How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car – 10 Simple Steps

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Do you recognize this scenario? You’re planning to rent a small car for a vacation or business trip. Yet somehow, when you walk away from the car rental counter, you’re holding the keys to a much bigger car with a much bigger price tag. 

If this has happened to you, it was no accident. You were a victim of upselling — one of the many tricks car rental companies use to squeeze more money out of you. They lure you, scare you, or badger you into driving away with a bigger car than you planned. 

To save money on car rentals, you need to beat the agencies at their own game. First, do some research to figure out exactly what car you need. Then, shop around and use discounts to make sure you pay the lowest possible rate for it. 

How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car

Getting the best rate on your car rental is largely a matter of doing your homework. You have to know what kind of car you need, when to book it, and where to shop for the best prices. You also need to know how to avoid tricky upsells and hidden fees.

1. Know What You Need

If you’ve ever rented a car before, you know rental companies often try to upsell you. When you arrive to pick up your vehicle, they don’t hand over the keys right away. 

Instead, they suggest you upgrade to a larger model than the one you booked. Often, they say it will offer more comfort, more power, or even better gas mileage. 

That last statement is unlikely to be true. In general, bigger cars use more gas than smaller ones. If you let the rental clerk talk you into a bigger model, you’ll end up paying more for gas and the car itself.

As for the extra room and extra power, they probably don’t matter. If you’re driving by yourself or with just one or two other people, a compact car should have enough space. And you’re unlikely to need more power unless you’re planning to drive up steep mountain roads or in deep snow.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about how much car you need, do some research before you book. Look for reviews of the model you’re considering and see what owners say about its comfort, mileage, and power. 

Then, when the clerk starts trying to sell you on a bigger model, you can say with confidence that the one you booked is just fine for your needs.

2. Book Early, Especially During Peak Travel Times

Car rental companies have a limited number of cars in their fleets. During peak travel times, every vehicle is in demand as customers flock to travel destinations. And when demand outstrips supply, prices go up. That’s simple economics.

So if you’re traveling during a busy travel season, reserve your car as far in advance as possible. You’ll avoid paying a premium for booking during the busy season or, worse still, finding the vehicle you want is unavailable.

3. Take Advantage of Discounts

Never pay full price for a rental car without checking for discounts first. There are all kinds of programs that can offer you a better price on a rental, including:

  • Military Discounts. Many car rental companies, including Alamo and Budget, offer discounts for military service members and veterans. Some also have special deals for other government employees or first responders, such as firefighters and police. If you belong to any of these groups, always ask about discounts when booking a rental.
  • USAA Rates. If your spouse or parent is in the military, you could get a discount through USAA. This financial provider serves active military members, veterans, and their spouses and children. Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz have special USAA rates. 
  • Senior Discounts. Several rental car agencies work with AARP to provide discounts for older adults. AARP members can save up to 30% at Avis, Budget, and Payless. And all travelers over 50 can get lower prices from Hertz through its Fifty Plus program.
  • Corporate Codes. Many businesses have partnerships with car rental companies. Their employees get better rates, and the agencies benefit from the extra business. Check your corporate travel site to see if your company has such a program. 
  • University Codes. Universities also cut deals with rental car agencies. Both students and alumni can get lower daily rates and other perks, such as a free additional driver. Check the student benefits or alumni deals page for rental car discounts.
  • Frequent Flyer Programs. Some frequent flyer programs can get you a reduced rate on a car rental. For instance, United MileagePlus members enjoy discounts and earn bonus miles when they rent through Hertz.
  • AAA. Being a member of AAA gets you discounts on all kinds of services, including rental cars. Currently, members can save between 8% and 20% off the base rate with Thrifty, Dollar, or Hertz. Check your local AAA website for the latest deals.
  • Costco. This warehouse club offers discounts on a lot more than groceries. One of the many benefits of Costco membership is its discounts on car rentals from Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Visit the Costco Travel site to access the latest exclusive deals.

4. Join a Loyalty Program

Many rental car agencies have loyalty programs that offer various discounts and perks. Most loyalty programs are free to join, and it takes only a few minutes to sign up.  

Joining one of these programs could get you benefits like:

  • Free upgrades
  • The ability to skip the line when you pick up your rental
  • A guarantee the car you sign up for will be available
  • An account that stores your rental preferences for future use
  • Rewards points you can cash in for free rentals or upgrades

And there’s nothing to stop you from signing up for multiple programs. You could join one for each rental agency you use. In fact, if you’ve already reached elite status with one company, you can usually carry over that status when you sign up for another agency’s program as well.

Some agencies, such as Avis and Hertz, also have special programs just for small-business owners. If you own a small business, these programs can give you a percentage off the base price every time you rent a car.

5. Compare Prices

Joining a loyalty program doesn’t mean you have to be loyal to one car rental company. It always makes sense to shop around and see if another company can offer a better price.

You could do that by calling several companies for quotes, but you don’t have to. There are several websites you can use to check rental prices across multiple agencies. 

One leading comparison site is AutoSlash. This free site factors in discounts from AAA and Costco and searches for online coupons to cut your rental price. It even notifies you if the rental rate drops after you book your car. That allows you to cancel it and rebook at the lower price.

However, AutoSlash isn’t the only site in the business. Other places to look for deals include CarRentals.com, Kayak, and Priceline.

6. Check Smaller Car Rental Companies

When you’re comparing prices, don’t limit yourself to the major rental car agencies. Small off-brand agencies such as Fox Rent A Car can offer significantly lower rates than the big companies.

These small agencies aren’t available everywhere, and they may not show up in results from sites like AutoSlash. But if there’s one in your area, it’s worth a call to see if they can beat the big companies’ prices. To find small local agencies, search the Internet for “car rental near me.”

7. Look for Coupon Codes

When you’re searching for rental car prices, do an extra search for coupon codes you can tack on at checkout. With the right code, you can save as much as 50% off the regular rental rate. 

On top of that, you can often combine these coupon codes with other discounts. For instance, they sometimes stack with savings from loyalty programs or frequent flyer programs.

If you shop through AutoSlash, it automatically seeks coupon codes for you. Other places to look for deals include Groupon and LivingSocial. Also, money-saving browser extensions like Capital One Shopping search for coupon codes and apply them every time you shop. 

8. Read the Fine Print

It’s not unusual to see online ads promising car rentals as low as $15 per day. These prices sound too good to be true — and they are. The price you pay is usually much higher due to taxes and fees excluded from the advertised rate. 

You can’t avoid all these extra fees. However, you can at least be aware of them to avoid any surprises. And you can always say no to extraneous car rental fees.

When comparing prices, look at the final price with all taxes and fees included. That way, you know you’re comparing apples to apples. 

9. Prepay

Most car rental companies offer two different daily rental rates: one for prepayment and a higher one for paying when you pick up the car (or simply renting on the spot). For instance, Budget charges rates up to 35% less when you pay ahead.

But despite the savings, prepaying isn’t always the smart move. If you prepay for your car and have to change your plans, you could get hit with a hefty cancellation fee. 

For instance, Alamo charges $50 for canceling a prepaid rental or $100 if you cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice. Canceling a regular reservation is only $50 with less than 24 hours’ notice and free if you cancel earlier than that. 

To avoid these fees, don’t prepay for your rental unless your travel schedule is fixed.

10. Use a Rewards Card

Once you’ve decided which car to rent and where, there’s still one more way to save: by choosing the right card to pay with. Many travel rewards credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer special perks and discounts on car rentals. 

