sessions, tedious loan applications, heavy textbooks to haul around. For some college seniors, June cannot come fast enough, and it’s understandable why senioritis kicks in. That said, there’s still a lot of important work to do before crossing that graduation stage.

From jumping through the logistical hoops of making it to graduation day to launching a job search and addressing student loan payments, there are a lot of important pre-graduation to-do’s that may require prompt attention.

Here’s a comprehensive checklist that will help college seniors be prepared to graduate and enter the working world.

Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s

Ideally, before senior year begins (or sooner for those planning to graduate early), students should meet with their guidance counselor to make sure they have all of their ducks in a row in order to graduate. Switching majors, studying abroad, or misunderstanding degree requirements can lead to confusion about which classes must be taken to graduate.

Before setting a class schedule for the year, it can’t hurt to double-check with a college counselor that all requirements are being met. Some schools even have a certain amount of community service or chapel hours required in order to graduate, so again, it’s smart to confirm that everything is moving along as it should be.

Preparing for the graduation ceremony needs to be done in advance. Colleges and universities often require students to apply to graduate and register their planned attendance at the ceremony well ahead of the actual day.

To streamline the process, many schools have grad fairs where students can pick up their commencement tickets; buy a cap and gown, class rings and commencement announcements; and ask questions about the logistics of graduation day.

Transcripts can come in handy when applying for jobs and graduate school programs, so picking up a few copies while still on campus can save time down the road. And don’t forget to turn in those library books! No one will want to trek back to campus after graduation to pay late fees.

Getting a Jumpstart on a Job Search

It’s no secret that college graduates flood the job market each June, so getting ahead of the pack can make job searching a little easier. Applying for jobs earlier in the spring can lessen the competition and give seniors confidence that they have a job lined up when they graduate.

If launching a full-blown job search during school isn’t possible, college seniors can at least take steps toward preparing for the job search.

Stop by the career center and see what resources it can provide. Schools have a career center for a reason! Most are ready to help students prepare their resumes and perfect their cover letters, and they typically have job postings from companies looking to hire recent graduates.

Some career centers may offer mock interviews so students can hone those skills, or they may provide support when issues arise during a job search. Popping by between classes to see what services are offered will only take a few minutes.

At the very least, college seniors can poke around online job boards and research local companies to see what opportunities are out there.

Making Connections

As a student, it may feel like having a professional network is unattainable, but many build one while in school without realizing it. One easy way to get a head start on a job search, without doing too much work during a hectic final year of school, is to focus on building relationships and requesting references.

Professors, employers, and intern supervisors can all provide references that can strengthen a job search. Finding that first job out of college can be tricky, when resumes are on the shorter side, so a handful of strong references can make all the difference.

While requesting references, college seniors should tell their connections what career path they’re hoping to pursue. One never knows where the next opportunity might come from.

Paying Back Student Loans

Preparing to navigate life after college can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to finances. No one wants to think about student loan payments, but it can be helpful to start making repayment plans before graduation day.

Try beginning the planning process by simply looking up the current balance for each student loan held, including both federal and private loans. Then note when the grace period ends for each loan and when the lender expects payment. It’s important to plan to make loan payments on time each month, as that can boost a credit score.

Lenders usually provide repayment information during the grace period, including repayment options. Many federal student loans qualify for a minimum of one income-driven or income-based repayment plan.

Federal student loans may qualify for a variety of repayment plans, such as the Standard Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plans, Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, Income-Based Repayment Plan, Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, and Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan. It is important to carefully research each payment plan before choosing one.

For private student loan repayment, it is best to speak directly with the loan originator about repayment options. Many private student loans require payments while the borrower is still in school, but some offer deferred repayment. After the grace period, the borrower will have to make principal and interest payments. Some lenders offer repayment programs with budget flexibility.

Whether students or their parents chose to take out federal or private student loans (or both), reviewing all possible repayment plan options can provide choices. And who doesn’t like choices?

One Loan, One Monthly Payment

Some graduates may want to consider refinancing or consolidating their student debt.

Borrowers who have federal student loans may qualify for a Direct Consolidation Loan after they graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.

Consolidating multiple federal loans into one allows borrowers to make just one loan payment each month. In some cases, the repayment schedule may be extended, resulting in lower payments, after consolidating (but increasing the period of time to repay loans usually means making more payments and paying more total interest).

Refinancing allows the borrower to convert multiple loans—federal and/or private—into one new private loan with a new interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. The goal is a lower interest rate. (It’s worth noting that refinancing a federal loan into a private loan can lead to losing benefits only available through federal lenders, such as public service forgiveness and economic hardship programs.)

Refinancing can be a good solution for working graduates who have high-interest, unsubsidized Direct Loans, Graduate PLUS loans, and/or private loans.

If that sounds like a good fit, SoFi offers student loan refinancing with zero origination fees or prepayment penalties. Getting prequalified online is quick and easy.

Learn more about SoFi Student Loan Refinancing options and benefits.



SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

SOSL20019

Source: sofi.com