Depending on the card, you could pay a lower daily or weekly rate or earn extra rewards points. You could also get perks like free upgrades, free rental car insurance, a free additional driver, or a grace period on late returns.

Moreover, if you already have rewards points on one of these cards, you can sometimes get a bonus by cashing them in for travel deals, including car rentals. If your card offers a 50% bonus on travel, you could book a $30-per-day car rental with only $20 worth of rewards.


Final Word

There’s one tip that could potentially save you more than anything else. When planning your trip, think carefully about whether you need a rental car at all. 

In some cases, you can get by without a car. Instead, you can rely on a combination of rides from friends, public transportation, and ridesharing. 

That works particularly well if you only need the vehicle to get to and from the airport. In that case, paying by the ride is probably cheaper than renting a car that will spend most of the trip parked.

Another option is to take advantage of the sharing economy. It’s often possible to get a car through a peer-to-peer service like Turo for much less than a traditional rental. 

These services can offer access to vehicles rental agencies don’t have, such as sports cars or electric vehicles. And you don’t have to deal with any high-pressure sales tactics at the rental counter.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Solo 401(k) vs SEP IRA: Key Differences and Considerations

Self-employment has its perks but an employer-sponsored retirement plan isn’t one of them. Opening a solo 401(k) or a Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account (SEP IRA) allows the self-employed to build wealth for retirement while enjoying some tax advantages.

A solo 401(k) or one-participant 401(k) is similar to a traditional 401(k), in terms of annual contribution limits and tax treatment. A SEP IRA, meanwhile, follows the same tax rules as traditional IRAs. SEP IRAs, however, allow a higher annual contribution limit than a regular IRA.

So, which is better for you? The answer can depend largely on whether your business has employees or operates as a sole proprietorship and which plan yields more benefits, in terms of contribution limits and tax breaks.

Weighing the features of a solo 401(k) vs. SEP IRA can make it easier to decide which one is more suited to your retirement savings needs.

Investing for Your Retirement When Self-Employed

An important part of planning for your retirement is understanding your long-term goals. Whether you choose to open a solo 401(k) or make SEP IRA contributions can depend on how much you need and want to save for retirement and what kind of tax advantages you hope to enjoy along the way.

Recommended: When Can I Retire? This Formula Will Help You Know

A solo 401(k) could allow you to save more for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis compared to a SEP IRA, but not everyone can contribute to one. It’s also important to consider whether you need to give some thought to retirement planning for employees.

If you’re hoping to mirror or replicate the traditional 401(k) plan experience, then you might lean toward a solo 401(k). Whether you can contribute to one of these plans depends on your business structure. Business owners with no employees or whose only employee is their spouse can use a solo 401(k).

Meanwhile, you can establish a SEP IRA for yourself as the owner of a business as well as your eligible employees, if you have any. It’s also helpful to think about what kind of investment options you might prefer. What you can invest in through a solo 401(k) plan may be different from what a SEP IRA offers, which can affect how you grow wealth for retirement.

Solo 401(k) vs SEP IRA Comparisons

Both solo 401(k) plans and SEP IRAs make it possible to save for retirement as a self-employed person or business owner when you don’t have access to an employer’s 401(k). You can set up either type of account if you operate as a sole proprietorship and have no employees. And both can offer a tax break if you’re able to deduct contributions each year.

In terms of differences, there are some things that set solo 401(k) plans apart from SEP IRAs. Under SEP IRA rules, for instance, neither employee nor catch-up contributions are allowed. There’s no Roth option with a SEP IRA, which you may have with a solo 401(k). Choosing a Roth solo 401(k) might appeal to you if you’d like to be able to make tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

You may also be able to take a loan from a solo 401(k) if the plan permits it. Solo 401(k) loans follow the same rules as traditional 401(k) loans. If you need to take money from a SEP IRA before age 59 ½, however, you may pay an early withdrawal penalty and owe income tax on the withdrawal.

Here’s a rundown of the main differences between a 401(k) vs. SEP IRA.

Solo 401(k) SEP IRA
Tax-Deductible Contributions Yes, for traditional solo 401(k) plans Yes
Employer Contributions Allowed Yes Yes
Employee Contributions Allowed Yes Yes
Withdrawals Taxed in Retirement Yes, for traditional solo 401(k) plans Yes
Roth Contributions Allowed Yes No
Catch-Up Contributions Allowed Yes No
Loans Allowed Yes No

What Is a Solo 401(k)?

A solo 401(k) or one-participant 401(k) plan is a traditional 401(k) that covers a business owner who has no employees or employs only their spouse. Simply, a Solo 401(k) allows you to save money for retirement from your self-employment or business income on a tax-advantaged basis.

These plans follow the same IRS rules and requirements as any other 401(k). There are specific solo 401(k) contribution limits to follow, along with rules regarding withdrawals and taxation. Regulations also govern when you can take a loan from a solo 401(k) plan.

A number of online brokerages now offer solo 401(k) plans for self-employed individuals, including those who freelance or perform gig work. You can open a retirement account online and start investing, no employer other than yourself needed.

If you use a solo 401(k) to save for retirement, you’ll also need to follow some reporting requirements. Generally, the IRS requires solo 401(k) plan owners to file a Form 5500-EZ if it has $250,000 or more in assets at the end of the year.

Solo 401(k) Contribution Limits

Just like other 401(k) plans, solo 401(k)s have annual contribution limits. You can make contributions as both an employee and an employer. Here’s how annual solo 401(k) contribution limits work for elective deferrals:

Solo 401(k) Contribution Limits by Age in 2021 (Elective Deferrals) Annual contribution in 2022
Annual Contribution Catch-Up Contribution in 2021 and 2022
Under 50 $19,500 N/a N/a
50 and Older $19,500 $6,500 $20,500

The limit on 401(k) contributions, including elective deferrals and employer nonelective contributions, is $58,000 for 2021 and $61,000 in 2022. That doesn’t include an additional $6,500 allowed for catch-up contributions if you’re 50 or older.

If you’re self-employed, the IRS requires you to make a special calculation to figure out the maximum amount of elective deferrals and employer nonelective contributions you can make for yourself. This calculation reflects on your earned income, or means your net earnings from self-employment after deducting one-half of your self-employment tax and contributions for yourself.

The IRS offers a rate table you can use to calculate your contributions. You can set up automatic deferrals to a solo 401(k), or make contributions at any point throughout the year.

What Is a SEP IRA?

A SEP IRA or Simplified Employee Pension Plan is another option to consider if you’re looking for retirement plans for those self-employed. This tax-advantaged plan is available to any size business, including sole proprietorships with no employees, and its one of the easiest retirement plan to set up and maintain. So if you’re a freelancer or a gig worker, you might consider using a SEP IRA to plan for retirement.

SEP IRAs work much like traditional IRAs, with regard to the tax treatment of withdrawals. They do, however, allow you to contribute more money toward retirement each year above the standard traditional IRA contribution limit. That means you could enjoy a bigger tax break when it’s time to deduct contributions.

If you have employees, you can make retirement plan contributions to a SEP IRA on their behalf. SEP IRA contribution limits are, for the most part, the same for both employers and employees. If you’re interested in a SEP, you can set up an IRA for yourself or for yourself and your employees through an online brokerage.

SEP IRA Contributions

SEP IRA contributions use pre-tax dollars. Amounts contributed are tax-deductible in the year you make them. All contributions are made by the employer only, which is something to remember if you have employees. Unlike a traditional 401(k) that allows elective deferrals, your employees wouldn’t be able to add money to their SEP IRA through paycheck deductions.

Here’s how SEP IRA contributions work.

SEP IRA Contributions by Age

Annual Contribution Catch-Up Contribution
Under 50 Lesser of 25% of the employee’s compensation or $58,000 in 2021 and $61,000 in 2022. N/a
50 and Older Lesser of 25% of the employee’s compensation or $58,000 and $61,000 in 2022. N/a

The IRS doesn’t allow catch-up contributions to a SEP IRA, a significant difference from solo 401(k) plans. So it’s possible you could potentially save more for retirement with a solo 401(k), depending on your age and earnings. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to follow the same IRS rules for figuring your annual contributions that apply to solo 401(k) plans.

You can make SEP IRA contributions at any time until your taxes are due, in mid-April of the following year.

The Takeaway

Saving for retirement is something that you can’t afford to put off. Whether you choose a solo 401(k), SEP IRA or another savings plan, it’s important to take the first step toward growing wealth.

If you’re ready to start saving for the future, one way to get started is by opening a brokerage account on the SoFi Invest investment platform. All members get complimentary access to a financial advisor, which can help you create a plan to meet your long-term goals.

Photo credit: iStock/1001Love


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Source: sofi.com

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

How to Financially Prepare for a Child – 13 Steps to Take

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Stressed about how much it costs to have and raise kids?

Having extra mouths to feed barely scratches the surface of the expenses to come. From larger housing to larger cars, higher health care costs to higher education, diapers to child care, strap in for a costly ride.

But like everything else in life, it helps to be prepared. The better your financial planning, the better you can navigate the costs without derailing your current lifestyle. 

How to Financially Prepare for a Child

If you tried to make every ideal financial move before having kids, you’d reach retirement age before even trying. So don’t think of these as prerequisites for trying to get pregnant. 

Instead, think of them as parts of your larger financial plan that apply more than ever as you start having children.

1. Reconsider Your Income

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing low-paying work you love. I never believed my mother — an educator — when she said, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” She proved me wrong by achieving a seven-figure net worth through frugal living, working a side hustle (tutoring), and consistent investing. 

But your motivation matters. There’s a difference between choosing a modest-income career because you’re passionate about it and being stuck in one due to inertia. 

I know teachers who love what they do and wouldn’t want another job even if someone offered to double their salary. Others coast their way through every tedious lesson plan. 

If you don’t love what you do, go back to the drawing board. That goes doubly if you also don’t love your salary. 

Brainstorm jobs that provide fulfillment and meaning to you personally. Then get creative and explore remote positions, jobs that provide free housing, or jobs that pay well even without a college degree. 

Choose a career that fulfills you both personally and financially. It doesn’t need to pay a huge salary, but aim to get up every morning happy with the career choice you made. 

2. Enroll in Health Insurance

Pregnancy is expensive. So are delivery, infant checkups, and pediatric health care in general. If you do nothing else before your baby arrives, get health insurance. 

Fortunately, not having insurance through your employer doesn’t mean you have to go without it. Explore options for health insurance without employer coverage. There are even part-time jobs that provide medical insurance. 

Note that families with a high-deductible health insurance plan may well burn through every dollar of that deductible over the course of pregnancy, delivery, and the first few months of life. Plan accordingly. 

Low-income families can explore the Children’s Health Insurance Program as another option.

3. Revamp Your Budget

Once upon a time, I spent more money on happy hours, dinners out, concerts, and entertainment in general. My budget looked different before I got married, and then it changed again after my wife and I had children. 

That’s normal. Your budget isn’t static. It’s a living thing that evolves over time alongside your life. And if you do it right, you can save more money even after having children. I managed to do it through a mix of house hacking, getting rid of a car, and moving overseas. 

If you don’t have one, create a formal budget. If you do have one, look over all your budgeting categories and start brainstorming ways to spend less and save more. 

4. Check Your Emergency Fund

You never know when an emergency or unexpected job loss could leave you without an income. And when you have children, the stakes are higher. 

As you prepare for the responsibility of a family, set up an emergency fund to cover two to 12 months’ worth of expenses. 

How much you need depends on the stability of your income and expenses. The more variable each is, the more months of living expenses you should stash away. An average person needs three to six months’ expenses, but people with inconsistent incomes or living expenses need closer to a year’s worth. 

You can always temporarily cut out costs like entertainment or a gym membership to save on expenses. But needs like electricity and food are nonnegotiable. 

And while some of your expenses may go down while you’re unemployed (such as gasoline), others may go up. For example, if you spend $200 per month on employer-subsidized health insurance, that expense may rise while you’re unemployed, as you may be forced onto a new plan or required to pay for your current plan in full.

5. Get Serious About Paying Off Unsecured Debts

Many people have unsecured debts, such as credit card debt, personal loans, and student loans. And those often come with high interest rates that exceed the long-term returns you can earn by investing. 

That makes paying off your unsecured debts a high priority. Follow a structured plan to pay them off quickly, such as the debt snowball method. 

Once you incur the added expenses that come with having kids, you’re less likely to have room in your budget to chip away at that old debt. Plus, the interest on it can make the expenses your child requires that much harder to manage.

While baby-related expenses tend to be significant initially, they don’t completely go away once your children are done with diapers. In fact, school-age kids can cost more than infants because they require more expensive clothing and food as well as money for activities like soccer lessons and ballet classes.

6. Plan for Child Care

Child care is the elephant in the room when planning the financial costs of having children. 

Explore all your child care options, from nannies and au pairs to day care to relatives and friends. If one parent doesn’t love their job, you can explore becoming a single-income family, with one parent staying home for the first few years of your children’s lives. 

Whatever you decide, plan and budget accordingly — because parental leave will be over before you blink. 

7. Plan for Baby Essentials

My wife wouldn’t let me try this experiment, but I believe you could get everything you need for an infant for free — or almost anything. 

Diapers cost money, and there are some things you should never buy used for safety reasons. Everything else you can get either free through services like Freecycle or inexpensively used via eBay, Craigslist, or local garage sales. 

Whether you buy used or new, get creative to save money on baby gear. See this baby supplies checklist from The Bump to ensure you plan for every need. 

8. Update Your Will

Your estate plan does more than tell your family and friends who gets your autographed guitars after you die. It also makes provisions for child care if you die prematurely. Your will can include provisions for an unborn child, which you can amend after they’re born.

You have a couple of options for creating a will (or any other estate planning documents):

  • Do It Yourself. You don’t need a lawyer to create a valid will. You simply need to be 18 or older and of sound mind. You also need to sign your will in front of two witnesses and ensure it’s accessible once you die. You can use an online service like Trust & Will to draft one affordably.
  • Hire an Attorney. The cost is significantly more, but a lawyer handles all the details for you. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 for a basic will. If your assets and estate are complex or you need to establish a trust, it could cost upward of $10,000.

Optional Financial Moves to Consider

Some moves could help you feel more ready for kids, though they aren’t strictly necessary. If you can’t do them, no need to worry. In fact, some people may decide holding off on these is smarter than doing it before they have kids. 

So consider this type of financial planning purely optional: a list of ideas for thought rather than more reasons to fret. 

9. Reevaluate Your Housing

You can care for an infant in a studio apartment. They certainly won’t know the difference. But that doesn’t mean you’d enjoy it. 

As a long-term planning exercise, think about what type of home you want to live in for the next few years. You don’t need extra bedrooms or bathrooms right away, as infants can sleep in the same room as you for a while. Even when they move out of your room, they could move into a room with an older sibling. 

But you may decide you want a larger home, so start thinking about what that looks like and how to pay for it. Only buy a home if you plan to stay for at least a few years, as closing costs on either end of the transaction make it cheaper to rent otherwise. 

10. Reevaluate Your Transportation

If you and your spouse each drive two-seat sports cars, one of you may need to swap it out for a more family-friendly option. 

Of course, you don’t always need a car. My wife and I don’t have one. We simply take the car seat with us when we hire an Uber. I also installed a baby seat on my bike so I can transport my daughter that way too. 

Consider the public transportation, walkability, and bikeability of the area you live in. It’s possible you could live without a car too.

But most Americans drive cars as their primary means of transportation, so if yours is either too small to fit your whole family or unreliable, it’s probably time to get a different one. But explore used cars first as a more budget-friendly option. 

Give yourself more flexibility by choosing three to five models you’d be happy to buy, and shop around among both dealerships and individual owners to find the ideal used car for you and your growing family.  

11. Buy Life Insurance or Disability Insurance

In households with one breadwinner or a partner who significantly outearns the other, life insurance makes sense. You want to ensure your family would survive financially if it lost that primary breadwinner. 

Life insurance policies come in two broad buckets:

  • Term Life Insurance. Term life offers coverage for a specified period. It’s generally cheaper and comes with a guaranteed set death benefit. With term life insurance, your premiums increase at preset intervals, such as 10, 20, or 30 years.
  • Whole or Universal Life Insurance. Also known as permanent life insurance, whole or universal life insurance death benefits never expire as long as you pay premiums. These policies often also provide certain living benefits, such as the ability to borrow money against the policy.

As a rule of thumb, your death benefit should be six to eight times your annual salary. But there are other considerations to take into account, such as your homeownership status and anticipated number of dependents as well as how much you can afford. 

If you’re unsure about your coverage needs, talk to an independent financial advisor and shop around for the right plan. You can compare policies on sites like Policygenius and GoCompare.

The same concepts apply to long-term disability insurance. Both protect against the risk of the breadwinner losing their ability to earn. 

Granted, not everyone needs life insurance or disability insurance.

For example, my wife and I live on one income even though we both work. We live on her income and save every dime of mine. And we don’t have life or disability insurance because we maintain low living expenses relative to our income and a high savings rate to build our net worth quickly. 

If either of us kicked the bucket tomorrow, each of our incomes would be enough in itself to support ourselves and our child, and the surviving spouse would have a hefty nest egg to fall back on in a crunch. 

Avoiding the need for life insurance and disability insurance by “self-insuring” are two of the many hidden benefits of pursuing a financially independent lifestyle. Once you build enough money, you can opt out of life and disability insurance. 

12. Double Down on Retirement Investments

I joke that my backup plan for retirement is my daughter. If she were old enough to get the joke, she wouldn’t laugh. 

The worst thing you can put on your adult children is asking them to take care of you in retirement. It adds a burden on them in an already hectic time of their lives, when they’re trying to start and raise their own families. 

Before you even consider setting aside money for their college education, take a closer look at your retirement investments. If you have the slightest worries about them, put more money into your tax-sheltered retirement accounts long before saving money for your kids’ college tuition. 

They have many other ways to pay for college, but you only have one way to pay for your retirement. 

Invest money now so it can start compounding, and decide what to do with it later. You can withdraw contributions from a Roth individual retirement account tax- and penalty-free to put toward any costs, but you can only use 529 plans or ESAs for education costs.

13. Invest to Help With College Costs

Not paying your kids’ college tuition doesn’t make you a bad parent. Young adults who pay for their own college education often take the experience much more seriously. And many parents question whether to help with college even when they can afford it. 

Even small amounts invested when your child is young can compound into significant sums by the time they turn 18. If you decide to chip in, you have several tax-friendly options to do so. 

  • 529 Plan. Your 529 college savings plan earnings grow and remain tax-free if you spend them on qualified educational expenses. 
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account. A Coverdell ESA works similarly to a Roth IRA for education expenses. There are income limits ($110,000 for single filers and $220,000 for married), and the maximum allowable yearly contribution is $2,000, regardless of your income.
  • Upromise.Upromise allows you to earn cash back to use to pay for college. Unlike 529 plans and ESAs, you don’t have to contribute additional money. Rather, you earn cash back on expenses like online retail purchases and restaurant meals.

In all cases, you can open the accounts early and designate your child as a beneficiary after birth.


Final Word

As much as I preach fiscal responsibility, I know firsthand that putting off children doesn’t always make sense, financially or otherwise.

My wife and I married in our early 30s and agreed to spend one year building a foundation for our marriage before having children. Then one year became two, then three. 

I started a business, and my wife worried about money. Then we went through a rough patch in our marriage. We survived it but had reached our late 30s by that point. 

When we finally started trying in earnest, nothing happened, which kicked off a stretch of infertility questions and interventions. Eventually, we did have a child, but not all couples are so lucky. 

Many of my friends haven’t experienced the joy of having children despite spending large sums of money — not to mention enduring immense heartache — trying to do so. In one of life’s bitter ironies, many delayed trying for children because they worried about money. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I know plenty of parents without much money who have multiple children. And every one of them finds a way to make it work.

There’s no perfect time to have children. They disrupt your life in every possible way. But like billions of parents with less money than you have, you’ll find a way to make it work too.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Food Delivery Advice from an Uber Eats Driver Who Made Bank

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The Salem, Oregon, resident made thousands of dollars in June 2020 delivering food for Uber Eats, an app for gig work that proved especially popular during the pandemic.
The very premise of Lyon’s challenge is a goal. It gave him something to focus on and the motivation he needed to make it through grueling 12-hour days.
What you earn from Uber Eats is heavily determined by your market — the city or metropolitan area you deliver in.
“Make sure you look approachable,” Lyon said.

Uber Eats Tips and Tricks From a Driver Who Made $8,357 in One Month

Of the hundreds of orders Lyon completed in June, he got some pretty weird requests from customers. One person asked if he could deliver a pack of cigarettes along with the food order. Lyon told the guy that he didn’t have the money on him to buy the cigarettes on his own, thinking it would end there.
Results may vary in your market. The key is to adapt to your locale. “My days were long,” he said. “I would do all that stuff to kind of break it up and have fun.”

1. Set Goals. Even Tiny Ones Help

Lyon vowed not to fall into that temptation. He carried only in cash, and that was strictly for gas. If he had downtime, he’d listen to podcasts or practice Spanish — while positioning himself for his next order.
Many factors went into his paycheck but none more than his sheer determination. He drove 12 hours — the maximum Uber Eats allows — for 30 days without a single day off.
“When you’re starting, accept every single order and then find your own trends in your own area,” he said.
Lyon drove primarily in Salem, Oregon. If you were to do the same challenge in a different city, you may make more or less than he did. A perfect example of this played out over TikTok. About halfway through June, another Uber Eats driver posed a challenge to Lyon: Who could make more money in a day?
A bigger city doesn’t always equate to better profits though, Lyon noted. Heavy traffic is likelier and could slow you down. You may have to pay to park to make the delivery.

Pro Tip
Some Uber Eats drivers pass on smaller orders in hopes to land larger ones. But that can backfire for inexperienced drivers. Lyon said he put that strategy to the test and found, on average, he was making an order no matter how selective he was being.

2. Take a Great Profile Pic

And to cut down on costs, his own food was homemade.
“I knew I needed to do at least 20 trips to get around that 0-a-day mark,” he said. “So that was always my goal. Anything after that was icing on the cake.”
When the paychecks from your side hustle start rolling in, it’s easy to think all that money is profit. However, quite a bit of it actually goes toward expenses and taxes. It’s one of the biggest pains of being a 1099 worker.
Before we get started, let’s be clear: What Lyon earned is not typical. Far from it.
Uber Eats gives drivers a referral code that they can share with other people to get them to start delivering, too. Once the new driver completes a certain amount of deliveries, the recruiter earns money. But the amount fluctuates depending on the market. Sometimes it’s 0 per 50 trips. Other times, it’s per 50 trips.

This is the main photo used for Sam Lyon's Uber Eats account.
For his Uber Eats profile, Lyon used a selfie taken in his car — then realized he couldn’t change the picture once it was uploaded. Photo courtesy of Sam Lyon

3. Manage Expectations Based on Your Market

Referral bonuses are “definitely not worth the time,” according to Lyon.
Sam Lyon pushed his earning potential in the gig economy to its limits.
And if you’re keeping track of expenses like gas and car depreciation, you can factor that into the amount you’re withholding for Uncle Sam. Lyon’s system was pretty simple. He had a fixed amount for gas, a day. That totaled 9. He had one oil change (), and also factored in his car’s depreciation (0) based on the miles he drove.
“If I was delivering to a suburb, my downtime would be spent driving the extra mile or two to be parked next to a McDonalds, an Applebees, a Red Robin.”
They both delivered food for 12 straight hours. The difference was that the other driver lived 45 miles north in Portland, Oregon. That turned out to be a crucial factor— the challenger made 3 to Lyon’s 8.
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Downtime between orders trips up many new delivery drivers. You’re delivering food all day, after all. You might be tempted to go through the drive-thru for yourself. But idle spending can eat into your earnings.

Need a banking service that’s built for freelancers, helping you save for taxes and keep track of your expenses? Check out Lili. (It’s free!)

4. Learn From the Trends in Your Area

And that’s coming from someone who had hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok.
“In pending invites, I would make ,320,” Lyon said as he read off of the stats in his driver profile. “In successful invites, I made “You know what? Why not? I’ll do it. I picked up the money and got him the cigarettes. When I got back, he paid me the change as well. And I made a quick [tip],” he said.
“You can stop by here. I’ll put the money downstairs and you can come grab it,” the customer responded.
“See what kind of restaurants you like and which ones you want to avoid, he said”
Lyon is a big proponent of the quantity-over-quality approach to accepting orders.
The first picture you choose is the one you’re stuck with. Uber policy allows drivers to change their picture only if something happens that alters their appearance since the original photo. In that situation, you’d have to contact customer support.
He challenged himself to make as much money as possible in that one month. To do so, he drove 12 hours a day for 30 days straight.

5. Occupy Your Downtime

Lyon went for it.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
His specific challenge may not be replicable (or even advisable) in every circumstance. But if you’re a current or aspiring delivery-app gig worker, you can apply Lyon’s tips for Uber Eats drivers to maximize your own profits.
“Depending on what city you’re in, there are a lot of moped Uber drivers, there are a lot of bike Uber drivers. You can’t really compete [in a car] in those urban, downtown areas,” he said.
Adam Hardy is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

6. Don’t Waste Time With Referral Bonuses

“Suburbs are just front porch and then you’re gone.”
In an interview with The Penny Hoarder, Lyon broke down his earnings and what he learned from his 30-day challenge. He also offered some Uber Eats driver tips that other gig workers can use.

“I think goal setting was huge for my success,” Lyon said. “Setting markers in what you want to achieve are extremely important.”
It breaks down like this: His total earnings were ,357. His expenses account for ,148, and he set aside an estimated 30% of the difference for taxes, about ,100. That brought his actual profits to roughly ,100.
“I would go home and spend 30 minutes to an hour preparing food and eating before going back on the road,” he said. “I did not have any fast food during that 30 days.”

A man checks his phone in his car.
Lyon encourages indulging customers’ odd requests, as it can lead to a big tip. Photo courtsey of Sam Lyon

7. Indulge Odd Requests. They Could Lead to Big Tips

Before you start your gig, have a professional or financial goal in mind. That can keep you on track — and keep you from burning out.
“I would definitely keep in mind you will have to pay those taxes later. It’s not automatically coming out of what you earned,” Lyon said. “Personally, I set aside 30% of what I make. That way, I have a little bit of wiggle room.”
“It started off as a beautiful day. The birds were chirping. The sun was shining,” Lyon said in a video. “The perfect day for two gladiators to enter the arena.”
When you’re making your Uber Eats driver profile, don’t blast through it thinking you can go back and change it later — especially the photo step.
Keep your side hustle in check. Here’s how to create an exit plan so that you can enter the gig economy, meet your goals and get out.
Setting aside 30% might seem steep, but it’s usually an overestimate. Lyon, like most taxpayers, would rather have a refund come tax time than a hefty tax bill.

8. Track Your Expenses

Ready to stop worrying about money?
In the end, Lyon made ,357 and documented his journey on the video-sharing site TikTok, where he goes by the moniker SabbiLyon. Each day, he recorded a short video to log his progress — amassing more than 200,000 followers and millions of views along the way. Lyon entertained just about every odd request he got. They usually led to big tips.
Once you get a sense of those trends, you can then experiment to try to maximize your pay.
In the time it would take him to land a big order, he says he could have been delivering three smaller orders.
After a week or so of driving, he was able to see how much money was possible to make given his parameters. So he aimed for a specific target: ,000 by the end of June.To reach that, he would try to make at least 20 deliveries a day. He didn’t worry much about the pay of each delivery because they ended up averaging about an order. <!–

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The app shows you potential earnings based on the amount you would have earned if all the people you invited completed their first 50 trips.

Stock Market Corrections – What Are They and How to Handle Them

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People look to the stock market as a way to build and protect wealth, but experienced investors know it doesn’t always work out that way. The market moves through a series of peaks and valleys, often leading to overvaluations or undervaluations. 

When a long-term bull market takes place, investors know that a dreaded downturn on Wall Street is likely ahead. 

These drawdowns, or market corrections, are periods when stock valuations fall. They tend to cause some investors to panic, but there’s no need to be alarmed. These occasional declines are perfectly normal, and most consider them necessary in a healthy U.S. stock market. 

Here’s everything you need to know about market corrections. 

What Is a Stock Market Correction?

A correction is a downward market trend characterized by the value of a financial asset falling at least 10% from its most recent peak. 

For example, imagine stock ABC was trading at a peak of $100 per share 45 days ago. Today, the stock is trading at $89 per share, down $11 or 11% from recent highs. Since the decline is greater than 10%, the move would be considered a correction. 

These market declines are often riddled with volatility as investors race to sell, hoping to protect themselves from further financial pain. 

However, as you’ll learn below, a sudden drop in stock prices from recent highs isn’t always a reason to sell. In fact, corrections are often the best time to buy more shares of your favorite stocks, practicing dollar-cost averaging and increasing your overall return potential. 

Here are a few important facts about corrections:

There Are Different Levels of Stock Market Corrections

First and foremost, market corrections take place on varying levels:

Individual Stocks

Like in the example above, corrections often happen on individual stocks. They can be spurred by bad news like missed earnings or revenue expectations, or they can come completely out of the blue as a group of investors decides it’s time to take a profit. These corrections only tend to affect a single stock. 

Sectors

Some corrections wreak havoc on entire sectors, sending nearly every stock in an industry down a slide. For example, sudden shocks to the price of oil might put the oil and gas sector into a correction, or new legislation targeting drug prices might send the pharmaceutical sector into a slump. 

Regional

Some events can lead entire financial markets in a specific region on a spiral downward. For example, when tariffs were placed on Chinese goods entering the United States, Chinese stocks took a dive, resulting in a regional correction.

Market

Finally, corrections can happen across the global market. During a stock market correction, the entire market drops. These events are characterized by simultaneous declines of 10% or more throughout major market indexes around the globe. 

Corrections Are Generally Short-Lived

While some market corrections lead to long-lasting bear markets, the vast majority of corrections are actually short-term sell-offs. In fact, only 10 out of the past 37 corrections from 1980 to 2018 resulted in bear markets, with the rest turning out to be short-term blips. 

In general, corrections last between three and four months. Once the event is over, the market generally rebounds quickly, resulting in tremendous earnings potential. So, it’s important not to panic when these events take place; keeping a level head and paying attention to market conditions will likely open the door to several profitable opportunities.  

A Correction Isn’t the Same as a Bear Market

Both corrections and bear markets are characterized by stock market crashes. However, there are a few important differences between the two:

  • Percentage Declines. Bear markets are generally characterized by declines of 20% or more from recent peak values rather than 10% declines. 
  • Term. When the bears take hold of a sector, region, or the whole market, they tend to maintain control for some time. According to Hartford Funds, the average bear market lasts 9.6 months, which is substantially longer than the three to four months the average correction takes to subside. 
  • Cause. Corrections can take place out of the blue when the investing masses decide it’s time to take profit. However, bear markets are generally more meaningful. These long-standing declines are usually signs of concerning economic conditions, geopolitical conditions, or a mix of the two. 

Corrections Happen Often

As mentioned above, 37 corrections took place from 1980 to 2018, working out to slightly less than one per year on average. That stands as evidence that you shouldn’t panic when it happens. 

While the talking heads on financial media will make a big deal out of any correction that takes place, level heads prevail in the stock market. 


Examples of Corrections

One of the best ways to get an understanding of the nature of stock market corrections is to look at a few examples from history. 

One of the most recent market-wide corrections was caused by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As the virus spread, hair salons, movie theaters, amusement parks, and shopping malls were considered nonessential and forced to shut down for months. This led to widespread job loss, corporate bankruptcies, and reduced consumer spending. 

As a result, the market started to tank. 

Soon, the correction caused by the pandemic became an all-out bear market, leading the S&P 500 index, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the Nasdaq all down by more than 30%. It took 10 months for all three indexes to make a full recovery. 

Another example occurred in February 2018, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index fell by more than 10% each. While the correction was prompted by inflation-related concerns, the profit-taking proved to be overblown in the long run. By mid-March 2018, prices began to rise, eventually making a full recovery.


What Corrections Tell You

Market corrections aren’t always as informative as you might think. They can be a sign of healthy market and economic conditions as valuations balance themselves out, acting as a perfectly normal part of the financial system. 

For example, if a correction happens out of the blue at a time when economic growth is at its peak, corporations are experiencing growth in profitability, and geopolitical conditions are stable, the move is likely nothing more than investors taking profits, and it will soon be over.

On the other hand, when coupled with concerning fundamental data, corrections can be signs of tough times to come.

For example, if recent economic reports show slowing new home sales, increasing unemployment insurance claims, and declining consumer spending, and stocks slide by 10% or more, the move could be a sign that an economic recession and all-out bear market is on the horizon. 


What to Do if a Stock Market Correction Takes Place

Although it may come as a surprise, many long-term investors do nothing at all when market downturns set in. These investors know that the vast majority of corrections won’t last long, and they avoid knee-jerk reactions when it happens. Riding out corrections is the favored approach of buy-and-hold investors, especially those with a long-term outlook. 

On the other hand, some seasoned active investors take steps in order to make the declines work to their advantage. Here’s how:

1. Rebalance

If you’ve been following a solid investment strategy, your asset allocation was thoughtfully chosen to provide diversification. 

Unfortunately, over time, your allocation will fall out of balance as some assets move at faster rates and in different directions than others. When imbalance happens, it can leave you either overexposed to risk or underexposed to opportunity. 

With the market edging down, it’s crucial to make sure your allocation isn’t out of balance and the protections you’ve put in place are able to work to your advantage. Now is the time to rebalance your investment portfolio. 

2. Assess the Correction

Next, you’ll want to determine what type of correction you’re seeing and whether the move is likely to continue into a bear market. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How Widespread Is the Correction? Are you noticing the move on a single stock or single index? Take time to look around and see if it’s more widespread. Look into what the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq composite index, and S&P 500 index are doing. If they’re all falling at a similar rate, the correction is a widespread one. 
  • Is There a Clear Cause? Corrections can come out of nowhere with no rhyme or reason, or they may be the result of deep underlying issues. The only way to find out is to do a bit of research. 
  • How Deep Is the Cause? Did the U.S. Federal Reserve raise interest rates by a quarter of a percent? If so, although the move may slow lending slightly, it’s a sign that the U.S. economy is doing well, and the market will likely recover quickly. On the other hand, if war was just declared or jobs reports have shown months-long declines in hiring, there may be cause for long-term concern.

3. Act On What You’ve Learned

There are several different actions you could take based on your answers to the questions above, but they’ll all boil down to one of the following:

If it’s a Single Stock or Sector Correction With No Apparent Cause

If the move is in a single stock or sector, and there’s no clear rhyme or reason to it, you’re in luck — you’ve found a buying opportunity. 

Traders take profits all the time, and this profit-taking can lead to painful, short-term declines. Although there’s no telling where the bottom will be, now is the time to strategically buy more shares in a company you like. Here are a few tips for doing so:

  • Set the Floor. If the sell-off has no rhyme or reason, it’s likely a technical move in which traders are taking profits. This means that there will likely be a clear point of support. Use technical analysis to find the support level. 
  • Buy Even Blocks of Shares. As the stock continues to fall to support, make consistent, equal purchases of blocks of shares. This process of dollar-cost averaging ensures you don’t lose too much with a large purchase before further declines or miss out on opportunities when the rebound happens. As the stock falls, your average cost per share will fall as well. When the rebound happens, that reduced average cost means larger gains. 
  • Set Stop-Loss Orders. Set stop-loss or stop-limit orders just below the support level. If the stock falls below this point, there may be a significant underlying reason for the declines. It’s time to exit the position and reassess the situation. 

If it’s a Single Stock With a Short-Term Cause

In some cases, there will be good reasons for a single stock taking a dive, but those reasons will only lead to short-term movement. 

For example, a company may miss earnings or revenue expectations in a single quarter, leading to fear among investors. In this case, the company’s stock will likely fall, but if the company is solid, it will make up the losses and then some in the long run. 

If this is the case, consider using the dollar-cost averaging method described above to gain further exposure to the rebound. 

If it’s a Single Stock With a Serious Problem

If the correction takes place in a single stock and the reason is both clear and long term, it’s time to sell and accept your losses. 

For example, imagine a biotech company you’ve invested in has been working to find the cure for a devastating ailment. Things looked great. However, the FDA rejected the drug, and the company decided it’s going to cut its losses and go back to the drawing board. At this point, the stock’s losses are likely to continue for some time. 

In this case, it’s best to cut your losses and look for a more promising opportunity elsewhere. 

If the Entire Market Is Falling

If you’re looking at a market-wide correction, there are a few things to consider. In the majority of cases, if the entire market is falling, there’s a reason, regardless of how clear or unclear that reason may be. 

One of the most common reasons for market-wide corrections is high valuations. Movement in the market takes place through a series of ebbs and flows. However, when the market flows up too fast without enough ebbs in between, overvaluations happen, and investors begin to take profits. 

These are generally short-term moves and nothing to be concerned about. As a result, outside of buying in on undervalued opportunities as prices fall, there’s not much action that needs to be taken. 

On the other hand, corrections can be signs of deep economic or geopolitical concerns. For example, if job growth in the U.S. seems to be plateauing, home sales are slowing, and unemployment lines are growing during a market correction, all these signs together point to a potential economic recession, which could cause the correction to turn into a long-term bear market. 

Even in this case, it’s important not to panic. After all, panicking leads to poor decision making.

Instead, consider making adjustments to your asset allocation to reduce your overall risk. To do so, move a portion of your money out of stocks and into fixed-income securities and other safe-haven assets. 

After doing so, keep a close eye on economic data. When the economy begins to improve, it’s time to go shopping for discounts in the stock market. At this point, long-term declines will have led the valuations of many quality companies into the dumps, which is great news for buyers. Buying in at these lows will often lead to jaw-dropping profits.

4. Consider Speaking to a Financial Advisor

If the market’s experiencing declines, and you’re not sure what to do, one of the best courses of action is to speak to a professional. 

Sure, it may cost a few hundred dollars to get a financial advisor’s ear for an hour, but those few hundred dollars could save you thousands — or, even better, help you turn a profit in a down market. 

When you have a leak, you call a roofer, even though you know that will cost you more money than doing the research and fixing the roof yourself. There’s no reason to be ashamed to call a financial pro when you have questions about your money and activities in the market. 


Pros and Cons of Market Corrections

Although corrections may be concerning at first glance, they’re not all doom and gloom. In fact, there are several benefits to corrections happening as well. Here are the pros and cons of these moves:

Market Correction Pros

1. Discounted Buying Opportunities

The basic concept of making money in the stock market is the act of buying low and selling high. If you’re looking for a strong entry point, there are few better than in the midst of a correction. During these times, stocks are undervalued, offering discounted opportunities to get in on future gains. 

2. Market Health

Financial markets are complex systems with multiple moving parts, and for those systems to work properly, there have to be checks and balances. Corrections help to keep the market balanced, which is necessary for a healthy system overall. An occasional round of profit-taking helps to keep euphoria in check. 

3. Set the Stage for Bull Markets

A far smaller portion of corrections become bear markets than are followed by bull markets. Statistically, these moves are more often than not signs of a bull market on the horizon. 

Market Correction Cons

Unfortunately, market corrections come with some drawbacks, the most important being:

1. Retail Investor Panic

The biggest victims of corrections are often inexperienced retail investors who panic and sell when stocks fall. While the retail crowd sells for a loss, savvy investors — often institutional investors or experienced traders — are picking up their shares and enjoying the gains the average investor would have had if they’d simply kept a level head. 

2. Can Be Signs of Bear Markets

Although a market correction is more likely to be followed by a bull market than a bear market, there are times when bear markets do set in. If economic conditions are troubling, a correction can be a signal of something even worse ahead. It’s important to understand the reason for the correction and determine whether a long-term bear market is likely before deciding how to react. 

3. Short-Term Financial Pain

Finally, stock market corrections aren’t significant points of pain for everyone. Although nobody likes to see short-term losses, for some investors, the moves can come with significant financial concern. 

This is particularly the case for investors with a short time horizon, like retirees. Investors who are dependent on the income generated through their portfolios often have to withdraw money to survive during market corrections. Unfortunately, these investors don’t always have the option of waiting for the correction to end and may be forced to realize significant losses. 


Final Word

All told, corrections aren’t quite as scary as they’re cracked up to be. Sure, losses can and often do happen during these downward moves. However, they’re important cycles that help to keep the overall financial machine healthy. 

Not to mention, savvy investors can make corrections work to their advantage by strategically buying undervalued stocks for a discount to take advantage of the gains that are likely to follow. 

No matter what your plan is during a market correction, it’s important not to panic. Level heads make educated decisions, and educated decisions usually equate to profits in the stock market.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Buying Options vs Stocks: Trading Differences to Know

Stocks and options are two of the popular investment types that investors might include in their portfolio. There are reasons to invest in each, and they both come with their own risks, timelines, pros, and cons.

When deciding whether to invest in stocks vs. stock options, or any type of security or asset, it’s important to consider your personal investing goals, experience, risk tolerance, and timeline.

What Are the Differences Between Options and Stocks?

Stocks Options
Type of Investor Beginners and long-term investors Experienced and active traders
Potential Downsides Risks, Taxes, Fees Risks, Costs, Effort
Type of Investment Equity Derivative

Options

Options, or stock options, are a type of derivative investment. Rather than buying shares of stock, options traders give investors the right to buy or sell shares at a specified price, (known as the strike price in options terminology,) on a particular date in the future.

With call options, traders typically are not obligated to buy, so they can make a decision based on how the market moves. The investor does not have any ownership in the company unless they choose to exercise the option and buy the shares.

Over the time period of the option, it gets exponentially less valuable. This is known as time decay. A purchase of an options contract is known as a call, and a sale is known as a put.

Recommended: Call vs Put Option: The Differences

Some investors exercise the right to buy or sell and use that option trading strategy to make a profit. Others never exercise the right to buy, instead focusing on trading the options contracts themselves for a profit. Options trading strategies can get complicated, involving buying and selling multiple options on the same underlying security.

Recommended: A Guide to Options Trading

Stocks

Stocks are portions of ownership in companies, also known as shares. Investors can buy shares in companies and become fractional owners of that company in proportion to the number of outstanding shares that company has. For instance, if a company has 100,000 shares and an investor buys 10,000, they own 10% of the company.

Investors who purchase stocks typically hope to buy them at a lower price then sell them later at a high price to make a profit. There are also other ways investors can earn profits on stocks. For instance, some stocks pay out dividends to owners. Every month, quarter, or year, an investor can earn money based on the number of shares they own.

Recommended: How to Start Investing in Stocks

5 Key Differences in Stocks vs Options

Both stocks and options are popular investments, and there can be a place for both of them in a diversified portfolio. Here’s a look at some of of the differences to keep in mind when it comes to trading options vs. stocks:

1. Risk

Both stocks and options come with risks. For stocks, the risk is that the value of the security will fall lower than the investor expected. For options, there are additional risks, including the risk that they will expire without being exercised.

2. Ownership

When an investor buys stock, they become partial owners of that company. When they buy options, they only have the right to buy or sell stock, but not actual ownership of shares.

3. Quantities

When buying stock, the number of shares an investor buys is the total number they have and control, and they can purchase any number of shares, including fractional shares. When buying options, each contract represents 100 shares of stock.

4. Timeline

Options are contracts that are only valid for a certain period of time until the expiration date. They lose value over time until they are worthless when the contract expires. When an investor buys stock, they can hold it as long as they want.

5. Time Commitment

Investors can buy stock and hold onto it without doing much work, whereas options traders are often hands-on and prefer an eye on the market for the duration of the contract.

When to Consider Trading Stocks

There are several reasons to consider trading stocks, depending on your goals, timeline, and risk tolerance. Like any asset, stocks come with their share of risks and downsides. Some of the pros and cons of stocks include:

Pros

It can be relatively easy to start investing in stocks. There are several other benefits as well:

•   Investors don’t have to sell their stocks on any particular date, so they can choose the best time to sell.

•   Some stocks pay out dividends to investors.

•   Stocks are easier to research than options since they have market history.

•   Being an owner of a company allows you to vote on certain corporate issues that can affect their investment.

•   Stocks typically have more liquidity than options, meaning it’s easier for traders to buy and sell them at any given time.

Cons

Like all securities, there are risks involved with investing in stocks. Those include:

•   Whether you buy and sell stocks quickly as a day trading strategy or hold onto them for years, you will need to pay short or long-term capital gains taxes if you sell for a profit.

•   While trading stocks can be very profitable, it’s generally best as a long-term strategy, which means it can take many months or years.

•   It can be emotionally challenging to watch the market, and one’s portfolio, go up and down in value over months or years.

•   Making a big profit on stocks can require a large upfront investment.

•   When investing in stocks, traders risk losing all the money they put in. With options, they only risk the upfront premium.

•   If investors short a stock, they can lose much more money than they even put into the investment.

•   Stocks in certain companies are very expensive, making it difficult for smaller traders to even buy one.

When to Consider Trading Options

There are several reasons investors choose options trading vs. stocks trading. But like stocks or any investment, options come with their share of risks and downsides. Some of the main pros and cons of trading options are:

Pros

Options trading can be complicated, but once you understand how it works, there’s significant upside potential. Other benefits include:

•   Options may be an inexpensive way to participate in the market without tying up as many funds as stock trading requires.

•   Options provide investors with leverage. Essentially the investor has some control and access to shares worth more than the money they put into the contract.

•   Options can provide an investor with a certain degree of predictability about their investment, since they know the strike price and expiration date of the contract. This makes the investor’s decision whether to exercise the option or sell it easier.

•   Some investors prefer a hands-on trading strategy, and options are a good choice for that type of investing.

•   Options can act as a hedge against market volatility

Cons

Since fewer traders buy and sell options than stocks, there can be lower liquidity making it difficult to get out of an options contract. Other drawbacks include:

•   If an investor buys a stock option, they must pay a premium to enter into the contract. If the stock doesn’t move the way they hope it will and they choose not to exercise the option, they lose that premium they had put in.

•   Trading options requires an understanding of the market and more in-depth research into the particular contract, the underlying asset’s fundamentals, and what the market looks like within the timeframe of the contract.

•   Options lose value over time.

•   Trading options may require a margin account with a certain amount of money in it at all times.

•   Trading options requires more ongoing management than stocks

•   Options are not as liquid as stocks, making them harder to buy and sell.

•   Not every brokerage offers options, so you’ll need to open an account at a broker that does.

The Takeaway

Stocks and options are two popular types of investments traders use to earn profits and build a diversified portfolio. Depending on your investment strategy, you might invest in just stocks, just options, or a combination of the two.

If you’re interested in starting to trade and build a portfolio with stocks, one great way is using the SoFi Invest® stock trading app. You can add your other investment accounts to easily see all your financial information in one simple dashboard.

Photo credit: iStock/fizkes


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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Source: sofi.com

Should I Use the Standard 10-Year Repayment Plan?

Whether you’re considering taking out a federal student loan to pay for school, you’re in college and in debt, or you’ve just graduated, you may go with the default repayment plan of 10 years.

That isn’t the only option, however.

By learning more about the Standard Repayment Plan, you can decide if it’s the right choice for you or you want to go a different route.

What Is the Standard Repayment Plan for Student Loans?

Upon graduation from college or dropping below half-time enrollment, you’ll have a six-month grace period for a Direct Loan program loan (nine months for a federal Perkins Loan) when you don’t have to make payments.

Once that ends, you’ll begin the Standard Repayment Plan, the default for all federal student loan borrowers once they have left school, unless you choose a different plan, perhaps one where you make lower monthly payments, extend your repayment period, or both.

The standard plan sets your monthly payments at a certain amount so that you will have your loans paid off within 10 years.

Standard Repayment Plan Eligibility

As you explore student loan repayment plans, you can make sure you are eligible for the standard plan if it sounds fine.

Loans That Are Eligible

Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans and Direct Loans qualify for the Standard Repayment Plan. They include:

•   Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans

•   Direct Consolidation Loans

•   FFEL consolidation loans

•   FFEL PLUS loans

Keep in mind that you will only be able to use the Standard Repayment Plan if you have federal student loans, not private student loans.

How Does the Standard Repayment Plan Work?

The Standard Repayment Plan features fixed monthly payments for up to 10 years. Because the plan offers a relatively short repayment period and monthly payments don’t change, it will save you more money in interest than longer repayment plans at the same rate.

If you just graduated with the average student loan debt of $39,400 at 5% interest, you’ll pay $10,748 in total interest. Expanding to 25 years at the same rate will lower your monthly payment, but you’ll end up paying nearly $29,700 in total interest.

There’s a variation on the 10-year theme: the graduated repayment plan, which keeps repayment costs low for recent graduates who may have lower starting salaries but who expect to see their pay increase substantially over 10 years.

Payments on the Standard Plan

What may make the Standard Repayment Plan less appealing to some borrowers is that payments will likely be higher than on any other federal repayment plan, thanks to the short term.

For people with a large amount of student debt or high interest rates, the monthly payments can be daunting or unmanageable. You might face sticker shock when you receive your first bill after your grace period, so don’t let it come as a surprise.

To determine if the Standard Repayment Plan is a good option for you, you could use the federal Loan Simulator to calculate student loan payments. Or contact your loan servicer before your first payment is due to see what you will owe each month.

Changing Your Repayment Schedule

If you want to change your repayment schedule or plan, call your loan servicer and see what they can do.

You’ll need to contact each loan servicer if you took out more than one loan and want to change repayment schedules.

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Standard Repayment Plan?

There are upsides and downsides to weigh when considering the Standard Repayment Plan.

Pros

You will pay off your loans in less time than you would with other types of federal repayment plans, which would allow you to set aside money for things like purchasing a home.

You’ll save money on interest, since you’re paying your loan back faster than you would on other federal plans.

The plan offers predictability. Payments are the same amount every month.

Cons

Your monthly payments will probably be higher than payments made under other student loan repayment plans with extended repayment periods.

And monthly payments are going to be based on the number of years you’ll take to repay the loan, not on how much you can afford, as with income-based repayment plans.

The Takeaway

The federal Standard Repayment Plan of 10 years could be right for you if you’re able to keep up with payments and you want to pay off your debt quickly.

An option is to refinance your student loans to improve your interest rate and possibly change your loan term. Just realize that refinancing federal student loans into a private student loan means giving up federal benefits like income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness.

SoFi offers enticing interest rates on refinancing and charges no application or origination fees. Look for special offers.

It’s easy to check your rate on a SoFi refi.


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 JANUARY 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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